by Naama Kates
Monday, 26
September 2022
Response
14:00

The incel movement isn’t getting ‘more extreme’

A new Washington Post investigation recycles old tropes
by Naama Kates
Eliot Rodger killed six people and injured fourteen others in 2014

Taylor Lorenz’s latest piece for the Washington Post warns that ‘the online incel movement is getting more extreme’, according to a new report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, an American think tank, and its brand new Quant Lab. 

The report is the ‘culmination’ of an investigation spanning 18 months, containing ‘more than one million posts’ from the web’s ‘most prominent [incel] forum’. The report was also covered by the BBC and the Times, despite the fact that these sorts of AI linguistic analyses of the very same forum have been done ad nauseum by researchers and students at various points in their academic careers. 

But, according to a tweet from CCDH founder Imran Ahmed, the ‘new, never-seen-before [sic] data’ of this report is ‘absolutely vital’. So what did we learn? As is customary, the report opens with a content warning for its more sensitive readers before informing them that slurs and specific site names would be redacted, ‘in order to avoid promoting them.’ Next, the report presents some dramatic but hard-to-contextualise statistics, like that the word ‘kill’ was used 1,181 times in one particular month. 

Context, in general, is conspicuously absent throughout; there’s no consideration of whether these posts about rape or violence might be ironic or absurd, as incels often are. Granted, an algorithm is incapable of detecting irony, but the human beings at the Quant Lab should have given it a shot.

‘Analysis of their discourse shows this core group poses a clear and present danger to women, other young men, and reveals an emerging threat to our children,’ the report adds. But how? Is there any correlation between all this nasty posting and real-world behaviour? There’s no data to support this bold assertion. In fact, a recent study into the incel community suggests otherwise. And so does the report itself: the main section includes a subheader titled ‘Links to Offline Violence’ that includes just one case of a man arrested for possession of an assault rifle and an ‘attempt to commit a hate crime.’ Apparently, members of the forum have speculated that this individual once briefly had an account on the site.

The fact is that, to date, not a single one of the perpetrators of an ‘incel attack’ has been linked to the website specifically. Both the report and the WaPo piece frequently cite cases in which law enforcement stated that perpetrators were not motivated by incel ideology, so then why do they claim that incels pose a “growing threat”? This conflation may be an oversight by Lorenz, but it seems a deliberate misrepresentation by the authors of the report, who are doubtlessly aware of such details. 

Most galling, however, are the report’s final recommendations, which explicitly call on Big Tech to act: YouTube must ban all incel accounts; Twitter must shut down the main account for the site ‘named’ in the report; Google must de-rank incelosphere websites; and platforms must address ‘digital harms such as body image and mental health that can drive children into incelosphere communities’ — an awfully tall order, made without any suggestions for its implementation. And finally, of course, CloudFare ‘must stop providing services to the Incel Forum and feeder sites.’  

Never mind the threadbare concept or the sloppy methodology, the only thing new about this report is how flagrantly it calls for outright censorship. It should be resisted, or better yet, ignored. 

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Jim R
Jim R
2 months ago

Imagine the howls of outrage if the exact same study methodology was deployed against a ‘protected’ group to justify de-platforming them.

Buena Vista
Buena Vista
2 months ago

Anything authored by Taylor Lorenz is tripe. I don’t believe she’s capable of writing a straight grocery list.

Tom Watson
Tom Watson
2 months ago
Reply to  Buena Vista

“Democracy under threat as far-right conspiracy buys the last carton of oat milk off the shelf just before I got there”

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
2 months ago

Thanks for coming out to bat for incels so strongly Naama.  What I find most galling isn’t the overstating of their case which is a flaw most have. Its how SJWs often show zero sympathy for the suffering incels experience due to their social isolation. They could do that and still argue for the censorship. Whats the point of being progressive if you lack compassion for those with the least fortunate start in life.
Good to see a study suggesting no +ve correlation between online incel activity and real world behaviour.  Possibly even there’s an inverse relationship. It’s a common view among social scientists that the Internet is a causative factor behind the fall in violent crime many countries have experienced since the mid 90s (violent crime having risen for decades before then.) It’s possible that despite the alarming posts, the online forums have a moderating tendency on the propensity for violence from the well studied “angry young man” syndrome.

AC Harper
AC Harper
2 months ago

A think tank searching for justification and recognition will overlook data for drama. Surprise.

Matt Hindman
Matt Hindman
2 months ago
Reply to  AC Harper

Hey, it keeps the SPLC in business.

Brendan Ross
Brendan Ross
2 months ago

If it’s from Taylor Lorenz, it’s immediately suspect at best. I have no great love for self-styled “incels”, but concerns about these unfortunates seem beyond overblown.

Aaron James
Aaron James
2 months ago

The MSM get more insane by the day, but in this mass formation truth or lies are believed exactly the same – all which matters is their source, and as it is mostly the lying media – the MSM and Social Media, and all the rest censored – then all is lies, as the truth feeds no Global Agenda.

Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
2 months ago

Taylor Lorenz – pointless story given that byline.

Elizabeth Pickett
Elizabeth Pickett
2 months ago

“The attack is characterized as misogynist terrorism because it was motivated by revenge for perceived sexual and social rejection by women. At the time of his arrest, Minassian described himself as an incel to the police and in prior social media postings.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toronto_van_attack

Ralph Wilsin
Ralph Wilsin
2 months ago

We need equal redistribution of sexual rights! We Democratic Sexulism! #incelsmustunionize

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
2 months ago

Who gives a fluck about incels? Spineless losers, the lot of them. Cut off their internet completely and it might force the loser oddballs to get out into the real world and, y’know, talk to an actual woman without preconceptions and without all the mummy-boy whinging and crying these po-faced creeps routinely indulge in. Kick up the ar$e / spot of military service is what most of them need. As for “no consideration of whether these posts about rape or violence might be ironic or absurd”, do me a favour would you? I appreciate irony as much as anybody, but I’m struggling to see what’s ironic about rape or violence. Those lads have zero sense of humour; that’s the main problem with them – an utter inability to laugh at themselves.  

D Walsh
D Walsh
2 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

you got a lot of down votes, yet I suspect most of what you say is true

If a large % of incels followed your advice they would no longer be incels