Originally published at: QAnon flopped in Japan because it's a piece-of-junk conspiracy theory | Boing Boing
Originally published at: QAnon flopped in Japan because it's a piece-of-junk conspiracy theory | Boing Boing
Q: your conspiracy is dumb, and you should feel embarrassed.
I feel like calling Qanon a Conspiracy Theory is giving it too much credence. There is no set theory right? It’s more like a meandering everchanging tale of lies to draw in rubes that want it to reinforce their beliefs. It’s just a cult.
Or maybe it’s because Japan’s got its hands full with existing unfounded beliefs, like “Western skis are not good for Japanese snow.”
I love Japan (lived there, have friends and family there, visit frequently, have literally met the Emperor) but from time to time there are some truly mind-bogglingly odd and easily-disproved ideas that crop up and gain traction.
This is, unfortunately, a “members only” article, because I want to post it every time someone brings up Q crap:
QAnon is Not a ‘Conspiracy Theory’
By Josh Marshall | February 5, 2021 11:23 a.m.
As the QAnon phenomenon becomes more central to critical political and public safety questions, I realize we need a new vocabulary to describe this and similar phenomena. Q is not a “conspiracy theory”. The faked moon landing was a conspiracy theory. Perhaps birtherism was a conspiracy theory, though one with similarities to QAnon because of its strong ideological valence. But Q is not a conspiracy theory. It’s a fascistic political movement which predicts and advocates mass violence against liberals (and everyone else outside its definition of true Americans) in an imminent apocalyptic political reckoning. What we call the ‘conspiracy theories’ are simply the storylines and claims that justify that outcome. They could easily be replaced by others which serve the same purpose.
In other words – and this is still a very basic confusion – the Q phenomenon is not a factual misunderstanding that more credible news sources or prevalent fact-check columns would deflate and tame. You can even see this play out in real time in what we might call Q ‘man on the street’ interviews in which a reporter dissects or debunks some claim the Q supporter believes. The response is invariably something like, “Well, there are a bunch of other bad things I heard they did.”
Some Q supporters clearly believe some of the movement fables. You can see this in the late 2016 story of the man who stormed the Pizza shop in DC which was a focal point of pedophilia claims in the PizzaGate conspiracy theory, which was a precursor to Q. (Most PizzaGate fables were later incorporated into Qanon.) Edgar M. Welch, the would-be mass shooter and rescuer of abused children, was clearly quite surprised to find that Comet Ping Pong was in fact just a good pizza joint, with no abused children, no dungeons, no secret headquarters of John Podesta.
But Welch, I think, is the exception. Just as the ‘conspiracy theory’ language is inadequate and misleading we need a better way of understanding belief, particularly belief as a form of aggression. I don’t think most QAnon believers actually ‘believe’ that Hillary Clinton runs a pedophilia ring, at least not in the sense that you and I think of the word. Most of us in politics and in journalism have a rather classical and mechanistic understanding of cognition and belief. We use our mental faculties to ascertain what is true and then we believe those things that appear to be true. Or we take the word of trusted sources and believe those things. We may believe things which are not true either because we’ve been mislead or because our pre-existing biases distort our understanding of what is true. For this, good fact-check columns can help. When we say things we know are not true that’s lying. We know that’s not right. But sometimes we do it anyway.
This is a very inadequate way of understanding the Q phenomenon and much else in contemporary politics and culture.
I say you’re a pedophile not because I think you’re actually a pedophile but because it is an attack. Because it hurts you. In online and message board culture there are legions of users constantly attacking anyone they disagree with or don’t like as pedophiles or other horrid accusations. Presumably these people aren’t acting on some mistaken information that the people (the identities of whom they usually don’t even know) they’re attacking have sexually abused children. It’s not a misunderstanding. It’s a form of aggression. Things like the Q phenomenon are just this aggression writ large. I say you’re a pedophile because it is itself an act of aggression but also because it dehumanizes you. It’s a storyline that makes hurting you or killing you make more sense and be more exciting.
Not surprisingly given his role in these movements, Donald Trump is a good illustration of how to think about belief in this context. We know that Trump is a scurrilous, pathological liar. But as I’ve written, Trump doesn’t believe or not believe as you or I likely do. In fact, if you could sit Trump down sedated or under some kind of truth serum and ask why he was lying about some particular claim I think he would find the question almost bewildering. Someone like Trump finds what would be helpful to his needs or claims or interest in the particular moment and then says those things. And I think he even kind of believes them because they help him. What you say and ‘believe’ isn’t tethered to what’s true in quite the same way. You might as well ask a novelist why she writes things that aren’t true. She’d be equally befuddled by the question.
If you’ve worked in business a certain kind of salesman is like this. You size up the customer, find out what they want, what they feel they need and then tell them a story to make the sale. Is it lying? Well, not to them. Not exactly. It’s selling. Again, you don’t ask a playwright why he writes stories that aren’t true. Needless to say Donald Trump is that kind of salesman . How is it Donald Trump always seems to rapidly believe whatever is helpful to him in the given moment? Or later say exactly the opposite when that’s helpful? There’s rampant voter fraud. Bill Clinton is the worst sexual predator in human history and is definitely awful even as Trump himself casually harasses, importunes, assaults, rapes and more? Since they help you you do sort of come to believe them because why not?
Any sports fan comes to believe that their team is absolutely the best and the rival team is definitely the worst, with all manner of chants, regalia and affirmations even though they know – from another perspective – that all of this is in fact absurd. To Trump it really would be like asking a novelist why they keep making up stories that aren’t true. The reaction is incomprehension. The point here is not to defend Trump who is malevolent predator and degenerate liar. It is to explain that his calculus of truth, belief and advantage are quite different than what most of us are likely familiar with.
Just how QAnon and comparable movements work is something I’m still working to get my head around. (These two articles are the analyses that interest me most – here and here.) But calling them conspiracy theories is not only wrong in concept it seriously misleads us about what they are and how to combat them. Qanon is a violent terroristic political movement with strong fascistic facets the upshot of which, in every storyline, is a final violent reckoning in which Trump’s political enemies are rounded up and murdered. That’s what it’s about. The fables are just getting people primed and ready for that moment.
Josh Marshall (@joshtpm) is editor and publisher of TPM.
It’s because it doesn’t have enough recipes and dick jokes.
I know where they’re coming from. I want some RAW-style “Operation Mindf-ck” craftsmanship and care and imagination and high weirdness put into a conspiracy theory.
Shoddy recycled Satanic Panic junk mixed in stale conservative political paranoia tropes and even staler anti-Semitism and racism is just boring. It’s exactly the kind of beigeist fantasy you’d expect would emerge out of lily-white exurbs.
The QAnon doc series that recently started airing on HBOMax is really interesting and worth watching. +1000000000 to what @Ratel posted about it not being a conspiracy theory. It’s much more of a weaponized cult, and the doc seems to indicate that Trump admin scum like Stone and Flynn may well have been directly involved (as well as the 8chan owner and his son).
The cult of Q is just not high quality enough to compete in the Japanese market. What use is a foreign cult of terrorism and lies that can barely assemble a violent mob when helped and encouraged by the Presidiot and several congress insiders? Japan has produced much more efficient and well equipped political terrorists:
Yes, and maybe also this, it’s good reporting:
nutters are everywhere, and no nationality is a vaccine against it.
I dono, maybe Doug Adams was right, getting out of the oceans was a big mistake.
“Happy Science” anyone? Very weird cult in Japan that is like a moderate version of the “Supreme Truth” movement that caused the sarin gas deaths.
They have a “temple” here in Sydney, also established in New Jersey and Florida according to reports.
Thank you for posting the text of that article I wouldn’t have read otherwise, which finally gave me the words to explain part of the exasperation with these people.
In short, as a conspiracy theory, QAnon is like a 1980s American car: shoddily constructed, with low-quality components and no overall vision.
It’s in many ways unknowable why a certain belief system finds resonance in one culture and not another. QAnon’s inability to thrive in Japan does not mean Japanese are “smarter” because US’s conspiracy theories are so “shoddy.” (For one, QAnon is intricately linked to US elite/politicans; why ever should Japanese rile themselves up about Huma and Hillary?) Doesn’t his premise reek of Malcolm Gladwell-style pseudo-insight?
Christianity’s tenets are on their face, uh, challenging and unrelatable (a god who dies a victim of a hate crime, a trinity thats not a trinity but is a trinity, etc.) but Christianity had ace marketing executive Paul the Apostle, without whom that religion would not exist as we know it. Perhaps, it’s just that JAnon lacks their “Paul” to spread the
Considering the vast number of pro-Q messages I have seen in Japanese language message boards, the formidable reach of Epoch Times in Japan and the embrace of Q-adjacent conspiracy theories by the Happiness Science cult, I would question whether Matt Alt knows what he’s talking about on this.
Q Anon dovetails nicely with Japanese right-wing, anti-China sentiment. Many in Japan view China as the ultimate threat to humanity and Trump as the only person who can put a stop to China’s plans for world domination. I suggest that Matt take a look at the comments section on Yahoo News Japan. There is plenty of Q talk there, and it was insane in late November through December, when people were talking about how a Dominion server in Frankfort had been seized from the CIA in a raid that cost six lives. Everyone was talking about how Sidney Powell was going to try Biden and Pelosi in a court martial, and these people would not listen to reason (or an explanation of what a court martial is). These comments were everywhere, and they were getting hundreds upon hundreds of likes.
(I cannot say for certain that the people posting these things were actually Japanese, but their Japanese was quite natural and up-to-date in terms of slang, etc.)
In fact, here are a bunch of articles written in the Japanese media talking about how Q Anon is spreading in Japan as well, so I’m just gonna go ahead and say that Matt Alt doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He obviously only did his research looking at English-language sources, without even doing a cursory search in Japanese. This is two minutes of googling here. Allow me to translate the following headlines:
Bloomberg: “QAnon in Japan Too: The Oddball Group of True Believers Spreading Conspiracy Theories Now on a Global Scale”
Asahi Shimbun Digital: “The People’s Liberation Army on the US Border?” Q Anon Being Directly Imported into Japan"
Gendai Business: “2020: Why the Number of People Getting Hooked on “Conspiracy Theories” Has Exploded in Japan” (by Atsushi Manabe)
Strainer: “QAnon Beginning to Spread in Japan Too”
Business Insider: “Why QAnon Also Spread in Japan. What People Who Spread Conspiracy Theories Share in Common”
Kyodo News: “Trump Support Spreading Worldwide: QAnon Events in 8 Prefectures in Japan”
I’ve got some bad news about conspiracy theories…
Takeharu Mikami’s comment still has me chuckling.
It was a religion that preached equality to slaves and the lower classes in the Roman Empire. There were also a lot of variations on doctrine, most of which are now considered heresies and the rest merged into Catholic or Eastern Orthodox belief.
It wasn’t until later when it started becoming unrelatable. Constantine the Great was probably the start of this, making Christianity the official Roman religion and effectively putting it under imperial control. Get rid of the heresies, get rid of the proto-communism and equality and you start down the road to the right wing evangelicals of today.