What we know (and what we don’t) about Alek Minassian

Rosemary Barton of the CBC and Phil Gurski, a former CSIS analyst, discuss the cool-headed way in which van-attack suspect Alek Minassian was arrested. It’s a far cry from the way Sammy Yatim, a Syrian Christian immigrant teenager armed with a knife, was taken down (with eight bullets AND a Taser). Minassian is, obviously, NOT a Syrian; his Armenian name makes that clear. But the officer arresting him also had no way of knowing that, at the time; he simply realized that Minassian didn’t have a gun when he claimed to. We have yet to learn what he had in his hand that he was pointing at the police. But it seems that the police have learned a thing or two — maybe — in how better to handle suspects like Alek Minassian.

There’s a lot we don’t know about Minassian himself yet, but here are some things that we do, and should:

One classmate, who worked on a project with him at Seneca in 2015, described Mr. Minassian as someone with a significant social or mental disability who had a hard time speaking to people, difficulty under pressure, and constant physical tics where he shook his hands and tapped his head.

The man, who did not want to be identified, expressed disbelief that Mr. Minassian would even be capable of renting and piloting an automobile. He said, when he knew him, Mr. Minassian didn’t drive, and didn’t know how a steering wheel worked.

The man said in a text conversation that he did not believe the attack would be politically motivated, saying he suspects his former classmate got into an accident, overreacted and panicked, asking police to shoot him in a video captured on the street by a bystander. The man said he heard that Mr. Minassian could code well.

One Seneca student in computer studies said Mr. Minassian had graduated from the program just last week. The student shared with The Globe and Mail a message Mr. Minassian sent to the group “out of the blue” on April 19 telling off his classmates. He added that he believed Mr. Minassian was at Seneca for seven years because he held down several software development jobs.

Saying he did not want to be publicly identified as an associate of a suspected killer because he is currently being interviewed for summer internships, this Seneca student added that he didn’t think Mr. Minassian had lined up any work after college.

The student said the Mr. Minassian he knew of never showed any signs of extremism or of subscribing to any particular religious or ideological persuasion – he was just a somewhat socially awkward young man who was good with computers.

So it looks like he has one thing in common with Sammy Yatim: he was emotionally troubled, and he had a very public meltdown, leading to a police takedown.

We also know that the RCMP are not investigating Minassian, because there is no evidence connecting him to any known terrorist group. So much for the theory running around the rightwingnuttosphere that he’s with Daesh, eh?

But here’s something that WILL twirl the right-wingers’ turbans: It appears that Minassian does have ties to one terroristic movement which still doesn’t have a presence on the official radar. Namely, the so-called involuntary celibates:

Speculation surfaced Monday night around a Facebook post associated with the same name and photo as appear on Minassian’s LinkendIn site.

Facebook told CBC News that the post from an Alek Minassian was real and was posted publicly on his profile before Facebook shut it down.

The post referred to the “Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger.” Rodger was the 22-year-old California man responsible for a deadly rampage in Isla Vista, Calif., that left six people dead and a dozen people wounded.

In a video posted ahead of that 2014 attack, Rodger raged about a number of women turning down his advances, rendering men like him “incels,” a term used by some groups to mean “involuntarily celibate.”

Rodger referred to men who were successful with women as “Chads” and women who turned men down as “Stacys.”

The post that appeared on Minassian’s Facebook page included a line that said the “incel rebellion has already begun. We will overthrow all the Chads and the Stacys.”

“This is a terrible tragedy, and our hearts go out to the people who have been affected,” Facebook said in a statement. “There is absolutely no place on our platform for people who commit such horrendous acts.”

The social networking site said it identified Minassian’s account after the attack and immediately deleted it.

Facebook said it uses a combination of technology and reports from its members to remove content that violates its community standards.

So, it would appear that Facebook does recognize him as a terrorist of sorts, but it’s a very un-Islamic breed of terrorists. The kind that’s under-represented in law enforcement’s knowledge base because it’s mostly white, anglophone, and western.

Cops don’t recognize “incels” as a terror threat, but they should. They have all the earmarks: Disaffected, often friendless, disproportionately young and male, angry and hateful toward women, with a “revolutionary” rhetoric that is laughable even on the surface of it, but nonetheless aimed at damaging society as much as possible. And which can do a lot of damage, and does. The Umpqua Community College shooter was one of these guys, himself. (His own mother described him as “born angry”.)

Another thing Minassian has in common with the Umpqua shooter? A brief and unhappy stint in the military:

BTW, Minassian used military and quasi-military jargon in his now-removed Facebook profile and the post in which he “came out” as an incel.

It’s as if these guys try the macho-man role on for size, find it a poor fit, and then despair because it doesn’t provide a “constructive” outlet for their violent urges. And if the military, that bastion of machismo, rejects them, it’s as if another woman had refused them sex. If a portion of society dedicated to violence decides that you’re no good for them, that’s another point of alienation adding to the aggrieved anger of an already highly alienated mind.

Worse, if they’re looking for weapons training so that they can go on a terror spree, incels trying to enter the military and then being rejected may just decide to strike out on their own. Lone wolves? Given that they have cyber-communities (which are, as yet, very under-monitored by authorities), I wouldn’t say they’re so lone. They may act out singly, but they are very much a group. They even have their own in-group language; women and girls are dehumanized as “femoids” (or just “foids” now, for even more diminution). And they idolize and admire, however despicably, others who have acted out alone before them. Every so often, one of them will try to copy or even outdo his predecessors, in a final bid to be even more admired and envied in that small circle. It’s his only chance to become a real luminary in the world, however fucked-up.

But it’s also a dead end. Most of these lone terrorists end up dead at spree’s end, because once a killer has blipped on the public radar and earned public revulsion and ire, what is there left to live for? Society as a whole has already rejected them, in their view, and now it actively and objectively despises them. Their belief has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. But the approbation of a small Internet community of misfits isn’t enough to survive on either, and a lifetime in prison (with all the violence and social alienation THAT entails) would be torture. So those who go in with guns, go out with guns as well.

And those who don’t? Well, it doesn’t surprise me that Minassian tried to get the arresting officer to shoot him; suicide-by-cop is how these dead-enders operate when they lack the time, the nerve, or the means to kill themselves. And sometimes, it’s also a fucked-up bid for martyrdom.

Unfortunately for this one, the cop wasn’t fooled by the bogus weapon threat, and was able to take him down alive, without firing a shot or even whacking him once with his baton. He’ll soon be facing his day in court, and he’s going to see that the glow of public notoriety is only temporary, but the ignominy of being seen as a crazy, indiscriminate killer will be with him for the rest of his miserable life. He will land behind bars, and eventually be forgotten.

And the incel “community”, such as it is, will be denied one martyr, at least.

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