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Micro-Cults: The Real “Grooming” Problem
Discord, Telegram and Twitter are petri dishes for white nationalist radicalization and violence
UPDATE: “OG” has been identified as 21-year old National Guard airman Jack Teixeira.
Recent revelations about the source of a major classified documents leak are the latest example of what I will refer to as “micro-cults” which are insulated chat rooms on “social media” platforms like Discord, Telegram and Twitter where vulnerable people are pulled into toxic environments and radicalized.
The Washington Post published an outstanding piece about the micro-cult that formed around a man who claims to work on a military base and stole a massive amount of US military secrets to share with a group of about two dozen young men on a Discord server named “Thug Shaker Central” — which is a racist reference.
The Post published chilling audio of one of the members of the Discord group talking about the leaker, who they called “OG” (Original Gangster), as if he were a family member.
“He was my best friend.”
In reality, for several years, OG groomed these young men into anti-government, anarchist, misogynist, racist and antisemitic ideology using sensitive military secrets as a way to present himself as an authority.
“OG” was modeling other false prophets and LARPs like “Q” which claim to have power and access they don’t in order to create a cult of personality around themselves.
OG’s micro-cult combined toxic masculinity, racism, antisemitism, gun violence and false religion. This was not just a place where extremely sensitive classified documents were being shared, it was a breeding ground for mass murderers.
The Buffalo shooter was groomed in a Discord micro-cult as well. Many of these groups were formed in 2020 during the pandemic, when people were forced to stay at home.
Micro-cults are not just about radicalizing aggrieved white men. Many of the people we’ve lost to the QAnon+ cult ravaging America were initially pulled in through micro-cults targeted to their specific vulnerabilities. Women are targeted through their maternal instincts, for example.
In order to create undue influence, aka brainwashing, in a prospective victim, cult leaders need to insulate the information environment of the target.
This used to happen in physical micro-cults like “The People’s Temple” or “Branch Davidians” but now anyone can create a virtual compound like “Thug Shaker Central” and kidnap the minds of unsuspecting people.
This is a solvable problem. We need to regulate social media and educate our population. But it’s going to take all of us to demand it.
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