How QAnon and ISIS Radicalize Supporters in the Same Way

People are radicalized into the QAnon conspiracy theory in much the same way as those who joined up with the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), according to an extremist expert.

Dr. Hans-Jakob Schindler, senior director of the Counter Extremism Project, talked about the similarities in how ISIS and QAnon managed to appeal to people to join, and how they also attract the same type of person, during an episode of The Hunt with WTOP national security correspondent J.J. Green.

Schindler described how, just like QAnon, ISIS propaganda found an audience by being shared online. The difference being most people did not fully comprehend how the beliefs of QAnon, listed as a domestic terrorist threat by the FBI, could escalate into real life violence until their supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6.

"ISIS propaganda very quickly gained the attention of everyone around the world because they put up extremely horrific images of beheadings and mass killings," Schindler said.

"For QAnon, it was for a long time perceived as a group of weirdos who are absolutely bereft of any rationality."

Schindler said it was not just the U.S. who failed to understand the "magnitude" of threat behind "new aspects" of extreme right wing groups and movements.

Just like ISIS, the QAnon movement also evolved to become a more international threat. Schindler said the January 6 insurrection was "immediately perceived as a challenge" by German far-right extremists who had tried to storm Germany's parliament last August while protesting coronavirus restrictions in the country.

The radical movement also started gaining some traction in Japan, with worldwide anti-vaccination marches which were heavily linked-to QAnon taking place on March 20.

"So we do have something that's ISIL-like in the way it functions," Schindler added, using an alternative acronym for the Islamic terrorist group. "It has affiliates outside the country of origin, it does function transnationally."

When asked what tactics are in play in order to radicalize new supporters, Schindler said QAnon and ISIS are both "very cult-like" and encouraged people to show disregard to those outside the group.

"The number one way that ISIS recruited and that QAnon followers are created is social isolation," Schindler said. "You do not talk to the non-believers, because they will bring you from the narrow, straight path of truth. That social isolation then serves as a mechanism to bind you stronger to the movement and to bind further into their imagined realities.

"And at a certain point, it is very hard to get out of that social isolation, again, because you are in a really different reality. If you only talk to people who think the same, that you think, reality will look different in your head to what it really is," Schindler said.

"And that's the same thing with QAnon the same thing as it was with ISIL again that you get so down the rabbit hole, that getting out by yourself is a great act of self discipline."

q
Supporters of President Donald Trump wearing 'QAnon' t-shirts wait in line before a campaign rally at Freedom Hall on October 1, 2018 in Johnson City, Tennessee. Sean Rayford/Getty Images