The FBI’s top terrorism cops took down a different kind of alleged terrorist in a complaint filed earlier this month: an incel.
In a complaint filed in federal court in White Plains, New York, an FBI agent with the Bureau’s Joint Terrorism Task Force detailed a year-long campaign of harassment, rape, and death threats levied at a Long Island couple by David Kaufman, a self-described member of the “incel” movement and supporter of one of its most notorious murderers, Elliot Rodger.
Prosecutors alleged that Kaufman terrorized a couple he knew from college and their friends in a series of messages on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube in retaliation for “for rejecting and depriving him of sex to which he believed he was entitled,” according to the complaint. He’s charged with making threatening interstate communications and stalking.
Neither Kaufman’s lawyer nor the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York responded to requests for comment.
Members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, comprised of federal, state, and local law enforcement officials coordinating together on extremism investigations, typically work cases associated with Islamist extremist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda or right-wing extremists, like neo-Nazis.
The involuntarily celibate or “incels,” as they call themselves, are a rarer threat that has surfaced over the past few years. Incels, the FBI notes in court documents, have “committed acts of violence against women across the world” and in the United States. Incels have their own subculture largely online, with specific language used to signify their anti-women beliefs.
In his alleged threats, Kaufman adopted the language of the incel movement, derisively referring to his victims’ high school classmates as “normies” and to one of his alleged victims as a “Chad,” which the complaint describes as “an Incel term that refers to an archetypal white alpha man.” He also allegedly adopted the movement’s misogynist goals, telling one victim that “it should be illegal for a woman to say no” to sex.
The complaint alleges that Kaufman began tormenting a woman he knew from college, her partner, and their friends in October 2019 after years of not speaking. The harassment began on Facebook when Kaufman allegedly falsely accused the woman’s partner, identified as Victim-2, of beating her.
“It goes to show that Chads like [Victim 2] can literally say ANYTHING and have everyone love them no matter what. While incels are FUCKED and have no give a shit about them no matter how good their confidence or personality is,” Kaufman allegedly commented on a post written by the woman, Victim-1. “And yes you don't 'love [Victim 2]. You're helplessly sexually attracted to his Chad face. And you can't bring yourself to admit that.”
Kaufman allegedly pivoted to messaging the woman on other social media platforms using burner accounts registered under pseudonyms like “Big Man,” “John Murray,” and “David Khalifa.”
The harassment included both rape and death threats against Victim-1 and her social circle. “I'll have sex with a woman one day. One way or another [wink emoji],” he wrote to her in one missive. Kaufman expanded his alleged campaign of terror to include friends of the couple, one of whom allegedly received a bomb threat from the defendant in her mailbox along with a note that said “I'm going to tear your skin off and rape your face open stupid whore!!!”
Kaufman also allegedly made frequent references to the Second Amendment, purchasing firearms and “hunting” in the context of his threats, and messaged Victim-1’s boyfriend with pictures of murdered victims of Elliot Rodger, one of the most notorious incels.
Rodger killed six people and injured more than a dozen in a series of deadly attacks in Isla Vista, California in 2014. His 137-page manifesto is widely shared within the tight-knit online Incel community, and his murders have been a rally cry for other Incel violent action such as a 2018 vehicle ramming attack in Toronto, Canada.
Kaufman identified Rodger as a source of inspiration not just in threats but in interviews with the police. He allegedly posted a quote from Rodger’s manifesto on Twitter alongside Victim-1’s name. Officers from Stamford police, the New York State Police, and the Postal Inspection Service confronted Kaufman about his harassment of the couple and in one interview he allegedly told Postal Inspectors “that he was an Incel and identified with Elliot Rodger's ideology and manifesto,” according to the complaint.
Broader identification with a movement and the use of threats in pursuit of a societal goal is the kind of behavior that makes some Incels more aptly described as terrorists rather than regular criminals, according to Dr. Bruce Hoffman, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who has written about the Incel movement and its relation to political violence.
“It doesn't superficially come across as terrorism, but it conforms to a lot of the broader contemporary patterns that we see overall” with terrorism, Hoffman said, including lone perpetrators, online radicalization, a reliance on social media, and an amorphous movement structure without leaders who have command and control.
“Rodger is a particular touchstone for Incel terrorism,” according to Hoffman. “He deliberately conceived his attack as a means to inspire imitation and emulation.”
Despite the growth of the Incel movement online in recent years, Hoffman said Incel terrorist incidents are still infrequent with a handful of incidents “in the single digits“ over the past six years. More concerning is that perpetrators of Incel terrorism tend to be more violent when they do offend. “I think what's worrisome is that their per-average fatality or casualty rate is fairly high. It's on the order of school shootings—about eight persons killed in these incidents.”
Kaufman was arrested early Friday morning and was arraigned in front of a federal judge later that afternoon through a video conference. According to court records, he was ordered detained and will have a preliminary hearing on September 30th.