What is an incel? A former member of the internet subculture explains

With news that Minassian referenced the incel community, members have praised the Toronto killings.

In Facebook postings, Minassian, who is afflicted with what is apparently a severe form of Asperger's syndrome - high school classmates remembered him as subject to odd tics and a compulsion to act out cat behaviour like meowing and biting - identified himself as an "incel", a sobriquet for "involuntarily celibate".

Online community forums frequented by incels often feature misogynistic rhetoric. "Chads" are the men to whom Stacys are attracted. This is an epithet 22-year old Rodger, who in 2014 killed six people and injured many more during a shooting rampage in Isla Vista, California, applied to himself.

Although neither Minassian nor Canadian investigators have confirmed that Minassian's incel connection was a motive for the devastating murder spree, there is little doubt that some toxic internet communities will be celebrating.

Attractive men are referred to as "Chads", and attractive women are referred to as "Stacys".

"All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!" reads the post.

Do the members come from a wide spectrum of society?

Like Mr. Minassian, other incels have praised Mr. Rodger, calling him a "Supreme Gentleman", "saint", "hero" or "brother", and praising his violent rampage. "It shows that something like this could happen at the hands of one person, but so many more stand against it and show their humanity".

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"Spread that name, speak of his sacrifice for our cause, worship him for he gave his life for our future", one poster wrote. And why is this online community home to mass murderers? To an Incel, sex is a basic human right for all men. Incels are a hate group that emerged from the "pick-up artist" movement: "When those strategies (or "game") unsurprisingly proved unsuccessful for many men, they became deeply bitter".

It's part of a larger trend of hatred that the Southern Poverty Law Center defines as "male supremacy," essentially a hatred of women for existing that uses racist ideology and applies it to gender.

Sgt. Graham Gibson, a homicide detective with the Toronto police, said the victims in the attack are "predominantly female", but there's no evidence that suspect Alek Minassian was bypassing men or deliberately targeting women. "So even if you have no actual intent to do that, someone who does is going to see those posts and think they're not alone", said Poland, a doctoral student in rhetoric at Bowling Green State University.

"Your mom", wrote the boy's Scarborough neighbours, "loved you more than anything in this world". "R/incels...[has] different undertones. Behind their posts is a lot of rage towards the women in their lives".

Incels are mostly losers who don't get laid - involuntarily celibate. Last year, Reddit banned a subreddit of 40,000 self described incels after referencing its own policy about prohibiting content that "encourages, glorifies, incites or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or group of people". There are also incel sites with dedicated message boards and, increasingly, closed chat rooms on the message app Discord, with moderators who vet their membership to keep out the prying eyes of observers and journalists.

The "incel" community online has always been recognised as one of hostility and hatred, with online community Reddit having banned a sub dedicated to the community one year ago.

The van attack suspect's arrest was caught on video and widely circulated on social media.

The third top-rated post on r/Braincels at press time featured a cartoon of a mouse wearing a Nazi armband beneath an oven timer, titled "Hi, lurking journalists!" "Even if we advocate rape". When Muslims commit such atrocities, everyone wants to know how they got radicalized.

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