Something is horribly, horribly wrong
Molineaux is co-publisher of The Fulcrum and president/CEO of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund.
The woman who sat next to me on a recent flight spent our five hours together sharing details of all the breakdowns in society and how it’s all gone horribly, horribly wrong. I listened carefully. This was an opportunity “in the wild'' to practice what I encourage others to do - listen and ask questions. Even with someone who believes in conspiracies. I willingly choose to engage with people who have a different worldview. Especially when we appear demographically similar. I’ll call her Jane, to protect her privacy.
A few background notes about Jane – she is married to a man who prioritizes watching sports over spending time talking with his wife. As she noted, “the stork flew past our house” as a way to explain why she doesn’t have children. She does have 56 nieces and nephews; she is part of a large family. Her career path was in outside sales; she spent years as a road warrior. When Jane was laid off in 2020 from a major media company, she assumed it was because of her worldview, not the pandemic and travel restrictions. For most of the past 15 years, she has spent her spare time researching on the internet. Jane doesn’t have any social media accounts and takes pride in finding “primary sources.” She feels has the answers, if only people would listen.
Jane’s worldview includes believing there is a cabal of financial interests who want to decrease the population, derived from generations of eugenicist research. This “cabal” has infiltrated our institutions to enact their evil plan to kill people. Adding to her hypothesis are these beliefs:
- Public education is making us more compliant
- The healthcare system will kill us, rather than heal us
- The media is brainwashing us to believe lies are truth
- Entertainment is “shoving wokism down our throats” (specifically around gender identity and trans issues)
I focused on asking questions – deepening my understanding and hoping to learn how her beliefs were built. How did she arrive at the understanding that something is horribly, horribly wrong? In short, podcasters and YouTubers have revealed to her the truth; and strengthened her ability to discern the patterns of our destruction, carefully hidden from the mainstream and only available to dedicated internet researchers. When she mentioned a couple of names, I probed a bit and asked why she trusted them? After a short pause, she responded it was because their message resonated with her.
She laughed at this point, noting that her liberal family members assume she watches Fox News all the time when in fact she told me except for an occasional interview she watches online, she doesn’t. She considers Fox News to be part of the global cabal.
As I continued listening, I began to hear her pain. The pain of discord within her marriage, and with her family of sisters, aunts, nieces and nephews. Her family is evenly divided with differing worldviews. One worldview sees great harm inflicted upon themselves by the “industry complexes.” The other worldview sees great harm inflicted by the conspiracy theories that could lead to societal collapse. I asked more questions. Specifically:
- What do you want your relationship with your family to be like?
- How do you decide who to trust, especially on the internet?
- What do you want for your future?
As we talked Jane would often start to respond to one of my questions, then distract herself because she didn’t have a ready answer. Unfortunately, I have found this to be the case for most people when new or tough questions are asked. Unfortunately, we spend too little time thinking about what we want and how important our friends and family are to our lives. When we are lonely, too many of us reach out to the internet, where conflict profiteers are ready to help us feel better with their stories.
By the end of our flight, I was exhausted but also gratified because I felt Jane needed someone to hear her. She needed to express herself fully, without judgment. And while it was a chore, it didn’t hurt me. And if you're curious: Did I change my mind? No.
I left the flight feeling compassion toward Jane; for decades she has been lonely. In the last several months, she has found a way to increase her joy with a new business that includes her family members. My hope is that being around people who love her will break the doom-cycle of internet research that led her to believe that everything is horribly, horribly wrong, and through more constant connection and love she will develop a deep sense of belonging.
In truth, we all belong to each other.
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