Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Incels and the Call for Omega Enlightenment

On April 23, 2018, 25-year old Alek Minassian attacked bystanders by hitting them with a rented van, killing 10 and injuring 16. The attack happened in northern Toronto, ten minutes from where I live. Minassian was apprehended and a bystander recorded his showdown with the police. Perhaps because of Canada’s strict gun laws, Minassian was reduced to attempting to provoke the policeman into shooting him, by pointing his cellphone at him as though it were a gun, because apparently Minassian had no gun.

As to the attack’s motive, the general suspicion is that Minassian identifies as a militant incel, an involuntary celibate who sought revenge against the sexually active for having humiliated him by rejecting him. Shortly before the attack, Minassian posted this message on Facebook: “Private (Recruit) Minassian Infantry 00010, wishing to speak to Sgt 4chan please. C23249161. The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!” Minassian had enrolled in the Canadian Armed Forces, but dropped out after 16 days of training. “Chads and Stacys” is incel code for popular, physically attractive and altogether successful, sexually active men and women. Elliot Rodger is a 22-year old incel who in 2014 killed 6 and injured 14 fellow students in Isla Vista, California, by shooting them and hitting them with his car. In the middle of the attack, he uploaded a video to YouTube called “Elliot Rodger’s Retribution,” in which he explained that he wanted to punish women for rejecting him, and punish men for making him envy them. He also uploaded his manifesto, which reads more like an autobiography. After the attack, he killed himself.

The Cult of Involuntary Celibacy

Incel cultists describe themselves as going their own way and as having downed “the black pill,” which alludes to The Matrix movie but more specifically to the “red pill” of pickup culture. That culture combs through evolutionary psychology for techniques to exploit women’s biological weaknesses, effectively hoping to con them into having sex with them. But when the techniques fail and the would-be seducer is revealed as “having no game,” he may opt to swallow the black pill, as it were, meaning that he exchanges evolutionary psychology for a more pessimistic worldview. Wikipedia notes that “A 2001 Georgia State University study found that people who self-identified as incels tended to feel frustrated, depressed, and angry regardless of why they felt they were involuntarily celibate. These researchers found that involuntary celibacy was often correlated with depression, neuroticism, anxiety, and autistic disorders.”

Another researcher, Debrah Soh, argues that the militant incels who advocate or fantasize about raping or murdering sexually-satisfied people suffer from more than just toxic masculinity, the latter being a set of repressed masculine traits that eventually explode in disastrous ways, as in Fight Club. Instead, she writes, “these crimes are instances of antisociality manifesting as hatred toward women.” In other words, Rodger, Minassian, and the worst of the goons on 4Chan or incel discussion boards are sociopaths who happen to be involuntarily celibate. The key point is that “Even if those in the incel community were sexually active, they would still harbour resentment toward women.” Moreover, ‘Most men do not behave like this, including men who are sexually frustrated. Those blaming “toxic masculinity” and “rape culture” are missing the mark—this isn’t an issue about gender and it shouldn’t be made into one.’ 

Soh’s point might be a distinction without a difference, since antisocial tendencies can be learned, and so a prolonged period of involuntary celibacy, together with exposure to echo chambers on the internet can radicalize the incel and turn him into a sociopath. Studies indicate that despite the outbursts of the male incels, the numbers of involuntary celibates are roughly equal between men and women. According to the Center for Disease Control, the percentage of males who are sexless between the ages of 15-24 is 27.2%, while the percentage of sexless women in the same age bracket is 28.6%. In later years, in the 25-44 bracket, the numbers drop to 1.6% for men and to 1.3% for women. So whereas the numbers are roughly equal, male incels might suffer more embarrassment from the condition than do the women, because of biases in Western culture.

Still, in line with Soh’s point, another problem with linking incels to toxic masculinity is that the male incels are hardly masculine, especially the violent ones. Social anxiety, physical unattractiveness, and poverty, which involuntary celibates are likely to suffer from mark these individuals as omegas, as social outsiders and losers. Meanwhile, masculinity and femininity are social constructs in that they’re realized by certain actions, not merely by thoughts. It’s not enough to dream about being a masculine hero; you actually need the square jawline and the muscles, the success in business and in daily life, and the sexual prowess to be masculine. In particular, young men such as Rodger and Minassian, who scapegoat the class of non-incels (the bulk of humanity) as though they had all personally rejected them and who mow them down when they’re defenseless are devious and cowardly, not at all masculine.

So this isn’t a question just of repressed masculinity that becomes toxic. Instead, we need to come to grips with the psychological varieties of the human phenotype. In the first place, most biological humans aren’t people, existentially or spiritually speaking. People in the honourific sense, meaning autonomous, enlightened and authentic individuals, are rare. Second, humans are divided into various social classes such as rich and poor; more generally, the classes are winners, followers, and losers. “Masculinity” and “femininity” are honourific terms that apply mainly to the winners (to “alphas,” if we turn cynically to ethnology), less so to the followers (betas), and not so much to the losers or omegas. What incels need, then, is an enlightened perspective on their situation, as opposed to the bigotry and despair they absorb from incel communities. In particular, the militant incels could do with a dose of genuine philosophy, assuming they’re not yet sociopathic lost-causes.

Critique of Incels’ Pessimism

Many incels are just uninformed about what it takes to attract a mate. If they had a physical makeover, their chances would often be improved. Presumably, cognitive behavioural therapy can relieve people of their social anxiety, and dating tips can improve anyone’s social interactions. Incels are supposed to have already tried to improve and failed, but the fact that male incels often consider themselves drop-outs from the cult of red-pill cynics indicates that they haven’t properly informed themselves. For example, by considering sexual or social dynamics a mere game and by looking for short-cuts to defraud women out of sex, they demonstrate that they haven’t tried the more humane approach of actually being interested in what women have to say. Nor have these incels likely the humility to wonder whether they’re partly to blame because their personality is otherwise lacking; indeed, even should they succeed in attracting someone, many incels’ self-consciousness and dependence on pornography would presumably sabotage their sexual efforts. Potentially, though, they could build up self-confidence and general life skills by joining practical clubs (not just corrosive echo chambers), for example.

But it would be unduly optimistic to insist that everyone has what it takes to find a mate, just as it’s a romantic myth that everyone has a soul mate. Perhaps everyone’s chances can be improved, but some individuals might require so much help that their process of self-transformation isn’t worth it. They’re inclined towards what Western societies regard as failure. They’re naturally omegas, meaning that they’re outsiders for a reason. Social anxiety, poverty, and physical unattractiveness are only symptoms of their alienation: these losers don’t fit into capitalism, social networks, or the dating scene because they’re easily disgusted by hypocrisy. These sensitive losers are idealists rather than realists; they’re clueless as to how to operate efficiently in the real world, because they’re daydreamers who are fixated on how things should be, so that when the real world inevitably disappoints them, they become frustrated and bitter. Because they’re idealists, they live in their heads and so they tend to be introverted. They’re therefore at a disadvantage in a go-go, materialistic, extroverted culture.

Incels are fatalistic about their chances, but the reasons they offer to justify their pessimism are bogus or superficial. Incels scapegoat “Chads and Staceys” not just to escape the blame they deserve for their failures, but to avoid confronting the ultimate source of their misery, namely nature’s absurdity or indifference. Here, for example, are some social categories proposed by the defunct blog “Rants of an Incel”:
MGTOW – men going their own way. Men who do their own thing and try and avoid women at all costs, except for banging hookers, and just using women for sex (if they can). We do not believe in paying taxes, since most of that money goes to feminist causes, and we earn only what we need to survive, pay for hookers, and fund our hobbies, as the more we make, the more gets stolen by the guberment, which goes to support women. 
The Cunt – the female collective. There is little difference between one woman and the next. They all behave the same way and they are all attracted to same dumbass, useless men (the badboy), making useless spawn which my tax dollars are stolen from me to fund. This is why they love liberalism/socialism/communism, it is hypocrisy at its finest. It can do everything a man can do, yet it needs my tax dollars. How much of my tax money goes to men’s services? Compared to women, virtually none.
Nagina – male feminist/white knight/pussy whipped male. These guys should be hated even more than feminists, as they should know better. These guys consider themselves “real men”, and are the ones who shame incels since we cannot get women into our lives. This is derived from “mangina”, but this type of male and “man” should not exist in the same word together, as manginas are not real men.
Another incel wrote on an incel Reddit board (now removed): ‘If any of you incels ever get into a position where you can decide how the workplace is run, do everything in your power to limit female involvement. They’re lazy, incompetent, and only interested in drama. You know how it takes females a week to reply to your text? Same goes for the workplace too. They’re just hardwired to not grasp technology. I recently had to let a female intern go because I wasn’t getting prompt responses to the emails and texts I send her. Their excuse is always “Oh, but I was busy,” but technology has made it so electronic communication is effortless. You literally have to be an animal to not grasp this.’

These incel attitudes coincide with those on the alt right, as can be discerned from that deranged preoccupation with taxes. The problem, says this incel, isn’t just that he suffers the humiliation of rejection, it’s that the liberal culture at large adds insult to injury by lavishing rewards on the “ungrateful” women. This incel isn’t just misogynistic, though; in spite of all his self-consciousness, he doesn’t understand himself. Notice the inconsistency in belittling and objectifying women, on the one hand, and bemoaning celibacy on the other. If women are so appalling, why begrudge them for choosing not to date the incel? Aren’t women doing the incel a favour by not subjecting him to their repugnant female presence? If it’s only the physical pleasures of women’s bodies that interest the incel, prostitution or sex dolls should solve the whole problem, as Douthat suggestsMore likely, the incel’s hostility to women is a charade; he predictably vents his rage on scapegoats.

Moreover, it’s one-sided to see the worst in women but to overlook the worst in men. Suppose there’s some Nietzschean grain of truth in the notion that liberal governments protect the weak and steal taxes from the strong. Nothing should stop the incel from taking the next logical step of realizing that the reason liberal democracies were formed in the first place was to correct for the male pathologies that were rampant in patriarchal kingdoms and dictatorships and that still operate in liberal societies via the capitalistic outlets that are destroying the very global ecosystem—nothing should stop him, that is, except for bad faith. The incel ideology is no true philosophy, no honest effort to understand reality.

Or take the diatribe against women: “they’re all the same” in being attracted to the dumbass badboy. If that’s true, it’s so for evolutionary reasons (alpha-male masculinity signifies the competence to provide shelter for the babies the woman is driven to have). But men are hardly immune to similar biological pressure. Women may line up to be swept away by the adventure of socializing with an alpha male, but most men likewise line up to follow alpha men. These followers are the beta males who look to alphas for cultural guidance; for example, we take our cues from the heroes of Hollywood action movies. The incel calls these beta men “Naginas” and holds them in greater contempt than women, since these men are supposed to “know better.” But that’s essentialist balderdash. Both women and men are animals fashioned by blind, evolutionary creativity over hundreds of millions of years of natural selection. Both women and men seek success and thus look up to those who achieve it; men don’t know better than to admire those we’re programmed to deem the heroes of our species—unless the men are philosophically enlightened, which is as rare as the worthy kind of personhood.

The incel lauds “men who go their own way,” who have taken the black pill and who supposedly understand life’s harsh truths. These incel heroes avoid women or use them for sex, are hostile to liberalism and to liberal government, and strive to be frugal, to earn just enough to get by, presumably so as not to be contaminated by the poisonous liberal environment. What this incel misses is that the contamination goes much deeper. Nature created these primitive social dynamics. Nature causes men and women to behave as though we were still fighting for survival against predators in the African Savannah, rather than ensconced in modern civilization, because biological mutation shapes a species only very slowly and thus lags far behind our cultural evolution. Thus, whether in its female or its male form, the human phenotype is a despicable monument to the world’s godlessness and to all the attendant manners of natural tomfoolery. The only refuges from nature are suicide and the artificiality of culture.

To cast aspersions on mindless nature, however, isn’t enlightened since natural forces can’t feel a thing. Thus, scapegoating women and perhaps beta males is at least twice removed from the philosophical perspective. First of all, these women and men are themselves playthings of natural forces. Second, the pessimist can’t scorn those underlying forces without indulging in childish personification. In light of these facts, a much more fitting attitude would be not convenient contempt for the sake of unmanly scapegoating, but pity for all humankind and for all other creatures, too, for being caught in what is roughly our common existential predicament. Even should the incel venture this far towards an intellectually-respectable outlook, the problem would remain that pity doesn’t automatically engender compassion. To be motivated by disgust towards nature’s impersonality is to be repulsed by our animal form which underlies all our endeavours. Morality thus requires a transcendent impulse, a leap of faith in some unnatural ideal that would vivify nature’s living-dead shell by injecting the world with intelligently-selected purpose. Thus, the enlightened individual is caught between disgust and compassion, between the ugly reality and some redemptive ideal. The existential tasks are to see reality for the disgrace that it is and to be inspired by an artistic vision of something better. 

Let’s return to the conventional values which are properly despised by incels. We look up to alphas, to winners. Even if we were to find ourselves to be losers in life, we’d likely feel pangs of jealousy since we naturally prefer to be winners. The winners, however, are inevitably corrupted, to some degree, by the power associated with their success. As far as nature is concerned, then, the real heroes are precisely the sociopaths who tend to dominate our complex social hierarchies in spite of our progressive conceits. President Trump is the ultimate revelation of this stark reality and is thus fittingly horrific, as would be any true miracle or theophany. We therefore have the irony that while the militant incels are likely antisocial in addition to being unmanly (dishonourable), the winners they’re most jealous of are likewise antisocial. There are, then, two types of sociopathy on display, one caused by excessive winning and the other by excessive losing. Alphas can become sociopathic, but so too can omegas if they’re not philosophically enlightened.

Another irony is that in so far as we’re lured to seek the incel’s Holy Grail of sexual intercourse, by a cocktail of hormones, we’re obviously bound to our animal life cycle with all the injustice and shocking absurdity that that cycle entails. By obsessing over sex and his involuntary celibacy, the incel falls for the same trap that compels men to follow sociopathic alphas, and women to lust after those same twisted creatures. Of course, the incel may only want sex as a means of winning broader approval, since celibacy is humiliating in secular cultures that have no honoured place for omegas. This is in contrast to prehistoric, shamanic cultures or to ancient religious ones in which ascetics were honoured for their otherworldly aspirations. But if the incel’s attitude towards sex is only instrumental, not obsessive, he wouldn’t be attracted to the deranged and resentful chat forums and wouldn’t muse about punishing the sexually-active normals. Thus, to the extent that an incel thinks philosophically about sex, his involuntary celibacy isn’t a pressing social issue. Instead of training himself to be a reflection of his sociopathic superior, the alpha male, the wise incel might be expected to learn how to be honourably asexual, as a herald of posthumanity.

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