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‘Who's the alpha male now?’ Incel terrorism and radical redemption

Political Violence
Terrorism
Identity
Qualitative
Men
Narratives
Annelotte Janse
University of Utrecht
Annelotte Janse
University of Utrecht

Abstract

To explain recent extremist attacks committed by men who identify as involuntary celibates, various scholars refer to theories of aggrieved entitlement and relative deprivation. Seen from this perspective, violence avenges the Incels’ perceived victimhood, caused by women who allegedly deny them their supposed right to sex. Although victimhood evidently fuels the Incel community and its militant discourse and dynamics online, as a motive it does not clarify why most aggrieved Incels still resign in their loveless fate. Hence, this paper hypothesises that the difference between accepting the Incel destiny or choosing violence rests on individual nuances that are brushed over by analyses of the Incel community as a whole. We should examine instead the array of motivations at the micro-level to understand why some Incels crossed the threshold of violence when others did not. Analysing Rodger’s desire to shed his marginalised masculinity and become an alpha male, I identify the pivotal moment Rodger saw himself confronted with his inability to be and act like a ‘real man.’ Subsequently, I argue that Rodger’s recognition of his own involvement and responsibility in causing and solving his predicament as a marginalised male, and not perceived victimhood, drove Rodger to weaponise himself and realise his masculine potential. By incorporating the role of masculinity in Rodger’s move towards violence, the paper aims to connect insights from male supremacy studies to those from radicalisation and terrorism studies, two fields that arguably talk past each other when explaining Incel terrorism. As such, the paper provides a nuanced and richer understanding of personal motivations driving violent Incel behaviour.