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The Incel Menace
What would it take to reach bitter and disaffected men; and are commentators concerned about Incels willing to make that bargain?
Do incels exist as they are conceived of in the popular imagination, if so are they a problem, if so what should we do about them?
The shooting in Plymouth gave a variety of activists a chance to make their pitch - the two most infamous being a cartoonist who had made an ethnographic study of incels, and Laura Bates’ appearance on This Morning.
Both prompted a tremendous amount of derision for embodying a reefer-madness style moral hysteria - implying for instance that people who use terms like “red-pilled” or “black-pilled” are edging towards murder. Personally I think all this was irresponsible rather than funny - someone who appears on Woman’s Hour or writes for the Guardian will likely find a powerful audience for their theories, and you’ll end up on a terrorist watch list for semi-ironically using the word “cucked” in a tweet five years ago.
Leaving the above criticisms, misunderstandings and hysteria aside it doesn’t seem that unreasonable thing to worry about; there are people out there who truly, viscerally hate women, express it online constantly and form an embryonic identity around it - it’s fine to laugh at Facebook normies (normies! that’s one of the trigger words!) fumbling attempts to understand non-liberal online culture but it seems ok that you would want to do something about that.
The first tactic people have a tendency to reach for, especially left-leaning media people likely to have the ear of power, is de-platforming- that’s where the current campaigns are leading. From a free-speech perspective this is a reprehensible tool but it’s undeniable that it works - when was the last time you saw a piece of Stefan Molyneux content?
But it’s exponentially harder to stop people griping about their love lives than it is to stop them debating the biological origins of racial differences (or whatever). De-platforming individuals is possible, but for wider effectiveness it would require a level of overreach that is hard to imagine even in the current environment.
For the same reason simply educating people about online misogyny is probably not a winner. Men have a certain set of challenges to face and aren’t going to fully internalise the perspectives of women as though they are their own (though you may elicit displays of fake public compliance). They’re not going to suddenly become good equalitarians, no matter how much you want that to be the solution; and they’re not going to take advice or guidance from anyone who demonstrably doesn’t understand the online worlds they inhabit, or lives they live.
If you want to change the behaviour of young men en masse (or an unidentified subset of them), what you probably need is 1) a man, 2) who can talk to men in a way that resonantes with them rather than using corporate diversity-speak of guardian feminism, 3) has a wider understanding of the forces and vacuums that lead to men being the way they are, and that cause them break down.
For the average male normie those people already exist- I would suggest people like Joe Rogan, Jordan Peterson and Jocko Willink in those roles. You and I might think they’re cringe, but if you listen the basic messages (either when talking about incels or just speaking generally) they are saying exactly what you would want a young man to hear, and the things most likely to be effective - that you need some meaning in your life beyond getting laid; that you need to get out and achieve things rather than sitting in front of a screen all day; that p0rn and games are bad; that struggle is good, and character-forming; that forming an identity around being unsuccessful is toxic, pathetic and unmanly.
Again - I’m not that these guys are great, or that I love everything they say, but that from a feminist perspective they represent a best case scenario of men who can reach a wide audience of men and be understood. If you don’t like those guy, you sure as hell won’t like what comes next.
If we take seriously for a moment the idea (which I don’t agree with) that inceldom is a terroristic ideology and a new problem, then you address it the same way you would any other ideology of that type. That will mean making common cause with people who can talk to young men likely to become radicalised; people who can present them with a version of their story where they get to be the hero, and to think well of themselves, but self-steer down a more productive path. If you’re serious about changing people’s perspectives, that is the devil’s bargain you have to make. Whether or not you make that bargain is the test of how serious you are about solving the problem you’ve identified. No one said it would be easy.