Escape from the rabbit hole: the conspiracy theorist who abandoned his dangerous beliefs

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Brent Lee struggles to explain why he used to believe that a cabal of evil satanic paedophiles was working to establish a new world order. He pauses, looks sheepish, and says: “I cringe at all this now.”

For 15 years, Lee collected signs that so-called Illuminati overlords were controlling global events. He convinced himself that secret societies were running politics, banks, religious institutions and the entertainment industry, and that most terrorist attacks were actually government-organised ritual sacrifices.

He was also inclined to believe in UFOs, and that Stanley Kubrick staged and directed the filming of the moon landing. He saw satanic symbols in the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony and spent most of his time discussing these theories with an online community of fellow believers. But in 2018 something shifted, and he began to find the new wave of conspiracy theories increasingly implausible. “I was sick of it. I felt, I can’t deal with hearing this any more because it’s no longer what I believe, so I just logged off the internet,” he says.

Now Lee is trying to help other conspiracy theorists to question their worldview. He will address a conference in Poland on disinformation in October, and has launched a podcast unpicking why he held these beliefs so fervently and why he was so deluded.

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