Misinfo Meetup #7: "Shibboleths of Online Communities"
15 February 2022
In which we talk about the language of communities such as QAnon and crypto (originally titled "Normies and Anons: The Linguistic Divide") with Dan Olson (@FoldableHuman), Professor Laura Dilley (@laura_greenaura), Sara Aniano (@coolfacejane), and QAnon experts @dappergander, @QOrigins, and @PokerPolitics.
First, why “shibboleths”? Well, language being the amazing technology it is, people of all kinds deploy language to accomplish all kinds of things. Language is cool. Within online communities, language is used to do things like asking for and granting a feeling of belonging, signifying status, and communicating with deep meaning, efficiently. So you see people in online and other communities get really into jargon and inside speak, which aids in accomplishing the above. Speaking like the group is a kind of code.
We thought it would be interesting to focus on two online communities that display strong shibboleth tendencies. Massive Internet places where it’s easy to get lost if you don’t know the lingo: conspiracy theories and crypto. [Note: These communities are not one and the same! We in no way mean to suggest or imply that everyone who holds or promotes crypto also believes in conspiracy theories. Vice versa as well. Fans of crypto, NFTs, web3, please know that we aren’t hostile to your enthusiasm for a movement that is clearly resonating with a lot of people. We are skeptical, though, about the sustainability of the boom.]
With this intro, let’s hit on some of the many great points made by the speakers.
1. A lot of language you see in QAnon originated in much older chanspeak
2. Catchphrases are as vital to their communications as individual words (“watch the water”)
3. “Think mirror” is used as a kind of catch-all to cope with the cognitive dissonance arising from real world events as they play out contra to what was predicted
4. “Disinformation is necessary,” same kind of thing, and can be used to calm down any anon who is fretting
5. Language is a way to communicate meaning, signal group identification, and influence thought
6. The underlying logic of crypto world’s language is not extremely different from that of conspiracyland’s, for example a lot of chanspeak-rooted words in the crypto vocabulary, including that coming more directly from Reddit
7. The rest of the language commonly used in crypto comes from the finance industry
8. Crypto was also a topic of frequent mention by the social media account networks that promoted QAnon
9. This, combined with the digital astroturfing/inauthentic boosting that accompanied and probably helped grow QAnon, could be seen as evidence of accelerationist disinfo
[This goes on for 26 more points; see the full recap thread here.]