What ISIS can tell us about QAnon

I’ll give you a comparison to the terrorism years. I’m not saying QAnon people are terrorists. But we had a similar sort of belief system which was called Islamism back in the mid-1990s to 2000s. This is where we got into that weird space in the global war on terror: Who is the enemy? Is it Al Qaeda? Or is it Islamism? Or is it all of Islam? What is it? We spent a lot of time at the Terrorism Research Center trying to understand, what is the distinguishing factor? And we wanted to only focus on those that were threatening or perpetrating violence. That’s where we wanted to be focused.

But if you look at any of these belief systems, there’s a spectrum, and it’s like a cone. The closer you get to the bottom of the cone or the funnel, the more intense, the smaller the number of people are, and the more extreme they tend to be. And so when if you were looking at the spectrum of it, you have enthusiasts in any belief system who are just there, and they somewhat identify with it but maybe don’t follow all the rituals. They don’t wear the clothes; they don’t buy the gear. Then you have believers. These are people that actually believe what’s there. They support it, and they’ll repeat it and they’re devoted to that movement, whatever it is. Then you have devotees, which are the ones that are committed to advancing this. These are the people you see on blogs and forums that are talking about it all the time. They’re out in the streets with the gear. They’re pushing it into your face. They’re trying to argue with it. And then there’s always a very small portion of any belief system that are extremists that are committed to violence. And they believe the only way they can advance what they’re doing is they have to take up arms, or they have to kill someone, or they have to get into physical confrontations with people.

It’s kind of like an iceberg. The more enthusiasts you have, then the believers sort of stack on top. And then the devotees are on top of that, and then the extremists are just this small percentage, but they become emblematic or representative of the entire belief system to a degree. That’s what we hear about in the news.