‘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.
A new strain of the virus causing COVID-19 appeared in the UK in September. By mid-November the new variety of SARS-CoV-2 appeared in ¼ of new cases. Now in December, that portion is much larger at over 60% of new cases. The change left Prime Minister Boris Johnson little choice but to restrict movement over Christmas.
It’s a warning that Americans should heed. Had Johnson acted swiftly and controlled the virus versus allowing uncontrolled spread, UK citizens might have had a very different Christmas.
At the Stanford Graduate School of Business in Northern California, the stories got weird almost immediately upon students’ return for the fall semester. Some said they were being followed around campus by people wearing green vests telling them where they could and could not be, go, stop, chat or conduct even a socially distanced gathering.