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Q Who Shall Not Be Named
All Your Base Are Belong To Us
I first started hearing about QAnon back in 2018. It seemed like yet another Internet meme, a countless number of which have been bubbling up since the beginning of … the Internet. Generation X nerds have witnessed the Internet’s birth, spawning from Usenet, and evolving into a schizophrenic meme culture that generated… a lot of weirdness.
In the late 1990s, the All Your Base Are Belong To Us meme exploded from the Something Awful forums into the collective (gamer/nerd) consciousness. It was a catchphrase used to mock authority, politicians, the news media, and the power hungry. It also a taunt (primarily in gaming) when one is in a position of dominance. Random kids on the Internet would Photoshop images adding the catchphrase, and this culminated in the following 2001 video, which went viral:
In it, pretty much all of society is mocked, and it seemed vaguely racist, against Asians, or maybe just against alien video game characters. Hollywood, News Media, Wall Street, Big Food, Big Tobacco, Big Tech (when it was mostly just Microsoft) are all targets. George W. Bush, Al Gore, Bill Gates, and the United Nations make an appearance. All Your Base Are Belong To Us became an inside joke, a subtle dig at the powers that be, a satirical mission statement for Big Tech and the Deep State. So, when AOC unironically Tweets the meme, trying to be retro cool, one cannot help but facepalm.
I had my first felt sense experience with the QAnon phenomenon in Barstow, California, in the summer of 2016. I had reconnected with an old coder friend who had become homeless and was part of the Occupy Movement. He hated cops, the government, and the system. He was also a genius. We met up in Barstow and had lunch at Jack in the Box on Main Street.
During lunch, a weathered man, sitting in the corner, enjoying the warm sun streaming in through the window, starts chatting with us. Even though we were nowhere near the ocean, his shaggy blonde hair under an orange beanie gave him a surfer vibe. He was friendly, chill, and homeless. He vaguely reminded me of a dirty blonde PaRappa the Rapper.
PaRappa introduces himself, then says, “Do you know who Alex Jones is?”
I think… “No… wait, uh… Yes?”
He lights up, grabs my pen, and writes a phone number into my journal. “Here’s the Alex Jones hotline. You can always dial-in so you can still listen to his show, even if they censor it.” I politely thank him, hinting that we want to get back to our greasy burgers and fries. He doesn’t get the hint, and continues, “You know, there are only, two people who can save America.”
We stare blankly at him.
“And Donald Trump.”
My homeless coder friend stares at him and says, “Why do you think Trump would help us? He’s a billionaire. He only cares about the rich.” PaRappa replies, “No man. Donald Trump started the UFL. You’ve heard of the UFL? They went bankrupt, and Trump made sure everyone got paid. He’s an honest man.”
Trump has the homeless vote? A few months later, Trump wins the 2016 election.
When QAnon started bubbling up on the Internet in 2017, I didn’t really pay much attention to it. However, I had been exploring Bitcoin and Blockchain for a few years at that point, so a mutual friend introduced me to Jordan Hall (they used to play Dungeons and Dragons together) who was also exploring decentralized ledger technology.
Jordan Hall is a tech entrepreneur and complex systems researcher who creates content about civilization design and complex systems dynamics. I consider his work essential for anyone who is attempting to make sense of American politics. He published an article on Medium, Making Sense of QAnon (Internet Archive link) on September 1, 2018, which was later banned by Medium. He also had his Facebook account temporarily banned. The Algorithms were silencing anyone even talking about Q who shall not be named.
The “official” definition of QAnon is:
QAnon[a] (/ˌkjuːəˈnɒn/) is a disproven and discredited far-right conspiracy theory alleging that a cabal of Satan-worshipping cannibalistic pedophiles is running a global child sex-trafficking ring and plotting against U.S. president Donald Trump, who is fighting the cabal.
This is partially correct. There has been a growing fringe that believes this conspiracy theory. This is terrifying, because, this fringe is armed, and has captured members of the military, police, and the Republican Party. And there are shennanigans across our government that seem somehow mysteriously connected to Jeffrey Epstein, so QAnon can smell smoke around that fire.
However, QAnon is also part of the schizophrenic fabric of reality that is a distorted mutation of the All Your Base Are Belong To Us and other memetic viruses. The September 11, 2001 attacks struck like a psychoactive event that hit the entire planet and in that moment, All Your Base Are Belong To Us no longer seemed like fun and games, it became dark and terrifying.
Meanwhile, Silicon Valley and Big Tech waged the Internet War on Microsoft, leveraging algorithms, stickiness, and virality to wrest the control of eyeballs from evil uncle Bill. The FAANG cartel - Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google now has oligarchic control of most of the world’s eyeballs (except China) and has spent the past decade creating unprecedented wealth and power. Founders, employees, shareholders, investors, and people with 401k plans have benefited massively. A new 0.01% was created, and they are woke.
Q and Alex Jones did not create these conspiracy theories. They rose out of the depths of the chans, anonymous imageboards where the Internet trolls hang out and spawn memetic viruses. For twenty years, the FAANG (and media) companies, split tested, machine learned, and profited massively off of these sticky conspiracy theories. Prior to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where it was revealed just how sophisticated psychographic microtargeting had become, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (Google) were selling targeted eyeballs to the highest bidder, allowed foreign and domestic bots to manipulate results, and happily collected the profits and stock market gains from viral videos promoting flat earth, 9/11 conspiracy theories, and Alex Jones, to those most vulnerable to them.
In the last decade, Niantic (an “internal startup” within Google) was also formed. They created augmented reality games, most notably Pokemon Go, which trained an entire generation to LARP like crazy people, literally tripping over each other, collecting virtual… Pokemon.
Fast forward to 2021, QAnon has gotten so crazy that even Alex Jones is denouncing it. The FAANG companies are quietly distancing themselves from any accountability for their part in creating this monster. They have been working for years now on algorithms to censor wrongthink, and shove the monster back into the chans. But, it was too late.
The events at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, viewed through the frame of an Internet memetic scientist, appears to be a Dukes of Hazzard & Idiocracy cosplay LARP. It is as though a bunch of people playing a QAnon version of Pokemon Go accidentally stormed their way into the US Capitol, and… had to ask themselves, “Wait. We made it here, what was the plan, again?” Except, it isn’t funny. People brought guns and live ammunition. No Pokemon were found. People died. There were real consequences.
The FAANG cartel immediately got to work. They banned Donald Trump, after all, it is all his fault. Right? Trump and his Death Eaters incited the violence, while FAANG has been the champion “for great justice.” Q who shall not be named doesn’t exist on their platforms, Q lives only on conservative platforms like Infowars and Parler, and FAANG has done all it can to prevent this attrocity. Right?
“When you kill a king, you don't stab him in the dark. You kill him where the entire court can watch him die.” -Amsterdam Vallon, Gangs of New York
I believe that many of the people who work at the FAANG companies have good intentions. But, let’s not be naive. They are facing is an incredibly difficult problem, and the world is filled with bad actors and mass psychosis. Given the data that they have, and the tricky situations, I don’t know if I could have made better decisions.
Jack, Zuck, and the others admit they have made mistakes through carefully crafted PR and legal friendly language. They are under investigation for anti-trust. There have been consequences to their algorithms. That much power and that much responsibility cannot be managed easily. FAANG is saying, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” but no one believes them anymore.
When you can silence the king, you are the king. Now that Trump has been disavowed, Big Tech will have the Left and the Right turning their scrutiny at this Death Star that they’ve inadvertently built. Decentralization of power is part of the conversation. So are algorithms. So are basic Maslow’s needs. So is mental health. Cancel culture is strong. Conversation requires courage.
Ironically, I am a huge consumer and fan of FAANG. I am writing this email on an Apple Mac Mini. I listen to my premium Spotify and YouTube on my Apple iPhone. I order books and nearly everything else with next day delivery from Amazon Prime. I binge science fiction television on Netflix and Amazon whenever I need to decompress. I use Google search when DuckDuckGo unfortunately sucks. I cannot escape Facebook, no matter how much I try. It actually brings me too much value. I also don’t want to brick my Oculus Quest 2. I’ve made money investing in all of their stocks. I’ve come very close to working for each of them. I am in awe of the efficiency of their logistics networks, data centers, and human resources.
Yes, I am a hypocrite. FAANG isn’t just the problem. They are part of the solution. But, we need to be able to have a conversation about it.