June 15, 2021

John Berman invited a former Qanon believer to talk about the FBI warning that the group could become violent.

"Joining us is a former Qanon follower who has since rejected the movement and its beliefs," Berman said.

"This report from the FBI which said it could move from digital to factual, real-world violent stuff, even more violent after January 6th. Your reaction?"

"Well, I wasn't surprised," Jitarth Jadeja said.

"I don't know anyone who studies or follows the Qanon movement who was surprised. And just a little correction, John. They didn't say they could. They said they are. That there is an increased propensity for the use of real-world violence following the lack of action they believe by Donald Trump in order to take over America in a military coup. So, yeah, and they even listed a few terrorist attempts that happened apart from the Capitol, including the derailing of a train. so this is happening right now."

"How far are you worried that they could take it?" Berman asked.

"Well, if you think about it, their battle in their mind, the nature of this crisis is existential for them. It's not a battle between authoritarian and libertarian, between left and right, between nation states. It's a battle between God and the devil. Literally, it's a battle for their souls. For their children's souls. I mean, if you believe that, if you really believe that, what would you do? What wouldn't you do?" Jadeja said.

"It's terrifying. And I'm always faced with a question, how could you believe it, though? How? How could you believe that?" the host said.

"Well, it's a strange thing because sometimes I ask myself the same thing. But as with any kind of -- start with some small thing and ended with another, then ends with another and then you're all the way down the rabbit hole and you have no idea what to believe and what not to believe. So you want to believe that you're on the right side. That you're fighting for good against injustice. And it's almost like the more disenfranchised you are, the stronger that belief is because of the lack of meaning and purpose in your own life," the former follower said.

"I get it. It's still nuts, and I can't think of a better word. I wish I could think of a better word than nuts but that's what it is. Part of the issue here appears to be a belief, the FBI says, that some Qanon followers can no longer trust the plans set forth by Q. That's why they may turn to physical violence. What do you make of that?"

"Well, I mean, I think that's very -- that's very obvious. The notion of some kind of doomsday or apocalyptic cult slowly spiraling into violence is very well studied in the academic literature. You get sanctions implied by authorities, imposed by authorities that go ahead and increase the disenfranchisement and deviancy and withdrawal of a group which further elicits more sanctions and it spirals into an amplification scenario where it ends in the use of real-world violence.

"And it wouldn't take a lot. There are millions of people who believe in this. The Qanon conference had a million people live streaming a couple of weeks ago. I was watching. And it would only take a hundred people in ten groups of ten around the country to have some sort of Northern Ireland-like tribal situation and what happens if we did get martial law. Can you imagine that?" Jadeja said.

Berman said we're not anywhere near martial law, "but if you start to see them enacting more examples of violence, if you do start to see pockets of them rising up, we're going to have to continue this conversation. Because I have a lot more questions. and I think you need to walk me through a lot more of how to look at this."

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