The storm before “The Storm” – Lecture by Sophia Moskalenko at VU Amsterdam 15-09-22

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The storm before “The Storm” – Lecture by Sophia Moskalenko at VU Amsterdam 15-09-22

Date Published: 15 September 2022

Lecture by Sophia Moskalenko for the Explaining Extreme Beliefs and Extreme Behavior Workshop, at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam on 15-09-22, titled: ‘The storm before “The Storm”: mass psychology of radicalization into QAnon’.

During 2019-2020, a set of conspiracy theories known as QAnon entered the American public’s collective consciousness. QAnon became ubiquitous in the news following the January 6th insurrection in Washington, DC, where the theQAnonlogo was spotted on clothes and posters of individuals storming the Capitol Hill. Two women killed that day, one shot by the Capitol Hill security, another trampled by the crowd, were both QAnon followers. QAnon beliefs evidently comprise a radical ideology. I will analyze the psychology behind radicalization in QAnon. Expanding on previous research into the psychology of radicalization, the proposed theoretical model captures the “mass unfreezing” of normative domains, including trust in government; admiration of Hollywood ideals; reverence to traditional religions; and shifting gender roles, explaining how this moved a sizable proportion of the population to embrace QAnon narratives. Additionally, the model identifies four psychological utilities that are fulfilled by QAnonforits followers: Cognitive; Social; Emotional; and Personal.

Sophia Moskalenko is a Programme Management Specialist at the United Nations’ Office of Counter-Terrorism, Behavioral Insights Hub. After receiving her PhD in social and clinical psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, she focused her research on radicalization, self-sacrifice, martyrdom, and disinformation. At the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (NC-START) Dr. Moskalenko has worked on projects commissioned by the Department of Defence, Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of State. She serves as a consultant to the European Commission, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and Georgia State University’s Cyber Security Unit. Dr. Moskalenko has co-authored several books, including award-winning Friction: How conflict radicalizes them and us; The Marvel of Martyrdom: The power of self-sacrifice in the selfish world; and Pastels and Pedophiles: Inside the Mind of QAnon.