Home > Open Access Journals > JSS > Vol. 14 > No. 2 (2021)
Involuntary Celibates’ Experiences of and Grievance over Sexual Exclusion and the Potential Threat of Violence Among Those Active in an Online Incel Forum
Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. is Director of the International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE) and serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. She has interviewed over 700 terrorists, their family members and supporters in various parts of the world including in Western Europe, the Balkans, Central Asia, the Former Soviet Union and the Middle East. In the past five years years, she has interviewed 258 ISIS defectors, returnees and prisoners as well as 16 al Shabaab cadres and their family members (n=25) as well as ideologues (n=2), studying their trajectories into and out of terrorism, their experiences inside ISIS (and al Shabaab), as well as developing the Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative Project materials from these interviews which includes over 200 short counter narrative videos of terrorists denouncing their groups as un-Islamic, corrupt and brutal which have been used in over 150 Facebook and Instagram campaigns globally. She has also been training key stakeholders in law enforcement, intelligence, educators, and other countering violent extremism professionals, both locally and internationally, on the psychology of terrorism, the use of counter-narrative messaging materials produced by ICSVE as well as studying the use of children as violent actors by groups such as ISIS. Dr. Speckhard has given consultations and police trainings to U.S., German, UK, Dutch, Austrian, Swiss, Belgian, Danish, Iraqi, Jordanian and Thai national police and security officials, among others, as well as trainings to elite hostage negotiation teams. She also consults to foreign governments on issues of terrorist prevention and interventions and repatriation and rehabilitation of ISIS foreign fighters, wives and children. In 2007, she was responsible for designing the psychological and Islamic challenge aspects of the Detainee Rehabilitation Program in Iraq to be applied to 20,000 + detainees and 800 juveniles. She is a sought-after counterterrorism expert and has consulted to NATO, OSCE, the EU Commission and EU Parliament, European and other foreign governments and to the U.S. Senate & House, Departments of State, Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, Health & Human Services, CIA, and FBI and appeared on CNN, BBC, NPR, Fox News, MSNBC, CTV, CBC and in Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, London Times and many other publications. She regularly writes a column for Homeland Security Today and speaks and publishes on the topics of the psychology of radicalization and terrorism and is the author of several books, including Talking to Terrorists, Bride of ISIS, Undercover Jihadi and ISIS Defectors: Inside Stories of the Terrorist Caliphate. Her publications are found here: https://georgetown.academia.edu/AnneSpeckhardWebsite: and on the ICSVE website http://www.icsve.org
Molly Ellenberg is a research fellow at ICSVE. Molly is a doctoral student at the University of Maryland. She holds an M.A. in Forensic Psychology from The George Washington University and a B.S. in Psychology with a Specialization in Clinical Psychology from UC San Diego. At ICSVE, she is working on coding and analyzing the data from ICSVE’s qualitative research interviews of ISIS and al Shabaab terrorists, running Facebook campaigns to disrupt ISIS’s and al Shabaab’s online and face-to-face recruitment, and developing and giving trainings for use with the Breaking the ISIS Brand Counter Narrative Project videos. Molly has presented original research at the International Summit on Violence, Abuse, and Trauma and UC San Diego Research Conferences. Her research has also been published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Trauma, the Journal of Strategic Security, the Journal of Human Security, and the International Studies Journal. Her previous research experiences include positions at Stanford University, UC San Diego, and the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland.
Jesse Morton was once a prominent radicalizer in the West. As a co-founder and chief propagandist of Revolution Muslim, a New York City-based group active in the 2000s, he helped to insert the narrative of Al-Qaeda and Salafi-jihadist ideology into the American ambit. Morton had direct contact with some of the most prominent extremist preachers in the West. Revolution Muslim was connected to a number of terrorism cases. Jesse holds a bachelor’s degree in Human Services and a Master’s in International Relations from Columbia University, with a concentration on the Middle East and nonprofit management. He has lectured at Imam Muhammad ibn Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Sunderland University in Casablanca, Morocco, and is widely read in classical Islamic theology and jurisprudence and historical relations between the United States and Middle Eastern nations. He was included in Foreign Policy Magazine's 2017 'Global Thinkers' listing and is a certified substance abuse and mental health counselor in New York State. Jesse worked briefly at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, while there he focused on issues such as the propaganda of terrorist organizations, Islamic and jihadist ideology, countering radicalization and extremism and promoting disengagement. He currently consults with organizations countering violent extremism and is the research coordinator of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue's Against Violent Extremism (AVE) Network in North America.
Alexander Ash is the owner of the incels.co forum.
Subject Area Keywords
Global trends and risks, Homeland security, National security, Political violence, Psychology, Radicalization, Social media, Violent extremism
This article represents the largest ever primary data-based study of involuntary celibates (incels), previously studied nearly exclusively through analysis of online postings. The incel movement has been characterized by some as a radical ideology, with mass murderers such as Elliot Rodger, Alek Minassian, and Chris Harper Mercer being portrayed as prototypical of the movement. However, there is a dearth of research through direct questioning of incels and therefore very little nuanced understanding of the community, its shared grievances, and its opinions regarding violence in its name. The present study of over 250 self-identified incels demonstrates that although the majority of incels are non-violent and do not approve of violence, those who consider themselves to be staunch misogynists are likely to endorse a desire to commit violence and are also likely to become more misogynistic through participation on incel web forums, which validate their views. The study also finds that while many incels report experiencing a variety of psychological symptoms, they are loath to seek help from mental health professionals. This implies that the threat of violence from a subset of incels should not be ignored, but promotion of compassionate and understanding psychological may be more broadly beneficial to the community.
Speckhard, Anne; Ellenberg, Molly; Morton, Jesse; and Ash, Alexander. "Involuntary Celibates’ Experiences of and Grievance over Sexual Exclusion and the Potential Threat of Violence Among Those Active in an Online Incel Forum." Journal of Strategic Security 14, no. 2 (2021)
Available at: https://digitalcommons.usf.edu/jss/vol14/iss2/5