Advice From the Trenches

Conspiracy Curt: One writer’s husband is following QAnon — what should she do?

Dear C and Dr. B;

I am becoming concerned. My husband, who is an otherwise sane man, is beginning to follow QAnon and spend a lot of time on the internet following their posts on social media. How does an internet-driven conspiracy theory like that get attention and followers? It is seriously crazy stuff. For instance, they claim there is a coming conflagration between President Trump and “a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophile Democrats who seek to dominate America and the world.” I can’t believe my husband is buying into this! But he is out of work and fearful about the future –  the sitting POTUS is re-tweeting some of their stuff, so he won’t believe that the FBI has listed this group as domestic terrorists! Quite honestly, I think he’s gone over the edge. Is there anything I can do to get him to snap out of it? This is NOT the man I married.

Dr. B says: We are at a very crazy time in the course of America. The pandemic is creating fear and confusion at the same time as economic uncertainty and hardship. Media misinformation and political agendas are fanning the fear and anxiety. Discord that has been brewing for a long time is coming to fruition. 

Here’s how I see it: In America, religion and politics strongly influence each other, and factions are taking sides as they would with sports teams. For many Americans, there is simply the view that God is the Good Team and The Bad Team must be the Devil. So, let’s say I am a person who believes I am on the Good Team. The quandary here is If I am on the Good Team, why does my life contain so much hardship, illness and fear? The confusion over this quandary is easily cleared with the thought: It must be the fault of the Devil’s Bad Team. This is the basis for much of QAnon’s conspiracy theories.

A recent NPR special discussed how even the evangelical preachers are having a hard time dissuading their flock from jumping onto the QAnon wagon. Conspiracy theorists believe that anyone who doesn’t agree with them must have been corrupted by the Bad Team on mainstream media. Unfortunately, these evangelical preachers used the Bible to amass their flocks the same way QAnon does, selecting biblical passages to prove their points. People tend to not defer to objective truth, but rather to what they already believe to be true, and they will believe any crazy lie if they hear the Good Team say it. So, for supporters who see Trump as the Good Team, if he re-tweets and follows QAnon, then these crazy extremists must be right.   

If your husband is a religious man, QAnon’s theories explain why, after following his Good Team beliefs, he isn’t reaping the rewards. Of course “it’s their fault!” This is one way people are recruited to terrorist extremist organizations – blame and scapegoating can work like a drug and can be just as addictive. The ideas can spread from person to person like a virus in a pandemic, and it’s hard to reverse belief once it is obtained. It probably takes the same reprogramming as does being un-brainwashed by a cult. Too much of our media caters to emotions more than facts. You may need to resort to an intervention from professionals.

C says: I see QAnon as being the current opiate of the masses, and here’s the thing about opiates – the people who are most susceptible to addiction are those who already have addictive tendencies. However, there is another factor at play here – the reason that opiates became such a problem in the US is NOT because addicts sought them out, but because they were pushed on patients in a very misleading way – opiates were prescribed as a harmless solution to pain by trusted doctors, and this was a huge factor in luring people to try them who otherwise would have just taken aspirin. Of course, the “harmless” part was a big lie, perpetrated by pharmaceutical companies whose goal was big profits. I think that QAnon is being pushed the same way, and for the same reason – there are huge profits to be had in terms of re-election for the POTUS if people actually swallow those crazy pills. 

The current conflict and disparity in our country has not created monsters as much as it has fanned the flames of problems that have been there all along. This current craze of your husband’s may just be a symptom of the times, or a deeper problem may have been triggered that won’t go away. I’d wait until after the election, but if he doesn’t let go of the conspiracy theories, you may want to reconsider your choice of partners. You can’t change anyone’s core beliefs by calling in professional intervention, any more than you could if they were gay. 

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