A woman in Western Australia is speaking out after her “gentle, kind and loving” husband was rapidly radicalised by conspiracy theorist extremists.
The woman, who spoke with news.com.au on the condition of anonymity, explained that her husband was first introduced to several common theories by a relative around five years ago. However, things “really started escalating” during the pandemic after he fell in with a group of people she described as an “anti-vaxxer cult”.
“My husband and I were happy. He’s a gentle, kind man, but very gullible and easily led,” she said. “Five years ago, he found the crazy world of conspiracies.
“Each time he would tell me something so unbelievable and he’d act as though it was the best thing since sliced bread. With my feet firmly on the ground, I’d laugh at him. But now, it’s no laughing matter.
“He gradually became worse, and when the pandemic hit, it fell straight into his lap and many other nutters formed the anti-vaxxer cult, and things really started escalating.”
The woman explained that her husband would urge people not to get vaccinated “because it would kill them in a matter of months”, and that he had even purchased bars of silver and melted them down in the belief Australia would run out of money – another widespread conspiracy theory.
“He even threatened me with divorce if I got vaccinated – I was terribly upset, but being stubborn … I quietly went and got vaxxed anyway,” she explained.
“I’m past the tears and anger – you cannot win an argument or a debate with these anti-vaxxer ‘freedumb’ fighters.”
The woman explained that she wanted to speak out after reading news.com.au’s coverage of the similar plight of a Queensland woman whose husband was also quickly brainwashed during the pandemic, saying she wanted to prove that the first woman was “not alone”.
“[My husband] has domestically mentally abused me for about 12 months,” she said.
“Last year, he tried to stop me watching TV and the world news, and he wouldn’t let me buy newspapers. He tried to control me, and if I was watching the world news, he’d stand at the door and scream ‘sheeple’ over and over again to block out the announcer.
“My support system here tried to get me to leave him, but I love him and he loves me. At the same time, I can see my gentle, happy, sociable husband going further down the rabbit hole into la-la land.
“He thinks the Holocaust is a hoax, which left me fuming – I could not believe what he was saying. He thinks the royal family descended from reptilians, and that 9/11 was a government job.”
The woman explained that her husband’s group meets twice a week and said she once managed to “scavenge” a discarded note from one of the meetings that left her devastated.
The note was a “warning” to “all medical practitioners, doctors, nurses and all involved in injecting a Covid-19 or mRNA vaccine”, claiming they would be “on trial for war crimes”.
“I was horrified to learn they were giving these out right through the vaccination period last year,” she said.
She added her husband was a supporter of Australian conspiracy theorist and wannabe politician Riccardo Bosi, as well as Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and disgraced Sandy Hook massacre denier Alex Jones.
And in an alarming development, she revealed her husband’s group was visiting the local gun club in order to learn how to “protect themselves”.
While she said she didn’t believe they would go so far as Queensland’s murderous Train family, who gunned down two cops and an innocent neighbour recently, she said they had similar beliefs and that it “would not take much to tip them over”.
“I love my husband dearly, I love him and he loves me, and you couldn’t get a sweeter, kinder person, but he’s gullible and easily lead and he fell into the trap,” she said. “I said, ‘This is wrong, come back to the world of reality’, but he thinks he is in the world of reality.
“He’s got a high IQ and always did well in exams. He’s intelligent, so why? He goes on YouTube every night, he’s into everything alternative – he’s been thoroughly radicalised.”
She said she had cried “many, many tears” and that her husband had just got “worse and worse” after meeting the group of “manipulators”.
“I feel so hurt and so angry with him and that mob. He seems to think they’re his family now,” she said.
“I’ve been looking at a lot of minutes from their meeting, and they’re warning people not to use sunscreen, not to use normal toothpaste – the whole lot are crazy.
“I’m over the heartache of it and the sheer frustration, but I’m still angry. Where do you go? How can you put sense into them? I don’t know. All the idiots and nutters just swallow this stuff because they’re absolutely brainwashed.”
Psychologist Kim Cullen told news.com.au that while people with certain personality disorders may be more likely to believe in conspiracy theories, there were a range of other factors at play that could attract those without prior mental health issues.
“If a person didn’t show signs of believing in conspiracy theories previously, then it’s going to be triggered by something else,” she explained.
“If there’s no pathology or issue there, often if [these beliefs] come on suddenly, it will be fear-based – people don’t like being in situations where they feel powerless and when it feels random, and, for example, Covid felt very random at the start.
“We like it when we have a reasonable explanation for something … so it’s often based on control.”
Dr Cullen said another factor could be feelings of isolation and vulnerability.
“Sometimes, people just want to be part of a group of like-minded people, and then all you need is two conspiracy theorists together to run rampant with it,” she said.
“It’s about that sense of connection and belonging.”
Other conspiracy theorists are attracted to their beliefs out of a need to feel smarter or superior to others.
“They want to be the enlightened, insightful ones … and even in the face of contradictory evidence, it becomes a point of pride – they don’t want to admit they were wrong, because it’s embarrassing.”
Finally, Dr Cullen said some conspiracy theorists were lured in by their own personal agendas.
“For example, if someone doesn’t want to wear a mask, then they might dispute the reasons for them, such as disputing Covid,” she said. “Sometimes, people voice conspiracy theories because it means they will benefit in some way.”
Dr Cullen added that conspiracy theories were also spread more easily today than ever before thanks to the rise of the internet.
“With the internet, it’s very easy to find evidence to support your conspiracy theory – all you have to do is Google ‘Is the sky really blue?’ and you will find something that supports your view,” she said.
“Nowadays, you can find ‘information’ to support anything.”