Amarnath Amarasingam Profile picture
Prof @QueensU | Fellow @ISDGlobal, @ICSR_Centre | Work: extremism, social movements, sociology of religion, online/virtual communities, MENA, South Asia
Watchin' Da Wheels (@🏡) Profile picture 1 added to My Authors
21 Jul
1. So, a few thoughts on this because it has the potential to do some real damage in this space. There will be a lot of dunking on former extremists, using Heimbach as some sort of example for why formers are liars, shouldn’t be trusted and so on. And this is wrong. Here’s why:
2. Heimbach wasn’t believed by most of us in the field from the very beginning. He didn’t seem like he was doing the work on himself, didn’t seem like he was actually repentant, and there was a lot of suspicion that he was using the “former” platform to basically troll people.
3. 2nd, don’t let Heimbach's example negatively color the experience of all formers. I know, am good friends with & have interviewed dozens and dozens of former extremists – across the ideological spectrum – and all of them are on slow, painful, trauma-ridden journeys out of hate
Read 11 tweets
9 Jun
1/ I was losing track, so I thought I would type out everything we know about London attack suspect Nathaniel Veltman so far.

Bringing all the info into one place because the reporting is scattered across different outlets:
2/ (a)The day after the attack, London police said: "There is evidence that this was a planned, premeditated act and that the family was targeted because of their Muslim faith". The suspect did not know the victims.
3/ (b)He has been charged with 4 counts of first-degree murder and 1 count of attempted murder; police are considering additional charges.
(c)So far, he has no known ties to hate groups
(d)He was arrested 7km from the site. He pulled up behind a parked taxi.
Read 10 tweets
9 Apr
1. "Regardless of intent or ignorance of a second meaning". I'm done with y'all.

I found myself just staring at Mia’s initial comments a few hours ago, wondering what state of mind I would need to be in to call someone who mildly critiqued my work a bitch and a whore.
2. And what got me was the audacity and insecurity of it all. @nimmideviarchy critique was sharp, but also one that had been made countless times: that Western writers often bring the “white feminist framework into her probe of female extremists abroad.” lareviewofbooks.org/article/eviden…
3. The proper response to this, one would think – for an adult and tenured professor who has been in the game for a few decades – was to write a response showing where the critique is wrong. An article or tweet thread should suffice. This is how this shit works.
Read 15 tweets
24 Mar
Someone asked whether COVID impacted mass shootings in the US

Not according to the Gun Violence Archive (which defines mass shooting as "4 or more people shot or killed in a single incident, not involving the shooter")

2015: 336
2016: 382
2017: 346
2018: 336
2019: 417
2020: 611
In terms of school shootings, which is defined broadly in the @K12ssdb (see highlight), COVID did have an impact (only 1 active shooter situation in 2020, down from 7 in 2019 and 11 in 2018). chds.us/ssdb/
Read 5 tweets
5 Mar
1/ Some of the discussion so far about QAnon and Evangelicals has been a bit simplistic and ahistorical.

Short thread on some of the mistakes I’ve seen: First, the term "evangelical" in the US means you are talking about around 100 million people.
2/ They are not a homogenous glob moving in tandem. The better term for the precise issue we are talking about is probably "Christian nationalists".
3/ Christian nationalism is an ideology that fights for a fusion of religion and politics, that American civic life needs to be "Christian again". While there's some overlap between evangelicals and Christian nationalists, it's analytically useful to look at them separately.
Read 11 tweets
18 Jan
1. Was making a QAnon reading list for a journalist friend of mine, and thought the rest of you might find it useful as well – especially this week. Enjoy.
2. On origins, @QOrigins did a good summary piece a few weeks ago: bellingcat.com/news/americas/…
3. On spread outward, great piece by @BrandyZadrozny and @oneunderscore__ nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news…
Read 17 tweets
15 Jan
1. I know social media activists are trying to help identify a lot of the people that were at the Jan 6 insurrection, but I’m curious how people feel about this so-called “crowd sourced investigations”? Here’s a short thread on several instances where this has gone wrong:
2. To start, there’s the famous case of Sunil Tripathi from Boston, a young man struggling with depression, who had gone missing in mid-March 2013. After the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013 he was misidentified by social media users as a potential bomber npr.org/sections/codes…
3. There’s also a great documentary about his case: helpusfindsuniltripathi.com
Read 10 tweets
10 Jan
1. (THREAD) So, it seems like the deplatforming debate is once again kicking off, so I thought I would introduce some of the earlier work that was done in this area back when ISIS was buck wild on social media. What have we learned over the last six years might be useful today:
2. One of the earliest studies that discussed the impact of suspensions of ISIS accounts was @intelwire and Morgan's piece: The ISIS Twitter Consensus.

They found that suspensions did have an impact on replies and retweets and overall dissemination. brookings.edu/wp-content/upl…
3. After suspensions, the die-hard supporters dedicated themselves to creating new accounts, but others whittled away: “it appears the pace of account creation has lagged behind the pace of suspensions”
Read 18 tweets
8 Jan
“After close review of recent Tweets from Trump’s account and context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence” blog.twitter.com/en_us/topics/c…
Read 5 tweets
8 Jan
1. NEW by me, @ShirazMaher, and @charliewinter for @crest_research.

Anyone paying to ISIS channels on Telegram in 2019 noticed something strange in late November: they started to disappear en masse. We decided to take a closer look at the data. crestresearch.ac.uk/resources/how-…
2. These kinds of campaigns by Europol and social media platforms had happened before, and researchers either didn’t notice much impact on Isis presence online or noticed that ISIS channels came back pretty quickly. November 2019 was different.
3. They didn’t come back. They started experimenting with other platforms, supporters started freaking out and scrambling. I asked a Europol official about what was happening. 👇🏽ctc.usma.edu/view-ct-foxhol…
Read 8 tweets
29 Dec 20
1. My new piece for @Slate on election violence in the US, but a look at one peculiar reason for why we haven't seen much of it so far. slate.com/news-and-polit…
2. When it comes to conspiracy theories, most of the academic literature looks at why people tend to be attracted to them, and the kinds of impact they have on behavior.
3. Study after study has shown that people who deeply believe in conspiracy theories are less likely to vote, less likely to vaccinate their children, have dwindling levels of trust in government and expert systems, and are generally unlikely to donate money or volunteer.
Read 8 tweets
10 Nov 20
1. Some of the post-election conversations in the US sound a lot like the post-conflict zone conversations I’ve heard in various countries I’ve studied and worked in. Quick thread on why the next few months are going to be very difficult:
2. I don’t need to re-cite all the articles here, but I think most of us agree with the premise that there was something qualitatively different about the Trump era.
3. I have a lot to say about reconciliation in this context, but let’s just focus on something preliminary and basic for now: conversations about post-conflict reconciliation often naturally create two camps:
Read 12 tweets
6 Nov 20
1. There's good research on conspiracy theories, which shows for example that 400,000 people would need to be "in" on the lie for the moon landing to have been faked.

Same logic applies here:
2. Can you imagine how many people would have to be in on the lie to steal an election with 144 million votes?

How many of your neighbors, grandparents, random twenty year old volunteers, would all have to be part of some big cover up?
3. And THEN, to make sure the cover up isn't too obvious, you make sure that you lose a bunch of seats in House, and make sure the Senate isn't a landslide.

Make sure that as votes are counted, that several thousand go to Trump. Cus, you don't want to raise suspicion, you see.
Read 5 tweets
28 Oct 20
1. There has been a lot of talk about QAnon and a well-known body of work in the sociology of religion/social psychology called the “failure of prophecy”.

A new piece by me and @_MAArgentino for @RDispatches, and a short thread: religiondispatches.org/qanons-predict…
2. As @travis_view noted, earlier this month there was anticipation in QAnon circles about the imminent return of JFK Jr.
3. He of course didn’t return. He’s very dead and has been dead for some time. It’s not the first time QAnon followers predicted something which never happened. And it won’t be the last:
Read 16 tweets
27 Oct 20
1. Thread on deriving attack motivation from social media posts. We do this all the time, and it is often solidified later as more evidence arises, but sometimes more evidence doesn't come.
2. Think Alek Minassian. We concluded that (1) he was an incel and (2) that he was motivated by his incel ideology based on one Facebook post (at the time). This was later verified by his police interview where he went into great detail about incel identity as a motivating factor
3. But, this isn't always true. We often make the logical leap from finding one piece of evidence for (1) and assume (2) naturally follows.
Read 8 tweets
26 Oct 20
1. New piece in @Perspectives_T, by Shandon Harris-Hogan, @DawsonLorne, and myself.

A Comparative Analysis of the Nature and Evolution of the
Domestic Jihadist Threat to Australia and Canada (2000–2020). Short thread with a few notable findings: universiteitleiden.nl/binaries/conte… Image
2. Between 2000 and the beginning of 2020, 13 incidents of jihadist inspired violence occurred in Australia (7) and Canada (6) – that is completed attacks. ISIS inspired all of the incidents, and they all occurred within the same four-year period (late 2014 and late 2018). Image
3. The average age of Australian Jihadists was 25.4. Looking at the 32 individuals arrested prior to 2014, the average age was over 28. Post-September 2014, the average age drops to just under 24.

31% (18) of Jihadists in Australia post 2014 were teenagers (0% prior to 2014).
Read 6 tweets
10 Oct 20
1. A lot of the replies to this post start with “hi, third-world migrant here” and then outline academic and financial and creative successes. I get the impulse to do this and almost did the same. But, I prefer we didn’t.
2. I prefer we didn’t because it feeds into this never-ending cycle of immigrants constantly having to prove themselves, even after decades or generations in a country, even after study after study on our levels of civic engagement, voting, earning, entrepreneurship, and so on.
3. So, I get the impulse to be like, “check my CV and stfu”, but this kind of approach does violence to those in the immigrant community who don’t rise to the level other immigrants in terms of “contribution” - whatever that means.
Read 5 tweets
9 Oct 20
1. I’ve been talking about a lot of what’s covered in this article in several interviews lately. @intelwire outlines it clearly here.
2. People keep asking if extremism and polarization is on the rise because “people are online all day”. That’s part of it, but much more important has been the utter collapse of norms and taken-for-grantedness in our lives.
3. We don’t want to underestimate how much we depend on these norms and routines to make us feel “rooted” in our own bodies and in our communities. Dropping your kids off at school, listening to a podcast on your commute, coming home, making dinner, bed time routines, etc.
Read 10 tweets
25 Sep 20
1. There’s also a much broader point of significance to the Abu Huzayfah case, which I’ll try to unpack a bit here:
2. As @StewGlobal and myself found out during our trip to Syria in late 2018, there was a plan afoot to bring Canadian prisoners being held in Kurdish custody back home to Canada around April 2018. globalnews.ca/news/4526514/c…
3. This plan was mysteriously shelved in May 2018. When I asked some of my friends in the Canadian government about this later, they pointed to @rcallimachi's Caliphate podcast and the storm of controversy it had caused in Canada.
Read 10 tweets
25 Sep 20
1. So, my phone has been ringing off the hook. This is of course a big story, that makes it awkward for journalists and researchers and intervention providers who have worked with him and talked to him for several years.

@StewGlobal's story here, with comment from me.
2. I'm not obviously going to comment on whether I think he went to Syria or not. Kind of irrelevant at this point. But, I do think this charge creates an interesting dilemma for the RCMP and for Huzayfah. Does he admit he went to Syria, and face a terrorism offense?
3. The onus is on the RCMP to prove that he faked the whole thing. And, as I tell @StewGlobal, that's not so easy. As @JessMarinDavis and @MichaelJNesbitt have also made clear, this is an uphill battle in many ways for the RCMP, and they may see themselves losing the case.
Read 4 tweets
23 Sep 20
1. Woman suspected of mailing ricin letter to Trump ordered to stay in U.S. custody. A few comments based on the complaint: reuters.com/article/us-usa…
2. The letter was received at the White House on Sept 18 at 9am. The letter calls Trump "The Ugly Tyrant Clown" who is ruining the US, calls the ricin a "special gift" and threatens to shoot the President if the ricin doesn't work, "when I'll be able to come" to the US.
3. As the letter was being studied by the FBI, they also learned of 6 additional letters that had been sent to different prisons and detention centers "addressed to individuals affiliated with facilities at which the defendant had been housed while incarcerated in Texas in 2019"
Read 6 tweets