Fans of Q: The Stakes of QAnon’s Functioning as Political Fandom

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Affective activation, and the community engagement it fosters, is the driving mechanism of all fandoms, irrespective of the specific “objects of affection” around which they coalesce. These centralized objects of affection may hail from popular culture, such as in the form of sports teams, television shows, cartoon characters, or musicians. As fan scholars have increasingly recognized, fandoms can also emerge around profit-driven brands, specific politicians, and social movements. Much has been said regarding the dangers of the online conspiracy theory QAnon. However, these warnings have tended to overemphasize the rapidly evolving, amorphous beliefs of its adherents, rather than recognize the affective activation propelling the movement. Through its analysis of affect-driven communities, the field of fan studies can be productively applied to investigate the online discursive activities of QAnon community members. Framing QAnon as a fandom elucidates the functions through which the conspiracy theory radicalizes “normies” by exploiting the types of fan activities already well-established in mainstream fan communities. Underscoring the transferability of fan studies concepts to political movements and communities, this exploration outlines the societal stakes of QAnon’s manipulation and normalization of the toxic emotions cohering its adherents into a fanatic community.

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American Behavioral Scientist

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