Translation: “Dir. Estrella Fematt
Ong’s Hat, New Jersey 1930. We were the scene of great economic activity, we had the focus of many but the contact of few. What was your concern? We translate by object, shape, gravity, noise and reality. To you hustler, who through consciousness could shape the universe itself, cause chaos and, consequently, have a portal to the strangest. You are left with only the bricks of the structures that once stood there, an old shed and an incompetent curiosity.”
Thoughty2 (Arran) is a British YouTuber and gatekeeper of useless facts. Thoughty2 creates mind-blowing factual videos about science, tech, history, opinion, and just about everything else.
Ever hear of Ong’s Hat? Not the charming little town in New Jersey that we all know and love, but the internet conspiracy. Actually, Ong’s Hat is most likely the first internet conspiracy, which is interesting because it started well before the internet was even in the hands of the average citizen. Today, many credit the sprawling, transmedia experiment — and its foundational documents known as The Incunabla Papers— as the first Alternative Reality Game (ARG), creating the template for massive experiential mysteries underwritten by sources as unlikely as Brigham Young University, Microsoft, and the rock band Twenty-One Pilots. Ong’s Hat was a much less coordinated affair, beginning as crude Xeroxed pamphlets, then skipping around on zines delivered in the mail, radio, bulletin boards, CD-ROM, and back to the internet. While the ghost town that gave the game its name is real, the science fiction tale that lurched around for years, involving Princeton scientists, quantum theory, multi-dimensional travel, and much more, is a work of collaborative fiction by a small group of outsiders and pranksters. But this long-forgotten experiment has become relevant again because it gives us clues into what’s going on with some of the most politically and socially radicalized people in the world.
The January 6 deadly siege on the U.S. Capitol was energized by many people who follow QAnon to varying degrees. Last month, we wrote that understanding the movement in religious or cultish terms was a seductive mistake, and that it’s best understood as an ARG that has a found purchase with huge swaths of alienated and postmodern Americans. While most games are harmless, Ong’s Hat turned quite dark before its chief storyteller shut it down, and we’d argue that the real-world violence coming from QAnon disciples is following that same arc. Hopefully, there are some lessons in previous experiments like Ong’s Hat that can help us blunt the destructive force of this movement, avoid more violence, and bring people back to a shared reality and basic set of facts.READ THE COMPLETE ARTICLE HERE: https://medium.com/caseworx/if-qanon-is-a-game-how-do-you-stop-playing-1489a388de75
I made an appearance on VICE’s Truth Hurts series discussing the danger of right-wing conspiracy cults and why this is not a new phenomenon.
What’s the difference between someone who’s into conspiracy theories and someone who’s so influenced by them they become a mass shooter? From white supremacist Anders Breivik to jihadist Tamerlan Tsarneav, some of the perpetrators of the worst acts of mass killing around the world have been enthralled by certain conspiracy theories. In this episode of Truth Hurts, we look at the tipping point in the conspiracist mindset that can turn people violent.
Joseph Matheny, creator of Ong’s Hat, the world’s first Alternative Reality Game speaks with Prop Anon about QAnon, Robert Anton Wilson, Ong’s Hat, and how to survive the fast approaching wave of techno-mindfuckery that will arrive with increased technological development
We’re producing our first original on high strangeness. In it we explore the psyche of “strange” through the stories of three people in highly strange situations.
Season One – “Information Golem” looks at the life of Joseph Matheny as he dreams up what perhaps becomes the world’s first online ARG (Alternative Reality Game) known as Ong’s Hat. Launched in the 90’s as an innocent social experiment around story and information, things quickly went left of field. The oddities that surrounded Ong’s Hat are curiosities Joseph still struggles to understand to this day. Joseph has gotten alot of attention lately from the press because of the Quanon craziness and White House uprising. More recently he was featured on Slate Magazine’s Decoder Ring series. Also there’s news of a upcoming Netflix feature on conspiracy creation he’ll appear in. His story touches on the issues that seem to dovetail at the volcanic crossroads where personality and mental health meets randomness and free information. Lots of unruly yet relevant questions get born there.
It’s refreshing to see someone make an attempt to understand what I was trying to do with Ong’s Hat and it’s encouraging to see them get it mostly right. Too many so-called journalists have focused on the more sensationalist aspects of my attempt, in the early days of the Internet, at an avant-garde art installation that was not constrained by space and time.
In this paper, I have brought together concepts from media studies and semiotics of interpretation in an attempt to analyze a complex media phenomenon and its unforeseen persuasive power. This analysis could be built upon to analyze similar phenomena such as conspiracy theories and fake news.
In this fragment of SCHISM we interview the creator of ‘Ong’s Hat’, the first Alternate Reality Game, and ask what his experiences can teach us about the rise of QAnon. Is it possible that the ability to co-create and distribute our own narratives about reality could be altering its basic fabric? And has Noam Chomsky’s concept of ‘manufactured consent’ produced by centralized authority and corporate media now been outmoded by a new era of ‘manufactured dissent’, powered by networks, meme culture and supercharged shitposting?