Fatherly Comfort in Times of Trouble

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ACKNOWLEDGING THE TROUBLES OF LIFE

Man is born to trouble,” said Eliphaz to Job, “as surely as the sparks fly upward.”

This is not a truth that we always want to acknowledge. When the sun is shining and life is good we hope that it will never end. We always want good times to roll on forever. Any reminder that trouble might come our way is hit out of field by the human psyche with all the force of a top baseball player.

But God’s word tells us about reality. It gives us the true shape of life so that we do not live under a cloud of the world’s lies. The Bible corrects our nearsightedness. Scripture will not permit us to be victims of the devil. Thus, God in his majestic truthfulness testifies that trouble is an inescapable part of life for a Christian. St. Paul goes so far as to say that no true Christian will live a trouble-free life on this earth.

This does not mean that every Christian’s troubles will be the same. Some may face extreme situations like martyrdom and exile from their homes (like the Christians in ISIS occupied territory). Others may simply face the daily weariness of work and family, and the mental struggle of living in an ungodly world.

There is, after all, a deep existential tension of being a Christian in the 21st century. There must be. There should be. Nobody can love the world, writes St. John, and love God at the same time (1 John 2:15). Friendship with the world, says St. James, is enmity with God (James 4:4). Given this, Christians can feel like they belong to a shrinking number of the sane. The irreverence and ungodliness around us can torment the mind and soul just as the things Lot saw in Sodom caused him great distress (2 Peter 2:7).

Sometimes Christians experiences trouble as the by-product of the sinful nature. Even as redeemed people, we can make misjudgements, be rash, and come to wrong-headed conclusions about things. We can make bad decisions. There are a legion of examples.

Pastor Tim Conway once related the story of a friend. This young man married a woman who was a local beauty pageant winner. His godly friends counselled him against the match. They could see her true character but like many eager young people, he saw only the surface. Shortly after the marriage the young man discovered his bride was contentious, ill-tempered, and disloyal. She withheld herself from him sexually, had flirtations with his friends, and eventually ran away with one of his buddies never to return.

Christians can (and do) make errors of judgement. We do not always faithfully observe the teaching of scripture, wisdom and the Church. Even Christians can make choices that plunge them into years – perhaps a lifetime – of trouble. No wonder the scriptures tell us to consult the words of the Lord frequently. Meditate on God’s law day and night, writes the psalmist (Psalm 1:2). Joshua commands the people to not only think on God’s word, but to have it continually on their lips (Joshua 1:8).

It is supreme wisdom to adapt our behaviour to God’s will. To walk circumspectly and thoughtfully. For this will keep us from falling into sin. It will prevent us from piercing ourselves with many needless sorrows.

But sometimes we do not stray from the narrow way of Jesus. At times our hearts are overflowing with praise to the King. Our fellowship with God in prayer can be so rich it is as though we walk in the perfumed gardens of Eden with the Lord. At times Jesus can draw us so near to the extent we can almost wonder if we are about to enter heaven. At such times, God’s holiness falls on the heart, we long for more and more righteousness, and his word is life to us.

And then trouble can come.

This is a paradox indeed! Trouble can come when we believe ourselves to be following most closely on the heels of the Master. This has been the discovery of many godly men and women throughout the ages. They often built the Kingdom of God under the weight of trouble. Amy Carmichael, the Irish missionary who spent fifty-five years in India saving girls from temple prostitution, was bedridden in her latter years. Why did such trouble come to such a powerful missionary for the Lord?

We can wonder about this. Why do difficulties sometimes come when the heart burns for the Lord and for the fulfilment of his righteousness? This is a mystery, but there is comfort from the Lord. For though a man is born to trouble as surely as the sparks fly upward, God is the Saviour and Father of all who believe.

TROUBLE, NOT SUFFERING

Notice that I avoid the word “suffering”. In the modern world the word “suffering” is an impaired word. For a start it is commonly linked to ill-health. “Poor Mrs Oliphant,” we say, “she suffers from arthritis.

Under such repeated usage dinned into our ears, we come to associate suffering with a continuous state usually afflicting the body. This raises the high bar on what constitutes “suffering”. People can mistakenly conclude that unless you have Big Bad Stuff going on in your life it is not suffering. The word tends to excludes many painful human experiences. “Oh, you are getting harassed at work? That doesn’t sound so bad. The rest of your life is OK. Can you really call it suffering?

The word “suffering” also evokes fear. It conjures up terrifying visions. It excites painful anxiety. “What kind of suffering am I to endure?” we may fret, “What is going to happen to me?

Such anxiety may be difficult to avoid but it is wrong. It is evident that by God’s grace most Christians do not experience the worst of life. Some brave Christians (whose reward in heaven is undoubtedly very great) do indeed undergo a baptism of fire and their lives are admittedly very difficult. But such Christians are always compensated with abundant joy and grace so that like St. Paul they are enabled to sing even while in the stocks of prison.

Nonetheless, this kind of deep hardship is not a general rule. It does not seem to be God’s intention that his Christian people be kicked to the curb. In fact, God richly blesses his children with many joys both temporal and spiritual. His Church – as a rule – does not go about in ceaseless mourning. God has made a time for tears but also a time for laughter, and for most Christians, there is indeed more laughter than tears.

Thus it is neither healthy nor wise to meditate on the difficulties of others. Neither should we get caught up in the stories of the disgruntled who seem angry at God for their pain. It is not for us to judge the invisible spiritual forces or God’s mysterious purposes. Neither is it up to us to work out all the details of someone else’s life. It is not our place to judge the Judge of All the Earth. A speculative mind on the issue of trouble is polluting.

God has set before us lives to ponder in scripture. These people were no strangers to trouble. But the lives he offers to us to consider are ultimately triumphant ones. All of them. That should be the focus. For as Dr. Martyn-Lloyd Jones once preached, “Some Christians seem to think that God wants them for the same reason the devil does: to torment them.” Such thinking always arises from error and it produces a calumny against God. God is a Father to his people. That is a solid, unassailable truth.

Thus the word “trouble” is better. For a start it is more expansive. It covers a lot more ground and includes the full panoply of Christian struggle. From the minor to the major.

FATHERLY COMFORT

The Letter to the Hebrews contains comfort for anyone who experiences trouble.

It comforts in three ways. Firstly, by reassuring readers that Jesus is a faithful and compassionate high priest whose heavenly intercession is truly efficacious. Secondly, the letter gives a long list of people who were able to face many difficulties through their faith in God. Faith is not just an esoteric feeling, the letter tells us, it takes concrete forms. The letter shows us how to have faith. Thirdly, the letter provides us with answers. It teaches us that our troubles should be regarded as God’s fatherly dealing with us.

There is far too much to mention all at once. But reading this letter prayerfully, with special attention to Hebrews 11 and 12, will surely offer substantial joy, comfort and strength. Here are some thoughts.

The chapter opens with the following statement:

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. (Hebrews 11:3)

This truth comes first because it is the foundation of peace in the turbulence of the storm. If we do not believe that God created all things then we do not have the sort of faith that can receive God’s comfort.

It is not sufficient to simply “believe” in God’s creative acts on an intellectual or mental level. We are surrounded by talk of evolution and the Big Bang. The unbelieving world operates on the basis of this grand deceit and pummels the Christian relentlessly. Unbelief is so ubiquitous that it can chip away – slowly at first – at the Christian’s certainty. Evolution and Big Bang cosmology can quite easily leak into the mind of the Christian so that he plays a double-game. One the one hand he can persuade himself that he believes in creation, while in his heart he doubts and secretly thinks these theories have validity.

A conviction of creation must be deeply internalised so that we come to see that Christ stands behind every painted surface in the universe; whether the rise and fall of a leaf, or the roll of thunder, the rays of sunlight. We must know that Jesus governs all creation.

If this is our faith, it transforms into a source of comfort. It is a great encouragement to know that we can pray to the King of Creation, a King who governs not merely a nation, but all existence. This is the King who sculptured the planets and ignited the stars. If he can do that which is very great, can he not help us in our times of trouble? Can he not perform miracles of grace in our lives? Most assuredly, he can.

The writer goes on to provide a long list of saints who accomplished things by faith. Many of these saints – in fact, all of them – endured struggles of many kinds. But by faith in the Living God, they not only endured, but triumphed over them.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. (Hebrews 11:8).

Here the writer emphasises faith in God as we plunge into the unknown. Times of trouble can be frightening precisely because often we do not know what is going to happen. The unknown can make our trouble seem unbearable. Will I be ruined? Will I be outcast? Will I be killed? Will I lose my faith?

The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that Abraham also was sent on a journey into the unknown. He left behind all that was familiar and safe. He did not know where he was going. He journeyed in the dark but he had the faith to believe God would look after him. And God led him safely all the years of his wandering.

The writer goes on:

And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

By faith, Abraham and Sarah did the impossible. They produced a child when Abraham was 99 years old and Sarah’s barren womb was unquestionably dead. No child had been conceived within her for 90 years. Her past history with childbearing – that is to say, zero children – could have left her with little hope for the remaining years of her life.

For indeed the years had made their mark on the pair. No doubt both were grey-headed and growing gaunt and feeble. They had been allowed by God to age to the point where they were past all possibility of reproduction. Physiologically it was impossible. Barrenness had been a source of trouble and grief in their lives. And God now promised to relieve them at the point where it seemed they had missed the boat.

Yet, hoping against all hope, and believing against all belief, they had faith in the promises of God. God used the material before him. He caused Abraham to desire his wife; and he caused life to flare into existence inside Sarah. After such a long wait, she experienced the joy of being a mother.

In times of trouble; in times of sadness, loneliness and grief we can wonder whether God will ever come for us. Will joy ever lighten our way again? We may sometimes patiently wait and pray for a long time. But faith is always rewarded in God’s economy. And the longer we wait, the greater the reward tends to be. This should serve as a great inspiration to cling to the promises of God in his word. To take him at his word in faith. To keep praying, to keep doing good, to keep plodding heavenward. It is a Christian cliche, of sorts, but it is nonetheless moving: keep on keeping on.

In the 12th chapter, the writer tells us:

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.

Sometimes Christians experience trouble due to God’s corrective discipline in our lives. The writer tells us that this discipline is for our good. It is intended to make us more holy and thus more ready for our meeting with the King at the end of the world.

When God lands blows upon his children in the form of troubles, he does so out of fatherly concern for their soul. Perhaps we are starting to flirt with spiritual danger. Perhaps we are growing cold or arrogant. Perhaps we are hardhearted and need the carapace of self-regard cracked apart. Perhaps we have sinned (or are sinning) and need to be yanked back onto the path of Jesus.

Whatever the case – even if sometimes we may not know the reason for it at all – this corrective discipline, the writer assures us, produces peace and righteousness when it is finally over. Correction and discipline does not feel pleasant for the moment. It is painful and grievous. We do not like it. But the results make it well worthwhile. It leads to the Christian surrendering bad attitudes, habits or desires and learning to love and follow Christ more wholeheartedly. It leads to a life that is more abundant. A life that is brimming with Jesus. A life that is more flourishing like the tree planted by a spring, with its branches that grow over the wall heavy with fruit (Genesis 49:22). It leads to a life that is more joyful, more complete, more rich, more free, and more godly.

It leads to a life that is more full of Jesus; He who is the source of all goodness, joy, laughter, peace, and righteousness. He who is the light of the world.

The Death of a Minor Celebrity

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It was reported this week that a young Canadian by the name of Rick Genest killed himself (although some of his friends and associates have claimed his death was an accident).

Rick Genest wanted to be a freak.

He set out to achieve this distinction by covering himself with tattoos of bones and insects. The top of his head was shaved and tattooed with exposed brains. His eye sockets and tip of his nose was black (whether this was tattooed or aided by cosmetics is uncertain). Around his mouth and over his lips were tattoos of teeth. Over his torso were tattoos of ribs with fragments of skin tissue hanging between the bones, and insects scuttling around the illusion of a cavity. Metal piercings in his nose and ears completed the image of a living Frankenstein’s monster.

Genest wanted to look as if he were in a partial state of decomposition like a zombie. Indeed, his nickname was “zombie boy”, an title he gladly adopted as part of his public signature. To say that he succeeded in his aim to look horrific is an understatement. The tattoos are repellent. Yet the New York Times reported that Genest had been proud of his appearance. “Please do stare,” he was quoted, “I like it.”

Unsurprisingly, the Guardian reported that Genest had a long history of depression. In May of this year, for example, he posted a photograph of himself in a hospital bed wearing a shirt emblazoned with the words “Kill Me” and a tongue depressor hanging from his mouth. The article mentioned that he frequently wore this shirt for media interviews. The shirt was referred to with the definite article – “the Kill Me shirt” – since it had appeared so often in photographic shoots. The use of the definite article accords the shirt an iconic status, although it never seemed to occur to the Guardian writer that a shirt that invites people to murder the wearer – even if worn only for shock value – points to the real source of Genest’s problems and does not at all deserve a celebrated status.

Genest made both money and fame from his appearance. He displayed uncanny instinct in generating an income from his repugnant appearance. Even the sympathetic eulogising of the left-wing press cannot disguise Genest’s evident eye for career development and industry shrewdness.

For example, the New York Times mentions that he was named in the Guinness World Records in 2011 for having the most insects tattooed on a human body. Setting aside the complete lack of merit inherent in such a title, it is noteworthy that to get a mention in the Guinness World Records would require Genest to apply for a record title.

The Guinness process is exhaustive, requiring several witnesses, authenticated evidence, and detailed photographs. Genest could only have received his title by being an initiator and driver of the process. Depending on how much personal effort he was willing to invest in his application, it may have cost him a large amount of money. An official Guinness consultant – marketed by the Guinness organisation to people who wish to obtain notoriety; in other words, people exactly like Genest – would have cost thousands of dollars and still required him to be painstakingly photographed from head to foot.

Genest was also aware of the value of victimhood. He ascribed forms of victimhood to himself publicly on several occasions. He claimed to have run afoul (among other things) of school bullying and religious parents. Both of these alleged forms of “oppression” are quite commonplace, and most people successfully move past the memory of difficult childhood experiences when they reach maturity. But with a horrific visage to illustrate the supposed depth of his angst, Genest was able to weave a narrative fabric out of humdrum teenage experiences and thereby elicit the needed pathos for forging fame. Victimhood is the coin that makes the coffer sing in the 21st century.

When asked about other people’s reaction to his appearance, Genest expertly coloured his life with a sparkling beatific quality worthy of a Greek Orthodox iconostasis. His self-appraisal is highly suggestive of a self-indulgent and narcissistic personality.

What changed was the masses’ reaction to me. Prior, I had my place amongst those who understood me and had the luxury of privacy. Now I often feel that every walk of life either has a question or an opinion about the way I breathe air – although I do seize this opportunity to raise awareness for tolerance, acceptance and embracing our differences.

Here, other people are merely “the masses” who did not understand him. For Genest, the ignorance of “the masses” was both an indictment against them – for they lacked broadness of vision – and evident proof of the enlightened complexity of his existence. To be unconventional is a sign of moral superiority. This is the internal narrative of the entertainment world in which he swum. Aberration is sophistication. Revolution is evolution. Normality is boring.

Genest also hinted at his frustration that the people around him had the temerity to hold an opinion on the repellent tattoos he chose to inflict on the world at large. But fortunately for everyone, their narrow-mindedness only produced more virtue in his beneficent heart. It gave him an opportunity to “raise awareness” for the liberal shibboleths of “tolerance”, “acceptance” and “embracing differences”. By this he meant that, contrary to all appearances, his tattoos performed a public service. By making himself so horrendous and ghastly to look at, other people must (and ought) to accept and tolerate him. This caused them to grow to be as broadminded as he was.

At times his hypocrisy was staggering, yet no interviewer ever pressured him to explain the incongruity between his words and his life choices. For example when asked “what is the philosophy behind your tattoos”, he answered:

The zombie concept is also often used as a metaphor for runaway consumerism. Rebelling from this notion is the very meaning of punk. The origins of the zombie creature came about from stories of people being buried alive in times of plagues and such crises; that would come out the other side ‘transformed’. Zombies, to many, represent a pervasive xenophobia. As in my life, I was often out-casted, hated or misunderstood.

Genest answered by pointed out that within his subculture, his tattoos serve as a metaphor for “runaway consumerism”. It is surprising that Genest was not perspiring from the sheer effort to sound deep and meaningful at this point in the interview.

Despite his concern about “runway consumerism”, Genest’s most publicised employment involved working as a model for the fashion label Rocawear and performing in high end fashion shows in Berlin and Paris. He also appeared in a music video with Lady Gaga (the stage name adopted by Stefani Germanotta) in the performance of her song Born This Way. Typical of the zeitgeist, the song begins with a long, disturbing prologue followed by an uptempo song in which Germanotta sings in her underwear.

Surely, in all the pages of history, there have been few industries which better exemplify rank consumerism than the pop music and fashion industries of the 21st century. Over and over, Genest appeared in slick photographic presentations wearing designer gear. In one photograph, he is turning somersaults on red leather couch positioned against an expertly arranged tapestry, set against a mottled wooden floor. The image appears to be extensively photoshopped, light-filtered, and edited until it is more artificial than real. In another marketing photograph he huddles in a bed glaring up from underneath his labelled attire.

After insinuating to his interviewer that his tattoos were a cry against runaway consumerism, Genest is asked for more details about being “the face” of the fashion label Rocawear. One cannot help wondering whether the interviewer was asking tongue-in-cheek because it is such a naked inconsistency.

To this Genest replies with an burst of enthusiasm:

Growing up in the city as a teenager, I have always embraced urban culture and style. It is a great honor to represent what I live, breathe, and bleed for as long as I have. I’m excited to be involved with Rocawear’s re-launch across Europe for Spring Summer ’13.

Urban style and urban culture, says Genest, is what he lives, breathes and bleeds for. What, then, is urban style and culture? This is not defined by Genest, but presumably Rocawear’s designer hoodies, oversized caps, and ridiculously baggy trousers permits us some insight into what Genest believed urban style to be. In short, it “urban style” is a carefully cultivated shtick that permits the safe and comfortable middle-classes to ape some of the grittiness of the city, so that they might feel a little more “authentic”.

Elaborately torn and disfigured garments are essential to this image. One line of jeans features imitation paint splotches down the front of the legs while others are purposefully cut and ripped. Others billow around the wearer’s limbs like prison garments, utilising fabric far in excess of what is necessary to cover the person sensibly. Apparently this is what Genest meant when he spoke of “urban style”. In other words, “urban style” is ghetto chic for people who will almost certainly be safely insulated from ever experiencing the horrors of poverty in an urban slum.

Genest also had roles in a few films and was busily working on a music album. The entertainment industry, like the fashion industry, are not exactly bywords for frugality and material restraint. To the contrary. One can think of few industries that symbolise the “runaway consumerism” against which Genest submitted his tattoos as a living protest, than the very industries he sought to make a career within.

Rick Genest was a man who spent his life living in an unreal bubble. Most of his tattoos were completed before his was out of his teenage years. For nearly half of his life he drew people’s gaze and riveted their attention. Whether walking down a street or attending a party, his visage was blatant. His tattoos extruded into the world around him and gave him the limelight he so evidently wanted. The desire to be noticed, to catch people’s gaze, to gain notoriety, to be the most obvious person in a room are all symptomatic of a person who is either profoundly insecure or profoundly narcissistic.

But something of the person is always lost by such self-seeking. Thus, it is impossible for anyone to tell what Genest really looked like. The tattoos functioned as a mask, concealing the person beneath. One is left to wonder whether even Genest himself could really peer beneath the inking to see his adult self. In any case, they would have served as a daily reminder as he stood at the bathroom mirror that he had rendered himself different. He had turned himself into a macabre character. The horror they resembled was an inescapable feature of his life and must surely have leaked into his perception of the world around him. How could any person find simple and unadulterated delight in a blue sky or a flower when their life was both swaddled and imprinted with horror?

It shows how full body tattoos can take on a life of their own. For although these morbid tattoos arose initially from Genest’s teenage personality, upon being tattooed, they in turn contributed to forging his character and his career. For instance, few things shape a person quite as much as the company they keep and the social circles in which they move. Genest’s tattoos would surely have alienated him from much of conventional society, forcing him to walk among the bizarre and freakish individuals that inhabit the moral wasteland of the entertainment industry. By tattooing himself in this way, he deliberately isolated himself from the very relationships that might have helped him to surmount his depression and find a meaningful and manly existence.

It is with extreme difficulty, for example, that one could imagine him ever having a settled marriage, being a dedicated father of children, or enjoying the comforting routine of a family life. Yet God has so created human beings that we discover purpose and comfort in fixed and permanent relationships, and in the nurture of children. Genest’s tattoos largely precluded him from the possibility of relating to the sort of woman that might have helped him to discover God’s intention for his creatures.

Even of his self-professed friends, now busily eulogising him in overblown language, there were many who personally profited from his tattoos. He was their marketing gimmick; their gritty freak to bestow their wares with some element of novelty. This makes it uncertain whether his closest associates truly valued him as anything other than a mobile stage fitting. Certainly without his tattoos, would they have given him a second glance?

Whether it was suicide – as has been reported by the press – or an unexpected accident as claimed by his friends and manager, we know only that Genest spoke to his girlfriend, went out onto a balcony for a cigarette, and fell to his death. Nobody witnessed his death. We have only his girlfriend’s word about the lead up to it, although there is no good reason to speculate that she is not being truthful.

Whatever the case, the death of an unbeliever has eternal repercussions, as death does for us all. Our Lord teaches us that there is no hope for souls who part this life without having repented and believed in the salvation of the cross through Christ. The future of the wicked is fixed and no rays of a new dawn will lighten their eternity. For this reason,  the Bible urges men, “Today if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts”, for the day of salvation is today. Each day is our opportunity to find our shelter in the Rock from the deluge of judgement that will surely come.

It is bitterly ironic that after Genest’s death, a poem he wrote was posted to Instagram. It has been suggested this post was automatically sent by a posting app. Perhaps Genest had planned for this poem to be his final work before his death? The poem is dark. It references a pagan god and uses the tawdry and boring themes so beloved by those who think the darkness of the goth subculture is “deep”. He writes about flesh being cut, and the cold, the moonlight, and howling under the stars. The image that accompanied the poem featured darkness interrupted only by a circle of light.

In one sense, this is chillingly symbolic of his soul’s trajectory. Having quite literally loved darkness rather than light, Genest’s final word to the world – whether by design or happenstance – is also about the things of the night. Little did he realise that there is a darkness more terrible than that of his subculture and imagination. Our Lord called it “outer darkness”, a lonely wilderness everlastingly submerged in blackness, where the souls who refused to submit to Christ will wander in torment forever.

Genest was a wicked man. He did not commit murder or violent crimes, but he set himself against God and the imago Dei imprinted on his humanity nonetheless. By his own confession he lived a life that purposefully sought to normalise the aberrant and ungodly. He took his body and disfigured it into a grotesque death mask thereby claiming his ownership over it and pretending that it was not God’s. His very flesh which was meant to reflect the glory of God became a canvass upon which he could feature the horror of death, desecration of the sacred, and to turn people’s minds to devilish themes.

The death of this minor celebrity will make no difference to the vast majority of mankind. Like a candle snuffed out, he will be quickly forgotten. As so many before him have done, he has stepped suddenly over the parapet into an eternity he spent little time considering. For him, his short existence here is over; his time is up. Far sooner, perhaps, than he may have ever expected.

We may find little (or more accurately, nothing) to commend in the central, consuming passion of his life, or the empty and frivolous nature of his work. But the death of an unconverted sinner should at least remind us of the urgency of repentance and the hope that exists in Christ Jesus alone. By faith, we can make ourselves ready for eternity.

St. Paul’s words in the Letter to the Romans are apt. They contradict Genest’s glamorisation of darkness, with an unshakeable and towering authority:

The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light… clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not make no provision for the flesh… (Romans 13:11-14)

 

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.