Incel: The Career of a Concept 

A spectre is haunting women, the spectre of the incel.

Ironically coined by a woman, the term incel was invented in 1993, merely two years after the World Wide Web became available to the general public.

For most of its history the term occupied a relatively obscure position in the public’s zeitgeist, consigned to obscure websites such as love-shy.com. 

However, by the mid-to-late 2010s, the homicides committed by Elliot Rodger and Alek Minassian buttressed the term’s infamy. As a result, it now occupies a firm place in our political discourse. 

Even everyday conversations between friends, family, and co-workers are littered with its usage. Concomitant with its increasing usage in public life, has been the gradual transmutation of its meaning. 

What once described a figure bereft of sexual and emotional relations with the opposite sex, now evokes mental-images of virulent misogynists, vitriolically pouring out hateful rants against the fairer sex on message boards. 

Now widely used as a slur, the term is thrown about lazily. No longer limited as a cheap insult against the sexually inept, all men are now possibly fair game. 

It’s especially useful in shutting down one’s ideological opponents. You don’t like the sexual revolution? Incel! Not in favour of the mass abortion of Irish children? Incel! Support an Irish Ireland? Incel! 

Any attempt at rebutting the accusation is transfigured into the meek cope of an insecure virgin. 

How Liberalism Burns the Books.

Within the contemporary social order the term serves an accusatory function to quash dissent. Historical and contemporary examples of language that serve(d) a similar function include: “Racist!”, “Witch!”, “Commie!”, “Fascist!”, and so on. 

With this understanding established, we move closer to comprehending how Liberalism perpetuates itself. While certain countries have hate speech laws restricting dissenting perspectives, Liberalism, by and large, does not depend on a formal solution to undermine its dissidents.

Liberalism’s great contribution to modern politics is its surreptitiousness. It strikes in silence. The ideological industry of soft power institutions – media, universities, NGOs, and so on – generates the ephemeral superstructural opinions and values of the masses. In turn, it is also able to determine the boundaries of respectable discourse that the public are allowed to mentally meander within.

Through a process of mimesis, the masses reproduce, and hence perpetuate, the ideological produce of said institutions.  

With the fall of the Catholic Church, Joyce’s dream of flying past the nets of language, religion, and nationality have seemingly been made a reality. Yet the ideal of the liberated individual has not been achieved. 

Authority cannot be destroyed, but merely deferred. Believing otherwise is the great fallacy of liberationist ideology. 

Sociality precedes abstraction and authority precedes individuality; to be human is to be enframed by power, structure, and language.

Even the supposed egalitarianism of hunter gatherer societies collapses upon closer inspection. Drawing on David Graeber, Adam Katz aptly notes that “it is not, strictly speaking, correct to refer to these early, formally egalitarian communities as ‘non-hierarchical’. 

Quite to the contrary, liberal societies are subjected to the most asymmetrical and arbitrary hierarchies as they are ruled by the mythical occupants of the centre.

After eschewing traditional authority, our odyssey away from an older Ireland has resulted in us returning to our starting point. We have been re-captured within the same structures heralded by the very people who promised our liberation. Take heed of Eve’s folly in the Garden.

In contemporary times, ‘incel’ is an ersatz rendition of the McCarthyist use of ‘Commie’ and ‘Red’; a hollow scapegoat to direct society’s resentments against. 

At least McCarthy was right about Soviet infiltration. Modernity’s scapegoat of choice meanwhile are weird guys who struggle to have sex with women. First as tragedy, then as farce.

A Case Study in a Failed Society.

Considering the contemporary mania surrounding the term, as well as her gendered bias, Alex Lee Moyer’s directorial debut ‘TFW NO GF’ is a shockingly objective treatment of contemporary disaffected male youth. 

Her ability to humanise people who’ve been relegated to the status of de-humanised scapegoats by smug urbanites is commendable. 

Through allowing prominent posters on right-wing Twitter to articulate themselves candidly in the flesh, Moyer seeks to uncover the human essence behind their creative avatars, pervasive memes, and trolling of 30-year-old, wine-slurping, single mother, blue-checkmarks.

Right-wing Twitter is home to an assorted crowed: Anti-Mormon conspiracy theorists, Mishima inspired closeted gay bodybuilders, federal agents, hillbilly converts to Greek Orthodoxy who can’t wait to tell you about it, and 15 year old Mexicans who believe that the death of Gregor Strasser has been an irrevocable loss to trans-rights in Europe. Truly a magical place!

As different from each other as they are from normal people, it’s debatable whether their diversity defies proper categorisation. 

A Generation of Vagabonds 

Clad in double denim with a classic cowboy hat as a crown, Kyle meanders through the scorching heat of El Paso. A Gringo dancing with Mexican women, drinking in the cool evenings while a Mariachi ensemble drowns out the deafening silence; straight out of a Marty Robbins cow rustling tune.

His life consists of fighting uppity cholos and waking up with heavy hangovers in abandoned buildings adorned with unintelligible graffiti. 

In a particularly poignant scene, reflecting on the many friends he lost to suicide, he realises that their deaths have left him an atomised pseudo-vagabond, bereft of friendship and future. 

The nomadic logic of 21st century Capitalism has manifested the words of Wolfgang Borchert: “We are the generation without ties and without depth. Our depth is the abyss. We are the generation without happiness, without a home… thus we are the generation without God, because we are the generation without ties, without a past, without identity”. 

The alienation of small town American living is prominent throughout the documentary. Those who don’t happen to escape to university subsist in towns gutted of industry, leaving menial McDonalds work as the only available occupation.

Criticism has been levelled at Moyer for portraying the subjects in a complementary light. 

Typical of contemporary critic’s close mindedness, it fails to register that their socially constructed notion of lonely men as evil personified may not be true.

That Kyle may be a decent person, albeit somewhat self-destructive, is anathema to their preconceived prejudice.

MUZAK to Dance to in the Dark

Moyer’s directorial skills come to the fore in the segments featuring Viddy and Charles, whose personalities are as downbeat and despondent as Washington’s dour weather conditions.

In a scene memorable for its overpowering sublimity, Moyer skilfully follows up an extract from a VHS recording of the brothers as youths with one of the brothers, now an adult, aiming a Kalashnikov. 

John Maus’ ‘Cop Killer’ begins to play in the background, with a distinctive 7.62x39mm shot ringing the viewer’s eardrums following the song’s initial drum beats. 

A song befitting the setting, the brothers display their accrued firepower: an AR-15/M-16 hybrid, a Mac-10, and the aforementioned Kalashnikov make an appearance. 

The barrels’ flash animates the dreary night. The tragedy of youth and the death of innocence. 

Along with Maus, the soundtrack is dominated by songs instantly recognisable to any Ariel Pink fan.

Featuring less prominently is the intermittent inclusion of tracks by Eggwhite and Negative XP. Their contribution accentuates its authenticity, grounding it within right-wing Twitter culture.

Riding the Tiger 

The most famous of the documentary’s subjects is undoubtedly Kantbot. Remarking on the potential of his peers, he cites the example of Sean, a fellow subject of the documentary. Following the lead of Kantbot, the youthful Sean voraciously reads, attempting to achieve educational apotheosis. A quest impossible to complete, but noble nonetheless. 

Scanning his book collection, a keen eye will spot Volume 1 & 2 of Oswald Spengler’s magnum opus, ‘The Decline of the West’. The philosopher of history’s personal life offers an example worthy of emulation. 

Spengler dedicated the last decades of his life to his work. Not professionally trained, his genius was unbridled by the inherited prejudices of a tutor. His life work is a testament to the unconstrained creativity and Faustian will of an autodidact. 

Like Spengler, today’s atomised men are in possession of two powerful commodities: time and isolation. Often free from a social life and a job, modernity’s broken male, with the proper discipline, can create works of intellectual and artistic value, unmatched by the intellectually deficient graduates of today’s universities.

Aware of this opportunity, Sean states: “people settle for being the complete nerd who just reads a bunch of books, or the bodybuilder who’s ripped [but] doesn’t care about anything else. No motherfucker, you have to be both”. 

In Conclusion

Going into ‘TFW NO GF’ I was apprehensive. In light of past treatments of subcultures, niche ideologies, and enigmatic figures, I feared yet another establishment hit job; at best, a documentary filled with errors. 

Fortunately, Moyer sidestepped the past pitfalls associated with such endeavours. The documentary’s great strength lies in its laissez-faire approach, allowing her subjects to speak frankly, unobstructed by moralising commentary intended to inform us how evil the men before us are.

Posted by Ulick Fitzhugh

One Comment

  1. Brian Morgan 20/05/2020 at 8:02 pm

    The world has always had its share of “disaffected male youth”. The only thing that makes it “shocking” is that you are living through it. My recommendation is for you to appreciate that we live in a liberal society that allows each and every one of us to make choices. Their choice may not be yours. So be it. Get on with your life and stop snooping into other people’s private lives. The modern term for this is “Karen”.

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