Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Dominic Parrott

Second Advisor

Carol Winkler

Third Advisor

Gabriel Kuperminc

Fourth Advisor

Laura McKee

Fifth Advisor

Anthony Lemieux


The study delved into the contentious issue of categorizing violent incels. It sought to determine whether the terrorism label is appropriate for describing their actions or if they represent a distinct, non-political manifestation of a pervasive societal problem, namely, entitled, angry young men seeking revenge and retribution through violence. Incels have gained notoriety for their involvement in acts of violence. By investigating their motives and rhetoric, and comparing and contrasting them with those of mass school shooters and right-wing extremists (RWXs), this study aimed to shed light on the nature of their actions and their potential alignment with terrorism, which is conceptualized in the present project as inherently political.

A mixed-methods approach was utilized. First, topic modeling, specifically Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA), was used to extract prevalent themes from the textual data. Next, thematic analysis was employed to provide a more thorough examination of the extracted themes. This approach allowed for a comprehensive exploration of the ideologies and motivations behind violent acts, providing insight into whether incels represent a new manifestation of a long-standing societal issue or a (new) distinct form of terrorism.

The findings support a distinction between the motives of violent incels and RWXs. Analyses indicated that violent incels were motivated by revenge. In addition, analyses did not detect evidence that violent incels sought to change the political or societal status quo, which suggests that their motivations for violence were not political. In that sense, violent incels resembled school shooters, whose crimes were autogenic and motivated by personal issues. The study's contributions lie in enhancing our understanding of incel-related violence and informing nuanced responses to this phenomenon. By clarifying the nature of incel motives and actions, this research has potential to enrich ongoing debates on the applicability of the terrorism label and its implications for broader discussions on extremism and violence.

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