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Another Update on DezNat


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We have previously had a few discussions about DezNat:

The Salt Lake Tribune published this on July 30, 2023: Why dismissing all #DezNat users as overzealous, over-the-line Latter-day Saints may be wrong

Some excerpts:

Quote

Kelley Turner, who describes herself as a “feisty 65-year-old Latter-day Saint,” was shocked this spring, when she received threats on her Facebook page for supporting LGBTQ rights.

A poster warned her that if she wasn’t “careful,” he could get her booted from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “You might not want to mess with me.”

The man sent more foreboding messages: “Repent of your evil actions” for supporting gay rights. “Expect to hear from your bishop. I’ve had many people kicked out. You’re next.”

Yeesh.  This is bad thing for a Latter-day Saint in a variety of ways.

Quote

Turner did some online sleuthing and discovered the man was, indeed, a member of her faith and also used many of the same memes and rhetoric (“Brigham Young did no wrong”) found in a movement known as #DezNat (short for Deseret Nation).

Created in 2018, #DezNat enlisted loosely aligned, self-appointed warriors to defend Latter-day Saint doctrines and practices. Their battlefield was the internet. They blogged, posted, tweeted and shared memes, slapping the #DezNat identifier on Facebook groups, websites, podcasts and YouTube channels.

Is #DezNat, at this point, fairly characterized as a "movement" (as opposed to, say, a hashtag)?  I'm undecided.  To the extent DezNat was ever a thing, it seems to be stagnating or dying off rather thank stabilizing or growing.

Quote

About three years ago, #DezNat burst into public consciousness, drawing vigorous pushback about its rhetoric and approach. Some who had been using it pulled back, researchers said, but their sentiments haven’t disappeared.

This link was discussed on this board in June 2021 (see above bulleted list).

Also, I'm not sure "their sentiments haven't disappeared" is enough to qualify DezNat as an ongoing "movement."

Quote

These online attacks echo what researchers Amy Chapman of Columbia University and Spencer Greenhalgh of the University of Kentucky concluded in their in-depth study of #DezNat users and messages.

Though the movement has been associated with ultraconservative politics, Chapman and Greenhalgh found many of the posts were aimed at gender and women’s issues.

“A lot of conversations and complaints I’ve heard about DezNat focus on questions of politics and race, but it was clear to Amy and me that gender and sexuality were also major themes in DezNat postings,” Greenhalgh says. “That’s especially important because, while the church has encouraged members to take steps against racism and has condemned white nationalism and political violence, it’s harder to tell whether the church would disapprove of the aggressive stances on gender and sexuality that we saw in our posts.”

Greenhalgh and Chapman collected and studied tweets composed between April 3 and April 9, 2019, to focus on the church’s April 2019 General Conference.

Their final dataset included 1,378 screenshots.

They report their findings in an essay for the Journal of the Mormon Social Science Association titled “‘Come for the Memes, Stay for Defending the Faith’: Far-Right and Anti-Feminist Red Pill Influences in the #DezNat Twitter Hashtag.”

Here is a link to one of the author's introduction to this article:

Quote

I am very happy to announce that a paper I wrote with Amy Chapman is finally published and available open access in the Journal of the Mormon Social Science Association (I have also archived a PDF of the article on my website, available at this link). Amy and I began this project in the spring/summer of 2019, so it’s a relief to finally see our first paper in print.

In short, the paper is a descriptive look at tweets using the #DezNat hashtag; DezNat, short for either Deseret Nation or Deseret Nationalism (depending on who you ask) is a movement of arch-conservative Mormons on Twitter and elsewhere on the internet. As an internet researcher with a deep familiarity with Mormonism, I felt like this was perfect research for me to tackle (something I’ve written about before). We qualitatively coded 1,378 screenshots of tweets (part of the reason that this took so long to get to print), and wound up with a wealth of data and findings. This first paper is focused on red pill (i.e., far-right and anti-feminist) influences in the hashtag, making a scholarly contribution to some of the popular and media discussions about the DezNat movement.
...
This paper represents about half of our analysis, and we are slowly but surely working on a second paper that will examine conceptions of religious authority in the DezNat movement.

An article started in 2019 that was not published in 2023, by which point the topic had become fairly stale.  Academia, you rock.

The above "this link" link takes you to the article itself.  It's worth a read, I suppose.

Back to the Trib article:

Quote

DezNat attitudes and allies have not vanished, she says. “They are still out there, flying under the radar.”

Turner took actions she says because their approach “is hurtful and so wrong” and because she doesn’t want the church to “get a bad name for associating with such weirdos.”

She points to church President Russell M. Nelson’s spring conference sermon.

“We are supposed to be peacemakers,” Turner says, “and they’re not following the prophet.”

Thoughts?

Thanks,

-Smac

Edited by smac97
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I joined a fb group called "thoughtful saints." Since I tend to think of myself as thoughtful (when I keep the Marine part of me in check), it sounded promising. But it turned out to be a fan boy club for this obnoxious podcaster called Jacob Hanson.

I mention all this because a few months ago they had a very long series of arguments after Jacob said he was proud that he reported people to their bishop. This is the same threat that Kelly Turner, your first text box, reported. I found that incredibly creepy, especially because I was reading Solzhenitsyn at the time. After being there a little while, and defending things like careful scholarship, a loving treatment of the LGBTQ community, and not reporting people to their bishops because of online disagreements, it turns out that most people in that group were okay with that behavior. I see people comment very often that they want to burn texts they disagree with. (One of the targets was Rough Stone Rolling.) Last time I checked, Jacob was describing why he tries to publicly shame people who need to be shamed. (There is an irony in this as Jacob put out a family picture where his wife wasn't wearing garments. After a few people noticed that his wife's choices are the same kind of lifestyle items that Jacob shames, he and his fans went ballistic.) 

One of the chapters in my first book described the way "robber" was used as an emotionally charged word to delegitimize opponents. For awhile deznat seemed like one of those words. But after reading the latest article and then comparing it to my personal experience trying to explain why some fundamentalists are so creepy and wrong, I think deznat is a real problem. There is a whole hive of them at thoughtful saints who are not very thoughtful. Its true they seem to be hiding a bit. They don't use the hashtag, but the behavior of the faith militant over there is very similar: Public shaming, reporting to the bishop, close minded book burning, dogmatic assertions, anti intellectualism, extreme mixtures of politics and religion, and so on. Jacob is really interested in clicks, subs, and his brand (which seems to be the Mormon version of Rush Limbaugh), so you can check them out for yourself:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/2402010603200201/

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Apparently the guy that wanted to take out Biden, and then was shot by FBI when they went to arrest the guy, is a DezNat. I'm not sure of a reference, because a lot of what was on FB has been taken down. But they showed that he was part of the group, again hearsay or didn't see it for myself. 

Here's a FB post he once posted:

Image

Edited by Tacenda
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I don’t understand them. At all. 

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3 hours ago, Tacenda said:

Apparently the guy that wanted to take out Biden, and then was shot by FBI when they went to arrest the guy, is a DezNat. I'm not sure of a reference, because a lot of what was on FB has been taken down. But they showed that he was part of the group, again hearsay or didn't see it for myself.

I came nosing around here to see how this Darwin nominee would play out.

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On 8/4/2023 at 12:22 PM, The Nehor said:

Sounds like they still need a good punching.

I'll hold them down and you can shove a copy of President Nelson's April conference "Peacemakers Needed" talk down their throats (that'll teach 'em). 

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20 hours ago, Tacenda said:

Apparently the guy that wanted to take out Biden, and then was shot by FBI when they went to arrest the guy, is a DezNat. I'm not sure of a reference, because a lot of what was on FB has been taken down. But they showed that he was part of the group, again hearsay or didn't see it for myself. 

Analytically, this whole event works for me. It raises questions and highlights issues in a useful way.

One neighbor notes the violence of this LEO event has disrupted their family's sense of safety.

Family and sympathetic neighbors portray Deznat guy as frustrated and harmless.

His online game was amplifying bad intent right up to the edges of the sandbox.

Assuming he ultimately got what he wanted, what was that?

His platform put him on FBI's radar.

Diggy news orgs introduce details of his Church life into his public portfolio.

...which raised a Q from me "Accepting the negative picture, it seems inappropriate for him to have a calling. Was that a bad call?" (complex answer = no)

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2 minutes ago, Chum said:

...which raised a Q from me "Accepting the negative picture, it seems inappropriate for him to have a calling. Was that a bad call?" (complex answer = no)

Over and over again I keep coming to the conclusion that the Church handles complex issues in the wisest way possible.

That is: Where I've been able to consider something all the way thru* - after I factor in all the realities, I can't really improve on how the Church handled it. Where the Church falls short, it often does so because going past that point won't bring the good that appears to be there.  This is important because this is where other orgs go off the rails, particularly religious orgs.

I'll clarify that I'm not diminishing the past but I am talking about the Church of this moment. Nor do I think the Church is mistake-free today. And I desperately, passionately wish the Church would seize more opportunities to do temporal good.

But from a secular standpoint, I can't come up with of another org of this size+scope that is as competent.

* which isn't overly many things

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Please help me understand how an active and I assume believing member of the church becomes radicalized to the point that he is posting these threats towards the president?

He obviously didn’t listen to Pres Nelson’s conference talk on Peace Makers being needed.

Nothing the church currently teaches would explain this man’s hate speech.

Edited by Craig Speechly
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44 minutes ago, Craig Speechly said:

Please help me understand how an active and I assume believing member of the church becomes radicalized to the point that he is posting these threats towards the president?

He obviously didn’t listen to Pres Nelson’s conference talk on Peace Makers being needed.

Nothing the church currently teaches would explain this man’s hate speech.

Compare how the Savior spent his Earthly time with the goals advanced  in Christian-themed political agendas. There's little-to-no similarity.

The Savior's teachings don't promise a lot of power over others. They seem to get forgotten in the face of goals that do.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I admit I’ve had a negative initial impression of the DezNat folks, but over the last month I’ve been exposed to a lot more of their online activities. What I’ve seen is a horrific combination of self-righteousness, reactionary politics, bigotry (against minorities, gays, and Jews in particular), and outright hatred for those who don’t conform to their notions of what it means to be a Latter-day Saint. 

In short, they are not some benign, misunderstood subculture of faithful church members. I never would have imagined I’d see so much vile hatred from Latter-day Saints. And I’m speaking as someone who has received death threats in the past.

I feel like I need a good long shower to get rid of their slime and stench. 

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12 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

I admit I’ve had a negative initial impression of the DezNat folks,

Same here.

12 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

but over the last month I’ve been exposed to a lot more of their online activities.

It ain't pretty.

12 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

What I’ve seen is a horrific combination of self-righteousness, reactionary politics, bigotry (against minorities, gays, and Jews in particular), and outright hatred for those who don’t conform to their notions of what it means to be a Latter-day Saint. 

Yep.  I am genuinely curious how many Latter-day Saints would own up to subscribing to the "DezNat" philosophy.  I suspect the number is pretty small.

Matthias Cicotte and Logan Starr Smith.  How many others are going against what Pres. Nelson and the Church has been teaching for a very long time?

12 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

In short, they are not some benign, misunderstood subculture of faithful church members.

Has someone suggested that they are "{a} benign, misunderstood subculture"?

12 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

I never would have imagined I’d see so much vile hatred from Latter-day Saints.

Nor would I.  But Cicotte, Smith, et al are not fair representatives of the Latter-day Saints.  

Nor, for that matter, is Craig Deleeuw Robertson.  Nor Paul Adams.  Nor Jason Derek Brown.  Nor Nate Holzapfel.

12 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

I feel like I need a good long shower to get rid of their slime and stench. 

I am reminded of Krister Stendahl's Three Rules of Religious Understanding (particularly the second one) :

Quote

Stendahl is credited with creating Stendahl's three rules of religious understanding, which he presented in a 1985 press conference in Stockholm, Sweden, in response to vocal opposition to the building of a temple there by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[9] His rules are as follows:

  1. When you are trying to understand another religion, you should ask the adherents of that religion and not its enemies.
  2. Don't compare your best to their worst.
  3. Leave room for "holy envy." (By this Stendahl meant that you should be willing to recognize elements in the other religious tradition or faith that you admire and wish could, in some way, be reflected in your own religious tradition or faith.)

Thanks,

-Smac

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8 minutes ago, smac97 said:

Same here.

It ain't pretty.

Yep.  I am genuinely curious how many Latter-day Saints would own up to subscribing to the "DezNat" philosophy.  I suspect the number is pretty small.

Matthias Cicotte and Logan Starr Smith.  How many others are going against what Pres. Nelson and the Church has been teaching for a very long time?

Has someone suggested that they are "{a} benign, misunderstood subculture"?

Nor would I.  But Cicotte, Smith, et al are not fair representatives of the Latter-day Saints.  

Nor, for that matter, is Craig Deleeuw Robertson.  Nor Paul Adams.  Nor Jason Derek Brown.  Nor Nate Holzapfel.

I am reminded of Krister Stendahl's Three Rules of Religious Understanding (particularly the second one) :

Thanks,

-Smac

I’m not comparing them to anyone. I’m just done with the idea that these people are not as bad as people think. They aren’t; they’re worse. 

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2 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

I’m not comparing them to anyone. I’m just done with the idea that these people are not as bad as people think. They aren’t; they’re worse. 

Who is suggesting that "these people are not as bad as people think"?  Is someone going around making excuses for theses guys?  Rationalizing or justifying or minimizing their reprehensible conduct?

Thanks,

-Smac

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2 minutes ago, smac97 said:

Who is suggesting that "these people are not as bad as people think"?  Is someone going around making excuses for theses guys?  Rationalizing or justifying or minimizing their reprehensible conduct?

Thanks,

-Smac

I have heard a lot of rationalizations from a lot of people. I’m just noting that, after finally looking into it more closely, I am not buying any of it. 

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2 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

I have heard a lot of rationalizations from a lot of people. I’m just noting that, after finally looking into it more closely, I am not buying any of it. 

I used to hear stuff, don’t now, but also haven’t visited the sites where I heard it lately.  Much more peaceful that way, lol.

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1 minute ago, Calm said:

I used to hear stuff, don’t now, but also haven’t visited the sites where I heard it lately.  Much more peaceful that way, lol.

I’m honestly sorry I looked into it. Just vile stuff from vile people (but they love us and want us to repent). 

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6 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:
Quote

Who is suggesting that "these people are not as bad as people think"?  Is someone going around making excuses for theses guys?  Rationalizing or justifying or minimizing their reprehensible conduct?

I have heard a lot of rationalizations from a lot of people.

I'll take your word for it.  I haven't seen that on this thread, or on any of the other threads hosted here.  My first thread about it, in 2019, was based on limited information at the time.  By the time I revisited the topic about one year later, I had started to formulate a more informed opinion about DezNat: "{W}hatever #DezNat started out as, it has since been misappropriated and corrupted.   And since it is newly-minted and has no revelatory provenance, I think it should be abandoned and rejected by the Latter-day Saints."

By April 2021, I had pretty much drawn conclusions I still hold today:

Quote

I am also unapologetically Latter-day Saint.  Very happy to be so, in fact.  I also value the idea of taking seriously and following prophetic counsel and guidance.  And yet I don't like #DezNat, as a concept or in practice.  It is, to me, increasingly troubling and disturbing. 

I am very much opposed to the violence-related imagery/rhetoric. 

I dislike how DezNat adherents seem to freely conflate Latter-day Saint doctrine/belief with certain political affiliations and positions, as if our beliefs and certain political platforms are indistinguishable from each other. 

And I am concerned about DezNat's necessarily decentralized messaging and ideology.  There is no organization, no heirarchy, no vetting, no coherent message.  The hashtag and the overall concept are therefore apparently susceptible to being (mis)used to associate the Church and its members with things that are incompatible with the Restored Gospel, such as racist rhetoric.  Bro. Bellum says that "our response is simple -- we follow the prophet."  I'm not sure the things are that simple, as such a resposne doesn't address, for example, the violent imagery associated with DezNat, nor the apparent occasional racism.

And this:

Quote

I don't think Ezra Taft Benson would approve of this:

190123-hitt-mormon-tease_vxumdc

Or this:

fb_img_1596855008157.jpg?w=300

Or this:

screenshot_20200806-231747_twitter.jpg?w

Or this:

screenshot_20200801-120147_facebook.jpg?

Or this:

agf2ooqgipg51.jpg?width=960&crop=smart&a

 And so on.

These are not appropriates words and imagery.  This is disturbing stuff.

And here:

Quote

I'm increasingly disliking DezNat.  Even if this is being blown out of proportion, there is an increasing coarseness and aggressiveness in our communications these days.  The Brethren have spoken to us a number of times about what we say and how we say it.

I don't think any of this stuff is anywhere near mainstream Latter-day Saint thought or sentiment.

6 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

I’m just noting that, after finally looking into it more closely, I am not buying any of it. 

Okay.  I came to this conclusion years ago, and I thought you had as well.

Thanks,

-Smac

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Just now, smac97 said:

I'll take your word for it.  I haven't seen that on this thread, or on any of the other threads hosted here

If we only posted observations of what we see on this board, a lot of threads would be absent, especially yours (which I appreciate for the most part as you bring stuff to my attention I want to be aware of). :) 

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30 minutes ago, smac97 said:

I'll take your word for it.  I haven't seen that on this thread, or on any of the other threads hosted here.  My first thread about it, in 2019, was based on limited information at the time.  By the time I revisited the topic about one year later, I had started to formulate a more informed opinion about DezNat: "{W}hatever #DezNat started out as, it has since been misappropriated and corrupted.   And since it is newly-minted and has no revelatory provenance, I think it should be abandoned and rejected by the Latter-day Saints."

By April 2021, I had pretty much drawn conclusions I still hold today:

And this:

And here:

I don't think any of this stuff is anywhere near mainstream Latter-day Saint thought or sentiment.

Okay.  I came to this conclusion years ago, and I thought you had as well.

Thanks,

-Smac

I really hadn’t paid much attention to it, honestly. 

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I've been sort of dismissing deznat people as unimportant and not worth serious thought.  I think that of a handful of groups with horrible or violent or nefarious notions.  My perspective is partially formed by the fact that my wife receives recurring death threats, at least one or two a year, from various animal rights activists.   There is no end of people talking big on Facebook, but lacking in the action department.

Even if the recent guy making threats regarding Pres. Biden was deznat, I'd point out the authorities caught and stopped him.   There's a big difference in beating your chest online, and actually being someone worth attention.

I mean, if people want to give deznat the boost that comes from paying attention to them, go for it.  I get why folks want to raise awareness.  It's just that I also get what happens when you give bullies the attention they crave.  

Edited by LoudmouthMormon
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