Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Incel Sites As Breeding Ground For Terrorism

Elizabeth Barrett Browning begins her Sonnet 43 with this line:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
If we replace "love" with "hate" in that line we are well on the way to understanding the misogynist sites, because misogyny on those sites comes in all possible flavors.  So many, indeed, that journalists must occasionally explain to those  who are blissfully unaware of the existence of those sites what "incels" might want or what "Pickup Artists" think of women or what "the return of the kings" might mean.

Indeed, there's a popular site for any type of misogyny you can possibly imagine, from religious patriarchal sites via the weird type of evolutionary psychology sites to the women-as-disgusting-prey-to-be-hunted sites and all the way to the incels sites which now seem to breed terrorism based on the generalized hatred of women.

What all those sites share,  besides the hatred, fear and/or dislike of women (and, in particular, feminist women), is an atmosphere of brotherly support. This can sometimes look like those anorexia sites where anorexics urged each other not to eat and celebrated each other's successful attempts at almost-starving to death:

A place where someone with mental or emotional problems doesn't receive any help for those problems but, in fact, will have them made far worse.  At least for the rest of us who are labeled as the Causes Of All Evil.

When I made my virgin voyage to several of the manosphere sites the blood in my veins turned into ice*.  It was impossible not to see that those sites were actively nursing, watering and fertilizing violent generalized angers and that they were validating general misogyny as the only possible response to bad divorces, personal rejections and almost anything else that might go wrong in a man's life.

Take that greenhouse with its noxious gases, stick into it a few people who already have severe mental and emotional problems with aggression, sexuality and so on, and what might you get?

Hence the ice in my veins.

And that brings me to my question:  What are the responsibilities of those who run these hate sites, especially when it comes to violent language**?   This doesn't apply to only the incel sites or other misogyny sites but also to racist and other similar hate sites, including the religious-fanatical ones.

But it does apply to both ethical and legal responsibilities***.  I believe that those who run these sites should be held responsible for their part in abetting and encouraging violence, given what happened in the Rwandan genocide, as one example.

 *  There are some sites which are less extreme and which moderate violent comments, but I have visited no site that would provide real psychological help for those men who suffer in loneliness.  Rather, the general theory of the incel sites is that there's nothing the lonely men can do except create a violent revolution against the society, one which puts women back into submission and lets the incels have all the sex they feel entitled to, and only with the most gorgeous women.

It's also worth noting that when I raised alarm about these sites in various conversations I was always told to ignore them as they represented so few people's opinions.

 ** Here's  a few recent comments:

“As someone who visited Toronto at the beginning of the month, I can see how a man from that city could be driven to kill a bunch of people like that. The women up there are HORRIBLE -- even the ethnic women. It would brighten my day if the majority of the victims were young cunts like the ones that I encountered on my trip.”
Letting Go was jubilant when the identity of the first victim, a young woman, was revealed. “It’s a foid!” they said. “I have one celebratory beer for every victim that turns out to be a young woman between 18-35.”
“Foid” is short for “femoid,” a term popular with incels that combines “female” and “humanoid,” suggesting women are not fully human, just humanlike.
 Note the dehumanization of women, as a class.

And a more general evaluation of the sites:
Beirich called incels a subgroup of both the men’s rights activist and alt-right movements.
“You’d be shocked at the amount of violence, raping, killing and attacking of women they advocate,” Beirich said. “In the case of Elliot Rodger, there was violence on a mass scale.”
Reddit banned the channel r/incels in November, citing a violation of its “violent content” rules. The shutdown followed a number of posts where members seemed to be advocating for rape and specifically one cross post in the channel r/legaladvice where a frequent r/incels poster appeared to be soliciting tips for how to get away with rape.

At the time that Reddit group was banned it had 40,000 members, though some of them may have just been watchers.

*** I understand that this can be difficult:

While extremist groups are quite commonly misogynistic and even recruit based on male sexual frustration, their ideologies almost never center on that fact. There have been mass acts of misogynistic violence before, as in the 1989 shooting at Montreal’s École Polytechnique that claimed the lives of 14 women, but there wasn’t a large online community providing an ideology that justified the killer’s grievances. The incel turn toward violence is a unique phenomenon, at least in the modern era.
This creates a fairly difficult challenge for law enforcement agencies. On the one hand, there is a real terrorist threat from incel communities; it’s clearly not all talk. On the other hand, there are serious risks that come along with having American and Canadian law enforcement officials trawling Reddit for people to arrest.
“I’m not sure national security agencies are best placed to handle places like 4chan,” Carvin says. “We want to keep the law narrow enough that we aren’t monitoring all different kinds of dissent.”
There’s also a serious identification challenge. Online communities are both full of empty talk and draped in irony, making it tough for social media companies and law enforcement officials to figure out who is a threat and who isn’t.
“[The perpetrator’s] post really highlights the challenges facing the social media companies. It read like a joke or nonsense,” Berger, the terrorism expert, tells me. “How are you supposed to evaluate something like that?”

But it's ultimately no more difficult than monitoring ISIS or other similar terrorist sites, of course.  It's just hard to think of something as ingrained and common in the society as violent talk about women in the light of possible terrorism.  It could be irony, after all...

Ignoring that violence is terribly short-sighted, even if one isn't bothered by women's safety.  That is because of this:

Other attacks that resulted in mass casualties have also been linked to violence against women. Most mass shootings between 2009 and 2016 had to do with domestic and family cases, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun-violence prevention group. In 54% of incidents where four or more people were killed with a gun, an intimate partner or family member was a victim. And of 46 public mass shootings since 2009, 33% of the shooters had a history of violent behavior toward women, according to a TIME analysis of Everytown data.

Mankowski says the general conversation about masculinity and violence needs to shift. When white men are found to be behind mass attacks, the reigning narrative focuses on their mental health problems, substance abuse issues or their romantic entanglements, rather than on the messaging boys and men receive about how to respond to their issues. Women, Mankowski notes, also suffer from mental health problems and romantic rejection and abuse substances, but it’s almost “unheard of that they would commit mass violence,” he says.

“The long-term strategy is examining the implied and taught messages on how to be men — they comply with these messages about manhood because there’s privilege and status and benefits that you garner if you perform the role as it’s being taught,” he says. “Incel is saying, ‘I’m doing the role and not getting the benefits, and I’m particularly likely to respond with violence.’”
As a final comment, I just checked on one incel site to see if things have changed.  The official statement of the site condemns all types of violence and hatred of women, the first threads on the site celebrate the Toronto butcher and regard women as subhumans.  It's hard to see what kind of social interventions would work, given that the weird worldview inside those sites is an impenetrable bubble.