One night last fall, single mom Kim Devins sat alone with the lights off, trying to recharge after a long and hectic day, when an Instagram alert popped up on her phone stating that she had been tagged on a photo.
Kim closed her eyes, desperately wanting to believe that this would be a casual selfie or a group photo, a memory from a distant and happier time. But it was not. There, shining in her dark living room, was what she had long avoided seeing: the image of the corpse of her 17-year-old daughter, Bianca.
“My last memory of Bianca is full of life,” Kim said, “… so having to see her in her last moments is absolutely traumatic and something no one should ever see.”
For more than a year, Kim’s family and friends have protected her from the gruesome photo, which was shared widely online aftermurder in July 2019. The gruesome image, something typically reserved for homicide detectives, was taken by the then 21-year-old Lyft driver. , which Bianca had met on Instagram months earlier and briefly dated.
After brutally killing Bianca, Clark posted the photo to the popular game app Discord, before uploading additional images of Bianca’s body to social media. From there, it spread like wildfire on mainstream platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The story gained international media attention in large part because of the way the images were repeatedly shared online and the hashtag’s viral nature.
Journalist EJ Dickson covered Bianca’s story for Rolling stone and says that after her murder, Bianca’s online subscribers skyrocketed and it was impossible to search for her name or look at the hashtag without seeing photos of her death.
As Bianca’s loved ones cried, some corners of the internet responded with morbid glee. “People would make memes out of the pictures… they would turn them into jokes,” EJ said, “… I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
Frustrated by the slow response from social media companies, some online users have launched a popular campaign to flood the hashtag with images of Bianca’s pink skies, rainbows and fan art in an attempt to reduce images of death in search results.
But the trauma of losing Bianca only worsened in the months following her death, as her family faced a wave of inhumanity from vicious online trolls who relentlessly sent them messages. sickening photos as well as hateful messages blaming Bianca for what had happened to her.
“It’s horrible … to see people say that … my baby, that she deserved such a cruel end of her life,” Kim said.
How did it come to this? “48 Hours” and correspondent Jericka Duncan investigate in “The Online Life & Death of Bianca Devins”.
“A very twisted need is met by continuing to share these [images] and try to get them to Bianca’s family, ”explains behavior specialist Steven Crimando. “It actually reinforces the physical crime… what they’re trying to say two years later is…” you don’t know when it’s going to happen, but you know it’s going to happen again. It is a form of psychological terrorism. ”
According to Crimando, the individuals most likely responsible for the attacks on Bianca’s family belong to an online community of men called “incels,” short for unintentional bachelors. Incels, by their own definition, are men 21 years of age or older who have gone six months or more without any sexual activity, not on their own accord.
The community is characterized, at the very least, by a pathological envy of attractive men called “Tchads” who they believe have more success with the attractive women most coveted by their group called “Stacys”, whom Bianca was considered to be. in the online community.
In March 2021, Brandon Clark was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to 25 years in life for the murder of Bianca. Although Clark did not identify as an incel, he was celebrated by this dark community for what he did to them. “Mr. Clark is a legend,” wrote one netizen. Another said: “He has done the world a service.”
Crimando believes Bianca’s image has been deliberately desecrated to help promote incel ideology and to justify violence against women. This kind of hatred has become normalized in the misogynistic and toxic world of Incel culture.
The community has become a focal point for experts like Crimando, who says it has emerged from the shadows of the chat room in a full-fledged grievance movement, increasingly fueled by #MeToo. What makes incel ideology so dangerous, Crimando believes, are those on the fringes of the movement, like other extremist groups, who are prepared to use violence to advance or defend their beliefs.
“The spark feels badly deceived to the point where it just becomes an obsessive thought that… I have to act,” Crimando says. “I must fight back for injustice.”
In fact, this violent rhetoric led to the murder. According to the intelligence community, there have been more than a dozen mass murders in North America, resulting in 50 deaths attributed to the incel ideology.
“As there have been more incel killings, it has become clearer to us that there are, on this specter of incels, those at the extreme who are certainly capable of murder,” notes Crimando “and because of this, he is now recognized as a terrorist threat. “
Recently, the United States Department of Homeland Security issued a special notice stating that the main threat to the homeland is from domestic violent extremists, of which incels are one.
To be clear, not all incels are dangerous. But given the consistency of the language within the community, the challenge is to identify those who pose a threat to online chatter. “It’s not taking a needle out of a haystack,” Crimando says, “It’s taking a needle out of a pile of needles.”
So what can be done from a law enforcement perspective to prevent the upcoming murder of Incel?
“When you think of prevention,” says Crimando. “Prevention creates an off-ramp … where maybe the answer is mental health help, putting them in touch with other people who have been de-radicalized to help them understand that there are alternatives. ”
“When we start to realize how much we have in common… it reduces the likelihood that the other is the enemy and we realize that the enemy… looks a lot more like us than we probably think,” says Crimando. “I have hope it will happen.”
Bianca’s family shares this sense of hope and turns their grief into action. They are working with local politicians to help push through “Bianca’s Law,” a federal bill that would hold social media companies accountable for allowing violent and graphic content on their platforms.
The family also created a scholarship in Bianca’s name, for students following Bianca’s ambitions to help teens struggling with mental health issues as she had experienced.
When Bianca was in her darkest days and struggling to cope with her own sanity, Kim says she made her daughter a promise that if she fought for a living, Kim would always be by her side. “As part of honoring Bianca’s memory, I will always keep this fight alive.”