Controversy continues to follow Joker around even before the film makes it into theaters. And this time, it’s not the families of shooting victims concerned—to put it lightly—about the film. Instead, multiple agencies of the federal government, including the FBI and the Department of Defense are now worried about what the film might encourage.
FBI intelligence officials monitoring the dark web came across posts threatening mass shootings at screenings of the film. The posts were related to “incels,” short for “involuntary celibates,” a particularly horrifying internet subculture of self-loathing, misogyny, racism, and resentment.
Incels have been linked to multiple acts of mass violence over the years, including the shooting at Marjory Stoneman-Douglas High School. James Holmes, the perpetrator of the 2012 Aurora, Colorado at a movie theater screening of The Dark Knight Rises, has become something of a hero in the incel community, as has the Joker character himself.
The FBI tipped off military officials about the threats. They also received “credible” intelligence from law enforcement officials in Texas that there was “disturbing and very specific chatter” on the dark web “regarding the targeting of an unknown movie theater during the release.”
In an email to service members, the Army warned that attending the film presented “a potential risk to DOD personnel and family members.”
The message continued: “When entering theaters, identify two escape routes, remain aware of your surroundings, and remember the phrase ‘run, hide, fight.’ Run if you can. If you’re stuck, hide (also referred to as ‘sheltering in place’), and stay quiet. If a shooter finds you, fight with whatever you can.”
An Army spokesperson, speaking about the safety bulletin, explained that “we do this routinely because the safety and security of our workforce is paramount” and “We want our workforce to be prepared and diligent on personal safety both inside the workplace and out.”