“Strong tensions”, “dead end” and “tolerance” … How some French people try to keep the link with a close conspirator

How to keep in touch with a loved one who adheres to conspiracy theories about the coronavirus. – Pixabay

  • After the success of the documentary Hold-up, 20 Minutes offers a series of articles on conspiracy and the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Since the start of the epidemic, some have seen family lunches and discussions with friends become endless debates on different conspiracy theories.
  • Several of our readers tell how they live with a mother, a father, friends who pour into conspiracy. Olivier Klein, professor of social psychology, suggests ways to maintain the link with these people.

An accentuated anxiety, endless heated debates, the fear of cutting themselves off from a loved one … Many French people share their doubts and denounce the inconsistencies in the strategies carried out in the face of the coronavirus. Some go much further by relaying false information, a distorted or simplified reality, thus adhering to conspiracy theories on the pandemic. The recent release of the documentary Hold up,
seen over two million times in less than a week – and the strong reactions it generates on social networks are only one illustration of this phenomenon.

It is difficult to know how many French people are convinced by conspiracy theories, which they believe in, and how much they adhere to them. Still, when a loved one begins to advise conspiratorial videos, to advance false information about the pandemic, or even to refuse to respect the barrier measures, arguing that the coronavirus does not exist or is not serious, family relationships can be strained. Keeping a close and peaceful relationship when the dialogue systematically revolves around these debates requires a certain balancing act. Some of our readers, who find themselves in this situation, have agreed to share their feelings.

“It’s a real dead end”

Gwenaëlle, 50, tries to keep an open dialogue with her 22-year-old stepdaughter. “His father and I dismantled the allegations of the conspirators point by point, but nothing helped. “As the media lies, the government lies just like the doctors,” she tells us. So it is we who are wrong. Impossible to make him listen to reason. This creates strong family tensions. “

Many insist on the wall that rises as the debate continues. Michel, 45, regrets that “every source that we bring, whether it be scientific sites or the media, is insulted. The more we argue, the more suspect we are in their eyes, it is a real dead end. “

Louis, 23, saw his mother gradually fall into conspiracy. “In our dialogues, the subject of the theories to which she adheres arrives regularly, but very quickly turns in circles. I try more and more to have an open discourse towards tolerance: no, it’s not because people, media or other have an opinion different from his or different from his. Hold-Up that they are sold. But it’s complicated. The more time passes, the less I try to convince her about the false information, because there is no way out. I hope that someday she’ll get out of it all by seeing a video of an unknown guy who will have more impact than me. “

“I have clearly felt a chasm between us since the pandemic”

Fanny, 30, has opposed her father, stepmother and sister for years over aliens and 9/11. But when it comes to Covid-19, which has another impact on daily life and the future, it’s something else. “I have clearly felt a chasm between us since the pandemic,” she testifies. As for my sister, I can no longer have real conversations with her, because everything is drifting towards the many plots she believes in. I am the sheep who must “wake up”, discussion is impossible. Not only does she have no arguments, she also doesn’t listen and is downright contemptuous. I have the distinct impression that we have all moved away and not only physically. It makes me really sad. “

For Louis too, the consequences of his mother’s conspiracy are not at all the same since the arrival of the pandemic. “At first, it was nothing too bad, the memory of water, crop circles made by aliens … Then with the arrival of the Covid-19, she became hostile to wearing a mask, out of discomfort, because “useless” and because “it muzzles speech”. Until arriving at conspiracy theories like the fact that Bill Gates wants to kill the poor half of humanity. Louis tries to keep a cool head and contact. In particular by reading, by watching the videos that his mother shares. “I spent 5-6 hours in front Hold-Up, to note, to source, to seek the origin of the presented extracts, to be able to give me a correct opinion on the subject. “

What sometimes worries these relatives is that their parent does not take enough precautions vis-à-vis the Covid-19. “My father and my mother-in-law are resistant to the mask, even though they are considered to be at risk”, continues Fanny. “My mother’s health is becoming fragile and she has no confidence in medicine … Homeopathy, raw fruits and” anti5g stone “are her only medicine, adds Louis. I have a feeling of helplessness, of injustice. On the one hand, I have a cousin in intensive care, on the other, my mother who thinks that this cousin is in intensive care because she was not treated (hydroxychloroquine surely…). And me in the middle who worries me for both. “

“This endangers the health of the most fragile”

Beyond the private aspect of things, Louis questions the meaning of the collective in the face of these conspiracy theories. “Sharing the conspiracy theories made me laugh softly at first. But given the scale that it takes (and not with Hold-Up) it really worries me. Because it shifts political debates not on ideas, but on the very notion of truth and facts. “

Dominique, 70, who has several friends and friends who “more or less adhere to conspiracy theories”, regrets the danger that this phenomenon represents for the health of others in general, and caregivers in particular. “These theories are the support of an anti-citizen egoism and jeopardize the health of the most fragile. What saddens me the most is the consequence on the fatigue and the danger experienced by the caregivers. It is a lack of recognition and respect for them. “

That some live very close. Véronique, 43, is a nursing assistant in a Covid unit and her husband “is convinced that it is a conspiracy. I prefer not to say anything and not to broach this subject with him. But it also implies that I do not talk about what I am going through and sincerely, not being able to share his anxieties and fears with the person who shares his life, it is complicated. I feel a little lonely. Fortunately, there is great solidarity between us caregivers. “

How to maintain contact?

Many use giftc, as we have seen, from patience and tips. Far from offering a magic formula that works for everyone,
Olivier Klein, professor of social psychology at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, dares to give advice so as not to cut ties with this relative who has become a conspirator. Provided that the latter is still in doubt, not totally convinced. “Let’s start with what not to do: treat them as conspirators!” The researcher introduced. Because it is stigmatizing. Responding with contempt will thus have little chance of leading to an exchange. “There’s no point in sending them a link to an article that debunks everything without comment. It has to be contextualized, which takes effort. And start by creating common ground: it’s legitimate to ask questions, you too find that there has been negligence… ”

Another tip: “often conspiracy theories run on argumentative mille-feuille. Which makes Hold-up. It is therefore difficult to contradict the film in its entirety. “We can therefore ask the person to choose, among all the elements raised, which convinces him the most. And work together on this one: why is he talking to you? What are your sources? To my knowledge, we can pretty much dismantle anything, but in a collaborative way. “

Last suggestion of the professor of social psychology: “Explain how the algorithms of Facebook and YouTube work. So that they understand that if they only read or watch conspiratorial content, it is because they have it. liké a before, not because it is an objective representation of reality. “

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