I have a couple people in my online social circle who were over the past month telling followers to “just watch” what would happen on the 6th, when everybody but them and their followers would be surprised that Joe Biden didn’t become president. At first, Mike Pence was going to heroically pull some imagined maneuver. Then it was another theory. But the idea from the posters was the same: remember who was right and who was wrong, they’d ask, when this all happens.
I don’t think they were expecting what happened to happen. But I think they were doing something that feels very much like clout-building: taking a gamble on being the one person who seemed in the know, because the rewards would be significant if true.
There’s talk right now about the number of social media influencers at the Capitol Insurrection. A lot of the people leading it were media stars, and it’s difficult to know how much of it they did for their brand, and how much was for the desired result.
But I’m not sure those dynamics stop at a certain floor of users. It seems to me that everyone has at least a few people in their online circles who are approaching issues around these events and conspiracies related to them as a brand-building process. In that case, can we really say the motivation is as simple as “confirmation bias”? Or would we be better off thinking of these dynamics around issues of personal brand-building, its incentives and disincentives?