ARGh.
August 4, 2020 8:17 PM   Subscribe

What ARGs can teach us about QAnon. "QAnon is not an ARG[Alternate Reality Game]. It’s a dangerous conspiracy theory, and there are lots of ways of understanding conspiracy theories without ARGs. But QAnon pushes the same buttons that ARGs do, whether by intention or by coincidence. In both cases, “do your research” leads curious onlookers to a cornucopia of brain-tingling information.

"Conspiracy theories and cults evince the same insouciance when confronted with inconsistencies or falsified predictions; they can always explain away errors with new stories and theories. What’s special about QAnon and ARGs is that these errors can be fixed almost instantly, before doubt or ridicule can set in. And what’s really special about QAnon is how it’s absorbed all other conspiracy theories to become a kind of ur-conspiracy theory such that seems pointless to call out inconsistencies. In any case, who would you even be calling out when so many QAnon theories come from followers rather than “Q”?"
posted by storybored (43 comments total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
 
So my ARG life began and ended with the Nine Inch Nails Year Zero ARG which was utterly all-consuming while it was going on. I never solved a puzzle or found a clue or attended any live event, but the entire parallel existence it introduced into my life even while I was executing being a blue collar worker and living with a partner and being just sort of normal was one of the most powerful things I've ever experienced.

It was a clearly orchestrated event, it made it clear when things were included in the experience so it was clear when outside things were being brought in and easily dismissed. It was months of really thrilling living, truly.

I can see on QAnon contains the elements of an ARG but with no clear markers of what is a part of the thing and what is not, it becomes more of a collaborative, performative novel set in the real world. That could be quite dangerous, given my own involvement with the obviously artificial ARG I played in years ago that still sort of haunts me.

Interesting analysis, thanks for posting.
posted by hippybear at 8:48 PM on August 4 [10 favorites]


I just keep thinking how even if a theory has a 10% chance of being true, the chance of ten wacky theories at that rate all being true is 1 in ten billion. But I guess people think they're gonna win the lottery every time they play so...ugh.
posted by thorny at 8:56 PM on August 4


Really? "falsified predictions"

A prediction is something about what is gonna happen in the future. How is that able to be falsified? For falsified predictions to be true someone has to have a time machine and rather than using it to win 2020 disater bingo, sports betting or making stock market picks they chose to falsify a prediction VS just making a prediction that turns out to be wrong.

"What’s special about QAnon and ARGs is that these errors can be fixed almost instantly"

That is bullshit. Straight up. There is no G.O.D.S.E.E.D. Perahps no prize at the end of Cicada 3301. But Qanon claimed there were gonna be widespread pedo arrersts within weeks in 2017. And yet - nothing. Qanon claims 100K+ pedo Grand Jury true bills and yet no one can return a case number NOR FOIA requests on the expenses of the court transcriptionsts which would show such a large number of Grand Jury interactions. Government tied events leave traces - you just have to understand how to look for the shadow cast. If there was all these pedo cases how the hell is every DA/DOJ office filled with people who are not leaking given human nature?

"QAnon is how it’s absorbed all other conspiracy theories to become a kind of ur-conspiracy "

Or, Qanon creators are using the old material and use vague references to them while saying 'research it' understanding the search hits will return the older material. This 'research it' angle lets the followers pick differnent paths and then the followers spend their time yelling at each other how they are wrong VS picking apart the statements of "Q".

Qanon is no better than claiming someone died and the lesson is a parable VS there was no dead guy and the lesson is vague so one can say "yup - that's the lesson" in the future.


I'm all for picking on Qanon. Why this idea VS citing each and every prediction or refer to others work attempting to verify the claims?
posted by rough ashlar at 11:36 PM on August 4 [5 favorites]


It's an interesting take on this whole thing, and I'm inclined to believe that a fair amount of people are "playing" it, and the satisfaction that results from that accounts partly for its popularity.

~

I'm not sure what you're arguing against here, rough ashlar...

A "falsified prediction" would be a prediction that has not turned out to be true and thus has been shown to be false. No one is suggestion people are provably pre-falsifying any predictions.

The point about errors being fixed almost instantly doesn't mean that they are wiped from the record, but as the article says, you can "write through" errors and make them part of a larger story, such as that for instance, the grand jury predictions were part of a fake-out perpetrated by someone attempting to discredit Q. Boom, "fixed."

The ur-conspiracy thing is sort of, as you say, a lot of people playing with the idea of Q stuff being tied to everything, as a sort of way of "playing" the "ARG" that is this mega-conspiracy.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:19 AM on August 5 [8 favorites]


It's Mefi's own adrianhon! Happy to answer any questions – BlackLeotardFront has already gotten to a good start ahead of me though!
posted by adrianhon at 2:26 AM on August 5 [37 favorites]


Thanks for posting this. I think many people have drawn the same analogy. People want to be a a part of something.

As to Rough Ashlar's points, I always think about Leon Festinger's thesis in When Prophecy Fails. Members of cults often double down on their beliefs even after/especially after the prophecies fails. Cognitive dissonance is powerful and most people don't know when they're lying to themselves.

(*Tangent: It's sort of like the cargo cult we've build around neoliberal/conservative values, trying to recreate the trappings of postwar America in the mistaken belief that bringing back the aesthetics of that time period will bring back a standard of living that is actually predicated on completely different material factors. Even when time and time again those policies have proven catastrophic.)

I know that a lot of Sherif's methodology in the Robber's Cave study has been discounted, but I do belief that conflict/sense of conflict is a powerful bonding force in disparate communities. As QAnon folks become more isolated from their families, they are drawn into the community. I think that the Flat Earth documentary, "Behind the Curve", does a great job of looking at the social reinforcement of being part of a movement.

What's interesting, as has been said many times, is that QAnon folks eschew real issues of sex abuse, slave labor, internment camps etc instead to focus on these grand conspiracies. Their use of "do your own research, find out for yourself" is echoed in many cult-like communities. Academics who study conspiracism refer to "degenerate research" a behavior where members seek out only confirmatory information that further reinforces their theories. Obviously there are clusters of conspiratorial beliefs overlapping, but the same focus on self reinforcing 'research' is found in anti-vax communities and other anti-science movements. (Again, the community aspect is possibly more important than the specific beliefs.) There's a real "yes, and..." inclusiveness to conspiracy groups. Since the goal isn't always to create a new coherent theory, but rather to disconfirm the current hegemonic narrative, it's actually a very big tent group. This way it can be Bill Gates, and the Zionists, and the Clintons, and adrenochrome harvesters, and the social activists and ACORN and Soros and UNESCO and whoever else you need to fit in to your theory.

It's interesting to see how QAnon, as the acticle mentions, has spread into some even weirded and fringier things. It's gone full Starseed, Aliens!, and pretty much coalesced into the new grand conspiracy. Again, there's no need to be coherent as long as you are critical of the mainstream, you can be hyper-credulous about anything else.

I think this definitely all comes down to lack of perceived power and distrust towards existing institutions. People know the system is rigged at some level, even if it's hard to articulate. People know that their lives have not improved in the ways they were promised. People know their choices are constrained and they have no real access to the levers of power. Much in the same way that video games can give purpose or the illusion of progress to people who feel disconnected from real life achievements, being part of a conspiratorial group can imbue people with a sense of power and belonging that the modern world is not providing.
posted by Telf at 4:27 AM on August 5 [12 favorites]


Sorry, on re-read, I realize that I didn't say anything that the original article didn't say better.
posted by Telf at 4:30 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


Don't want to hog the thread, so will take a break after this.

This makes me think of Adam Curtis' thesis in Hypernormalisation. The world is so complex and disjointed, maybe it's easier to superimpose a simplified morality play over the top of everything. Like a self imposed Plato's cave. We catch glimmers of the shadows, but since it's impossible to know what is casting the shadows, we'll just tell our own stories.

I know that there are branches of conspiratorial research that focus on the fundamental attribution error as a mechanism for conspiracism, but I think most researchers view this an inadequate now.

It does feel like we're entering a late-Soviet era level of both cynicism towards a dying system and and a deep need for a new explanatory narrative.

If Curtis' thesis is that neoliberalism requires a simplified story for how the world works in order to ensure continued participation, the explosion of conspiracism seems to imply that people are rejecting this narrative enmasse, but have no anchor point to build a new positive worldview around.
posted by Telf at 4:52 AM on August 5 [16 favorites]


The world is so complex and disjointed, maybe it's easier to superimpose a simplified morality play over the top of everything.

"Hey, it may be green, scaly reptilians in charge behind the scenes.....but at least someone's in charge!"
posted by gimonca at 5:45 AM on August 5 [8 favorites]


In the early '80s as a tween/teen, my friends and I were sucked into the Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. We didn't "believe" the stuff in the books, but even as kids we were fascinated by the concepts of synchronicity, worldwide (Universe-wide) conspiracy, Magick, Powers Behind the Scene... and of course all the sex and drugs in those entertaining books.

Out of curiosity, I've barely tried to dip my toes into this Q nonsense and it's simply far too depressing to even peek under the covers, personally. To see the Internet become this compost pile* of conspiracy nonsense and vile, poisonous thinking is infinitely depressing and makes me feel literally sick.

*I typed this out and then realized that this Q garbage is an insult to compost heaps everywhere. A healthy compost pile is a wonderful and necessary system that is integral to life on Earth. I retract the term "compost pile" and would like to substitute instead "toxic midden pit," as Q thinking is by-definition "bad" for a healthy Human environment. Perhaps poisonous conspiracy thinking is a natural byproduct of us Homo Sapiens living in enormous tribes made possible by Cooperation, Science and Enlightenment? Depressing nonetheless.
posted by SoberHighland at 6:13 AM on August 5 [19 favorites]


I think the ARG framing for QAnon is useful, particularly in the way it keeps spinning out this engaging fantasy world for people. If it were just a harmless game..

Meanwhile Terrorism Experts Say QAnon Conspiracy Theory a Threat to National Security. A report from West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center.
“QAnon also represents a militant and anti-establishment ideology rooted in an apocalyptic desire to destroy the existing, corrupt world to usher in a promised golden age,” it said. “This position finds resonance with other far-right extremist movements, such as the various militant, anti-government, white nationalist, and neo-Nazi extremist organizations across the United States.”
QAnon is another form of accelerationism. And to the extent to which its adherents seem motivated to help bring about the boogaloo (or in an earlier generation, immanentize the eschaton) it's very dangerous.
posted by Nelson at 6:40 AM on August 5 [7 favorites]


I wrote more about it here - sorry for the self-link - but as adrianhon notes, there's a lot of the occult in this q-anon nonsense; not in the "magic is real" sense, but in the sense of "occultism" as seen by people like C.S. Lewis and later Beaudrillard, a sort of psychological snare made of endlessly self-referential symbols of symbols of symbols, a bottomless semiotic rathole that leads to no ultimate referent. Foucault's Pendulum reimagined as a right-wing fever-swamp MMORPG.

QAnon is, in a very real sense, a occult conspiracy whose secret purpose is convincing themselves, at all costs, that an occult conspiracy exists.
posted by mhoye at 7:14 AM on August 5 [34 favorites]


Excellent rumination, Adrian.

Especially good point about the sense of fun in the Q-world. That's clearly an aspect with meaning for people.
posted by doctornemo at 7:42 AM on August 5


a occult conspiracy whose secret purpose is convincing themselves, at all costs, that an occult conspiracy exists.

I think that's at the heart of all conspiracy thinking. Anyone posting videos and pictures with "Q" symbols is actively making the Q concept "real." One of Aleister Crowley's tenets of Magick was "Invoke Often"

Is a thought about a unicorn a real thought?
posted by SoberHighland at 7:42 AM on August 5 [8 favorites]


This is a really good piece, but I noticed that it avoids mentioning one of the most important things about QAnon: that at its core it's fundamentally about explaining how Trump is actually a great president, despite all available evidence. The ARG-like aspects of it definitely help make it addictive, but a big motivator for QAnon adherants is that it's a way of not confronting the frightening and painful idea that electing Trump may have been a mistake.
posted by theodolite at 7:55 AM on August 5 [13 favorites]


I think that the narrative has moved beyond Trump as the centerpiece. There have a already been a few schisms and counter schisms in the movement. When QAnon is slowly normalized as an established religion, and all the Q drops are codified into a testament, Trump will just be one of the great Prophets. It should be noted of course that Q Anon is adjacent to Tactical Christianity, which should also be treated as an emerging religion unique to America and separate from previous sects of Christianity.
posted by Telf at 8:19 AM on August 5 [3 favorites]


how Trump is actually a great president, despite all available evidence.

Yes they all love Trump (I've talked about my Q relatives before) but they also simultaneously hate the government and distrust the orgs Trump doesn't like. Yes, they think talking about QANON is fun, especially to dissenters, but amongst themselves and researching is fun. My extended family literally did it all day for the 6 weeks I was with them.

But it's 'not despite all the evidence'. They love everything he does - children in cages, questioning vaccines, destroying confidence in the US abroad, shutting borders, threatening to shoot protestors, sticking it to liberals. There is nothing ironic or 'despite the evidence'.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:24 AM on August 5 [16 favorites]


BTW the QANON guy that added the slogans and the chanting - that person was brilliant. It's like sports for people who like conspiracies instead of sports.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:27 AM on August 5 [2 favorites]


mhoye: That is a fantastic bit of commentary, thanks for sharing! Bonus points for the Majestic mention.

theodolite: Yes, I think that's a really interesting wrinkle to this – QAnon is incredibly partisan in some ways, but not at all in other ways.
posted by adrianhon at 8:31 AM on August 5


Aleister Crowley would have invented the phrase “meme magic” if no one else did.
posted by Yowser at 8:45 AM on August 5 [5 favorites]


This is a great article and also gave me a good tip about storytelling in my D&D campaign (take the players' theories and use them as the actual truth of the story).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:47 AM on August 5 [7 favorites]


I think that the narrative has moved beyond Trump as the centerpiece. There have a already been a few schisms and counter schisms in the movement. When QAnon is slowly normalized as an established religion, and all the Q drops are codified into a testament, Trump will just be one of the great Prophets.

Should Trump leave office in January, it will be interesting to see how QAnon morphs. Obviously, Trump's core message -- the government is corrupt from top to bottom, and only I, the Great Savior, and anonymous True Patriots acting on my orders can save you -- resonates extremely strongly with QAnon. "Trump's erratic behavior is all part of an 11th-dimensional chess master plan" is almost a necessary belief to be a Trumpoid, as there are painfully few other explanations for many of his actions and outbursts that can be spun positively. Likewise, Trump's repeated insistence on the "Deep State" representing a swamp of obstructive government workers also parallels QAnon; there is a Shallow State as well, a silent government army working to overthrow the other silent government army.

But much like Orwell's Big Brother, Q never acknowledges defeat or setback; everything is part of the master plan. I suspect that even a landslide Trump loss in November will be framed precisely as Trump wants it to be; it will be due to rampant fraud, to mail-in vote fraud, to illegal immigrants voting, to media conspiracies, to corrupt voting officials, to Ukrainian interference on Biden's behalf, and thus the entire affair will be invalid. Biden may be President in name if that happens, but Q will continue on as if Trump is running a shadow government, undaunted and undefeated, and that just as with the mass arrests and executions of Democrat pedophiles, the countercoup restoring Trump to glory will always be Very Soon Now in coming.

Any time now.

Wait for it...
posted by delfin at 9:03 AM on August 5 [13 favorites]


There's a real "yes, and..." inclusiveness to conspiracy groups. Since the goal isn't always to create a new coherent theory, but rather to disconfirm the current hegemonic narrative, it's actually a very big tent group.

I've seen this happen in real time. I don't even remember the specific conspiracy theory--JFK or MLK(that enjoyed a brief vogue in the latter half of the nineties)--but part of it depended on the death of some officer who supposedly Crossed the Wrong People; when the officer, quite alive, confronted the conspiracy monger on TV, the latter quickly amended his theory to include the former martyr in it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:27 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


+1 vote for functioning compost piles.
there's no need to be coherent as long as you are critical of the mainstream, you can be hyper-credulous about anything else.


AKA owning the ___________

• libs
• bosses
• family members you don’t like
• politician you don’t like
• celeb you don’t like
• race or ethnic group you don’t like
• political viewpoint persons they don’t like
• class of people they don’t like

Don’t like can also mean - need to feel superior to or feel threatened in one way or another by
posted by tilde at 10:50 AM on August 5 [3 favorites]


there's no need to be coherent as long as you are critical of the mainstream, you can be hyper-credulous about anything else.

This is the Jim Jordan mantra.

Or the debacle that was Mercedes Schlapp getting trucked by CNN's Brianna Keilor yesterday. Or the grilling of Sally Yates that is going on as I type. Or Trump's impeachment hearings, or Sean Hannity's ongoing Grand Unified Conspiracy Theory, or pretty much every other time a modern Republican gets in front of a microphone.

Their arguments, in and of themselves, are irrelevant. Their coherency, doubly so. What matters is that they are visible and they are loud; the fact that they are yammering on behalf of Conservatism and/or Trump means that they are correct by default in the eyes of 40% of Americans.
posted by delfin at 11:02 AM on August 5 [3 favorites]


What ARGs can teach us about QAnon.

great piece. Thanks for posting. If only for this one sentence which pops up a little past the half-way point:

The only way to stop people from mistaking speculation from fact is for them to want to stop.

Succinct and all too accurate. The problem with a so-called free society is how free we are to be WRONG. And too often proud of it.
posted by philip-random at 11:30 AM on August 5 [4 favorites]


Mercedes Schlapp getting trucked by CNN's Brianna Keilor

Whoa. "This is just pointless... you're saying a bunch of crap." Brianna laid it down. Nice.
posted by Snowishberlin at 11:31 AM on August 5 [1 favorite]


Or the debacle that was Mercedes Schlapp getting trucked by CNN's Brianna Keilor yesterday

This shows that actual facts and real research just get in the way. If you can brainstorm the most basic questions and then ask them loudly, then you have an argument. It doesn't matter that they have already been asked, answered, and solved. All you are doing is trying to waste time and annoy.
posted by The_Vegetables at 11:32 AM on August 5 [2 favorites]


There is nothing ironic or 'despite the evidence'.

The "despite the evidence" part is the part where it turns out he really did put Hillary Clinton in prison etc. The part that makes him more effective by their standards.
posted by atoxyl at 12:18 PM on August 5


There was a great article posted here last year on the Incunabula/Ong's Hat thing, with Joseph Matheny, one of the creators, expressing regret about the whole thing because it contributed to the present... situation.

As someone who when younger was really into Incunabula and Year Zero and Cicada and The Wired and the Interface series and who fell pretty far down the Neurocam rabbit hole (while maintaining enough critical distance to retain agency), who has an actual copy of Hely's thesis... I understand how we got here and I'm horrified that such a thing is at all relevant to the current political landscape, let alone how much it is. QAnon really is a weaponized version of this same program. I knew when I read it that something like that was inevitable, and I hate that it has arrived and taken root to the extent it has.

I don't know how to bring people back who want to climb down into these lies. Too many people have now done so to keep society semi-functional unless they do. It's just yet another factor contributing to systemic collapse.
posted by Lonnrot at 2:16 PM on August 5 [2 favorites]


Halloween Jack,

In a sort of related point, some academics try to measure conspiracism as if it were a personality trait. So some people might rate higher on a general conspiracism battery. There's a lot of back on forth about this, but one interesting phenomenon is that people who believe in sometimes unrelated conspiracies are more likely to believe in other conspiracies even if they're mutually exclusive.

So a classic example would be something like:
A. 'The Royal family had Diana killed because she knew too much.'
AND
B. 'Diana isn't really dead, she faked her own death and is currently playing poker with Tupac and Elvis.'

A person who believes in A is more likely to believe in B even though they can't both be true.

Check it out:
Dead and Alive: Beliefs in Contradictory Conspiracy Theories
posted by Telf at 4:23 PM on August 5 [7 favorites]


The Grand Conspiracy is just, like, this hole humanity has in their collective brains. Everyone's waiting for something to come along to fill it. If you're lucky, you run into something like the Illuminatus! trilogy at the right time in your life, which inoculates you against fervent belief in any of these things by giving you something that fits perfectly into that hole, but makes it very obviously that This is Not Serious. And as a bonus, it also inoculates you against Objectivism!

People want to fill this hole. Consider: there is a tiny pseudo-ARG hidden in Cultist Simulator. And there is a post on the company's blog where its creator comes out and says "hey guys, this is just conspiracy fiction, please don't bend your life around this". With the obvious implication that he has been seeing people doing just that.

Sadly the Illuminatus! trilogy is very much a product of the sixties and if I tried to give it to a GenZ they would rightfully throw it back into my face before they made it through the first hundred pages, what with how it treats women. We need a new vaccine for this. We need it so bad. And we need more than one, because one that works on my liberal ass probably isn't gonna work on someone who voted for Trump.
posted by egypturnash at 4:33 PM on August 5 [17 favorites]


(also "actually funding a decent education system for everyone" would probably help inoculate people against this to a degree, mandatory classes in thinking/researching/logic/types of arguments/etc would be pretty nice so that people develop some of the "I can feel this trying to manipulate me" sense that comes up really strongly whenever I try to look into all the modern Q stuff out of curiosity)
posted by egypturnash at 4:36 PM on August 5 [2 favorites]


1. I think it's mainly about a slow accumulation of mistrust. I'm not sure if there's a word for it, I call it 'continuity fatigue'. Over time, institutions start to accrue various negative associations, stories, myths, unfortunate truths, mistakes, misquotations, poorly executed policies etc. Sometimes those issues are true, sometimes they're not. Little teeny tiny specks of mistrust begin to stick to these institutions until they're with layers and layers hearsay.

Because of the way negativity bias works, especially against public institutions, people don't care about the 88/100 times the system did well over the last hundred years, they focus on the time when a mistake was made or somebody died.

Case in point, vaccines are not 100% safe. A very small percentage of people, including children might have adverse reactions. Is the net benefit of vaccination worth it on a societal level? Absolutely. Not even close. Does that make you feel better if your child was the one out of 100,000,000 people who died from a bad reaction? No. Add that tragedy to the list.

Then think about the time the CIA did this, or military forces posed as WHO workers, or COINTELPro, or what the US did in Iran, Chile, or Guatemala. Then think about what might have just happened in Venezuela or Bolivia. Then think about Iran Contra, then think about how nobody went to prison after the 2007 crash, or think about Redlining or think about what the FBI did to MLK Jr, then think about MK Ultra.... The list goes on.

Is the US government generally good? I think so. Have we done load and loads of terrible things? Yes. Is the medical field good? Yes, definitely. Have there been mistakes? Unfortunately.

We can do the same thing with religious groups, or political parties or even individuals on Twitter. Take the entire lifespan of an institution like the Democratic party and only list the worst things they've done. Now compress all those deeds and apply them to a faceless organization. Doesn't matter if these things were done over multiple generations, hang everything on the institution that exists today. Obviously this process is easier if you can outgroup the organization. It's easier when 'they' did it.

Any institution that has existed in continuity for long enough will begin to accumulate conspiracy theories about it. Bonus points if you can 'other' it.

2. Look at Brexit or voting for Trump and normal people were posed with this question:
'Do you think your life and the lives of those around you have improved over the last 30 years, or would you like a change?' 'Do you trust that the people in charge now are telling you the truth about how the world works?' If not, try something different.

The people who voted for Brexit just wanted something to change. It's convenient that they were lied to, and told all sorts of fairy tales about an unshackled UK, but they weren't wrong for being unhappy.

People know that society isn't working anymore. They know that they're working harder but are getting less. That cheap flat screen TV and Netflix account just doesn't make up for working more and more while saving less and less.

Trump and Brexit wouldn't have happened if the 2007 crash hadn't happened, and if austerity hadn't happened. People know that things don't add up anymore. All the education in the world won't fix this.

People are susceptible to this way of thinking because they have so little and because they're lonely or scared or they don't understand how the world works anymore.

The only way to undo this is to allow people to feel secure again, and to give them meaningful work and healthy communities, and a social safety net, and a feeling of progress. Until we decide as a society that it's time to prioritise things other than economic growth, then things will continue to get worse.

ISIS, mass shootings, 4chan, right wing rallies, QAnon etc all come from the same void. People are looking to be a part of something bigger, something that is tangible and meaningful. Working an extra 15 hours/week in your gig economy hustle or getting in another argument on twitter isn't going to fix that.

Education has nothing to do with it. It's about living in an atomized society with no way to escape.
posted by Telf at 5:17 PM on August 5 [15 favorites]


also "actually funding a decent education system for everyone" would probably help inoculate people against this to a degree

Ah! Welcome to the result of "No Child Left Behind" and other educational atrocities committed against the last two generations.
posted by Insert Clever Name Here at 9:36 PM on August 5 [2 favorites]


Education has nothing to do with it. It's about living in an atomized society with no way to escape.
posted by Telf at 5:17 PM on August 5 [7 favorites −]


favorited for pretty much everything but this conclusion.

I think education is a huge factor. Some version of a liberal arts perspective. Being able to view the world through a lens that isn't really certain of anything, and thus is open. I'm not saying everybody needs to get a BA or whatever, but a critical read of a few novels, maybe some poetry, a few movies with subtitles -- that's a solid investment in grasping a world that's magnitudes bigger than any suburban high school could ever prepare you for.
posted by philip-random at 11:21 PM on August 5 [2 favorites]


phillip-random,

Yes, you're probably right. It's a multifactorial, and it's silly of my to say that access to a solid, broad education wouldn't make a difference.
posted by Telf at 12:29 AM on August 6 [1 favorite]


If in doubt, use the scientific method. If in scientific method, don't forget the doubt.
posted by storybored at 1:21 PM on August 6 [1 favorite]


If you're lucky, you run into something like the Illuminatus! trilogy at the right time in your life, which inoculates you against fervent belief in any of these things

I wouldn't rely on that approach. Only two of my friends read it after I loaned it to them. One already loved conspiracy and it didn't change his credulity one bit.

The other was diagnosed with schizophrenia a few years later. It obviously wasn't the cause, but it did seem to be expressed in his delusions. For instance, he was George Washington reincarnated, and all his friends were reincarnations of other people from US currency.
posted by InfidelZombie at 1:24 PM on August 6 [1 favorite]


Found this via Cory Doctorow's pluralistic.net:

Qanon is magical thinking
For years, Kirby Ferguson's "Everything is a Remix" video series has traced the links between beloved contemporary art and largely forgotten historical roots, making the case that culture is accretive, and originality is just hiding your influences.

In a new video, "Trump, QAnon and The Return of Magic," Ferguson makes a compelling case that Qanon is a remix of the age old trap of magical thinking: "the belief that one's ideas, thoughts or wishes can influence the world's course of events."


Worth watching. I might have made an FPP if this thread wasn't still live.
posted by Telf at 1:53 PM on August 6 [8 favorites]


Republicans called her videos ‘appalling’ and ‘disgusting.’ But they’re doing little to stop her. [Politico] "House GOP leaders raced to disavow a Republican congressional candidate who made racist Facebook videos and embraced the QAnon conspiracy theory. But less than two months later, the party has done little to block Marjorie Taylor Greene from winning a seat in the House."
posted by hippybear at 12:18 PM on August 9


If you're lucky, you run into something like the Illuminatus! trilogy at the right time in your life, which inoculates you against fervent belief in any of these things

I wouldn't rely on that approach.


it worked for me, though the process had already begun via A. Firesign Theatre's Everything You Is Wrong, B. the Church of the Subgenius, C. Repo Man, D. Buckaroo Banzai. In other words, stuff that made deep, weird, hilarious fun of the notion that some vast and complex yet ultimately decipherable conspiracy was underlying everything that was wrong with the world.

Illuminatus! just sealed the deal. I'd never be able to take such stuff that seriously. Ever.
posted by philip-random at 11:50 AM on August 11 [1 favorite]


I got my inoculation that way too, though it was the Cosmic Trigger books more than Illuminatus! for me. Also liked a lot of those things, so maybe that helped.
posted by InfidelZombie at 2:46 PM on August 11


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