26 votes

People Tell Us How QAnon Destroyed Their Relationships

9 comments

  1. [7]
    nic Link
    Have these people always existed? Are they getting worse because the internet is an enabler for crazy/ stupid? Are we all just getting dumber?

    Have these people always existed? Are they getting worse because the internet is an enabler for crazy/ stupid? Are we all just getting dumber?

    8 votes
    1. [3]
      mftrhu Link Parent
      Yes. Yes and no. No. Dumbasses have always been a thing. People who fell for conspiracy theories have always been a thing. In a way, I think the Internet made things both better and worse....

      Yes. Yes and no. No.

      Dumbasses have always been a thing. People who fell for conspiracy theories have always been a thing.

      In a way, I think the Internet made things both better and worse.

      Communication used to be low-bandwidth, with a huge amount of lag.

      Conspiracy theories typically don't have a high information content. Most of them are mostly untrue, which gives them a huge advantage when transmitting them: it doesn't matter if the channel is noisy, or if half the transmission was dropped, because you can simply make shit up to compensate for it.

      Actual knowledge lacks this advantage. You can't drop part of the message, or have it transformed by the telephone game, while keeping it "worthy" - even if the conclusions got through correctly, errors in the premises or the argument are not good.

      You can find out that the Earth is round by going to a library, and even read about how this was discovered and how its size was calculated. You can do that experiment yourself. But that's not easy to explain one-on-one - not as easy as going "the Earth is flat, the Bible says so" or "vaccines cause autism, Big Pharma is keeping this from us" - and only the latter won't lose anything when repeated.

      But with the Internet, both arguments can be propagated losslessly, both arguments can be moved in the same amount of time, and checking on the claims made is much easier. Many more people are getting educated, too, and the Internet is an incredible resource for this.

      Of course, it's only a piece of the puzzle. You can explain why the Earth is round more easily, but people still need to be willing to listen. You can give them sources, but people still need to be willing to check on them.

      The actual field of battle is not littered with facts, but with spent jokes. The conspiracy lines fire their shots, and are answered by fire from the mockery artillery. Some try to sneak arguments behind the enemy lines, but they are not usually very effective for a variety of reasons.

      (a lot of self-described rationalist communities tend to end up filled with reactionaries, often featuring discussions on "human biodiversity" ("scientific" racism) and "why are the transes not delusional, again?" - I think that communities built around "everything is worth discussing seriously" are doomed, but this is probably not helping)

      Then, while most people can believe in some vague "power behind the throne" working to make the world a worse place - if not out of malice, out of incompetence - they won't usually believe the more outlandish claims. Only a small fraction of people will. In a less connected world, they would be the outcasts - the crazy person down the road who keeps on shouting about how the Communists are trying to impurify his precious bodily fluids - but in today's world they can form a community in five minutes, for free, and find like-minded people.

      And once protectourpreciousbodilyfluids.tk gets going, they can rant and rave at each other about the apparent blindness of the people around them, tell themselves that "they mock us because they are afraid of the truth", and when someone comes around talking about the dangers of vaccines, or satanists, or the gays, they start to nod along. If they are lying to us about one thing, after all, what's stopping them from lying to us about other things?

      TL;DR: I was shortchanged when they were handing out brevity, but I don't believe things are only getting worse.

      16 votes
      1. [2]
        nic Link Parent
        I think this is why Fox News is so dangerous.

        If they are lying to us about one thing, after all, what's stopping them from lying to us about other things?

        I think this is why Fox News is so dangerous.

        3 votes
        1. NaraVara Link Parent
          In a way, so is wikipedia. Especially when you combine them. The internet is great for finding the "facts" you want, whether they're true or not. When you research the old fashioned way, through...

          In a way, so is wikipedia. Especially when you combine them. The internet is great for finding the "facts" you want, whether they're true or not. When you research the old fashioned way, through books in libraries, you have to pore over a big stack of stuff to pull away what seems like it might pertain to your topic. In this process you absorb a lot of ideas for and against what you're trying to learn about.

          When you research via Google, you just find exactly the argument you're looking for that will validate your goal. You can selectively find stats and data from ideologically motivated sources. You can go through a whole process of post-hoc tailoring reality to suit your desires.

          There is also this element of atemporality going on. When I learned philosophy in college I was usually introduced to big frameworks in a class that introduced me to several concepts in a sequence. I got to develop the ideas along with how they developed historically so I understood them in the context of the times and the conversations people were having. I couldn't ever get too enamored with any one way of seeing the world because I was immediately argued against by other sources or by the professor's own Socratic method.

          But online research doesn't do that. Information exists as atomized chunks of content and is absorbed without necessarily being bound up in any of its relationships to other things. And the algorithmic sorting works against this. Rather than linking information in any way that's pedagogically edifying, they're sorted to match like-to-like, which isn't a great way to learn and serves to reinforce initial prejudices rather than broaden your intellectual horizons.

          8 votes
    2. alyaza Link Parent
      most likely on both counts. mass communication enables like-minded thinkers to connect, which works very well in some cases and very poorly in others, like here. it also means that things spread...

      Have these people always existed? Are they getting worse because the internet is an enabler for crazy/ stupid?

      most likely on both counts. mass communication enables like-minded thinkers to connect, which works very well in some cases and very poorly in others, like here. it also means that things spread faster and farther, which is good for things like breaking news, but bad when it comes to things like conspiracies because they have a much bigger audience to hijack now and they can do it much quicker and coalesce communities around them in the same amount of time. it's the inevitable drawback to such a powerful pipeline of information.

      12 votes
    3. [2]
      pasabagi Link Parent
      I think things are getting much better, actually. In the 30's, the Nazis were propelled to power by the strength of popular belief in conspiracy theories about Jews - which, to a lesser or greater...

      I think things are getting much better, actually. In the 30's, the Nazis were propelled to power by the strength of popular belief in conspiracy theories about Jews - which, to a lesser or greater extend, most mainstream political parties subscribed to.

      Australian politics was dominated by the 'yellow peril', and the US was a hodgepodge of different racial anxieties, about chinese, black, catholic, germans, and so on. Most of these anxieties had attendant stories that were more or less absurd.

      Obviously, all the stuff you get these days about mindcontrol and telepathy were not technologically plausible back then. But there were equally insane ideas, like the 'blood libel', the idea that jews need the blood of a christian child for passover.

      7 votes
      1. nic Link Parent
        America is struggling economically, but nowhere as badly as during the great depression, yet we have pizza gate, the deep state, Obama's birth certificate.... I think we wont know if we have...

        America is struggling economically, but nowhere as badly as during the great depression, yet we have pizza gate, the deep state, Obama's birth certificate....

        I think we wont know if we have improved until we live through another great depression.

        4 votes
  2. Ephemere Link
    Thanks for the interesting read. This sort of thing terrifies me as my father has just started to get into politics-adjacent youtube videos. He's always been a very reasonable, albeit partisan...

    Thanks for the interesting read.

    This sort of thing terrifies me as my father has just started to get into politics-adjacent youtube videos. He's always been a very reasonable, albeit partisan conservative man, and this both seems like an easy hole to fall down and a well trod one.

    5 votes
  3. dubteedub Link
    This article reminds me of another recent piece shared here about how "Fox News Didn't Steal Your Parents." Just as the other article argues that Fox News did not really change your parents into...

    This article reminds me of another recent piece shared here about how "Fox News Didn't Steal Your Parents."

    Just as the other article argues that Fox News did not really change your parents into racist, hateful people, the Murdoch propaganda machine is just made them feel more open to sharing those views, I wonder how many of these Qanon folks already had these conspiratorial beliefs / mental illness and finding these online communities just exacerbated those existing issues? For instance, the first interviewee says that her mother already had BPD and PTSD.

    In reading (probably far too many) conspiracy posts on reddit over the last few years, it really seems like a lot of these people are just unhinged, uneducated, and mentally unwell. These online communities seem to prey on the weakest members of society.

    I don't really have an answer for how we can deal with this, but it seems to me that tech companies that host these conspiracy forums like Reddit need to be held accountable for providing these platforms and enabling radicalization.

    5 votes