Incel Inspiration in a Leaderless Movement

February 28, 2022
Olivia Russo  —  CEP Research Intern

The involuntary celibacy (Incel) movement has gained significant attention since 2014 when it burst onto the extremist scene with the killing of six people in Isla Vista, California, at the hands of a self-proclaimed Incel. The man responsible for the killing spree, Elliot Rodger, has been hailed as a saint” in the Incel community. He took his own life as police closed in, but his lengthy manifesto has been a source of inspiration to his followers. This is the second blog entry in a series on the Incel movement in Canada. The first explored the origins of the movement, while the focus here will be on its structure, and the third will detail how the Canadian government is responding.

Incels are a relatively horizontal, leaderless network. They are united by their shared frustrations rather than by one strong personality. Without a clear hierarchy, it is challenging to understand how attacks are organized and how they might be intercepted. Recruitment is less obvious and there is little understanding of the strength of the movement outside of North America.

Incels and the movement more broadly appear to have drawn lessons from violent right-wing terrorist movements that have spawned lone-wolf attacks. This entry will explore how Incels  actively inspire and collaborate with each other. Understanding these concepts can help explain the Incel movements ability to gain support.

Elliot Rodgers exalted position in the Incel movement is based primarily on his 141-page manifesto that was shared online prior to his attack and suicide in 2014. He was an active member of online Incel forums, where he allegedly interacted with Alek Minassian, the Canadian man behind the 2018 ramming attack in Toronto that killed 10 people, eight of them women.

Rodgers manifesto detailed his childhood, his struggles with mental illness, and more importantly, his hatred for women due to his involuntary celibacy. He outlined that the motivation for his attack was to target women at his college that he desired but was never able to have.” After his killing spree, Incel forums buzzed with energy and excitement. Fellow Incels believed the massacre would usher in the Beta Uprising” or Incel Rebellion” which they believed would overturn the current social landscape. Rodgers status as an icon was made clear when his supporters even created merchandise plastered with his images.

Alek Minassians recognition within the Incel community seems less glorified than the enduring praise of Elliot Rodger. Unique to Minassian are the insights he provided during his detailed videotaped interrogation by police that may help to better understand and counter the movement. A common goal of violent Incels is to participate in the movement to restructure society and to convert their life status” through suicide. The movement seems almost political in its motivation, but experts consider mental health struggles to be a commonality among members. Incels often try to conclude their attacks by taking their own lives. Minassian wished to die at the hands of the police officer who eventually arrested him. Other members active in online forums also speak of their desire to die.

Minassian wrote on Facebook that he pledged allegiance to the Incel Rebellion before his attack in uptown Toronto in 2018. In a lengthy conversation with police detective Rob Thomas, Minassian said he hoped his attack would inspire future masses” to join him in his uprising. He also described Rodger as the founding father” of the Incel movement. The Canadian explained that Rodgers attack was inspiring.” He said at the time he was deciding to take action” instead of festering in his own sadness.”  This suggests that there is a conscious effort within the movement for perpetrators to be glorified in hopes of sparking copy-cat attacks.

The personal is political for Incels. These men believe they are a subordinated class in a modern society that is hierarchically organized in favor of the conventionally attractive. They find common cause or community in the network. They wish to connect with other men with similar narratives and Incel saints” are the public faces used to recruit new members. Thus, Incel forums become mutually supportive echo chambers which inspire members to take part in the Beta Uprising through the sharing of misinformation.

Details provided in the 191-page transcript of Minassians conversation with detective  Thomas confirmed information that was known about Incels, but the conversation also presented new areas for research. Minassian told Thomas that he communicated with two men responsible for the most deaths in Incel attacks in the United States: Rodger and Chris Harper-Mercer. In his online chat with Rodger, Minassian said Rodger shared details of his planned attack in Isla Vista ahead of time and the two shared ideas for future attacks. Similarly, Minassian posted on 4chan, an online bulletin board frequently used by violent right-wing extremists, that he was going to carry out an uprising” the following day. Minassian allegedly received a response from someone in Edmonton, Alberta, who was  planning an attack on November 15, 2018. These interactions indicate that  despite their single perpetrator attacks,  the Incel network is used to inspire, encourage, and provoke future attacks.

The Incel movement does not appear to be as highly organized as hierarchically structured groups like ISIS or the Ku Klux Klan, but this seems to work to its advantage. Being a leaderless network means the groups organization is harder to pin down and categorize. It is the manifestos and the saints that attract a following and give shape to the radical elements within the broader movement. These saints” are celebrated now in Canada and the United States, but their appeal can potentially spread.  The risk is that the Incel movement, if ignored, can continue to spread in North America and rapidly gain traction among disaffected men in Europe, Africa, and Asia.

Daily Dose

Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.


On May 8, 2019, Taliban insurgents detonated an explosive-laden vehicle and then broke into American NGO Counterpart International’s offices in Kabul. At least seven people were killed and 24 were injured.

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