Germany Should Address Male Supremacist Extremism

February 27, 2024
Jessa Mellea  —  CEP Intern

CEP has previously highlighted the incel movement in Canada. You can find the relevant blog entries here, here, and here. This blog entry focuses on the structure and threat potential of the male supremacist extremist movement in Germany.

Deadly attacks by male supremacist extremists in North America have claimed dozens of lives in recent years, however European governments have paid relatively little attention to this phenomenon. While there has not yet been a successful major attack in Europe committed with male supremacist ideology as the sole motivation, this movement has inspired several attempted attacks and has contributed to major mass shootings. Male supremacist and incel attacks are not solely a North American phenomenon; governments and security authorities should begin to recognize this threat before further violence occurs.

In Germany, “manosphere” ideologies and misogynist incel ideology have played a contributing role in at least two attacks: in Hanau in 2020 and in Halle in 2019. While the precise influence of male supremacist ideology in the attack remains unconfirmed, the perpetrator of the 2016 Munich shooting closely corresponded with individuals in the far-right and incel milieus, including the attacker in the 2017 Aztec High School mass shooting. The manifestos and other statements of the Hanau and Halle shooters included references to the ideology and worldview of the incel movement and broader manosphere. However, most reports of the attacks focused primarily on the perpetrators’ right-wing extremist ideology and did not highlight the mix of ideological motivations.

Not only is the male supremacist movement intertwining with the right-wing extremist movement, it is a nascent threat in and of itself, particularly in Germany. A report by the European Commission and the Radicalisation Awareness Network (RAN) found that Germans constituted the largest demographic of European users in a popular incel forum and that German users were responsible for one of the highest volumes of posts originating in a European nation. The relatively large digital presence of the ideology in the country clearly illustrates the movement’s potential to escalate and incite further attacks. Despite this threat and the manosphere’s influence on two of the largest terrorist attacks in Germany in the last five years, the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution or BfV) has never mentioned male supremacism in its annual report. The incel ideological scene has received brief mentions in the annual reports of domestic intelligence agencies in the federal states of Bavaria, Lower Saxony, Baden-Württemberg, North Rhine Westphalia, and Brandenburg, however, only as part of the right-wing extremist environment, not as a distinct ideological movement.

The lack of attention to incel extremism may stem in part from its organizational structure, or rather, lack thereof. German intelligence agencies typically report on extremist groups, which, under German Basic Law (Grundgesetz) can be banned if they purposefully and sustainably work to undermine constitutional order. However, unlike most other extremist movements, incels and many other male supremacists lack organizational structure and are almost entirely based online. Beyond a shared moniker, vocabulary, and grievances, little connects individuals who frequent incel and other manosphere sites. Almost all previous incel attacks were carried out by lone perpetrators, who did not coordinate with others in the preparation or execution of the attack. Most male supremacist extremists lack any sort of command-and-control structure, operate without centralized communication networks, or formal set of goals. As such this movement does not conform to the typical formal group structure, which would enable security authorities to easily conduct disruption operations.

Despite its diffuse nature, the male supremacist movement poses a real and pressing threat to democracy that should be addressed—and one that is squarely within the legal mandate of the BfV. Self-proclaimed incel violent extremists have carried out mass shootings, van attacks, and attempted bombings in North America. Male supremacist extremists not only pose a threat to the general population—particularly women—but also a potential threat to democratic institutions. For example, in 2020, a men’s right’s activist attempted to kill a female federal judge in the United States, murdered her son, and injured her husband.

Legally classifying male supremacist violence as terrorism has precedence in other countries. After an incel attack in Canada, the perpetrator was prosecuted under terrorism charges, and the court formally recognized that the attack was motivated by incel ideology and was meant to spread fear through the general public. Incel ideology has also been considered as a factor in two court cases in the United Kingdom.

Moreover, the German criminal code already has a provision that can be applied to criminalize male supremacist rhetoric: Volksverhetzung or incitement to hatred. This includes incitement to violence against and attacking the human dignity of a specific group or part of the population. Not only do some male supremacists call for violence against women, many also use terms to degrade women’s humanity such as “femoid” and “roasties.” Furthermore, the BfV has experience in dealing with amorphous, online movements. It analyzed several diffuse online networks that opposed state protective measures against Coronavirus during the height of the pandemic. These, among others, were subsequently grouped under a new category of extremism, labeled “Delegitimization of the State.” They continue to be monitored by the intelligence agency, which also has highlighted their potential for violence in its public reports and press releases. Given some male supremacist’s similar propensity for violence and potential as a threat to democratic institutions, the BfV should consider whether the movement could be included in this newly established category or in a similar category of their own. Such an inclusion could be the first step in mitigating the potential threat emanating from this movement.

Male supremacists and misogynist incels are not just frustrated young men who complain about their inability to find a female partner or opine that women should be subservient to men. They articulate a worldview that sees the current social order as corrupt, unjust, and in need of overhauling. These individuals use violent, dehumanizing rhetoric to describe women and other marginalized groups; idolize terrorists responsible for the deaths of dozens; and advocate for deadly violence to take revenge on mainstream society. Since the male supremacist movement is structurally distinct from other forms of extremism, a new approach to monitoring and prevention should be taken before the movement’s violence escalates further in Europe, including Germany.

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.

In Their Own Words:

We reiterate once again that the brigades will directly target US bases across the region in case the US enemy commits a folly and decides to strike our resistance fighters and their camps [in Iraq].

Abu Ali al-Askari, Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) Security Official Mar. 2023
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