From Pick-Up Artists to Incels: Con(fidence) Games, Networked Misogyny, and the Failure of Neoliberalism | Jack Bratich, Sarah Banet-Weiser | International Journal of Communication

Between 2007 and 2018, the pick-up artist community—“gurus” who teach online networks of heterosexual men to seduce women—gave rise to a different online community, that of “incels,” who create homosocial bonds over their inability to become a pick-up artist. In this article, we offer a conjunctural analysis of this shift and argue that this decade represents a decline in, or even a failure of, neoliberalism’s ability to secure subjects within its political rationality. We argue that neoliberalism cannot cope with its failures, especially its promises of self-confidence. Such promises themselves become exposed as confidence games, which are then rerouted through networked misogyny, resulting in ordinary and spectacular violence against women. Moreover, incels express their rage through language of uprising and a war on women. Their actions are on a continuum of reactive violent responses to women’s refusal of social reproduction roles and aim to defend and restore patriarchal order.

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