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The trouble with designating ‘incels’ a terror threat

The last thing we need is another buzzword to vilify those we disagree with

January 21, 2020

8:22 PM

21 January 2020

8:22 PM

The Texas Department of Public Safety has designated incels, or ‘involuntary celibates’, as an ‘emerging domestic terror threat’. What began online with what the Department’s report calls a ‘a personal grievance due to perceived rejection by women’ may already, the report claims, have morphed into ‘allegiance to, and attempts to further, an Incel Rebellion’.

Incels have quickly become one of the few groups whose mockery and derision is deemed universally acceptable. The term has become a go-to insult for men who are merely undesirable or unpopular. The idea that some men are misogynists, embittered because they can’t get women’s attention, is now used to explain all manner of male behavior.

Someone from work came out as a Trump supporter? Probably an incel.

Your classmate said he enjoyed the Joker movie? Definitely an incel.

He listens to Ben Shapiro? Incel.

Most of the men who get called incels aren’t actually involuntary celibates, so much as voluntarily trying to find women. The label is a slur, showing how repugnant men who can’t get women are to our society. They’re painted as disgusting and sexist. They’re surplus to requirements or they don’t measure up. They’re unwanted: ‘I mean, can you imagine how awful a man must have to be for no woman to want him?’

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And if their low public approval rating wasn’t bad enough, incels are now listed as potential single-issue threats along with environmentalists and animal rights activists. You might scoff at the idea that lonely keyboard warriors are a sleeping terror threat ­­­­— one sleeping in its parents’ basements —  but the Texas Department of Public Safety’s reasoning is understandable. The report attributes five examples of attacks to incel ideology, and notes that most of the perpetrators had previously been active in online communities.

The word ‘incel’ describes to men who are unsuccessful with women. And yes, a small fraction of these men become so upset with their failure that they become radicalized. They blame society for their loneliness and believe that violence is justified retribution. What makes those individuals so detestable isn’t their involuntary celibacy; it’s their violent misogyny. And those two things aren’t the same.

Modern feminists have rightly rejected the notion that women should be valued or defined by their ability to find husbands. But somehow, the most ‘progressive’ voices call any man they wish to mock, from pro-life advocates to Republicans, gamers and those who disagree with their opinions on films or television shows, an ‘incel’. This is to define a man’s value by whether he has found a romantic partner, and then conflate his failure to do so with sexism and potential violence.

Do these progressives really believe that being unwillingly single is grounds for ridicule? Are they implying that these men are single as a self-inflicted punishment for their sexism? Or worse, are they saying that these men are violent, largely on the basis of social media interactions which have the audacity to go against the approved narrative?

I don’t think these activists know. At the very least, the fondness in left-wing circles for using ‘incel’ as a put-down fits nicely with their increasingly gynocentric views. To use ‘incel’ as an insult is to assert that women are the only gatekeepers of social acceptance, and that men who have been rejected by women should similarly be rejected by society as a whole.

This feels uncomfortably like yet another attempt to shut down dissent by juvenile name-calling and demonization. In a world where words like ‘racist’, ‘Nazi’ and ‘sexist’ have largely lost their meanings, the last thing we need is another buzzword to vilify those we disagree with.


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