The pain of living with a conspiracy cultist

An interesting feature of WordPress (and most likely other brands of) blogs is that the admins are able to see the sites from which visitors are referred. We don’t bother with it often, but yesterday we just happened to notice we’d had a number of visits from Reddit.

Our curiosity piqued, we went to check it out.

Turns out that the referring sub-Reddit, r/Qult Headquarters, is devoted to people who see the bizarre QAnon phenomenon for what it is: a far-right extremist conspiracy cult which is ruining lives and leading people down a very dangerous, possibly violent, path.

The referral to this blog came from the comments on a post titled “I think I’ve lost my husband to Q“. It struck us that while we sometimes speculate on what it might be like to have a friend or relative become immersed in conspiracy theories, it’s unusual to actually hear from someone going through the experience.

Here’s the post, in its entirety:

I’m not sure what I expect to gain from posting this apart from perhaps a bit of advice. I’ve found real solace reading some of the posts on this sub and it really helps knowing I’m not the only one going through this.

Firstly, we’re in the U.K. This makes it even weirder to me – why he’s so invested and involved in American politics while his own country goes down the toilet with Brexit… but he sees it as all connected.

He’s always been into conspiracy theories and to be honest I found it quite fun to talk about them and hear about theories. He first started reading about Q late last year. Probably late to the party compared to most but to begin with I just noticed small changes in his views and then personality which weren’t really enough to concern me and I figured it’d blow over. Now it’s getting to the point where I can’t stand listening to it and I can’t even see my husband anymore. He was out of work for a few months (though has just got a new job which will hopefully reduce the time he’s reading about it). What started off in small changes to his views now just leave me openmouthed. I’ve notice his feelings on people of different races, lgb people, he now feels white men are vilified and his views on issues like global warming have changed drastically. The ridiculousness of the stuff he says about child abusing satanic cults make me worry that he’s mentally ill but he 100% believes it.

Theres no point me repeating all the stuff he says… you’ll all know. Usually i just “mmm” and “oh” and do my best not to engage. One of the Q “proofs” he’ll always mention if I question anything he says is the results of the American midterm elections and the Republican results in the senate. I admit my knowledge of American politics isn’t great but I understood Q had predicted the Republicans would nail the midterms but that’s not what happens. Apparently Q posted the senate result of 47/53 prior to the event (what.. he’s psychic??) so this is absolute proof because the “mathematical probability of that happening is almost impossible”. I don’t know how to respond to this. I don’t get his logic and I’d think that wasn’t too hard a result to predict?

I’m worried for him. I’m worried that it seems to occupy so much of his head space and seems like the most important thing to him in his world. Any conversation can be turned round to a discussion about the evil American Democrat elites. It annoys him that I’m not interested in it. That I think it’s nonsense. Something another posted said really rang home – he’ll try and get me to agree with him on issues I know nothing about. It seems so weird and I can’t really speak with anyone about it but I’m honestly scared for him and for our family.

Thanks anyone who read this far.

This woman’s concerns are not trivial. We know that some Q believers have gone so far as to engage in violent behaviour in the name of their invisible, mysterious leader:

  • In June 2018, Mathew P. Wright of Henderson, Nevada was arrested for allegedly blocking the bridge over the Hoover Dam with his home-made armoured vehicle and guns; he held out a sign that was linked to QAnon.[35][36] 
  • In July 2018, Pennsylvanian Gardner Boyd was arrested for allegedly threatening to kill Trump and was reported to have made several references to QAnon.[37] 
  • In August 2018, Forrest Clark was arrested for allegedly igniting a forest fire in Orange County, California; Clark had previously posted about QAnon and other conspiracy theories.[38]

But even if her husband never espouses physical violence, the damage to their relationship is very real. How does one live with a person whose very personality seems to be undergoing a radical shift, as they become more and more deeply enmeshed in a belief system that encourages racism, sexism, LGBTQ-phobia, and belief in “child-abusing Satanic cults”?

Most responders seemed to agree that it would be futile to try and talk him out of these beliefs, and some suggested she try negotiating with the husband, suggesting that they learn to respect one another’s differences. Others flatly stated that she needed to issue an ultimatum: QAnon or their marriage.

Unfortunately, although we don’t know for certain how the husband might respond to being told to make this choice, we can guess. Having observed the fanaticism and implacability of conspiracy believers for the past four years, we’ve learned that they cannot be easily persuaded that their beliefs are based in fantasy.

Facts, logical argument, even demonstrations that the fallacies they believe in cannot possibly be true…all fall on deaf ears. The circular logic of the conspiracy believer files this sort of intervention under “part of the conspiracy is that they will tell you there is no conspiracy”.

And on it goes.

One commenter suggested trying to help her husband engage in more real-world activities, correctly pointing out that for many conspiracy believers, their online community of fellow cultists begins to take the place of normal human relationships:

I think you should try to get him active in some kind of local community, volunteering or a sports league or a hobby group. He needs more time around normal people and less time within the Q echo chamber. If he spends enough time around people who realize Q is a ludicrous troll/conspiracy instead of constantly reading posts by people who worship Q and drink in his every ‘drop’, eventually he may come to turn a more critical eye to the cult himself. Hopefully him having a job will be that first step in the direction of coming into contact with more people who share criticism of Q beliefs.

Another commenter noted that the OP’s concerns were very similar to their own, and offered some words of wisdom:

Everything else you said though sounds so strikingly similar to my experience, including the changes in his views on different people (gays, non-whites, etc.), getting elated over the Q “proofs”, and even the way you respond to him. I could have written your post almost word for word, except that I’m in the United States. I guess I am a little surprised that this would happen to someone in the U.K. though because my husband claims people are “waking up” all across the world and I sort of didn’t believe him because I thought people didn’t give a crap about U.S. politics. Apparently this isn’t just politics though. It’s totally something else.

I’m also a bit concerned about how this will affect our family. My husband can’t seem to help himself and has to slip in something about his newfound beliefs in non-related conversations so I’m worried that people are going to alienate us.

I’m holding onto any shred of hope I’ve got that maybe some day he will pull out of it all and not feel ashamed over being wrong. Every day that passes though, it seems so unlikely because I’ll just get hit with some other new “truth” he’s discovered while surfing the internet late at night. I’m sure you’ve heard most of the same stuff I have.

I just wanted to tell you to hang in there. I know it’s tough but you’re not alone in your experience. People offered me some really great advice if you want to look at my recent post history. Most importantly, take care of yourself and grieve if you have to.

It’s never easy to help a loved one leave a cult—whether online or physical. It’s important to stay emotionally engaged with the person, to help reduce the feeling that only their online “friends” really understand or care about them; and while it might be difficult, do refrain from judging what seem like ridiculous beliefs. Keep in mind that the person is a victim of emotional manipulation, and that if they are to be reached at all, it will only be through kindness and concern.

A commenter summed up the need for mutual respect:

Here’s what I ultimately told [my father]:

“You believe what you believe. I love you & respect you. No matter what either of us believe, we’re not likely to change things in the world by convincing the other. So we gotta drop it. Do NOT discuss Trump or politics around me. Keep it to yourself. I will stop talking politics around you. Don’t try to change my mind, I won’t try to change your mind. Our relationship means more to me than politics does. I love you, I respect you, so we gotta stop taking about this. “

Another said it had helped to point out that watching Fox News was doing nothing for their mother’s mental health. They suggested:

Whenever the subject comes up, point out his emotional state, and how the conspiracies are shaped to elicit his response. Whenever my mom would put on Fox News and scoff at something I’d ask her: “Why do you keep watching this when it does nothing but make you angry at the world?” and then point out the ways the show was deliberately trying to elicit that reaction with its language/fact choices. After years of me bitching about her Fox addiction with no results, it took only a couple weeks of repeating that question for her to find her news elsewhere.

Given the prevalence of conspiracy theories on the internet, it seems inevitable that this problem will only continue to grow. While belief in QAnon (or the Hampstead SRA hoax) does not in itself constitute a mental illness, online conspiracy cults do encourage “mentally ill thinking”—irrational belief in impossible things.

Perhaps, if a way is to be found out of this morass of illogical thought and twisted belief, it will come down to teaching people to engage their abilities for critical thinking, and helping them learn to better evaluate what they read online. We sincerely hope it’s not too late for the OP and her husband.

109 thoughts on “The pain of living with a conspiracy cultist

  1. This is not a new phenomenon unfortunately, even back as far as pre May 2003 (why this particular date you may ask) and even far earlier

    There was a ‘doomsday cult’ which had fixated on that particular date as being ‘the end of the world’ (which seems to come with monotonous regularity, and I always seem to miss it) but gained quite a lot of traction in the conspiracy world (Planet X or Niburu) from 1996 onwards, gaining a lot of traction mixing y2k hysteria with christian rapture and a bit of scifi/ Heavens gate/ scientology into the mix, with a bit of Mayan calendar hysteria thrown in for a bit of extra nutty flavoury goodness later on when 2003 didn’t happen

    This resulted in quite a few family breakups as one partner (usually but not always the father) got hooked into it, and began to ‘prep’ for it. Some came to their senses and got out of it, others fell down the rabbit hole and became long term conspiracy nuts (some are even today still insisting that it is happening all around us and the end of the world is ‘soon’), some just plain went nuts and disappeared off the radar- some became homeless, and undoubtedly some of those died in the end- and I have no doubt that some suicided rather than face ‘the end days’…

    There was a rather large group in Japan that were shadowed by the police (no doubt increasing their paranoia) with the worry they would do another Heavens Gate type mass suicide, they traveled in a large group and wrapped their campsite each night in white cotton to stop the ‘government broadcasting into their brains’

    So it indeed has a long and rather sordid past has our conspiracy groups past

    Liked by 2 people

    • Now that you mention it, I do remember something around 2003…and then 2012 was supposed to be the Big One, if I recall correctly. Horrible that these things seem to get into some people’s heads and not let go.

      Like

    • …And 23rd September 2015, which a number of our ‘favourite’ fruitloops – including self-professed “eschatologist” Angela Power-Disney – swore blind was going to be the end of the World. The weirdest part for me is how these people never retract/back-track/apologise when they wake up on the 24th and see the Sun’s still shining and the birds are still singing. They just act like they never said it and move on.

      Liked by 1 person

        • I guess that having so many old and new conspiracies always circulating online makes it easy for people to forget about the prophesied last day of the world’s existence.

          Like

      • Err. If she’s such a good bible-believing eschatologist, presumably she knows Mark 13:32 and Matthew 24:36. Just like every other “Christian” who predicts when the end of the world will be..

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Great analysis, EC.

    I’m just glad no one was stupid and gullible enough to fall for the Q Anon nonsense and dedicate a year of their lives to excitedly reporting their every word as fact.

    Oh wait…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really feel for that poor man’s (rather articulate) wife. I think of people like Kane Slater and David Shurter, who we know have family members who are concerned about their mental health and their online antics.

    Sadly, though, there are also people – Devine’s missus, Angie’s eldest son and Neelu’s boy spring to mind – who just seem to encourage and enable their lunacy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Parental bonds are strong. Very nice and otherwise reasonable people will defend or excuse their mothers even if they egregiously negligent or abusive.
      Although we might see the Hampstead children perusing court cases against numerous people, they might not be keen to prosecute Ella.

      Like

  4. “Mathew P. Wright of Henderson, Nevada was arrested for allegedly blocking the bridge over the Hoover Dam with his home-made armoured vehicle and guns.”

    ^ Reasons for not moving to America, no. 94

    Liked by 2 people

    • I lived in NY for nearly 2 years, been there many times for work and pleasure. Spent 6 months in LA and cherish the Greyhound Bust trip at 18 from NY to LA over a week to see the most extraordinary countryside and amazing cities.
      Have nil interest in returning now and actually quite scared to ask my NY pals what they think of Trump etc etc as I’m too frightened of the answer.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m an ex US resident too and have lost one old friendship because of her fixation with Trump. She basically dumped me because I said I didn’t like Trump and would always be a leftie (I’m not extreme) till the day I died. There was no ‘going over’ for me. Next thing you know – 35 year friendship gone. Blocked. Forgotten. That’s what fanaticism does.

        Liked by 2 people

      • An old friend I used to email in America recently got back in touch. He has become a believer in the Pizzagate conspiracy and a supporter (I suspect financially) of Tommy Robinson.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. “Why do you keep watching this when it does nothing but make you angry at the world?”

    To be fair, I sometimes have similar thoughts about this fine website.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. “Facts, logical argument, even demonstrations that the fallacies they believe in cannot possibly be true…all fall on deaf ears. The circular logic of the conspiracy believer files this sort of intervention under ‘part of the conspiracy is that they will tell you there is no conspiracy’.”

    …Such as when the Hamphoaxer loons spent three years yelling for proof that the children were alive and well, then when they finally got to see footage showing that they were, their narrative instantly shifted to “That’s not them, they’re actors”, “Look at the girl – she’s clearly been raped”, “Look at those fake smiles – there’s probably someone off camera pointing a gun at them” and “Nurse, can I have some more Thorazine, please?” I may have made that last one up.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. “Having observed the fanaticism and implacability of conspiracy believers for the past four years, we’ve learned that they cannot be easily persuaded that their beliefs are based in fantasy.”

    Sadly true, though to be fair, we’ve seen several people who started out believing the Hampstead hoax (and other conrpiralunacy) who managed to snap out of it and in some cases have even become valued contributors to this very blog. So I hope that guy’s missus doesn’t give up on him just yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bizarre.
      From good looking famous boy band singer to depressing looking tramp.
      Is he the only one in the world who claimed The Sun hacked him and wanted $squillions in compo who never got near first base as they told him to sod off?.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I wonder whether Danniella Westbrook’s seen that tantrum. She’s recovering from major surgery (tumour removal) at the moment and has also recently been back in rehab, so she has more than enough to cope with already. She was only looking out for Brian (unlike many of his “supporters”, who egg him on and enable him – Angie, Cat, I’m looking at you). Danniella may be his one true friend and he’s just turned his back on her.

        Liked by 2 people

    • A Meeting of The Minds.
      “All the knowledge and all the paper work”.
      So very strange. They think if it’s on paper it’s real. But nought ever happens. All their paper work and on-line “common courts” and trials never ever work and things stay the same.

      What do we call this syndrome in psychiatry? . It’s like the patient keeps banging their head against the wall and comes away saying “that cleared up my mind and the world is going to change now” but the nurse finds them in the morning still banging their head against the wall.
      I thought Prozac was meant to cure this.

      Liked by 1 person

      • That’s his quantum language badge (no, seriously). It’s supposed to represent “correct grammar-parse-syntax (which he pronounces ‘simtex’)”.

        Liked by 2 people

        • And here’s David Wynn Miller, the guru who’s inspired him:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Wynn_Miller

          “Defendants have attempted to use Miller’s language or ideas in courts of the United States and Canada. These attempts have been uniformly unsuccessful.”

          Not that this has stopped him charging £70 a pop for lessons (which Devine’s been promoting on his FB page).

          Liked by 2 people

          • Hello! I’m new here (popped over from Reddit, actually) and have just begun having a look around. I didn’t even know about this particular fellow! I’ve never really read much about the the Sovereign Citizen movement, but this guy’s special “Quantum Grammar Syntax” looks suuuuuuper satisfyingly nuts. As a writer, I’m especially intrigued – and frightened!

            I’m looking forward to exploring this site in general and learning about all the insane stuff discussed here. I’m from the subreddit mentioned in a post above, http://www.Reddit.com/r/Qult_Headquarters, but I also our more general subreddit that highlights the online antics of the Conspiracy-deranged, Trump-fanatic MAGAts, hyper-“Patriotic”, ultra-credulous “free thinkers” we ironically refer to as “Top Minds”, called “Top Minds of Reddit”, or http://www.reddit.com/r/TopMindsofReddit. I recommend it!

            If I don’t find it already here, I’ll have to dig up the divorce court transcripts from one of our favorite so-called “Top Minds”, a charming, never-socially-innapropriate, always-perfectly-composed SovCit, to share with you all. Highly entertaining.

            Off to explore this site more! Thank you!

            Liked by 1 person

          • Hi Sophie, and welcome!

            The Top Minds subreddit sounds fascinating, will definitely check it out.

            This site contains nearly four years’ worth of information, so if you’re looking for the condensed version of the story, the FAQ on the bar at the top of the page is a pretty good place to start. And of course we’re always happy to answer questions.

            Like

      • He’s got a little Confederated Tribes lapel pin, convinced that it is an Admiralty Law flag which confers all the benefits of the Law of the Sea upon him and liberates him as a Freeman on the Land (because a brain-damaged NZ scammer told him so); and also the larger badge with the US flag. Because reasons.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Neelu (for it is she).. “Edward has been going since 2004 and we’ve put in the corruption claims for mass remedy”. 15 years?. There’s a message there but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I see Devine’s done two more live feeds yesterday. (Sorry for the delay but I was away at a goat-sacrificing ritual yesterday.)

    I can’t link the first one, as he names a protected witness.

    Meanwhile, the second one is four hours long and features appearances by John Wanoa and Jesus. I won’t risk a link in case it contains names of protected witnesses etc. (Sorry, I don’t have the patience to listen to Devine for four hours to check – four minutes is a stretch, tbh.)

    Liked by 2 people

  9. From the Whackyweedia summary of “When Prophecy Fails”:

    “Festinger stated that five conditions must be present if someone is to become a more fervent believer after a failure or disconfirmation:

    – A belief must be held with deep conviction and it must have some relevance to action, that is, to what the believer does or how he or she behaves.
    – The person holding the belief must have committed himself to it; that is, for the sake of his belief, he must have taken some important action that is difficult to undo. In general, the more important such actions are, and the more difficult they are to undo, the greater is the individual’s commitment to the belief.
    – The belief must be sufficiently specific and sufficiently concerned with the real world so that events may unequivocally refute the belief.
    – Such undeniable disconfirmatory evidence must occur and must be recognized by the individual holding the belief.
    – The individual believer must have social support. It is unlikely that one isolated believer could withstand the kind of disconfirming evidence that has been specified. If, however, the believer is a member of a group of convinced persons who can support one another, the belief may be maintained and the believers may attempt to proselytize or persuade nonmembers that the belief is correct.”

    Liked by 2 people

  10. It’s all beyond me.
    I don’t know which side of Brexit readers fall on and I respect the (sensible) arguments on both sides. Hell I’d have to as I’m a fan of Jeremy Corbyn and thought the pro-Brexit Tony Benn was God.
    I even ensured I had an Irish passport (thanks to one Granny) so I could travel easily whatever the outcome.

    But there’s a hard core fanatical Brexit mob who have soaked up almost every conspiracy going. And they all claim to be “patriots” and “true Bits” etc etc which means they accuse anyone not like them of being the opposite. They pine for a time they never lived in and was nothing like what they imagine.
    How did it happen?.

    I have a theory that too many have watched their much-hated BBC for too long and have absorbed every BBC historical series as being reminiscent of something they experienced.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Except “Peaky Blinders” hopefully.

      I expect they think “Shameless” is a democracy.

      Me, I just can’t wait for the EP elections. Popcorn at the ready. I might even stand, except it’s regional closed-list. Probably about the only undemocratic thing about the EU I can think of, that. Except (quelle surprise) that undemocratic system of PR was chosen for the UK by…… The UK Government !! All on its own !!

      Liked by 1 person

      • You can stand, you don’t have to be in a party. Just pony up the deposit.. Last time I voted for The Roman Party AVE! – a bus driver from Reading.

        From the BBC:
        The Roman Party. Ave! Standing in South-East. French bus driver Jean-Louis Pascual, who has stood at local elections in Reading under this banner since 2006, is the sole candidate.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. In case anyone hasn’t heard, it was announced yesterday that Robert Green is in hospital with terminal cancer and apparently hasn’t got long left.

    I know we’ve had our differences but that’s not something I would wish on anyone. Best wishes to him and his family

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I remember being in the library and hearing someone with his friend. He was pointing at the books, and saying “This is all crap, all lies. I should come in and burn it down.” I took a secret photo of him just in case and told the librarian.

    Must be awful to be married to someone who goes down the conspiracy path. I’m afraid I’d probably blow it by doing something extreme like getting the internet turned off.

    Liked by 2 people

      • I haven’t watched all of the second one but according to Angent J, Devine says he spent a big chunk of today wandering round Burton looking for somewhere that sells fluoride-free toothpaste 😆

        And apparently he names and slanders a protected witness twice.

        He reserves most of his venom, though, for his latest bête noire, Daniela Smith, who was posting polite clarifications in the comments (and who Devine incorrectly believes to be associated with this blog). And naturally, he was being backed up by his official arselickers Susan Baker and ‘Jesus’. Still, it was nice of Susan to take time out from posting death threats to innocent people to talk bollocks for the ‘team’.

        Liked by 2 people

          • He did state that he was using coconut oil with bicarbonate of soda instead, after his search of Burton proved fruitless.

            Liked by 2 people

          • One of his oddball supporters has recommended coconut oil and he’s confirmed that that’s what he’s been using.

            I also notice he’s been chewing a lot of gum in the last few videos, presumably to freshen his faggy breath (?).

            Liked by 1 person

  13. He’s really pushing the ‘sintex/simtax’. I’ve just learned ‘be’ means ‘no’, why I wondered, he enlightened us all with his pearl of syntax lingo……’beheaded’ – ‘no head’.

    Friends of mine speak ‘Cant’, it is so much more interesting than syntax.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Which is quite ironic Lucca, considering that a person has to be a “cant” to speak syntax. Something along those lines anyway. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

    • Anyone with an elementary knowledge of web design can press ctrl-u and see the code that underpins Spivey’s site, as you can with any site. You can tell whether it’s hand-coded or relies on some other system to create the page…is it a Wix site or does it use an off the shelf css etc.

      His is just a WordPresss blog. Even if WordPress are hosting it and you buy the business package off them, it’s £240 a year. Surely someone with an IQ of 127 (as he claims) can run their own WordPress blog? What’s he spending £270 a month on in relation to it? Is that maybe the price of his bloated Sky TV package and broadband bundle that he expects his audience of Muppets to pay for? The scamming bloater!

      Like

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