Incels (“involuntary celibates”) are online communities of young men, broadly aligned by anti-feminism, concern over an inability to form sexual relationships with women, and a strong negative focus on their own appearance. Incels have been linked to violent misogyny and several mass killings. Using critical discourse analysis on data from nine different incel online forums, this article explores how incels discussed the Plymouth shooting in August 2021, often reported as an incel attack, looking at the discourses which are invoked to justify or delegitimize violence. As well as violent rhetoric, our research also pays attention to anti-violent rhetoric in incel communities, an area not yet discussed in the literature regarding incels, but which may be invaluable to those hoping to address the issue of incel violence. Our findings identify significant differences in the way the shooting is discussed across different incel forums, and reveal that both pro and anti-violence discourses frequently invoke lookism and mental health to justify victimhood.
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