Rabbit Holes

Alternative medicine, Q'non, and AR games provide people with deep-dive information webs that are alluring because they privilege the participant with malleable independent knowledge.

Folksonomies: conspiracy rabbit hole alternative knowledge

Q'non as an AR Game

An alternate reality game begins when people notice “rabbit holes” — little details they happen across in the course of everyday life that don’t make sense, that seem like clues. Consider the game Why So Serious?, which was actually a marketing campaign for the 2008 Batman movie The Dark Knight. The game started when some fans at a comic book convention found dollar bills with the words “why so serious?,” and George Washington defaced to look like the Joker. Googling the phrase led to a website … which directed players to show up at a certain spot at a certain time … where a skywriting plane appeared and wrote out a phone number … which led to more clues. Eventually you found out that there was a war going on between the Joker’s criminal gang and the Gotham Police.

The “game masters” don’t necessarily write out the whole story in advance. They might make up some parts of it as they go, creating clues in response to what players are doing. Some games offer prizes, like coordinates to a secret party. But really, the reward is just the satisfaction of solving the mystery.

The structural similarities between all this and QAnon, the game designers thought, were remarkable. In QAnon, too, the rabbit holes can be anywhere: YouTube videos, believers carrying signs at Trump rallies with phrases only other followers would recognize, or enigmatic posts on online message boards. QAnon, of course, also has a game master: Q, the unidentified person behind the curtain. Although he or she has lately been silent, Q used to send regular messages, which pointed to leaked emails, obscure news stories, and numerological puzzles.


Folksonomies: conspiracy rabbit hole


Traits of Yoga Practice That Lead to Conspiracy Theories

Remski, the host of Conspirituality, noticed a number of yoga teachers flirting with QAnon during the early months of the pandemic. At first, he suspected it was a marketing ploy. With yoga studios around the country suddenly closed, teachers were forced to compete for the same online audience. But as the pandemic progressed, some teachers, like Guru Jagat, did not walk back their rhetoric.

Of course, many people practice yoga without believing in conspiracy theories. However, yoga philosophy and conspiratorial thinking have a lot in common, Remski said, making it easy to slide from the former into the latter.

In both circles, there is an emphasis on "doing your own research" and "finding your own truth." And many people who practice and teach yoga distrust Western medicine, preferring to find alternative solutions or try to let their body heal itself.

"The relativism around truth, which has so long been a part of wellness culture, really reared its head in the pandemic," said Natalia Petrzela, an author and historian at The New School. "This idea that 'truth is just in the eye of the beholder' is something which can feel kind of empowering when you're sitting in yoga class, but when it's the pandemic, and that kind of language is being deployed to kind of foment, like, vaccine denial or COVID denialism, it has the same power, because we're all steeped in this culture ... it can be used for real harm."

QAnon, in particular, may have a particular resonance for yoga practitioners, according to Ben Lorber, a researcher at Political Research Associates, a think tank that monitors right-wing movements, because both communities share the idea of a higher truth accessible to a select few.


Folksonomies: conspiracy rabbit hole