Want to Tackle Domestic Terrorism? Try Incels

Forget antifa — here’s an extremist group that already has a body count

President Trump’s efforts to scare his base about antifa — a non-organized anti-fascist movement — hit another speed bump this week when he smeared a 75-year-old man brutalized by Buffalo police as a “provocateur” from this supposedly vicious outfit. Maybe old white voters didn’t appreciate being labeled as the enemy, but in any case, Trump’s tweet, as far as I can tell, is the first of his, or by any sitting president, to be Ratioed. That’s history right there, you understand:

I don’t know, man. Just doesn’t seem like the “ANTIFA” menace is hitting.

It wasn’t long ago that Trump tweeted his intent to designate it a “Terrorist Organization,” but as is so often the case, tweeting it doesn’t make it so. The FBI certainly hasn’t added it to their list of violent extremist groups — though you can read about anarchists, white supremacists and animal rights saboteurs — and the website appears to contain a single mention of antifa, in the text of FBI Director Christopher Wray’s remarks on the civil unrest that followed the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Wray said that “anarchists like Antifa and other agitators” have “set out to sow discord and upheaval, rather than join in the righteous pursuit of equality and justice.” 

A throwaway reference shoehorned in to placate the big wet president? Perhaps. But it doesn’t bode well for Trump’s crusade against this shadowy foe. At the same time, it’s not like he can crack down on right-wing extremism, e.g., the neo-Nazis and heavily armed white militias, without alienating supporters. Therefore, I suggest he go after a demographic that, despite their alarming and deadly criminal record, currently turns up zero results on the FBI’s website: incels.

Currently, the internet is having a morbid laugh at 23-year-old Cole Carini, a Virginia man who blew off one hand (and several fingers of the other) while handling a bomb — one possibly meant for use against the “hot cheerleaders” he fantasized about killing in a text found by authorities among other incriminating evidence. But Carini’s ineptitude and grievous self-injury have overshadowed the fact that he assembled a shrapnel-packed IED for the purposes of a terrorist attack. (At the moment, he’s only charged with lying to the FBI about how he lost his hand, having claimed it was the result of a lawnmower accident.)

Investigators identified a bottle of triacetone triperoxide, or TATP, recovered from his bedroom — an explosive substance used in a number of suicide attacks, including the London Underground bombings of 2005 and the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing. What’s more, he was arrested this time thanks to a previous conviction on explosives charges, which led police to obtain a search warrant and call the feds.

Last month, Toronto Police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced the first-ever charges of terrorism in connection with misogynist incel culture. Initially to be tried for first-degree murder and attempted murder, an unnamed 17-year-old man had killed one employee and wounded another with a machete at a Toronto massage parlor in February. That the suspect was apparently radicalized by the nihilistic ideology of the so-called “involuntarily celibate” — the evidence is unreleased — cannot come as any surprise. Incel attacks are a pattern: Two women shot dead and five injured before the gunman killed himself at a Florida yoga studio in 2018. In May of this year, an Arizona mall shooter wounded three before he was arrested; allegedly he targeted couples to make them “feel the pain he feels on a daily basis.” 

In 2018, Toronto suffered the deadliest incel attack to date, when Alek Minassian murdered 10 people by driving a van onto a busy sidewalk, although he has yet to be charged with terrorism, and his trial has been postponed until November. Like other incel terrorists, Minassian invoked the name of Elliot Rodger, who in 2014 killed six and injured 14 in a murder spree around Isla Vista, California, before taking his own life, leaving behind YouTube videos, an incel manifesto and a martyr’s legacy, at least where his sympathizers are concerned. Cole Carini also drew inspiration from Rodger, vowing to “be heroic” and “make a statement” in similar fashion.

Meanwhile, men continue to deify Rodger on social media:

Security experts and scholars of extremism have urged that incels be treated as a domestic terrorist threat, inasmuch as they are recruited, indoctrinated and encouraged toward violence a la jihadists. The FBI’s own rubric for understanding terrorist motivations — titled “Why Do People Become Violent Extremists?” — is a close match for Rodger and his acolytes: the overwhelming need for purpose, power and in-group affiliation, combined with the pain of anxiety and social alienation, can have dire results. They even note the effect of thwarted attempts to connect on a personal level: “It is natural to feel frustrated or angry when you are treated unfairly or rejected by others.”

The echoes in the incel community’s hatred for women who deny them sexual gratification is unmistakable, and those especially despondent about their celibacy are known to endorse the “black pill,” a point of no return at which the believer accepts their misery as fated and immutable. From this toxic soil, a terrorist scheme may grow.

Mental health resources would go a significant way toward pulling men out of the incel worldview. But it’s remarkable that American law enforcement has yet to formally acknowledge this as a cohesive threat: a leaderless group that has developed a robust social network, an interior mythology and a set of violent tactics aimed at terrorizing innocents in the name of their misogynist cause.

One might suspect that our counterterrorism forces can’t be bothered with anything that isn’t overtly Islamist. For the number of incel killers we’ve seen, the North American body count is rather high — 50, by one reckoning. At the very least, then, incels pose a far greater danger to the citizenry than antifa. Is there some reason we shouldn’t be infiltrating their channels and working to prevent the next mass murder? This trend, after all, is relatively new, and the sooner we face it head-on, the more lives we will save. It could be a decisive win.

Too bad we’re chasing boogeymen instead.