By David Futrelle
On Monday, I wrote about the gleeful reaction some commenters on the Incels.me forum had to news that one of the victims in Sunday’s mass shooting in Toronto was a ten-year-old girl.
Yesterday, I found a lengthy comment in the We Hunted the Mammoth moderation queue from a gentleman who thought that the “virtue signaling” commenters here were being too harsh towards the incels celebrating this girl’s death.
I didn’t let the comment through, but I thought I would share it here as a kind of extreme example of an argument a lot of people have been making about incels.
The would-be commenter, calling himself Skynet0225, began by accusing the commenters here of self-righteous cruelty:
Interesting responses on this subject, mostly by those who identify themselves as leftist on the political/social spectrum. A handicap I shed many years ago. The liberals of old would have sought to understand what could possibly drive a human being to express such shockingly hateful ideations. But they all died long ago I suppose, supplanted by the self righteousness of the modern SJW.
As you read the rest of his comment, you may notice just a teensy bit of self-righteousness from Mr. Skynet0225 himself.
Most of those spouting this nonsense, at least 95% are being extremely provocative to garner attention. They damn well know what they’re saying is disgusting, maybe even to themselves as the words escape their fingertips and into the great interube void. Raging silently they listen for an echo, either approbation or repudiation will suffice. Any human contact, repugnant hatred or a questioning curiosity will do.
There are several problems with this rather ancient “just kidding” argument, For one thing, I’m not quite sure there is much of a moral or practical distinction between someone who responds with glee to the news of a ten-year-old being murdered and someone who pretends to feel glee because he knows it will disturb people; in either case he is a moral monster and is making the world a worse place for everyone.
Second of all, these guys have been making these same arguments for years in forums mostly read by others who agree with them, none of whom are particularly shocked (or impressed) to see one of their compatriots say something like this. And many of the commenters I quote in these sorts of articles have posted hundreds or even thousands of comments to Incels.me and other forums. My guess is that very few of them can be considered trolls in any meaningful sense. This is quite likely what they honestly believe.
None of you have experienced life in their skin, but you see fit to pass judgement, which is not really surprising because that’s what most of you empty heads do 24/7.
Not true. Incels see themselves as special snowflakes of suffering, dealing with problems no one else has faced. But it’s not true. Hundreds of millions of people — including many of those commenting here — have deal with depression and anxiety bad enough to be diagnosed as such, and every single person who has ever lived has felt loneliness. I’ve been dealing with chronic, sometimes quite severe, depression and anxiety for most of my life; during one particularly bad year in grad school I felt so fragile and empty that any slightly awkward conversation would send me rushing home fighting back tears. Many of the commenters here — and many other people in my life — have dealt with worse.
Yes, most incels are dealing with serious shit. That does not excuse their abhorrent views.
Virtue signalling on cue, forever seeking the next oppressed class or cause to champion, no matter how banal or venal.
Feeling sad or angry about the murder of a ten-year-old isn’t “virtue signaling” nor is it “banal or venal.” It’s a basic human reaction to a genuine tragedy.
Which is not to say that some of these guys are not truly dangerous. They surely are, as I’ve little doubt that 5% are the pool that school shooters are drafted from, and some times monsters of an even worse nature.
I suspect it is quite a bit higher than 5%. Anyone who willingly steeps themselves in incel culture has the potential to turn violent. Some regulars on the forum brag about groping and otherwise assaulting random women. Already at least two men heavily influenced by incel culture have gone on mass killing sprees.
The weakest of their number are the most vulnerable, and the most dangerous. Seems to me that maybe reaching out to these guys would be the prudent course, the most humane to someone who as of yet has done no harm, but is a deeply wounded creature trying to make sense out of the world around them and experiencing ever diminishing results. You never know the power of a kind word, a voice from the darkness to hang on, that it will get better, maybe even a reference to someone who could help.
People have been “reaching out” to incels for years. They’ve invariably been met with hostility and sometimes harassment. One of the basic tenets of incel ideology is that nothing — not therapy, not medication, not even the most basic self-help techniques — can help incels at all. When the topic comes up on incel forums, the response is generally something like this comment, found on the Braincels subreddit:
A few have gone further; I ran across one commenter on the now-banned Incels subreddit who thought that “conning [incels] into “therapy” should also be a stoneable offense.”
Still others have argued against medication because in their mind it is “too fucking effective,” threatening “to turn even the most suicidally depressed men into tax contributing good goys [sic].”
This is a bad thing, this particular incel argued, because
Depression like all other state of minds has a purpose. It is meant to hurt, weaken, and ultimately kill you. Trimming the fat from society so to speak. It is in the benefit of all to let the weak and disabled die off.
Only a small fraction of incels are open to help, and none of them hang out on Icels.me. As for the rest, I honestly have no idea how to reach these people. If you know some magic way that allows you to somehow get past this huge mountain of toxic bullshit, by all means go ahead and minister to them. I’m going to devote my attention to others who are more open to, and frankly, more deserving of, help.
Perhaps not as satisfying as a good old fashioned public denouncement, but maybe more productive. Even humane.
Mr. Skynet0225, I eagerly await your forthcoming report on all the incels you have saved from themselves.