Incels and the question of regulation

In the aftermath of last week’s violent murder-spree by Alek Minassian, there are many questions left unanswered. While most circulate around the motive behind such an abhorrent action, there are also questions regarding how to stop this from happening again. These latter questions involve two very specific areas. The first, regarding van rentals — a seemingly “easy” way to create an attack that is becoming more and more popular. The second seems to tread on more difficult ground. Do we instigate rules regulating what can be published on the internet, and if so, how do we create a hard line that does not allow it to be pushed further? And where would that line be in the first place?

When it comes to using vans as weapons, there are three simple reasons: van rentals are cheap, they’re easy to come by, and they’re deadly.

There is literally no chance that crashing through a group of people with a vehicle will not result in massive harm, especially at high speeds. Understandably, law enforcement officers are struggling over how to regulate rentals and help keep people safe.

In my opinion, I don’t think there is a way to regulate who is renting that would prevent this sort of thing. Backgrounds don’t always come into effect, and sometimes aren’t even known. Minassian wasn’t known to police before last week’s attack, and his possible involvement with the Incel movement only came to light following the discovery of a Facebook post made an hour before he carried out his plan.

Often, the affiliations with extremist groups of any kind aren’t known, and in some cases (as with the attack at last year’s Alt-Right march), some aren’t willing to label an entire movement as potentially violent.

But maybe the answer for this isn’t in regulation itself, but rather, advanced technology. Ford has already implemented Pre-Collision Assist technology, using radar and camera systems to identify when there are people on the road. Capable of braking if the driver doesn’t respond, this system even identifies pedestrians who may not be in front of the vehicle, but are on the pavement and at risk of wandering into the vehicle’s path.

In 2016, Ford announced it would be adding this technology into its transit vans. It goes to reason that this type of technology could — and SHOULD — be added into van rental vehicles. At the very least, it would prevent drivers from being able to use these vehicles as a deadly killing machine.

One could still implement regulation, requiring all vans being used by rental companies to have this kind of technology.

While this wouldn’t be the final answer, it would be a start. But the rental issue is only a part of this. What about the story behind what led to such a thing in the first place?

We’ve still only scratched the surface of Minassian’s motivation behind all this, but so far, things seem to be pointing towards a scary truth — that this killer was potentially part of the Incel movement. Incel stands for Involuntarily Celibate, and is comprised of a group of males who hate women for not being sexually interested in them. It’s a branch of a corner of the internet known as the ‘Manosphere’, comprised of Red Piller’s (named after The Matrix for having their eyes opened to the “truth”), MRA’s (Men’s Right’s Activists), PUAs (pickup artists), MGTOW’s (Men Going Their Own Way), and the Incels.

It would take far more than a single column to unpack what each of these mean, but at their base, these groups feel that women, in some way or another, are the root of all problems, and need to be put in their place. They go beyond wanting any kind of equality, permeating the kind of toxic masculinity many women have been decrying. They aren’t just angry at women, the majority of these groups are anti-woman. But while all these sectors of the manosphere imbue a lot of disturbing ideologies, the Incel movement is separated by two distinct factors — extreme hatred and a tendency towards a desire to carry out violent activities.

Incels believe that women owe them sexual encounters, and because they have not shown them interest, deserve to be punished for it.

They hate both the women who have sex with other men and the men who have successful sexual encounters, but their vitriol and desire for violence typically targets females. These incels worship Elliot Rodgers (or ER as they call him), for his murders in Isla Vista, California, in 2014.

Approximately an hour before the attacks, Minassian posted on his Facebook that the Incel revolution had begun, and the post and profile have since been confirmed as legitimate from Facebook. Shortly after the post began to make it’s rounds, a discussion was started on a known Incel forum celebrating and toasting when a victim turned out to be a woman between 18-35. Other comments included discussing more ways to murder women, scarring attractive women in acid attacks, poking holes in condoms, raping women and then murdering them.

Maybe there was a time these people were just keyboard warriors, hiding in their mother’s basement behind a computer screen and donning a black fedora. But we’re not there anymore (if we ever were). These sites and groups are breeding men who not only feel entitled to take action, but who are taking action. It is a breed of hatred that cannot be quelled simply by kindness and showing compassion.

Which begs the question, is it time to start implementing regulations on the internet? How it would play out would be a complicated process. Where would the line be drawn to protect people from having governments and agencies use opinions and thoughts against people?

The idea makes me squirm, but, I think it’s time. People involved in these groups are literally plotting how to murder people they dislike.

They are more than just promoting hateful ideas, they are urging violent action.

Others are also suggesting it’s time. In an article published on April 26th on dailyxtra.com, Arshy Mann suggested, “Put their forums on the defensive by forcing web hosting services to drop them. Push Reddit to close down the copycat subreddits that have sprung up in recent months. Pressure Facebook to shut down groups and pages that glorify misogynistic violence and venerate Elliot Rodger and other killers.”

The more we force the internet to deprive them of any possible platforms, the more we disrupt this entire “movement.”

The movement may not be a large one by any scale, but it’s large enough. It’s large enough that we need to pay attention and take action against it, before last week’s attack becomes a common occurrence. We’ve made it easy for people like this to take action on their hate. Now, it’s time to make it harder.

If you’re interested in learning more about these groups and the dangerous ideologies they represent, David Futrelle’s blog, wehuntedthemammoth.com, has been following them for years. But forewarning — it’s a deep, dark rabbit hole that is not for the faint of heart. However, understanding the mindset of Incels may be the only true key to figuring out how to prevent the movement from growing. For now, regulation may be the safest path.

This column originally appeared in the May 3, 2018 edition of the Orangeville Citizen (page A16)

Comments

  1. Tim

    I like the idea of advanced technology to help curb travesties like these. I think that in a society such as today’s where any mentality — even the toxic and hateful — can be justified by someone on the internet, there has to be an importance placed on creating technology with safety in mind. This push has to come from either private industry via innovation or via the government via regulation. Since I strongly feel like the latter will not happen (at least not within the USA any time soon), we must rely on the innovation of companies to do the right thing. Will that happen? It remains to be seen. I’m hopeful that this will be the case, though I’m genuinely uncertain.

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      Author
      Tabitha

      I wonder if the public putting pressure on these companies will help spur them into putting in some kind of regulation?

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