Whenever I write (or podcast) about QAnon, people in the QAnon community reliably ask me one question: “All for a LARP?” They say this because they were trained to say this by Q, the mysterious 8chan poster that is the source of the wide-reaching, convoluted conspiracy theory.
“LARP” stands for “Live Action Roleplaying Game,” a kind of high-investment, immersive fantasy roleplaying that has been the subject of a few documentaries and interviews with people who like to LARP. (Technically, QAnon is more of an ARG, or “Augmented Reality Game,” rather than a LARP, but I won’t get into that here.)
When people in the QAnon community say “all for a LARP?” in response to skeptical attention, it roughly translates to “If Q is a nonsense conspiracy theory, why are you paying attention to it?” Of course, in typical QAnon doublethink, people in the community also complain that the mainstream media doesn’t pay enough attention to QAnon. For example, they insist that White House journalists should ask Trump about QAnon. The fact that they don’t is evidence that journalists secretly believe that Q is the real deal, and not, say, that White House reporters have more pertinent issues to bring up to the president than his thoughts on an internet conspiracy theory.
Why does the #FAKENEWS media continue to attack a so-called 'Conspiracy' ?#Q #QAnon #q #qanon #QAnons
What are (((they))) so afraid of?#truth #Truth #TRUTH
People are waking up at an outstanding rate.
Why doesn't @CNN ask the 'Q'uestion?#WWG1WGA
— TripleT (@Sixtysecondsof) February 12, 2019
It’s a clever bit of self-insulating logic that’s common to all conspiracy theories. They reason that if the mainstream media or skeptics don’t pay enough attention to the conspiracy theory, then it must be because they’re afraid of it, because the theory is true. But if skeptics do pay attention to it, then that means they’re attacking the theory because they’re afraid of it, because the theory is true.
For those who buy into QAnon, somehow both outsider apathy and outsider interest equally validate the conspiracy theory.
But in addition to being a tortured way to rationalize all opposition as validation, the “all for a LARP” response reveals that the QAnon followers are under the misapprehension that media outlets don’t publish articles about LARPs. I don’t think they’ve checked whether or not that’s actually the case. Just this month, The Verge’s Tasha Robinson wrote about a new breed of LARPs that explores thorny ethical questions around artificial intelligence. Obviously, no one takes those LARPs quite as seriously as QAnon. But if enough people did, mainstream media outlets would take note.
So the answer to “All for a LARP?” is “Yes, obviously, all for a LARP.”
Reporters occasionally cover QAnon and the people in the QAnon community, because LARPs are interesting. At least, they are to me. Sometimes, I wonder if publications that cover Fortnite ever get asked “All for a video game?”
Of course, QAnon is a LARP that has real-world consequences. These consequences include, but are not limited to, terrorism charges following an armed standoff, trespassing charges for a man who filmed himself rifling through private property while on the hunt for pedophiles, and general alienation from family, friends, and civil society for people in the QAnon community. The fact that QAnon occasionally jumps into the real world when QAnon followers LARP a little too hard also makes it interesting.
QAnon is a baseless conspiracy theory and a LARP, but it’s a fascinating and popular one. I think it’s the greatest sideshow in American politics and media.
So, I’m kicking off a weekly column for Contemptor called All For A LARP: The Week In QAnon. Every week, I hope to show off the most interesting and weirdest developments in QAnon world. Normally, I scan hubs on QAnon activity on 8chan, Voat, Twitter, and Gab and share QAnon developments on my Twitter account. This column will summarize what I’ve found, plus share stories about the fever swamps breaching into real life.
With that out of the way, here’s what was buzzing around the internet’s favorite digital soldiers the week of February 10, 2019.
“Pizzagate” Arson Suspect Arrested After Cops Taze Him In Front of The Washington Monument
This week we were reminded of the ur-QAnon: Pizzagate. That 2016 conspiracy theory baselessly posits, among other things, that horrifying child abuse was occurring at the innocuous Washington D.C. pizzeria Comet Ping Pong.
Comet Ping Pong was back in the news last month because, on January 23, a man set a curtain at that pizzeria on fire with matches and lighter fluid. Police now say that the suspect, Ryan Rimas Jaselskis, has been arrested on arson charges. Jaselskis apparently caught the attention of police on February 4 after hopping the construction barrier around the Washington Monument and getting into a brawl with two National Park Police officers. That fight with police was captured on video. Jaselskis was released from prison and arrested again on February 5 after
A video posted to Jaselskis’ parents’ YouTube account the night of the fire seems to provide a possible link between the alleged arson and QAnon. The video is a mirror of one of the most popular QAnon videos, called “Q: The Plan To Save The World.” That video is often shared in QAnon circles as an introduction to the conspiracy theory.
No motive has been released by DC authorities in the arrest of Ryan Rimas Jaselskis on arson charges in the Comet Ping Pong fire, but a YouTube channel associated with him and his parents posted a QAnon conspiracy theory video on the same day as the fire: https://t.co/e66O3VTSNx pic.twitter.com/T62cqSIfvw
— Tom Cleary (@tomwcleary) February 14, 2019
It remains to be seen if Jaselskis was motivated to torch Comet Ping Pong’s curtains because he bought into the QAnon/Pizzagate idea that the pizzeria a hub of human trafficking. But, if that video means anything, it marks the second time the D.C. pizza joint was targeted for violence because of someone who couldn’t discern their LARP from reality.
The first time occurred in December 2017, when a 29-year-old South Carolina man, Edgar Maddison Welch, fired a rifle inside the establishment during a deluded attempt to save non-existent child sex slaves. Shortly before the incident, Welch texted a friend, “Raiding a pedo ring, possible sacrificing the lives of a few for the lives of many.” Welch pleaded guilty to local and federal firearm charges and is currently serving a 4-year prison sentence.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg Goes Back To Supreme Court
In a January 6 Q drop, Q baselessly implied that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was being given “off-market’ drugs” in order to “sustain minimal daily function.” Some in the QAnon community took it a step further and just said that she’s dead.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is dead. https://t.co/YebkiZ6ESZ
— Joe M (@StormIsUponUs) January 13, 2019
Unfortunately, people in the QAnon community are often unsatisfied with Q’s conspiratorial claims and instead insist upon even more deranged conspiracy theories. For example, despite the fact that Q has clearly insisted that JFK Jr. is dead, there are still many Q followers who insist that JFK Jr. is alive and secretly helping Trump take down the global “cabal.” So naturally, despite Q never claiming that Ginsburg is dead, that absurd theory gained some traction.
This theory was given a boost by former White House staffer Sebastian Gorka, who tweeted disingenuous concerns about Ginsburg not making any public appearances after her cancer treatment.
Now that RBG will be out in public soon, the conspiracy that she’s secretly dead will only evolve. Too many people—not just Qanon folks (where it started) but also guys like Seb—got into this one.
Expect lots of weird, close-up shots of ears to prove it’s an old lady body double https://t.co/QepzXBIMwM
— Ben Collins (@oneunderscore__) February 15, 2019
However, this week Ruth Bader Ginsburg returned to the Supreme Court to participate in private conferences with fellow justices. Dead people are notoriously unable to show up for work, so this development was challenging for the “RBG is dead” theory. So some, but not all, people in the QAnon community to upgraded her status from “dead” to “not dead.”
Popular QAnon promoter “Joe M,” for example, said she was “incapacitated” after previously claiming that she had been “dead for weeks.”
QAnon promoter Joe M with the walkback, upgrading RBG’s status to “incapacitated” after declaring her dead five days. pic.twitter.com/EJw9mRun6N
— Travis View (@travis_view) February 15, 2019
Others in the QAnon community, however, are steadfast. The typical refrain is “pics or didn’t happen.”
This is a confusing evidence threshold, since cameras aren’t allowed in the Supreme Court while it is in Session and a photograph of Ruth Bader Ginsburg would be exponentially easier to fake than a Supreme Court meeting with other justices. Photoshop is a powerful tool, but it’s not yet good enough to trick Chief Justice John Roberts into thinking he’s meeting Ruth Bader Ginsburg,
As always, I have little expectation that true believers will update their beliefs now that the “RBG is dead” conspiracy theory has rocketed far past “untenable” and is currently in “mind-bendingly absurd” territory.
But at least it should be fun to see how RBG truthers maintain their beliefs.
Q Gets Their Groove Back
Q has been in a bit of a slump the past few months. In January, Q posted only 31 Q drops on 8chan. Q also appeared to need Christmas break off: there were no Q drops for the last week of December. However, in February, Q has picked up the pace by posting an impressive 64 drops so far.
The posts are a typical mix of assurances that vindication is at hand, photos posted without context, cryptic phrases intended to be “decoded” by the QAnon community, and angry denouncements of “fake news.” There was also, in one instance, Q correcting a spelling error in a Q drop that didn’t have a spelling error. This was followed by another Q drop correcting that correction.
Today, Q corrected a “spelling error by mistake” in a prior Q drop. But there wasn’t a spelling error in that Q drop.
So Q corrected the correction by saying “Not seeing an error now. Long night.”
The evil worldwide cabal is clearly no match for the super genius Q team. pic.twitter.com/5SBGexOmo6
— Travis View (@travis_view) February 12, 2019
But the content of the individual Q drops doesn’t matter much yet, especially since the Q drops are new. Q posts are often vague by design. This allows them to mean anything the “decoders” want them to mean. Reinterpreting the Q drops in reaction to news events is at the heart of the QAnon LARP. It’s an improvisational game, where people in the QAnon community use Q drops to construct an alternative news narrative that they personally find exciting or comforting.
I’m not sure what conspiracy theory they’ll spin next, or if it will have any real-world consequence, instead of just being contained on the social networks where QAnon followers like to post. But I know they’ll come up with something.