The Instability of Truth

This piece is a wonderful meditation on time and internet (sub-)culture. Bravo Aaron.

One little epiphany I had reading this was around the instability of truth.

Thanks to the “perfect memory” of digital media, internet subcultures are able to create their own visions of past, present, and future. The internet has freed them from the top-down schedules and narratives of mass media. With nearly all of recorded history at their fingertips, they can cherry-pick interesting scraps of information from the archives and construct new grand narratives with unprecedented ease.

For me - this ability for subcultures to create their own visions of past, present and future is very clear in alt-right and QAnon style communities where truth doesn’t matter. By sidestepping truth as a principle they are able to create much more stable and enduring frameworks for reality.

The conversations of internet subcultures often feel substantive and expansive compared to the shallow discourse of presidential debates, op-ed pages, and cable TV shows. Mainstream news cycles rarely last more than a few hours, and their narratives are constantly shifting. They don’t tend to give a big-picture sense of where we came from or where we’re going. Internet subcultures, by contrast, are building grand narratives and meme worlds that help people feel their way through the chaos that’s currently unfolding.

The NYTimes, by adhering to truth, and chasing the speed of events as they unfold, is unable to build grand narratives.

That’s perhaps partly why QAnon is so alluring - it offers a stable grand narrative to believe in:

QAnon carries on a tradition of apocalyptic thinking that has spanned thousands of years. It offers a polemic to empower those who feel adrift.