‘The Antisocial Network: Memes To Mayhem’ Explained: What Was QAnon’s Role In Trump’s Election?


The Antisocial Network: Memes to Mayhem is directed by Giorgio Angelini and Arthur Jones, and it showed us the real-life impact of the various conspiracy theories that are born online. It showed us how technology could be used as a powerful tool and what happens if it falls into the hands of people who don’t have the best of intentions. It made us privy to the people who were a part of these websites, where conspiracy theories were floated, and virtual political campaigns were launched, which ultimately resulted in real-world chaos. One thing that became very clear was that these websites gave people a sense of belonging, but in reality, it was an illusion. So, let’s find out what happened in the documentary.

How was the Anonymous group formed? 

It all started when Christopher Poole, who for the longest time used the alias, Moot, created an English version of the popular Japanese online text board called 4chan. Hiroyuki Nishimura launched the original 2chan in 1999, and eventually, it became a sort of place where internet subcultures originated and gained popularity among the people. 

In The Antisocial Network, we get to witness the testimonies of a lot of people who regularly went on the website and posted memes and other things. It all started in a very harmless manner, and even Christopher Poole didn’t have any idea what it was going to be transformed into. The most significant aspect of 4chan was that users could post anything without revealing their identity. The sense of anonymity gave the users the freedom to speak their hearts out. There were things that people could say aloud in the real world, but on 4chan, there was no stopping them. Dark humor became a coping mechanism, and eventually, people started feeling a sense of community. It was strange and ironic, as being anonymous gave them a sort of identity. There were people out there who had suppressed emotions, who had to pretend their entire lives, who had self-esteem issues, and they got a way to channel their feelings and be anybody. 

With time, 4chan became a forum where people coordinated together and conducted pranks, started political movements, organized protests, hacked into government websites, and did a lot of other things that brought them into the limelight. For the first time, an idea was out in the virtual world, and faceless users were seeing it manifest in the real world. It gave the users a sense of power that was intoxicating. It also gave them a purpose in life, something to look forward to, and, more importantly, a feeling that they were a part of something big. 

The first time the anonymous group saw the power of their collective identity was when Hal Turner, the neo-Nazi commentator, was sent to jail. The users made prank calls, pushed him to the edge, and were also accused of hacking his website. But even after all this, no legal proceedings were initiated against the anonymous group, and no one was held accountable for any act. This gave the online community a lot of courage, and they felt like they could get away with anything, and nobody would be held personally liable for any act. 

What was Project Chanology? 

In The Antisocial Network, we saw that the Anonymous group believed that the church of Scientology was spreading misinformation, curbing voices of dissent, and spreading propaganda by making use of famous personalities, and it labeled it as a church of greed. It all started when a video featuring Tom Cruise was posted online, where the Mission: Impossible star was heard vouching and advocating for beliefs propagated by the church.

Project Chanology was launched against the Church of Scientology, and people actually came on the streets to protest in various parts of the world. The hackers attacked the websites, and they said that the sole agenda of the entire conflict was to enlighten the people and stop the church from brainwashing them. In early 2008, hundreds of people gathered outside the church premises, and they blamed the church for the deaths of many innocent people. The people associated with the church criticized the protest and called it a vendetta to tarnish their image. It was fascinating for all experts and analysts to see how technology could be used to such an extent and how an idea in the virtual world could have a deep-rooted impact on society. It was a complicated battle for the church, too, and no matter how much they tried to curtail the damage, somewhere, the general public did begin to doubt their intentions. There was a new breed of activist, i.e., internet activist s, and this was very new for the world. Some viewed this cyberwarfare as terrorism, but others believed it to be for the better. The law enforcement authorities also didn’t know if they could call this harassment an illegal act or if they could take some action against whatever was happening. 

What role did QAnon play in Trump’s election campaign? 

A user named Q posted on 4chan for the very first time, and he pretended to be a government official who knew about things that only people higher up the food chain were privy to. One of the major conspiracy theories floated by Q was that Donald Trump was in a secret war against satanic pedophiles. Slowly, these posts, which were later referred to as drops, became a cult, and they called themselves QAnon. Information warfare was waged online, and it had a big impact on the real world, too. These people vouched for Trump and portrayed him as the messiah who would save the world in 2018. When Donald Trump was visiting various cities and campaigning for the presidential elections, a lot of people belonging to the QAnon cult started attending the rallies and showing their support. Even the Trump administration backed the conspiracy theories, which was quite weird in itself, as one couldn’t imagine that something like that could happen in a democracy. Donald Trump was not solely responsible for making a mockery of democracy, as he would have been able to do anything had the people not supported him. Hillary Clinton was leading in the presidential race, and something happened in those last two weeks that turned her entire campaign upside down, and Trump emerged victorious. After having merely a 15 percent chance of winning, Trump became president of the United States of America. Though James Comey’s revelation about Clinton and various other aspects are believed to be the main reason behind the shocking results, somewhere, the misinformation, the conspiracy theories, and the existence of far-right cults like QAnon also played a role in the scheme of things. 

On January 6, 2021, the mob that attacked the US Capitol consisted of many people who were part of the QAnon cult. If a person had to guess how baseless their theories were and how their intentions were not driven by any beliefs, then one just had to look at their reactions captured on camera when they entered the US Capitol building. They were mesmerized, as most of them hadn’t been inside, and though they broke open the barricades, once they reached inside, they looked like tourists who were having a gala time. It clearly proved that these people did not align with any political ideology, and they were just there to disrupt the peace and cause some chaos. At the end of The Antisocial Network, Christopher Poole, Faxent, Kirtaner, and a lot of other moderators who were a part of the 2chan and 4chan communities at the beginning said that that is not what they envisioned the website to become and that they were disheartened by seeing the turn of affairs. 

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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