Media-Gaze & the Incel ‘Other’: Part 1, Comments on a Growing Dissonance

There is often a turn of phrase that gets tossed around in internet jargon, a concept rather, perhaps as old as the widespread use of the internet itself. The phrase is a commentary on the life-cycle of memes, and often states that once a meme hits meat-space, or the world of IRL (“In Real Life”) it is then in a zombified state. There is also “forced memes” that the mainstream “normie” culture (or rather, those who are not familiar with the nuances of internet meme culture) pushes to set an agenda, or to promote something, etc. These are often memes that appeal to the lowest common denominator, so much so that casual observers don’t even know that they are consuming “memes” to begin with. But then there are ones that are known as “esoteric memes”, or memes that the mainstream simply refuses to touch for a myriad of reasons. Most notably they never see the wider light because these are darker, troll-orientated memes, or memes that express opinions, or makes simple mockeries out of subject matter that has been deemed verboten by the culture industry writ large.

Memes sometimes cross over into a state of permanence or can leave a lasting mark on the people who propagate, contort, pedal, and “evolve” those memes by a web of semiotic exchanges and intertextual nexuses of meaning-creation. Simply put, memes can enter a hermeneutic circle that sways between irony and sincerity, and often encompasses both an ironic tongue-and-cheek deployment with sincere intentions that are hidden inside. Often-times, memes of a more esoteric nature are precisely the ones that become held up as markers of signification to certain sub-cultures that largely dwell on the internet. These memes then take hold upon the consciousness of these virtual sojourns, spreading till they reach the point of gaining legitimacy in the eyes of certain participants.

Now that all of this meme creation business has been briefly touched upon, let us examine meme culture in relation to what everyone in the mainstream media seems to care about for the last few days: incels and the “toxic masculinity” of “incel culture”; every coastal blogger and media-class hipster is trying their hardest to penetrate into this seemingly ominous and dangerously exotic subculture, to reify it and cast it in the light of an ethical panic. After the incredibly tragic events of the Toronto Van attack, a senseless act of terroristic violence, the usual instinct is to pin blame and disgust upon an abstracted entity, a “process” of ideological sedimentation in the minds of young radicals, one that people can “do something” about. However, the truth of mass killers might be less sensationalist and more painfully simple than what the chattering classes want to believe.

It seems that before the mid to present 2000s, moral panics often came from a place of religious and metaphysical concern. For example, the panic over rock and death metal, violence in video games, etc. everyone now and even at the time snickered at the religious Right and the moral majority, for they were fighting for the souls of America they claimed, and the counter-culture laughed at this. Now moral panics do not come from any place of spiritual significance, not in the mainstream at least, for they are thoroughly secular and political in nature. It seems the moral condemnation brought about from secular sources, by cathedral functionaries with degrees, moral concerns that stem from what we all colloquially refer as “identity politics” is more powerful than moral concerns stemming from the spiritual. In a disenchanted age, the latter is laughed off, whilst the former’s orthodoxy is enforced with a vigour and vengeance upon all who dare question the accepted right-think of the mainstream. Everyone seems to know this by now, because in the modern framework, moral attacks are treated as more “serious” because they are laid upon the material body of the oppressed, rather than the soul. Concepts such as the “progressive stack” are indicative of this new moralistic way of thinking. However, from the perspective of a traditional and the metaphysical, this is a modern inversion of moralistic concern, the “care of the soul” idea in the west has now been toppled by the monolithic academia-speak of “BODIES”.

Meme’d Into Reality.

Now we turn to the latest target of attack, the loosely defined hidden internet pestilence to the media known as “incels” or “involuntary-celibates.” Before we proceed further, let me give my opinion on the incel question; as I have stated in previous pieces[1], it is necessary and prudent to weed out genuinely psychotic and hateful forms of discourse, or even unproductive discourse that can be destructive to both a wider political ideology or degrade the individual psyche. The fact is that it does not take any great length of time to find various online forums and message boards that have purported incels making inflammatory and misogynistic comments, even venting fantasies of a more violent and depraved nature; In a loosely collected subculture that relies on a communicative currency of meme-exchange, it is difficult to tell what is genuine and what is sincere. Sincerity comes from the festering of pent up aggression, feelings of betrayal and alienation from the mainstream society incels view as stacked against them. Given all of this, it is difficult to report on the incel phenomenon with any amount of clarity, even the question of involuntary celibacy being ipso-facto misogynistic (as the media presumes[2]) is a verboten question. with various “think piece” writers of the ultra-left progressive variety wishing to demonize anything even remotely related to the manosphere, any honesty about incels, both the earnest and the depraved, will be thrown out the window.

To me there is a danger in the incel collective, and to an extent there should be a worriment over its development over time, but of course I am not going to make wild and sensationalist speculations on their future terrorist-cell status[3], or if they deserve widespread marginalization, as some craven ideologues in the media have openly called for[4],[5](I will get to some possible solutions in a bit); the misogynistic behaviour and the trolling of promiscuous women of course should be discouraged, for this breed resentment, and is entirely unbefitting of a group of people who wish to seek change within their lives, as well as the repugnant nature of such a hateful mindset. The nihilism of troll/meme culture is all too apparent in the s**t posting conducted in incel forums, and in some cases can further entrench those feelings of loneliness and detachment in the minds of impressionable young men. The problem is that (like MGTOW) incels only stumble upon a fraction of the truth. The communicative function of memes once again can obscure the nuanced truth of things in the psyches of the impressionable. Soon enough, everyone is a “Chad” or “Stacy”, and the all-powerful monolith of gynocentric society becomes a nadir of modernity, a common signifier of decay to the various loosely connected deterritorialized organs of the manosphere. Catastrophic thinking then becomes the impedes and justification for such spiteful and acrid rhetoric on the part of some incels.

What Incels must keep in mind is the seriousness of the situation they are now coming into because of the obscene actions on the part of a minority among their ranks; What is unfolding before us is another psycho-media dispositif[6], a new discourse in which Incels seem to be a more extreme source of judicial, media and psychological surveillance and othering. Even the politically correct corporatocracy will respond to the call of action against incels. Take for example, the (now disgraced) former CEO of Reddit Ellan Pao calling for Silicon Valley to outright fire and expunge their ranks of incels on site, and without any quarter[7].

What we are witnessing is the creation of the “incel class” and category that must be mediated and observed. “Inceldom” has now become a wild, dangerous and untamed monster that must be routed out in the last frontier planes of the virtual world, and then vivisected. On the tip of the most unusual of tongues, be they in the media and academia, we see endless think pieces and explainers chipping away at the memes of “Stacy”, “Chads”, “Roasties”, or the “sexual market place.” As stated above, this surreal exploration of half-ironic and subterranean memes on the part of the chattering classes is given a thin film of legitimacy due to the easy to find examples of horrid prose from one of the more socially inept types of incels, which then confirm all the media’s suspicions about Incels as a whole[8]. The intensity by which the media-cathedral class has responded to the incel problem reveals to me (and a few other keen observers on Twitter[9], [10]) a basic contradiction in the liberal worldview of late-capitalist and globalized sexual politics. In fact, some astute members of the political right have taken to twitter to use critical theory against the sex-positive academics and activists themselves, using their language to describe the plight of the incel, even if this tactic is steeped in irony[11]. For us to explore this contradiction, we shall examine a rare exception to the media scorn against the incel, the recent think-piece by none other than the New York Times token religious conservative Ross Douthat.

The Glass Wall of Sexual “Freedom”: On the Douthat Incident.

          Douthat in his latest attempts to analyze the greater social and cultural factors of modernity that has led to the incel phenomenon in the first place[12]. To break the erudite article down simply, social norms in terms of sex has decayed, and now we live in a rootless and sex-obsessed culture that predicates the destruction of judgment, and the triumph of hedonism, as its main enduring “virtue”. In our world of “late-modern sexual life”, virginity and celibacy are strange and alien, and more fundamentally, to quote the article:

“First, because like other forms of neoliberal deregulation the sexual revolution created new winners and losers, new hierarchies to replace the old ones, privileging the beautiful and rich and socially adept in new ways and relegating others to new forms of loneliness and frustration.

Liberalism in the incel has found a formidable contradiction in its consequentialist egalitarianism-at-any-cost ideology; the discourse of equality of outcomes cannot possibly exist in the same world where rampant promiscuous sexuality is a right that should be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of socially constructed or even biological limitations that a wide margin of people face.

If the modern world admits that hierarchy is bad when it is arbitrary, then we must immediately remedy this situation. However, Douthat does not share in this sexual redistributive egalitarianism, but instead wishes to go back to a more traditional and vital notion of sexuality. The response for this reversal of post-sexual revolution excess is because the other options that neoliberal modernity has placed before us are simply unthinkable, and more alienating and atomizing then what we have now. The sex robot, the cold indifference of VR simulacra, the degradation of widely available sex workers, these are all band-aids and palliatives to the wider spiritual sickness of loneliness and marginalization that an increasing amount of young males’ face. Even certain establishment writers and journalist/blogger types themselves have stumbled upon this liberal paradox. For example, Yascha Mounk calls it the “incel paradox”[13], whereby liberal society has determined that arbitrary inequalities of people who are marginalized due to socially constructed reasons (such as beauty standards, inability to keep up with credentialed society, or failing at bourgeois middle-class careerism, etc.), should be made to become equitable, but of course this would be a crass form of sexual welfare, and enframes the human subject into an erogenous standing-pleasure reserve, the type Douthat is warning us about. The very structure of neoliberal modernity is predicated upon several contradictions such as these, and if they are not mediated, then we end up with whole underclasses; neo-Morlocks.

Douthat sees clearly the implications of a culture that has abandoned the norms and cultural institutions, such as monogamous marriage, that gave structure and meaning to the intimacy between the genders. When you rot away these norms and attitudes, you end up with symptoms such as the incel problem, and a general lack of direction or guidance in the most intimate of affairs. When the social technology of monogamy and the family unit is chipped away at by a multitude of factors, all of which were posited as “enlightened” and in keeping with the teleological goal of “freedom,” Douthat and others dared to ask in this recent chaotic storm of incel speculation: what is this “freedom” really for if it only leads to hordes of both men and women leading lives of alienation, purposelessness and vacuity? And for all this speculation, and his clear condemnation of the incel logic of sex-redistributionism, he received a torrent of shrill and hateful attacks by the very own people he rubs shoulders with at coastal dinner parties.

Let us examine just some of the criticism Douthat has received considering his public act of media wrong-think; Douthat’s first mistake was addressing such criticism in a long tweet thread[14], thus demonstrating how well-worded and even-handed he is will do him no favours, for this is a sign of weakens and grovelling to the average progressive blogger, it demonstrates that they, in fact, do control the narrative. While reading various responses to his fire-starter of an article, there seems to be a willful blindness with what Douthat is trying to observe and argue for. Take for instance this Washington Post piece by Molly Roberts[15], which accuses Douthat of sympathizing with the minority of sexist incels that think they are owed the redistribution of sex. Douthat clearly does not argue for this position, but it does not matter, for he has committed the violation of questioning the sexual permissiveness of modern society. Roberts then goes on to lay a few ad-hominem points about Ross’s supposed catholic conservatism, to finally accuse him, to no one’s surprise, of “ignoring female agency”, and “failing to see the virulent misogyny in the incel movement” and stating that the traditional view of monogamy was in fact just a way for men to demand sex from women.

Now Douthat clearly knows that this is not the case, that the old sexual norms predicated restraint and obligation on both men and women, but of course, traditionalists and their criticism operate in different reality tunnels of understanding the human subject. Roberts accuses Douthat of ignoring the “empowered” state of the modern female, while (in actuality) Douthat is condemning the poisoned fruits of rampant promiscuity in general, including the unchecked lust of male incels; it also comes to no one’s shock that the comment section to the piece too is filled with rage at Douthat, and a blind ignorance of what he is trying to say[16]. Douthat merely states that the goals of a traditional society are fundamentally different, whereas a society such as ours, one that is predicated on a free and chaotic economy of libidinal drives, shifts the natural harmonies that have developed over the course of human history. A society predicated on marriage and a family-based social arrangement tends not to encounter the problem of incels because hedonism, and wonton excesses of the appetitive drives are not what is the most maximized on the social level. In other words, the social apparatus is not concerned with maximizing behavioural freedoms per-say, but maximizing human flourishing on a deeper level, according to Douthat and the traditionalists.

At the heart of Douthat’s piece is the recognition that one cannot simply subsist on the artifice of intimacy alone, and that a society cannot possibly expect a whole class of citizens to be pacified and congenial with simulation alone, and with a state of perverse anti-intimacy. It is quite ironic that now the modern post-Marxist feminist left is championing the very things that late-capitalism and neoliberalism is holding up as a solution to the incel problem, be it sex-bots or prostitution (given the politically correct and normalizing term “sex workers”), or to be content with simple onanism as one Boomer commented on the Douthat piece; this is the side that from the outset, feminism from Du Beauvoir to Butler, laments and wishes to rectify the lack of intimacy and understanding between the genders, especially the adverse effects of the abuses and commodification of bodies under capital, be it prostitution, pornography, or live cam-girls etc., now when it comes to the marginalization of certain forms of Male sexuality, the cold and sterile lack of genuine feeling is purported to be a logical solution to this problem, since the solution Douthat offers is deemed unthinkable to the chattering classes[17].

One scathing critique I came across addressing Douthat, while certainly original compared to the others, never the less shines through with the usual assortment of “social justice” obscurantist concerns. Transfeminist author Kathrine Cross attacks Douthat’s arguments in the piece “The media must stop taking ‘incel’ agitprop seriously”[18]. Cross claims that the piece is not even deserving of a place in a national newspaper (certainly not a cosmopolitan liberal monolith like the NYT), for in Douthat’s conclusion of a restoration of monogamy and marriage would naturally entail “transphobic” and “misogynist” exclusion of alternative lifestyles; let us bracket for a moment the various criticisms of these “lifestyles” from a traditionalist world view, and the post-enlightenment assumptions that go into them (for that is another article entirely), instead let us focus on the latent claims in the piece. 1. There is some grand narrative of agitation and propaganda on the part of some shadowy cultural-reactionary forces to push incels to the mainstream, and “marginalize” women, LBGT+ people etc. 2. Douthat, and other ideological non-conformers (Cross mentions an excerpt from Angela Nagle’s book “Kill all Normies”) are ignoring the real victims at the bottom of the sexual hierarchy.

What comes with the territory in these types of ultra-progressive concern/think-pieces is a social constructivist view in terms of gender relations. Cross does not view sexual hierarchies as having anything to do with biological markers for fertility, but rather a pure conception of social hegemony and power-relations. Quote: “they are norms about social value which determine other aspects of your reality that are untethered to your sex life”. This pertains to the second claim of ignored marginalization. Cross lists off a variety of people at the bottom of the sexual desirability scale:

“It is striking to me that these conversations proceed almost entirely without discussing women who are perceived of as sexually undesirable. Fat women, disabled women, nerdy women, non-white women, trans women, all fall short of beauty standards that are structured by prejudices as much as the advent of the “sexual revolution.”

Now again, as we have uncovered by examining the incel question, the social justice left makes purposeful violations of their own egalitarian logic. Cross in her meandering and disjointed article, rails off various claims that all together would take some time to unpack in terms of their validity. More importantly, the second charge against Douthat, His supposed exclusion of these groups listed, means admitting that there is a hierarchy to begin with. Cross admits this and admits that despite being oppressed by the beauty standards of the white male patriarchy, these groups can still have sex, find love and form meaningful relationships. Cross then goes on to negate the social justice program by excluding incels from this category of losing out in the new post-sexual revolution hierarchy. She simply finds all of them to be repulsive women-haters, ones that sex will never “cure” and that any writer, no matter how academic or progressive (in the case of Nagle) will always “make a categorical error by even entertaining MRA and incel arguments.” Cross even claims that there is no need to address the plight of young men in modern post-sexual revolution society, because after all:

“Where are the lonely, nerdy women who kill because they can’t get a date on Tinder? Where are all the black women mowing down pedestrians in a rental van because society’s beauty standards aggressively privilege whiteness? In failing to grapple with this, every writer who entertains incel/MRA ideology, even as a mere thought experiment, makes a catastrophic analytical error”.

This argument, designed to denigrate the plight of young men who lack conventional margins of success in our hedonistic pleasure-culture, inflates the horrific crimes of the few fringe incels and puts them on the head of every young male with a lack of sexual success. The argument here also entails that these groups listed, while being historically and even currently at a disadvantage, are incapable of wrong-doing, which is simply not the case; for instance, the higher rates of domestic violence among Lesbian and Gay couples that is, of course, out of bounds to talk about in the media and even academia[19],[20], [21]. Now, it is true that incidents of mass murder, rare statically, are more likely to be committed by white men, and to a lesser extent Asian male, but this would ignore the criminality of young men in general, and for the sake of brevity (and not getting involved in the messy world of crime statistics) let us examine the main flaws in her and other bloggers who are hostile and hyper-critical of even attempting to entertain incel arguments.

The obvious one would be characterising every incel as women-hating white males, which is flawed considering that a lot of them do not “hate” women, and a very high proportion are not even white, but come from a diverse array of backgrounds and life-situations. The main claim that is easily refuted is the first one, and one that is common among the leftist criticism of incels and the Manosphere in general, that being the othering and oppression of real victims of the sexual hierarchy by the mainstream.  This is not only false due to the way incels are talked about in the media, but how social institutions treats the concerns of these groups in general, relative to how they treat young men.

The whole premise of Cross’s article is talking one example, Douthat’s piece, and claiming that this is another sign of normalizing mass oppression of women and other progressive stack groups by shining a light on incels. Cross seems to think the various concerns and the growing body of literature[22],[23] around the issues young men face in a society that deems them as disposable and at the heart of various real and imagined social ills simply is not warranted. Rather, the issues boys and men face to the social justice left does not play a significant enough factor in society, when attention can be placed to their preferred victims. It is the classic “what about XYZ groups/people?” response to Douthat and others that have come up in these past few weeks of incel-mania. Underneath all of this is the obvious flaw in the arguments of Cross and other writers that make the same “what about XYZ groups” style of argument flawed, a flaw that that the modern left is incapable of realizing for it would negate their whole existential/ontological-political position as the great underdogs fighting for the marginalized. The flaw is the presumption of a terribly oppressive, right wing and misogynistic mainstream trying to impose cis-hetero and white-centric standards on various othered groups, when nothing could be further from the truth.

It is no secret that the left (more or less) elusively owns the various cultural and social intuitions of influence, from Hollywood, to the media, academia, and certain forms of Government and a growing dominance over the policies of private-sector corporations, at least in terms of championing preferred causes. Liberalism is the mainstream, and in this main issue of the new sexual hierarchy, look no further then the way the mainstream of society attends to the issues facing the groups Cross lists off. There is an active attempt to change the beauty standards of men themselves in relation to conventionally less than desirable women, due to age, weight, and even gender[24],[25],[26],[27],[28],[29]. Of course, for these activist groups, it is not enough to commit to (parish the evil thought!) of changing themselves or coming to terms with the fact that certain people will not find them attractive, but instead commit to the herculean task of changing the social/cultural order, and even the beliefs and drives of the subject, around them. In fact, any expression of male frustration with the current post-sexual revolution order of things is met with hostile responses of “male fragility” or a host of other psychologizing terms designed to explain-away why younger men in the modern world are experiencing a great decline in their social, cultural, economic and even spiritual standing[30].

End of Part 1, of a 2 part series.

Artwork by me: entitled “possessed by possession”. (mixed media on paper, may, 2018, 5×9). https://www.facebook.com/giantartproductions/photos/a.1258791580825653.1073741836.1254797357891742/1779108042127335/?type=3&theater

 

[1] https://logosclubblog.com/2017/07/08/the-ironycel-obsession-with-insulting-virgin-losers/

[2] https://www.vice.com/en_ca/article/pax9kz/a-brief-history-of-incel-the-misogynistic-group-allegedly-cited-by-toronto-van-attacker

[3] https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/self-hating-incel-men-are-the-new-jihadis-5rz37h9s9

[4] https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-can-the-radicalization-of-incels-be-stopped/

[5] http://www.wired.co.uk/article/toronto-attack-incel-alek-minassian

[6] As defined by Michel Foucault: https://foucaultblog.wordpress.com/2007/04/01/what-is-the-dispositif/

[7] http://www.newsweek.com/incel-ellen-pao-reddit-silicon-valley-involuntary-celibate-tech-gender-910107

[8] Take for example, this one vile and obscene incel profiled here, warning, the Video contains graphic subject matter. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_r3Gisep__E  by the exceptional detective.

[9] https://twitter.com/TAJackson20/status/990447232099930112

[10] https://twitter.com/thefaceberg/status/990667142851846144

[11] https://twitter.com/WesternIdentity/status/989142315028635648 such phrases as “intersectional oppression”, “Othering”, and “excluding sexual types” come up in this exchange between an Activist and popular Content-Twitter personality Owen Cyclops.

[12] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/02/opinion/incels-sex-robots-redistribution.html

[13] https://twitter.com/Yascha_Mounk/status/990338943022329856

[14] https://twitter.com/DouthatNYT/status/992047486318579712

[15] https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2018/05/04/incels-sex-robots-and-what-ross-douthat-got-wrong/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.c55c596d45a2

[16] One of my favourite comments came from a younger person responding to a Boomer feminist who assumes that the world is still stuck in 1950s America, and everything is just fine, whilst statistically this is not the case https://twitter.com/giantgio/status/991888241501622272

[17] Of course, it is important to note that these feminist social critiques are complex and requires study into a whole body of literature, but to make a crude point, these are the concerns of second wave feminism, what we are primarily dealing with here is the “sex-positive” strain of third wave feminism. The sex-positive feminists see sex work as a form of female liberation, how they get around the real abuses and the commodification of the body puzzles most outside observers.

[18] https://theestablishment.co/the-media-must-stop-taking-incel-agitprop-seriously-9c64be0464f5

[19] http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-29994648

[20] https://www.advocate.com/crime/2014/09/04/2-studies-prove-domestic-violence-lgbt-issue

[21] https://news.northwestern.edu/stories/2014/09/domestic-violence-likely-more-frequent-for-same-sex-couples

[22] https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2000/05/the-war-against-boys/304659/

[23] https://www.publishersweekly.com/978-1-58238-014-8

[24] http://dailycaller.com/2018/05/05/incels-sexual-revolution-loneliness/

[25] https://www.sbs.com.au/news/thefeed/story/fat-pride-growing-movement-people-looking-fat-acceptance

[26] https://medium.com/@QSE/when-you-say-i-would-never-date-a-trans-person-its-transphobic-here-s-why-aa6fdcf59aca

[27] https://www.buzzfeed.com/vikky/a-porn-performer-comitted-suicide-after-being-cybe-y65c?utm_term=.bmBwmRJyB#.rdyz2jOwe

[28] https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/beach-body-ready-plus-size-campaign-body-positivity-protein-world-navabi-a8334516.html

[29]https://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2013/05/what-if-men-stopped-chasing-much-younger-women/275916/

[30] https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/articles/201603/the-big-stall

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philosophy and political science graduate in the people's republic of Trudeauland. Impressionist landscape painter and jungian perennialist. they say the personal is the political, i say instead: "the spiritual is the political". my art page: https://www.facebook.com/giantartproductions/ and my twitter: https://twitter.com/giantgio

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