Washington Post Op-Ed Writer Asks Why It’s Difficult to “Deprogram Trumpian Conspiracy Theorists”

Professor and Washington Post contributor Brian Klaas recently wrote an op-ed for the paper titled “Why is it so hard to deprogram Trumpist conspriacy theorists?”, speculating that Trump’s base is teeming with “deluded people” who are so out of touch with reality that “reprogramming” them may prove impossible.

The Post published the op-ed Monday. Klaas’ opening paragraph says in part that “for the past four years, the United States was governed by a conspiracy theorist in chief. Whether by retweeting QAnon accounts from the Oval Office or painting himself as the victim of shadowy ‘deep state’ plots at rallies, President Donald Trump injected the toxin of baseless conspiratorial thinking straight into America’s political bloodstream.”

He asserts that the participants of the Capitol storming on January 6 were “insurrectionists” and “conspiracy theorists” and then asks if “we have any hope of deprogramming the millions of Americans who are devoted to dangerous lunacy.”

“Don’t hold your breath,” quipped Klaas, who proceeds to jump into a psychological explanation for why conspiracy theorists believe the things they believe. Part of what makes them so hard to “deprogram,” he says, is an inability for their claims to be falsified, their ever-shifting explanations for why predicted events don’t come to pass, and the social atmosphere of online communities.

Klaas concludes his op-ed as follows: “We can no longer pretend that conspiracy theorists are beneath our attention. They’ve shown they have tremendous capacity to inflict damage on society. Bringing the deluded people who populate Trump’s political base back to reality will be difficult. But to find the right antidote, we need to at least accurately diagnose who has taken the poison. And that means acknowledging that those who sympathize with the Capitol insurrectionists are not far-off lunatics. Some, most likely, are your neighbors.

And, given the staying power of conspiratorial thinking, they aren’t likely to change their minds anytime soon.”

This is hardly the first time commentators and writers have used “deprogramming” language in recent days. And it reveals a lot about the contempt with which they view Trump supporters. It doesn’t get any more clear that they wish millions of people had their worldviews thoroughly reexamined and minds reprogrammed before they can be considered part of polite society again. That’s extraordinarily dangerous, divisive rhetoric. And it needs to stop.

Did the people who stormed the Capitol do something wrong and did some of them believe in QAnon-type conspiracy theories? Yes and yes. But the left for years has smeared Trump as a dictator and his fervent supporters as fascists; hence they have no moral qualms about lumping together both the Capitol rioters and run-of-the-mill Trump supporters. They essentially think January 2021 is May 1945 and that we all need to be denazified. It’s disturbing and concerning, especially since they’re the ones with all the institutional power.

We’re going to be in for a rough four years, guys.

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