'I've Reported My Mum to the Police' – COVID Conspiracies Are Tearing Families Apart

Over a year into the pandemic, children of COVID deniers are cutting ties with their parents over their bizarre and dangerous views.

11 May 2021, 10:18am

One year and over 3 million deaths into the pandemic, coronavirus conspiracies are still tearing families apart.

While the vast majority are onboard with the science, and positive vaccine sentiment is increasing, loved ones espousing beliefs like “COVID is a hoax” or “Bill Gates is using vaccines to implant us with microchips” has been a source of tension for many over the past 13 months – and in some cases has led to the complete deterioration of parent-child relationships.

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Based in the Pacific Northwest in the US, 45-year-old Noah* said his relationship with his parents was already stretched before the pandemic, but that it quickly disintegrated once it began.

“I think, like many kids, I watched my parents slowly slide as they began to only consume right-wing ‘news’, specifically sources like Fox News [over the past few years],” he said.

Noah explained that his relationship with his parents was never perfect, but that they could still discuss topics that they disagreed on. That changed once reports of a flu-like virus began circulating in February of 2020. “My parents started to believe it was a government plan to control everyone's lives, regardless of the science,” Noah said.

These views quickly bled into Noah’s parents’ relationship with their son. “My parents think I’m a brainwashed sheep who is fine with the government running my life, and I fully believe they’ve just checked out from reality,” he said.

Noah is learning to accept this new dynamic, but says that “watching your loved ones get taken away, a piece at a time” is “deeply saddening”.

Photo: Thabo Jaiyesimi / Alamy Stock Photo

While Noah found that COVID conspiracies transformed his parents into strangers, others have seen the pandemic reinforce the worst parts of their relationship with their parents.

Olivia G and her mother had little to no connection following her father’s death in 2016. “Without my dad as a buffer, I had to deal with the entirety of my mother’s narcissism, abuse and her alcoholism,” she said, adding that she didn’t think their relationship could get any worse. But then the pandemic began, her mother became a COVID denier, and it did.

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The COVID denial wasn’t all that surprising, considering Olivia’s mother had believed in conspiracies and pseudoscience before coronavirus hit.

“She does not believe ‘illness is real’, and thinks that positive thought can cure things like cancer – which my dad died of,” Olivia explained.

Olivia never got a straight answer for why her mother believed COVID was a hoax; every time she asked, she got a different response: “First, she said the pandemic was an effort by the US government to keep everyone under lockdown.” Other times, she “parroted” the Sinophobic idea that coronavirus was manufactured in a Chinese lab. Right now, she believes it’s an effort by Big Pharma to control the population.

This situation came to a head in October of 2020, when the pair went food shopping and Olivia’s mum licked her hands before picking up products.

“I thought I was losing my mind,” said Olivia. “I just wanted to scream.”

Olivia was mortified and walked away. Her mother proceeded to pile wine bottles into their trolley, despite telling Olivia she no longer had alcohol issues. The event marked the end of their relationship.

Even though it was humiliating, Olivia said the event was a breakthrough for her, as it made it clear that her mother’s abusive behaviour – which she had always downplayed – was real. She’s now considering therapy to work through her experiences.

While some can escape their parents, others are stuck living in the same household for the foreseeable future. Jack*, 20, is a student in the UK who lives with his COVID-denier mother.

“I personally am on the end of my rope with living here, but [being a student] doesn’t pay enough to move out,” he said. “She’s been breaking lockdown relatively frequently, and did the whole, ‘I don’t know anyone who’s had COVID’ thing, which is quite funny, because her friend has caught it since.”

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Jack worries that his mother will be fined for breaking restrictions, and then not be able to pay the bills. They also argue daily, he said, which never happened before the pandemic. For now, he’s stuck treading on eggshells around her and avoiding the topic of coronavirus.

Elsewhere, children of COVID deniers are regularly fighting back against their parents, in an attempt to correct the misinformation they spout.

Tashina, 31, felt the emotional burden of this battle every time she confronted her parents about their views. Despite her mother and father being divorced and living in separate countries, they both fell into coronavirus conspiracies in March of 2020. Tashina is confident they were radicalised in the Evangelical Christian Facebook groups they’re members of.

“It’s exhausting [debunking everything they say]. It’s like a full-time job, and I do not have a biology degree,” said Tashina, who is based in Sweden. “Because they’re older and my parents, they think I’m a clueless child.”

While she managed to convince her father to stop being an anti-masker – at least for now – her mother has not relented. “My mother proudly told anyone who would listen that she has been red-pilled,” she said.

Photo: David Bagnall / Alamy Stock Photo

Tashina said her mother refuses to wear a mask, get the vaccine or social distance, and that she broke lockdown rules and travelled hundreds of miles from Wales to England. Tashina has reported her to the police three times.

Of the countless horrendous things her mother has said – including that the countries worst-affected by the virus made a deal with the anti-Christ and were suffering as punishment – there’s one that stands out: that Tashina’s dyspraxia, fibromyalgia and ADD stem from her mother mistakenly vaccinating her as a child.

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“You need to take care of yourself at some point and say, ‘Yes, you believe some fucking bullshit, but I am in this pandemic too. I am dealing with all of this too,” said Tashina.

She stopped speaking to both parents this year and implores others to do the same.

“Do not waste your time,” she said. “I know it’s hard. I know that it’s your parents and you grew up with them. But do not make the same mistake I did and take a year [to end the relationship].”

Maisie* did exactly this after her dad’s conspiracy spouting turned into attacks on her and her mother. The 29-year-old from Baltimore described her dad as “a firm Trump conservative”.

Once “Trump and Fox News’ conspiracies ramped up [in 2016], my dad just ate everything up without question”, she said.

Up until then, she had a great relationship with her father, but then he suddenly “was repeating things from his news sources that were damaging to myself and dangerous to my LGBT+ community”.

One event became the nail in the coffin of their relationship.

“My mom, who is an ICU nurse, came home sobbing [one night] in the first spike because her patients were declining so fast from the disease and dying no matter what she did. He [just] went on a rant about COVID’s survivability rate and how it’s all ‘just the flu’.”

Maisie is a healthcare worker herself and has lost eight loved ones to the virus. She couldn’t reconcile the fact her father knew that but was still reciting this kind of misinformation. She ended the relationship there, but hopes he realises his mistakes someday.

It’s unclear whether this hope is realistic. Research shows that conspiracy believers often respond to facts with paranoid thinking, making it extremely difficult to break their conspiratorial worldview.

For now, the children of these conspiracy theorists are stuck in a weird kind of limbo: closure is difficult to achieve when the other person is living in a completely different world to your own.

*Names have been changed to protect interviewees’ privacy.

Tagged:

conspiracy, conspiracy theories, worldnews, world coronavirus

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