US failure to predict Taliban takeover may — in part — be because we underestimated Taliban propaganda one last time
US leadership consistently underestimated the role that information operations played in the Taliban’s power. Although we identified this misstep over a decade ago, it appears we may have erred one last time.
‘Deprogramming’ QAnon followers ignores free will and why they adopted the beliefs in the first place
Recent calls to deprogram QAnon conspiracy followers are steeped in discredited notions about brainwashing. As popularly imagined, brainwashing is a coercive procedure that programs new long-term personality changes. Deprogramming, also coercive, is thought to undo brainwashing.
As a professor of religious studies who has written and taught about alternative religious movements, I believe such deprogramming conversations do little to help us understand why people adopt QAnon beliefs. A deprogramming discourse fails to understand religious recruitment and conversion and excuses those spreading QAnon beliefs from accountability.
Former President Trump shared a new survey with over a million of his followers on April 12th saying it was the “ONLY way to make sure I hear your voice.” The survey was rife with divisive rhetoric, disinformation, and dark patterns used to trick people into donating more than they intend. Dark patterns are ways websites and apps trick people into doing things like subscribing or donating money. Often companies that do use these patterns issue an immediate notice so you can cancel it then, but many people reported only realized it once thousands had gone missing.