Literacy, Conspiracy, Legendry: What History Can Tell Us about QAnon

Bill Ellis (Pennsylvania State University, emeritus)

The prominence of conspiracy theories in recent American politics make them a challenging topic. One productive approach is to view them against a long historical perspective, seeing what elements remain constant over time. One important dynamic is the impact of literate “experts” in organizing oral (or oral-based) legends into call for collective action. Witch-hunters’ manuals played a crucial role in these crusades, and similar documents, compiled and distributed by “cult cops,” were instrumental in the “Satanism Scare.” This paper suggests that similar dynamics were used to coordinate the QAnon crusade.

Part of 51-02 Orality and Literacy in Legend, Rumor, and Conspiracy Theory, Friday, October 22, 8:30 am–10:00 am