What to Do If Your Partner Turns Into a Conspiracy Theorist

Everyday people are addicted to conspiracy theories and violent movements all the time, although the process is slow. It all starts small. YouTube’s algorithm may suggest poignant, offensive videos that result in sharper and more offensive videos. From there, someone can navigate to disturbing Reddit posts, Facebook groups, and accounts on more niche services like Telegram. Conspiracy theories and violent movements thrive because they are community-based, and these communities survive by bringing in new members.

But what if your significant other is one of these new members? How can you help? Can you help? And what can you do to stay in reality when your loved one is sinking deeper and deeper into a world that you do not understand?

How to know if your partner is susceptible to conspiracies

Be vigilant and pay close attention to your loved one so as not to miss any signs that they are being consumed by online traffic. Are they exhibiting antisocial behavior or are they radically changing their lifestyle? Are they getting more reasoned, or are they suddenly talking in a way you’ve never heard of before about demographic groups such as minorities or followers of a particular religion or political party?

“These are all signs that your loved one might be flirting with extremism,” said Jared Holt, a fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Laboratory . He spearheads their work on domestic extremism and how he uses the Internet, so he is “up to date with all the latest and greatest conspiracy and disinformation theories that are definitely on the air now because such things are gasoline for extremist movements and understanding of the playing field. and the structure in which they operate is very important. “

He noted that the majority of Americans believe in the conspiracy theory kakuyu-, regardless of whether it is the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy and the landing on the moon is due. However, not all of these conspiracy theories or streams of disinformation are harmful and violent. You should be attuned to your partner, their interests and their online and real life activities to the best of your ability, and then use your judgment to determine if they are going too far into something really dangerous.

Explore theories that your loved one has an interest in. Read about Qanon and online extremism in general, for example. If you are unfamiliar with these topics, the ideas behind them may seem far-fetched, but don’t neglect them. They are meaningful to adherents, and if you dismiss them, you run the risk of alienating your partner – and pushing them deeper into the community where they feel understood.

“I think it will be especially unsettling when combined with a call to action, whether it is something more neutral, such as participation in electoral politics or, more radically, the extreme end of the scale: I also think this applies to whether a loved one falls into a conspiracy theory supporting hatred or politically motivated violence. I think it will immediately cause concern, because these are very dark rabbit holes to fall, and when someone starts to go this far, it becomes exponentially harder to pull them out, ”said Holt.

Counteract hate with love … and patience

Holt was clear that he was not an expert on de-radicalization, but this intervention, the movement to “get them” – it is possible; it’s just “a very complicated process.”

“Many people who are experts in de-radicalization will tell you that personal intervention from close relatives, close friends, family members – especially when such intervention occurs earlier in the course of radicalization – is usually among them. the most effective ways to get someone out, ”he explained.

Intervention, like everything else, should be approached on an individual basis. Your loved one is unique. They look for meaning or purpose in their lives by exploring these movements. You can’t try a standard, one-size-fits-all approach, but Holt said empathy, perseverance, and patience are the cornerstones of successful intervention for anyone.

Again, don’t be condescending or rude. Show your partner that you love him. Sit with them and calmly state that their interest in these topics worries you and you are worried about them. Introduce them to the work of people who have returned from the brink. For example, CNN regularly features former white supremacists and reformed neo-Nazis. Show these interviews to your loved one without judgment and talk openly about them.

“Because getting someone back from the abyss is a very intense process, and depending on the relationship and depending on your commitment to it, you just have to appreciate it. I think it’s important not to underestimate the amount of work that might be required in many cases, and to really consider that goal when you’re trying to decide if you want to try to save things, ”said Holt, who added third parties such as friends or consultants. can also be called for help if the situation worsens.

Know when to leave

Yes, you love your partner. No, you don’t have to save them from themselves if they refuse your help. Sometimes you need to leave for your own good. This is fine.

“Ultimately, it is a personal decision of the person who is negatively impacted. I would say as a basis, if the descent down this rabbit hole starts to turn into a more violent ideology, of course, you should seriously consider your safety, while continuing to be with this person, “advised Holt.

Your love for another person should never leave you in a frightening or unstable situation. You must love yourself too.

Do not blame yourself

You are not the reason for your partner’s interest in conspiracy or extremism. Don’t blame yourself for their downfall or your inability to bring them back. You are just one person, and if it were easy to fix, no one would be drawn into these communities or movements.

“Deradicalization is a rather monumental task. For example, we’re not talking about getting someone to quit smoking, ”Holt said. “We are talking about something that has a psychological, political significance, an impact on the self-identification of people who ultimately believe in them, and even among some of the leading experts who are dealing with these problems and trying to find ways to help people. to bring your friends, loved ones and family members back from the land of conspiracies or hate movements, even if they tell you that this is not perfect science. There are things that will work more often than others, but not that there is a simple recipe for this problem, and that the affected person just somehow screwed up or somehow failed. The best anyone can do is to do their best, and if that doesn’t work, only to a certain extent can you control other people’s actions and ideas. “

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