By David Futrelle
Hearing the news that Air Force personnel at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland were recently given a briefing on the threat posed by the incel movement — complete with slides featuring incel obsessions Becky and Stacy — some reacted with predictable jokes.
“You never know when the Air Force will need to bomb the Incel State,” author and ex-Daily Caller journalist Scott Greer joked on Twitter.
“These guys fly planes?” asked another Twitterer. “I’m concerned. You should only let smart people do that.”
So far, details on the briefing are a little scanty. According to Task & Purpose, a site reporting on military and veterans’ issues,
At least one Air Force base is on the lookout for a sinister new threat: angry men who can’t get laid.
Personnel at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland were recently treated to a threat brief regarding an “increase in nationwide activity” by self-described “incels,” members of an online subculture of “involuntary celibacy” who adopt an ideology of misogyny, mistrust of women, and violence in response to their failed attempts at romantic relationships.
The brief was first made public via a screenshot posted to the popular Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page on Tuesday. An Air Force spokesman confirmed the authenticity of the screenshot to Task & Purpose.
The screenshot in question showed a slide from the presentation featuring an interent-famous incel meme starring supposed female archetypes Becky and Stacey.
Obviously, the Air Force isn’t contemplating any air strikes on incel hideouts in the mountains of Afghanistan, or anywhere else.
The briefing seems to have been intended to warn about the possible dangers of incel rampages by Air Force personnel themselves, many of whom obviously have access to considerable firepower and the training necessary to know how to use these weapons in the deadliest manner.
“The intent of the brief was to educate the Joint Base Andrews commanders on the behaviors and activities attributed to the group to safeguard our Airmen/installation,” an Air Force spokesperson told Task & Purpose.
It’s a good thing that the Air Force is taking incels seriously. We can’t dismiss the real threat of incels because of the absurdity of their beliefs. Terrorists and mass killers are often motivated by beliefs that the rest of us would consider ridiculous.
Son of Sam believed his neighbor’s dog was telling him to kill. Charles Manson ordered the killings at the Tate and LaBianca homes in hope of setting off a race war that would ultimately put him in charge of the world — basing his peculiar eschatology in part on secret messages he thought were hidden in Beatles lyrics. Compared to these two — and to many other mass killers — incels seem almost rational.
As for the memes? They’re a central part both of incel and alt-right culture; they radicalize angry young men in the same way that YouTube videos and books like the neo-Nazi bible The Turner Diaries do. These days, mass killers don’t just pen manifestos; they also leave a trail of memes. The Christchurch killer included references to memes in his manifesto; the Toronto van killer, an incel, left behind a short statement on social media referencing several popular incel memes.
“Indeed,” Task & Purpose notes,
the screenshot [of the Air Force briefing] appeared the day after Brian Isaac Clyde, a former Army infantryman who frequently posted memes that referenced the incel movement alongside anti-government conspiracies to his Facebook page, was shot by federal officers after he opened fire outside a Dallas, Texas federal building.
It’s not clear if Clyde considered himself an incel; his social media was overstuffed with all sorts of memes popular amongst alt-rightists and manospherans and right-wing conspiracy theorists generally.
We learned a long time ago that 4chan’s racist and anti-Semitic memes weren’t just “ironic.” Nor are threats of violence any less serious if they take the form of a meme. Incels make a lot of memes. They’ve also killed a lot of people. Everyone needs to take them seriously.
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