Sex for Breakfast, Death For Lunch: The Incel Movement (Part II.)

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This is the second article in a three part feature series written in response to the van attack in Toronto which killed 10 people. Part I. considered the PUA and MGTOW identity groups that have appeared in the last decade. In Part II. the “incel” movement is explored in significant depth. Part III. finishes the feature series with a demonstration of how orthodox Christian theology offers renewal to the damaged, and the lens by which to properly interpret the sociological forces at work in our time.

  1. An Overview of the Incel Movement
  2. Black Pills, Red Pills, Chads and Staceys
  3. Hypergamy and Misogyny
  4. Racist, Right-Wing, and Rebellious
  5. The Empty Self and Authoritarianism
  6. A Online Colony of the Morally Deranged
  7. Making Sense of the Subculture

AN OVERVIEW OF THE INCEL MOVEMENT

The “involuntarily celibate” movement – “incel” for short – consists of men who have very limited sexual intercourse. But unlike MGTOW, incels want sexual fulfilment and many regard its absence as a criteria for victimhood. They are celibate against their will, they argue, and celibacy does them harm. Yet, most incels would further argue that their celibacy is not a mere accident or the happenstance of their situation. It is the grim product of a conspiracy against them by genetics, society, and above all, by women.

Given the premise of their worldview, it is unsurprising to discover that the incel subculture tends to be simultaneously dark and childish. Such a combination tends to yield an alarming propensity toward violence and hatred. Where the rhetoric is not grotesque or borderline criminal, the views they express and the solutions they propose are suggestive of a deep personal dysfunction. Certainly no mentally healthy person, no matter how sexually frustrated, could ever arrive at their conclusions. Like the MGTOW movement, the true source of their misery is brightly revealed within the sheer unprincipled irrationality of the philosophy they push.

It is important to recognise that incels are not all alike. Some are genuine in their despair. They really do feel like outcasts and cannot understand why they have seemingly missed one of life’s great rites: the formation of a meaningful relationship. Others are celibate due to physical disabilities (although many within the disabled community hotly reject being associated with incels). Still others describe social impediments that look strikingly similar to high-functioning autism. Autism can make forming relationships very difficult, as this incel explains:

Sometimes, I feel like I don’t know what’s holding me back either. I have high-functioning autism, which has been my go-to explanation for a while. A lot of people with autism struggle to find partners and deal with late-stage virginity, so it’s probably not a coincidence, but it can be hard to tell the precise ways it impacts me.

For a while, I’ve assumed that little autistic behaviors like stimming, talking to myself etc. make women subconsciously categorize me as either a creepy weirdo or a pitiful, childlike sexless being. My current therapist challenged that a bit, saying that it sounded like the cognitive distortion of mind reading. I don’t know if I completely buy that, since it’s pretty well documented that women are always on high alert for potential creeps and awkward guys can get unwittingly categorized as such, but it may be worth thinking about.

Aside from that, there’s the fact that social rituals generally aren’t as intuitive to people on the spectrum as they are to neurotypicals. I can look back at my first few pursuits in late high school/early college and see that I went about it pretty clumsily, so I may’ve just learned the ropes of both reading and displaying signs of attraction a little too late to capitalize on the dating market in college, and now find myself thrust into the decidedly narrower mid-20s dating market.

Such men are clearly intelligent and competent within their sphere, yet uncomprehending. For these, the incel movement provides an explanation that makes sense of their frustrations with the subtleties of human relationships.

The incel movement is also heavily colonised with men who exhibit a grab bag of disturbed sexual and relational behaviours. Already the incel subculture has bred at least three mass murderers, two of whom explicitly described their actions as a service to the incel philosophy. Quite apart from the lethal violence that has flowed from its bowels, incel forums are loaded with men whose self-described behaviour is not merely “creepy” but deviant. The behaviours they record represent the classic precursors to rape, sexual violence, destructive paraphilias, or other criminal perversions.

In between these extremes are a vast mass of men who are intensely lonely, anxious and sad. They have entered the subculture and embraced its misogynistic narrative as an explanatory device for their personal inadequacies and frustrations. In fact, within most incel circles, women are blamed for practically every problem in contemporary society. Women are routinely denigrated. Violence toward them is often celebrated. Yet at the same time incels are consumed with the thought of sexual intercourse.

Regardless of the motives behind each individual person’s involvement with the movement, in virtually all cases they are highly depressed and their participation in the subculture only aggravates their condition into outright despair. One moderator of a popular incel forum told the Washington Post that three members of his forum have attempted suicide. This gives some inkling into the mental state of the people gravitating toward the movement. A single suicide attempt would be rare for an online group, but three is a statistical tsunami.

An investigation into the subculture by researchers from Georgia State University found:

…involuntary celibacy is part of a self-sustaining package of psychological issues: depression, neuroticism, anxiety, autistic disorders. Those problems prevent incels from forming relationships — which in turn makes their depression and anxiety more extreme.

Clearly incels suffer with relational disorders. This becomes dangerous when it is united to a sense of victimhood and oppression. Indeed, incel forums tend to get shut down precisely because they descend into vicious bigotry, racism, violent rape fantasies and credible threats of doing harm to others.

This article was written to expose how the movement’s premises are deeply inimical to Christianity. This is only to be expected. Whenever large numbers of perverted, unhappy, or dysfunctional people collaborate, they build extensive online manufactories of hatred. Many incels certainly hate women, but there is also a deep vein of religious and racial bigotry within the incel subculture. In other words, the typical incel is not a Christian and is disdainful of Christianity. I found nearly inexhaustible examples like this:

Christianity is based on a series of transparent and idiotic falsehoods, beginning with its central premise:

There is a heavenly magical Jew in the sky who loves and cares for you.

Talk about mind-boggling stupidity. How do you even go about proving any of that nonsense? And no, your magical book does not count as evidence. Not to mention the other problems with the religion, such as nearly destroying western civilization, retarding scientific and technological progress, promoting hundreds of years of bloody internecine conflict among Europeans, and giving rise to liberalism and communism (yes, these are of Christian origin).

If Christianity is a dying religion in the west, it is because of science and mass literacy. No need to explain things with god doing this or that, like they did during the Dark Ages. Only an idiot would believe in Christianity these days, which is why it’s growing so rapidly in places like Africa and Latin America.

Groups which exist to share hatred with each other – even as a coping mechanism – are lethal to human flourishing. They provide disturbed people with plausible-sounding justifications for perversion. They encourage the dismantling of boundaries that would not otherwise be breached. And they plunge the vulnerable, hurt and isolated further into despair.

Despite this, they represent the mission field of the Christian Church.

BLACK PILLS, RED PILLS, CHADS AND STACEYS

Nailing down the incel worldview is difficult because we are dealing with a large number of men who have built a common identity around a single characteristic: the lack of sexual relations. Aside from this one characteristic, there are numerous subdivisions within the subculture.

Its most extreme manifestation is the “black pill” stream. The term is derived from The Matrix movie in which the protagonist is given the choice between a blue and red pill. If he swallows the blue pill, he returns to a life of simulated delusion. If he swallows the red pill, he embraces reality which will be much less comfortable. When incels talk about the “black pill” they mean that the “true reality” is far more savage than most people could ever believe. Thus, only the bravest and most honest incels take the “black pill”.

To “take the black pill” is to embrace a package of beliefs that include elements of social Darwinism, biological determinism, pessimism, dystopianism, and thoroughgoing nihilism. Black pill incels vehemently affirm that their fate is sealed; their future is fixed, and it consists of nothing but a grey, colourless blur.

Red pill incels, by contrast, are less pessimistic. Red pill incels have awoken to the “truth” that society is rigged against men and all women operate in certain ways for their own advantage. But whereas black pill incels conclude that hopelessness and passivity is the only response to this truth, red pill incels retain hope. They believe that they can take action. They can improve their confidence, work on their “game”, utilise some Pick Up Artist techniques, and improve their looks (something called “looksmaxxing”). In other words, this variety of incel do not forfeit the individual responsibility to improve themselves.

One incel explains the difference in this way:

Red-pill is focused on average-looking dudes to improve their looks and help them gain confidence to date women. A 5/10 guy can become a 6-7/10 after working on all of these things[:]

  • Working out regularly and building muscle, getting lean, dressing well, having nice haircuts etc.

Black-pill is for dudes who are just downright ugly and will never really find true love or be in a relationship. Think bottom of the bell-curve genetics. No amount of self-improvement will ever make them conventionally attractive[.]

To which another forum member replies:

Sometimes incels post pictures of who is an incel according to them, whether it’s some ugly celebrity, some random picture of a somebody found online, or a picture of themselves. Most of the time the caption says the person is a subhuman incel, and most of the time they’re just average looking person, not the scum of humanity, not the biggest loser of the “genetic lottery”.

Really ugly people do exist, but most incels are rather delusional when it comes to their own look.

The latter post correctly illustrates the twin beliefs which tend to result in the utter despair that is common among a broad cross-section of incels. On the one hand they are rigidly fixated on looks, yet concurrently have an unrealistic self-appraisal of their own appearance.

The narratives about appearance result in twisted exemplars. Incels commonly label the most romantically successful people as “Chads” (or sometimes “Brads”) and “Staceys”. The name comes from an imaginary man called “Chad”. Chad is a hypothetical “alpha male” who is the ultimate sexual machine. Incels theorise that this man would reflect the highest levels of romantic competence. He would be handsome, athletic, intelligent, wealthy, have irresistible sexual allure for women, and have an unparalleled degree of social mobility and independence. Chad could happily rub shoulders with the Manhattan elite and then flourish just as well in a dockside mafia gang.

Incels will often refer to Chad as if he were a real person. On incel forums they write laudatory biographies of him, with graphic details about his prowess with women (one incel wrote that Chad would have lost his virginity at 12). These biographies shower superlative adjectives upon Chad as if he were an object of religious veneration.

Here is a typical incel post:

Chad is a man who automatically and naturally turns girls on due to his appearance and demeanor [sic], in much the same way that your typical FA [Forever Alone] automatically and naturally turns girls off.

Chad feels and exudes confidence, in part because of his privileged upbringing but mainly because he has had positive feedback his entire life.

Girls don’t play games with or flake on Chad, because they know he can instantly replace them. They wouldn’t dream of answering their mobile phones while out on a date with him.

Conduct which is considered “creepy” or “mysoginistic” [sic] or “harassment” when done by average guys is excused or even celebrated when Chad does it. If Chad playfully pats a girl on the rear end she will admire his courage for having done so. She will hope he does the same again, or more.

Girls think carefully about what sexy clothes they can wear to catch Chad’s eye. At clubs and parties, they will try to sit in his lap or grab at his crotch in hopes that it will lead to the opportunity to perform fellatio on him.

When Chad cheats on his girlfriend, she invents excuses for it and puts all the blame on the girl he cheated with. To do otherwise would be to risk losing Chad as a boyfriend.

It is significant that part of this fantasy includes socioeconomic factors. Chad is not poor and underprivileged but enjoys wealth and educational opportunities from an early age, turning him into a confident adult who enjoys access to power. In other incel posts, race and age are mentioned as a key part of Chad’s character. He is almost always described as young and white, although there is a black counterpart who is given the name “Tyrone”. As these qualities stack up it becomes apparent that Chad represents for incels a totem of power which they feel is absent within their own masculinity.

Chad illustrates the recessional nature of incel profiling. As time goes on, the characteristics he is said to possess become more narrow. The narrative turns upon itself in ever-decreasing circles. Most of Chad’s characteristics relate to looks. This reflects the incel obsession with attractiveness as the prime mover of a sexual relationship. Since incels are rigidly fixated on a collection of exterior female characteristics as sexual triggers, they assume that all relationships work on the same basis.

Crude illustrations of “Chad” circulate within incel forums. He is usually depicted with luxuriant blonde hair, ripped muscles, strong profile and a chiselled jawline – jawlines being a physical feature that incels discuss frequently. It has been noted (not unfairly) that there is a definite element of homoeroticism in the “Chad” phenomenon. Incels who write about him adopt the angle of a female viewer and psychologically feminise themselves. Some incels openly admit to wanting to have sex with Chad.

On the other hand, a “Stacey” is an attractive “high value” woman who is only interested in one thing: getting an “alpha bad boy” who is powerful and competent – in other words, a “Chad”. This places “Staceys” beyond the reach of incels since they do not have the attributes they associate with masculine power. Stacey is therefore highly desirable to incels but at the same time completely unattainable. This inflames a deep resentment because incels think attractive women will readily have sexual intercourse with many Chad-like men but will not, of course, ever have sexual relations with them.

HYPERGAMY AND MISOGYNY

With few exceptions, incels are unremittingly misogynistic.

This is a true textbook-definition of misogyny not merely a flippant label. There is hardly a negative stereotype of women that has not been ram-packed into their philosophy. Incels believe that women are fickle, disloyal, treacherous, gold-digging, and callous. The full personhood of women is routinely denied. Instead women are viewed mostly as an assemblage of body parts or as mobile genitals. It is normal for them to be called “sluts”, “whores”, or terms even more repellent to a normal person.

Neither is this hatred just idle chatter. Three incels: Elliot Rodgers (2014), Chris Harper-Mercer (2015) and Alek Minassian (2018) have each committed acts of massed murder, targeting women. In two cases, lengthy manifestos were left by the killers with elaborate justifications for their actions. These men have become icons within the incel subculture. They are often referred to as “saints”. The anniversary of their massacres are celebrated on many online forums. Incels literally celebrate these men as folk-heroes and revolutionaries, as if they were latter-day Robin Hoods standing up for the sexually oppressed.

The murders are constantly discussed on incel forums and a lot of incel humour involves references to the killings. Some incels reject violence, but there is a troubling ambivalence among the majority.

Violence and suicide are frequently encouraged on incel forums. A BBC reporter, Johnathan Griffin, writes:

I saw one forum thread where someone was saying they wanted to take their own life, and various commenters suggested violence.

One said: “DON’T be selfish. Go to an elementary school and kill some children before you commit suicide. Please!?!”

Messages like that aren’t unusual in the incel community. When someone mentions that they have suicidal thoughts, they’re often egged on by other posters.

As we speak, Liam, the 19-year-old UK incel, tries to joke about Rodger’s murder spree.

“I don’t think it was even that wrong,” he says, laughing nervously. When I push, he does say: “It’s common sense, it’s wrong to kill people.”

Incels believe that society is “gynocentric”. By this they mean that women are favoured to the detriment of men. They argue that feminism caused this. Feminism has not only allowed women to be more assertive about their rights but also fortressed female values and concerns in modern politics. Some incels blame their sexless condition on feminism. They see themselves as victims of women (and gynocentric society) and they speak the language of victimhood.

Incels also claim that women are naturally “hypergamous”. (Less pretentious incels use the term “gold-diggers”.) They argue that women have an instinct to seek higher status sexual partners than themselves.

Hypergamy is a legitimate sociological concept for a pairing where one partner does have higher status in a measurable variable like wealth or education. Nonetheless, hypergamy does not define female behaviour, and it is not isolated only to women. Sometimes women “marry down” too, a practice termed “hypogamy”. These behaviours are most common in stratified societies where social mobility is limited and marriage is governed by complex rules of kinship, caste, tradition and status. In modern egalitarian societies, neither hypergamy or hypogamy are a mainstream aspect of romance. Most people tend to marry someone who is their educational or class equal.

To incels, however, hypergamy (or at least their interpretation of hypergamy) is a fixed law of human relationships. Since they see themselves as being at the bottom of the heap – “ugly, semi-educated, and poor” – and since no woman is going to partner with someone with less status than herself, they have no chance at having sex. Not ever. Lots of incels genuinely think this is the reason they are celibate. They blame female “hypergamy” or “gold digging”. Having no “gold” they are not being “dug” by cold, calculating women.

Incels have an utter obsession with physical attractiveness as the main ingredient for romantic fulfilment. It comes up time and time again on incel forums. Not a forum exists where looks are not discussed. Any suggestion that personality, behaviour, or intelligence plays an equally important part in attraction is viciously disparaged.

Another equally fixed belief is that women are naturally do not describe their own desires truthfully. Women are “naturally” dishonest or indirect, so they cannot be listened to as a guide to romance! Incels routinely malign the idea that women could be attracted to inward qualities, even when women themselves say they are.

Incels – particularly black pill incels – typically employ a morose selection of junk science titbits to support their case, of which the following is a standard example:

The results showed that as long as a man was considered attractive or moderately attractive, both mothers and daughters would pick the guy who had the most desirable personality traits. But when an unattractive male was paired with the most highly desirable personality profile, neither daughters nor mothers rated him as favorably as a potential romantic partner, compared with better-looking men with less desirable personalities.

Both young women looking for men and mothers seeking boyfriends for their daughters consider a minimum level of attractiveness to be an important criterion in a potential mate, the researchers concluded.

One incel replied:

Everything a woman says they are attracted to only applies if the man is good looking.

Comments like these betray a fundamental inability to make commonsense deductions from a rational observation of how the world works. Or, it is a sullen determination to argue for an untruth because of a sense of enjoyment in being vengefully dishonest.

A normal person learns very early in life that while looks are important to some people, relative attractiveness does not determine a person’s fate. Looks are not destiny. Yet incels insist that women superimpose attractiveness over every other consideration despite what women themselves say.

Female dishonesty and treachery is thus an omnipresent theme in incel dialogue:

This is what kills me about women they are never honest. When a woman makes an effort to compliment a man you should know that man is a chad even if they don’t admit. I remember one woman was talking about how that waiter in some restaurant is kind and professional when I went to that restaurant guess what? he was a [profanity deleted] chad and she didn’t mention that.

To which another incel replied:

Yeah because they aren’t aware they are grading looks. They think a good personality is good looks subconciously [sic]

Finally, another poster commented:

Women are naturally wired to do and say things indirectly.

This is a convenient way of dismissing women’s views and forcibly impressing incel beliefs upon all contrary data. So, whenever a woman comments about romantic attraction being more than a sum of body parts for her, it is normal on incel forums for her to receive sharp disdain and contradiction. If her comments do not fit the incel philosophy, then she is either consciously lying because she does not want to admit the truth, or she is being coy. Or perhaps, she does not really know her own mind and simply repeats socially acceptable lines like a human tape recorder on playback.

RACIST, RIGHT-WING, AND REBELLIOUS

Subcultures often have interesting overlaps with other currents active within the cultural mix. The overlaps provide clues about the dynamics within the subculture, where it has come from, where it is going, and what gives it impetus. In the case of the incel subculture, there is a heavy correlation between incels and racism, extreme right-wing views, degrees of financial difficulties, and a generalised iconoclastic tendency that permeates the movement. This latter characteristic is nearly universal. Sacred cows are slain on incel altars. Cultural heresy is enthusiastically celebrated. Anything that is politically correct is pilloried with rhetorical tomatoes soon following after. The other characteristics may not be descriptive of every incel – for example, some incels appear to come from privileged, progressive backgrounds while others incels are certainly not racist – but judging from the sort of posts found on forums, incels are more likely to fit into these categories than they are to belong to the inverse.

The overlap between racism and misogyny is noticeable to anyone who takes an investigative or anthropological interest in this subculture. The Toronto Star made this very observation in a recent expose on the incel movement published shortly after the Toronto van attack:

In all the discussions around Incels or involuntary celibates — a term violently wrested out of an obscure internet subculture and thrown into mainstream lexicon after last week’s van rampage in Toronto — a less talked about aspect is the overlap of its foundational misogyny with racism.

There’s a reason for that. It’s complicated.

“When you have these communities that don’t have coherent ideologies on a lot of things, they’re united in their misogyny, not necessarily united on the racial stuff,” says Arshy Mann, a reporter for Xtra, a Toronto-based LGBTQ magazine, who has been surfing the larger “manosphere” subculture for a decade and researching Incels for the past six months.

For the sake of fairness, it must be underscored that not all incels are racist. Such a disparate movement united primarily by misogyny will naturally have texture in relation to its various attitudes toward race. In fact, there are many non-white participants within the subculture and this is reflected by a blend of ethnic backgrounds represented on incel forums – for example, the so-called “currycels” and “ricecels” (incels of south Asian and east Asian extraction). There are black incels too – “blackcels” – with their own bête noire in the form of “Tyrone”, the black counterpart of “Chad”.

Nonetheless, racism is endemic within the movement. It is found everywhere on incel forums; racist viewpoints are discussed in a laudatory manner by the so-called nazicel subgroup; and racist adjectives are casually employed within normative forum discussion apparently without thought. There appears to be no concerted effort to delegitimise this behaviour by most forum administrators.

Virulent racism flowed in nearly equal proportions to his misogyny from the icon of incel angst, serial killer Elliot Rodgers. Rodgers was crystal clear in classifying people of different ethnic backgrounds on a sliding hierarchy of value:

Rodger, the half-Asian 22-year-old Santa Barbara, Calif., killer of six people (and then himself) in 2014, hailed as some sort of patron saint for the Incels, was so fixated on whiteness he bleached his hair and fantasized about tall, blonde girls. He saw their rejection as a rejection of his non-white parts. So he reserved in his so-called manifesto particular venom for boys of colour who got attention from white girls.

“How could an inferior, ugly Black boy be able to get a white girl and not me? I am beautiful, and I am half white myself. I am descended from British aristocracy. He is descended from slaves. I deserve it more …”

Rodger’s rage wasn’t reserved just for Black people, though.

“How could an inferior Mexican guy be able to date a white blonde girl, while I was still suffering as a lonely virgin?”

“How could an ugly Asian attract the attention of a white girl, while a beautiful Eurasian like myself never had any attention from them?”

On one black pill forum the question was asked: “What’s your opinion of Hitler and National Socialism?”. The fact that this question was raised is significant. It is not a question that is usually raised within a normative social setting, although it is sometimes posed by adolescents wanting to test the boundaries of decency.

A poll was taken on the forum. Although its sample size was restricted only to a self-selecting group of online participants, nearly half of the respondents – 47% – indicated they were “neutral” concerning Nazism. Meanwhile, 35% of those surveyed selected options to indicate that Hitler “did nothing wrong” or was “a good person”. Only 17% of the respondents thought Nazism was an evil ideology.

The subsequent comments quickly descended into historical and moral derangement. Some incels praised Hitler; others denied the Holocaust; and still others indicated that Jews needed to be monitored and isolated within societies.

One incel wrote:

The holocaust did not happen. They were work camps, not death camps.

Another agreed:

Honestly he was the best leader in all of mankind’s history.

Anti-Semitism quickly appeared:

…war does not help anyone and neither does removing the juden [sic]. the juden [sic] race must be isolated within countries and controlled.

Another incel claimed that Hitler’s vicious anti-Semitism constitute the very grounds for according them admiration:

Adolf Hitler and many in the NSDAP were great men, up holders and defenders of traditionalism and steadfast soldiers against Jewish Tyranny. They took on the Jews and they deserve all the admiration and respect we can give them.

This thread continued to dozens of posts, with many incels contributing their anthems of praise for Hitler and Nazism, along with sickening remarks about Jews. It demonstrates how any ideology of hatred eventually combines with extreme right-wing persuasions. Indeed, in recent months there has been an increasing segue between the incel subculture and the alt-right movement, now generally accepted as a basket of immature iconoclasts who not only hold virtually fascist viewpoints – in the truest sense of the term – but work to rehabilitate the legitimacy of such viewpoints in mainstream culture.

In one sense a lot of this type of discussion is simply designed to be nonconformist and shocking. Part of the internal dynamic of the incel movement – and the related MGTOW movement – is a reaction against politically-correct opinions and the people who tend to uphold them. It is a form of rebellion against all that is deemed by respectable people to be “safe”, “sensible” and “normal”. Perhaps some of this attitude among incels arises from the feeling of being outcast.

How do outcasts form a bond? How do outcasts construct a group identity? To understand incel group psychology we should consider the behaviour of adolescent males who experience persistent failure in school. Every message they receive tells them that education is valuable and important. It is a message reinforced by teachers, parents, television, and government leaders yet they are equally conscious of their academic inability. They cannot attain success. But they see that their peers can.

Young males frequently cope with these circumstances by openly (or clandestinely if they have a weaker personality) rejecting authority, sabotaging others, writing demeaning notes, finding people to bully, and by embracing maverick opinions that are purposefully intended to be shocking. The more shocking the better because it distinguishes them from the crowd and gives them notoriety when they may have little else that is deserving of attention. In the same way, many incels bond in a fellowship of iconoclasm to the extent that incel forums often seem to be a contest in who can write the most derogatory, bizarre, and disturbing things. It is doubtful that all incels necessarily believe what they write.

Moreover, incels are increasingly aware that they have become media villains, associated with danger, with racism, terrorism, and with a movement commonly described as dark and subversive. Some of the incel forums have featured in stories published by serious media outlets. This is quite a satisfying payoff for any person who feels disempowered and disenfranchised. By merely participating on some forums, they have become part of a subculture that has sparked a minor moral panic.

Long time observers of incel forums have come to this conclusion as well:

That’s what makes this postmodern form of extremism so interesting. Everything is a half joke. It’s like that Simpsons… episode where the dude says “He’s cool….” and the other guys goes, “Dude, are you being sarcastic?” and he responds with “I don’t even know anymore…

The “movement” is consistently sexist, racist, sadistic and ridiculous to the point where it seems like it’s just everyone being edge lords…

Another commentator in close contact with some incels writes:

…if you examine the way they openly sh*tpost outside of their preferred safe spaces and domains, you realize they seem to be actively drawing attention to themselves and their outrageously edgy OMG you can’t say that! beliefs in a very specific way.

Don’t believe me, go look at some of the incel advice threads on here in the past month or two. Several of them have an underlying tone of “I’m afraid I’m going to turn into a racist if I don’t get laid,” or “look what women made me do” (also evident in several PMs I have received…).

They are aware that a lot of people are starting to think this way, that the incel / soft-right is a gateway into extremism, terrorism and ethno-nationalism, and they’re making attempts to leverage that belief because they honestly think it will get them laid. They’re saying to you, on this sub, “Look if I don’t get [sex] then I’m going to turn Nazi.” Like that’s an ultimatum.

It’s the same type of logic they use on actual women, in actual social situations, even if just online, and it’s exactly consistent with the rhetoric they use “in private” when they think nobody is watching – “if women don’t give us what we want then we’ll destroy ourselves and do everything we can to destroy society, because if we can’t have what we want then nobody can have anything!” It’s the ultimate exercise in petulance.

THE EMPTY SELF AND AUTHORITARIANISM

Setting aside the incels who spout politically-incorrect views for sport, other incels are very serious about their extremism and hatred. They hate women with a seismic vengeance; they hate people of other races; and they even hate each other (solidarity in the incel world only goes so far; their forums are permeated with incivility and rage). It is precisely these sorts of venomous incels who tend to hold the frightening Nazi-style opinions and show an uncomfortable interest in violence – for example, animations on their forum profile of teenagers cocking rifles in their bedrooms.

At the same time as writing streams of blood-curdling slurs and slanders – casually talking about the extermination of Jews or referring to women’s genitalia, breasts, and buttocks in graphic terms – incels also commonly embrace a highly distorted conception of men and women in which the fundamental dynamic is power and authority. They see the two genders in Darwinian terms where biology determines that men ought to be domineering and women slavishly submissive. For instance, some incels will insist a man has a right to sexual intercourse with his wife even when she does not want it, and as he is the stronger he has a right to take what he desires. Given such a worldview it is perhaps inevitable that rape is routinely glorified in incel circles since it serves as a symbol (to them) of male potency, authority, and control.

The topic of Islam often results in an collision of authoritarian extremes among incels. Some incels find the religious subjugation of women compelling while others are repulsed by the religion due to the ethnicity of its adherents. This results in one of the many internecine squabbles that are characteristic of incel forums, in this instance conflict between incels who prioritise male supremacist fantasies above racial ones and other incels for whom the fantasy of white racial supremacy is more important:

The women are separated from the men. They have to wear burkas to cover their faces. So, in fact, Islam is very much agreeable with reason and the physics of the universe. Who in their right mind could object to a religion where a holy man will receive as his property 72 virgins in paradise?

Similarly:

Society determines male status, and if society lowers male status, the males already on the lower end of the ladder feel it the heaviest. Spandrell argued that this is why Islam is so successful: Islam raises the status of men. The downgrade in status that drives Muslim males to terrorism in the West is the same that drove Alek Minassian to kill pedestrians, [and] 4 years ago drove Elliot Rodger to kill 6 people.

Other incels disagree. For these men, cultural bigotry exercises the greater imperative and outweighs even their interest in domineering women:

I see the sandn*gger masses across the world, have read the Qu’uran [sic] and spoke to many [M]uslims at college. They were primitive cultureless low IQ [profanity]. I have enough experience with it to know it[‘s] nonsense. Maybe Islam was relevant back before the dark ages when Persia was a major power, but now its just a bunch of paedo worshipping neckbeards (literal neckbeards) who move around in herds like sheep because they are too [vulgarity deleted] to go it alone.

The authoritarianism expressed by this type of incel manifests a psychological need for control. It is particularly obvious from the “black pill” forums that these men keenly feel that a sense of control is missing from their lives. Unfortunately the incel philosophy heightens the despair and fear that comes from being out of control by magnifying their supposed powerlessness to change their circumstances and reinforcing a viewpoint in which life is significantly directed by a whirlwind of vast, impersonal biological forces.

The sense of being small and powerless comes up in many aspects of incel conversation. For example, money is a frequent topic on many incel forums. Although some incels come from privileged backgrounds, there is abundant evidence that a majority come from lower socioeconomic strata. This can be seen in the frequency with which money is discussed on incel forms; the advice on squeezing government benefits from the system; the low standards of education revealed in many posts; and the poor living conditions that incels describe. Being relatively poor in a consumerist culture is both a frightening and emasculating experience for these men. It is even more galling when the media regularly shows them examples of women or people of non-white ethnicity, who earn more than they do.

Despite this package of inadequacy, for many of these incels the chief locus of powerlessness – the very definition of their lack of control – is their physical appearance. Perhaps they lack the strong jawline, or a muscular build, or a manly nose and thus they conclude that they can never have sexual intercourse or a meaningful relationship with women. Short of plastic surgery – too expensive and risky for most incels – they can do nothing to change themselves. Of all the issues of their lives, physical appearance overshadows everything else. It is the thing that they most wish they could change.

This profound feeling of inadequacy requires a compensatory mechanism or otherwise the individual incel would have no choice but to confront the empty self. For this is surely what lies at the root of the behaviour of many incels. It is evident from reading numerous incel forums that many not only suffer from extreme depression and anxiety, but from any number of personality disorders. The most obsessive show clinical traits of Body Dysphoric Disorder. For these incels, the gravitation to online forums and to shrill, threatening, militant, and aggressive behaviour is nothing short of an effort to medicate an empty self.

An empty self results in a fragile personality that must be sustained by outward resources. In a consumerist society this means products, approval, flattery, status, pleasure, and power. It means aligning with the images that are presented in advertising and movies. An empty self is maintained by validation from the world outside. When that validation is lacking, the true empty self is exposed.

When incels are drawn out on their feelings they often describe this in despairing terms:

I feel like I get caught in a cycle. Like I hate most everything about me, I want the external validation so badly, which causes me to be even less confident.

Like I wanna be sure of myself and be confident around women, and just people in general. I get that’s a more attractive quality. I just can’t figure out how to break the cycle and stop thinking like this.

Maybe it’s oversimplification on incels part, but to get these traits that people want, you’ve got to experience this sorta approval that comes with physical attraction

Incels primarily seek outside validation through sexual intercourse or a romantic partnership. To these they attach a supreme importance because in a sexualised culture there can be no greater fulfilment for an empty self than sexual satisfaction with a willing partner (sexual activity with a prostitute does not count for most incels). The absence of such sexual validation engenders a profound (and painful) inadequacy. This in turn often leads to the development of either an authoritarian personality or the embrace of authoritarian beliefs and attitudes like misogyny, Nazism, and racism.

Such beliefs provide two necessary scaffolds for a fragile personality seeking validation. Firstly, it grants a much-coveted feeling of control – even if it is completely illusionary. Secondly, because these beliefs are shockingly counter-cultural (like Nazism) they provide perverse validation. By identifying with despised authoritarian beliefs, incels feel that significance is conferred on them from the outside world. This occurs when the world reacts with horror and fear. To the incel, this translates to respect, power, and significance. “I am feared,” they reason, “because I espouse Nazi beliefs, therefore I am significant“. Or, “The horror expressed at my beliefs reassures me that I am seen as dangerous to the status quo, therefore I have power.” All of this is small potatoes – the fourth place ribbon – but it is at least something flowing from the outside world that can soothe an empty self.

Control and validation are the keys to understanding such men. The most hostile and despairing incels desperately want the feeling of control. Not only because they lack significant control over the things that matter to them, but also because control is a critical part of their conception of masculinity. Control is an attribute incels universally associate with their male fantasy figure “Chad”. Lacking this feeling of control and power themselves, they seek compensation in the embrace of beliefs or fantasies that have historically permitted males to control others. They may have no control in their own lives but they can vicariously experience the thrill of control through projection and fantasy. By tapping into beliefs that have conferred power on other men in the past, they discover a compensatory authoritarianism that corresponds to their powerlessness.

Thus they constantly articulate rape fantasies (projection to a past when men used to control women); use racist slurs (to project to a past when white men controlled blacks); talk admiringly about Nazism (when white men were able to control Jews and other ethnicities), and so on. This explains the explosive misogyny and the prevalence “rape talk” among incels. These things are spoken about so ubiquitously precisely because they confer a feeling of control over women whom they intensely desire, yet cannot control.

Neither is the thirst for control merely rhetoric for this stripe of incel. For when they have the opportunity to exercise genuine control over women, they do so. This is vividly illustrated in an interview conducted with an incel by French journalism student Jean-Gabriel Fernandez. The interview was conducted in April 2018 and published on an incel blog which describes itself as:

Anti-modernist, anti-feminist, anti-liberal, anti-MRA [Men’s Rights Activist], anti-seduction, pro-patriarchy/reactionary, pro-Islam…

Incidentally, this self-description is a handy summary of the political and social opinions that tend to rinse around the sprawling online communities of incels and MGTOW groups. The third part in this series of articles will discuss this in more detail.

Fernandez asked the incel operator of this blog about his views of women and he was brutally forthcoming:

Since around 2014 I have become a reactionary anti-feminist who believes that that women should be married off as virgins and not be allowed to vote while males should only be using prostitutes before and during marriage.

I believe that four key traits of a good society are 1. monogamy, 2. good religion, 3. female premarital chastity, and 4. widely available prostitution. Number 1 and 4 aren’t contradictory, because sleeping with prostitutes isn’t considered actual cheating in sane societies. Actual cheating is having a lover you invest in.

I see most modern Western women as sluts one should have no moral qualms about raping and as completely incapable of a committed relationship or marriage.

The incel blogger then went on to describe his chequered romantic history. When he was younger (he is presently 28 years old), he had the opportunity to have a sexual relationship with several women – one of which, by his own admission “aggressively” offered him sex. Nonetheless, he was too skittish to pursue them.

Later he had multiple sexual encounters with women he deemed “slutty” and had ongoing sex with a “friend with benefits”. Later, the friend with benefits asked him to father a child with her because she wanted to be a mother. At the time the incel blogger had been stinging from insults he had received on a forum in which other participants had taunted that he would never reproduce. Thus, in order to prove that he could easily reproduce and that, in fact, reproduction was no great accomplishment, he agreed to have unprotected intercourse. When his sexual partner fell pregnant she moved away with his daughter whom the blogger admitted that he had never seen and does not have any interest in meeting. In his own words, “I do not care about this daughter” and having had a child, he has demonstrated “it isn’t so hard to breed”.

He describes making threats to kill one woman and later being charged by the police. He also admits to doing “illegal things” which he did not wish to elaborate on. However, he has found happiness within a world where he can exercise control:

In early 2017 I became a Muslim and moved to [place deleted in original] for a while. There I was introduced into their Muslim community. I met my girlfriend via Tinder. She claimed to be 18 years old but was in fact just 17 (she lied about her age at the time). This relationship is different than the ones I had before. I now know how women are dealt with in the current non-patriarchal rotten society. My girlfriend is tightly controlled by me and my Muslim community, and she is available to them in every way. I realize now that good relationships are only possible in a patriarchal, coalpha society.

Also, I’d like to mention one more thing. The leftists/liberals say that incels promote violence etc. But you must understand what the liberal definition of violence is to understand just how hollow that is. Liberalism is hatred of the whites. An act of rape is a crime of rape only when a white rapes. Other acts defined as rape by liberals are whites having consensual sex, whites asking a girl on a date, and every other act a white does to get a relationship and sex.

When asked by Fernandez if he had ever raped someone, the blogger replied:

I obviously won’t/can’t say if I practiced it myself but it is quite obvious from my posts. I believe it isn’t morally reprehensible if the raped ones are modern Western women who feminism turned into worthless scum. This doesn’t mean that all women everywhere deserve to be raped. Women in non-feminist places shouldn’t be raped and even some women in feminist places (like Amish or Mormon women in America) don’t deserve to be raped.

On a related note, many of my enemies have this fallacy that because I hate modern Western women I must hate all women. This is a basic misunderstanding of my positions. I don’t like women on location x (Western world) and time period y (modern time) and even then there are exceptions like the ones I mentioned

The incel blogger clearly articulates his view that the subjugation of women to male authority and control is a prerequisite for him to respect them enough not to regard them as candidates for rape. He singles out a few women within the Western world who are exempt from being targets of justifiable rape, all of these being women who exist largely in traditionalist collectives (although his assumptions about Mormon women seem a bit out of date since Mormon women can and do hold feminist viewpoints too).

He hastens to indicate that he only hates some women in some places in some time periods. He has no grudge against pre-modern women or the women who live in places where the law does not treat people equally, without regard for gender.

In the same interview – and in a dazzling display of moral and intellectual malformation – the incel laments:

My blog has a somewhat low reputation but only because those criticizing it are leftist scum that oppose my reactionary views, just like they oppose [anything] that I write… humanizing incels in the first place.

There is a constant view that incels are “entitled”, ie believing they are owed something, when this simply isn’t true for most of them. This “entitlement” is a leftist buzzword to attack all white males and nothing else.

However, current anti-intellectual incels sites… have a deservingly bad reputation, as they are filled with crazy people and ideas.

It apparently does not occur to the incel blogger that he is also a crazy person with extremely sick ideas, and that the people who criticise his blog very astutely recognise the absurdly entitled and narcissistic individual at work. A person who can develop an apologia for rape with a straight face and argue that the targets of sexual assault are fair game, suffers (at best) from a delusion of his own supreme importance, which may be satisfied at the expense, pain, and suffering of others. He is an “entitled” young man by any stretch of the language.

In this interview, the incel all but admits that he has raped women. This behaviour is consistent with his clear desire for control over others and his authoritarian beliefs. He thinks his masculinity entitles him to domineer women and have sexual access at his whim. He thus finds his Shangri-La in a community where his teenage girlfriend, ten years his junior, can be continually monitored and controlled by a team of “alpha males”. This, in the incel blogger’s judgement, is “a good relationship”.

If ever a person demonstrated the Freudian concept of the “narcissistic wound”, it is this deeply disturbed young man. And if ever there was a young woman for whose safety one may rightly fear, it is the girlfriend of the operator of this blog.

AN ONLINE COLONY OF THE MORALLY DERANGED

The incel community is heavily colonised by perverts. The subculture acts like a magnet, pulling into its black hole a motley assortment of morally deranged men. Their perversions range from the grotesque to the criminal; from fetishes to bizarre fixations, but in nearly all cases such interests could only arise from dysfunctional personalities.

In the incel subculture, men with perverted appetites find an environment that not only refuses to judge their conduct, but accepts it as a natural part of the background colour of incel culture. It is taken for granted among many incels that the community is an enlightened Gomorrah for the sexually crippled, welcoming migrants from whatever cesspit they happen to originate from. There is a spirit of invitation, “We’re all friends here, and no matter how morally deranged you may be, we’ve all suffered at the hands of perfidious women and we’re all in this together.

Such tolerance of perversion is an inevitable phenomenon in a world where women are targets of hatred and disdain, and where the participants drink so heavily from the toxic fountain of violent pornography.  There are no limits on many incel forums to how depraved a man may become. There are no boundaries; no rules; and no limits. This is a Wild West of sexual anarchy.

The online forums function as connective hubs not only for sharing their ideas but also for trading the sorts of digital goods that have value in the incel world: photographs, videos, vicious memes, and graphics. In online discussions, sexual behaviours are described in lurid detail, and techniques are shared for effectively pursuing disturbed behaviour. In the process of sharing this material, the forums serve to normalise aberrant behaviour. The pseudo-scientific nature of the discussion clothes their fantasies in the robes of plausibility (at least to their minds), and thus rationalises their behaviour.

It serves to explain precisely why a sizeable segment of the incel community do not have sexual relationships with women: women avoid men who have sub-normal sexuality. Neither can it be argued – as some incels will argue – that a lack of sexual expression causes the sexual perversion, and thus women are to blame for making them the predators and creeps that many of them surely are. Examples abound of incels admitting that they had opportunities for sexual intercourse but turned it down because it was the wrong sort of woman who was making the offer. The woman did not align with the fixations and obsessions of the incel, and therefore did not count.

We have already witnessed the omnipresent rape fantasies which soak the forums ceaselessly. Many of these are accompanied by rubbish evolutionary psychological explanations which tells us that the search for scientific legitimacy is widespread among incels even if their theories are scientifically illiterate. The following is typical:

Incel01

Other incels get the thrill of power and control in other ways. The following is an incel’s description of stalking a young teenage girl, and doubtless terrifying her. He recommends other incels try stalking women as a form of “harmless psychological fun”, but cautions that they should only do so if they know their limits. Given the frequent correlation between stalking and sexual assault, this is a very cold comfort:

Incel02

The incel writes that he enjoys stalking women. It gives him “a good feeling”. He explains that this is a gratifying activity for him because the fear shown by his victim confers a significance and importance on him which he would otherwise lack. Neither is this an isolated event. It is apparent from his post that he has experimented with stalking women often enough to know that following them at night produces the same result with less effort than following them in the daylight.

To say that this is disturbed conduct is an understatement. This incel is a deeply disturbed individual and what he describes is the sort of scenario that results in the making of a sexual predator. We may safely surmise that when the thrill of stalking women wears thin, this man may seek further gratification with more violent or forceful encounters. If not escalation, his description manifests a nexus of symptoms that demands continuation in the future: it is habitual behaviour, it excites him, it is dependent on a degraded view of women as prey (as in the description of the girl as a “fawn”), and it demonstrates strikingly malformed moral regulation. The fact this incel describes this as “low-level behaviour” indicates that he has already travelled a very great distance down the rabbit hole of sexual pathology.

Other incels describe fixations that are less dangerous but still subnormal. One incel, whose profile bears the message “remember the dead shooters” and a rant about a “final solution for the entire human race” whom he hates, wrote:

i wanna sniff the chair she is sitting in

To which another incel wrote:

I also have this fetish but only on hot women…. Have u ever sniffed a chair after a girl leaved the chair tbh

The original writer replied:

i thought about it alot in high school when attractive young girls got up out their chairs never did it because i didnt need another label on me..

The other incel admitted:

I actually did it 1x but i wont do its cuz its too risky.

Stomach-churning discussions on incel forums abound. Some researchers have noted, for instance, that there is a significant interest among incels in incestuous relationships. One woman posted a screenshot of a message she received from an incel who asked her whether she had “ever been penetrated by her father”. When she reacted with understandable anger, the incel apologised for his forwardness and then messaged again, “But has this ever happened to you?”

The number of examples of aberrant sexual interests are practically inexhaustible. Many demonstrate the imprint that pornography has made on young men, since it is apparent that the primary sexual experience and education for many of these incels has come through the channel of pornography. Their reliance on this source for knowledge and experience of sexuality means they only experience sexual arousal at stimuli that is repellent to a psychologically healthy, sexually normal male. For instance, there is a substantial interest among incels in the topic of sexual degradation and sexual domination. Both of these are standard themes in modern pornography, which is not chiefly about the human body, but rather about the interplay of power. Therefore it is not surprising that so many incels associate sex with force. Neither is it surprising that so many incels harbour preposterous fixations on the size of genitals, and have notions about the sexual act worthy of adolescent gossip in the corners of a schoolyard. For instance, one incel wrote a post in which he insisted that a woman’s vagina will grow in length the more often she has sexual relations with a man with longer genitals.

In contradistinction to this poisonous stew of sexual deviance, the sexual intercourse practised by normal people (“normies”) is often presented as boring, “vanilla”, and of secondary value compared to the grotesque appetites they have developed. All of this goes a great distance toward explaining why these men do not (and cannot) form normal relationships with women and cannot have healthy sexual intercourse. It explains precisely why they are celibate. For in the first place, women tend to avoid men with subnormal sexual interests such as smelling chairs or violent fetishes. In the second place, a healthy and normal sexual interest is a prerequisite to forming a healthy and normal gendered relationship.

The fact that such fantasies are largely accepted within the incel subculture as a natural part of the rich tapestry of sexuality, confers legitimacy upon them in the minds of their practitioners, and perversely reinforces the very behaviours, imaginations, fantasies and appetites that cause a large number of incels to be repellent to women. They are conscious that their sexuality is freakish, but their subculture reassures them that freakish sexuality is okay. They are continually reassured that their isolation is the fault of women, or the fault of biological determination, or genetics, and not the fault of a disordered mind or a unhealthy imagination which could be remedied (as so many things in life can be) with a refinement of their moral sense.

When incels do exist in a relationship with a woman, they tend to sabotage the relationship. Below is an account from one young woman who dated an incel. This story provides ample witness to the inadequacy of the incel theory that behind their sexless state lurks a complex of female injustice. This, and other accounts just like it, proves that in many cases the problem really does lie with the incel himself; within his psychology, his habits, his appetites, or his character. As Shakespeare wisely observed from the mouth of Cassius: “The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves…“, a citation that seems a particularly apt backdrop for this testimony:

A lot of people seem to think if these guys had women in their life they would be better. I’m here to tell you that’s wrong.

So when I first met the dude I had no idea. I thought he was cute and we seemed to have a lot in common. As our relationship progressed he started using all these terms I hadn’t heard before. “Cuck” [cuckold] and “beta” [“beta male”] were thrown around all the time. He was also obsessed with Redit [one of the main forums where incels connect].

Then came his weird obsession with my sexual history. I was a 21 year old girl at the time and had lost my virginity at 19. Apparently this was totally scandalous to him and even though he had feelings for me, he wanted a virgin. He seriously never shut up about how he could only be with a girl who’s a virgin. Everyday he went on and on about how he was an outcast and the world treated him so badly, especially women.

He actually had other girlfriends in the past so it’s really strange that he disliked women. Then I found out that when one of his former girlfriends wanted to break up with him, he threatened to kill her. Yet somehow throughout this story it was still her fault. He also had girls who wanted to be intimate with him in the past and he rejected them. Only once, when the girl he was dating was a virgin, he wanted to have sex. He kept pressuring her so much that she broke up with him. Again this was somehow her fault.

I can’t even begin to describe the delusions this dude had. He was obsessed with being cuckolded, especially by black guys. He even said I wore certain things just to get ploughed by dudes. He was also super-obsessed with race and anti-Semitism. I’m half-black but he reassured me it was OK because I “looked” more white.

There’s so much more I could go into but it would take forever. Basically access to women isn’t going to help these men at all. They love playing the victim and it all comes down to entitlement.

This is a fairly humdrum account. Many similar examples exist in which the young men exhibit traits of a deep-seated neurosis. Here, the young man displays an unhealthy idealisation of female virginity. Multiple sources of testimony indicate that this is very common among incels who are prone to attachment anxieties. The young man in this account was fixated on female virginity probably from a fear of a negative comparison being made between himself and another sexual partner.

In this account, the incel also made threats to kill a previous partner. This aggressive behaviour appears with monotonous regularity in the online record. Lashing out with such anger demonstrates a severe inability to self-regulate emotion and demonstrates the paranoia of relational breakdown, which the incel subculture tends only to exacerbate. In the minds of neurotic incels romantic relationships end when another male swoops in and seduces the woman away. Since they believe that a woman’s behaviour is biologically determined, they are certain that she will embrace a “higher status” male whenever the opportunity is presented.

Many of these neuroses probably arise from childhood relational trauma. In other words, these are men who have experienced avoidant or dismissive parenting styles, and possibly witnessed one, or multiple, relationship breakdowns. Even so, this does not explain the origin of insecurities for every incel, and whatever insecurities a man may have internalised, the subculture itself actively reinforces and inflates them through constant prattle about the unreliability of women, the supposedly promiscuous character of “Chads” and “Staceys”, and puerile speculation about which man any given woman may be sleeping with.

More than anything it is basic misogyny that feeds these incels’ habitual lack of regard for women as people. Note that throughout the above (admittedly abbreviated) account, the young man treated his girlfriend with disdain and viewed her feelings as secondary to his own. His sexual desires and emotional needs were vastly more important than hers. It is clear that he was not relating to her as a person but as a collection of characteristics. This kind of perversity is common among incels. They do not have romantic relationships because they cannot (and do not) relate to women as if they were complete persons.

Instead, over and over again, it is evident that many incels relate only to women as if they were assemblages of discrete characteristics. They relate to a woman’s race; the size of her breasts; her status as a virgin; her attractiveness out of ten; or her weight. The presence or absence of such characteristics becomes the central concern for the incel such that these characteristics assume the nature of an all-consuming passion. These incels do not want to have sexual fulfilment; they want to have sexual fulfilment with a white, virgin number ten. In many – if not most – instances, this kind of thinking is probably the result of long-term exposure to pornography.

So far, these are all instances of sexual paraphilias. It is not fair to say that all incels exhibit paraphilias although there is unquestionably a high incidence of abnormal sexual interest within the culture. In the search for a social patterns, it is not accurate to say that a paraphilia or even a neurosis is a conclusive necessity for identifying as an incel. But there is one characteristic that can be singled out as practically emblematic. It is a characteristic that is shared by the overwhelming majority of incels to the extent that it nearly deserves the status of being predictive, and that characteristic is anger.

The raw anger that is exhibited by incels – both toward others and themselves – is surely the most definitive feature of the subculture. The omnipresence of anger is noted repeatedly by academic researchers, investigative journalists, psychologists treating incels, and virtually anyone who has ever had anything to do with incels. It is even acknowledged by thoughtful incels themselves:

I had a LOT of internalised anger [after high school]. I wouldn’t really consider myself “happy” today but I’m definitely FAR from being an incel…

…the thing is.. if I had been on Reddit then and stumbled upon that community, I really think my life would have been worst. I would have ended like them [incels on the forums] to the worst level. It’s the thing that makes me the angriest about them, how they make young boys keep that anger and never get better. And that’s why I’m happy to see the media is now talking about them and denouncing them.

The anger displayed by incels is explosive, toxic, and murderous. It is almost always expressed in self-pitying terms as if the incel were a genuine victim, is very frequently interlaced with hatred and contempt for groups of people, and sometimes finds expression in dark, sinister revenge narratives.

Revenge narratives range from the plausible to the preposterous. Some narratives are formulated with a degree of rationality (if such a term is applicable), while others are sheer fantasy, weaving in imagery and concepts of the Final Solution, wars, rape and other miseries to be visited upon the world at large. In most instances these narratives include mass murder, specific torments for attractive men and women, with a special arrangement of grotesque “punishments” reserved for attractive women.

The following is a typical example:

incel10

Neither is the anger merely theatrical. The subculture has already given birth to multiple serial killers whose anger translated to violent action. In the case of Elliot Rodger, the methodology he employed to murder his victims amply reveals his dark inner state. His three roommates were stabbed to death as they entered their shared apartment. The autopsy report noted the high number of stab wounds sustained by each victim. One victim, George Chen, was stabbed 94 times, indicating that the attack had continued long after the victim had died. In similar fashion, the two women Rodger killed each respectively sustained seven and eight gunshot wounds. Once again, Rodger had continued to shoot at them even after it would have become apparent that his victims were dead.

In the killing spree at Umpqua Community College, in October 2015 had many more fatalities and (if it is possible) is more disturbed than the random nature of Rodger’s murders. The incel Chris Harper-Mercer corralled a group in a classroom at gunpoint. There he unleashed his rage (one victim was shot multiple times), but also contempt for his victims and evident pleasure at acting out his revenge scenario. Victims were forced to beg for their lives before being shot; one person was forced to watch as others were killed; and one victim was shot trying to get back into her wheelchair at his order. Survivors said that Harper-Mercer smiling during his killing spree. Like Rodger, he finally shot himself to death when the police wounded him in an exchange of gunfire.

Anger and hatred have destructive consequences when they are left unchecked and nourished by a narrative of victimhood.

MAKING SENSE OF THE SUBCULTURE

The incel subculture is both disparate and unstable, held together by very thin threads of commonality. It is also riven with contradictions. For example, although many of its participants are fascinated by order, control, and authoritarian ideologies, it is a fundamentally anarchic movement that has atomised very quickly into a plethora of subgroups that turn in ever-tighter circles. Incels within different these subgroups denounce other incels. One division centres on the incel principle of “lookism”, which is the idea that involuntary celibacy is mostly the result of physical ugliness. This belief is common among “black pill” incels but not necessarily within other incel groupings who may regard feminism as a more primary cause of their plight.

The fragmented nature of the community keeps it neutered when it comes to any kind of mass action, even though incels often fantasise about revolutionary schemes that would punish and humiliate with graphic enthusiasm. But although these men may daydream about channelling Lenin, the average incel resembles more a sexually frustrated Mr Bean whose incompetence and solitariness keep him from being too much a threat.

Not that all incels are conscious of this. Alek Minassian, the Toronto van murderer, wrote about an “incel rebellion” and referred to a grand uprising in which incels would “overthrow all the Chads and Stacys!”. Unwittingly, this was a savagely ironic statement because the anarchic and solipsistic properties of the incel subculture render it absolutely incapable of coordinated action. Point blank. For all the talk of rebellions and uprisings; for all the discussion about changing the world, the subculture has produced no political, social or cultural action outside of its own circuit. Even its serial killers were lone-wolfs whose murder sprees were self-consciously performed (either wholly or in part) for an audience of fellow incels.

Online surveys indicate that the largest cohort of incels are young men between the ages of 18 and 29. Many of these men are broken by difficult life experiences, and sadly the onset of cynicism and the feeling of hopelessness has occurred early in their lives. No carefree youth for these. Some incels have grown up in undeniably traumatic circumstances, or in conditions of poverty, family breakdown, and mental illness. Others have been bullied at school, or are autistic, misunderstood, depressed, or haunted by feelings of deep unworthiness. Others still are clinical neurotics and have a need of affirmation and love from the world greater than the world is able to give them. The brokenness of this community cannot be understated. It consists of human wreckage, self-confessed outcasts, adrift on the sea of life with no idea how they got into their current predicament, why things went wrong, or how they can possibly make things better again. Their lack of a relationship is the capstone on a miserable life.

One cannot help but be moved when these young men describe the tragedy of their lives. For example, one former incel wrote:

I’m not incel anymore, but I am still sympathetic to some of the struggles that other self-identified incels go through. Misogyny, threats of violence, racism are absolutely reprehensible, but underneath that anger are some really broken people.

At the same time it is undeniable that incels are frequently unpleasant individuals, immature, disproportionately resentful, prone to exhibitions of entitlement, narcissism, and practitioners of deviant sexual interests. In turn, this gives rise to the group construction of a pretend world in which they paint themselves as victims or as the human detritus of a cruel and capricious society. Yet they also like to see themselves as special, either as great martyrs (“my life is hell” is a common expression) or as overlooked heroes chronically misunderstood by the “normies”. In this sense the narratives and theories of the subculture, no matter how preposterous they might actually be, are an unconscious attempt to compensate for deep feelings of inadequacy, abnormality, and usually a diminished set of social skills.

The strong overlap between the incel subculture and the alt-right is also highly significant. If there were no correlation then we could correctly deduce that the political values, beliefs and experiences of incels were irrelevant to the subculture and understanding the motives of the people involved in it. Or, put another way, an absent correlation between these factors would show that being an incel made no difference to the political views that person was likely to hold. But this is not so. The opposite is true. The relationship between incels and the alt-right movement is so strong that the former is virtually a fail safe predictor of the latter. Incels can be reliably predicted to hold alt-right beliefs. Of course, the reverse is not true. The entirety of the alt-right movement are not incels. But most incels hold alt-right views, to some degree or another.

This relationship is largely built around the alt-right’s gleeful image of being the ugly stepchild of politics that prides itself on stepping outside the square of political correctness to “speak the truth”. It presents itself as edgy, but also as the misunderstood and marginalised political affiliation that is deplored by the elite because it challenges prevailing orthodoxy with views amounting to cultural heresy. Heresy in any age, whether political or religious, has always had a particular allure for a particular sort of person. In this case, the draw for incels probably has much to do with the alt-right’s opposition to feminism and its enthusiastic destruction of feminist shibboleths, like the “wage gap” and the “#Metoo” movement.

Feminism is the arch-enemy for incels. It is their nemesis whose idols must be energetically smashed in order to destroy its cultural and social power. When mentioned among incels, feminism is almost ubiquitously referenced in the bitterest terms. Incels regard themselves as both a demonstration of the collateral damage of feminism, and they also view themselves as a pocket of resistance against it.

There is some validity to their grievances. In fact, the emergence of the incel subculture itself as a distinct entity should be viewed, at least partially, as a peculiar reaction against feminism and its radical excesses. This can be missed in the welter of condemnation from feminist blogs, news organisations and researchers who typically write about incels in monochromatic terms. Many articles have been written in contemptuous tones about the “fragile masculinity” of these young men or the “aggrieved entitlement” they display. The following is just one example:

Hegemonic masculinity dictates that men are expected to have sex; not having sex as a straight (white) man is deviant. Most other demographics are stigmatized in some manner for having or expressing interest in sex. Celibate women are more likely to be successful compared to celibate men. In general, celibate men tend to be in lower socioeconomic classes or unemployed, whereas celibate women tend to be of high status. Celibate men, while being marginalized for being celibate, blame women for their emasculation, not the powers that be (the patriarchy). They thus believe that their emasculation is justification for revenge violence against women, which they believe will restore their masculinity.

These sorts of analyses about the causes of involuntary celibacy and the attendant beliefs and attitudes found within incel circles are too simplistic and general, and are often blinkered by the assumption that the ideology of feminism is always an intrinsic good, that its suppositions are self-evidently true, and the perspectives of those who think otherwise are worthless. As this article has sought to show, the causes of involuntary celibacy are varied. It is difficult to capture the texture of this movement because it is highly diverse, highly disparate in its proposed reactions (e.g. the “red pill” stream versus the “black pill” stream), and highly unstable. Involuntary celibacy generally arises from an insecure identity. The insecure identity is created by a range of factors. These factors include childhood trauma, depression, sexually abnormal interest, autism, a defective view of women, an empty self, anxiety, socioeconomic marginalisation, a neurotic temperament, and Body Dysmorphic Disorder.

The anger among incels is part of a complex coping mechanism that cannot be easily boiled down to a gravy of simple interpretations. Their anger necessarily intersects with the system of beliefs they embrace in which the world is dominated by “Chads and Staceys” who live out a hypergamous dynamic. Yet, no matter how ridiculous, this an effort by damaged people to resuscitate a sense of self-value and belonging.

This is the keystone to really grasping the subculture. Sexual fulfilment for incels has nothing to do with slaking a burning sexual appetite that leaves them frustrated and miserable. Or put another way, they are not driven by a biological need for orgasm. Instead the desire for sexual intercourse masks a craving for status. Some Incels see sexual intercourse as a transition that advances them from one life condition to another and often feel depressed because they seem unable to make the transition that others easily can. They want the status of sexual activity and hope it will give them feelings of acceptance, connection, normality, and confidence. Other incels want the status that comes from having sexual intercourse with a specific type of woman under specific circumstances. For these incels, it is not that they cannot find willing partners. Rather the partners they find are not good enough for them. They will not settle for a “6” when they “know” they deserve a “9”. Finally, other incels want the status that comes from having real control over a women as a means to fulfil their construct of masculinity.

Their silly theories serve as both an explanatory framework that alleviates incels from the responsibility for their predicament, and also positions incels as victims of powerful forces over which they have little control. Many incels readily accept this premise because it confirms their preexisting feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness. Yet, at the same time they urgently desire control. Perversely, taking a regular bath in dismal thoughts encourages them to see themselves as martyrs and this provides a compensatory sense of significance. It is better to belong to an underground movement of oppressed and misunderstood victims – who gather to lament and tear their shirts at their hellish lot – than it is to be a solitary weirdo in a world of people who are having sexual intercourse and forming romantic attachments.

An intelligent grasp of the subculture must see all of its nuances. It consists of both dangerous and harmless men. It consists of men who are childish and unworthy, and others who are damaged and socially untutored. But whoever they are, the subculture they have created offers nothing. It may be an effort to medicate their sorrows, but ultimately it twists, destroys, and is self-defeating.

Book Review: “The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions”

The long read: a review of David Berlinski’s book, and his treatment of the arguments of militant atheists.

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(Book Reviewed: THE DEVIL’S DELUSION, By David Berlinski.)

David Berlinski has the distinction of being both an educated and intelligent man which is not at all the same thing. Neither has his long march through academia sandpapered away his sense of intellectual curiosity. In this book, he investigates with an uncompromising independence of mind the nonsense so often breathed by militant atheists in the name of “science”. It is too easy to accept atheistic claims because their views now circulate through our environment like the thin fumes of an odourless gas. Berlinski’s book is an excellent antidote to this intellectual numbness.

He writes what he knows. Berlinski holds a PhD in philosophy and also has engaged in molecular biological research at world-class universities, so he possesses worthy academic credentials for the book he has chosen to write.

Berlinski is a critic of evolution and maintains a sunny disposition toward intelligent design – the theory that biological life shows unmistakable evidence of creative purpose. To criticise evolution is almost enough to render him a leper among the academic community regardless of his impressive intellectual accomplishments. It is axiomatic that he who criticises evolution will find it progressively harder to be unsympathetic to God or “religion”. And to allow “religion” – or worse, God himself – to enter into the airless box of the secular empire is a nightmare of such proportions that atheist writers like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins can scarcely describe it without resorting to apocalyptic language.

Both Dawkins and Harris (et al) come in for scathing rebuke in this book. Whatever Dawkins and his ilk may think of themselves, Berlinski is deeply unimpressed with the vacuity of their arguments especially those that appeal to “science” to establish their atheism. In fact, the title of the book is a none-so-subtle stab at Dawkin’s own magnum opus of polemic atheism, “The God Delusion“.

But whereas Dawkins’ work is exceedingly poor, Belinski’s is exceedingly good. Berlinski crafts solid and logical expositions while Dawkins draws liberally upon nearly every irrational argument ever discovered by humankind over the literate portion of its history. Reading “The God Delusion” is an exercise in frustration for this very reason. Rarely have I ever wanted to hurl a book so forcefully against the wall.

For people who can spot rhetorical fallacies, Dawkins amply illustrates the danger of presuming ourselves to be wiser than our craft. Like nearly all celebrity atheists, Dawkins writes as an amateur philosopher, historian, textual critic and theologian. Unsurprisingly, his iconic book – be it ever so thick – is emblazoned with the author’s ignorance from cover to cover. In contradistinction, Berlinski writes to his strength. Trained in philosophy and systems analysis, Berlinski deftly places his finger on the weak points of atheist rhetoric and crumbles their contentions into a finely-ground powder.

The thrust of Berlinski’s argument is that atheists misapply science in order to give atheism a legitimacy it does not deserve. He argues that atheism consists of a mass of conclusions without the slightest shred of evidence. In other words, the brand of militant atheism pushed by the likes of Dawkins and Harris are based on twaddle – it is sophisticated twaddle that many people struggle to penetrate in our educationally deficient age, but it is still twaddle. In fact, early in The Devil’s Delusion, Berlinski suggests that is every bit as much a pseudoscience as mumbo-jumbo ideologies that have circulated through human minds over the last century, and perhaps also destined be consigned to the dustbin of history.

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Any student of history will recognise that similar “scientific” pretensions arose in the 19th century within the radical left. Their “scientific ideas” obtained the status of inviolable fact even when the implementation of them caused incalculable harm. The originators of communism, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, boasted that their Utopian ideology was thoroughly scientific in nature. Likewise, the more extreme anarchists like Mikhail Bakunin also supposed that their theories were somehow underpinned by a foundation of science.

Berlinski challenges this by pointing out that appealing to “science” is a little like a leader of a People’s Republic appealing to “democracy”. It is a principle that can be used to give a justification for practically anything. Berlinski wryly points out that atheists refer to science share an uncanny similarity to the claims of spiritualists to be receiving messages from the other world:

The title of Victor Stenger’s recent book is: God: The Failed Hypothesis – How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist. Stenger is a professor of physics. He may have written the book, but it is science, we are to understand, that has provided the requisite demonstration. Like a nineteenth-century spirit medium, Stenger has simply taken dictation. [Emphasis in the original].

Importantly, Berlinski invites the reader to consider atheism as if it were a piece of flotsam or jetsam floating down the crowded river of human history.

Although militant atheists like to suppose that “atheistic science” is objective truth – the only truth indeed and therefore a license to bulldoze any other belief – Berlinski suggests that militant atheism is actually a reaction to social and political events within the modern world. Unwittingly, militant atheists are merely reactionary puppets:

Does any of this represent anything more than yet another foolish intellectual fad, a successor to academic Marxism, feminism, or various doctrines of multicultural tranquillity? Not in the world in which religious beliefs overflow into action. For Islamic radicals, “the sword is more telling than the book,” as the Arab poet Abu Tammam wrote with menacing authority some eight hundred years ago. The advent of militant atheism marks a reaction – a lurid but natural reaction –  to the violence of the Islamic world.

But the efflorescence of atheism involves more than atheism itself. Of course it does. Atheism is the schwerpunkt, as German military theorists used to say with satisfaction, the place where force is concentrated and applied; and what lies behind is a doctrinal system, a way of looking at the world, and so an ideology. It is an ideology with no truly distinct centre and the fuzziest of boundaries. For the purposes of propaganda it hardly matters.

Berlinski goes on to puncture the bizarrely self-congratulatory attitudes taken by militant atheists, shown in the galloping ego that runs through their work. Militant atheism often seems a kind of club for schoolboy toffs who award each other grandiose titles and share an unreal bubble where they can snicker at others less fortunate than themselves while lunching on mother’s sandwiches. One example is their predilection to calling themselves as “the Brights”, presumably in contrast to the rest of us who must be “the Dims”.

Oddly enough, militant atheists find it very difficult to understand why the Dims do not share their elevated self-evaluation. Berlinski writes:

…members of the scientific community are often dismayed to discover, like policemen, that they are not better loved. Indeed, they are widely considered self-righteous, vain, politically immature, and arrogant. This last is considered a special injustice. “Contrary to what many anti-intellectuals maintain,” the biologist Massimo Pigiucci has written, science is “a much more humble enterprise than any religion or other ideology.” Yet despite the outstanding humility of the scientific community, anti-intellectuals persist in their sullen suspicions.

Scientists are hardly helped when one of their champions immerses himself in the emollient of his own enthusiasm. Thus Richard Dawkins recounts the story of his professor of zoology at Oxford, a man who had “for years… passionately believed that the Golgi apparatus was not real.” On hearing during a lecture by a visiting American that his views were in error, “he strode to the front of the hall, shook the American by the hand, and said – with passion – ‘My dear fellow, I wish to thank you. I have been wrong these fifteen years.'” The story, Dawkins avows, still has the power “to bring a lump to my throat.”

It could not have been a very considerable lump. No similar story has ever been recounted about Richard Dawkins. Quite the contrary. He is as responsive to criticism as a black hole in space. “It is absolutely safe to say,” he has remarked, “that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution that person is ignorant, stupid or insane.”

There are multiple examples of this sort of hubris lampooned by Berlinski. Of course, in addition to the vast storehouse of material drawn upon in the book, one could readily add the moralising articles that appear in publications like the Scientific American.

Over and over again, militant atheists claim (despite examples to the contrary, like the infamous Piltdown Man hoax) that scientists are honour bound to respond to evidence. Scientists accept that they are in error when there is proof. This represents an extraordinary nobility possessed by scientists alone.

Yet, an uncompromising submission to truth is a virtue that has been known to ordinary people and to scholars in many disciplines – including theology – for several millennia. To salute the practice of intellectual humility as if it were historically recent and isolated to practitioners of the scientific method, (or worse, to believers in atheism), is to demonstrate profound self-preoccupation.

As Berlinski notes, militant atheists transit from reasonable claims into the territory of dogmatism. They assert that science is a good thing, a claim to which nobody would object because the scientific process has undeniably produced many good discoveries.

But they cannot stop at that point. They thunderingly declare science to be the only good thing, superior to every other human endeavour, with the power to confer upon scientists themselves a moral quality unknown to the Dims. They then assert that scientists are the premier good people because they are the most intellectually honest vessels. And then, as if the balloon of their pomposity were not inflated to grotesque dimensions already, they then point the collective finger at religion and blame the sum of human evils upon it.

Berlinski succinctly deals with this:

The physicist Steven Weinberg delivered an address [at the “Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason, and Survival” conference]. As one of the authors of the theory of electroweak unification, the work for which he was awarded a Nobel Prize, he is a figure of great stature. “Religion,” he affirmed, “in an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

In speaking thus, Weinberg was warmly applauded, not one one member of his audience asking the question one might have thought pertinent: Just who has imposed on the suffering human race poison gas, barbed wire, high explosives, experiments in eugenics, the formula for Zyklon B, heavy artillery, pseudo-scientific justifications for mass murder, cluster bombs, attack submarines, napalm, intercontinental ballistic missiles, military space platforms, and nuclear weapons?

If memory serves, it was not the Vatican.

Every morally sensible creature accepts that religion can be a force for evil, and frequently is. None of this surprises knowledgeable Christians. This is precisely what the Christian religion predicts. There really should be an inexhaustible kaleidoscope of quarrelling religions, each tailored to the various predilections of mankind’s evil heart, because the devil is the father of lies and many men are eager to be deceived.  Religion gives a thin glaze of respectability to impulses that are barbaric, greedy and cruel.

But the conclusion that science must always be an unadulterated good and that scientists are of sanctified character, always honest and always pure, is sheer claptrap. Anyone with regard for history will know that scientists have participated enthusiastically in atrocities and horrors, equal to the most fanatical scimitar wielding religious extremist. The most odious regimes have produced scientists who violated the laws of man and God in experimenting on people. Scientists have engineered nightmarish weapons and developed theories, like eugenics, that thinking people find abhorrent.

This discussion really crosses into moral theology, and Berlinski takes the time to address the concepts of good and evil. Militant atheists enjoy tossing these words around like confetti, but studiously avoid explaining why their definition should be accepted by anyone else.

Berlinski cites Dawkins:

“Perhaps,” Richard Dawkins speculates, “I… am a Pollyanna to believe that people would remain good when unobserved and unpoliced by God.”

To which Berlinski cynically responds:

Why should people remain good when unobserved and unpoliced by God? Do people remain good when unpoliced by the police? If Dawkins believes that they do, he must explain the existence of the criminal law, and if he believes that they do not, then he must explain why moral enforcement is not needed at the place where law enforcement ends.

Understandably, Berlinski cannot resist quoting Sam Harris on the issue of morality since Harris veers, like a car driven by a drunkard, from arrogance to fatuous philosophy:

Sam Harris has no anxieties whatsoever about presenting his own views on human morality… “Everything about the human experience,” he writes, “suggests that love is more conducive to human happiness than hate is.” It goes without saying, of course, that Harris believes that this is an objective claim about the human mind.

If this is so, it is astonishing with what eagerness men have traditionally fled happiness.

The book is packed with a rich vein of these observations, as Berlinski proceeds to deconstruct one argument after another, never stopping for too long at any one place.

He uses words sparingly. He has trimmed nearly all the textual fat from his writing, leaving the reader only worthy substance. The book is therefore pithy, with a lot of material packed into every short section.

The attentive reading will find himself re-reading sections, and pondering over them long afterwards. Indeed, The Devil’s Delusion is a book that warrants being read multiple times, if only as a refresher into the unutterable absurdity that is atheism, notwithstanding the sophistic lipstick smeared awkwardly upon its pompous features, as it tries to cavort on the dance floor, flaunting the tattered boa of “science”.

Finding a Secure Identity in an Insecure Age

If there is one thing that has definitively occupied scholarly minds in the last decade it has been the issue of personal identity.

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If there is one thing that has definitively occupied scholarly minds in the last decade it has been the issue of personal identity. The question “how do you identify?” is now a major flash point in the culture. This was amply demonstrated by the combative interview held between the Canadian academic Jordan Peterson and Cathy Newman, a British journalist working for Channel 4.

Peterson is a rare species of social academic because he has both interesting and novel things to say and the average listener cannot help feeling edified for having heard them. This is a tremendous contrast to the majority of social academics who either have nothing interesting to say or merely repeat whatever is current and fashionable.

Nonetheless, despite having a gift on her programme, Newman opted not to tap into the rich seam of intelligent material she could have explored, but instead chose to repeatedly badger Peterson on matters of identity politics.

The popularity of this interview undoubtedly owes something to the fact that Newman’s performance was such a candid combination of pomposity and stupidity. The relative strengths of intellectual formation between two people and their respective viewpoints could hardly have been more starkly displayed. In this instance, Newman was incapable of fairly or meaningfully representing Peterson’s views. She attempted to attribute to him the worst possible motives about women and transsexuals and seemed unable to understand anything that he was saying.

The timbre of discussion powerfully captures the vicious and unreasonable mindset that has swept across our institutions of learning and communication until nothing else seems to matter. Like the insatiable red dragon in the Revelation, identity politics has consumed everything in its path. No other intellectual endeavour or philosophical framework seems able to muster enough velocity to escape its gravitation.

Identity politics is the centrepiece of student radicalism. But unlike universities in the past where student obsessions were regarded as extra-curricula activity – the byproducts, perhaps, of enlightened brains united to youthful passion – identity politics has tunnelled its way into the curriculum itself and attached itself firmly to the syllabus. Such courses at major universities are little more than indoctrination.

As people are encouraged to find meaning in belonging to victim groups – each higher or lower on the hierarchy of victimhood – we increasingly witness various identity groups engaging in rhetorical warfare with each other, competing for the spoils of being recognised as the most oppressed. Each group wants to be on top. Each wants to be preferred. Each wants to be acknowledged above any other. And so Jewish students square off against pro-Palestinian students; feminists and transsexuals collide; American patriot organisations and civil liberties groups; feminists and pro-Islamic groups; environmentalists and trade unionists.

The ultimate aim for them all is power.

Our society has become something like an unsettled hen house, with every hen fighting for place, pecking their perceived inferiors and being pecked in turn. All of this is attended by hot envy, outrage, and even violence.

The social wreckage arises from insecure identities; identities grounded in the sinful nature. Yet, cutting through this dynamic comes the opening words of St. Paul to the Philippians like a refreshing cup of water:

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

St. Paul, in the inspired text, provides a simple greeting and establishes his identity. He is a servant of Christ Jesus. That’s all he is.

He’s not a white man, black man, or a Jew. He’s not a working-class stiff, a poor man, or a victim eager to obtain special regard. He does not inflate his sense of self-importance by ascribing to himself a immaculate class identity. Neither does he identify himself by race or wealth or education.

Instead, St. Paul finds his identity in simply being a servant of Christ Jesus. St. Paul pours his energies into the Lord’s kingdom, teaches the Lord’s gospel, lives out the Lord’s holy will, and labours for the expansion of the Lord’s glory. He places himself at the disposal of Jesus who now occupies the very centre of his life as Master and Ruler.

St. Paul’s own goals, dreams, aspirations, and achievements have been long forgotten and when he recalls them, they are so irrelevant that he considers them to be “manure”  in comparison to his King. He has a new identity and it is the most glorious and most wonderful identity anyone could ever covet: to be a servant of the Jesus Christ.

Later in this letter he mentions that he is a Benjamite and has been a scrupulously observant Jew. But he has discarded all of these former things. As he explains in this  letter, he counts it all as a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord.

The man who seeks this identity – and finds it – is a man who finds a truly secure identity. He will not marinade in self-pity. He will not think, “I deserve better in life but have been robbed by people with privilege and oppressive power“. He will not become paranoid, and be forever on guard for perceived sleights. He will not be always looking for fresh opportunities to be “offended”. He will not seek for political victory over other people; forcing others to speak and behave differently to slake his thirst for power and validation.

The man who becomes a servant of Christ Jesus and sees such an identity as the most privileged calling a person could ever have is filled with gratitude and brokenness. Such a man is truly content with knowing his Master and will be satisfied – indeed, will rejoice – to be a servant of Jesus. He will find satisfaction in serving to the extent that he has been granted by the Father – whether it is scrubbing toilets or running a transnational corporation. There is humility, generosity, gratitude, and sheer wonder to be had when finding a new identity in submitting to the King of kings.

It is a supreme paradox, but one taught by none other than the Lord himself. Crucifixion of the self – the purposeful and deliberate rejection of the old identities rooted in the sin nature – does not lead to being oppressed and downtrodden, but actually leads to life eternal. To a blossoming and indomitable life. “He who loses his life shall find it,” the Lord taught us, “And he who saves his life shall lose it”.

For mankind was created explicitly to be the servants and the friends of Christ. By him and for him were all things created, wrote St. Paul. In re-assuming this identity, a man can indeed find a peace and stability that passes all understanding. A peace that all the public rallies and all protests held in all the legislatures of the world could never afford. There is liberty in being a servant of Jesus. Far more than one can ever find in the soul-twisting, nature-distorting world of identity politics with its grasping for power and moral glory over others.

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Standing Firm in the Winds of Persecution: Christ Overcomes

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(Text: Mark 14:53-65)

After the agonising night in Gethsemane, Jesus is arrested and eventually brought before the Sanhedrin. There he stands trial before the leaders of Judaism and by extension, the representatives of the Jewish people.

Contrary to Jewish legal precedent, this hastily assembled court meets at an unseemly early hour, and far from giving preference to acquittal, this court is designed to give the thinnest gloss of legality to a predetermined death sentence. St. Mark tells us that the “whole Sanhedrin was looking for evidence to put him to death”. In other words, this was a kangaroo court: prejudiced against the accused, presided over by biased judges, and one that ignored standards of justice in order to secure the desired outcome.

Or, perhaps more accurately still, this was an example of a legal process that has long characterised authoritarian regimes: the show trial.

The Lord had already given the parable of the vineyard and the wicked tenants shortly before so that the thoughtful reader can understand what is happening. Here the rightful King of Israel – the legitimate heir of the vineyard – is being usurped by envious and greedy men who want to hold onto their power, prestige, and the tradition-rusted, corrupted religion that had given them so much control over the people. The hour of darkness has come. St. Mark tells us that these rulers actively seek his blood. They want nothing more than to see him suffer a miserable and painful death.

It is worthwhile to note here how evil works. For there is nothing new under the sun. Then, as now, evil is expressed through institutions. Whether it is the Sanhedrin, or the modern parliament; whether it is the meeting of the High Priests and elders or a meeting of a corporate board, men and women generally do evil through institutions. Certainly, there are always some violent and cruel men at the bottom of the heap. There are the sharp-toothed bottom feeders who use actual force or inflict actual torments on others.

Yet even these violent men or women may, in some cases, be thought upon with mercy. The Lord prayed from the cross for the violent Roman soldiers who nailed him, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”. Not for the High Priests and the rest of the Sanhedrin. They knew what they were doing. And not for Pilate.

Although Pilate never drove any nails into Jesus or laid a single stripe on his back, the procurator was nonetheless quite aware that Jesus was innocent of any crime. He understood that the motive to judicially murder Jesus was solely to quench the outraged envy of the Jewish leadership.

Human beings create institutions. Nearly all of them are hierarchical, and all of them have both written and unwritten codes that govern them. Institutions can be very useful when they are overseen by benevolent and honourable men, but they are also susceptible to corruption and to the furtherance of unrighteousness. So often they provide a respectable covering, or a camouflaging skin, for distasteful behaviour: for greed, lying, manipulation, bulling, and propagating immorality.

When men and women gather together in an institution, they tend to work together to achieve corrupt purposes and promote the works of Satan in the world. We see this in corporations who successfully managed to suppress inconvenient information, as tobacco companies have done. Although many employees must have been made aware that they were promoting a dangerous product as documents were received, typed, circulated, filed, few spoke out against their companies in the heyday of the cigarette.

The cover-ups in government departments, the unbridled greed of corporate policies that often leave victims helpless in the face of a barrage of legal firepower, and the suppression of any Christian viewpoint in other circles points to the same corruption St. Mark documents on that cold night in the Judgement Hall. It is no wonder that ungodly activists who wish to remodel society in their own image are so quick to form groups, since propagating evil tends to be most effective when done in packs. Those who would advance God’s kingdom are often lonely men. The righteous are always outnumbered.

Institutions tend to be merciless, but merciless in a peculiar, paper-shuffling way. After all, Stalin, Mao and Hitler – who stand as history’s most vicious tyrants by dint of the sheer scale of misery and death they supervised – never killed anyone with their own hands. Hitler never gassed a single Jew; Stalin did not physically pillage the food from the Ukraine; and Mao never put a single bullet in anyone’s head. But, as St. Mark reminds us, guilt does not attach alone to those who perform deeds of evil, but to those who put the wheels in motion and use their positions to facilitate evil.

How do we stand firm, then, in a morally revolutionary age where institutions across society often seem irredeemably corrupt?

Jesus gives us the answer. Forsaken by his friends and delivered into the hands of his enemies, he stands (at first) silently like a sheep before his shearers. Their baseless accusations, distortions, and lies crash like water over his impassivity. Sometimes holding silence is necessary especially when it is clear that there is no point. One cannot reason with those who are determined to wield lies like a sword and who persist in their purposeful efforts to misunderstand or misrepresent us.

Yet Jesus also shows us the necessity of standing on the truth and declaring it. He did not hold himself aloof from suffering but shared it in full at the hand of unjust men. At the critical moment he did not resile from God’s truth. He stood firm, even knowing that his words would push the Sanhedrin over the edge and seal his crucifixion:

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”

“I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

One must stand upon truth at all costs. One must bear witness. In this case, Jesus bears glorious testament in that dark chamber to the reality that God had come; the Son of Man and the Son of God.

St. Mark reminds us that when evil manifests it is often through institutions of power. And small though a single Christian may be, the voice of faith rising from even the weakest believer can sound like a thunderclap in the eternal scheme of things. When we echo the words of Jesus and speak the truths which the world despises, we may suffer the cost at the hands of men and women combining in institutions of power.

But God, who is the ultimate Judge of all the earth, is not slow in keeping his promise. He will arise and do right. And those who followed the example of our Blessed Master will be vindicated and not fail to be rewarded in the life of the world to come.

The Loss of Transcendence

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Ecclesiastes and the Christian historian

One of the philosophical principles generally accepted by historians is that no one can fully appraise or appreciate the time in which they actually live. People have often tried to give definitive and authoritative explanations of their own time period – it is a staple of opinion columns in newspapers – and many minds have flailed around trying to make sense of things. But invariably they arrive at deficient conclusions. The broad failure of this intellectual effort has been long recognised by some of humanity’s most enlightened minds. Ecclesiastes wrote nearly three thousand years ago: “Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions.

It is not wise, asserts The Teacher, to approach historiography in any way that romanticises the past, unreasonably magnifies its wonders, and airbrushes away its horrors. Yet over again, we see that people think exactly in this way. Ancient Romans of the Imperial period looked back fondly to the days of the Republic. In their minds, Imperial Rome was decadent and immoral. But in contradistinction, Republican Rome had forged its heroes in the fires of glorious combat, had produced its white-bearded scholars, and the citizenry had breathed a luminous atmosphere of enlightened values.  Nearly two millennia later, we find the same thing in the minds of Frenchmen in post-revolutionary France. Only they looked back to the Ancien Régime with nostalgia for the glories of Louis XIV, the “Sun King”.

In modern times we have entered our own period of longing, told through the hundreds of romanticised historic television shows and movies that mostly give us a version of the past as modern people wish it had been. And our times are strongly characterised by an attitude that Chesterton described as the “cult of simplicity”. He meant the yearning people have (or claim to have) for “nature”. To go back to supposed cleaner and healthier way of life before the grime and plastic of industrialisation.

Ecclesiastes’ basic point is that people fail to appraise the past accurately. They unwisely forget each time period has it own unique blend of good and evil, and in forgetting this, they come to unwise conclusions about their own lives. They neither see their own time properly nor the past. To fail to see the one is to fail to appreciate the other. And like the man who brings his face very close to an oil painting until it blurs into meaningless colours and patterns, human eyes often water with the effort of dealing with history.

Developments that will be seen as monumental in a few decades may be shrugged at carelessly in the present. History is garlanded with examples. Guglielmo Marconi is considered the father of radio yet his invention was received with a distinct lack of enthusiasm in the early 1900’s. He was told by the authorities to check himself into a lunatic asylum. Yet, from our standpoint more than a hundred years later, the tremendous importance of radio is readily seen. Without Marconi’s work, Hitler could never have come to power; the Second World War could never have been fought; the culture could never have been unalterably shaped by radio entertainment. Even baseball would not be the sport it is.

It is only in the rear view mirror of history, as we get greater distance from the period we consider, that it becomes evident which forces and attitudes shaped it. But, does this mean that our own time period must always be scorched earth to us? That it is merely dead ground, shrouded in heavy fog; dense; impenetrable? Not all. It is possible to understand our time through a process of comparison. But it must be done carefully so that we do not run afoul of the warning given by Ecclesiastes who, after all, was sharply insightful when it came to the condition of man and the sociology of mankind.

We must lapse into neither apocalyptic nor romanticised thinking. We must avoid arriving at conclusions that view the past as unspeakably wonderful or our own time as unspeakably evil. Neither must we arrogantly imagine that our current state – after a mere two hundred years of industrialisation – has advanced us morally and spiritually to be wiser than our forebears. Only a sober and sensible comparison can serve as the flare in the night that lights up our age for us to see rightly.

Loss of transcendence

I contend that if there is one thing revealed by a side-by-side comparison between the present and the past, it is the profound loss of any concept of transcendence in our time. Transcendent beliefs and experiences have been evacuated from the public and moral sphere in the Western world in a way never seen before in human society.

Let me first define my terms. By transcendence I mean the social and moral anchoring of humanity to a realm that is higher than itself. For me, transcendence is a shared sense of significance that imbues life with a richer meaning than mere existence itself. It is a framework that aggressively denies the view that we are organic machines whose only real function is to consume, replicate, acquire, and amuse ourselves before death.

A sense of transcendence always lets man brush his fingertips over things that are eternal. By feeling the infinite, he is properly integrated into the stream of time. Man lives a transitory life. We all are pilgrims, transmitters of a sacred trust; a precious deposit of truth that must be safely handed on until the ending of the world. To quote Alan Bennett, “Pass the parcel boys. This is the game I want you to learn. Pass the parcel! Not for me; not for you. But for someone, someday. Pass it on!

An awareness of the transcendent is what enables a person to experience emotions and thoughts that can only arise when standing before something monumental. Awe; veneration; reverence; wonder; self-conscious humility; gratitude; adoration; and genuine worship. Unlike our forebears who valued these experiences and went to great effort to establish settings in which they might occur (churches, museums, galleries etc.), modern people have surgically excised this whole emotional domain from their psychology. Especially among the young, the words awesome or wonderful are now only terms of approval. They are unhooked from what they once signified. The term irreverent is a synonym for good and prides is synonymous with healthy.

Transcendence has been replaced with a narrow band of utilitarianism that presents an entirely different universe of values. Few things are considered sacred anymore. Important things are also consumable. Anything new is good. Anything old is bad. The is no reverence, not even for time itself. Amusing ourselves to death, wrote Professor Neil Postman in his seminal work. The number of human hours wasted on entertainment, particularly screen based entertainment, is probably higher now than ever in history.

Does it work? people now ask. Does it matter to me? They do not ask: Is it right? Is it good? Does it matter to God? There is no longer a common  template of transcendent principles against which all things are tested and measured for worth. In this sense modern man is worse off than the pagans, for at least they had their heroic men, their legendary philosophers, mythologies, gods, and their epic poems against which they could judge their present.

It may have been a deficient template, alien to the concept of holiness and overburdened with immoral deities, but it was undeniably transcendent. It crossed the threshold between the material and the spiritual. As C. S. Lewis pointed out, in these ancient stories we may even see faint echoes of a longing for Christ. Prometheus, man’s greatest benefactor, stole from the gods their flame and fought with Zeus on man’s behalf.

The assumption that anything new is better than anything old has become more and more ingrained until it now dominates the latest generation so completely that they are hardly even aware of what the past was like before their august advent into the world. Terms like “updating“, “moving with the times” and “modernising” have become synonyms for good. These terms are applied not just to the domain of technology but also to morality, lifestyle, and behaviour. To update one’s household furniture is a good thing, requiring no further explanation since it is obvious that the new is always better than the old. When a politician speaks of updating the law to fit the times, it is never questioned whether “the times” would be better off fitting the law than the other way about. It is never questioned because these terms are complete microwavable arguments in and of themselves. If a house is repainted in the latest style and someone asks what was wrong with the old style, one may simply rebuke the questioner with the phrase, “We must move with the times, mustn’t we?” and this is considered a satisfactory, even unanswerable, response.

Modern Protestantism must reclaim a sense of transcendence

I am convinced that the loss of a transcendent sense is not isolated to unbelievers but also to Christians. The decline is most accentuated among Protestants but no group of Christians is really immune. This inescapable deduction flows from the most elementary observations. Consider following image:

Church

This is St. Helen’s Church in the small village of Lea, West Lindsey district of Lincolnshire. This church is a typical representation of small, country churches found throughout Europe. It was built in the 12th century and during the 900 years since, has been restored several times. It features items – pews, stained glass windows, towers, roofing, paintings and so on – that date from nearly every century between its construction until now. The east window of the northern aisle features stained glass from 1330, a century that was particularly busy for the church.

Several things are noteworthy. First, this is a building constructed for a very small village. Lea’s current population is just over 1,000 people and the village is so small that it has no shops. Other than the church, its two major communal institutions are a tennis court and a small primary school. Major metropolitan centre it is not.

Over the centuries, the local population would never have much exceeded what it is today. Yet despite the small number of people that would have worshipped here, Christians of the 12th century constructed a building that required a significant investment of capital and labour, and was obviously intended to be permanent. The builders of St. Helen’s expected it to be in use for a very long time. They were not building something that might – maybe – last for merely a hundred years. They were building something that would be used by their great-grandchildren. It would last for as long as God willed, maybe even to the ending of the age.

The building reflects an attitude of confidence about the future and a collective concern for coming generations that is quite foreign to modern man. They may not have been historians but the villagers who built and worshipped here 900 years ago would have known about the prophets, biblical kings, apostles, and probably a good deal of hagiography. They would have been trained to see their faith as one that stretched back through the mists of time to the dawning of the world. Their confidence in the long history of the church and in a transcendent God resulted in a stability of purpose. This building, in other words, was a vote of confidence in the future.

Secondly, note the aesthetics. Although only a small country church and therefore built with some degree of economy and functionality in mind, the designers and builders were still keen that it should offer a clear expression that something special occurred in this place that occurred nowhere else. For it was here that the community gathered to offer up their communal worship of God, the King of Creation in whose hands their lives rested.

For many centuries this would have been the most ornate building in the village and certainly among the largest. Situated more-or-less in the dead centre of the village, its tower reaches higher than any other structure; its windows are long and beautifully outfitted with stained glass. There are a number of Gothic features on the tower and the interior is colourful. Nothing is disposable. Everything is built with durability in mind.

The building is doctrine and faith taking form in stone and wood. It reflects a formality and otherworldly concept of worship. The fundamental attitude behind this building is that worship involves being lifted into the heavenly realms; of handling carefully the sacred trust of the Faith. It is an act of coming into a sanctified place to kneel before an omniscient and holy God, and there participate in something awesome and mysterious. Participating, it must be said, not as individuals who happen to be sitting in a group; but as a community approaching the only true God together.

This building, although one among many churches just like it, represents an entirely different way of thinking to our own. Contrast with this:

group

Could meaningful worship be offered up in a setting like this? Of course. Christians have worshipped in caves, in prisons, and holes in the ground before. Our Lord promised that wherever there are two or three gathered in his name, there he would likewise gather in the midst of them. We are all familiar with the Christians in the Roman catacombs during the early centuries of persecution.

These arguments for the “democratisation” and “de-formalising” of worship are so well known by nearly every Protestant of the last hundred years that they trip from the tongue with hardly any thought. And yet, so soon forgotten, is that in the long intervening years since the ascension of Christ, the predominant and favoured form of worship of the overwhelming majority of Christians everywhere has been decidedly toward the elevated and formal. Borrowing from the forms of worship laid down in the Old Testament, Christians have sought to worship in an atmosphere of sacredness and other-worldliness, with a true effort to maintain a faithful continuance of worthwhile practices laid down by dozens of generations.

I would argue that their sense of the all-pervading holiness and greatness of God – as the One before whom man in his smallness bows – has been largely dispensed with and modern worship is more akin to the receipt of information.

I am not suggesting that reverent and meaningful worship cannot be offered up in a variety of formats, neither am I advocating for a particular form of worship. Only that a study of the past conveys a very different attitude toward life and toward God from what is generally expressed today. The difference is the loss of a heavy sense of transcendence, and this has diminished the practice of the faith, and I believe driven people from it. In some way, an informality in worship renders it something less than that which our forefathers of faith experienced and practiced, and passed to us.