Chris MacLean's picture
The semantics of responding to terrorism
Posted on Apr 24, 2018

It will take some time to unpack the recent Yonge Street attack. In the meantime, I would caution against sweeping statements that dismiss any national security risk, as Public Safety Minister Goodale recently dismissed any suggestion that there could be a national security element to the attack.

Does an international group dedicated to violence not constitute a national security risk because the main (though far from exclusive) target is women?

It has been suggested this attack does not constitute the legal definition of "terrorism," but whether this attack meets the legal definition or not, is a moot point in my opinion. It is a public safety issue, and it is a national security issue. There are potentially thousands of "incels" (involuntary celibates) waiting in the wings to do more harm. This may not be the first murders by an individual incel – the perpetrator's facebook post has revealed a whole sordid world of hate that most of us were blissfully unaware of.

I was shocked to hear there is a thriving social group for men who are angry that they cannot get laid. Involuntary celibates? Really?

Does an international group dedicated to violence not constitute a national security risk because the main target is women? That would be disturbing to find out.

However, it is not only women who are at risk. Incels also feel anger towards men who successfully attract women; to their parents; and to pretty much anyone who has a chance of having consensual sex.

Thankfully, in November 2017, the social media site "Reddit" banned a site that glorified and enabled this group of incels, however, another site remains, to both shine a light on, and also ridicule incels (and presumably make them all that much angrier). The following is quoted from this response site:

IncelTears is a place for folks to submit screenshots (NOT direct links) of crazy stuff posted by self-described incels (involuntary celibates) wherein they blame women, their genes, their canthal tilts, their parents, romantically successful men, feminism, modern technology, and ultimately all of society for their own failure to get laid. We laugh at, cringe at, and discuss the never ending stream of hateful, idiotic, misogynistic, jaw-dropping, fallacious or just plain stupid things that incels post online. This subreddit does not condone blanket hatred of virgins or the romantically unsuccessful, only those who self-identify with the hate label of "incel". Insulting people who are merely dateless, depressed, lonely, or involuntary virgins is not permitted here.

Minister Goodale, no doubt, wants to assure us all that we have nothing to fear from a coordinated attack. However, Jeremy Kinsman doesn't think the question is nearly as ambiguous as Minister Goodale suggests. "Let’s get it straight, a National Security issue is involved," said Kinsman, a former Cdn Ambassador to Russia, during a CTV News interview on 24 April 2018. "Who’s at fault? You could say society, you could say the troubles of the modern times, but I’m going to say the social networks have got to face up to it." He went on to single out Facebook, YouTube and Twitter as the biggest enablers of hate speech (he obviously should have included Reddit). "They cannot allow people to get motivated and validated in these absolute murderous impulses through identification with some sort of anti-heroes who proclaim their destructive urges over the internet."

Before today, I had no idea that thousands of frustrated, angry men had been gathering on the internet to feed off each other's rabid incitement of violence against, well, anyone who is happy, it seems. Reddit's incel site offered minute-by-minute hateful comments, and advocated rape as a good option.

Here's the thing – what has been reported as the reason the site was finally banned by Reddit, had nothing to do with advocating violence against women, it was the numerous posts encouraging a young "incel" to castrate his roommate because he had a girlfriend, which was a "painful" situation for the sad incel. Violence against a man is what brought swift retribution by Reddit.

Am I worried? You bet. Maybe not for myself, but definitely for the futures of my children and grandchildren. The fact that hate-filled elements of society can now connect via the social media world and find some imagined legitimacy, as well as support and explicit encouragement for horrific actions, seems unsurmountable. What can the governments do? What can the courts do? What can citizens do?

Will Public Safety Minister Goodale revise his overly narrow assessment and decide that violent "incels" constitute a national security risk?

Will social media do better at regulating itself? Should we allow it to regulate itself?

The problem with the internet, is that it can benefit us all so incredibly, and bring people together from all around the world, creating joy and fostering understanding and peace – but it also gives evil many dark crevices in which to breed and grow hatred.

– Chris MacLean is the Editor-in-Chief at FrontLine Safety & Security.