Web 2.0 technologies paved the way for the interactive web, opening a virtual topography easily accessible to countless people worldwide. Soon, extremism started to adapt to this virtual climate, raising an urgent question: how do we better understand the extremist use of technology? Empirical evidence indicates that digital extremism has already spilled over into real life, creating a hybrid extremism with elements both in the online and offline. Some examples are the El Paso shooting, Christchurch mosque shooting, and the storming of the Capitol Hill in January 2021. However, if one attempts to conceptualise the relationship between extremism and technology, noticeably, something is missing, a fundamental mechanism of the sort that creates this correlation. To examine the possibility of a complete conceptual model, which includes extremism and technology, we must ask: is it possible for an interaction between extremism and technology to occur without an underlying structure that acts as a source? How do we explain some aspects of such a fundamental process that moulds extremism to fit in virtual realms?
This article proposes the impossibility of fully understanding the role of technology in propagating extremism without recognising how and why ideologies and beliefs are modified in virtual realms, creating a cure-for-all-ill type of mammoth ideological and belief systems that spread like wildfires both online and offline. Extremism cannot thrive in a virtual realm if it is not fit for the virtual climate. Extremism must evolve absorbing, and inventing traits needed to succeed in this relatively novel and distinct topography. The Great Awakening Map (GAM) is an example, which shows the depth and breadth of digital ideologies and beliefs that create the dynamics between extremism and technology. This article aims to analyse how GAM, which is the wider agenda of QAnon, shows the digital ideological evolution, making online extremism possible.
The Great Awakening Map (GAM)
The Great Awakening Map (GAM) provides a glimpse of an important phenomenon and a process, which can be called a digital ideological evolution of extremism. Unfortunately, this phenomenon of merging vast ideological and belief systems, such as the one in the Great Awakening Map, has yet to attract serious academic analysis. What is GAM? It is an assortment of a myriad of ideologies, beliefs, political statements, conspiracies, popular culture, and even creative fantasy, blended to produce a comprehensive alternative reality, which outrightly rejects and vilifies the current mainstream socio-political, economic, ideological, and cultural system. Why is GAM important in understanding extremism on the Internet? GAM shows the essence, mechanism, big picture, and the underlying process, enabling extremism to thrive online. It is necessary to understand this digital ideological evolution to fully comprehend how extremism could takes roots digitally before jumping to the real world.
The inventor of GAM is a Thai American ‘hyperdimensional’ disclosure artist called Champ Parinya. His association with Guru Jagat, a Californian new age oracle, must have been instrumental for creating this mammoth red pill learning tool, a mother of all memes type, one-page chart to immerse users in a whole new alternative reality. What is interesting is that GAM has nothing to do with extremism. Its main aim is to guide people to escape the so-called ‘matrix’, a metaphor to the current system, and return to something called ‘the source’ or, in simple terms, God. GAM’s deep origin is in the contemporary New Age movement. It evolves like a hydra, associating with the Disclosure Movement, a syndicate of activists who hold onto an alternative reality about extra-terrestrials. It also associates with popular conspiracy cultures. Conspiracies now find a new lease of life thanks to once shunned conspiracy theorists, emerging online as truth-seekers and protagonists who fight the current system. GAM’s march forward sees it then tap into thousand-year-old religious belief systems: millenarianism, messianism, elements of ancient Hindu, Egyptian, and Tibetan faiths. GAM absorbs spirituality, religions, UFO cults, and conspiracy into a digital foundry, moulding and casting a giant narrative of everything and anything. It then decorates this massive red pill, using something that goes well with the maverick character of the Internet—creative fantasy, which attracts followers for the same reason the fantasy genre attracts followers.
The damaging work of GAM is where it mutilates reality, savagely disfiguring cultural/religious wealth, mixing with conspiracies and fantasy, then takes a political turn. This is the most important development in terms of GAM’s role in inciting extremism. It is at this point that GAM gains the ability to instigate political actions. How does a meme based on New Age spirituality initiate a political cause against mainstream socio-political, ideological, and cultural system rooted in neo-liberalism and liberal democracy? GAM unapologetically marks the current system as the root of all evil and goes further to figuratively name it as Satanic, the ancient religious and cultural metaphor of evil. Then it callously takes a hundred-year-old conspiracy theory about a so-called ‘deep state’, a cabal behind the helm of power on earth that is said to pull strings and manipulate life. Despite the irrationality of such an outlandish claim, GAM inscribes the liberal democratic system as the fabled deep state. This triggers an endless parody, associating with existing conspiracy theories about Rockefellers and Rothchilds, mixed with millenarian beliefs of the Kingdom of the Antichrist. It even goes to the extent of linking the COVID-19 vaccination with biblical scripture about the mark of the beast. GAM is like a digital magician, creating a concoction of narratives, mixing, and matching everything that neither mix nor match.
However, GAM is metapolitics at its best. Metapolitics targets culture, and attacks cultural foundations, mutilating them beyond recognition. This is how GAM attacks liberal democratic cultural consciousness, associating it with evil and vilifying it as Satanic. How does such a bizarre mixture of unreality or something beyond empiricism seem to get traction not only on the Internet but even in real life? GAM sets sail in a context, a rise of populist nationalism across the world. This context creates the ‘people against the establishment’ mindset, beating up democracies and aiding anti-democratic elements in an authoritarian revival. The context is the high wind, which propels GAM-type of mega narratives forward. Interestingly, GAM comes with a blueprint to remove the democratic establishment, which is succinctly laid out in the plan of QAnon.
Concepts in Disarray
Evidence such as GAM shows how digital extremism moulds into bizarre ideological/belief systems, denigrating existing ideologies, beliefs, and creeds. If we revisit the question of concepts, this digital narrative revolution shows an unmissable aspect of the relationship between extremism and technology. It is the triad of technology, digitally moulded narratives, or memes, then influencing the probability of extremism. If we consider Freud’s explanation, digital narratives such as GAM can be uncanny, but GAM goes beyond ‘uncanny’ to disappoint any conceptualisation. GAM is everything and anything; it is a theory of everything made up, blowing the foundations of reason. It is beyond empiricism; thus, academic analysis finds a dead-end in GAM. GAM weaves a fictional worldview, creating an alternative reality, which many fail to comprehend well. It is like saying the fictional character of Thor, the much loved cinematic superhero from Asgard, is coming to save the world, then setting up a make-it-happen cult. The main plot of GAM is not very different as it says the current evil system keeps humans enslaved. Therefore, with the help of so-called extra-terrestrials, patriots fight to destroy it. The digital genre of fantasised narratives such as GAM comes closer to Heidegger’s phenomenology. It is similar to Heidegger’s ‘being’ or ‘phenomenologically the character of the entity’ (the inventor). It is the comprehension of the inventor of GAM, his ‘being’ who exists in a pretty much cinematic alternative reality. However, the inventor of GAM goes beyond Heidegger’s ‘being’. He exploits the character of the Internet. Digital narrative evolution produces a canonised genre of fantasy, which is an integral aspect of the digital revolution. GAM exploits the character of the Internet to invent something that genuinely fits into it.
In brief, GAM is an ideological cacophony; it is a spiritual movement, disclosure project, conspiracy universe, political cause, red pill chart, meme, cult, and a fantasy saga all at once. GAM type of digital ideological blends show the evolution of ideological belief systems beyond their usual forms. Such combinations defy reason to adapt in virtual environments. Internet cults are becoming influential, explaining how QAnon created a movement to invade the US Capitol with deadly consequences. It also shows what happens when technologies are in the hands of many, letting the imagination of the masses run wild. Digital revolution aids a ‘Revolt against the Modern World’, a mass dissent fervently imagined by radical traditionalist such as Julius Evola. The revolt begins on the Internet but does not end there. GAM sets upon democracy, symbolising it as the villain in a battle between good and evil. It gives stones to the hands of many anti-democratic elements, the far-right, authoritarian regimes, populists, conspiracy theorists, spiritual/religious zealots, and anyone enticed by the current anti-democratic authoritarian revival, setting forth many reasons to defy democracies.