At the start of last weekend a friend sent me a text written by Reed Berkowitz, a video game designer. By combining aspects of his creative process with QAnon’s way of doing things, he offers one of the most interesting analyzes of the phenomenon.
Used to creating alternate reality games, parallel universes or live action role-playing games, he quickly realized that QAnon was first and foremost just that: a game. The major difference between creations of Berkowitz and those of Q lies in the fact that it is no longer the players who determine the actions, but the game. We could also add that the goal of Q is not to distract, but to serve the creator or his interests.
When a designer develops their game, one of the pitfalls they face is that of apophenia. This term is seldom used in everyday life, yet we experience it regularly. In its mildest form, apophenia occurs when we make sense of things that don’t, when we make connections between things that are only there by chance.
This distortion of reality can sometimes become more serious and the term was actually used for the first time by a German neurologist and psychiatrist, Klaus Conrad. While a game creator wishes at all costs to avoid players interpreting clues or keys to his game, he is wary of apophenia. Q is deliberately confusing, providing its followers only with raw data, random data. It is then up to the “players” to give meaning to material which, from the start, does not have any.
Q, being fictional and mysterious, alienates followers from reality and never provides them with solutions or conclusions. Each individual who dives into this world is called upon to make links himself, to create a universe that he is responsible for regularly nourishing. Do your research …
If trying to group together the various indices is fun, it also allows us to benefit from the support of a whole community with whom we can exchange our hypotheses. The risk lies of course in the fact that it is not just a game, the followers evolve in a parallel universe, but try to explain a conspiracy which, for its part, has implications in reality.
What is the objective pursued by Q? Propaganda. The craziest theories launched by QAnon all came from the contribution of followers. Q selects the best elimination conspiracy theories, so participants contribute to the development of the conspiracies they will adhere to. It’s awfully eye-catching. Being a follower of Q is both being its first victim, but also being the one who feeds the beast.
If the phenomenon is objectively fascinating, it disturbs me deeply. Whether in the United States or here, we find a significant number of followers. The majority of those who know QAnon distrust or reject it, but those who swell its ranks can now have a very real influence.
For those who believe in Q, Donald Trump is the hero who will succeed in revealing the Deep State. The president himself relays the group’s assumptions. Do you remember Trump’s suggestion to inject himself with a bleach solution in the middle of a press conference? It came from Q.
As Americans are more divided than ever, it is worrying that a considerable number of our neighbors live in an alternate reality. According to the Pew Research Center, 20% of American adults who know QAnon consider this group to be good for society.
On this subject, as on many others, there is a political divide; there are only 7% of Democrats who have a positive view of Q, compared to 41% of Republicans. You may recall that the Republican Party fielded several candidates who openly broached the Q conspiracies.
Apophenia, this distortion that Q abuses, can lead to violent protests, and there will always be unscrupulous leaders to exploit the phenomenon. For the moment, Donald Trump is the only influential politician to resort to regrouping, but others could be tempted. Where there is a voter base, it is rare that we do not try to win their favor.
We would be wrong to underestimate the impact of QAnon followers on what the US President is doing these days, just as we should be interested in what is happening on the web on our side of the border.