Below is a discussion between my brother Josh and I on Incels.
Never heard of them until this attack.
Off the top of my head, I think they’re products of unhealthy socialization (i.e., family, church, school) where they developed sexist/chauvinistic/predatory attitudes, probably because they were taught/raised to believe that being a man / being masculine is about sex. So, they have fragile male egos that can’t handle loss/rejection, so they become bitterly hateful toward women. They also sound narcissistic – seems like they consider themselves perfect mates, but blame others for rejection instead of looking at themselves. It’s maybe an extreme deviation from “the good guy” complex…the dude who thinks he is so nice and kind and good and gets angry at women for allegedly always going for “the bad boy” over him (even though he is so much more attractive in all these different ways). He’s so kind, he’s so polite, he’s so good that every woman should fawn over him. Toxic personalities. I think I had some of the good guy complex in high school and early college, but have (hopefully) since matured.
It seems to me that it is likely an attitude that developed out of the internet more than anything else… People love to join communities and in the old days you had to normalize yourself and your attitudes to be accepted by the group around you. Now, you can find weirdos online who share your interests. Most of the time this is harmless – like love of cats, people who like old toy cars, have weird sexual fetishes, etc. In this case however, people who are rejected are finding others who are rejected and banding together to blame others instead of improving themselves. \
I do agree it is probably a deviation from the “good guy” complex.
I agree that internet forums can exacerbate and facilitate the behavior. But, I still think the primary seeds of the behavior come from places like the family, school, church, etc. I think many of the people who find their way into such forums already have a budding interest in those subjects when they first search them out. For instance, I doubt most people know about the incel subreddit (I had never heard of it until this attack and the subsequent media attention it gained) and think it’s unlikely that people just accidentally click there. The people who find their way to that subreddit probably were already on other, similar forums and came across a comment or such that mentioned the subreddit. And/or they received real-life recommendations from some to search those forums out OR they were already so socialized in a certain way that they wanted to organically search out for those forums with Google and such.
Granted, once they find those online communities, their way of thinking could easily be taken to a much darker extreme, because it’s a horrifically toxic circle jerk. But, I think many (probably even most) men have unhealthy attitudes toward women, because of our culture. It’s ingrained in us, it’s how we are raised to be. Many churches are fundamentalist and teach that women and wives must be subservient to men and husbands. Media and entertainment perpetuate unhealthy images of men and women, and the relationships between them (where the man has to “win” the woman (even if she has expressed disinterest in the particular man) and the woman has to sell herself to the man). Think of fraternities and locker rooms across the nation. That one fraternity from Yale a few years back comes to mind (where they chanted “no means yes, yes means anal”). Violent disregard and treatment of women has, for a long time, been acceptable and even celebrated.
So, while the online communities might add fuel to the fire (more like rocket fuel), I don’t think we can just comfortably say it’s only a problem because of the Internet. It’s a problem because of nearly everything in our society and world.