Into the Storm, the documentary series by Cullen Hoback, explores the connection between QAnon, a popular online conspiracy theory, and an infamous imageboard, 8chan. The QAnon’s anti-establishment stance culminated on January 6, 2021, when an aggressive mob of protesters stormed the Capitol in Washington, DC. Fuelled by the provocative conspiracy agenda, the mob attempted to strike down the enemy who supposedly stole victory from Donald Trump. One can argue that the anatomy of the events in Washington is comparable to online gaming. A few media entrepreneurs united the protesters and directed their anger at the seat of the American government, similar to how guild leaders organize boss raids in a popular MMORPG, such as World of Warcraft.
Such a development in real-world politics has become possible due to the massive mobilizing power of the Internet. One can claim that the concept of mass propaganda via technical means is not novel. For example, the widespread of radio technology made it possible to broadcast Hitler’s speeches to millions of Germans. However, the Internet offers additional features of anonymity and decentralization. Nowadays, political influencers can mobilize their followers without revealing their real-life identities. In addition, the Internet facilitates de-centralized resistance and political mobilization, which makes tracing the extremists without restricting freedom of speech significantly harder.
The imageboards and forums, similar to 8chan, serve as a perfect meeting ground for the disgruntled and despised. Their views may be marginalized or even criminalized by society; therefore, these individuals socialize online among like-minded people. Conspiracies, such as QAnon, meet the target audience and breed a collective sense of supremacy. The adherents of conspiracy theories become firmly convinced that everyone around them is brainwashed or works for the enemy. At this point, the leaders only have to pick the target, and the angry mob will attack it relentlessly.
Overall, the Internet has transferred real-world politics into a setting similar to online games. The rapid spread of the QAnon conspiracy serves as an example of how an incoherent set of destructive ideas unites marginalized individuals into a dangerous mob. This mob can be assigned to disruptive offline actions, similar to how raid leaders command ordinary guild members in an online game. In the end, authorities face a difficult choice between ignoring the extremists or increasing control over the Internet and contributing to conspiracy theorists’ propaganda.