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Top Michigan GOP official unloads on his own colleagues after contracting COVID-19 at 'required' maskless event
A top Republican leader in Michigan was left seething after having to attend a maskless political meeting at a restaurant which ultimately led to him contracting COVID-19.
According to MLive, Jason Watts, treasurer of the 6th District Republican Party in Michigan, attended a dinner meeting for his organization on Thursday, March 31. The Republican official noted that he felt obligated to attend due to hushed conversations about the possibility of him being ousted due to his criticism of former President Donald Trump.
"I was required to go," Watts said. "There was no Zoom option."
When he arrived at the restaurant in Portage, Mich., he was alarmed to see that meeting attendees were nearly maskless. According to Watts, he was one of approximately three attendees who wore a mask while the meeting was underway.
During an interview with the publication, Watts shared his reaction to what he saw when he walked in. "I felt like I was going into a den of virus," Watts admitted.
Shortly after attending the meeting, Watts tested positive for COVID. He also estimated that approximately 6 others became ill after attending the meeting, the publication reports.
Now, nearly two weeks later, he is still in the hospital recovering from the virus. The frustrated Republican leader weighed in on the politicization of masks and the vaccine as he criticized the efforts to undermine public health practices.
"A mask shouldn't have a political party," Watts said. "A vaccine shouldn't have a political party, but we've conjured these things to have these connotations."
Matt Johnson, a Public Information Officer for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), also weighed in with critical remarks about the meeting. He made it clear that they were aware of similar violations.
"This has been on our radar as well as all facilities that hold meetings that may be in violation of the MDHHS Epidemic Orders," Johnson said on Tuesday. "At this time, we do not have enough information to state that this was an outbreak or super spreader event."
Despite Watts concerns and the report about maskless attendees, Brandon Jeannot, the general manager for the Travelers Café, insists the restaurant always adheres to state guidelines for coronavirus mitigation.
According to Jeannot, when a customer is seen without a mask, staffers politely ask the person to wear a mask. He also insists that the restaurant operates at 50% capacity, which is currently the state's guideline.
As of Wednesday, April 14, the state of Michigan has reported more than 840,000 coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic. A total of 17,657 individuals have died in the state due to complications of the virus.
Uber passenger calls cops after driver rejects his advances – then begs police to forget it all as they arrest him instead
Police in Utah arrested a man who called police on a Uber driver who rejected his advances and kicked him out of her car. The man, who was reportedly intoxicated, then tried to steal her car key and cellphone, the Deseret News reports.
According to a police affidavit, the woman called police to report "that a male who was intoxicated had asked her to come up to his room multiple times and she refused multiple times. She stated that she hit her brakes and told the suspect ... to get out of her car."
After trying to steal the woman's keys and phone, the man exited the car but left his cellphone behind in the back seat. The claimed that he tried to take her keys because he believed she was drunk. Police noted that the woman showed no signs of impairment.
When being arrested, the man struggled with police, but was later remorseful, asking them to take him home and forget the whole thing.
He was booked into the Utah County Jail for attempted robbery, obstructing justice, damaging a phone, and intoxication.
Recent calls to deprogram QAnon conspiracy followers are steeped in discredited notions about brainwashing. As popularly imagined, brainwashing is a coercive procedure that programs new long-term personality changes. Deprogramming, also coercive, is thought to undo brainwashing.
As a professor of religious studies who has written and taught about alternative religious movements, I believe such deprogramming conversations do little to help us understand why people adopt QAnon beliefs. A deprogramming discourse fails to understand religious recruitment and conversion and excuses those spreading QAnon beliefs from accountability.
A brief brainwashing history
Deprogramming, a method thought to reverse extreme psychological manipulation, can't be understood apart from the concept of brainwashing.
The modern concept of brainwashing has its origin in Chinese experiments with American prisoners of war during the Korean War. Coercive physical and psychological methods were employed in an attempt to plant Communist beliefs in the minds of American POWs. To determine whether brainwashing was possible, the CIA then launched its own secret mind-control program in the 1950s called MK-ULTRA.
By the late 1950s researchers were already casting doubt on brainwashing theory. The anti-American behavior of captured Americans was best explained by temporary compliance owing to torture. This is akin to false confessions made under extreme duress.
Still, books like “The Manchurian Candidate," released in 1959, and “A Clockwork Orange," released in 1962 – both of which were turned into movies and heavily featured themes of brainwashing – reinforced the concept in popular culture. To this day, the language of brainwashing and deprogramming is applied to groups holding controversial beliefs – from fundamentalist Mormons to passionate Trump supporters.
Seeking guardianship of adult children in these groups, parents cited the belief that members were brainwashed to justify court-ordered conservatorship. With guardianship orders in hand, they sought help from cult deprogrammers like Ted Patrick. Deprogrammers were notorious for kidnapping, isolating and harassing adults in an effort to reverse perceived cult brainwashing.
For a time, U.S. courts accepted brainwashing testimony despite the pseudo-scientific nature of the theory. It turns out that research on coercive conversion failed to support brainwashing theory. Several professional organizations, including the American Psychological Association, have filed legal briefs against brainwashing testimony. Others argued that deprogramming practices violated civil rights.
In 1995 the coercive deprogramming method was litigated again in Scott vs. Ross. The jury awarded the plaintiff nearly US$5 million in total damages. This bankrupted the co-defending Cult Awareness Network, a popular resource at the time for those seeking deprogramming services.
Given this tarnished history, coercive deprogramming evolved into “exit counseling." Unlike deprogramming, exit counseling is voluntary and resembles an intervention or talk therapy.
One of the most visible self-styled exit counselors is former deprogrammer Rick Alan Ross, the executive director of the Cult Education Institute and defendant in Scott v. Ross. Through frequent media appearances, people including Ross and Steve Hassan, founder of the Freedom of Mind Resource Center, continue to contribute to the mind-control and deprogramming discourse in popular culture.
These “cult-recovery experts," some of whom were involved with the old deprogramming model, are now being used for QAnon deprogramming advice. Some, like Ross and cult intervention specialist Pat Ryan, advocate for a more aggressive intervention approach. Others, like Hassan, offer a gentler approach that includes active listening.
Choice vs. coercion
Despite the pivot to exit counseling, the language of deprogramming persists. The concept of deprogramming rests on the idea that people do not choose alternative beliefs. Instead, beliefs that are deemed too deviant for mainstream culture are thought to result from coercive manipulation by nefarious entities like cult leaders. When people call for QAnon believers to be deprogrammed, they are implicitly denying that followers exercised choice in accepting QAnon beliefs.
This denies the personal agency and free will of those who became QAnon enthusiasts, and shifts the focus to the programmer. It can also relieve followers of responsibility for perpetuating QAnon beliefs.
As I suggested in an earlier article, and as evident in the QAnon influence on the Jan. 6, 2021, capital insurrection, QAnon beliefs can be dangerous. I believe those who adopt and perpetuate these beliefs ought to be held responsible for the consequences.
This isn't to say that people are not subject to social influence. However, social influence is a far cry from the systematic, mind-swiping, coercive, robotic imagery conjured up by brainwashing.
Admittedly, what we choose to believe is constrained by the types of influences we face. Those restraints emerge from our social and economic circumstances. In the age of social media, we are also constrained by algorithms that influence the media we consume. Further examination of these issues in relation to the development of QAnon would prove fruitful.
But applying a brainwashing and deprogramming discourse limits our potential to understand the grievances of the QAnon community. To suggest “they were temporarily out of their minds" relieves followers of the conspiracy of responsibility and shelters the rest of society from grappling with uncomfortable social realities.
To understand the QAnon phenomenon, I believe analysts must dig deeply into the social, economic and political factors that influence the adoption of QAnon beliefs.
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