April 30, 2018 6:00 am

COMMENTARY: Let’s find ‘the lost boys’ before we lose them to the ‘manosphere’

Mike Stafford looks at why a suburban kid would bring a killing method made infamous by ideological terrorists to the heart of Toronto.

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It’s been one week since a 25-year-old man, described by so many acquaintances as anti-social and non-verbal, allegedly got behind the wheel of a rented van and began an assault on the heart of Toronto in the heart of its northern stretch of Yonge Street.

The international spotlight the city always craves for its self-esteem suddenly arrived. This was the one time I believe Toronto would rather have stayed off the front pages of the world media.

WATCH ABOVE: Suspect in Toronto van attack described as disturbed, lonely man

The story was too much to bear. So many killed. Pictures of victims so diverse, they would fit perfectly in a brochure from the city tourism department to tout Toronto’s ethnic makeup.

Mitigating the horror on that Monday was the bravery of the bystanders and first responders who immediately administered first aid and offered emotional comfort.

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And then there was police Const. Ken Lam, a later-in-his-career traffic cop who bravely stood up to the suspect, called his bluff and made an arrest without firing a shot. Const. Lam refused to be called a hero, refused any immediate media interviews and instead made it clear there were dozens of heroes on that day.

READ MORE: Toronto officer praised for arrest of van attack suspect doesn’t want to be called a hero

The post-attack focus of discussion that caught my attention was the spotlight that was placed on today’s young men. Why are they so angry? What can explain why a suburban “kid,” previously unknown to police, would bring a killing method made infamous by ideological terrorists to Yonge Street?

I read, for the first time, about the concept of the “manosphere“: a collection of websites, internet chatrooms, forums and such that lament the decreasing influence of masculinity in modern society. I learned about “involuntary celibates.” I was astounded that some young men would think that their romantic and sexual rejections were the fault of everybody else.

READ MORE: What is incel? Examining the ‘rebellion’ praised by Toronto van attack suspect

Fortunately, the manosphere seems to have very few leaders who can intelligently convey a thought. Unfortunately, it has a large number of unintelligent males ready to consume every one of those thoughts.

I used to be a young man. I had my share of romantic rejection, was on the receiving end of a few incidents of what could be called bullying, and I remember the peer pressure in the male wolf pack. So what’s changed? Gender studies grad students would argue nothing has changed because the patriarchy rules all.

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In my experience, it’s more than that. Teen sexuality in the 1970s was a slow and steady process of discovery, joys and disappointments. Today’s teen is fed a firehose of online sexuality. Little wonder an awkward guy would think he’s the only person in the world who’s not getting lucky.

Add to that the pressures they face from hyper-competitive parents insisting they devote their young lives to hours of amateur sport while maintaining the grades that will get them into a good university. Add in the pressure from a school system that lacks strong male role models in elementary classrooms and administration offices. Add in the pressure to dress and groom in an era when everybody has a cell phone camera and is ready to use it.

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Young males face financial pressure, a bleaker job market and less loyalty from their employers than I encountered. Yes, young women face similar pressures, but there is one point I would agree on with the gender studies grads: there is still a different expectation for the boys. They’re expected to figure it all out. The girls? The social justice movement is there to advocate for them.

READ MORE: The role entitlement, rejection can play in misogyny and violence against women

Today’s young men are very lucky that their generation lives in a society of relative peace. Crime rates continue to fall and universities have more spaces than ever. Basically, they’re a bunch of mostly good kids. The troubled ones need our support before they slide into the murky deep end of the internet swimming pool. They need to be nurtured in school instead of tossed aside because the teacher would rather cater to the calm and engaged girls.

Who knows: with our understanding, even the misfits may one day turn out a Const. Ken Lam or two.

Mike Stafford is co-host of The Morning Show on Global News Radio 640 Toronto.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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