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A “conspirator” in the family: how to maintain the link

They talked about it »… This simple legend refers to one of the most famous press cartoons in history, published on February 14, 1898 by the Figaro. By affixing it to the bottom of the second drawing – a fist in the dining room – from his diptych A family dinner, the author illustrated the tension aroused by the Dreyfus affair in households. Even if the context is very different, twelve decades later, are conspiracy theories capable of causing so much havoc in families?

→ TESTIMONIALS. Conspiracy within the family, reconciling concern for the truth and maintaining the link

All circles are potentially affected: social class and diploma are not sufficient ramparts to spare anyone from the scourge of conspiracy ideas. ” My father has a rather high intellectual background, reports Louise (1), a young Parisian woman who works in the media. It annoys me that he is being tricked like this.

The conspiracy reaches people with varied profiles, having only one weakness in common which, when it turns into adherence to false information and the most eccentric theories, leaves their relatives destitute.

The plot, a ” false nose

Often, their first reaction is to discuss it. ” In my job, I keep repeating that we must promote dialogue, explains marriage counselor Christiane Behaghel. However, to be fruitful, a dialogue must make it possible to engage. But addiction to this conspiracy theme can be a loophole for someone who doesn’t want to talk about her.. “. Therefore, it is up to those close to them not to ” fall into the trap “And identify the” false nose What are conspiracy theories. These affect people who have ” need to make sense of the chaos and stress that oozes throughout society ”.

These people reassure themselves cheaply with simplistic explanations, at the cost of irrationality. When conspiratorial ideas invade the discussion space, it is advisable to (re) discover other, more essential subjects of dialogue. ” I think within a couple, resumes the marriage counselor, the conspiracy climate is one of the rare subjects to which it is good to close the door a little “. By taking care not to lock the other in a ” drawer With a label of “conspirator”, as restrictive as it is hurtful. ” If I treat my father like this, resumes Louise, he retorts to me that I am in the single thought. Therefore, it is better to avoid certain themes “.

Doubt, the beginning of the reverse

Dialogue, likely to turn into confrontation, can end up being counterproductive, by convincing a fragile subject that the world is underpinned by occult forces to be flushed out. What to do, then, if not the round back?

The ordeal is painful for many families. ” One of the members can be considered “under the influence” as soon as he does not allow himself to doubt what he adheres to., advances Pascale Duval, spokesperson for the National Union of Associations for the Defense of Families and Individuals Victims of Cults (Unadfi). This notion of doubt is capital because it allows you to go back “.

For her, assent to conspiracy theories and the risk of sectarian drift come under exactly the same mechanisms. With two psychological processes at work: the grip on a group and the radicalization vis-à-vis a belief. Three ruptures follow: with oneself (change of identity, of which the use of pseudonyms on the net, is the first step), with the environment, family among others, and finally with society, including the rejection of its institutions (political, medical, etc.).

Guard against triumphalism, preserve the children

The speed of radicalization and adherence to conspiracy theories varies among individuals. ” In the little space left to doubt, you must in any case get your loved one to continue to ask questions. “. And beware of any triumphalism when the person begins to recognize that he may have gone astray. ” It touches the ego and can be very demeaning, notes the spokesperson. Even if it’s complicated to continue to love someone completely off the table, the family should stay by their side, caring, gently letting them know that they will always be welcomed, without being judged.

→ MAINTENANCE. Rudy Reichstadt: “Conspiracy is a pathology of democracy”

In recent months, Unadfi has started to record reports from people worried about the receptivity of some of their relatives to conspiracy theories, a new category for the organization. Most of the time, these reports come from the spouse. As for the couple’s children, they must also be preserved: “We give them too little voice. Gold, insists Pascale Duval, we must explain to them that when a parent isolates himself, it is not because he does not love them anymore, but that he is obsessed with something », A bit like an addiction.

Identify “weak signals”

The so-called “conspiracy” can also undermine the bond between elderly parents and their adult children. For example, in the case where the son, an artist by trade, lectures his father, a doctor, on the health management of the crisis. ” The parent will feel very frustrated not to share his experience with his son locked in his convictions, warns Christiane Behaghel. It takes a lot of effort and intelligence to cash it.

The health crisis is wreaking havoc on vulnerable people, whose adherence to conspiracy theories may sound like a defensive reflex to avoid falling into a state of depression. Before it is too late and the subject has to be taken care of by professionals, particularly in the medical sector, it is therefore up to those close to them to spot the “weak signals” of warning, changes in behavior.

Pascale Duval notes in particular that “ half of sectarian excesses are rooted in the New Age ”. Of course, not all of the practices commonly associated with New Age, such as vegetarianism, can be suspected of being associated with conspiracy. But, explains Pascale Duval, “If 100% of vegetarians are obviously not” new agers “, on the other hand 100% of” new agers “are vegetarians . The case illustrates that these “weak signals” can go completely unnoticed as certain habits or practices are now shared by a very large number. This makes the challenge of prevention even more complex.


The influence of conspiracy theories on the French

A large quarter of French people (26%) believe that the coronavirus was created in the laboratory (1): 17% believe the virus was invented intentionally, while 9% believe that its creation was the result of an accident.

(Source: Ifop-Fondation Jean-Jaurès survey, March 2020)

More than 20% of French people agree with at least five conspiratorial statements (2) (questioning global warming, presenting immigration as a population replacement project organized by political elites or even claiming that the alleged harmfulness of vaccines is hidden by the public authorities and the pharmaceutical industry): 28% of 18-24 year olds adhere to five or more theories, compared to just 9% of those 65 and over.

(Source: Ifop-Fondation Jean-Jaurès survey, December 2018).


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