And so, after he killed ten people and injured sixteen more mowing them down on Yonge Street with his rented van here in Toronto in May, 2019, Alex Minassian’s trial finally took place and, to no-one’s surprise, he was convicted.
In case you don’t know, Minassian was diagnosed to have Asperger’s, and he is a declared ‘incel’, someone who sees themselves as ‘involuntarily celibate’.
The most interesting part of the trial was the defence Minassian’s lawyer offered – that autism prevented him from understanding that killing innocent people was wrong. They produced a psychiatrist who proposed a wishy-washy explanation of how autism could generate something similar to psychosis. It was gratifying that most of the autistic community was offended by this. But his lawyer was obliged to come up with something.
Autistic people were offended because this could only increase the stigma attached to autism. For example, Autism Ontario said of it,
In reality people on the autism spectrum…..are much more likely to be the victims of crime, rather than the perpetrators….. The myth that autism causes criminal behavior is just that: a myth.
Minassian now faces life in prison, which, in Ontario, given the degree of this crime, likely means he will get 25 years with no parole. Though some of the survivor victims, some of them permanently disabled, have expressed satisfaction at his conviction, and I sympathize with them deeply, I can’t say I’m jubilant. I continue to feel only dismay that a young man who was about to graduate from Seneca College with a computer programming diploma, something that was going to open at least a few doors to him, did this at the same time, destroying his future along with the lives of so many people.
I’ve said previously that this online group who call themselves ‘incels’ seem to fit psychologist Brian Gilmartin’s definition of love-shy, a psychological condition he was unable to get accepted as a diagnosis. In his 1987 book Shyness and Love: Causes, Consequences and Treatment he said most love-shy men never succeed in connecting with women and he warned that the lack of treatment these men receive would result in lasting damage. He has also said more recently that he believes a high proportion of love-shy men are on the spectrum.
On the website Love-Shy.net [Love-shy.net, home of the LS community (love-shy.net) ] they discuss the overlap between them and incels.
What kind of treatment would help? I don’t know. Gilmartin does propose treatment in his book, but as I remember he was pretty pessimistic about the prospects.
I fit love-shy very well when I was young, yet I found a way out of it – partly through stubborn determination not to accept my fate, partly through luck, and partly because, contrary to what incels believe, most women don’t secretly hate men. Maybe this is another aspect of the struggle between truth and ‘disinformation’. A culture of lies can’t lead to anything good.
But had the internet existed when I was young, I would not have fallen into the online trap that those like Alek Minassian seem to enter so willingly. I was too much a loner. I don’t understand the attraction at all.
Yet they keep coming. The shooter in Atlanta, Georgia this week, who killed eight more people, most of them women, looks like another one. This time racism appears to be added. At least Minassian doesn’t seem to have been racist. He hated everyone.
There is a profound dysfunction growing in this civilization at many levels. What is the antidote we so badly need?
2 thoughts on “Autism | Toronto’s van rampage and the Incels | Alex Minassian convicted – what now?”
I suspect that many of those who fall into what you rightly call an on-line trap are manipulated into doing so by others who enjoy the sense of power it gives them and ignore the destruction of their victim’s lives. Every group ends up having this sort of infiltration of people who would use it for their own means, and often those people succeed in their desire to control.
But let us not forget that as with a rapist, it is the individual who commits the crime who is responsible for that crime. Not the victim. Not society in general. This is proven by the number of others who suffer the same circumstances but without the same result.
Many of us were shy when young and could not connect with others in the way society deems normal. Yet we did not go out and murder people as a result. To say that shyness – or Autism – is responsible for the action is absurd. Underneath it all this person was a psychotic who would have expressed his unstable mental state on others in some way regardless of the surrounding circumstances.
Trying to use Autism as an excuse of every crime committed is as evil as saying because some black people commit crimes all black people are criminals.
One could also argue that shyness, which many Autistics have, is a form of emotional maturity as it indicates an acknowledgement of and respect for others’ personal space. We sometimes have to wait for others to catch up with us before we can enter into a relationship of any sort with them.
Neither is an explanation for murder. Nor an excuse for it.
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Thanks Marc. Yes, Minassian may well have been psychotic – though they claim he was very rational – well, sociopaths are rational. He is a bit of a mystery. His life was apparently fairly normal until he got hooked up with the online incels.