Advice re addressing QAnon/ Conspiracy Embroiled Grandparents

Hi.  My spouse's parents - our children's grandparents - are heavily and deeply embedded in the Q-Anon and conspiracy scene.  They are (and would argue that we also are) in an echo chamber, and the people they associate with all agree with them.  Everyone else has either been fooled or is part of the grand cabal.  This is not new but it has taken on a new... intensity.

As a result, there is very little communication with these grandparents anymore, save for the occasional e-mail exchange regarding the merits of the My Pillow guy's screed.  This is rough on my spouse.  I am wondering if anyone has advice on how to overcome the impasse, preferably without ignoring or tacitly agreeing with the wild theories and accusations.  

Thanks in advance and heaven help us.

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I disagree with my mother's political and world view (though she is not in Q-Anon).  What I say when these topics come up is:  Mom, you and I disagree about politics, let's talk about <my new oven, my daughter's haircut, how to do a knit cast on, how much sun tomatoes need, etc.>  You could say I am ignoring her conspiracy theories, but trying to address them did not change anything, and made us both unhappy.   

I’m so sorry, this must be so very challenging.  This NYT article offers some interesting perspectives: 

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/25/opinion/qanon-conspiracy-theories-family.amp.html

and this one (for what it’s worth) mentions an online forum for those in your shoes, for support around being a family casualty of a QAnon follower: 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/09/14/qanon-families-support-group/?outputType=amp

replying to follow. My mother in law has a very similar, troubling belief set. It is really difficult on my husband, and we are dreading when it's time to discuss her next visit from TX, post-COVID. NYT, NPR, and The Center for Greater Good in UC Berkeley (I think it's part of the Psych department?) both have published interesting pieces on how to talk to someone with conspiracy beliefs. That is to say, this issue is so big right now, that so many families are going through this and looking for help. Takeaways from reading these resources have been to focus on values instead of beliefs, don't mock or scold, hold your boundaries for your own sanity/ well being, and know you may need to accept they are not going to change their minds

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/25/opinion/qanon-conspiracy-theories-fam...

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/we_can_recover_from_the_tr...

To be honest, we have not tried any of this, since we don't have the bandwidth to engage right now. But I wish your family luck & fortitude with this situation, and would like to know how it goes : )

Hi,

Where are your inlaws from? I just experienced this with my mother. I found out about a month ago that she's been gotten really into QAnon/Conspiracy theories. She's really educated and used to be relatively liberal. It just shows that there are QAnon victims everywhere. We are expecting a baby early March, and she is coming up here to help. We're definitely worried about how she's going to be and setting boundaries, but having her around and away from her space I think will be good for her. Everything that I've read has indicated the best way is to get them interested in other hobbies or activities that they used to do.

There are a lot of resources that I've found that I'd love to share. One thing that I can't recommend more is the CLAMBAKE group on facebook. It's a support group for people with loved ones that have fallen to QAnon.

I hope that this helps

Sally

I know exactly what you're talking about--only in my case it's my adult son.  He lives in SoCal, so that 'helps'. I am so sad about this turn of events. He has his MA from Pomona, did a semester in Italy studying film with a protegee of Bergman; makes a lot of money in the computer world, has 2 really cute kids, etc. etc.  Doesn't hunt, doesn't cuss, he's polite...but GAWD help me; he's nuts about the whole conspiracy thing.------

  3 weeks ago I struck upon the idea of asking for him to see what we share in this 'debate'.  What we're on the same page about is  (1) we're saddened by what has happened in this nation (2) we're concerned about the future. And from that place of common ground, we hope to re-establish our relationship.  What are the consequences if the vow is broken? Like me, you might consider stepping back from talking/visiting for a week, is that possible? Or 2 weeks?  a month?  Is there something that you/your grandparents can do together, really focus on, so that you can be together yet not fall into polarizing commentaries?  With my MAGA-conspiracy- believing, Christian neighbors (who live on one side of us) we talk about gardening, we spend a lot of time together talking about gardening, sharing supplies, tips, working together to grow veggies  -- I am grateful we have this diversion. As you know, we're the last people to convince our loved ones (whether friend or family) that what they believe is wrong.  Beliefs are NOT changed thru logic, ethics. -- I'm interested in the responses you'll receive.  There must be many of us in this dilemma.  Thanks for reaching out.

Writing to you with much sympathy! It is painful. And so common right now. I have a dad who got swept up in Fox News a few years ago after being a loyal Democracy Now! viewer. I did a workshop called Talking to People Across the Political Divide and there is a companion book called Cognitive Politics available online that has lots of ways to engage more effectively. The author Stephen Cataldo is also willing to bring people together for a workshop online. If your family can stay engaged with your husband's family in a way that feels emotionally safe for you it may be so helpful in the long run. It is important work especially for white people as our folks are dominating the Trump/QAnon movement.

I just finished writing an article (which won't publish until May) about bridging organizations; these might be useful resources for you. 

- As a starting point, check out the Greater Good Science Center's "Bridging Differences Playbook." https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/images/uploads/Bridging_Differences_Pla... This will give you some sense of what bridging is, and a sense of whether bridging is something you could try with your inlaws. 

- If you like what you read in the Playbook, you might also be interested in looking at the resources available on the websites of various terrific bridging groups, such as Living Room Conversations (co-founded by Berkeley-ite Joan Blades, of Move.org), Braver Angels, and others. (The Bridging Differences Playbook has a huge list of orgs you can look into.)

And if you'd like me to send you my article, just ping me privately at this email address: write.edit.change at gmail dot com

Best of luck to you. And my sympathies. :)

I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with this, I know firsthand how troubling it is. Check out my recent post in BPN’s Parents of Teens about similar issues with my nephew. I’ve since found a helpline for people whose loved ones are involved in extremism which might be helpful for your family as well: Parents for Peace 844-49-PEACE

Also, this is a pretty good, in-depth article: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/02/05/desperate-families-are-seeking-groups-that-deprogram-extremists/%3foutputType=amp

I wish your family the best in this difficult journey. 

I lost my parents when I was young and then became close to my father's extended family because of it.  Sadly, they are also embedded in ugly conspiracy theories and extreme politics.  I hate it.  I feel like they have been taken from me and brainwashed.  For a while they really rode me about coming over to their beliefs, so I took some time and wrote a long and thorough letter explaining my beliefs and why I was passionate about them.  (They are strongly Evangelical, so I even took the time to back things up with Bible verses.)  I made sure the letter was respectful, kind, balanced, and full of credible citations.  (For instance, I spent a little time online with credible sources to get some statistics and figures.)  I mailed copies out with a deep breath, thinking I'd lose them forever.  Thankfully, while it didn't change their minds, they realized that I'd thought things through and wasn't going to be easily swayed.  I don't see a lot of them and won't be visiting them with my child in tow for a very long time, yet they have backed off and we have peace on Facebook.  We even call each other some times again.  An added benefit was that I had to think through what I believed and why, what the most important issues are to me.  It took some time, but it brought enough peace that it was very much worth it. Best of luck to your family!

I’m sorry you’re going through this very difficult situation. I completely understand since I’ve been dealing with my husband who has gone down that same rabbit hole since March last year. Its been extremely hard for me since my friend for over 20 years, and husband for the last 7 years has become someone I no longer know. Its like sleeping next to a complete stranger and is very sad. I’m honestly surprised that we are still together, but we have a young son with special needs and I’m trying my best to keep our family together.

The worst part is that I’m a nurse whose been working on a Covid floor since the pandemic started and my husband believes in all the conspiracies regarding Covid. Instead of being supported, I’ve been made to feel that I’m working to protect myself, family, and patients from something that is not real. Despite several pleads backed by my own experience as a nurse prior and currently in the pandemic, he still does not believe a word I say. 
 

So what’s “worked” and I say that loosely since we still often argue, is that we don’t talk about politics or religion or current events at all. Its very sad that it has come to this, but its the only way to have peace in our household. We started marriage counseling last July which has been minimally helpful. I finally found an individual therapist for him, but we’ll see if that shows progress. 
 

I’ve tried so many things: asking questions, being open and non defensive and not attacking, fact checking his claims, having him watch the Netflix documentary about social media to show him how the internet algorithms work to lead him to more misinformation, and lastly I’ve relied on my faith to get me through all this.  
 

Luckily, you don’t live with your in laws so at least you have that physical space away from them. I would ask them to kindly refrain from discussing politics, current events, and religion while in your presence for the sake of peace for everyone. As my therapist and marriage counselor have told me, we cannot change anyone’s beliefs, but we can draw boundaries and agree to not talk about anything that is a trigger for either party.