The Cultural Logic of QAnon

The Deformation of the Information Space

Still from John Carpenter’s They Live.

A disenfranchised young man discovers that malign entities have been living in secret all around him, manipulating the levers of power in order to feed on innocent citizens who are unable, or unwilling, to see these evil forces. Increasingly desperate to expose these creatures, he seeks allies among those who have awakened to the conspiracy and, armed to the teeth, launches an assault against their secret base of operations in a last-ditch, suicidal mission to save the innocent. No, this is not the script for a 1980’s horror movie. This is a basic retelling of the Pizzagate tragedy, in which 28-year-old Edgar Welch, believing himself to be rescuing children held captive beneath Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington D.C., opened fire on the restaurant with an AR-15. Fortunately, nobody was hurt, and Welch served four years in prison while refusing to disavow the conspiracy theory which had led him down this deadly path.[1] Such eruptions of insanity and violence are troubling portents of a new conspiracism pervading online communities.

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Matthew N. Hannah is an Assistant Professor of Digital Humanities at Purdue University in the School of Information Studies, where he researches and teaches about online misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories.

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