Hitting the Books: The racist underpinnings of incel ideology

White supremacy and misogyny go hand in hand on the internet.

Stephanie Keith / reuters

The right wing mob that stormed and briefly occupied the US Capitol building at Trump’s behest on Wednesday were not radicalized in a vacuum. Online networks peddling racist, white supremacist and misogynist ideologies expand across both the internet’s seedier forums and mainstream social media sites alike, spreading hateful ideals at the speed of the electron.

In Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy, investigative reporter and author Talia Lavin dives into the internet’s seedy underbelly to investigate, uncover and drag some of the most toxic subcultures into the light of public focus. In the excerpt below, Lavin catfishes her way into the message boards of — a forum for “involuntarily celibate” men to vent their anger towards women — to see what their members talk about in private. Surprise, it’s racism!

Culture Warlords Talia Lavin
Hachette Books

Excerpted from Culture Warlords: My Journey Into the Dark Web of White Supremacy by Talia Lavin. Copyright © 2020. Available from Hachette Books, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Like any area of American life, racism permeates the world of inceldom, too.

Consciousness of race is embedded in incel culture, which tends to fall prey to the same pseudoscience that online racist communities do. It’s a generally agreed-upon maxim that white men have the most natural advantages in the game of sexual selection. The racial worldview expressed in the incel-sphere is one in which whiteness is an innate advantage in schematics of sexual attractiveness; whiteness remains at the top of the pyramid, in a way imbued with the pseudoscience of sloppy, bastardized evolutionary psychology.

Incel communities differ from white-supremacist spaces in that they contain significant nonwhite membership; a poll conducted by of its community members indicated that the community was 60 percent white, 40 percent nonwhite. However, I observed significant white-supremacist activity on incel message boards; a pool of resentful, radicalized, and hatred-driven young men proved irresistible, even if not all of them were white. Racist sentiment, including pseudoscientific rhetoric that predicates sexual attractiveness on arbitrary racial hierarchies, ran alongside the rankest of misogyny. Together, they commingled into a vile worldview that striates humanity into ethnically distinct furrows of sexualized despair and rage. Different races of incels are labeled through distinctive terminology—from “ricecel” for an East Asian incel to “currycel” for a South Asian one. The figure of the white, sexually successful “Chad” has analogues in other skin colors and cultures. Like all ideologies warped by hate, inceldom bears only a cursory relationship to reality. Its logic is crude and corroded by irrational misogyny. In attempting to set forth a coarse and hate-driven total theory of sociosexual interaction, inceldom recreates in parallel the white-supremacist nature of Western societies. has the feeling of a barroom boast-off. The vibe is giddy but competitive—users intoxicated by the freedom of a space where they are free to express prejudice with as much violence as they wish. There’s a sense of one-upmanship that pervades the place, a desire to heighten the level of extremity of speech, graphic images rendered, racism expressed. It’s also a forum for the encouragement of despair.

As in every incel space, the dual forces of despair and rage fight for space, but on this particular board, the atmosphere is heightened. One post was created by a user whose avatar was the face of Scott Beierle, the man who had shot two women and himself to death at a Tallahassee yoga studio. It was titled “The Fate That Awaits Us All [NSFW]”; its content was a photo of a decayed body, partially mummified, beside a table covered in thick dust. Its smooth, partially preserved face stared blankly upward, mouth agape. The accompanying text: “Dying alone and undiscovered for years.” The responses ranged from the blackly comic -- “The way the rent is around here, I’d probably be discovered by 6pm on the 1st” -- to the flippantly nihilistic: “not if you kill yourself in public.” Another suggested he might “go ER”—an incel term for committing a massacre, as Elliot Rodger did. Others posted grimmer and grimmer photographs of bodies: a swollen, drowned corpse, gray-skinned and bloated; a choked face with its tongue hanging out, its eyeballs protruding, in fuzzy, moldy-looking chiaroscuro.

That’s just a sample; there are thousands of such posts. On May 25, 2018, I looked at a sample of posts on Inceldom Discussion, the forum’s most popular channel. Posts ranged from the desire for suicide, to tips for appropriate anime movies to masturbate to, to apocalyptic fantasies (“Is creating AI for destroying the whole of humanity really immoral?”). In public view, the conversation was extreme, and saturated with racism. There was a long and heated discussion over whether Italians could be considered truly white, which included dark insinuations from a user called “Eugenicist” about whether the Italian mafia had merely been a front for nefarious Jewish activity. Non-white incels rarely pushed back against this sort of hate-peddling; the idea of a racial hierarchy was embedded in their ideology. In a poll conducted on in March 2020, asking users, “Do you wish you were white?” an overwhelming majority of nonwhite respondents voted yes—31 to 7. There was some public grousing about the number of white supremacists attempting to recruit, however; some incels argued that white supremacy was just another “cope”—just another self-deluding attempt to cover over the grim truth of the blackpill.

If this was what they said in public—so filled with hate and misery— what on earth were they saying in private, where the watchful eyes of reporters, researchers, and a curious public couldn’t reach?

In order to enter the backroom at—to post, reply, or join the chat room perpetually throbbing on the site—you have to register, and, in the process, offer your reasons for being an incel.

My initial answer, as Tommy, was somewhat perfunctory: I wrote that I was a virgin at twenty-one, a “truecel” (authentically involuntarily celibate), and wanted to join the community. My membership bid was rejected; the reason provided was a prompt to “go into more detail about your situation.”

So I switched usernames, from “blackpillbaby” to “Tommythemanlet”—manlet being an incel term for a short man, whose height provides an obstacle to sexual success. This time, I wrote.

My name is Tom. This is my second attempt to get onto the board because I really do want to be part of this community.

I am 21, never been kissed even once. I see foids on the street and I long to touch them and be touched but I think because of my ugly face I will never be loved. I feel despair and rage. I am so angry at seeing foids date men who never care about them when I know I would cherish them and make them feel special but they do not ever look at me. I have cystic acne and weak wrists, I am only 5'7", and no matter how hard I try I can never have a successful conversation with a foid.

I am angry at the feminist bitches who treat men like we are disposable. I do feel disposable but it’s unfair the way foids treat me and guys like me who just want to love and be loved. I want to hold tits with my hands at least once before I die. I think about suicide a lot but have decided the best revenge on foids is to find my own friends and community. that’s why I want to join—I am a truecel and I want to talk to others like me. I feel very alone and very angry and I want to talk to others. I am fucking sick of Chads who tell me to “just lighten up” and automatically I will be swimming in pussy. I am a short manlet with acne and an ugly face and that’s not something I can control.

I see foids walking down the street in short shorts and tit shirts and I feel both rage and desire in ways that feel so hard to control. It will only get worse as summer arrives. I want to be part of this community.



It worked. I was in.

I clicked on the main forum. On one thread, users had selected a graduation photo of an interracial couple — the man black, the woman Asian — taken from Reddit and were discussing how unattractive their children would be, using racial slurs and suggesting chemical castration for ugly women.

Steeling myself, I clicked over to the chat room.

A user calling himself “Adolf_Hitler” was advocating rebuilding concentration camps. He was laying out a plan for creating an ultra-right party, picking up where the more nebulous cultural movement of the alt-right had failed. He was lauding Einsatzgruppen leader Helmut Oberlander for his jawline, and Joseph Goebbels’s service to the Third Reich, despite his inferior forehead shape.

No one was arguing, just egging him on.