Hey Elderly Aunt, How do I reach my brother who’s fallen down the QAnon rabbit hole?

Dear Elderly Aunt: Much to my horror and dismay, my brother began sharing QAnon BS on Facebook a couple weeks back. Rather than responding on Facebook to what he’s put up there, I tried talking with him. It did not go well. He’s buying into all these looney tall tales about a deep state and the coronavirus being a hoax. I don’t think he’s into believing there are outerspace aliens among us, but who knows? He believes news sites are lying, and anything that contradicts what the conspiracies say only confirms his belief that there’s a cabal of media and shadow figures out to destroy the country.  What can I do to try to bring him back to reality and help him see the difference between facts and fiction? Or should I accept that he’s been sucked into an alternative reality? 

The Elderly Aunt is so sorry, dear reader, that your brother is drinking from the cup of this particularly dangerous and nonsensical political Kool Aid sexually weird ignorance, paranoia, fear and anger.

Sadly, the Elderly Aunt thinks there’s not a damn thing you can do directly to bring your brother back from the abyss. She’s a firm believer that you cannot reason with political lunatics. As you so cogently stated, your brother has been sucked into an alternative reality in which his apples are different from your apples and, well, from actual apples, so any sort of real reality is irrelevant. In the Elderly Aunt’s opinion, the more you try to reason with your brother, the more entrenched he’s likely to become in.

If the Elderly had a loved one suddenly go politically looney-tunes, she would first of all worry about his mental health—has he lost touch with reality in other ways as well as political? If he’s mentally ill, he needs treatment not advice.It’s the Elderly Aunt’s observation that people usually leave reality behind by choice only when it becomes too confusing, overwhelming and/or frightening to inhabit.  So assuming that your brother’s lunacy is confined to the political, she suggests you attempt to identify whatever hole in your brother’s heart or life he’s trying to fill by buying into a fact-free theory that the world is run by a bunch of Satan-worshiping pedophiles (and might include extraterrestrial reptilians as well) who also happen to operate a global child sex-trafficking ring while also plotting against President Donald Trump. According to many of the baseless conspiracies pushed by QAnon supporters is that we’re hurtling toward a ‘day of reckoning’ involving the mass arrest of journalists and politicians.  Stopping its spread of falsehoods has flummoxed social media giants and community church pastors and religious leaders alike.  

The Elderly Aunt is no Zen Mama, but she’s been around enough Buddhists to see other people’s dysfunctional behaviors as screams of pain. To her, dear reader, your brother’s buying into QAnon’s nonsense means that he’s in so much existential pain that he’s started screaming at the top of his lungs.

With this in mind, she suggests the most constructive thing you can do is identify the source of his pain. Not to confront him with it, but to perhaps understand him better than he’s able to understand himself.

  • Is he desperate for attention? Is QAnon his way of getting it?
  • Does he feel in some way dissed — or isolated — by family or by the people he works with? 
  • Does he have money troubles? Romantic troubles? Does he hate his job?
  • Is he frightened of his financial and professional future in our current rapidly evolving economy? 
  • As QAnon—with its weird sexual motif—is his scream of choice, does your brother have some kind of repressed sexual conflict?
  • Does he feel powerless to act in his own best interests?

The goal is not to fix your brother, but to comprehend him better and to understand his QAnon nonsense for what it is—a symptom of something really sad or scary going on with him personally. This understanding will help you offer truly useful help or comfort or advice about the troubles in his life. If he asks for it, of course. 

As much as possible, don’t let your brother’s political nonsense get to you. Rev up your interest in the other aspects of his life. Resist the impulse to have your relationship with him controlled by inflammatory nonsense.

In a word, strengthen your connection with the healthy parts of him and love him mightily as your brother. 

The Elderly Aunt offers her thoughtful responses to your questions about this wild ride we call life on every other Monday.  And as a general disclaimer—to quote the elves from The Lord of the Rings — “… advice is a dangerous gift, even given from the wise to the wise.”

Got a question for the Elderly Aunt? Ask her on Facebook or email your question to [email protected] with the subject line “Elderly Aunt question.” (Just please don’t ask detailed financial questions). 

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