November 19, 2018 in News by RBN Staff


Source: The Independent


Mo is an incel – a member of a dark online community of men that has directed deadly violence against the women they say have rejected them. Mo condemns such actions… but what is fuelling his beliefs? Tilly Gambarotto asks him

‘You should know that everything is about looks, money and status, and don’t try if you don’t have it. Give up’


Mo (not his real name) will be alone his whole life. He is, ironically, not alone. Since he surrendered to the draw of online incel communities, he has joined other men who wallow in the certainty of their future in celibacy and solitude. Incels were thrown into the spotlight most recently in April, when Alek Minassian drove a van on to a pavement in Toronto, killing 10 pedestrians. The night before the attack, he wrote on his Facebook page: “The Incel Rebellion has already begun!” Four years previously, Elliot Rodger stabbed and shot six people in a murder spree in California, leaving behind a 141-page manifesto expressing his frustrations over his virginity and his hatred of women.

Incels, or involuntary celibates, are men who are unable to form a romantic or sexual relationship, believing themselves too ugly, deformed and unmasculine. They are the self-professed victims in a Hunchback of Notre Dame-style fairytale in which women boast their professed interest in men’s personality while consistently choosing only handsome, alpha-male sexual partners. Incels are the protagonists, the “nice guys”, the ones who should have got the girl but were burdened by genetic misfortune.

Their existence is almost entirely confined to the cesspits of social forums and chat pages, from where sexless keyboard warriors mould bizarre theories explaining the biology of physical attractiveness, lament of their personal experiences of romantic rejections, and spit out a verbal cascade of hatred for “chads” and “staceys”, the terms adopted to describe men and women from the outside world.

The media has portrayed them as dangerous, violent and misogynistic, with an archaic sense of entitlement to sex. I have seen many incels call from the depths of online to bring back arranged marriage, or to simply rape women in retaliation for the celibacy they have endured. To flit between fearing and mocking them has been the natural response of these onlookers.

I met Mo online. He tells me that people don’t understand incels because they don’t listen, that not all incels are violent and self-entitled, that he would never commit an act such as that of Minassian or Rodger. I spoke to him via video chat from his bedroom in his family home in Iran. He was resentful and self-pitying but spoke with an air of condescension, as if enlightening me on subjects I was too ignorant to comprehend. He ‘’mansplained’’ me through various areas of small talk about politics and social issues.

Elliot Rodger made a video justifying his rampage (AP)

But he was also eloquent and intelligent, a 24-year-old former masters student at NYU and currently completing his Phd in Quantum physics in Leipzig. Not ugly, but decidedly average looking.

Mo grew up in Iran, an atheist from a deeply traditional family. As a teenager he started to question the oppression of the Iranian regime, writing an article advocating the freedom to criticise religion that led to his arrest. Luckily, he was given a warning and sent away, but five of his friends died in suspicious circumstances while in custody after committing similar crimes, he tells me.

I have failed to be worthy in the female eyes, that’s the main thing. Life has proven to me that because I look a certain way

“There is nothing right in the news in this country, there is nothing true. You have to look for the truth somewhere.”

For Mo the truth lay in the pages of incel community groups online, succumbing to the title about a year ago after failing to find a partner, convincing himself of his repulsiveness to women.

“I have failed to be worthy in the female eyes, that’s the main thing. Life has proven to me that because I look a certain way, no one likes me. That’s a fact. You should know that everything is about looks, money and status, and don’t try if you don’t have it. Give up.”

Suicide within the incel community is rife. Before meeting Mo, I spoke to another young incel for several days on Facebook Messenger before his friend wrote, telling me he had gone missing and was suspected to have killed himself. Despite the supportive intention of many incels online, it is the vigilante members who rise to the surface of forums, quashing any glimmers of optimism by encouraging the most vulnerable users to surrender using the ominous mantra: rope or cope.

Mass murderer Chris Harper-Mercer is an incel

Mo has attempted to commit suicide in the past. Unlike some of his more intemperate counterparts, however, he adamantly condemns violence against others, referring to the actions of Minassian, Rodger and Chris Harper-Lee, the three mass-murderer celebrities of the incel community with a death toll of 26 between them.

“This is the wrong perception people have of incels. Sometimes they are dangerous, but they are more of a danger to themselves than anybody else. There are people in the group who might not be living tomorrow.”

“Many of them are too extreme, some of them I would class as terrorists. Most I would consider normal people like me.”

Incels are more of a danger to themselves than others. There are people in the group who might not be living tomorrow

Mo is not normal. He has developed the distorted logic of one who has spent too much time alone, conjuring mathematical theories to assure himself, and now me, of the hopelessness of his position. At one point, he tells me, he started keeping a spreadsheet to keep track of everybody he spoke to, using the thousands of failed conversations as damning proof of his unworthiness of friendship. He documents everything, pulling out a weekly schedule when I ask him how long he spends online.

“I don’t blame women, it’s evolution. Women have to choose this way, they have to choose who can protect their children because they have this need to create, to reproduce. They have to choose carefully and the criteria is this.”

In Mo’s world, Tinder and dating apps have allowed women in developed countries to feast on the easy access to high quality men on the dating market, leaving the other 80 per cent on the shelf. He dismissed the suggestion that women, too, fall victim to their physical appearance, that some feel it inhibits their chances to find partners, telling me with confidence that “women can always get sex”.

His philosophy reeks of defensiveness, the conclusions of a man whose self-esteem has plummeted so catastrophically low that to admit defeat to inculpable ugliness is less painful than to put his other, personal attributes on the line. He assures me that women do not find intelligence attractive, that his academic achievements, personality, or sense of humour could have no part to play in his current failure or potential success at love. He has made himself a victim of evolution to avoid admitting social failure.

I have seen this characteristic repeatedly in incels. Many claim to be the “nice guy”, the one who would treat their girlfriend like a princess if she could only overcome her biological obsession with physical attractiveness.

One user posted a picture of his high school crush and her handsome fiancé, complaining of the injustice of the pairing: “Why has she chosen him, a guy who used to bully me at school, over me, when I was always so nice to her?”

At the heart of incels lies the fragile ego of a person incapable of dealing with rejection, one who has been repeatedly excluded and told he is inadequate. Jacob Davey, of the ISD extremism think tank, says that these feelings push men towards online communities where extreme views flourish. “Social isolation and a perceived grievance at the world, or society at large, are major drivers,” he says.

“Particularly in the far right and with incels, what you see is people actively seeking out communities which to some degree act as a friendship network or support group for them, but these communities themselves are radicalised, the solutions and support which they give to these individuals are innately toxic and the ways in which they help these people situate and understand their position within society are radical.

“If they are suffering isolation and feel vulnerable, to some degree they are desperate. These communities are very unhelpful in helping them get better. It can create a community which normalises a negative self-perception.”

Mo’s childhood was difficult, growing up with a family at odds with atheism under a government that forcefully repressed his opposition. When he was 18 Mo had a girlfriend, but he found her in his bed with another man. He repeated to me, incredulous still, that “she cheated and didn’t even apologise”. While studying in New York he was attacked by a group of racist Americans who called him an “ugly Muslim pig” and told him to go back home. He found himself in hospital for two months recovering from his wounds.

Most in Mo’s shoes would be disturbed, perhaps even traumatised. When the glass shell of his defeated and disinterested persona cracks for just a moment he reveals the pain of a young man who has been repeatedly and aggressively rejected by those around him.

“I’m not sex deprived. I’m love deprived. Sex is just a consequence of that feeling that many of us are deprived of. It might be ridiculous but I want to have someone to buy flowers for, or to take to the movies. Sometimes I think about having a family, having a house. That seems nice. Someone is there to like you because of who you are and not the external things you have that you might lose at any time.”

You don’t need to go out and commit violence … trolling, intense harassment campaigns, these are harmful manifestions of ideology that people can do without getting off their computers

Mo has been taking hair loss pills for several months, secretly using them because they can reduce one’s libido. He has been with prostitutes, but says the experience of paying for sex was humiliating and that he would have rather stayed at home.

Most incels do not appear to struggle with their lack of sexual contact. They cry for acknowledgement, love and affection. Some long for girlfriends. Others on Incel.me lash out against women, their loathing seeping from the comments on the screen:

“They’re [women] slave drivers slashing us with a whip and screaming that we don’t work hard enough. It’s all incredibly insulting, demeaning and unjust. Men are truly the cucked sex, existing on the female plantation.”

With some virtual digging, the online comments one can find on incel pages are shocking. Perhaps it is the lack of a familiar discourse, political, cultural, religious, or otherwise that makes their blatant focus on male gender struggles so difficult to swallow. From the confines of radicalised religion or far-right conservatism, calls to re-empower men’s sexual dominance might be met with leftist resistance, maybe even condemnation from human rights groups, but not with bewilderment or surprise. Without the smokescreen, the incel struggle is sickening.

It is no wonder, then, that drenched in the steady flow of unrestrained male victimhood, some emerge from the online realm with the potential to commit violence. I probed Mo about his thoughts on incel terrorists. He turned away as if irritated, but when he turned back he was sobbing.

“Sometimes I feel ashamed of myself. I can relate to them to some extent because I feel their hopelessness and their despair, and the amount of horror they feel. It’s horrifying that you feel you could be alone for a lifetime because this life is already hard.”

Mo’s vulnerability is compelling, but emotion in him fades as quickly as it rears its reluctant head. He brushes away tears telling me repeatedly that one “has to be logical”. It is difficult to muster sympathy for Mo, his unpalatable self-pitying and victim complex drowning out any genuine pain he is likely to be feeling.

By this point he is relaxed, almost cocky, lying back on his bed as if chatting with an old friend. Soon he is explaining to me that third-wave feminism is causing the depletion of male dignity, that the media portrays unrealistic images of men, that he should not feel compelled to strive for these impossibly high standards of beauty.

It all sounds ironically familiar, despite the unfamiliar male voice. In the paradigm he has created, women are the lucky ones, the perpetrators posing as victims.

Davey, who maps how groups such as incels manifest online, says this “othering” is crucial to extremists as they look for someone to situate themselves against. He says: “I think there is a crisis in masculinity at the moment. Toxic masculine identity forms the cornerstone of a range of extremist ideology. It presents getting involved in these groups as a way to solve an individual’s personal crisis. The idea is that you can be a strong male, you can resume your traditional roles, you can be empowered if you get involved in these groups.”

Though many incels do not turn violent, Davey points out that there is still harm in their actions, through intense harassment campaigns and trolling.

“You don’t need to go out and commit violence … Trolling, intense harassment campaigns, doxing of individuals, these are harmful manifestions of ideology that people get involved with without getting off their computers.

“I don’t think that you can negate the harm of that activity by saying that only a very small percentage of these people are going to go out and do something.”

Alek Minassian drove a van on to a pavement in Toronto, killing 10 pedestrians (LinkedIn)

Mo tells me he is beyond help. While he remains an incel, I am inclined to agree with him. Inceldom is well designed, with a model purpose-built to retain followers. One’s very membership depends on his belief in the permanency of his position. Those who have hope are not incels, Mo tells me, because they have not accepted how the world works.

For now, Mo has found methods to cope. He wants to be a professor, and is focusing on his Phd in Berlin. He says he does not want to live to the age of 35, but I hope he is lying. I also hope he is mistaken when he claims that inceldom is on the rise, that more men will discover the “truth”.

It is hard to grasp why Mo would choose this life, why he would subject himself to certain abuse should he be exposed to family and friends. But for those looking for community, the incel pages are an opportunity to belong, a respite from their world of continuous refusal. They are losing nothing by rejecting the “normie” world, because we went ahead and rejected them first.

With the risk of wading into the waters of #notallincels, I don’t believe that Mo is a danger to the public. One can only hope he represents the norm and not the exception.