The Future

We haven’t figured out how to handle online conspiracies

But erring on the side of not giving them outsized attention is probably the way to go

The Future

We haven’t figured out how to handle online conspiracies

But erring on the side of not giving them outsized attention is probably the way to go

Call it what you will: the Storm, the Great Awakening, that bullshit thing that started on 4chan — it’s all the same. Since its inception in late October, the QAnon conspiracy has grown into a nebulous mass of ever-increasing absurdity. Though it has its roots in a totally bunk anti-Mueller sentiment and a Pizzagate-esque obsession with the (nonexistent) pedophillic cabal supposedly ruling the world, over the last few months it has somehow gotten worse, expanding to include basically anything and everything imaginable. Every week brings some new display of mass delusion, each somehow more outrageous than the last.

Neither people nor media outlets can stop talking about it — this site and myself included — because it’s difficult to see what feels like a deluge of disturbing rhetoric and unbridled insanity hiding in what has basically become plain sight and not race to sound the alarm (or at least send a tweet). That this is the way things are now isn’t exactly an easy thing to come to terms with. The shitty, stomach-turning parts of the internet are no longer siloed away on message boards like 4chan and Kiwi Farms; they’re on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and in the real world. At a certain point, staying silent starts to seem like negligence. It becomes hard to believe there can possibly be value in not talking about something.

But no amount of coverage will make QAnon more than a made-up thing by 4chan. Nothing about it, from the content of the conspiracy itself, to the actions of its “adherents,” is genuine.

The reality is that shining a light on such actions rarely does much in the way of stopping them and often only ends up propagating the messaging contained within even further. Attention is attention is attention. It’s the Streisand Effect, but the information at hand is a poisonous reality-crushing conspiracy, rather than some vapid rumor or hot goss.

More coverage doesn’t always mean better coverage, or even a more informed populace (see: the Trumpian news cycle); more often than not, it just means fringe details and happenings become increasingly blown out of proportion in a desperate attempt to win that day’s allotment of online outrage. For conspiracy theorists and those with extremist beliefs, backlash from the general public and mainstream media outlets only serves to further prove the legitimacy of their so-called claims. The current conservative fervor over ‘fake news’ has only strengthened this ideological heel digging. It’s confirmation bias at its finest.

The world will continue to mess up about what subjects only seem like a big deal online; the only question is to what extent. Subjects like QAnon continue to be milked for imaginary internet points in the name of “informing the public,” rather than being treated as the toxic cesspool of disinformation that it is. Every aspect of it is steeped in a desperate need for validation and attention — troll culture at its finest — and each tweet or “report” only strengthens their cause, while we all have to sit there and try to ignore it, worry about whether we should pay attention, worry because we have paid attention, or some toxic mixture of all three.

The Future

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