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Ask HN: How do you deal with family members who are into conspiracy theory?
9 points by MKais 3 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 21 comments

What kind of conspiracy theory?

If it’s the “people” kind then what you have to realize is actual conspiracies happen all the time - there are many interwoven plots, ulterior motives, and hidden agendas going on all around you.

People are generally good at noticing that something doesn’t add up - much worse at working out what might have actually happened.

They have also been lied to and mislead by our institutions often enough that they are unlikely to trust your sources or corrections.

The only long term solution I can think of is to clean up our institutions - but that won’t happen overnight.

If it’s the “flat earth” kind - overall these people are higher than average intelligence and fairly well versed in the topics they are discussing - and so unless you yourself understand the subject matter they will run circles around you.

This second group are actually really interesting to talk to and ask interesting questions - for example why do pilots fly without adjusting for the curvature of the earth? Why do many long distance snipers not adjust for the curvature of the earth? Etc etc.

I’m sure there are great scientific explanations - and I’m also sure that many in the flat earth crowd would listen.

> Why do many long distance snipers not adjust for the curvature of the earth?

Where does one find these people?

I have never met a sniper who didn't adjust for not just curvature of the earth, but also rotation of the earth with respect to the direction of the shot.

I struggle to imagine someone being a successful sniper without working these into their targeting in some way.

I think you are right about the long term solution and the underlying cause being disillusioned with leadership / govt / institutions.

I wonder if we don't need some sort of reboot because it is no impossible to iterate out of where we are. I'm more hopeful for the later and human perseverance

> some sort of reboot

Note that this is not a thing that is possible. There is no "after the revolution"

If it’s the “flat earth” kind - overall these people are higher than average intelligence

What makes you think so? Most reputable people I know consider them stupid.

> What makes you think so? Most reputable people I know consider them stupid.

Do they consider them stupid before they learn about their flat earth beliefs or after?

I found a few of my work colleagues are into it - and they are high performing engineers at a top tech firm.

I would remind them that the conspiracy has no impact on their life and they are powerless to do anything about it, so why focus on it?

Them: “The earth is flat! They’re trying to hide it from us!”

Me: Okay. So what?

I wouldn’t try arguing with them. It’s usually futile and reinforces their sense of superiority they derive from knowing the “truth.”

That's a tough one because logic and fact does not work. There are some previous threads and posts on HN. Try searching around with the advanced filters.

Here are a few links I grabbed some time ago




I sit them down, pull out the list of conspiracy theories which turned out to be proven true, and explain to them that these are the only conspiracy theories that deserve any time and attention. All future conspiracy theories should be rejected instead of analyzed, and we should always try to align with the mainstream.

Something I learned a decade ago was that facts often don’t change people’s mind.

Before I learned that, I would try to change other people’s views with facts. Now, I don’t try so hard since I know it won’t make any difference. Love the conspiracy believer for their other qualities and ignore their crazy ideas.

Aim the conversation towards their feelings instead of "facts" or the "truth".

Here's some structure to pull from :



The needs:feelings model from the Non Violent Communication course is great.

What kind of conspiracy theory? A percentage, no matter how small high stakes events regarding money, power and fame are considered a conspiracy until one day they aren't and its all real.

Talk to them but avoid social media. Eventually people return home and you should try to be a friend if that is something you can deal with.

Q Anon, the main active right wing group has one of their main sites here: https://qmap.pub You can see the gamification instantly. They employ techniques in psychology, advertising, and much of what has been learned from modern dark patterns.

Are you dealing with the left or right conspiracy theory?

(assuming right because that's the main one I'm hearing people having concerns about family getting deep into)

Block them from Facebook and only see them at family functions like weddings.

This is näive, it's their family and that is a last resort more used with addicts. You don't just throw family out when they have been brainwashed, you try to help them like OP.

I personally think it's näive to think you can change someone's mind who has been politically brainwashed. Maybe your experience is different.

Minds change and open up all the time, despite the prevailing story told by the media brainwashing a much larger portion of the populace.

Like the one involving trump and russia?

trump and russia was a cover up for the clintons murdering seth rich

My comment was meant to point out the hypocracy of the mainstream who thinks conspiracy theories are bad but at the same time bought into the trump/russia conspiracy theory hook, line and sinker

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