Spree killer in the UK highlights the need for a new approach to incel rage. An expert says the men can't be ignored and need help.

Spree killer in the UK highlights the need for a new approach to incel rage. An expert says the men can't be ignored and need help.
·7 min read
Tres Genco (left) planned a mass shooting, and Jake Davidson (right) conducted a mass shooting. Both self-identified as incels.
Tres Genco (left) planned a mass shooting, and Jake Davidson (right) conducted a mass shooting. Both self-identified as incels. Highland County Sheriff's Office/Youtube/Insider
  • Jake Davidson described himself as an Incel in YouTube videos, before he went on a shooting rampage in Plymouth, England.

  • Incel Tres Genco, charged in a federal court at the end of June, planned for a mass shooting of women.

  • One expert explains that even if it's easier to look away - we have to help these men before it's too late.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Tres Genco, a 21-year-old from Ohio, charged in federal court on July 22, planned a mass "slaughter" of women at a sorority house "out of hatred, jealousy, and revenge." Genco is an 'incel.'

Just weeks later, on 12 August, Jake Davidson shot five people - including a three-year-old girl - with a pump-action shotgun before killing himself in Plymouth, South England.

Davidson, like Genco, self-identified himself as an 'incel.'

An incel - an "involuntary celibate" - is a sexually inactive person (mostly men) who believes that they are owed sex and have hatred for women who do not give them that.

In a series of YouTube videos that Davidson published, he described himself as an "incel," a "virgin," and "socially isolated." He complained about a lack of interaction with women and said he was "defeated by life."

Davidson also spoke about associating with the "blackpill" ideology, a subset of incel beliefs that hinges nihilism, defeatism, and believing women are simply objects who owe you sex.

In what many believe to be an event tied to these beliefs - but with motives as of yet unconfirmed by police - Davidson shot two men, two women, and a three-year-old girl. He then shot himself at the scene.

His first victim was his mother, Maxine, 51. The Mail Online reported that she had begged the NHS and police to give him urgent mental health treatment during lockdown, but failed to get the help he needed

Espousing similar beliefs to Davidson, in a document seized by police, Genco described his world of loneliness, isolation, and anxiety - all painful parts of life that can be managed and mended with the correct support. However, Genco's depression manifested into a planned killing spree and a charge of attempted hate crime and illegal possession of a firearm.

Incel culture mainly operates online - in a dimension called the "manosphere" - where angry young men pour out vitriol against "f--- toys" - women.

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The Southern Poverty Law Center has described the incel manosphere as an "underworld of misogynists, woman-haters whose fury goes well beyond criticism of the family court system, domestic violence laws, and false rape accusations... [who are] devoted to attacking virtually all women (or, at least, Westernized ones)."

As this underworld comes to the surface - as it has done in the terrifying events led by Davidson and Genco - we need to confront the impulses behind this most extreme form of toxic masculinity.

Born in the USA, the incel community numbers hundreds of thousands worldwide, according tosaid Laura Bates, who researched incel culture while researching her book Men Who Hate Women, quoted in The Guardian.

There are call to banish the sprawling incel online culture but to prevent their toxic masculinty turning lethal these people need help, Dr. Alison Marganski, a criminologist and sociologist at Le Moyne College, Syracuse, New York, told Insider. Active support needs to be given before it is too late for these men.

Genco's 'manifesto' against women was entitled 'Isolated'

Genco was inspired by Elliot Rodger - the misogynist killer who became the first hero of the incel movement. He killed six people and injured 14 before turning his gun on himself in a mass shooting outside a sorority house at the University of California Santa Barbara in 2014.

Elliot Rodger

Before the killing, Rodger emailed a manifesto to family and close confidants, including his therapist.

In a video uploaded to YouTube, he said: "I don't know why you girls aren't attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it. It's an injustice, a crime, because ... I don't know what you don't see in me. I'm the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman."

It's clear from police reports that Genco, like Rodgers, was unhappy and lonely. His 'manifesto' against women was entitled "Isolated." He described himself as "deluded and homicidal" and signed the document "Your hopeful friend and murderer."

The R/Redpill Reddit channel is an offshoot of the manosphere, described as a place to discuss "sexual strategy" for men.

Depression comes up a lot on the site, often noted as an obstacle to these men's sexual conquest. Incel culture is haunted by insecurity and mental illness, low self-esteem, body dysmorphia, and depression.

One post lists why he can't "get laid" because he is "really ugly."

"Stop making pathetic little bitch excuses, and start looking for solutions," is the reply.

Screenshot of Incel forum
Screenshot of incel forum. showing how these communities "deal" with body confidence and self-image issues Reddit/Insider

Acting out using demeaning language - women are "bitches and whores", their bodies are objects for use, their emotions and needs are manipulation tactics - pockmarked with the eruption of lethal violence by the most disturbed, incels have elicited fear and little sympathy to date.

How to tackle incel rage

But Dr. Marganski advocates a more nuanced approach. "We need some survivor-centered strategies wherein we can listen to and learn from those who have been hurt and harmed by these communities. Secondly, we need offender accountability. We need accountability for those who violate boundaries and expectations - but we also need to have hard conversations that challenge their ways of thinking and work towards some kind of restoration."

Their ways of thinking are not innate, of course, but stem from societal beliefs about masculinity, manhood, domination, and women as inferiors. Whilst we need to change the ways incels operate - we have to drive social change to stop these views from forming in the first place, Dr. Marganski tells Insider.

"Being punitive in and of itself isn't going to work. It just displaces the problem, and it does little to tackle the underlying motivation," Dr. Marganski said.

But that doesn't mean we don't need punishment - just punishment with support.

"Restorative practices" are required, she believes.

"Rather than just prohibiting or abandoning people and kicking them out of their sites and displacing them, these sites can have individuals who are trained to be crisis intervention workers. We need to teach social media companies, or platforms that host such communities, facts about safe interventions, conflict de-escalation, crisis intervention, and more."

To date, the opposite reaction informed the tech companies, Reddit - one of the main sites that host Incel communities - have started cracking down on their channels, and now the main channel - the restricted r/TheRedPill - has moved to tailor-made websites, free from moderation, free from reach: free from help.

Donna Zuckerberg, the author of Not All Dead White Men that explores online misogynistic culture, told Insider she supports banning such content and creating barriers to access.

"I think it is good because it makes this content less discoverable. And I think that any attempts at moderation will fail. If you attempt to moderate them, they will find another, less moderating place to go. That less moderated place, though, might then be less popular, less discoverable."

However, having this as a blanket approach may be more comfortable as it displaces the threat. It also allows these communities to fester and grow behind closed doors.

"Prohibiting users and shutting down sites is reasonable at times - yet that it should also come with some sort of intervention instead of a punitive response alone," says Dr. Marganski.

A combination of punitive practice, survivor-centered strategies, and mental health support is clearly needed.

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