Last year we argued the online conspiracy Qanon had become a dangerous “LARP”. We made a video about it which you can watch here.
LARPing, for those who don’t know, derives from the acronym LARP, short for “live action role playing”.
It’s a concept that originates in the gaming world.
The Q “Larp” centres on the plot that American democracy does not exist, and hasn’t properly since the death of JFK in 1963. In reality, according to Q mythos, America — like much of the rest of the world — is actually ruled by a secret cabal of powerful satanists. Not only is this group partial to paedophilia, child sacrifice and occult magic, but it also maintains control of global power positions through the very effective use of mass blackmail, kompromat and, of course, the media. This, the larpers contend, has corrupted most of the world, in many cases making it very hard for normal individuals to discern who is really a good guy, a bad guy or — very possibly — a sleeper bad guy.
The Q Larp reached its most dramatic crescendo on January 6, when many bearing Q insignia stormed the US Capitol building in the alleged name of reclaiming their democracy from this nefarious network of individuals. The incident, as we now all know, led to a tragic loss of life. More alarmingly, in threatening the stability of the US democratic system, it also momentarily suspended order in the free world itself.
Nobody rational approved of the actions. Indeed, the violent events were universally condemned, including by Trump supporters themselves.
But while much has been written about the role of those bearing Q insignia in the great insurrection, what seems to have been missed is how the Larp could have bled into reality so dramatically. And why it is that so many are still sticking to these fantastical beliefs despite being so utterly disgraced on the public and international arena by events at the Capitol.
It’s worth noting that in the latest twist in the larping plot, President Biden hasn’t actually taken office. Instead he has occupied Washington DC while participating in a fake inauguration against the true will of the people, apparently. This, many Q believers say, is illustrated by the heavy military presence on inauguration day. Trump, meanwhile, continues to rule legitimately in an effective parallel presidency. Hence, supposedly, the urgency to reclaim the nuclear codes. And hence, supposedly, the insistence by “the enemy” on the post-presidency impeachment.
You might be wondering how anyone rational could ever believe any of this. Especially since the goalposts on the conspiracy are continuously being moved, and the long promised “arrests” of the bad guys never seemingly happen. (Part of the parallel universe plot includes the idea that a secret fifth column of resistance has penetrated the military system and is actively and secretly working to take back control.) As an investor you might even be wondering if it even matters any more? Surely now that a peaceful transition of power has occurred, much of this madness will be suspended?
But such a level-headed assessment is probably a misjudgement of the post-Trump era to come. What has been unleashed will be hard to suppress. This is why understanding the dynamics of the new power-politics landscape will be more important than ever. But it is unlikely that conventional analysis will be all that effective.
This is because the groups in play have not just become tribal; they have become splintered into entirely opposing perspectives on cultural norms and reality. And the schism is now so great that mediating the divide is unlikely to be possible without looking at the current situation from an anthropological perspective.
Understanding how the fantasy world of Q sees and interprets events in the real world is a necessary part of that journey.
A key reason the Q narrative has come to blur with reality is because a Q follower’s interpretation of reality is vindicated by the fact that nothing ever seems to change for the better. Their sense is that, no matter how we vote, terrible things, like the global financial crisis — for which nobody significant ever went to jail — and endless inexplicable wars keep happening. In their eyes, this is because democracy, like the financial system, has been rigged against the people for so long.
In the eyes of Q followers, all western elections since the death of JFK (with the exception of Reagan, Carter and Trump) have been part of a democratic pretence. To them, it’s the same sort of electoral kayfabe — or theatre — that is routinely served up by authoritarian states. In such authoritarian instances, even where on the surface elections are seemingly allowed to happen, the choices are actually irrelevant because every single candidate is regime-approved and offers no real opt-out from the ruling system.
The electoral process is therefore an empty ritual.
In the western world, Q believers see this as illustrated by the fact that the only electoral choices are usually between one group of pro-multinational corporate globalists and another group of pro-multinational corporate globalists. A phenomenon that manifests from the basic reality that corporate interests tend increasingly to hedge their bets by donating and influencing both sides of the political spectrum.
Thus it doesn’t matter whether you are on the left or the right. The winning candidates never represent the interests of those who are inclined to more self-empowerment (especially for SMEs), less globalism or more decentralisation.
This is why, in their eyes, the success of Trump and Brexit upset the establishment on such a visceral level. They were not meant to be.
Q followers’ stance has been further emboldened by real-world revelations of actually rigged markets (from Libor to commodities), the growing collapse of small business, the imprisonment of “truth seekers” like Julian Assange and of course the sordid nature of the Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell revelations.
The injustice of it all (in their eyes) increasingly motivates them to “other” the opposition, which in turn leads to an extremely frightening framing of the fight in terms of good and evil.
What they see as clear beyond a shadow of a doubt is that mysterious forces on the internet have worked hard to manipulate these grievances into would-be insurrectionist movements that seemingly justify action beyond conventional democratic protocol. This has led to a larping shadow war, focused mostly on cultural norms, conducted mainly online and out of sight of mainstream sensibilities.
As disturbing as all this is, a de-escalation of frictions is unlikely to occur unless the base grievances of these supposed fantasists — which many argue really do have legitimate rationale — are taken seriously. It is also unlikely to occur if the mainstream continues to feed the conspiracy by itself reacting outside of normal democratic protocol, which it does when it seeks to censor, suppress, unperson or shun the opposition.
From an anthropological perspective, we now sit at a juncture of two competing realities that are so dramatically opposed, at least one of them must be centred around the Big Lie: the idea that it’s easier to tell bigger lies than small lies, due to the emperor has no clothes effect.
In our world — let’s call that the mainstream world — it is brazenly obvious who the liar is. We know it to be so because both the evidence and the motive points in only one direction: Donald Trump made the whole “electoral fraud” up because it suited his agenda, which was transparently focused on grabbing and consolidating power by any means possible.
This is supported by the fact we have no reason to doubt the electoral process. We trust the system. The system has been good to us. Or, alternatively, we believe the way things are evolving will ensure the system will soon be good to us. It’s obvious to us that the counter-narrative view, that the entire system is so corrupt that even the judiciary must be in on Biden’s election fraud, is beyond preposterous.
Yet to all those who have abandoned trust in the system (no doubt because they no longer believe it works for them), nothing is above suspicion. As a result everything, including the idea the judiciary may be too corrupt or compromised by threatening behaviour behind the scenes, is all within the realms of possibility. It’s happened before in other occupied or corrupt authoritarian systems. So why not in the US?
Once we understand this perspective, we can understand why in the minds of the most radical Q supporters January 6 wasn’t an insurrection as much as a last-ditch attempt to restore the democracy they believe was being stolen from them. It is, in that sense, the very opposite: a looking-glass phenomenon.
The problem with the normalisation of Larps in real life is that, eventually, discerning reality from fiction becomes so hard that increasingly outlandish theories or conspiracies are necessary to justify why things have not gone according to one’s expectations.
In the aftermath of Joe Biden’s clear-cut and indisputable inauguration on January 20, this is where the Q world view finds itself now.
There are only two paths for those engaged in the shadow war to follow now. In one pathway, the reality of Biden’s inauguration will force Trump’s most loyal digital and real-world combatants to finally accept defeat, facing up to their own version of Germany’s zero hour. They will become a new contingent of broken men and women, collectively embarrassed, shamed and shunned by the actions they allowed to happen. They will finally be forced to come to terms with the Q fantasy they had made their reality for so long.
In the other pathway, the Larp goes on. The larpers’ worldview isn’t necessarily punctured, but rather simply set back. They might continue to hold out hope that the “good guys” are still operating in the background in their interests, coming up with ever-more delusional tales to justify why things aren’t going to plan. Or, more dangerously perhaps, they might withdraw underground to forge a much more organised resistance effort. With that might come the makings of a secret parallel state, complete with its own parallel funding, as well as a financial and media system.
The temptation, of course, will be to call those who continue to believe in the legitimacy of Donald Trump’s parallel presidency abject reality deniers. But those engaged in the fight are much more likely to see it as a collectivised belief in a better tomorrow, as guided by their very particular interpretation of the US constitution. And that, in part, is the problem.
The schism is no longer a matter of reason or rationale that can be coolly debated in a civilised manner. It’s become an identity-defining struggle of opposing values and belief systems, which seemingly cannot coexist in the same reality matrix anymore let alone guide society through its systemic ambiguities cohesively. One culture versus another counterculture.