On April 23, 2018, Alek Minassian, 25, allegedly plowed a rented white Ryder van into crowds of pedestrians in Toronto, Canada, killing 10 and injuring 15. On a social media post, it’s believed Minassian described himself as an “involuntary celibate” (“incel”) and said he was seeking revenge on society. He appears to have been inspired by mass murderer Elliot Rodger, who lashed out after claiming to have been rejected by women.
Minassian has allegedly praised Rodger, 22, who on May 23, 2014 killed six people and injured 14 others near the University of California, Santa Barbara. He used a knife, gun, and car his during rampage. Before his killing spree, Rodger posted a YouTube video saying he was determined to punish women who had apparently rejected him.
The big question is: was the 2018 potential mass murder in Toronto motivated by a hatred of women? Was an obscure movement of men who describe themselves as “involuntary celibate,” or “incel” for short, the motivation behind the alleged Toronto mass murder?
Who Is Elliot Rodger?
A Facebook post on Minassian’s account is alleged to have said, “The Incel Rebellion has already begun. We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys. All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”
Who is the “Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger?”
Elliot Oliver Robertson Rodger was born on July 24, 1991 in Lambeth, London, England into a well-heeled family. His father was British filmmaker Peter Rodger, who is known for being an assistant director on The Hunger Games. His mother was Li Chin Rodger, a Malaysian research assistant. His paternal grandfather was revered photojournalist George Rodger.
Elliot Rodger described the first five years of his life as “blissful.”
Life in the U.S.A.
Eventually his family moved to the U.S. and Rodger was raised in Woodland Hills, a tiny neighborhood just outside Los Angeles.
According to his own writings, Rodger says the first friend he made in the U.S. was a girl by the name of Maddy Humphreys. Her father Paul is a member of the band Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark (OMD).
“She was the first female friend I’ve ever had and she would be the last.”
When Rodger was seven, his parents separated (and eventually divorced). Both he and his younger sister Georgia lived with their mother in Topanga.
Just months after the separation, his father started dating Soumaya Akaaboune, a Moroccan actress. They would eventually marry.
Reflecting on their relationship, Rodger later wrote, “How ironic is it that my father, one of those men who could easily find a girlfriend, has a son who would struggle all his life to find a girlfriend.”
As a child, Rodger was sent to therapists and received psychiatric help, including medication, for ongoing mental illnesses and disorders. But he never took any of the medication prescribed to him.
While he was never formally diagnosed, Rodger’s mother believed he suffered from Asperger syndrome.
Age 9, a Tumultuous Year
It was at age nine that Rodger claimed he went through “a lot of changes emotionally and intellectually” and started to observe the world more conscientiously.
Before age nine, Rodger said he was “living life as a carefree child in a world” he thought “was only good and pure.” He soon discovered it wasn’t. He said he “would face problems and frustrations” that he could never have fathomed.
One apparent problem was his height. He was shorter than any other kid in the fourth grade and so felt inferior to everyone else.
These feelings of inferiority would only intensify and become more volatile over time.
In high school, Rodger said he was unable to make friends and was bullied. But fellow classmates later said Elliot Rodger was the one who rejected their attempts at friendship.
Still, this perceived bullying forced the youth to start exercising and lifting weights in the hopes it would build up his confidence and make his “frail and delicate” body look stronger.
“Maybe if I built muscles, girls will be attracted to me,” he mused.
He also changed the way he dressed, hoping to fit in.
Despite all these efforts, he remained single well into college. He would walk around, hoping to cross paths with women who were attracted to him. It never happened. This left him feeling “bitterly disappointed.”
He was also jealous of his long-time friend Addison Altendorf, who managed to become popular and dated a lot. He was doing everything Rodger wanted to do but couldn’t. And, in Rodger’s eyes, Altendorf treated him like a “loser.”
19 and Angry
His 19th birthday came and went quietly. He felt defeated and angry, a 19-year-old virgin.
Around this time Rodger noted that “to be angry about the injustices one faces is a sign of strength. It is a sign that one has the will to fight back against those injustices, rather than bowing down and accepting it as fate.”
Rodger was attending Moorpark College but only took one class. He told his mother he would take three the following semester.
Both of his grandmothers sent him money to help out with living expenses. He squirreled that money away, though; he needed to save it up in case his life “became too drastic.”
With that money, Rodger eventually purchased three handguns, a Glock 34, and two SIG Sauer P226s.
Santa Barbara: Endgame
In June 2011, Rodger moved to Isla Vista to attend Santa Barbara City College. It was the first time he’d really lived away from home.
As expected, Rodger’s troubles followed him to Santa Barbara.
Outside his apartment window in Isla Vista, he heard students partying and having fun and he wondered how he’d ever fit in.
Then one of his roommates invited his friend Chance over. Rodger said he was “a black boy” with “a cocksure attitude.”
Rodger’s racist streak emerged with Chance’s arrival in his life. He grew to hate Chance and the fact that he was popular and had plenty of girlfriends. It didn’t help when Rodger found out Chance had lost his virginity at 13 to a pretty blonde girl.
Rodger called his mother in tears, asked how a “black boy was able to get a white girl” and not him. Rodger recalled how his family came from British aristocracy, whereas Chance, he argued, was “descended from slaves.”
It was then that Rodger decided that all “females must have something mentally wrong with them. Their minds were flawed.”
He came to believe women were attracted to the wrong kind of man. And he said he became “deeply disturbed by them. Deeply disturbed, offended, and traumatized.”
At this point in time, Rodger was chronicling his life on his personal YouTube channel.
Fuel for an Already Burning Fire
On July 20, 2013, Rodger went to a party but was apparently rebuffed by women there. He tried to push some women off a 10-foot ledge but failed. Instead, he was pushed off by other men. He left but returned to get his sunglasses. He was met by the same men who had pushed him off the ledge and was pummeled.
He described the events to investigating officers, but they determined he may have been the aggressor.
Elliot Rodger claimed this was the final straw that drove him to begin planning his rampage.
The 2014 Isla Vista Killing Spree
On May 23, 2014, Elliot Rodger began enacting his so-called “Day of Retribution.”
The attack started when Rodger stabbed three men to death in his apartment on Seville Road. They were his roommates Cheng Yuan “James” Hong and George Chen, and their friend Weihan “David” Wang.
Rodger then dove to the Alpha Phi sorority at UC Santa Barbara and pounded on the door for two minutes. No one answered the loud knocks.
He then shot three Delta Delta Delta sorority sisters who were standing nearby, killing Katherine Cooper and Veronika Weiss and injuring Bianca de Kock.
Rodger then drove to a nearby delicatessen and fired shots inside, killing Christopher Martinez, a student at UC Santa Barbara.
Rodger drove to another location where he fired at two people on the sidewalk.
Rodger drove on to Del Playa Drive, where he fired a number of shots at a woman, exchanged shots with a sheriff’s deputy, and hit a bicyclist with his car.
Rodger drove on to Camino del Sur where he shot at a number of pedestrians.
Rodger encountered four officers running across Little Acorn Park. He opened fire as he drove past. Three of the four officers returned fire, hitting his car. Rodger sped off.
Rodger drove back to Del Playa where he struck another bicyclist with his car. The cyclist, Keith Cheung, landed on Rodger’s car, caving in the windshield. Unable to see, Rodger crashed into several parked cars and came to a stop.
Deputies rush the stalled BMW, but Rodgers was already dead. He had shot himself in the head.
Elliot Rodger’s Manifesto and Video
Before carrying out his rampage, Elliot Rodger wrote a rambling 137-page manifesto outlining in minute detail his entire life, venting about girls, and lamenting the fact that he was still a virgin and had never even kissed a girl.
After stabbing the three men in his apartment and before driving to the sorority house, Rodger uploaded a video to his YouTube channel titled “Elliot Rodger’s Retribution Video.” In it, he outlined his upcoming attack and “revenge on humanity.”
“For the last eight years of my life, ever since I’ve hit puberty, I’ve been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection, and unfulfilled desires. All because girls have never been attracted to me.”
The rejection was “not fair,” he claimed; it was “an injustice, a crime. Because I don’t know what you don’t see in me. I’m the perfect guy. And yet you throw yourselves at all these obnoxious men, instead of me, the supreme gentlemen. I will punish you all for it.”
He then went on to detail his upcoming attack.
After uploading the video, Rodger e-mailed his manifesto to some of his friends, his therapist, and several family members. It was called: “My Twisted World: The Story of Elliot Rodger.”
In it, he covered his blissful childhood in England, family conflicts, his frustrations and ongoing loneliness, perceived rejection by women, his contempt for happy couples, and his disgust over interracial relationships.
Elliot Rodger also described his final “retribution.” In the epilogue, he wrote:
“There was a time when I thought this world was a good and happy place. As a child, my whole world was innocent. It wasn’t until I went through puberty and started desiring girls that my whole life turned into a living hell. I desired girls, but girls never desired me back. There is something very wrong with that. It is an injustice that cannot go unpunished.
“I am not meant to live such a pathetic, miserable life. That is not my place in this world. I will not bow down and accept such a horrific fate. If humanity will not give me a worthy place among them, then I will destroy them all. I am better than all of them. I am a god. Exacting my Retribution is my way of proving my true worth to the world.”
Rodger ended his manifesto with this thought:
“All I ever wanted was to love women, and in turn to be loved by them back. Their behavior towards me has only earned my hatred, and rightfully so! I am the true victim in all of this. I am the good guy. Humanity struck at me first by condemning me to experience so much suffering. I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t want this. I didn’t start this war… I wasn’t the one who struck first… But I will finish it by striking back. I will punish everyone. And it will be beautiful. Finally, at long last, I can show the world my true worth.
What Is the Incel Movement?
Elliot Rodger believed he was forced into being an “involuntary celibate,” or incel. As a result, he was considered to be a member of the incel movement, a group of men who believe they are victims because they have been denied sex by women.
But the movement didn’t start out as a hate group directed toward women. The term “involuntary celibate” was coined by a Toronto woman named Alana in 1993.
As a student at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, the then 18-year-old was reflecting on the fact she’d never had sex or a boyfriend. She blamed her appearance and often felt left out. She then started to read about sexuality on the Internet. This was how Alana discovered she was bisexual, and at 24, she started dating women.
As a bisexual woman, Alana started to analyze her past experiences and wanted to come up with a term for what she went through. She considered “late bloomer,” “nonblooming,” and “perpetually single.” But she finally settled with involuntary celibate.
Alana built a web site, now long gone: Alana’s Involuntary Celibacy Project.
The site was really designed to be a place for all incels and was visited by women and men. But it soon became a place where men turned to complain about their relationship woes.
She eventually turned the site over to someone else and moved on. Years later, she learned that Elliot Rodger had identified as an incel.
She wrote about the discovery to friends, saying, “Like a scientist who invented something that ended up being a weapon of war, I can’t uninvent this word, nor restrict it to the nicer people who need it.”
Incel Movement Takes on New Meaning
The incel movement has evolved, or devolved, from its early days of inclusion. In fact, it is now known as a movement that champions male chauvinism and misogyny.
In 2017, Reddit banned a subreddit called “Incels.” The so-called support site had over 40,000 members when it was banned. Members called women “femoids” and the men they have casual sex with “chads.”
The site became increasingly hostile towards women, with popular posts such as “proof that girls are nothing but trash that use men” and “reasons why women are the embodiment of evil”.
According to a study from Grinnell College on the incel movement, another common name for women is “Stacy,” reserved for those who are unattainable. Incels tend to talk about Stacys in a hateful way while Chads are referred to reverentially.
The study also found that many in the subreddit “Incel Movement” were also active on alt-right pages like “The Red Pill, “Men’s Rights,” and “Men Going Their Own Way.”
Some members of the subreddit page referred to Elliot Rodger as “Saint Elliot” because he “martyred” himself for the incel cause.
Is Alek Minassian Linked to the Incel Movement and Elliot Rodger?
There is evidence to suggest that the suspected mass murderer in Toronto, Minassian, is linked to the incel movement and was trying to copy the atrocities committed by Elliot Rodger.
He’s believed to have referenced Rodger in a Facebook post. Facebook said it had identified Minassian’s account after the attack and deleted it.
The Toronto attack was carried out exactly one month short of the four-year anniversary of Rodger’s mass killings.
Police allege Minassian intentionally drove his white Ryder rental van into a lunch-hour crowd in uptown Toronto on Monday, April 23 along a one-mile stretch of road.
Minassian allegedly sped off after the killings, but was chased down by police.
While Rodger shot himself in the head before being caught by police, Minassian, who was previously unknown to authorities, asked police to shoot him. He even pretended to have a gun. They didn’t shoot him…and he was arrested.
Similarities Between Rodger and Minassian?
There are some similarities between Rodger and Minassian. According to former classmates, in high school, Minassian never had many close friends and was always seen in the background of social groups. He was never known to have a girlfriend.
While classmates thought he was socially awkward or suffered from a social disability, they said he was friendly and never had any serious conflicts.
Said one classmate from high school, “I remember seeing him probably just walking down the halls, usually by himself, or in the cafeteria by himself. My memory is not perfect, but certainly, it would not be, I don’t think, a misstatement to say that he wasn’t overly social.”
In college, Minassian was described as being someone with a significant mental or social disability who had difficulty speaking to people, struggled under pressure, and had constant physical tics where he would shake his hands and tap his head.
Minassian was socially awkward, but is remembered as being good with computers, especially coding.
A classmate who knew Minassian in high school and in college said he had no known religious or political affiliations or strong views on anything. Their recollection was of a quiet person who could never have learned to drive, let alone carry out the attack that killed 10.
But he did.
Perhaps in the days going forward, we’ll learn more about Minassian’s motivations and whether he shared some of Rodger’s more extreme views on the world.