While watching Get Me Roger Stone and reading “What is Post-Truth?”, what initially stood out to me was how much structural overlap there seems to be between ARGs and the falsehoods constructed by the far right. Roger Stone was almost like a gamemaker (puppet master?) in how he took joy in news manipulation, almost treating it as a form of play. Of course, the intentions of ARGs and post-truth are very different, but both have an interest in blurring the lines between fiction and reality, as well as somewhat of a disregard for the very notion of truth. Post-truth relies on the idea that there’s a truth in how people feel and act, with Gingrich saying, “As a political candidate, I’ll go with how people feel and let you go with the theoreticians” (McIntyre 4). And ARGs, I think, rest on a similar idea: There’s truth created when players feel and participate, and those feelings, based on an alternate truth, are meaningful and real.
I don’t think these similarities mean that ARGs are somehow complicit in post-truth: Again, they have very different intentions, and McIntyre even points out how postmodern questions about truth predate the current post-truth movement (6). But the similarities do make me wonder whether ARGs, or movements similar to them, can be used as a tool in fighting post-truth. I think McIntyre would be doubtful. He writes that the “issue… is not to learn how to adjust to living in a world in which facts do not matter, but instead to stand up for the notion of truth” (154). And in that framework, I’m not sure ARGs as the most effective tool.
The interview with Massumi, however, suggests a way in which ARGs could fight post-truth. He argues that “alternative political action does not have to fight against the idea that power has become affective, but rather has to learn to function on that same level – meet affective modulation with affective modulation” (234). I think I lean more towards that way of thinking. In recent years, many of the forms of political resistance that I’ve thought most effective fit Massumi’s suggestion of “a performative, theatrical, or aesthetic approach to politics” (234). For example, YouTuber and philosopher ContraPoints makes videos responding to alt-right claims that are intensely theatrical, with costumes and characters, while also being factual and well-researched. And working more in this vein of political engagement, I think ARGs could be effective, especially because they in so many ways fit with Massumi’s ideas of affect. His descriptions of the “depth and breadth of our experiencing” and of “embodied” participation (214) both seem in line with the experience of playing an ARG and the attitude that such gameplay encourages.
I’d be interested in looking at the specifics of how such an ARG could interact with post-truth, and in whether others think it’s possible, or advisable.