Religion NewsToday

In case research, discovering similarities

Within the months earlier than he was charged with storming the Capitol, Doug Jensen was sharing conspiracy theories he’d consumed on-line. But it surely hadn’t at all times been that manner, says his brother, who recollects how he as soon as posted the type of household and trip photographs acquainted to almost all social media customers.

A world away, Wahab hadn’t at all times spent his days immersed in jihadist instructing. The product of a rich Pakistani household and the youngest son of 4, he was into automobiles and video video games, had his personal motorbike, even studied in Japan.

No two ideologues are similar. No two teams are comprised of monolithic clones. No single mild swap marks the shift to radicalism. The gulf between completely different sorts of extremists — in spiritual and political convictions, in desired world orders, in how deeply they embrace violence within the identify of their trigger — is as broad as it’s apparent.

However to dwell solely on the variations obscures the similarities, not solely in how individuals take in extremist ideology but in addition in how they feed off grievances and mobilize to motion.

For any American who casts violent extremism as a overseas drawback, the Jan. 6 Capitol siege held up an uncomfortable mirror that confirmed the identical circumstances for fantastical considering and politically motivated violence as any society.

The Related Press got down to look at the paths and mechanics of radicalization by case research on two continents: a 20-year-old man rescued from a Taliban coaching camp on Afghanistan’s border, and an Iowa man whose brother watched him fall sway to nonsensical conspiracy theories and finally play a visual function within the mob of Donald Trump loyalists that stormed the Capitol.

Two locations, two males, two very completely different tales as seen by two shut relations. However strip away the ideologies for a second, says John Horgan, a researcher of violent extremism. As an alternative, take a look at the the psychological processes, the pathways, the roots, the experiences.

“All of these issues,” Horgan says, “are likely to look much more comparable than they’re completely different.”


America met Doug Jensen by way of a video that ricocheted throughout the Web, turning an officer right into a hero and laying naked the mob mentality contained in the Capitol that day.

Jensen is the person in a darkish stocking cap, a black “Belief the Plan” shirt over a hooded sweatshirt, entrance and middle in a crowd of rioters chasing Eugene Goodman, a Capitol Police officer, up two flights of stairs. One distinguished image reveals him standing ft from an officer, arms unfold broad, mouth agape.

When it was throughout, he’d inform the FBI that he was a “true believer” in QAnon, that he’d gone to Washington as a result of Q and Trump had summoned “all patriots” and that he’d anticipated to see Vice President Mike Pence arrested. He’d say he pushed his strategy to the entrance of the group as a result of he wished “Q” to get the credit score for what was about to occur.

He’d inform his brother the photographs have been staged, how the police had virtually let him in by the entrance door (prosecutors say he climbed a wall and entered by a damaged window) and that some officers even did selfies with the group.

William Routh of Clarksville, Arkansas, had an unsettled feeling about that day even earlier than the riot and says he cautioned his youthful brother. “I stated, if you happen to go down there and also you’re going to do a peaceable factor, then that’s advantageous. However I stated hold your head down and don’t be doing one thing silly.”

In interviews with the AP days and months after his youthful brother’s arrest, Routh painted Jensen — a 42-year-old Des Moines father of three who’d labored as a union mason laborer — as a person who loved a nice if unextraordinary American existence. He says he took his household to locations just like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone Nationwide Park, attended his kids’s sporting occasions, labored to pay for a son’s faculty schooling, made anodyne Fb posts.

“I’ve pals that I converse to always which have conspiracy theories,” Routh stated, “however this was a shock to me greater than something, as a result of I might not have thought this from my brother Doug, as a result of he’s an excellent, hardworking household man and he has good values.”

Precisely who Jensen is, and the way a lot data he had of the world round him, is dependent upon who’s speaking.

A Justice Division memo that argued for Jensen’s detention cites a felony historical past and his eagerness to drive greater than 1,000 miles to “hear President Trump declare martial legislation,” then to take it into his personal fingers when no proclamation occurred. It notes that when the FBI questioned him, he stated he’d gone to Washington as a result of “Q,” the motion’s amorphous voice, had forecast that the “storm” had arrived.

His lawyer, Christopher Davis, countered in his personal submitting by basically providing Jensen up as a dupe, a “sufferer of quite a few conspiracy theories” and a dedicated household man whose preliminary devotion to QAnon “was its acknowledged mission to remove pedophiles from society.”

Six months after the rebel, the argument resonated with a decide who agreed to launch Jensen on home arrest as his case moved ahead. The decide, Timothy Kelly, cited a video wherein Jensen referred to the Capitol constructing because the White Home and stated he didn’t consider Jensen may have deliberate an assault upfront “when he had no primary understanding of the place he even was that day.”

But lower than two months after he was launched, Jensen was ordered back to jail for violating the circumstances of his freedom. Although barred from accessing a cellphone, he watched a symposium sponsored by MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell that provided up false theories that the presidential election’s final result was modified by Chinese language hackers. A federal officer making the primary unannounced go to to Jensen discovered him in his storage utilizing an iPhone to look at information from Rumble, a streaming platform widespread with conservatives.

Davis, who weeks earlier had asserted that his shopper “feels deceived, recognizing that he purchased right into a pack of lies,” likened his shopper’s habits this time to an habit. The decide was unmoved.

“It’s now clear that he has not skilled a metamorphosis and that he continues to hunt out these conspiracy theories that led to his harmful conduct on Jan. 6,” Kelly stated. “I don’t see any motive to consider that he has had the wake-up name that he wants.”

Exactly when and the way Jensen got here to soak up the conspiracies that led him to the Capitol is bewildering to Routh, who says he took Jensen underneath his wing throughout a difficult childhood that included stays in foster care and now feels compelled, as his oldest residing relative, to talk on his behalf.

When Jensen was questioned by the FBI, in line with an agent’s testimony, he stated for the final couple of years he’d return residence from an eight-hour workday and devour data from QAnon. Within the 4 months earlier than the riot, the brothers communicated about QAnon as Jensen shared movies and different conspiracy-laden messages that he purported to search out which means in however that Routh discovered suspect.

It was a interval rife with baseless theories, superior on the Web and mainstream tv, that an election carried out legitimately was one way or the other stolen in favor of Democrat Joe Biden. “It was simply on the market. It’s on the web in all places,” Routh says.

Routh, who says he’s a Republican who supported Trump, maintains his brother and others like him have been frightened by the prospect of a Biden victory. Earlier than Jan. 6, Routh says, “Now we have been being informed for the final — what? — seven, eight months that if the Democrats get management, we’re shedding our nation, OK? That scares lots of people.”

He says he understands the nervousness of Trump supporters who worry the nation might get extra radical on the left. He has pals in oil fields and the pipeline trade who don’t know “in the event that they’re going to have the ability to feed their households once more.” As Routh criss-crossed the nation as a truck driver, he says the concept Trump would lose re-election appeared unfathomable provided that just about everybody he met, in all places he went, was pushing “Trump, Trump, Trump.”

When Routh seems on the photographs of Jensen and the group he was with Jan. 6, he doesn’t see a willpower to bodily harm anybody or vandalize the constructing. And regardless of the QAnon T-shirt, and regardless of the assertion to the FBI that he was “all a couple of revolution,” Routh insists his brother was extra a follower than a pacesetter. Jensen just isn’t amongst these charged with conspiracy or with being a part of a militia group, and although prosecutors say he had a pocket knife with him, his lawyer says it was from work and he by no means took it out.

“He had numerous affect from everyone else there,” Routh stated this summer season as he awaited a decide’s ruling on his brother’s bond movement. “And he has at all times been the sort of child that claims, ‘I can do this.’”

Two days after the riot, again residence in Iowa, Jensen walked 6 miles (9.66 kilometers) to the Des Moines police division after seeing he was featured in movies of the chaos, an FBI agent would later testify. There, the FBI says, he made statements now on the middle of the case, together with admitting chasing Goodman up the steps, that he yelled “Hit me. I’ll take it” because the officer raised a baton to maneuver him again and that he profanely bellowed for the arrests of presidency leaders.

Although prosecutors recommend he had the presence of thoughts to delete doubtlessly incriminating social media accounts from his telephone, he additionally appeared unsure — confused, even — throughout his encounter with legislation enforcement. As officers questioned him, in line with an FBI agent’s testimony, he stated phrases to the impact of, “Am I being duped?”


Wahab had all of it. The youngest son of 4 from a rich Pakistani household, he spent his early years within the United Arab Emirates and for a time in Japan, learning. Wahab appreciated automobiles, had his personal motorbike and was loopy about video video games.

His uncle, who rescued the 20-year-old from a Taliban coaching camp on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan earlier this 12 months, requested that his full identify not be used as a result of within the northwest the place the household lives, militants have deep-reaching tentacles. However greater than that, he worries about his household’s popularity due to its prominence. He agreed to be quoted utilizing his center identify, Kamal.

The household has enterprise pursuits scattered throughout the globe. Kamal is one in every of 5 brothers who runs the family-owned import/export conglomerate. Every brother in flip has groomed and primed their sons for the enterprise. Wahab’s older brothers are already operating abroad branches of the household enterprise.

Wahab’s future was to be no completely different. He returned to Pakistan in his early teenagers from overseas. Being the youngest son in a society that prizes males, he was spoiled. His older brothers despatched him “pocket cash,” his uncle stated. Apart from college, Wahab had few obligations.

His uncle blamed his slide to radicalization on the neighborhood teenagers Wahab frolicked with of their northwest Pakistan hometown — to not point out video video games and Web websites.

Wahab’s pals launched him to dozens of websites, his uncle stated. They informed of Muslims being attacked, ladies raped, infants brutally killed. The gruesomeness was horrifying, although Kamal says there was no strategy to know what was true — or if any had been doctored. However for Wahab, the photographs have been deeply disturbing.

“He felt like he hadn’t recognized what was happening, that he had spent his life in darkness and he felt he needs to be concerned. His pals insisted he ought to. They informed him he was wealthy and may assist our individuals,” his uncle stated.

To his uncle, Wahab appeared to change into more and more aggressive and fixated on violence with the seemingly infinite hours he spent enjoying video video games. One specifically, referred to as PUBG, was all the craze with Wahab and his pals.

“All of the boys cherished it,” Kamal stated. “For hours they might play as a group in opposition to the pc.”

On, the sport is described as focusing “on visible high quality, maps, taking pictures expertise … offering an all-rounded surreal Battle Royale expertise to gamers. 100 gamers will land on the battleground to start an intense but enjoyable journey.” Wahab’s uncle stated he’d be shouting directions as he performed, interacting with teammates.

Abruptly, earlier this 12 months, Wahab disappeared. His dad and mom, frantic, searched in all places. Wahab wasn’t the primary within the household to flirt with extremism. His cousin Salman had joined the native Pakistani Taliban years earlier than. However he was completely different: He’d by no means been all for college and was despatched to a non secular college, or madrassa, for his schooling. The household had lengthy given up on him.

Salman swore he hadn’t seen Wahab and knew nothing of the place he may be — or if he had even joined jihad.

Suspicion then fell on Wahab’s pals. Relations have been sure they’d induced him to defend in opposition to assaults that Wahab and his pals have been satisfied have been being waged in opposition to Muslims, merely due to their faith.

The household used its affect and cash to press the fathers of Wahab’s pals to search out the 20-year-old. They lastly positioned him at a Pakistani Taliban coaching camp, the place Kamal stated Wahab was being instructed in using small weapons.

Such camps are additionally usually used to determine would-be suicide bombers and instruct them in using explosives, identification of sentimental targets and the best way to trigger the best destruction. The Pakistan Taliban have carried out horrific assaults; in 2014, insurgents armed with computerized rifles attacked a public college, killing greater than 150 individuals, most kids, some as younger as 5.

When Wahab’s father found his son was at a coaching camp, he was livid, stated his uncle.

“He informed the individuals, ‘Depart him there. I don’t settle for him as my son anymore.’ However I took it on myself to carry him again,” Kamal stated. He stated he didn’t ask Wahab in regards to the camp or why he wished to go — and even such fundamentals as how he obtained there.

“I didn’t need him speaking about any of it. I didn’t wish to know why he went as a result of then I knew he would begin to get excited once more and he would begin serious about it yet again,” Kamal stated. “As an alternative, I took a agency face with him.”

His uncle informed Wahab he was getting one other likelihood — his final.

“I informed him, ‘Now it’s on me. I’ve taken the accountability. You received’t get one other likelihood. Should you do something once more then I’ll shoot you,’” his uncle stated. In Pakistan’s northwest, the place tribal legal guidelines and customs usually resolve household disputes and feuds, the risk was almost definitely not an idle one.

In the present day, Wahab is again within the household enterprise, however his uncle says he’s intently watched. He isn’t allowed to cope with the corporate funds and his circle of pals is monitored. “Proper now we don’t belief him. It is going to take us time,” his uncle says.

Fearful that others amongst Wahab’s siblings and cousins could possibly be enticed to extremism, the household has imposed better restrictions on younger male relations. Their independence has been restricted, Kamal says: “We’re watching all of the younger boys now, and most nights they need to be residence — until they inform us the place they’re.”


Ethical outrage. A way of injustice. A sense that issues can solely be fastened by pressing, doubtlessly violent motion.

These are likely to inspire individuals who gravitate towards extremism, in line with Horgan, who directs the Violent Extremism Analysis Group at Georgia State College. He says such motion is usually seen as essential to keep at bay a perceived impending risk to 1’s lifestyle — and to safe a greater future.

“These similarities you can find repeated throughout the board, whether or not you’re speaking about excessive right-wing militias in Oklahoma otherwise you’re speaking a couple of Taliban offshoot in northwest Pakistan,” Horgan says.

The world views driving extremist teams might really feel fantastical and outrageous to society at massive. However the true believers who devour propaganda and align themselves with like-minded associates don’t see it that manner. To them, they possess inside data that others merely don’t see.

“There’s a contradiction, as a result of they’re dedicated insiders however a part of their insider standing is outlined by pitting themselves in opposition to an outsider whose very existence is alleged to threaten their very own,” Horgan says. “They pleasure themselves on being anti-authoritarian. But conformity is what binds them collectively.”

Analysis reveals that individuals who espouse conspiracy theories are likely to do poorer on measures of essential considering. They scale back complicated world issues — the pandemic, as an example — to simplified and reassuring solutions, says Ziv Cohen, a forensic psychiatrist and skilled on extremist beliefs at Weill Cornell Medical Faculty of Cornell College.

Reasonably than attributing a job loss to the results of globalization, as an example, one would possibly see it as the results of a conspiracy that somebody specifically has engineered.

“It offers us solutions,” he says, “which are way more interesting emotionally than the true reply.”

That’s the place the tales of Jensen and Wahab appear to intersect. Each have been looking for one thing. Each discovered solutions that have been attractive, engaging — and distorted variations of actuality.

“For causes he doesn’t even perceive right now, he turned a ‘true believer’ and was satisfied he (was) doing a noble service by changing into a digital soldier for ‘Q,’” Davis, Jensen’s lawyer, wrote in a June court docket submitting. “Possibly it was mid-life disaster, the pandemic, or maybe the message simply appeared to raise him from his extraordinary life to an exalted standing with an honorable aim.”

However is that aim ever reached? Is consolation ever discovered? Oddly, and maybe counterintuitively, analysis has proven that when extremists’ conspiracy theories are strengthened, their nervousness ranges rise quite than fall, Cohen says. He likens the consolation to a drug — one which requires more and more extra consumption to take impact. Which helps perpetuate the cycle.

Says Cohen: “Individuals appear to not be capable to get sufficient of a conspiracy concept, however they’re by no means fairly happy or actually reassured.”


Related Press author David Pitt in Des Moines contributed to this report.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button