Dave Pereira – University of Western Australia – Virtual Hub Delegate
The incels movement has seen an increase in violent attacks in Canada, the U.K., and the U.S., becoming an increasing terrorist threat towards Australia’s national security. The covid-19 pandemic has created a striving environment for individuals who have faced isolation and loneliness, which make these people vulnerable towards recruitment and radicalisation.
These vulnerable individuals find themselves in Incel communities, where they find themselves with far-right groups on online platforms like Reddit and 4chan to express their misogynistic views. The United States intelligence agencies report a growing Incel terrorist threat happening across the country and Canada due to increased violent attacks resulting in mass casualties. The incels movement with links to far-right extremism is providing a new challenge for Australia’s national security and how the country can respond towards the new wave of terrorism.
What are incels, and why is this online community becoming a new national security threat towards Australia. Incels are lonely individuals compromised of only boys and men who blame women and are frustrated by them because of their sexless lives. These individuals are extremely isolated from a society where they are prone to be radicalised online to commit violence against not just women but against the community. The covid-19 pandemic has only increased the threat due to these individuals, mainly young people, being isolated, which has caused stress and unemployment.
A growing number of men are already committing violent attacks in Canada and the U.S. against innocent civilians, which has resulted in injuries and deaths. One of the most known incels attacks was Alek Minassian, who drove a van through Toronto CBD, killing ten people and injuring sixteen people before posting on Facebook stating “The Incel Rebellion” has begun and praising Elliot Rodger. Elliot Rodger, known and idolised by his fans as “The Supreme Gentlemen”, killed six people in a stabbing and shooting spree in Isla Vista, California, in May 2014. These violent extremist attacks by violent individuals who identify as incels will be a national security threat towards Australia, where misogyny and far-right extremism are on the rise.
The increasing misogyny in the online community has created an echo chamber for incels where these individuals have joined together to become a community known as the manosphere. A digital ecosystem, the manosphere is a haven of misogynistic messages where men can amplify their entitlement and rage against feminism and women.
In Australia, misogyny is on the rise, and globally Australian men are considered to have the most sexist views in western countries. A study found that one-third believe that traditional masculinity is under threat, and more than one-quarter pointed out that feminism did more harm than good. The Incel movement is a diverse range of groups that make a compromise of racial and ethnic groups, and many of them do discuss with white nationalists in incels forums towards their hatred of women.
In Australia, incels are primarily young white men who are tough to detect in online communities due to not having formal meetings and self-radicalising themselves online in anti-feminist groups. These self-radicalised individuals make them a prime target for far-right extremist groups who seek to exploit their vulnerabilities in an increasingly isolated echo chamber.
There is a growing threat towards far-right terrorism in western countries. These groups are becoming attracted towards toxic masculine men, especially incels with the same violent ideology towards women. In the United States, from 2015 to 2019, there were 310 terrorist attacks resulting in 316 deaths and majority of them were right-wing terrorism, including white nationalists and other alt-right movement members, consisting of incels.
The rise of far-right terrorist groups is already posing a threat towards Australia’s national security and towards Australia’s democratic institutions. In 2021, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) said that right-wing extremism is 50 per cent of their priority cases, and the intelligence agencies have already disrupted many plots related to right-wing extremists. There are already neo-Nazi groups in Australia where these individuals have meetings by evading the police and strengthening their goal to create an all-white Australia. The neo-Nazi group mainly target young, angry men, sometimes at universities but also online, and they train in gyms where older members act as step-in sergeant.
The correlation between far-right groups and incels is that they observe women as weak and submissive, and their sole purpose is to please men. It is the same belief as to why far-right groups attract incels because of their misogynistic view towards women that make these individuals a threat towards communities.
The rise of the incels movements is becoming an increasing threat towards Australia’s national security, and strong policies will be required to counter the violent extremist ideology effectively. The first step is treating the incels as a securitising issue to challenge the ideology of its misogyny and victim-blaming in the community. The second step is deradicalising at-risk individuals by supporting education programmes that promote gender quality, feminism, and misogyny in schools and the wider community (Duriesmith, Ryan, Zimmerman 2018). The final recommendation is working with organisations and stakeholders that attempt to deradicalise and prevent male supremacist violence that prevents violence against girls and women but also tackles male entitlement, strict gender roles and ownership of women (DeCook and Kelly 2022).
The steps to counter the violent extremism of the incels movement will create a preventative measure to tackling violent attacks by incels in Australia that are already happening in Canada, the U.K., and the U.S. The Incel movement will be a security threat towards Australia. The rise of far-right extremism threatening Australian democracy will provide a new challenge in tackling this new wave of terrorism worldwide, especially the “incel movement”.