August 12, 2022 | Independent

Plymouth shooting: understanding mass violence outside of ideological frameworks

ISD’s Milo Comerford and Tim Squirrell spoke to the Independent on the one year anniversary of the Plymouth shooting.

On 12 August 2021, a 22 year-old English man shot and killed five people. The gunman’s active presence in online incel communities, which promote misogyny, has raised questions about the nature of this attack.

While the Plymouth shooting does not fit the UK’s definition of terrorism – as being rooted in a “political, religious, racial or ideological cause” – Milo spoke of the need to move away from ideology when considering violent attacks.

“We need to have a much better and broader violence prevention architecture that is able to anticipate, respond to and intervene in threats in a much more upstream way that isn’t just counterterrorism policing and a very narrow Prevent-type focus,” Milo told the Independent. “Incels are reflective of what’s going on more broadly with extremism and the way online communities facilitate it… it’s harder to put people into ideological buckets.”

Tim echoed the limitations of using ideology as a lens. “We need to understand mass violence and targeted violence as issues in themselves, rather than as issues only insofar as they fit into an ideological framework.”

Inceldom also points to the complex informational landscape of online platforms that are evolving to cater for audiences that feel unwelcome in more mainstream spaces. Milo noted that it is “easy to stumble across and access incel communities” online.