Strength in Contradiction: The Radicalization of Incel Rhetoric

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This paper emphasizes several fields of interconnected research in my investigation of the linguistic and psychological roots of radicalization among self-described “incels” or “involuntary celibates”. Through a close analysis of academic writings and primary sources, I relate my findings on the radicalization of incels to the processes of radicalization seen in established terrorist groups worldwide. What differentiates this essay from other research papers that I have written is its interdisciplinary approach. Furthermore, because of the rapidly shifting landscape and user makeup of online communities as well as the contemporariness of the issue that I analyze, I was very selective with the sources that I included in my work. To verify that the claims and findings from my sources were up to date, I personally reviewed chatrooms and message boards on incel forums and compared them to scholarly research on the topic, even if this research was only two to three years old. By incorporating a broad range of research and analysis and directly monitoring the rhetoric of the groups investigated in my paper, my essay sheds light on how online communities are uniquely capable of radicalizing individuals and pushing them towards acts of terror. My paper’s findings are relevant to present-day discussions over online speech, which have been motivated by the continued power of online groups and individuals to perpetrate violent attacks inspired by white supremacy, misogyny, and conspiracy theories.


Winner of the 2021 Library Award for Undergraduate Research