In April 2018 Alek Minassian drove a van into a crowd of people in Toronto, killing ten people. A few minutes before, he had posted on Facebook, “The Incel rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all Chads and Stacys! All hail the supreme gentleman Elliot Rodger.”
Minassian was referring to Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old male who committed the Isla Vista, Calif., attack which killed six people in 2014. Before his rampage, Rodger had posted a ‘manifesto’ online – a lengthy tirade against the failures of modern society to provide him sexual access to women. Rodger is often portrayed in the media as the godfather of Incel ideology and is referred to as the “Supreme Gentleman” in online spaces such as Reddit and incel.me. He was the first individual to be labeled a terrorist of the alt-right by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks far-right activity. 1
Minassian’s Facebook post indicated that his act was linked to a broader political ideology rooted in a toxic combination of male supremacy and white supremacy. While lone-wolf attackers who invoke anti-feminist ideas- like Minassian- are often framed as mentally ill loners, this attack was terrorist in nature and should be considered as such. Like the response to Elliot Rodger’s earlier attack at Isla Vista, media reporting after the Toronto attack quickly emphasized Minassian’s struggles with mental health and cited claims from friends that he “wasn’t a terrorist.”2 This treatment fails to recognize the corrosive political ideology that underpinned Minassian’s attack and his desire to terrorize the public. These qualities should rightly define his actions as terrorism.