Marc Tuters, PhD
University of Amsterdam
Subcultural Bad Tripping: How Fear, Clarity, Power and Disgust Unite the Cosmic Right Online
In recent years elements of esotericism have moved from a cultic milieu of subcultural fringe websites—that we refer to as “the deep vernacular web”—into the mainstream of popular culture. This presentation draws on several years of empirical research that looks in particular at one infamous and influential deep vernacular website, the so-called “imageboard” 4chan/pol/. As this research has demonstrated, it was from this imageboard that the Pizzagate and QAnon conspiracy theories initially emerged that have formed part of the basis of a new and global “cosmic right” movement, whose “seekership ideology” has most recently begun to make inroads into alternative wellness communities during the period of the pandemic. This paper briefly analyzes the cosmic right through the neo-shamanic framework of Carlos Castaneda (1968), in particular as read by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattarri (1980). Through this lens it seeks to render a picture of a subculture engaged in a collective “bad trip”, overcome by the so-called “four dangers” of fear, clarity, power and disgust—where, for example, a “microfascist” cultural sensibility is connected to disgust, to which “trash culture” is counterposed as a possibly anti-fascist antidote. Based on empirical research, the paper thus takes a “pharmacological” approach to media theory, in which “set and setting” help determine whether a technology functions as a poison or as a remedy.
Marc Tuters is an Assistant Professor in the University of Amsterdam's Media Studies faculty, currently ranked #1 internationally, where he teaches courses on "media theory" at the graduate level. Building on his previous research as a media artist for which he coined the term "locative media", his PhD research focussed on the relationship between location and new media. As a researcher affiliated with the Digital Methods Initiative (DMI) and as the director of the Open Intelligence Lab (OILab) his current work draws on a mixture of close and distant reading methods to examine how online subcultures constitute themselves as political movements.