How Elliot Rodger went from misfit mass murderer to ‘saint’ for group of misogynists — and suspected Toronto killer
Elliot Rodger saw himself as a catch.
The lonely, troubled 22-year-old, who called himself a “supreme gentleman,” seethed about his virginity and took to the internet to spew venom about attractive women who he believed had unfairly rejected him, and about men who were more successful at dating.
Four years after Rodger killed six people and wounded more than a dozen others in the college town of Isla Vista before committing suicide, he has been canonized in the online world of so-called involuntary celibates, or “incels” — a fringe group of sexually frustrated men who blame women for their misery and often advocate for violence against them.
Among those Rodger allegedly inspired was Alek Minassian, the 25-year-old man accused of plowing a van onto a crowded Toronto sidewalk on Monday, killing 10 people and injuring at least 16 more.
Minutes before the Toronto rampage, Minassian, a former military recruit, wrote a Facebook post referencing Rodger and so-called “Chads” and “Stacys” — derisive internet slang for men and women with more active sex lives.
Minassian wrote: “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!”
4chan, the conspiracy-laden website Minassian referenced, is home to some of the internet’s most ardent trolls. It is also well-known for propagating hoaxes. But Canadian authorities and U.S. federal law enforcement officials have confirmed the authenticity of the post, and Minassian’s account has been removed from Facebook.
Rodger’s father, Peter Rodger, told the New York Daily News that he found it “very sad” that Minassian claimed to be inspired by the Isla Vista killer.
“It’s not only devastating for the victims [in Toronto], it’s also devastating for Elliot’s victims, to bring this all up again and make a hero out of a very disturbed individual,” he said.
Reddit and 4chan are popular forums for incels, who view sex as a basic human right for all men, said Keegan Hankes, a senior research analyst for the nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist movements.
In November, Reddit banned the discussion board r/incels for promoting violence against women. On the subreddit, Rodger was often called “Saint Elliot.”
To incels, women who deny them sex are committing a crime, Hankes said.
“Elliot Rodger is glorified among these people,” said Hankes, who added that they call him a “patron saint.” They praise his 2014 attack and reference potential copycat violence as “going ER.”
Rodger wrote a 137-page diatribe and made a YouTube video titled “Elliot Rodger’s Retribution,” in which he lambasted women for giving “their affection and sex and love” to other men and pledged to slaughter sorority members at UC Santa Barbara.
“I’m the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at all these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman,” he said in the video.
His manifesto, which he titled “My Twisted World,” and his “Retribution” video have become warped guidebooks for many incels.
Minassian “must have been enlightened after reading St. Elliot’s (PBUH) life work,” an anonymous 4chan user wrote Monday, using an acronym for “praise be upon him.”
The post on the message board /r9k/ — an infamous meme-filled forum where users express a violent disdain for women and social norms — included a photo of a sunglasses-wearing Rodger sitting in a car, edited to look like the cover of a Penguin Classics book, with the same title as Rodger’s manifesto.
In a discussion of the Toronto attack on the message board, another user wrote that Monday’s rampage was “caused by women’s rights” and the refusal of women to have sex with incels.
“All violence, random attacks and terrorism are done by men who cannot find GFs [girlfriends], and thus women are DIRECTLY responsible for all of it,” the user wrote. “The ONLY way to fix this problem is to take away women’s rights and adopt a system of equal redistribution of women.”
On Reddit, a thread on an incel message board called Braincels bemoaned “virgin shaming” and the perception that the Toronto attack would lead people to think incels are terrorists.
“We’re going to have to get virginity numbers and badges assigned to us soon. So that everyone will know what dangers to society we are,” one user wrote.
“Not unlike Nazi Germany,” someone responded.
“The Star of Elliot,” another wrote.
In dark corners of the internet, some incels already are celebrating Minassian for allegedly killing more people than Rodger did, Hankes said.
Involuntary celibacy is part of a larger male supremacy movement that denigrates women and threatens violence against them. Racism also is a common theme in male supremacy discussions.
A February report by the Southern Poverty Law Center called Rodger the “first alt-right killer.” At least 13 such killers — all men and most under the age of 30 — are part of what the nonprofit center calls the “far-right ecosystem that defines the alt-right.”
One of the killers made several references to Rodger before carrying out his attack last year, the report says. William Edward Atchison used the pseudonym of “Elliot Rodger” online and praised the “supreme gentleman,” according to the report. Atchison, 21, entered a New Mexico high school Dec. 7 and killed two students before taking his own life.
This year, the law center added male supremacy to ideologies tracked on its national Hate Map because of the way the groups dehumanize and advocate for violence against women.
“There is an angry subset of the online incel community which has its own amorphous folklore and grievances,” said Brian Levin, executive director for the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino.
“It is yet another example in this increasingly socially fragmented age that we’re in, where personal animus and social withdrawal is catalyzed online into something more brazen, communal and potentially violent,” he said.
The desire to find a mate is universal in human society, and increasingly, traditional social ways of doing so — such as attending dances, church and sporting events — are being replaced by online dating and an “individualization of the process of getting mated,” said Jennifer Cool, an anthropologist at USC who studies internet culture and history.
“These dissatisfied young men are turning to what there is plenty of — internet connection — as a way to find a social forum,” Cool said.
“It doesn’t seem to be solving their problem of not getting laid” but allows them to commiserate with other sexually unsuccessful men and blame their problems on others, she said.
“It’s not about this global village of everyone being interconnected, but lots of smaller circles,” Cool said of such online forums. “We’re all in our bubbles,” and it’s “easier to get out of touch” with reality.
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