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FLASH ALERT: INCEL-RELATED VIOLENCE AND VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

Team: Extremism

Week of: Monday, August 9, 2021


The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is issuing a FLASH ALERT regarding rapid increases of violence against women and violence committed by members and affiliates of the online incel, or involuntary celibates, community. The current CTG threat matrix indicates a medium to high probability of Incel-Related Violence (IRV) and violence against women. This assessment is based on recent incidents, such as the Saturday, August 7, Tokyo mass stabbing, and the Thursday, August 12, Plymouth mass shooting. While neither perpetrator exhibited clear incel-related intent, both displayed misogynistic sentiment, leading to vast media criticism of the incel community. As countries continue to lift COVID-19 restrictions, a rise in attacks of this nature are to be expected and it is highly likely that further incidences of violence against women and IRV will occur globally.


On August 7, a man was arrested in Tokyo, Japan, on suspicion of stabbing 10 people on a commuter train. The man reportedly targeted passengers at random and told the authorities he wanted to kill women who “looked happy”; he had also poured cooking oil on the train car floor to set it on fire.[1] On August 12 in Plymouth, England, Jake Davison shot and killed his mother before firing on pedestrians in the street and nearby park in an attack lasting six minutes. Davison killed two women, including his mother, two men, and a three-year-old girl before killing himself. In the hours following the attack, Davison was found to have posted Youtube videos in which he discussed misogynistic incel ideology and claimed to ascribe to fatalistic the black pill philosophy, which believes some men are genetically predisposed to be incels. Though he did not “clarify” himself as an incel, he was at ease using the terminology, described incels as "people like me", subscribed to the Incel TV Youtube channel, and was a regular poster on incel forums.[2] Davison’s first victim was his mother, whom he was highly critical of on his social media postings.[3] This hatred directed towards mothers is not uncommon in the incel community and lends weight to suspicions about his motivations being related to incel ideology. As a result, there has been much speculation and focus in the media on the incel ideology and community.


Violence against women is not a new phenomenon, but one generally not classified by security services and authorities as being a prominent motivating or influencing factor in acts of political violence and extremism. Misogyny, generally understood as a feeling of contempt and/or hatred for women and girls, is used as a means to ensure and maintain societal oppression of women. In a political context, misogyny can be described as a phenomenon used to enforce the subordination and belittling of women, allowing for the continuation of the power structures enabling male dominance and superiority. Violent attacks on women motivated by misogyny are usually fuelled by anger towards feminism and the evolution of women’s rights; there is often a belief amongst this community that the modern-day era has moved too far away from traditional ideals and gender roles, with many wishing to go back to such traditions which empowered men.


Incels are a prominent group advocating for both a societal acceptance of misogyny and increased violence against women. Incels exist within the Manosphere; a loose network of websites in opposition to feminism and championing masculinity. Incels are an online community where members share their experiences of loneliness and rejection on chat forums, blaming their life circumstances on women who are deemed as holding too much freedom and power in choosing sexual partners. The incel community believes women will always elevate their personal status through sexual and romantic partnerships; in practice, this supposedly means 80 percent of women will only date the “top” 20 percent of men, known as “Chads” who possess good looks and wealth. The remaining 80 percent of men are therefore genetically doomed to be partnerless. The primary target of their frustrations are “Stacys”, representing the hyper feminized ideal woman, who they resent for rejecting them and denying them companionship and sexual relations; nonetheless “Chads” are also seen as valid targets as incels envy and despise them for having a better life.


Restrictive measures imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic have likely had a significant impact on social interactions and long-term mental health. An increase of time spent online due to social confinement, and vulnerable individuals already experiencing negative emotions could have found companionship and belonging within the incel community. Pre-existing psychological issues, such as a proclivity for self-harm and suicide, alongside violent misogynistic discourse, bloodshed advocacy, or mass killer praise, may have been exploited by those within the incel community. These issues appear present within the supposed motives of the recent attacks in Japan and England. Given the accessibility of these forums and the lack of prior knowledge required to join the movement, individuals can easily access other like-minded individuals without prior indoctrination.[4] This can be particularly harmful for example, “Ropefuel”, a portmanteau for suicidal tendencies, is reinforced through shared stories, complaints about physical features, and analysis of articles, theories, and statistics through the lens of the community.


The shift of social interactions towards online spaces throughout lockdown has also likely led to a greater exposure to unrealistic portraits of perfection, reinforcing individuals’ self-consciousness, and further alienating them from that ‘perfect life’. The increasing use of social media for interpersonal connections has been accompanied by failed attempts at establishing these desired social bonds; such as on Tinder, where more competition equals more rejection, encouraging disappointed and angry individuals to feel more frustration and shame.[5] This enhances the likelihood of taking their offline speech to the online realm of the community, looking for resonance in other members, and eventually assuming extremist approaches as their own.


Every pathway to violence is different, making it difficult to predict who will transition from misogynistic talk to acting violently. However, incel forums serve as echo chambers, where groupthink encourages conforming to fit in and receive validation - likely sought due to their loneliness. Jokes, memes, and irony can mask the participant’s intent making it difficult to assess threats, and creating a permissive environment where it only takes one individual to take the ‘irony’ seriously. While individuals may originally enter incel communities seeking belonging, they may be radicalized both through normalizing exposure to the ideas and ‘shitposting’, and as they receive positive reinforcement for partaking. Social media can therefore be used to create a permissive environment for misogynistic speech, normalizing its use and thus legitimizing its uptake by violent individuals or groups.


Post on incels.is a thread about Davison’s attack[6]

Jake Davison often posted videos on YouTube, likely seeking companionship and/or empathy. Similar to the use of online forums, posting via YouTube can allow isolated individuals to meet others sharing similar views and experiences. For those experiencing loneliness, YouTube can be a positive tool to create new interpersonal connections due to its video format, however, it can also reinforce echo chambers created through forums. YouTube, given its large user-base, could also be a tool for radicalizing new individuals into incel culture; this is particularly concerning given the proportion of young people frequently using YouTube, as it could enable higher levels of youth radicalization.


Davison’s supposed mental health issues have been a pivotal talking point in media reports with questions as to how and why the Plymouth shooting occurred. While the reports fail to overtly say Davison’s mental health was the reason for the attack, the mere questioning or mentioning of his state of mind, without understanding if it was at all a motivating or influencing factor towards violence, could not only be detrimental to the wider incel community but also to those who suffer from mental illnesses. There is still large stigmatization surrounding those with mental illnesses, often experiencing discrimination or feeling isolated from wider society, by associating mental illness with violence such as Davison’s attack this stigmatization will likely only increase, creating adverse effects to an entire population who suffer from mental illness. Davison’s case is not the first attack motivated by this ideology to be associated with mental health problems or the individual's mental health questioned. A problem associated with labeling IRV as a product of ill-mental health is the stigmatization attaches not only to the individual but also to the wider group and ideology. This has a detrimental impact on those who adhere to such ideology as it could spur violent reactionary behaviors or attacks. By declaring mental health illnesses as prevalent within the incel community, it is likely to plunge those who adhere to such ideology further into isolation and enhance the in-group/out-group mentality.


One of Davison’s Reddit posts as Jake3572[7]


Differentiating between those merely engaging with incel forums, and those with the propensity to act violently is challenging. In demonizing the entire community, for example through media labeling of incels as terrorists, the risk of isolation and resentment-driven attacks increase. Given this, the media response to Davison’s attack could incite greater violence from within the community, regardless of if his motive is found to be incel-related or not. If his attack is found to not be related to his engagement with incel groups, despite media hounding of incels, it could generate wide-scale anger within the incel community and creates an increased risk of subsequent attacks. Increasing public scrutiny, media attention, and terrorism designation might also fuel radicalization. Individuals who share similar experiences to incel groups, who may not have known they existed before the increased media attention, may seek to join groups and be radicalized into violent behavior. The risk of stigmatizing this community should be carefully assessed when considering press releases on recent attacks, as it will likely enhance the in-group/out-group bias and could increase the likelihood of further incel-related violent acts.


Alongside the two aforementioned attacks which have occurred within the past two weeks, one week before these attacks US police arrested a self-identified incel from Ohio for plotting to “slaughter” young women “out of hatred, jealousy and revenge.”[8] The past decade has seen an increase in incel-related violent attacks, and the proximity of these attacks in this past month shows a surge in individuals acting violently on misogynist views and beliefs. Our analysis, therefore, indicates there is a MEDIUM to HIGH PROBABILITY there will be further attacks linked to misogyny and the incel ideology. There is a serious threat of violence particularly against women and “Chads,” but also the general population.


CTG’s Extremism Team will continue to monitor social media and open-source intelligence (SOCINT and OSINT) to analyze the risk of IRV. The Extremism Team will collaborate with the regional teams for specific reports as required. CTG’s Worldwide Analysis of Threats, Crimes, and Hazards (WATCH) Officers provide 24/7 analysis utilizing objective sources for accurate analysis and reports.

[1] Japanese police arrest man who stabbed 10 people on Tokyo train, The Hill, August 2021, https://thehill.com/policy/international/566835-japanese-police-arrest-man-who-stabbed-10-people-on-tokyo-train

[2] Jake Davison YouTube Archive, Wayback Machine Internet Archive, August 2021, https://archive.org/details/jake-davison-youtube-archive

[3] Plymouth killer had clashed with mother and first victim Maxine Davison over his extreme views, The Telegraph, August 2021, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/08/14/plymouth-killer-had-clashed-mother-first-victim-maxine-davison/

[4] Incels: America’s Newest Domestic Terrorism Threat, Lawfare, January 2020, https://www.lawfareblog.com/incels-americas-newest-domestic-terrorism-threat

[5] Group Overview: THE RISE OF INCEL GROUPS - A PROFILE AND GROUP SUMMARY, The Counterterrorism Group, April 2021, https://www.counterterrorismgroup.com/post/group-overview-the-rise-of-incel-groups-a-profile-and-group-summary

[6] UK mass shooter was a virgin ‘incel’ who warned he was ‘a Terminator’, Incels.is, August 2021, https://incels.is/threads/uk-mass-shooter-was-a-virgin-incel-who-warned-he-was-a-terminator.312221/

[7] Shooter was an IT poster, Incels.is, August 2021, https://incels.is/threads/shooter-was-an-it-poster.312249/

[8] Ohio man charged with Hate Crime Related to Plot to Conduct Mass Shooting of Women, Illegal Possession of Machine Gun, The United States Department of Justice, July 2021, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/ohio-man-charged-hate-crime-related-plot-conduct-mass-shooting-women-illegal-possession

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