Information Landscape

Information Landscape

I went to a book talk on Monday, the topic of which was QAnon. I've been fascinated with QAnon for years, but something I keep coming back to is that it seems to have a weirdly mass appeal despite large sections of it seeming on their face not just implausible but impossible. Whatever you believe about e.g. the JFK assassination, the idea that maybe it was the result of a conspiracy—whoever that conspiracy may have involved—and that it wasn't just Lee Harvey Oswald is a thing that could be true without any revisions to the laws of physics. Several core tenets of QAnon—the Great Awakening, for instance, when according to some debt will be abolished and cures for diseases made available to all—seem to rely on, basically, magic. I mentioned this to the speaker during the break and they said that they get you with the thin end of the wedge: Hillary was pals with Epstein or whatever. You don't really start seeing the wackier stuff about JFK Jr or whatever until you're in a bit deeper and it's begun to constitute a fair amount of what you read and see and hear, and you trust the people saying it, and it starts to feel more plausible.

It reminded me that I'd read something the other day about how some people who were into crypto for the DAO community stuff were around some conversations with people that made them realise that perhaps the money people were quite avaricious and bad, and maybe they should take a step back. They stopped following all the crypto twitter accounts they followed and began to realise that they almost never encountered anyone talking about it in the real world, and whenever they did it was almost invariably negative.

It also reminded me of when I suggested to my mum, who was telling me the other week about looking for a specific item of clothing in a difficult-to-find size, that she try and find it on Vinted. She said she was worried about getting scammed—not from the sellers, but by the idea of buying things off the internet with a card, which is apparently something that comes up a lot on Jeremy Vine. I said: how is that different to when Dad buys stuff on Amazon? She said, it just feels weird.

It also reminded me of a conversation I'd had with a friend the other day who was pessimistic about prospects for career improvement, and when I suggested various things to them, their perspective initially was rather one of "if this were possible, why isn't everyone doing it?" I pointed out to them that becoming a freelancer wasn't something I'd really considered until several friends of mine did so and I saw that it was a real, practical possibility.

The point is: people's information landscape really does affect their thinking. It's not just media diet, it's down to who you talk to—and if you're attempting to affect some kind of change (personally, or on a bigger scale) it's probably worth trying to think in those terms. If you want to try and move in a certain direction in your life—career-wise, lifestyle-wise, whatever—try and make more friends who are like that so you have an embodied example. If you're trying to make a change in the world and make others believe like you: I dunno, it feels like a dodgy way to go about it but you could probably do worse than just posting a lot about it and getting pals who agree with you to do likewise.

Subscribe to Heed Not The Rolling Wave

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now to get access to the library of members-only issues.
[email protected]