Today We Talk Deradicalization. What About Deprogramming?

Today, when we talk about those who have joined extremist groups, we talk about deradicalization; but in the past, when cults were prevalent, we talked about deprogramming. Why not use those techniques now? Christianne Boudreau weighs in.

Pittsburgh is taking a new approach to hate crime and extremism by holding public safety meetings for the general public with authorities teaching communities how to spot signs and report them.

“…Countering violent extremism is new territory…”

Countering violent extremism is new territory, as witnessed by programs such as this. Yet, something that could help us here is to look back on the days when cults were one of our major concerns.

A number of years ago, cults were making headlines across the media.

If we would review the literature about cults, I believe we would find many similarities between cults and extremist groups. Particularly, such a review might help us understand what the pull factors are for those who join extremist groups and what pushes them over the line to violence.

“As human beings, we all find ourselves contemplating the purpose of life…”

As human beings, we all find ourselves contemplating the purpose of life as well as feel the need to be connected to a community working towards something that is greater than ourselves. A lot of these “connected communities” described as cults offer that strong connection.

When looking at extremist groups currently on the map, we can see that they, too, provide that same sense of family, loyalty, connection and community.

The world has become a confusing place for even the most mature members of society. It is even that much more complicated and confusing for our youngsters, especially for those who are very intelligence.

“Our kids are asking tough questions…”

Our kids are asking tough questions. They see horrible things on social media everyday about the goings-on in the world and can’t understand how we stand aside without doing anything to change them and make things better.

In today’s world, we use words like “deradicalization” and “disengagement,” but in decades past, people kidnapped their loved ones and engaged professional deprogrammers to confront them with the cult’s twisted ideology.

It would behoove us to sit with these deprogrammers to understand the processes they used. Similarly, we should gain knowledge from those who were in cults and subsequently pulled out of them.

By waiting until we spot the signs for hate and extremism, we are missing our opportunity to prevent and strengthen ourselves against it.