Nineteen years ago Friday, attacks by the Islamist terrorist cult Al Qaeda took place on American soil, followed by conspiracy theories that the CIA bombed the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon. These have been thoroughly debunked, but they have still flourished, as Al Qaeda did itself until the U.S. took the threat seriously. Before you dismiss QAnon as another kooky ideology, consider the fact that it’s gaining popularity — and quickly. Now we face another dangerous cult that has inspired political conspiracy theories and could once again do the U.S. homeland damage: QAnon. The shadowy internet-based organization’s followers believe that the world is run by a global cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles and child sex traffickers who are plotting against President Donald Trump and his supporters and that only Trump can save us. There is great concern that QAnon might turn violent, particularly if Trump loses the election. According to QAnon, those involved in the plotting include “deep state” government bureaucrats, Democrats and celebrities. QAnon also appears to be spouting Nazi anti-Semitic tropes, and it uses biblical references, as some are convinced that Jewish bankers want to enslave people and incite world wars, evoking an out-and-out Nazi cult. They have recruited anti-vaxxers who are espousing distrust of virus experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci, believe Bill Gates wishes to put chips into people and think 5G cell towers are dangerous. Before you dismiss QAnon as another kooky ideology, consider that it’s gaining popularity — and quickly. There are millions of QAnon (pronounced “KEW-a-non”) adherents in the United States, with entities established in more than 71 countries. And their conspiracy theories have seeped into the political landscape in significant ways. (…) While not all followers are “brainwashed” by all of its beliefs, QAnon is a destructive cult that operates the same way all cults do. That is, QAnon recruiters and proselytizers use deceptive and manipulative tactics to attract people and feed them messages that trigger certain emotions to hook them and indoctrinate them into a new sense of reality. QAnon leaders spread their messages through social media platforms, such as Twitter, Reddit and YouTube. These platforms are able to algorithmically radicalize people who are curious about QAnon using clickbait titles, images, videos and even purported documentaries. According to alternate reality game expert Jim Stewartson, QAnon uses online gaming techniques to entice people down an online rabbit hole, offering them a series of fantasy challenges with hidden code messages called “Q drops” that soon become addictive. By getting involved with QAnon, followers feel they are part of an elite community, which gives them a sense of belonging. That’s a powerful force — but you can work against it if you take the right steps.

via nbcnews: Trump’s QAnon followers are a dangerous cult. How to save someone who’s been brainwashed.