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The QAnon cult: What it is, how it works, and how to help deprogram your loved ones

The QAnon cult: What it is, how it works, and how to help deprogram your loved ones

Two weeks ago, we watched a pro-Trump mob storm the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overthrow the results of a U.S. election and keep Donald Trump in power. And among those insurrectionists were well-known adherents of QAnon, nearly every image of the crowd shows people wearing Q gear or carrying Q flags, and some of the more frightening elements we saw tie directly into QAnon beliefs.

Since hints of it first started showing up in social media comments several years ago, I've been intrigued—and endlessly frustrated—by the phenomenon of QAnon. At first, it was just a few fringey whacko conspiracy theorists I could easily roll my eyes at and ignore, but as I started seeing elements of it show up more and more frequently from more and more people, alarm bells started ringing.

Holy crap, there are a lot of people who actually believe this stuff.

Eventually, it got personal. A QAnon adherent on Twitter kept commenting on my tweets, pushing bizarro Q ideas on many of my posts. The account didn't use a real name, but the profile was classic QAnon, complete with the #WWG1WGA. ("Where we go one, we go all"—a QAnon rallying cry.) I thought it might be a bot, so I blocked them. Later, I discovered that it was actually one of my own extended family members.

Holy crap, I actually know people who actually believe this stuff.


I've written articles about how QAnon's pedophilia-obsessed mythology does real harm to actual anti-child trafficking organizations. After the "Save the Children" hashtag started going viral based on (false) messages and memes about hundreds of thousands of children going missing every year as part of a Democrat-and-celebrity-run pedophile cabal, I interviewed international organizations that truly battle child sex trafficking. I shared their plea to stop pushing QAnon lies.

That brought to my inbox QAnoners accusing me of being a pedophile and part of "the Deep State." And now we've watched some of these folks stage a violent attack on our government.

Holy crap, this stuff actually has serious, real-world consequences.

At this point, it's not overstating to all QAnon a destructive cult. And it's likely that we all know someone who have been sucked into it. I know people who have lost friends and family members to this stuff, as reasoning with them goes nowhere and their constant conspiracy talk becomes unbearable.

That's where deprogramming comes in.

I've followed the QAnon saga for a long time, and it's a little tricky to know where to start if you're trying to make sense of it. (Trying to make sense of something that inherently doesn't make sense is always fun.) This documentary that was recently posted from a YouTuber called Infranaut is the best comprehensive overview of QAnon—and what to do about it on an individual level—that I've seen yet. If you want to understand what QAnon is, how it works, why it draws people in, and how to help loved ones get out, this video covers it all succinctly.

In addition to his own explanations, Infranaut interviews professional cult deprogrammer and founder of the nonprofit Cult Education Institute, Rick A. Ross, who shares steps families can take to help extract their loved ones from the QAnon cult.

I'm going to summarize some of the main points below the video but I highly recommend you go ahead and watch the whole thing. It's well worth it. If you want to skip to specific sections, here's a handy guide the creator shared.

0:00 Introduction

7:21 Part I - Defining "Q"

10:01 Part II - Becoming a Believer

20:39 Compliance Interlude

22:44 Part III - Staying a Believer

36:45 Capitol Interlude

39:14 Part IV - The Future of Q

53:28 Part V - A Way Out

1:05:52 Outro

Q's Going Nowhere: Cults and Conspiracies in the Online Erayoutu.be

The video starts by describing a bit about how cult thinking works and giving an example of a doomsday cult from the 1950s called "The Seekers," which serves as a comparative example throughout the video.

Then Infranaut gives a brief definition of what QAnon is:

"QAnon refers to the belief that the United States government, if not the entire world, is secretly run by the "Deep State," a shadowy organization that exists above and behind the current government as we understand it," he says. "While the exact size and goals of the Deep State are ambiguous, it's taken that their ranks include several figures in the public eye, that they are largely pedophiles, and depending on who you ask, also Satanists."

QAnon believes Trump ran for president in 2016 in order to expose and dismantle the Deep State. "Q" is a nameless someone who claims to be a high-ranking ally of Trump, working alongside him to defeat this Deep State, and who posts cryptic messages on anonymous online boards with information about how that fight is going and what's coming next. Many of these messages, or "Q drops" make reference to The Great Awakening or The Storm—the big finale when Trump and his allies will arrest prominent members of the Deep State and expose them in public.

Here's where it gets tricky, though. The QAnon world contains a mind-bogglingly large and complex set of beliefs, so it's a bit difficult to synopsize. The basic details above are pretty much agreed upon by all, but beyond that, it's an octopus with tentacles all over the place, and some beliefs contradict one other. For example, some believe Mike Pence is helping Trump fight the Deep State; some believe Mike Pence is a part of the Deep State. But no one seems to care about those inconsistencies much.

In fact, these various, inconsistent tentacles are part of what makes QAnon so strong. If you point to one super out-there belief (as if it's not all super out-there, but we'll hold that thought for a minute) there will always be a bunch of people who can say, "That's fake news. We don't believe that. You're just trying to make us look bad." If you get five different QAnon adherents together, you'll get five different explanations of what QAnon is.

That's because it's less of a defined set of beliefs, Infranaut explains, than "an explanation for why the world feels dark, confusing, and wrong."

And there are a dozen doorways to get into it. Some come through classic conspiracy thinking (JFK, Jr. is still alive, for example), some through bigotry (there's anti-Semitism in some core elements of QAnon belief), and some through a righteous desire to rid the world of evil.

The whole child trafficking/pedophilia thing has proven to be a big draw. After all, there is a grain of truth, in that those things actually do exist in the world (just not the way QAnon paints it). And is there anything worse than child sacrifice and sex slavery? No, there's not. Fighting to save children from such a horrific fate is an "inarguable moral good." If you truly believe that Democrats and celebrities are trafficking hundreds of thousands of children for heinous purposes, it would actually be wrong not to be part of a movement against it.

Infranaut and Ross explore a bit about how Christianity has overlapped with QAnon iconography, which Ross says is common in cults as people come up with ways to market the belief system and make it more palatable.

When you just look at one tentacle, you can see how people get pulled in. And then once you're in, the other beliefs become easier to accept.

It would be easy to call people who fall down the rabbit hole stupid because the entire thing sounds so ridiculous, but as Ross explains, it's not that simple. "I've seen people that are highly educated, very sophisticated people. I've done five interventions with medical doctors. One was an orthopedic surgeon, another an anesthesiologist. One woman that I worked with was a clinical psychologist, and she was, in my opinion, totally brainwashed. So very sophisticated, highly educated people can succumb to this kind of manipulation, and it behooves us to understand all the tricks and the methods that can be used to gain undue influence over us. And that's the inoculation. That's the vaccine, if you will."

None of us want to admit that we are vulnerable to such persuasion, but Ross points out that the world of advertising wouldn't exist if we weren't.

One of the tricks of QAnon is the central tenet of the Deep State and also "false flags"—the idea that the Deep State will do things that make QAnon look crazy or throw Q adherents off track. So when facts fly in the face of the belief, or when something that was supposed to happen doesn't, or when something that wasn't supposed to happen does, you can immediately blame the Deep State and dismiss it.

For example, when QAnoners do something violent or dangerous, that's the Deep State planting a false flag. We see a similar narrative in the "Antifa did it!" response to the Capitol riots. It doesn't matter that the FBI or the DOJ say that they don't have evidence of Antifa involvement—that's all part of the Deep State.

Trump hasn't helped any of this, of course. He has never denounced QAnon ideology. In fact, he's said he doesn't know much about it but they seem like people who love America. And his claims of election rigging have been fuel for QAnon belief; that's totally something the Deep State would do.

It doesn't matter that specific Q prophecies don't come true. Adherents just keep saying, "Trust the plan," even though the plan isn't clear. It's a test of faith. They also come up with ways to explain away facts that counter the belief.

This is what's the most bafflingly frustrating thing about trying to reason with a QAnoner. You just can't. It doesn't matter how many facts you bring in or logical inconsistencies you point out. "The lengths to which a true believer will contort the truth or manufacture evidence really can't be overstated," say Infranaut.

Rick Ross explains that people often follow QAnon in a cult-like way, gradually alienating or cutting themselves off from their families and social circles, making the QAnon world their primary community. The cult becomes the social circle, and that's an incredibly powerful pull for people.

No one knows what's going to become of QAnon after Trump is out of office, but there's very little chance of it going away. Most cults die out when a leader dies or goes to jail (though there are always believers who maintain loyalty no matter what). But barring those things happening to Trump, the QAnon movement will continue in ways we probably can't even imagine at this point.

So how do we get people out? The key hurdle is people's inability to accept and admit that they were wrong. Infranaut calls "the beating heart" of the QAnon movement is the idea of "I didn't get duped." No one wants to believe they voted for a conman, or that they supported a sexual predator, or that they are still waiting around for him to save the world.

Ross offers some hope for families, though. If done effectively, a deprogramming intervention process can extract around 70% of people who have been taken by a cult. For some who aren't as deep into the movement, it might not be as hard as for the long-timers, but the key to both is having the intervention come from people they are close to.

Unfortunately, it also entails a bit of what will feel like coddling. Some of us just want to confront them with the truth, to somehow shake them out of their brainwashed stupor, to scream, "How can you believe something so outrageously stupid!" But Ross says not to be confrontational or judgmental, but to keep the line of communication going to see how deep they are into the brainwashing.

Ross says if a family decides to stage an official intervention, it takes three or four days of dialogue in which loved ones supply support and love as they go step by step through the process.

Those basic steps of dialogue look like this:

1. How do you define a destructive cult? (Walk them through a different cult. Ross uses Scientology as an example.)

2. How does that cult gain influence over a person? (General methodology for brainwashing and manipulation the cult uses.)

3. What problems are you not aware of related to your group? (How those methods are used in your group, even if you don't think it's a cult.)

4. Why is your family so worried about you? (There's obviously a reason for this intervention. Each person explains what their concerns are, hoping the person will stay and listen because they care about the people intervening.)

Ross offers more details about how to go about that process on the Cult Education Institute website and he also recommended some books to read, which you can find around the 1:03:45 mark.

I wish I could say that QAnon will just fade away, but it does not appear likely that it will. It's endlessly annoying and clearly dangerous, but it's where we are. Hopefully, people can help their loved ones climb back out of the rabbit hole and rejoin us in reality.

Science

MIT’s trillion-frames-per-second camera can capture light as it travels

"There's nothing in the universe that looks fast to this camera."

Photo from YouTube video.

Photographing the path of light.

A new camera developed at MIT can photograph a trillion frames per second.

Compare that with a traditional movie camera which takes a mere 24. This new advancement in photographic technology has given scientists the ability to photograph the movement of the fastest thing in the Universe, light.


The actual event occurred in a nano second, but the camera has the ability to slow it down to twenty seconds.

time, science, frames per second, bounced light

The amazing camera.

Photo from YouTube video.

For some perspective, according to New York Times writer, John Markoff, "If a bullet were tracked in the same fashion moving through the same fluid, the resulting movie would last three years."


In the video below, you'll see experimental footage of light photons traveling 600-million-miles-per-hour through water.

It's impossible to directly record light so the camera takes millions of scans to recreate each image. The process has been called femto-photography and according to Andrea Velten, a researcher involved with the project, "There's nothing in the universe that looks fast to this camera."

(H/T Curiosity)


This article originally appeared on 09.08.17

Health

Her mother doesn't get why she's depressed. So she explains the best way she knows how.

Sabrina Benaim eloquently describes what it's like to be depressed.

Sabrina Benaim's “Explaining My Depression to My Mother."

Sabrina Benaim's “Explaining My Depression to My Mother" is pretty powerful on its own.

But, in it, her mother exhibits some of the most common misconceptions about depression, and I'd like to point out three of them here.

Misconception #1: Depression is triggered by a single event or series of traumatic events.

empathy, human condition, humanity

Depression isn’t just over sleeping.

Most people think depression is triggered by a traumatic event: a loved one dying, a job loss, a national tragedy, some THING. The truth is that depression sometimes just appears out of nowhere. So when you think that a friend or loved one is just in an extended bad mood, reconsider. They could be suffering from depression.

Misconception #2: People with depression are only sad.

family, parents, mom, anxiety

The obligation of anxiety.

Most people who have never experienced depression think depression is just an overwhelming sadness. In reality, depression is a complex set of feelings and physical changes in the body. People who suffer from depression are sad, yes, but they can also be anxious, worried, apathetic, and tense, among other things.

Misconception #3: You can snap out of it.

button poetry, medical condition, biological factors

Making fun plans not wanting to have fun.

The thing with depression is that it's a medical condition that affects your brain chemistry. It has to do with environmental or biological factors first and foremost. Sabrina's mother seems to think that if her daughter would only go through the motions of being happy that then she would become happy. But that's not the case. Depression is a biological illness that leaks into your state of being.

Think of it this way: If you had a cold, could you just “snap out of it"?

No? Exactly.

empathy, misconceptions of depression, mental health

Mom doesn’t understand.

via Button Poetry/YouTube

These are only three of the misconceptions about depression. If you know somebody suffering from depression, you should take a look at this video here below to learn the best way to talk to them:

This article originally appeared on 11.24.15

Here's how to be 30% more persuasive.

Everybody wants to see themselves in a positive light. That’s the key to understanding Jonah Berger’s simple tactic that makes people 30% more likely to do what you ask. Berger is a marketing professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the bestselling author of “Magic Words: What to Say to Get Your Way.”

Berger explained the technique using a Stanford University study involving preschoolers. The researchers messed up a classroom and made two similar requests to groups of 5-year-olds to help clean up.

One group was asked, "Can you help clean?" The other was asked, “Can you be a helper and clean up?" The kids who were asked if they wanted to be a “helper” were 30% more likely to want to clean the classroom. The children weren’t interested in cleaning but wanted to be known as “helpers.”


Berger calls the reframing of the question as turning actions into identities.

"It comes down to the difference between actions and identities. We all want to see ourselves as smart and competent and intelligent in a variety of different things,” Berger told Big Think. “But rather than describing someone as hardworking, describing them as a hard worker will make that trait seem more persistent and more likely to last. Rather than asking people to lead more, tell them, 'Can you be a leader?' Rather than asking them to innovate, can you ask them to 'Be an innovator'? By turning actions into identities, you can make people a lot more likely to engage in those desired actions.”

Berger says that learning to reframe requests to appeal to people’s identities will make you more persuasive.

“Framing actions as opportunities to claim desired identities will make people more likely to do them,” Berger tells CNBC Make It. “If voting becomes an opportunity to show myself and others that I am a voter, I’m more likely to do it.”

This technique doesn’t just work because people want to see themselves in a positive light. It also works for the opposite. People also want to avoid seeing themselves being portrayed negatively.

“Cheating is bad, but being a cheater is worse. Losing is bad, being a loser is worse,” Berger says.

The same tactic can also be used to persuade ourselves to change our self-concept. Saying you like to cook is one thing, but calling yourself a chef is an identity. “I’m a runner. I’m a straight-A student. We tell little kids, ‘You don’t just read, you’re a reader,’” Berger says. “You do these things because that’s the identity you hold.”

Berger’s work shows how important it is to hone our communication skills. By simply changing one word, we can get people to comply with our requests more effectively. But, as Berger says, words are magic and we have to use thgem skillfully. “We think individual words don’t really matter that much. That’s a mistake,” says Berger. “You could have excellent ideas, but excellent ideas aren’t necessarily going to get people to listen to you.”


This article originally appeared on 2.11.24

Pop Culture

A comic about wearing makeup goes from truthful to weird in 4 panels.

A hilariously truthful (and slightly weird) explanation of the "too much makeup" conundrum.

Image set by iri-draws/Tumblr, used with permission.

A comic shows the evolution or devolution from with makeup to without.

Even though I don't wear very much makeup, every few days or so SOMEONE...

(friends, family, internet strangers)

...will weigh in on why I "don't need makeup."


Now, I realize this is meant as a compliment, but this comic offers a hilariously truthful (and slightly weird) explanation of the "too much makeup" conundrum.

social norms, social pressure, friendship, self esteem

“Why do you wear so much makeup?"

Image set by iri-draws/Tumblr, used with permission.

passive aggressive, ego, confidence, beauty

“See, you look pretty without all that makeup on."

Image set by iri-draws/Tumblr, used with permission.

expectations, beauty products, mascara, lipstick

“Wow you look tired, are you sick?"

Image set by iri-draws/Tumblr, used with permission.

lizards, face-painting, hobbies, hilarious comic

When I shed my human skin...

Image set by iri-draws/Tumblr, used with permission.

Not everyone is able to turn into a badass lizard when someone asks about their face-painting hobbies. Don't you kinda wish you could? Just to drive this hilarious comic all the way home, here are four reasons why some women* wear makeup:

*Important side note: Anyone can wear makeup. Not just women. True story.

Four reasons some women* wear makeup:

1. Her cat-eye game is on point.

mascara, eyes, confidence

Her cat-eye game is on point.

Via makeupproject.

2. She has acne or acne scars.

acne, cover up, scarring, medical health

She has acne or acne scars.

Via Carly Humbert.

3. Pink lipstick.

lipstick, beauty products, basics, self-expression

Yes, pink lipstick.

Via Destiny Godley

4. She likes wearing makeup.

appearance, enhancement, creative expression

Happy to be going out and feeling good.

Happy Going Out GIF by Much.

While some people may think putting on makeup is a chore, it can be really fun! For some, makeup is an outlet for creativity and self-expression. For others, it's just a way to feel good about themselves and/or enhance their favorite features.

That's why it feels kinda icky when someone says something along the lines of "You don't need so much makeup!" Now, it's arguable that no one "needs" makeup, but everyone deserves to feel good about the way they look.

For some people, feeling good about their appearance includes wearing makeup. And that's totally OK.


This article originally appeared on 05.28.15

Joy

Adorable 'Haka baby' dance offers a sweet window into Maori culture

Stop what you're doing and let this awesomeness wash over you.

If you've never seen a Maori haka performed, you're missing out.

The Maori are the indigenous peoples of New Zealand, and their language and customs are an integral part of the island nation. One of the most recognizable Maori traditions outside of New Zealand is the haka, a ceremonial dance or challenge usually performed in a group. The haka represents the pride, strength, and unity of a tribe and is characterized by foot-stamping, body slapping, tongue protrusions, and rhythmic chanting.

Haka is performed at weddings as a sign of reverence and respect for the bride and groom and are also frequently seen before sports competitions, such as rugby matches.



The intensity of the haka is the point. It is meant to be a show of strength and elicit a strong response—which makes seeing a tiny toddler learning to do it all the more adorable.

Here's an example of a rugby haka:

Danny Heke, who goes by @focuswithdan on TikTok, shared a video of a baby learning haka and omigosh it is seriously the most adorable thing. When you see most haka, the dancers aren't smiling—their faces are fierce—so this wee one starting off with an infectious grin is just too much. You can see that he's already getting the moves down, facial expressions and all, though.

@focuswithdan When you grow up learning haka! #haka #teachthemyoung #maori #māori #focuswithdan #fyp #foryou #kapahaka ♬ original sound - 𝕱𝖔𝖈𝖚𝖘𝖂𝖎𝖙𝖍𝕯𝖆𝖓

As cute as this video is, it's part of a larger effort by Heke to use his TikTok channel to share and promote Maori culture. His videos cover everything from the Te Reo Maori language to traditional practices to issues of prejudice Maori people face.

Here he briefly goes over the different body parts that make up haka:

@focuswithdan

♬ Ngati - Just2maori

This video explains the purerehua, or bullroarer, which is a Maori instrument that is sometimes used to call rains during a drought.

@focuswithdan Reply to @illumi.is.naughty Some tribes used this to call the rains during drought 🌧 ⛈ #maori #māori #focuswithdan #fyp ♬ Pūrerehua - 𝕱𝖔𝖈𝖚𝖘𝖂𝖎𝖙𝖍𝕯𝖆𝖓

This one shares a demonstration and explanation of the taiaha, a traditional Maori weapon.

@focuswithdan Reply to @shauncalvert Taiaha, one of the most formidable of the Māori Weaponry #taiaha #maori #māori #focuswithdan #fyp #foryou ♬ original sound - 𝕱𝖔𝖈𝖚𝖘𝖂𝖎𝖙𝖍𝕯𝖆𝖓

For another taste of haka, check out this video from a school graduation:

@focuswithdan When your little cuzzy graduates and her school honours her with a haka #maori #māori #haka #focuswithdan #fyp #graduation @its_keshamarley ♬ Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngāti Ruanui - 𝕱𝖔𝖈𝖚𝖘𝖂𝖎𝖙𝖍𝕯𝖆𝖓

Heke even has some fun with the trolls and racists in the comments who try to tell him his culture is dead (what?).

@focuswithdan Credit to you all my AMAZING FOLLOWERS! #focuswithdan #maori #māori #followers #fyp #trolls ♬ original sound - sounds for slomo_bro!

Unfortunately, it's not just ignorant commenters who spew racist bile. A radio interview clip that aired recently called Maori people "genetically predisposed to crime, alcohol, and underperformance," among other terrible things. (The host, a former mayor of Auckland, has been let go for going along with and contributing to the caller's racist narrative.)

@focuswithdan #newzealand radio in 2021 delivering racist commentaries 🤦🏽‍♂️ #māori #maori #focuswithdan #racism DC: @call.me.lettie2.0 ♬ original sound - luna the unicow

That clip highlights why what Heke is sharing is so important. The whole world is enriched when Indigenous people like the Maori have their voices heard and their culture celebrated. The more we learn from each other and our diverse ways of life, the more enjoyable life on Earth will be and the better we'll get at collaborating to confront the challenges we all share.


This article originally appeared on 01.28.21