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What is incel and what does it have to do with the Toronto attack?

Fast facts about the online community of self-identified "beta males," some of whom advocate violent uprisings.
toronto van kills people april 2018
A tarp lays on top of a body on Yonge St. in Toronto after a van plowed into pedestrians on April 23, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. A suspect is in custody after a white van collided with multiple pedestrians. Photo: Getty Images

On Monday, a Toronto man drove a van onto a busy sidewalk, killing 10 people and injuring 14. In the hours after the incident, he was identified as Alek Minassian, a 25 year old who had written several Facebook posts linking him to the incel community. The last post before his rampage read, "The incel rebellion has already begun!" But wait, what is incel?

What is incel?

Incel — short for "involuntarily celibate" — is a group of men who believe they're being denied their natural right to have sex with women. (Vox calls it "an online community of men united by their inability to convince women to have sex with them.")

The misogynistic group was banned by Reddit last December for violating rules against hate speech and encouraging violence against women. They believe that women are shallow, judgmental and treat them poorly, preferring the company of hyper-masculine "alpha" men. Incels believe they've inherited a genetic disadvantage through no fault of their own. An extreme segment of the group promotes the idea of an "incel rebellion" or "beta male uprising," a violent revolution against women ("Stacys") and the men they prefer ("Chads").

Minutes before carrying out his van attack, Minassian posted a message praising Elliot Rodger, the California killer who vowed to "destroy" women who rejected him. "All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!" the post said. In 2014, Rodger carried out a "day of retribution," killing 6 people and wounding 13 before committing suicide. He left behind a manifesto lamenting his status as a "kissless virgin" and detailing plans to kill "the beautiful people" because "they have the best sex lives."

The incel community online

The Incel Reddit subgroup referred to Rodger as "Saint Elliot." "One day incels will realize their true strength and numbers, and will overthrow this oppressive feminist system,” Rodger wrote in the subgroup before his death. “Start envisioning a world where WOMEN FEAR YOU.”

what is incel elliot rodger

Elliot Rodger in an undated photo. Photo: Getty Images

Online gathering places for the community still exist, including the website incels.me. The group spun off from the "pickup artist" movement, in which "experts" advised men how to succeed with women, says the Southern Poverty Law Center, which studies hate speech and warns that the digital world is making radicalization of all kinds easier.

"Whether it is on this particular ecosystem or alternatively within the alt-right itself, it is part of the online world that has been growing very rapidly," said Heidi Beirich, the director of the Center's intelligence project. "Misogyny is shockingly frequent to find on the web in these areas."