The Oscars’s most viral moment serves as the center for mass speculation, with some claiming this ‘manufactured distraction’ contains a secret message
“He could have killed him,” Judd Apatow said in a now-deleted tweet in response to Will Smith slapping Chris Rock onstage at last night’s Oscars. In the last 24 hours, the slap has dominated web discourse, generating takes with the kind of fervor and nuance typically reserved for conversations around the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Apatow’s hot take generated sizable reactions (and fairly so, as the appeal of shaming celebrity incompetence is eternal). Surprisingly though, his argument cannot be crowned as most extreme or lacking in logic. The potency of misinformation and delusions of grandeur that are signature to QAnon conspiracies are heightened by their tendency to appear when least expected, in realms such as celebrity culture. Perhaps not surprisingly, as the group has already labeled the Hollywood elite as a pedophilic ring of child sex trafickers.
Many viewers, QAnon and non-QAnon alike, found themselves questioning the legitimacy of the incident. Most were unsure because the Oscars’ reputation as ‘obsolete’ is appreciating, and controversy may be its most efficient form of life support. If the slap was a skit, it served its purpose.
Max Blumenthal, a decidedly pro-Putin journalist, managed to find a link between the Oscars scandal and the war in Ukraine, beyond the question of “Why are we watching this now?” “Just in time for the flood of Azov atrocity videos,” he tweeted in response to a meme that claimed the incident was orchestrated in effort to draw people’s attention from the war. For QAnon users, the “distraction” was intended for even more than the alleged atrocities committed by the National Guard of Ukraine. It was a manufactured distraction, intended to deter attention from an array of subjects such as former President (or as they say, President) Trump or Hollywood sex trafficking. It was a way to slip “vaccine propaganda” into our consciousness. It was a secret message. (As supposedly, Hollywood often communicates to its operatives through televised events.)
The rabbithole of Will Smith slap conspiracies is already unending. While the invalidity of some more-extreme perspectives makes the whole thing easy to dismiss, its virality points to a cultural weight. When something resonates with and inspires reactions from this many people, it must be indicative of issues greater than the single incident itself.