NewsIn-Depth

Actions

In-Depth: Why can't we all just get along? Conspiracy theories, politics & COVID-19 misinformation dividing families

AP576924748716.jpg
QAnon Dallas
Pic 5.JPG
Pic 1.JPG
Pic 4.JPG
Pic 3.JPG
Pic 7.JPG
Pic 6.JPG
Portland Protests
Fact Focus
Unpopular Portland
Portland Protests Missing Police
Tusitala "Tiny" Toese
Minnesota governor to address state's response to George Floyd protests
AP21201601237092.jpg
Capitol Riot Sedition
Stewart Rhodes
Capitol Riot Seditious Conspiracy
Posted at 6:45 AM, Jan 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-19 23:05:24-05

WACO, Texas — In December at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, former President Trump speaks. Outside the arena is a small group of supporters.

Some we spoke with say they believe in conspiracy theories, some believe the election was stolen and others don't trust the government.

What is QAnon?

QAnon believes that America is run by a group of pedophiles and Satan-worshippers who run a global child sex-trafficking operation. They believe former President Trump is the only person who can stop them.

The QAnon movement dates to October 2017 and supposedly comes from a 'high-ranking government official' who posted cryptic clues on 4chan and the even more unfettered site 8chan under the name "Q."

One in five Americans said they believe in the theories according to a recent poll from the Public Religion Research Institute.

"I am a proud Q patriot," said Mickey Larson Olson.

Pic 5.JPG
QAnon believers clashes with others over vaccines at a Donald Trump event in Dallas, Texas on December 19, 2021.

Olson who retired from the Air force is dressed from head to toe in red, white, and blue. She's outside a event in Dallas where Donald Trump spoke.

She believes that President Joe Biden is really not in office. Instead it's Actors James Woods and Arthur Roberts.

"I'm fighting for what God wanted for people all across the world," said Larson.

While at the event a group dressed in all black came up during our interview with Larson. A argument broke out about the COVID-19 vaccine.

"Where is Q? Where is JFK junior," one man dressed in black started demanding.

On the date that John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas. Thousands stood waiting for the presidents son to appear. John F. Kennedy Jr. died over 22 years ago. The thought was he would appear and that he would become Vice President to former President Trump.

Families arguing over Q beliefs

"My family doesn't want to see the truth, I post stuff and send them stuff and they don't want to look at it, that's on them," said Larson.

On Reddit, there is a group called QAnon Casualties.

People who are struggling with loved ones that have Q beliefs post.

Tusitala "Tiny" Toese
Proud Boy Tusitala "Tiny" Toese speaks to members of the far-right group as they gather in an abandoned parking lot on the outskirts of Portland, Ore., Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Alex Milan Tracy)

Story after story of families fighting because of different belief systems.

"Families not speaking to each other and not inviting them over for the holidays," said Dr. Jennifer R. Mercieca, Texas A&M professor, Department of Communication.

Dr. Mercieca studies communication when it comes to politics.

"What we have seen over the five, ten years even, with social media, we all have the ability to set the agenda," said Dr. Mercieca.

She says what's difficult about those who believe in conspiracy theories, it's not always easy to reason with them.

"Conspiracy theory is incredibility dangerous because it's a self sealing narrative and logic can not penetrate it," said Dr. Mercieca.

Once the theory is out there it's not easy to change peoples minds.

"Once it takes hold in a community it's hard to make it go away," said Dr. Mercieca.

Politicians and Q Beliefs

AP21201601237092.jpg

Over 40 candidates who publicly supported QAnon beliefs are running for national office in 2022, according to a tally by the liberal advocacy group Media Matters.

Five are from Texas.

  • Jake Armstrong an Independent running in Texas’ 17th Congressional District.
  • Ruben Landon Dante a Republican candidate running in Texas’ 14th Congressional District.
  • Mayra Flores a Republican candidate running in Texas’ 34th Congressional District.
  • Johnny Teague is a Republican candidate running in Texas’ 7th Congressional District.
  • Samuel Williams a Republican candidate running in Texas’ 16th Congressional District.

Twelve are from Florida, nine are from California,three are from New York, New Jersey, and Arizona, two each are from Nevada, Illinois, and Ohio, and there is one each from Maryland, Rhode Island, Oregon, Tennessee, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Vermont, Alaska, Georgia, and Colorado.

The politicians have been knows to use the Q hashtags, post beliefs, and Jake Armstrong has pictures of himself at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Americans justify violence for political beliefs

A Washington Post poll was published with alarming numbers when it comes to Americans believing violence is justified when it comes to politics.

23% of Democrats believe it's justified Compared to 41% of Republicans. For those who claim to be Independent, the number is 40%.

"Yes, we should be able to fight, that's what Americans do, it's time for us to remember that," said Larson.

Fact Focus
FILE - Violent protesters, loyal to President Donald Trump, storm the Capitol, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection poked another hole in the pro-Trump conspiracy theory that federal agents orchestrated the attack, confirming on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, that a man at the center of the claims said he’d never been an FBI informant. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

QAnon is not the only movement and Law Enforcement Divided

FBI calls QAnon a domestic terrorist threat. ANTIFA hasn't received the title.

In 2020, FBI Director Christopher Wray argued that Antifa is “more of an ideology than an organization.”

Christopher Wray
FILE - In this Oct. 28, 2020, file photo, FBI Director Christopher Wray speaks during a virtual news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington. Wray is set to testify for the first time since the deadly Jan. 6 deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol. (Sarah Silbiger/Pool via AP)

National Police Association says " ANTIFA is Terrorizing Our Nation."

Portland Protests Missing Police
This Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021 photo, an anti-fascist protester holds up their hand after members of the far-right group Proud Boys physically assaulted them in a vehicle after smashing every window and popping all four tires during clashes between the politically opposed groups in Portland, Ore. Police in Portland have been criticized that they did little to prevent violent clashes between right- and left-wing protesters on Sunday. (AP Photo/Alex Milan Tracy)

"So at what point does our federal government step up and declare that organizations like ANTIFA must be shut down?" said Sgt. Nancy M. Dowdy (ret.)  "Some American cities are overrun with these “antifacist” groups, and many of these fractured communities are essentially declaring themselves independent of the federal government."

Minnesota governor to address state's response to George Floyd protests
Protestors demonstrate outside of a burning Minneapolis 3rd Police Precinct, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in Minneapolis. Protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody Monday, broke out in Minneapolis for a third straight night. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

When protest took place in over 140 cities after the death of George Floyd, Then president Donald Trump wanted to label Antifa as a terrorist group. On May 31, 2020, he tweeted,“The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization.”

According to Center for Strategic & International Studies Antifa—or anti-fascists—go back to the period after World War I, when German and Italian leftists worked together to fight fascist gangs in Europe.

"Many Antifa sympathizers do not support violence as the only—or even the main—instrument to oppose fascism, they do view violence as a legitimate option," According to CSIS

Group take issues into their own hands

Stewart Rhodes
FILE - Stewart Rhodes, founder of the citizen militia group known as the Oath Keepers, center, speaks during a rally outside the White House in Washington, on June 25, 2017. The seditious conspiracy case filed this week against members and associates of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group marked the boldest attempt so far by the government to prosecute those who attacked the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

A group called 'Oath Keepers' an American far-right anti-government militia started 2009 by Stewart Rhodes, 56, of Granbury, Texas.

Capitol Riot Seditious Conspiracy
This photo, provided by the Collin County Sheriff's Office shows Stewart Rhodes. Prosecutors have filed seditious conspiracy charges on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, against Rhodes, the leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group and 10 suspected associates. The seditious conspiracy case filed this week against members and associates of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group marked the boldest attempt so far by the government to prosecute those who attacked the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot. (Collin County Sheriff's Office via AP)

Rhodes was an Army veteran. He was in a parachuting accident and had to leave the Army. He spent time as a firearms instructor, attended Yale Law School and worked as a legal clerk for an Arizona Supreme Court justice he became a trial lawyer but was later disbarred in 2015. 

Capitol Riot Sedition
The federal courthouse in Plano, Texas, Friday, Jan. 14, 2022, where Stewart Rhodes, the founder and leader of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group, is set to make a first appearance in court on a seditious conspiracy charge. (AP Photo/Jake Bleiberg)

The United States Department of Justice says Rhodes along with 10 others were Indicted in Federal Court for Seditious Conspiracy and Other Offenses Related to U.S. Capitol Breach.

On Jan. 6, 2021, a large crowd began to gather outside the Capitol perimeter as the Joint Session of Congress got under way at 1 p.m. Crowd members eventually forced their way through, up and over U.S. Capitol Police barricades and advanced to the building’s exterior façade. Shortly after 2 p.m., crowd members forced entry into the Capitol by breaking windows, ramming open doors, and assaulting Capitol police and other law enforcement officers. At about this time, according to the indictment, Rhodes entered the restricted area of the Capitol grounds and directed his followers to meet him at the Capitol.

The United States Department of Justice

In September, an anonymous hacker released records purportedly taken from the Oath Keepers' web servers. The records show that current officers from New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago on the Oath Keepers membership roster.

Portland Protests
'Cuck Spartan' is enraged after anti-fascist protesters drove a van into a Proud Boys rally on Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021, in Portland, Ore. (AP Photo/Alex Milan Tracy)

What to do if a love one believes in conspiracy theories or if politics damage relationships.

Karen Douglas, PhD, is a professor of social psychology at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom said in a podcast with American Psychological Association says giving people the facts is the best.

"In some of our own research, we've actually found that it's quite effective to provide people with factual information, provide people with the facts," said Douglas.

"And this was particularly about vaccines before they're exposed to conspiracy theories, and then the conspiracy theory fails to gain traction."