It only seems logical that a problem that was born on the internet ends up on the internet again via detours in the real world. An example of this life cycle is the QAnon conspiracy movement. As with other apocalyptic sects, one can hardly be disturbed in one’s worldview by the processes of reality. Even when the expected “storm” did not materialize after Joe Biden’s inauguration, in which allegedly all the corrupt elites of the “Deep State” were to be arrested live on television, followers of the narrative found reasons why the things they believe in are true.
While QAnon believers are now taking to the streets, taking part in anti-corona demonstrations or taking part in the storming of the US Capitol, many of their relatives are looking for advice online. You organize yourself in online self-help groups and tell how parents, siblings or friends get lost in the conspiracy, how loved ones, either on your own initiative or driven by the recommendation algorithms of social media, slide deeper and deeper into the depths of a racist and hateful worldview.
The largest of these forums can be found on Reddit. It is called “QAnoncasualties”, for example victims of QAnon, and has more than 130,000 members. Many reports are similar. Sometimes the radicalization happens creeping, sometimes furious, it’s about ruined family celebrations, slammed doors, sudden bans on speaking or fundamental lack of understanding. How complicated the situation is can be seen in the fact that just a few clicks away, the roughest content can still be shared undisturbed. Forums with names like “The Red Pill”, “Great Awakening” or “The Donald” were notoriously well known until they were blocked for the fact that the QAnon movement began in them. The platform’s attempts at censorship only lead to evasive movements by the sectarians.
Here a generation is fighting for the common sense of their parents
There is a lot of mourning and comfort in the QAnoncasualties comment threads. But it’s not just stories of loss and despair. It is striking how often younger members tell of how they try to free their parents from the grip of ideology. Because the individual cannot change the media system, some try to create a more pleasant network in their own four walls. For example, by configuring the in-house router so that it automatically blocks dubious Internet sites or right-wing messages. Lists of sites to block are shared and deprogramming strategies are presented. It is often a matter of course: separating news from opinions, questioning sources. Parental control instead of parental control.
The irony of it all is obvious. Here a generation is fighting for the common sense of those who have always warned them about the dangers of digital media. While parents and grandparents were busy warning about internet addiction, computer games or pornography, they missed developing their own media literacy.