A God-Tier LARP? QAnon as Conspiracy Fictioning

Daniël de Zeeuw*, Alex Gekker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations

Abstract

The QAnon movement, which gained a lot of traction in recent years, defies categorization: is it a conspiracy theory, a new mythology, a social movement, a religious cult, or an alternate reality game? How did the posts of a (supposedly) anonymous government insider named Q on an obscure online imageboard in October 2017 instigate a serious conspiracy movement taking part in the storming of the US Capitol in early 2021? Returning to the origins of QAnon on 4chan’s Politically Incorrect board and its initial reception as a potential LARP, we analyze it as an instance of participatory online play that fosters deep engagement above all. Drawing on concepts from play and performance studies, we theorize the dynamics by which QAnon developed into an influential conspiracy narrative as instances of “conspiracy fictioning.” In particular, we revive the notion of hyperstition to make sense of how such conspiracy fictionings work to recursively “bootstrap” their own alternate realities into existence. By thus exploring the participatory and playful engagement mechanisms that drive today’s conspiracy movements, we aim to elucidate the epistemological and socio-political dynamics that mark the growing entanglement of play and politics, fact and fiction in society.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Media and Society
Volume9
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023

Funding

FundersFunder number
Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek12ZU322N

    Keywords

    • QAnon
    • conspiracy theories
    • fictioning
    • hyperstition
    • play

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