Sometimes, a nutter is just a nutter, even when he's a homicidal nutter.
In the case of Jake Davison, the Plymouth killer who murdered five people, then himself, the indications are that he was a sad, bitter, angry man with a grudge against society in general and women in particular. He didn't have a girlfriend, and, like every other sad case nowadays, from cannibals to neo-Nazis, he found company and a label online. At any other time, we'd be content to call him an evil creep, a sadistic coward or possibly a homicidal loon, and confine ourselves to the valid question of how his shotgun licence was renewed.
Now, because identity looms so large in the culture, and because the internet makes it so easy for likeminded lunatics to find each other, we find him conveniently categorised as an incel. These are involuntary celibates, a category he toyed with online. Once, if you couldn't get a girlfriend or get married – and several blameless men I know were at one time or another in that not uncommon position – you were just a normal bloke with a girl problem; now there's a debate about whether to categorise incels as terrorists, up there with the Real IRA and IS.
The BBC seems oddly willing to entertain the idea that incels should be designated as terrorists, possibly because it gives a boost to the notion that misogyny should be categorised as a hate crime – an already dodgy category. Sarah Smith on the Today programme, for instance, pressed Jonathan Hall, the government's terrorism adviser, about the necessity of identifying radical misogynists in this way. He wavered a bit, and said it was possible, but that since terrorism was defined as using force or violence to advance beliefs or ideology, the definition was already open to expansion and if there was more of this sort of thing, well, it was possible.
Can we stop all this? There hasn't been a case like this, thank goodness, for 11 years; the notion that society is at risk from organised homicidal celibates is grotesque. There are and always will be, men with a sense of grievance who take out their rage and frustration on others, notably their own families. There have always been men with an animus against their mothers. But designating these odd or wicked people as terrorists has several drawbacks.
One is that there isn't exactly a membership card for incels – I am sorry to say that the term is pretty well a generic term of abuse among teenagers online - and it's hard to identify who is a paid up incel and who is just a sad case; another is that it is guaranteed to waste police time and resources by obliging them to investigate incel outpourings online (and the whole stupid lexicon of red and black pills); a third is that it would be unfair to men who happen to be involuntarily celibate but who wouldn't dream of running amok with firearms; and fourth is that it dilutes the category to the point of meaninglessness, whereas if it's IS or similar, there is indeed an international movement, a coherent cause, and a rationale for taking up arms.
I was going to say that it's going to be hard eventually to know how to describe people who do bad things who are simply bad people with wrongheaded ideas, but it turns out that this question is already sorted. The Guardian reports that:
'Another potential area of interest for the police is whether Davison had a "mixed, unclear or uncertain (MUU) ideology", an official category used by counter-terrorism specialists to describe a radicalised individual without a specific doctrine.'
MUU? Like I say, sometimes a nutter is just a nutter.