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RAN C&N The Incel Phenomenon

Online meeting 17-18 June 2021

By RAN Communication and Narratives (C&N) Working Group.

The incel phenomenon is being studied more and more, from a P/CVE perspective as well. As there are links between certain parts of the incel movement to (other) types of extremism, it is important to try to understand what is going on in this mostly online world. During the RAN Communication and Narratives (C&N) Working Group meeting on the incel phenomenon, the focus was on exploring the underlying issues and root causes that result in the potential threat incels pose to themselves and others.


Key meeting outcomes:

  1. While not all incels are violent, incels’ online ecosystem breeds and encourages extreme attitudes related to suicide, interpersonal violence and violent misogyny. Awareness of the depth of the underlying issues is crucial to be able to acknowledge their grievances and needs (e.g. societal pressures/norms, identity, belonging, security, ostracism, etc.).
  2. The incel ideology differs from many other (extremist) ideologies or communities. While issues like isolation, loneliness and mental health, and dealing with bullying can also be underlying concerns in other ideologies, they are very much present at the forefront of the incel community/ideology. They feel they did not choose their identity, but were forced into it.
  3. A whole-of-society approach is needed by training all first line practitioners (not only the ones with a focus on P/CVE) on the topic of incels. The aim is to raise awareness and start discussing underlying issues early on (primary prevention) with a focus on the risk of suicide, using an empathetic approach and trying to strengthen the internal locus of control.
  4. Regarding treatment, it is important to recognise incels’ trauma/very real grievances while not encouraging their ideology. Work on mental health awareness and against the stigma amongst incels. Portray self-help as a strength, not a weakness.


Full Article:

As PDF  (EN)




The paper was first published in the Radicalization Awareness Network (RAN). With kind permission of the RAN.

The RAN is a network of frontline practitioners who work daily with both those vulnerable to radicalisation and those who have already been radicalised. As civil society representatives, social workers, youth workers, teachers, healthcare professionals, local authority representatives, police officers and prison officers, they are engaged in both preventing and countering violent extremism in all its forms and rehabilitating and reintegrating violent extremists.

Since it was founded in 2011, the RAN has attracted over 6,000 practitioners, who collectively represent all EU Member State.

Foto: / by laura adai