By David Futrelle
On Wednesday night, a gunman opened fire on patrons at two separate hookah bars in Hanau, Germany, killing nine; he and his elderly mother were later found dead in his apartment.
Like many mass shooters today, he left behind a manifesto (link available on request), one that revealed him to be a genocidal racist and eugenicist who wanted the people in a wide swath of countries — from North Africa all the way to the Philippines — to be wiped off the face of the earth. His massacre — which seems to have been directed at Turkish immigrants, the main patrons of the bars he chose to target — was his way of getting attention to his genocidal ideas.
He also wove a strange and paranoid tale about his own life, claiming that he had been monitored since birth by a shadowy agency eager to hear and capitalize on his thoughts. He claims, among other things, that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were his idea, that Donald Trump stole his slogan “America First,” and that he came up with the basic premises of a number of Hollywood movies and TV shows, from “Look Who’s Talking,” “The Cell,” and “Prison Break.” He also believes that the “invisible people” monitoring him can read (and control) minds. This portion of his manifesto reads less like a political declaration than the ramblings of a paranoid schizophrenic.
The 43-year-old shooter also made a few remarks, almost in passing, suggesting that he had never had a girlfriend, and some have taken this to mean that he was an “incel” This non-factual “fact” has made it into several news stories so far, and even onto Wikipedia,with The Sun describing him in a headline as an “‘Incel’ terrorist” and offering up a potted history of the incel movement to explain his rage. Meanwhile, The Independent (which should know better) made the contradictory claim that he
identified as an “incel”, and wrote that he had not been in a relationship with a woman, out of choice, for the past 18 years.
You can see the problem immediately; this is a claim that rebuts itself. “Incel” stands for “involuntary celibate”; anyone who claims to be celibate by choice is by definition not an incel. The shooter claims that in his younger years, from his mid-teens through his early twenties, he simply could not find a girlfriend who lived up to his exacting standards. “[T]o take a less good looking woman,” he wrote, “was out of the question – I wanted the best or nothing.”
In the years since then, he claimed that he remained single because “I know that I’m being monitored.”
There is no trace of the incel ideology anywhere in the shooter’s manifesto — no incel lingo, no rants against too-picky “femoids”or too-handsome Chads, no disquisitions on some lost golden age when every good man was able to date and ultimately marry his “looksmatch.” Unlike incels, the shooter did not blame women for rejecting him, nor (as far as we can tell from the manifesto) did he blame society for encouraging these women to “ride the cock carousel” with everyone but him.
Incel ideology is all about cultivating a deep sense of grievance toward women and feminism; the shooter’s grievances were directed at immigrants and Muslims and people of color generally — mostly North Africans, Middle Easterners, and South Asians — and at the people he imagined were monitoring him. If the shooter was even aware of the incel movement, there’s no evidence of it in the manifesto itself.
Indeed, though one imagines the shooter was radicalized at least in part online, as every right-wing extremist seems to be these days, there’s little in his manifesto suggesting just where, online or off, he got any of his ideas. There are no references to other mass shooters, no mention of the “great replacement” theory or the alt-right vision of “white genocide”, no sly allusions to 4chan memes. And while he lists Israel as one of the countries whose people deserve to die en masse, his conspiracy theories make no mention of Jews at all. A brief video he made aimed at Americans referred to an underground network of satanic baby-abusers, but made no reference to Pizzagate or QAnon.
In short, he’s given those us trying to make sense of his motivations plenty to work with. But, while his genocidal racism is certainly clear and obvious, he remains in many ways a mystery — and will remain so unless and until we find more evidence of his beliefs.
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