Breaking bonds: How conspiracy theories strain family ties

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Akimi, a pseudonym for a woman in her 40s, says she noticed her mother’s personality changing as the coronavirus pandemic went on. Her mother lives in a different city and, initially, would send advice about disinfecting and offering to send masks. But as time went by, the messages grew more intense and fearful.

“She would call me talking about being overwhelmed with anxiety, saying, ‘What is going to happen to us? It’s so hard not being able to see my grandchildren,'” Akimi recalls.

“But then her anxiety suddenly disappeared. She said, ‘I was deceived. The coronavirus was actually created by powerful people. There is no need to be anxious.’ She was in good spirits, which surprised me.”

Later, her mother began to tell her that “this world is run by the Deep State, a dark organization,” which “kidnaps and traffics children.” By the autumn of 2021, she had become deeply committed to the ideas of the American conspiracy theory group QAnon.

Akimi played us an audio recording of a phone call with her mother.

Mother: “PCR tests are also dangerous. The swabs they put in your nose have microchips on them, and they fall out of your nose and into your intestines.” “There is a facility underground in Japan where kidnapped children are kept, and the US military attacks them from the sea to free them.”

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