Hillary Clinton and Katy Perry drink the blood of murdered children to live forever, Barack Obama and Tom Hanks participate in the sex trafficking and molestation of children, and a cabal of Satan worshippers control global events from behind the scenes. This is the central, animating idea behind QAnon, a right-wing populist conspiracy theory that has achieved a level of saturation in American and global politics (in)commensurate with its peculiarity. Although part of the reason for QAnon’s enormous success must reside in widespread conditions of political distrust and epistemological uncertainty, another part consists in its exploitation of a technologically enabled mode of rhetorical hermeneutics. This article focuses on the latter, arguing that there exists a tendency among QAnon followers to read and write esoterically, primarily in relation to President Trump, and to do so via the amateur “produsage” made possible by a serpentine pipeline of digital-cultural interactivity and networked internet platforms. This is not to say, of course, that any QAnon participant is versed in the history of esoteric writing, only that QAnon as a discourse appears to rely heavily on a communicative strategy of encoding and decoding that bears strong resemblance to an esoteric hermeneutic, but one played out across social media.
- Fan studies