After killing six people in a shooting and stabbing rampage in Isla Vista, California, in May of 2014, and before taking his own life, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger circulated a 141-page manifesto and a YouTube “retribution video” explaining his actions. In them, he detailed his frustrations about never having kissed a girl and being a virgin, which fueled his deep hatred for women. Towards the end of his seven-minute video, Rodger said, “I am the true victim in all of this. I am the good guy.” Publicly nicknamed “The Killer Virgin” but crowned “The Supreme Gentleman” by his followers, Rodger fanned the growing fire in a dark corner of the internet populated by men who share the same sexless woes. According to a new study by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), these incels are only getting more dangerous.
The CCDH’s Quant Lab analyzed 1 million posts on one of the most popular incel forums and found that the group has become increasingly radicalized over the past year and a half. CCDH Founder and CEO Imran Ahmed told the Washington Post that the forum is part of a “novel, new violent extremist movement born in the internet age” with a “cogent ideology” intent on harming women and girls. The report found that there’s been a notable spike in conversations around pedophilia, especially with prepubescent girls, and mass killings. The report also found that members mention the word “kill” approximately every 37 minutes and the word “rape” every 29 minutes. The forum is visited by roughly 2.6 million people a month.
“This forum is a violent ideological manifesto, but for the 21st century,” Ahmed said to the Post. “Instead of being a book, it’s essentially a wiki that is continuously being evolved by the readers themselves. Left alone, this community has been radicalized further and their ideology is becoming more dangerous by the day.”
Growing support for rape and pedophilia are among the top concerns revealed in the study, with 89 percent of users saying rape is acceptable. Over a quarter of users also have posted about pedophilia, including statements like, “As an incel, there is literally no reason to be against pedophilia,” and, “Who in their right mind would prefer a 22-year-old [woman] to this?” alongside a picture of a 12-year-old girl. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, praise for Rodger and his actions is common on the forum.
Since starting this cishet men-only forum in 2017, after Reddit banned the incel subreddit that spewed similarly misogynistic hate, Diego Joaquín Galante and Lamarcus Small have succeeded in building an incel empire. Once a user has posted 400 times on the forum, they’re invited to join an exclusive server on the online social platform Discord. But mainstream websites are as much to blame as the internet’s “niche” corners: The CCDH found that forum users communicate via Telegram and Twitter to spread their messaging, while YouTube still streams channels like IncelTV. Galante and Small have also created mainstream websites that redirect users’ Google searches to incel-related content. The report suggests that these companies withdraw their services, which are helping to grow the forum’s platform.
While the incel movement has gained significant traction online, it isn’t contained in the virtual world. For instance, the overwhelming concern among teachers regarding Andrew Tate’s influence on their young male students reflects just how pervasive this messaging is, even in the classroom. Fringe groups of the dark web don’t keep to the dark web.