This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
Facebook has confirmed to VICE that an online post apparently made by the man accused of killing ten pedestrians with a van in Toronto on Monday, referencing “incels,” a misogynistic online community, came from his authentic profile. The post has been widely discussed following the attack, and subject to intense suspicion as online hoaxes are common in the wake of such tragedies.
On Monday, at around 1:30 PM, a white van mounted the sidewalk in a diverse north Toronto neighborhood and ran down pedestrians for nearly a mile. After the event was over, bodies were strewn along the road. Ten pedestrians died as a result of the attack and 15 more were wounded. Police arrested Alek Minassian, 25, after a tense standoff in which he asked the police officers to kill him, according to bystander video.
Minassian appeared in court on Tuesday morning where he was charged with ten counts of first- degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder. Police have released no information regarding a motive, but a Facebook post may shed some light on the alleged killer’s mindset. Facebook confirmed to VICE that the post came from Manissian’s authentic Facebook account, but this does not necessarily mean that Manissian is the person who wrote the post.
The post, which began making the rounds on social media after the attack, referenced an online community of “incels,” a term that means “involuntary celibate.” Elements of this community are known to be extremely misogynistic as incels largely blame their celibacy on women. In 2014, mass killer Elliot Rodger posted a manifesto shortly before killing six people in which he explained that he wanted to punish women for rejecting him. In the video, Rodger dubbed himself the “supreme gentleman,” a moniker that Minassian referenced in his alleged Facebook post. The post also made reference to a “Sgt. 4chan,” apparently referring to the long-standing anonymous message board and troll hub.
“Private (Recruit) Minassian Infantry 00010, wishing to speak to Sgt. 4chan please. C23249161,” reads the post. “The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!” In many online communities, “Chads and Stacys” is slang for attractive, non-socially awkward people.
“This is a terrible tragedy and our hearts go out to the people who have been affected. There is absolutely no place on our platform for people who commit such horrendous acts. We have found and immediately deleted the suspect’s Facebook account,” a Facebook spokesperson wrote VICE in an email.
The Globe and Mail reported that students who spent time with Minassian at Toronto’s Seneca College, where he was reportedly enrolled, described him as a socially awkward tech nerd who was good with computers, and had no real violent tendencies nor strong political or religious beliefs.
The incel community faced intense online pushback, with one subreddit dedicated to the group (their main gathering point) being taken down in 2017. Reddit also banned another popular subreddit page for incels, called /r/malecels, in the hours following the Toronto incident. Reddit spokespeople did not immediately respond to VICE’s request for comment. Since Monday, the incel and 4chan communities have attempted to distance themselves from Manissian.
Posts following the attack on major online hubs for the incel community expressed disbelief that Minassian’s Facebook post could be authentic. “Everything about this situation seems fishy to me,” a moderator of a forum called Incels.me going by “Master” wrote in a post on Tuesday. “It was clearly a troll,” another poster wrote on Incels.me. VICE reached out to Master on Incels.me but didn’t immediately hear back. “Who talks like that?” one user of /Pol/, 4chan’s notorious politics message board, wrote on Monday regarding Manissian’s Facebook post referencing “Sgt. 4chan.” “Totally one of us 4Channers,” wrote another. On /r9k/, another notorious 4chan board, users were also incredulous.“
Why are we such a good scapegoar t [ sic],” one user wrote on Monday, with another user adding, “If this isn't fake, it's gonna bring a lot of attention here. Fuck, we really don't need this right now.”