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Experts fear HBO's doco series on QAnon will amplify the movement

There are concerns HBO's upcoming documentary glamorises conspiracy movements, thanks to a slickly-produced game and film-inspired trailer.

Chris Button
Chris Button
2 min read
Experts fear HBO's doco series on QAnon will amplify the movement

Premium US TV network HBO has unveiled a teaser trailer for its upcoming documentary series Q: Into the Storm, which has people worried about glamorising the conspiracy group.

QAnon, a far-right conspiracy movement whose origins trace back to online discussion site 4chan in 2017, rose to prominence during the 2020 US election, where misinformation ran rampant, eventually contributing to the attack on Capitol Hill.

This movement is obviously of public interest, hence the HBO doco, although there are concerns with discussing a newsworthy topic versus platforming dangerous views.

The 48-second clip layers quotes from what seems like interview subjects dismissing coincidences and criticising "the media" — y'know, the all-encompassing hivemind behind every news story ever?

It's all very flashy and slickly produced; perhaps too flashy considering the subject matter.

One academic has spoken out about the dangers of airing a high-budget documentary, fearing it could further validate the beliefs of those within the movement.

Joan Donovan, research director at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard, discussed the QAnon documentary with The Verge, labelling it "concerning".

"The most concerning aspect to me is that the reuse of footage found online pieced together in six hours of conspiracist content will be validation for the contemporary movement and drive more content/interest,” Donovan said.

According to Donovan, QAnon adopts various "anti-Jewish tropes and anti-black narratives about the modern civil rights movement" as part of its communication.

One bizarre element of the short trailer is the arcade-like bleeps and bloops combined with a bombastic cinematic soundtrack, adding a videogame element to the whole thing.

While it's known in some instances videogames are used as a tool to radicalise vulnerable people towards far-right views, the trailer's depiction of such elements only seems to glorify the topic.

If you dare look, the YouTube comments on HBO's trailer are an absolute mess of viewers discussing the validity of QAnon.

Until the doco goes to air, beginning 21 March, we won't truly know what angles will be explored. There's absolutely merit in critically examining conspiracy movements, although doing so is fraught with danger and risks exposing more people to misinformation.

In HBO's press announcement, Q: Into the Storm is said to "examine the influence of QAnon on American culture and question the consequences of unfettered free speech permeating the darkest corners of the internet."

We'll soon see what this involves. Based on the trailer, Donovan hopes the actual series documents the negative impact such movements have on people's lives.

"Somehow I doubt that will be the case," Donovan said.

MediaArt & Culture

Chris Button

Chris is an award-nominated writer based in Adelaide who specialises in covering video games and technology. He loves Donkey Kong Country, sport, and cats. The Last Jedi is the best one, no questions

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