An Auckland academic says the attempted murder of two schoolgirls by a man who claimed he was lashing out because he’d never had a girlfriend is the biggest incident in Aotearoa’s extremist space since the New Lynn terror attack.
The drink driver, with previous fantasies of killing others, purposely swerved his vehicle to hit two schoolgirls at an Epsom bus stop — pinning the strangers against a brick wall.
Caleb Reilly Bell, 26, told police after the 50km/h pedestrian crash that his actions came over the perceived injustice of him never having a girlfriend and that others were happy when he was not.
University of Auckland senior lecturer Chris Wilson told the Herald it was significant because such attacks occur often overseas and it was the closest thing to an incel attack New Zealand had experienced.
“It was only a matter of time.
“The case itself is quite a big deal, but what it represents is an even bigger deal.
“In the field of extremism, and political violence and mass violence it is the biggest thing that’s happened since the New Lynn attack, and the Christchurch attacks before that.”
While he said it was not enough to say that Bell was an incel, Wilson said he “clearly” had a grievance against society for his failures on a number of fronts, not being able to have a girlfriend being one of several.
The group known as incels - involuntarily celibate - are largely heterosexual men fixated on their lack of sexual and romantic success with women.
“He (Bell) also had a fascination of violence and a desire to kill people, so there’s kind of a bunch of different things that were driving him towards it.”
“It seems like he’s right on the edge of it, but I just haven’t got enough details to say that he’s in that ideological community.”
Wilson referred to the “contagion effects” of all forms of violence, including terror attacks, school shootings and incel attacks, which can inspire people, especially those who have a fascination with violence.
“It makes them want to try to out-do what the first person did. And they love the notoriety, the infamy.’’
The misogynistic incel belief system rose to prominence in recent years following several vicious attacks that left dozens dead in North America and Canada.
One of the most notorious incel attacks overseas came in 2018 when 25-year-old Alek Minassian intentionally drove a rental van into pedestrians on a busy pavement in Toronto.
Ten people were killed.
Minutes before the attack he shared a Facebook post claiming the “Incel Rebellion” had already begun and they would overthrow the “Chads and Stacys” - a term used by the group to describe young, attractive people who don’t struggle to find a sexual partner.
He also praised 22-year-old mass murderer Elliot Rodger, who killed six people and wounded more than a dozen others in shooting and stabbing attacks near the University of California, Santa Barbara before killing himself in 2014.
Rodger’s murderous rampage, though it was not the first misogyny-based attack, soon became a rallying point for other incels.
Wilson said these attacks inspired “tonnes” of incels, who refer back to those attacks.
Justice Venning sentenced Bell to three years and seven months’ imprisonment for both counts of attempted murder, with both sentences to be served concurrently.
Last year the Herald revealed New Zealand’s intelligence agency investigated the threat involuntary celibate men pose to Aotearoa, including the likelihood of committing violent extremism in Aotearoa.
The information released to the Herald under the Official Information Act from the NZ Security Intelligence Service, showed a report was completed on the ideology and the threat level those who subscribe to it pose to New Zealand.
Security manager Rebecca Kitteridge confirmed at the time individuals have been investigated by NZSIS, but said that did not necessarily mean the investigations were commenced because of the incel ideology.
“Many of the individuals investigated by our counter-terrorism teams display support for various violent extremist ideologies and often have overlapping ideological motivations.”
Victoria University of Wellington PhD candidate Angus Lindsay told the Herald last year incels feel marginalised for failing to live up to dominant ideas of masculinity, and because they are socially and sexually alienated.
“The findings of my own and other recent research suggest that incel-related violence does not only constitute the extraordinary ‘lone-wolf’ violence that is often associated with the group.”
More often, he said, incels lash out at women and other incels through online cyber-bullying or by harming themselves.
“This type of extremist behaviour is not only confined to online spaces but is exacerbated by digital technologies. Incels are but one component of a much broader male supremacist movement.”