my mentor has become a QAnon conspiracist

A reader writes:

I need some career-adjacent advice that intersects with the current political climate. I’ve been a wreck for about two weeks, since discovering that a mentor of mine seems to have gotten sucked in by QAnon.

Any other acquaintance would be written off unsentimentally. But this feels different, partly because I am CRUSHED to lose this person as a trusted mentor and friend. She’s about 20 years older than me and one of the founders of my field. Her brilliance is only eclipsed by her ballsiness. She is the person who taught me not only the ropes of my career, but how to be respected as a woman in a male-dominated field … she was a GIFT to me in my early career. I have no idea why she decided to take me under her wing when I met her at a conference but she’s been my biggest cheerleader for ~15 years.

I could tell something was up back in 2016 when she posted a few “Hillary is a criminal” things on her personal social media but since she’s otherwise socially liberal I didn’t think too much about it and she never brought it up in person or in one-to-one conversations. But now she’s posting legit QAnon stuff on her Facebook page and it’s just a step too far for me. I feel like I’ve lost her.

I don’t know what to do. (I know what not to do, which is engage with a QAnon/cult member.) But do I ignore? I don’t think I can continue my mentor/mentee relationship with her. Just quietly stop talking to her? What if she asks me why? We often present together at conferences and I’m no longer comfortable sharing a byline with her; what if I am asked by others? At conferences I used to be called “Mini-[Name]” before I had my own respected professional identity. I wish I could explain how important she’s been to me and my career.

Sorry for sounding so catastrophic and dramatic here. This has caused me so much internal grief and sadness and despair over the past two weeks. It feels like someone important in my life has died. Do you have any advice for me? Or just some wisdom to share? Thanks for letting me get this off my chest.

I’m sorry. It is very much like watching someone you like and respect get sucked into a cult.

It’s one thing for someone to have a wacky opinion or two. But this is so far outside any reasonable disagreement of opinion, as well as linked to racism, anti-semitism, and violence, that it really does make it impossible to respect her judgment or continue interacting with her as a mentor.

A lot of people are losing friends, family members, and professional contacts to the pull of some truly messed up things right now. It’s hard.

All you can really do is quietly disengage. If you want to continue to maintain some degree of professional or social contact outside your previous mentoring relationship, you can certainly do that (and there’s potentially some benefit to keeping her connected to people outside of what some at least one news organization is causing a “collective delusion”). But you can’t engage with her as a mentor right now.

You’re right, too, not to continue presenting with her at conferences, because by doing so you’d risk being associated with truly offensive viewpoints. If you’re invited to, I think you’ll just need to find a way to turn it down — either by not being available or by suggesting a different session that she wouldn’t be a natural fit for. Out of respect for all the help she’s given you in your career, I’d try to avoid telling people that the issue is that you don’t want to present with her, specifically (unless her public pronouncements get to the point where you can’t avoid that).

If she notices you’ve pulled back from your relationship with her and asks why, the easiest response is to just make vague references to being busy.

But in theory, if you want to, you could say something like, “I’ve been so grateful for your mentorship; you’ve been an enormous influence on me and I’ve always respected you. But I’ve been really unsettled by some of the political things you’ve posted online in recent months. It doesn’t seem like you. The last thing I want to do is debate politics with you and this isn’t an attempt to do that, but it’s left me unsure about how to continue the relationship we had.” But … I don’t know, maybe this is my exhaustion with 2020 speaking, but I’m skeptical much value will come from doing that and I don’t think I’d attempt it.

{ 645 comments… read them below }

  1. Dust Bunny*

    I don’t think you’re going to get the satisfying, mind-at-rest conclusion to this that I think you’re hoping we’ll suggest. At this point in time, at least, I don’t think there is one. Sorry. My FB friends list was already pretty well curated but I had to quietly remove a couple of people whose views were simply too far gone. One of them had been a friend for over 25 years and seeing this side of her suuuuucked, but there was no getting around it. Yes, it has rather spoiled my memories of the friendship.

    1. Not A Girl Boss*

      Yes, I think (in some ways) these “ambiguous losses” can be harder than a death because there is no closure and, often, no outsider recognition of your loss.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Also, if someone dies you can continue to take comfort in who they were. When this happens, you have to face who they *are*. It basically erases the person you liked before.

        1. Not A Girl Boss*

          Plus you risk running into them. We had a situation where a relative did a really bad thing and we cut them out of our lives. But we live in a small town and still run into them at the grocery store and stuff, and its always like tearing open the wound all over again.
          Its kind of like being haunted.

          To be fair, I never found it really erased the memories of who they were. I basically mourned the “death” of the person they were, and also the “creation” of this new person who did bad things. All the “What if they’ve been this person all along” questions were counterproductive, 1) because I couldn’t spend my life torturing myself about whether I should have seen the signs and 2) because it just really did not feel plausible, I actively noticed a phase shift in this person’s personality, and I don’t think they could have hidden it, or else they would still be hiding it successfully

    2. Yikes!*

      I have been in the same position — one of my childhood friends started espousing views in the same vein as QAnon — though I don’t know that she ever said that it was QAnon, but she espouses all of the beliefs otherwise. We’ve been friends for 20 years and I was in her wedding party a number of years ago. It’s honestly so painful and sad, and painful to process. To the OP, I am sorry, we feel your pain.

      1. Kaaaaaren*

        That’s awful — I’m so sorry you’re losing your friend to this lunacy. It’s frightening to see just how many people are being taken over by this and other mass delusions.

      2. Ego Chamber*

        I have recently (within the past few weeks) started to encounter what seems like a not-insignificant number of QAnon believers who claim to have never heard of—or have nothing to do with—QAnon. I’m not sure whether not saying the name is part of it, since it’s gotten more mainstream and there’s a lot of stigma attached, or if it’s the result of literally every online conspiracy theory being co-opted by QAnon into the SEO funnel that uses the way FB and YT algorithms work to lead new marks into Q.

        I used to genuinely be concerned about people who were sincerely hyper-fixated on ancient aliens or flat Earth or the secret space program or the literal devil but now all of these people are talking to each other. They’ve found a unifying theory. Shit’s getting scary, is my point.

    3. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      How awful. I’m so sorry, OP. Along with Alison’s excellent advice (and admission that there are no easy paths), if things do come to a necessary conversation, you could honestly say, without rancor, “I don’t agree with your politics, and I don’t want to argue.” You can’t control how she’ll react, but it’s a honest statement without going into unnecessary detail. Frankly, anything else would be unnecessary detail. I think sticking to simple truth is the only way to go. It’s honest while still respecting her, and standing up for your own (valid) point of view.

      1. Felicia*

        One piece of advice that I would add to what Alison said – Own your success!
        If you’ve been in the field for fifteen years and are making conference presentations, I think it is time to start seeing her less as a mentor and more as a peer – and that’s not even factoring in the QAnon stuff.
        She may have been a great help early in your career, but you have proven yourself very capable on your own, and that does not make you indebted to her forever. I’m not saying that losing the friendship is easy, but don’t let the notion that you “owe her” make you stay in a toxic situation.

    4. Frenchi Too*

      I’m so sorry that you are having to go through this. I lost my best friend from high school over politics. My usual, normal stance is to respect the views of others. But, in this case, I simply could not ignore her support of racist, misogynist, hateful celebrities or politicians.
      It will be four years in January that we parted ways. Distance made me realize that there were some other major differences in our life views. And, to be honest, I don’t miss her or her influence in my life. I wish her well, but far away from me.
      Sometimes people change, other times we change and can no longer accept with what was once seemed acceptable.
      I hope that eventually your mentor will come to her senses and you can have a good relationship with her again.

    5. The Starsong Princess*

      It’s hard losing people like this. My mother recently severed a friendship of 40 years over stuff like this. She was in tears about it when I met up with her this weekend but it had to be done. You wonder if these people will ever be deprogrammed and return to the person they used to be. Or maybe this is who they were all the time and were just hiding it.

    6. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’ve removed a lot of FB friends during this year because of what they’ve posted about their beliefs in conspiracy theories or Covid not being serious has significantly hurt me.

      One was a friend of 2 decades who posted racist stuff and I’d never seen them do it before, but they’ve been sucked into an extremely racist movement. I can’t save them, they’re an adult and have to make their own choices, but I can cut off all contact.

  2. FYI*

    I admit that I don’t understand saying that someone has been “sucked in” or is “pulled.” She has agency, as we all do. She has a brain, as we all do. She should possess critical thinking skills. My take is that the politics resonate with something that was already there, and it’s only now being disclosed.

    It’s disappointing, yes, but I still very much do hold those people responsible for their views.

    1. Mel_05*

      I think it’s more representative of how it *feels* on the outside. That’s how I’ve felt with friends who have been engulfed by addictions (not quite the same, but the closest thing I have). They made choices that lead to where they’re at, but it feels like the thing just swallowed them up.

      1. L*

        Honestly it seems that getting sucked into cult-like behavior and ideologies has a lot in common with addictions– there’s the ‘high’ of the echo chamber of agreeing views, the high of the outrage, the high of bullying and trying to put people in their place even with broad statements.

    2. kwagner*

      getting ‘sucked in’ is an extremely apt description. QAnon stuff is extremely cult like and specifically reaches out to people who are vulnerable and seeks to take their fear/anxiety of the world and make it worse, turning them into genuine obsessive or compulsive conspiracy theorists who genuinely fear the world around them. We can and should hold the nuance of “you are being manipulated to feel genuine feelings by many people taking advantage of your vulnerability” AND “your feelings and beliefs are rooted in systems of oppression and you’re hurting the people around you”

      1. Mongrel*

        There’s a good You Tube channel called Innuendo Studios that has a pretty comprehensive guide called The Alt-Right Playbook.
        One of the episodes is called How to Radicalize a Normie and is well worth a watch as it shows how the many, very small steps can add up to an unpleasant end result

      2. theharuspex*

        It’s truly like a cult. Many people who are otherwise rational and even accomplished can fall victim if the right set of buttons is pushed. My aunt is one of these- she was a former Vietnam protest activist and one of my personal activist heroes but has fallen on hard times in the past few years – the death of her husband, my cousin moving out, another cousin stealing a large amount of money from her, etc. She was lonely, depressed, and at exactly the wrong time ran into these QAnon people who were lovebombing her and talking to her all the time over social media, and now she is a fervent believer. Our family has tried everything – if you present her with sources saying she’s wrong, she’ll just say the sources are corrupt and in on the conspiracy. Everything seems to confirm her new worldview. It’s scary, and very, very sad. She is older and not very media literate and so was at a crossroads that made her very vulnerable.

    3. Colette*

      If you hear that X is true often enough, you’re probably going to believe that X is true. We just don’t have the capacity to critically think about every single thing we hear every day. And the people profiting from QAnon are good at creating and disseminating their propaganda.

      1. yala*

        Yes, exactly. It’s not a marker of intelligence or lack thereof. They work very hard at gradually winning people over.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yes, it’s very well planned-out propaganda. It started with something inflammatory that contains a kernel of truth and then built a mythology around it. By the time you get to the mythos with this stuff, you’re already in too deep.

    4. juliebulie*

      From what I’ve seen, not only are they not “sucked in,” they dive in headfirst. Or maybe it is not so much diving into it, as running away from something else – trying to replace one kind of worry/anxiety with another. (I guess it doesn’t really matter.)

      OP, your description of feeling grief for someone who is still alive is spot-on. It is a unique and bizarre kind of sadness, as if your mentor was replaced with a body-snatcher. I wish I had some good advice. Unfortunately, all I know how to do with a person like this is wait for them to come back.

      1. Alli525*

        I don’t know… cults and conspiracies can be very seductive, and often there’s a “gateway drug” (haha remember when everyone was convinced that weed was a gateway drug and started penalizing the POC people who sold it but not the white people who consumed it? GOOD TIMES) that can be incredibly compelling. Like, most people would agree that child trafficking is a terrible thing and we must do everything we can to stop it. But in getting too involved in searching for a solution (the popularity of the true crime genre probably has something to do with this), you can quickly find a slippery slope to believing that Hillary Clinton is running a trafficking ring out of the basement of a pizza parlor.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Mr. S and I are watching the documentary about NXIVM (or however you spell it) and he pointed out how insidious it that this cult really seems good and upright and beneficial at first. And yeah, they all start out that way, because if you lead with getting branded, no one’s going to sign up.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            I was listening to something – I think a podcast – that included some clips of Jim Jones’ sermons and I found what he was saying very compelling.

            (also, I highly recommend Uncover season 1 which is a Canadian podcast that delves into NXIVM)

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              I’ve listened to that podcast, and you’re right, it’s very good (and it’s why I’m watching the HBO documentary now)!

            2. Junior Dev*

              A big part of his appeal was that he had a racially diverse congregation and preached against racism for a long time before going off the rails and turning into a cult leader. One of the reasons it makes me mad that people joke about “drinking the Kool-aid” is that a lot of the people who died at Jonestown were 1) people of color 2) not aware they were drinking poison 3) especially vulnerable to exploitation because of the racism they faced in society.

              1. Free now (and forever)*

                Actually, by the time they drank the poison, they were aware it was poison, especially after the first few people died. At that point, they were forced into drinking it by people who trained weapons on them. Also, many of them had become disappointed by the Jonestown experience and wanted to leave, but were unable to because of the threats by the guards. But did they realize when they went to Guyana what the experience would be like? No. They thought they were going off to found a “brave, new world.”

                1. Junior Dev*

                  True, I suppose I’m lumping in e.g. the children of adult cult members who would have had no way to understand what was going on.

                  Anyway, it wasn’t something most of them did willingly.

                2. Ice and Indigo*

                  And also – fair warning, this is really sad – he made sure the children were killed first. I think a lot of people, especially parents, might look around at the bodies of all the dead kids and lose the will to fight for their own lives. What’s the point? All the beautiful children are dead.

                  Rest in peace, victims of Jonestown. You deserved better.

              2. I edit everything*

                He had faked them out before, ordering his followers to drink the Flavor-Ade (not Kool-Aid) as a loyalty test, a kind of test run for when they did eventually come under attack. They didn’t know, at those times, that the drink *wasn’t* poisoned until afterward. I’m sure many expected the same to happen the final time. Those are the kinds of cruel head games Q and cult leaders play with people.

                1. restingbutchface*

                  Glad I wasn’t the first one to say it was Flavor Ade :)

                  Nobody joins a cult. People join groups, friends, colleagues and second families. They only realise it’s a cult when it’s too late (if they ever do).

              3. Detective Amy Santiago*

                The people who tried to escape or avoid drinking the flavor-ade were shot. A lot of the people who died there did not do so willingly.

          2. Aitch Arr*

            I’m watching that documentary as well.

            The lure of ‘executive professional development’ was what got a lot of people involved in NXIVM.

        2. Jack Be Nimble*

          I was talking to someone the other day about the radicalization pathway that turns romantically frustrated teen boys into white supremacists — you start by finding a group vulnerable to suggestion (dorky teenagers who can’t get dates) and you promise them a solution. From there, it’s a process of introducing more radical premises, one at a time, until the person is ready to espouse horrific ideology (and in some cases, take violent action).

          Specifically for the kind of guys I’m referring to, it goes like this: You can’t get a date -> You can’t get a date because women are bad -> Women are bad, they tell lies and pretend to be victims -> Women lie and pretend to be victims to keep men under their thumbs -> Women keep men under their thumbs, and you are oppressed for being a man -> you are oppressed for being a *white* man.

          Once you’ve gotten a fifteen-year-old to buy into that last premise, it’s very easy to sell them on a lot of other horrific conspiracies and misinformation. And it’s a very real and targeted effort on the part of white nationalists and other assorted losers to win people to their cause, because they know their core beliefs are disgusting and off-putting to those not in the know.

          I know less about QAnon, but I’ve seen the Red Pill/MRA stuff up close, and it’s just awful. No sympathy for people who actively chose hatred and bigotry, but it’s hard not to feel some small measure of sympathy to the lonely teens who just want a pretty girl to like them back and fall prey to insidious propaganda and misinformation.

          1. Anon Lawyer*

            The NYT Rabbit Hole podcast (which I can’t stop talking about because it was so well done) showed some of that too. One of the interesting things with Q Anon is that they played clips of some of the videos and they start off with very reasonable sounding messages – “it’s not your fault you can’t get ahead. The system is rigged against you.” And once people are nodding along with that message, they take them further and further down the path. From what I can tell, though I don’t think anyone has demographic studies, it’s not just young men who are buying into this one – there are many women and older people as well who have kind of been lost in the increasing inequities of our economic system.

            That doesn’t justify it, of course. It’s nasty, dangerous, and bigoted, and needs to be stamped out . But I think the dynamic you’re describing is precisely what draws people into it.

            1. Krabby*

              The podcast Behind the Bastards has a great episode about Youtube and how their algorithm actually helps radicalize people via the ‘play next’ feature. It just keeps showing you incrementally more and more messed up things until you’re somewhere awful.

          2. TrainerGirl*

            I saw a documentary on Monday called Feels Good Man. It’s about an artist who created a comic character called Pepe the Frog, and how it was co-opted by white supremacists as a hate symbol, and the fight the artist had to reclaim his own creation. In the documentary, they interviewed some “basement dwellers” (literally young white guys with no jobs, relationships, etc.) who spent all day on 4chan and they believed that they willed Donald Trump into the White House. It’s sad to think that that these people could be sucked in to something like this, but after watching it, I believe that they were.

          3. Lobsterp0t*

            It’s the same stuff – Q people talk about red pilling a lot. It isn’t necessarily all the same ideology (not all of them are incels , for instance) but the methodology is.

          4. JustaTech*

            And then there’s the white supremacist stuff that crops up in semi-unexpected places, like a lot of Viking and pagan memes/websites. One of my cousins has been getting in touch with our Scandinavian heritage and posts a lot of Thor/Odin/Viking stuff and occasionally I’ve had to say “dude, did you mean to share from that N*zi website?” He was horrified because he’d had no idea.

            1. theharuspex*

              I think this also happens with less online media-literate people a lot – they don’t check the sources they’re sharing things from on Facebook and don’t always know to follow things back to the source to see what the angle is on some meme or article.

            2. Jack Be Nimble*

              I have a friend who’s been a practicing Norse pagan for about ten years, and he says a lot of the online spaces have been slowly infiltrated by far-right, white supremacist types. It really sucks that there are faith/cultural/historical/hobby communities being made unsafe by that kind of creeping rot.

              1. JustaTech*

                Yup, and a lot of people leave/don’t enter areas that interest them because of the taint of fanatics, so then not only do people miss out on cultural things that might mean a lot to them, but it also accelerates the fanatics taking over.

                I’d love to spend more time learning Norse mythology, but I simply don’t have the energy to comb every website for skinheads.

        3. pancakes*

          The idea that people can effectively “search for a solution” to a problem of that nature on the internet from the comfort of their home, and without any expertise whatsoever or any sort of instruction, requires misplaced and unearned self-regard to start with.

          1. Ophelia*

            I think that’s absolutely true, but I’d also note that these are people who have been fed a diet of “don’t trust the experts” for quite a while now, so I think it’s an unsurprising and unfortunate result?

    5. Mimi Me*

      I do think that there are a lot of really naive, trusting people out there who just buy into this stuff over and over again. It’s the reason people are taken in by the Nigerian prince scam, the IRS scam, and the child/grandchild in danger scam. I mean, all of the cults that I can think of have always had charismatic people at the top and weak willed, and usually very scared people at the bottom. That being said, I find very little forgiveness in myself for these people. If someone I loved, trusted, and respected were to reveal themselves to be part of this group that would effectively end my relationship with them, likely forever.

      1. TootsNYC*

        My elderly dad was sucked in by a grandchild-in-danger scam. So we rushed to alert my in-laws.

        They got such a call, after our warning and explanation, and my FIL called me to verify that our son was in college and not actually at the wedding of someone nobody knew in Canada, etc. I assured him that it was a scam call, but he just kept going on and on about how it had scared him, and he needed reassurance. And justifying how it was reasonable for him to be afraid, even in the face of the absolute certainty, since FIL could clearly point to all the mistakes the scammer made (not using the right nickname, not responding to the old-country greeting, etc.).
        It was eye-opening how vulnerable he felt, and how deep that fear hit him. I do think that reaction had to do with his age. And with his growing feeling, in retirement and physical aging, that he didn’t have the kind of agency in the world that he’d had before.

        He became a Trump fan, which amazed me, because we live in NYC, and Trump’s failings have been well known here for ages. And he’d absolutely be arguing QAnon points, if he’d spent much time on the Internet. He passed away in June, and I’m so grateful that MIL doesn’t watch Fox anymore.

        1. voluptuousfire*

          My aunt did that as well. Ended up losing 15 k to a scammer. It was so sad.

          My dad also became a Trump voter. He didn’t really watch Fox News (luckily) but I’d yell at him if he kept it on. He started to parrot the “Obama isn’t a citizen” bs right before the 2016 election, which was very unlike him. He was a registered Democrat since he was a union man but his personal politics were conservative. Turns out my dad confused him with Fred Trump, who was shady friend to the unions back in the 50s and 60s. That’s right around when my dad’s mental decline started, sadly.

      2. Jack Be Nimble*

        My grandmother fell for one of those scams before she passed! It was really upsetting, because the scammer begged her not to tell “his” parents, because they’d be mad at him for partying. They strung her along for a while before she finally said something to my aunt and uncle, who confirmed that my cousin was alive and well in medical school in Iowa, exactly where he was supposed to be.

        Right after I started my current job, I had an encounter with a guy who *almost* fell for a love scam. He met a woman online who claimed to be an American working abroad for my company, but when she started asking for money, he called my company and asked if we could verify her employment. We don’t have operations in the country where the scammer claimed to be, and the guy was so upset to learn he’d fallen for a lie. I spent a long time on the phone with him and taught him how to reverse Google image search to find out if a picture was from an actual profile or one a scammer pulled from a news article. I think about him every now and again, I hope he’s doing alright.

        1. Marny*

          My elderly boss was in the midst of falling for the grandparent scam– fortunately he mentioned the situation to me. I was suspicious and did some googling so that I could show him news articles about it being fake. He was mystified that I’d uncovered the scam so quickly, and he probably doesn’t realize how much money he could have lost over it.

          1. JustaTech*

            I once spend an hour on the phone with my MIL explaining the “we have video of you watching p*rn and if you don’t pay us Bitcoin we’ll send the video to all your contacts”.
            She knew it was a scam, she knew it was fake, but she still kept asking “so what video are they going to send? Which contacts are they sending it to?” She knew the scammers were lying about making a video of her, but she was stuck on this idea that they had her contact list. “They’re lying about everything!” we kept saying.

            Then last week she called in the middle of a power outage because she was worried about that thing people post about how you have to write a post telling FB they’re not allowed to use your pictures. My SO said “Mom, this is the third time we’ve told you this isn’t real.”

            Some folks are simultaneously too cautious and not cautious enough about the Internet.

          2. Tired and retiring*

            My teenage godson’s grandmother received a call from *him* in dire straits and I’m need of $$$. She told him his voice sounded odd and he said he had a very bad cold. Luckily, somewhere in the back of her mind, she pulled out the question “if you’re my grandson, what do you call me? And he spit out about 10 different versions of “grandmother” but not the right one. Fortunately, she then hung up the phone.

      3. I Need That Pen*

        My mom answered the phone to a grandparent scam, “grandson” was in jail in Mexico and needed money to pay the federales to get back home. One very loud, “What in the HELL are you doin’ in Mexico!!?” And the dude hung up. Partially deaf, probably. Then she proceeded to call said grandson and yell at him for having this happen. Like it was the dude’s fault? I told him to hide his friend list on Facebook so people wouldn’t get an idea of who looked like an easy target.

        As for the OP, I would quietly fade away, broken-hearted, but fade away. I’d be afraid that admitting the actual reason why would inflame the person and cause a lot of anger. Sad we have to do this dance around people, but I wont associate with anyone like this. Odds are, the OP’s mentor has had a few quiet disappearing of friends and is either a) wondering why, or b) saying that snotty “good riddance to bad rubbish,” in a third grader voice (not to insult 3rd graders)..


      4. Ice and Indigo*

        I don’t think it’s right to say cult victims are weak-willed. Cults want people they can exploit; active, strong people whose prosocial instincts can be twisted around are much more useful.

        Besides that, negative stereotypes of cult followers are used by cults to retain members. Cult followers are weak-willed! Is that what you are? Of course not! So is this a cult? How does that make sense?!

        The cult people I’ve known have tended to be generous, public-spirited and intellectually curious. Sometimes emotionally vulnerable as well, but really good people. That’s why they were willing to give so much to what they thought was a good cause.

      5. NotTheSameAaron*

        I had a relative fall for a gifting circle scam. It where they’d put give you some money and you were supposed to add more and recruit two more to continue the “Circle”.

    6. Sylvan*

      Some people who are normally sensible are acting so strangely that it seems like something happened to them… They’d normally never choose to be like this.

      One of my cousins has moved towards the fringes politically (not Qanon, thankfully). She’s a super smart, independent person who looks at *everything* critically, except now she’s not like that at all. I don’t know what happened.

      1. cmcinnyc*

        I think it particularly hits people who look at *everything* critically. I just assume that gravity will be operational throughout my day; I don’t go on a long quest to understand gravity and wonder if I’ll float away in the night. But that’s what happens to these intelligent conspiracy theorists–suddenly they’re deep into Isaac Newton’s math errors and thinking it’s all a big scam, this gravity stuff. And then of course, it’s not in the bible, blah blah blah. If you look to pick apart everything, everything gets picked apart. You can’t live a normal, adult life if you won’t accept certain basics of your society and culture to be true. Suddenly there’s this big conspiracy of stopping at red lights! It’s nuts, but I have seen more than one very smart person get very stupid this way.

        1. nona*

          Humans are also programmed to find patterns in things – even where they don’t exist. So, sometimes you start connecting too many dots and you have to find something that explains it, because not have a reason for something, so that you can explain it/understand it, can be really irritatating, sometimes especially for intelligent people.

          1. Tidewater 4-1009*

            That’s why people need to learn to live with not knowing the causes of some things.
            One of my favorite shows is Burn Notice, and one of the reasons is the main character accepts not knowing. He’s a former spy with unknown people and forces coming at him, and he deals with it. It’s inspiring.

    7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I see you don’t believe in psychology or understand mental capacity varies drastically within humans.

      Many are more susceptible to believe anything they’re told by someone they decide is trustworthy. this is why we had laws put into place so they couldn’t keep selling people snakeoil and take advantage of the vulnerable populations.

      Cults are crafted to emotionally manipulate people and also pick up other tricks used by abusers and dictatorships.

      1. Pomona Sprout*

        “Many are more susceptible to believe anything they’re told by someone they decide is trustworthy.”

        Case in point: my sister was convinced to vote for Trump in 2016 by her oldest son. She took his word that Trump was the right choice because Son said so and “he’s the smartest person I know.” *facepalm*

        Son, BTW, is a wellknown internet troll who worked overtime that year promulgating Pizzagate and spreading rumors about Hillary Clinton’s health. I am related to some *cough* interesting people.

        1. wee beastie*

          Wow. Just wow. Makes me glad I didn’t have children. Plenty of then turn out great, but sometimes despite the parents’ (or guardians’) best efforts, something just goes wrong. I imagine the holidays for you are like going to visit you’re sister Elyse Keaton and being confronted by her son Alex P Keaton. Except the 2020 version of Alex P Keaton is less suspenders and ties and more saggy pants, living in mom’s basement, and anger.

          1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

            I need to believe, in my deepest soul, that Alex P. Keaton is a Never Trumper working for the Lincoln Project. C’mon, you know you can see it.

          2. Pomona Sprout*

            What you describe would be a nightmare, but fortunately, this Alex P. Keaton lives in California, 2,000 miles from me, and he rarely visits his mother, so I don’t have to deal with him directly. I don’t think I could stand to be in the same room with him for more than 30 seconds, tbh.

        2. Media Monkey*

          my MIL (UK) voted for Brexit because my husband joked that he was going to and he is clever and had a good job so must be right. my husband did not want or vote for Brexit and will not be joking about things like that again with his parents.

      2. winter*

        Thank you for this. This stuff is designed to be compelling. Doesn’t mean I won’t hold white supremacist, racist, sexist people accountable, but being sucked into a genuine cult is by design. not because you are “weak-willed”.

    8. SheLooksFamiliar*

      A very dear friend believes in QAnon, and he is anything but a reactionary who got ‘pulled in.’ If you ask him, he’ll calmly explain his beliefs and share his sources for any facts he shares. He doesn’t insult people who don’t agree with him, he listens to their views with respect, and he drops the topic when the other person does.

      I’ve known this man for almost 50 years and love him dearly. But I’ve had to mute him on social media, his views and beliefs truly alarm me.

      1. Squid*

        I think its worth pointing out that most people behave like this. Social media personalities and real life often do not mesh very well. Plenty of my friends and coworkers come across very political/offensive online, but are anything but that in real conversations.

        I wish the writer would have given us more insight into any personal changes she has seen offline. If none, and the relationship is still beneficial to her career, i would suggest blocking this person online and continuing as normal.

        1. Bree*

          I think you’re making some pretty naive assumptions about online and “real” life personalities. That person is responsible for their views and actions in either setting – in fact, because social media can offer a larger platform, I’d argue they should be *more* careful about how they behave online.

          We cannot just mute people saying abhorrent things on social media and continue our relationships as if those opinions and their consequences aren’t real. And the LW, especially, can’t assume that her mentor’s actions won’t have negative consequences for her. There are countless examples of people’s actions having serious offline consequences, including job loss and irreparable reputation damage.

          Especially in a world where many of our personal and professional networks and relationships are entirely online at the moment, this line of thinking is absurd.

        2. Ominous Adversary*

          Social media is “real life”. It’s a medium for communication, like telephone or written letters. Your friends’ behavior in social media is no less “real” than their behavior in face-to-face conversations.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            *standing ovation*

            I’m constantly amazed by the number of people who think that white supremacists, which this cult are, can somehow leave their beliefs at the door when they get to work. No, that’s not at all how that works. Trust me – the online actions bleed into offline behaviors.

              1. Detective Amy Santiago*

                I’m in my local BLM FB group and there was a thread asking people how old they were when they first had a Black teacher. It was eye opening.

                1. Free now (and forever)*

                  I graduated from high school in 1972. I had my first black teacher my freshman year in college.

                2. Mike*

                  Wow, I really had to think about it and it took me a few minutes to think of even one teacher I had who I’m pretty sure is Black? And this was when I was in law school, so I apparently managed to get through college in a major American city without ever having had a Black teacher. Pretty eye opening that it never occurred to me to even think about it or to think how it must feel for my Black classmates.

                3. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  Graduated high school 1984. I’d had one Japanese teacher and one Black teacher. Nobody openly LBGTQ…but plenty of jerks thinking it was an insult to say they thought so-and-so was.

                4. The Original K.*

                  I was lucky – my first one was in kindergarten. She was excellent, too.

                  Someone I follow on social media said that most Black kids have their first “Karen” experience in school, and the Karen is their teacher. This led to a thread of people describing all the racist things their racist teachers had said or done to them, from micro-aggressions about hair or cultural customs to telling a classroom full of Black students that they’d never amount to anything. So yes, this behavior certainly carries into the offline world.

                5. Jane*

                  I have never had a Black teacher. I have a B.S. from a state university, and did my last two years of highschool at a community college.

                  Thank you for the question prompt. Yes, that’s messed up.

                6. JSPA*

                  Second grade, 1973-4 (voluntary bussing era) in a very suburban public school. There were two black teachers I can think of, teaching grades 2-4 (depending on the year). Both excellent. But after that, not until a high school Language class.

                7. londonedit*

                  I never had a Black teacher. Rural England, 1990s, there weren’t even any non-white kids in my primary school and only one family of mixed-race kids in my secondary school (out of 1200 students). Just one of the many reasons why I moved to London 20 years ago.

                8. allathian*

                  I admit that I lived a very sheltered life when I was a kid in the 1970s. I’m in Finland, where the immigrant population remains smaller than in most other Western countries. The first refugees to arrive here were Chileans in the early 1970s. I must have been something like 5 or 6 years old when I saw a Black man walking down the street for the first time, and I actually turned and stared because I couldn’t believe he was a real person. I thought blacks only existed on TV… My son has several classmates with an immigrant background and I’m so glad that he just accepts it as a given and doesn’t let their background determine who his friends are, he chooses his friends by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, or the size of their body, etc.

                9. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

                  Holy crap. Never thought about it until right now. I’ve never had a Black teacher or professor. Not once.

                  I started elementary school in 1972 and was done with college in 1991. All of my schooling was either in Bucks County, PA (K-4, 1972-1977) or Thousand Oaks, CA (5-12, all college). I’m amazed I’d never thought about it before. I’m even more amazed that I never had a Black teacher or professor.


                10. Atlantian*

                  1st grade. And the elementary school principal was a black man. I count my self very lucky for having had access to so much diversity at a young age.

                11. Ohlaurdy*

                  My first year of law school. I was in school almost 20 years before I had a black teacher! Plus, I graduated 5 years ago, so this was NOT long ago.

                12. Pennalynn Lott*

                  I graduated high school in 1985, attended college off and on until 1991, then went back five years ago to complete my Bachelor’s and get my Master’s.

                  I have never had a black teacher outside of corporate trainings.

                13. Sinister Serina*

                  First Black teacher in 1073? I think so-my 7th grade Biology teacher. I loved her. Then a couple in high school. Surprisingly, none in college and I went to a large state school.

                14. Tidewater 4-1009*

                  First grade. She was very good except for one disappointment.
                  Then sixth grade, he had a southern accent I had trouble with at first.
                  Then at least one in high school and one in college… I didn’t really think about it, there may have been more, it was long ago. I remember the ones who impressed me for other reasons, so there were at least those two. :)
                  Then college on and off after I left Kansas, there were at least two more.
                  Looks like southeast Kansas was more diverse than I thought!

        3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          It used to be that when someone told me “oh, he’s only like that online, he’s a nice guy in person,” the person might have been aggressively arguing that a particular genre of music was worthless, or insult people who didn’t support their favorite baseball team, and in person was willing to let other people change the subject. Or “she’s friendly online, and then when I asked her to visit she treated my house like a free hotel room and complained about the food.”

          “People are different online” didn’t used to mean “he’s nice in person, and will shovel your walk if you can’t, but online he’s advocating policies that could literally kill you, and doesn’t understand why you can’t just ‘agree to disagree’ about that, the way you could about whether to build the Green Line extension.”

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yes! I work with someone who always sounds really brusque in emails but is nice in person–it’s her writing style. That’s the kind of thing that means. Not “she’s a virulent racist, but she takes off the racism like a jacket when she logs off! honest!”

        4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Thing is, people behave properly in the presence of other people, because their mother told them to. Filters are off when you go online. You can create an anonymous account then RebelwithMouseyHair can say what you don’t dare say to anyone’s face.

          It’s a similar process as becoming a madman the minute you get in the driver seat. You’re protected by all that metal and think nothing of opening your window to hurl abuse at the cyclist in your way.

          I’d say that the way you behave when there’s no social filter is who you really are. I long ago made a rule for myself that I wouldn’t ever write something online that I would be ashamed to show other people. I only use RebelwithMouseyHair instead of my real name because I don’t want my former boss or colleagues to come across what I write here.

          1. Sinister Serina*

            Completely agree. I never made that rule for myself, but I haven’t said anything on Twitter that I wouldn’t be fine with it going on the front page of the NY Times. Yes, I taunted my college’s football rivals! I’m proud of that!

          2. Delphine*

            Never write on the internet something that you could not say in front of your grandmother.
            My rule sinde 2002.

    9. RecoveringSWO*

      Highly recommend listening to the “Rabbit hole” podcast miniseries that NYT released this summer. It does a really fantastic job at explaining how youtube and social media algorithms can influence viewers to the point of transforming their viewpoints. Yes, people should be accountable, but it’s far better to understand the factors that can lead folks down that path and provide an offramp from radical ideologies.

      1. Cascadia*

        Yes, Rabbit Hole is such a great podcast miniseries! Also, if you’re looking for a one-episode QAnon deep dive, and a “why is this happening?” sort of answer, the podcast “Make me smart” by marketplace just did a QAnon episode on their show yesterday (Tuesday Sept. 8). It was really good and talked with an expert who explained that we all have a well of trust and when we lose trust in our government/institutions, that trust doesn’t just disappear, it just gets redirected into other organizations/ideas/etc. So QAnon is pulling people in who are disillusioned and mistrustful over years of what they see as government failings and this theory steps in to explain a lot of what they’ve been thinking/feeling. Not saying it’s right, but it was a fascinating listen!

    10. Nicotene*

      Actually the science around cult brainwashing and online recruiting is that you truly can influence people far more wildly than you’d think. It is possible to recruit and brainwash people so they do a complete 180 over the person they were before, even doing things as evil as killing innocent people. It’s very scary.

      1. fposte*

        And it’s easy to think your critical skills will be enough to defend you, but too often they’re not. There’s just too much other stuff going on in brains sometimes for those to win out.

        1. Firecat*

          Yes. For a less controversial example, I took care of my niece’s last summer. It didn’t go well and they ended up going to foster care. My brother blamed me big time. For a long time I blamed me to. I struggled to set boundaries and I was easily sucked into long discussions about whose fault was what and would second guess myself. A year later everything’s clearer. The girls are thriving and I see now how I was just in to deep to see it all.

          As a STEM person it’s easy to think your brain will win but that’s not how it works in trauma situations. Right now a lot of America is in trauma so I’m not surprised this stupid stuff has taken route so strongly.

    11. Jaybeetee*

      It can be cults, or conspiracy theories, or abusive relationships, or online catfishing.

      There’s little point shaming the “type” of person that, well, gets pulled into this sort of thing, because nearly all of us are that “type” of person in some way or another. Very few people live their entire lives impervious to manipulation. We all have low points, weak spots, where the exact wrong person can get in if they show up at the right time.

      The people who are truly impossible to manipulate tend to be rather frightening themselves.

      1. winter*

        Well said. I think it’s Hybris to think that you are ‘not one of those people. I would never be taken in by a scam’. Maybe not this one, but there’s a lot of stuff out there that’s taking different angles to manipulate.

    12. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Everyone has weaknesses. The people than run these types of things are master manipulators and use those weaknesses to draw them in. It has little to do with intelligence or one’s critical thinking.

    13. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*


      If the person is an adult, at a certain point I just think “f*ck them.” Really. This is not a joke – the racism is so upfront right now there are few excuses anymore. F6ck these people.

      If they really fell in in a vulnerable time in their life – like the way some cults seem to offer support and compassion, then I have some sympathy. But in general, no.

    14. JSPA*

      I took it to mean that she could be losing the thread in some ways, and this is the first manifestation. Or perhaps that she’s brilliant in her field, but naive outside of it, or otherwise not well-equipped to deal with conspiracies.

      Or to put it another way: we are all equipped, but we’re not all equipped with the same equipment; and equipment that’s been excellent for one task may not be suitable for another.

    15. Well...*

      The distribution of responsibility with mass propaganda is not certain, and there’s plenty of reason to hypothesize that the blame should be assigned top-down.

      To me it makes sense that some social dynamics trap our brains, with circumstance making some more vulnerable than others. The reasoning that some people have worse brains doesn’t sit well with me.

    16. Lobsterp0t*

      Someone did an excellent deep dive in the QAnon Anonymous podcast community of how this particular cult really does suck people in. There is an entire approach to “red pilling” people based on leading questioning and a tailored approach to fit the person. The idea is to let them convince themselves.

      So it’s fine to say “people should have critical thinking skills”, but the reality is even amazing critical thinkers have their biases (whether implicit or otherwise) and this cult in particular preys on those in a highly manipulative way.

  3. Claire*

    If I invested 15 years in mentoring someone and they did not give me the courtesy of being honest with me about why they were ending our relationship I’d be pretty pissed. And if I were the mentee, it would not be within my integrity to make up excuses. Being able to have uncomfortable conversations is part of professional life. There doesn’t have to be any drama in it.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      You’re assuming that the mentor is a reasonable person though. And without risking breaking the commenting rules, I think it’s safe to assume that by believing QAnon they are not.

      1. Squid*

        I think we can assume, based on the persons apparently high profile career, that they are still “reasonable” enough to have a conversation about different political views. Surely she isn’t incapable of understanding that people around her are not involved in the Qanon thing.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I think you are vastly overestimating the logical capabilities of a person who believes anything that comes out of QAnon.

        2. Observer*

          I don’t think thatt his is a safe assumption at all. Are you at all familiar with QAnon? Because it’s not for nothing that Buzz Feed has decided to call it a “mass delusion” rather than a conspiracy theory.

        3. Lobsterp0t*

          Unfortunately this is not my experience.

          I have seen two types of Q believers. Those who are loud and proud and those who are secretive about it.

          Most fall into the second category – they have alt accounts and they don’t bring this stuff into mainstream/non believer conversations except with nearest and dearest.

          It’s only recently with the “save the children” rhetoric that more have been coming out of the woodwork. It’s gone from a LARP to … well, a full time LARP.

    2. Lance*

      Normally, I’d agree with this. The problem is whether OP could expect backlash from being honest, rather than simply quietly drifting off; how big of a risk that might be in this case, the OP would have to work out for themselves.

      It sucks, but some things aren’t worth risking.

      1. Claire*

        Maybe, but it seems like there could also be a backlash from ghosting someone you have an intense 15-year relationship with or giving a lame excuse like “I’m busy.” That scenario seems more likely to me tbh.

        1. Reba*

          I don’t know, relationships change over time, people grow apart. I think it’s ok to let a friendship cool. Especially since it sounds to me like the OP will not be able to totally avoid interacting with the mentor if the truth-telling conversation did turn out somewhere in the bad to totally explosive range.

          From the outside, sure I think it would be a good think to speak to her frankly. Who knows, having this little bit of pushback or another perspective could make a difference! But I would also totally understand and respect someone’s decision to go with gradual chilling, no confrontation.

    3. yala*

      “Being able to have uncomfortable conversations is part of professional life. There doesn’t have to be any drama in it.”

      This is true in rational scenarios. But dealing a cult-member/conspiracy theorist is not the same as dealing with someone rational. They may be rational about a LOT, but part of the way cults work is by framing people who speak against them, even just mild disagreement, as “enemies.”

      I’m not saying anything specific would happen, but it seems a disservice to the OP to frame this as merely an “uncomfortable conversation.” I’ve had Uncomfortable Conversations before, and I hate them very much. But I’ve also had “I disagree with you about this thing” conversations with people I love who’ve fallen down the same rabbit hole and they are two very different things.

    4. Archaeopteryx*

      We as a society are well past the point of making it someone’s responsibility to personally reeducate or dissuade people with patently false / conspiracy / truth-resistant views. I think we’ve all learned by now that you can’t logic someone out of viewpoint they didn’t logic themselves into, and that placing that burden on people is just unproductive and draining.

      This is not the same thing as, say, speaking up if your parent says something racist. This is a friend and mentor, sure, but there is absolutely nothing to be gained by making OP feel responsible for standing up to her mentor’s odious.

    5. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

      I disagree. Try to avoid mixing your career with politics as much as possible, unless your career is politics or you have no other choice.

      Getting in a QAnon debate tied to your career is a terrible idea.

    6. aebhel*

      Respectfully, someone who is involved in QAnon is not a reasonable person, and any attempt to even obliquely challenge their cult affiliation is going to result in unreasonable behavior. It’s not on the OP to risk torpedoing her entire career because her mentor took a nose-dive into a white-supremacist doomsday cult.

      1. Claire*

        I am not suggesting she try to reason with the mentor, convince or persuade her, or try to salvage the relationship. I’m suggesting she not lie about why the relationship is ending.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          If this mentor has considerable power in OP’s field, telling it like it is really runs the risk of her own career being torpedoed. As I don’t and won’t be the one paying OP’s bills if her mentor retaliates in a way that causes OP financial distress or even a job loss, I would not recommend truth telling with this particular person when a slow fade is less damaging.

        2. HelloHello*

          Someone who has fallen into the QAnon cult mindset is very likely to read ANY mention of it that isn’t glowingly positive as a attack, though. I’ve seen it happen many, many times. It’s a hallmark of cults and cult-like belief systems.

        3. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

          I’m thinking you aren’t familiar with the depths of QAnon. The OP would (seriously and without hyperbole) run the risk of being accused of being in league with pedophiles if she got on the wrong side of this powerful woman.

          Cut and run.

        4. Quill*

          Nah, the retributive potential is too great right now.

          When you tell a member of a cult that you’re cutting them off because they joined a cult, it makes the cult MORE RIGHT in their minds because otherwise great people, who they “did so much for” can’t handle the “truth”

          1. Claire*

            Well that’s on them. I can’t control what someone thinks, I can only control how I relate to people. It’s not within my integrity to ghost someone, or lie when they asked me what’s up, so I wouldn’t. Everyone’s personal integrity is different, so the OP will have to decide for herself how she wants to show up in this situation.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              So people who would avoid pissing off someone extremely powerful in their field in fear or negative blowback suddenly doesn’t have integrity? Lol, okay.

            2. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

              Again, I have to think you are not familiar with QAnon. QAnon is dangerous.

              If you want to be risked being “exposed” as a pedophile by taking one on in your professional circles, try it and see what happens, but it is bad advice to give someone else. Dangerous.

            3. Blue*

              Framing this as a matter of personal integrity is quite simplistic and dismissive for reasons others have already described.

              1. Quill*

                Yes, please sub in the name of a cult that is not a current joke (see: the manson family, perhaps?) into your question and then ask yourself “can I ethically tell this person that lying by omission is worse than the potential retribution?”

            4. Penny Parker*

              It takes a lot of personal integrity to be true enough to oneself to not walk into a bear trap, and arguing with a Qanon person is a definite bear trap. Her duty is to herself, first and foremost.

            5. Sylvia*

              I would argue that OP is showing integrity by refusing to associate with a person who has these beliefs, even though it’s a person that OP likes and respects very much.

            6. Observer*

              Please. Ghosting is not about integrity.

              Most of the time I think it’s a cowardly way to handle a situation. But there are times when someone is not entitled to explanations. And taking a significant risk for no positive outcome (I don’t mean necessarily to the OP but on any front) is not something that anyone is “required” to to to keep the good person of integrity credentials.

              If you can afford to risk your career, good for you. If are willing to risk your career for something that honestly is not going to help anyone, that’s fine. But really, thinly veiled condescension to people who are not willing or able to do that does not come off as a mark of sterling character.

            7. JSPA*

              We’re talking about a cultic movement that has already produced multiple armed attacks on people and infrastructure. The question isn’t (only) whether the advisor would be willing to kill for or die for the cause; it’s whether they’re in contact and sharing names with other people who would do so.

            8. Keymaster of Gozer*

              It can be a matter of safety to not tell a bigoted person why you’re cutting contact. Be that professional, mental or physical safety.

            9. Things That Make You Go Hmm*

              Except it won’t be quick or drama free. Typical QAnon types dig in, argue with every point raised that doesn’t support their belief, and must have the last word. They’re the type who, if they posted a comment here, would be repeating themselves over and over with comments to the contrary.

        5. Gazebo Slayer*

          If OP confronts the mentor about thus, the mentor could very easily end up publicly accusing her of pedophilia. That is how these people operate. And that is a very damaging rumor it is essentially impossible to recover from, because so many people will hear about it and always suspect it might be true no matter how unfounded.

    7. A*

      A mentor you thought you could trust going mask off and embracing a white supremacist cult is not a normal professional disagreement and should not treated like a normal part of professional life one simply. OP is completely entitled to ice her out without explanation.

        1. Quill*

          Also god knows what this says about the ex-mentor’s credibility in the long term. The worst part of discovering that an old friend has bad principles is going back and finding the times that they displayed them in a much subtler way and you didn’t notice.

          1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

            I had this exact same experience. Good friend and mentor (though for only three years, not decades, thank goodness) – and when their political views got really extreme, I suddenly realized that I had been ignoring/brushing off/positive-spinning their low-level racism. Nothing super open – none of the usual code words or talking points or anything like that – this person wasn’t stupid, and I’m usually pretty aware of those. But they always had issues with our (wonderful) mutual boss, and suddenly the penny dropped for me about why. I didn’t see it before, because I didn’t have to see it. It was a harsh realization. It was a harsh look in the mirror.

            I relate to how the OP is feeling. That break was lower stakes for me, but I still felt betrayed, horrified, foolish, suckered, complicit, tainted… It was quite painful for me for more than a year. I hope I at least learned from it, but it stunk.

    8. Claire*

      I’m not sure why “tell the truth” is being conflated with trying to reason with or persuade the mentor. If I were the mentee here and my mentor of 15 years asked my why our relationship ended I wouldn’t choose to reply with “I’m busy.” I’d say something along the lines of “It seems that some of my deepest values are no longer aligned with yours, based on your political posts. Given that I’m no longer up for continuing our professional relationship.” End of story. Doesn’t even need to entail a back and forth conversation.

      1. Ominous Adversary*

        Because people who are deranged cults take “the truth” as a sign that the other person is a fool at best and possibly one of the bad guys at worst.

      2. yala*

        And what happens if ex-mentor, who has already shown that she is not a reasonable person, decides that this means OP is one of the Bad Guys and tells other folks she’s a pedophile apologist, etc?

        I think the pushback here is less about the idea of trying to “reason” with her, and more about not giving her a reason. Reasons are for reasonable people.

        1. boo bot*

          Yes – the QAnon followers believe they are, among other things, fighting a global cabal of pedophiles and human traffickers who harvest a drug-like substance from the blood of tortured children (it is, among other things, extremely similar to blood libel, an anti-semitic conspiracy theory that’s been circulating in various forms since the middle ages).

          If the mentor retaliates, she’s not going to say, “I joined an internet cult and LW doesn’t believe in it,” she’s going to say, “the LW supports pedophilia and human trafficking,” or “the LW doesn’t care about child abuse.”

          At this point, if I heard someone level those accusations without actual specifics, I’d assume it was a QAnon thing, so it’s possible that it won’t be taken seriously, but still, the concern about retaliation is reasonable.

      3. Mazzy*

        I agree. If you think you are completely right about something, why would you make a bunch of excuses not to have the conversation? What are you afraid of? Some of the comments here are building this up into the mentor being a horrible person or a cult member as an excuse to not have a conversation, but that is just that, an excuse. We’re talking about two people who have been meeting and talking since 2005 and now we’re advising them not to speak because one of them is deranged. Sorry, that doesn’t work in real life.

        1. Sam*

          What? It absolutely does work like that in real life, especially when the derangement is an actively-harmful combination of pretty much every type of bigotry you can find.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          OP’s professional reputation is at stake. If she really wants to tackle this conversation, Alison gave her a good script, but she is under zero obligation to do so.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            This. This conversation is not about OP’s Aunt Beluah who’s just “a little bit racist,” but doesn’t otherwise affect OP in any way other than being obnoxious twice a year at Thanksgiving and Christmas. This is someone in her field that has considerable power and influence. If OP wants to tread lightly here and not get into why she no longer wants to have a personal relationship with the mentor, she has that right.

            1. UKDancer*

              Yes definitely. I put up with my version of Aunt Beluah and her “old fashioned” aka racist views because she’s 96 and senile. It doesn’t have a major impact on my life as I visit her from time to time in the care home. The OP is in a lot more difficult situation in finding a way to extricate herself carefully.

        3. yala*

          “What are you afraid of?” Literally being accused of pedophilia, for one.

          “building this up into the mentor being a horrible person or a cult member as an excuse to not have a conversation”

          Let’s be perfectly clear: the mentor IS a cult member. That’s what QAnon is, at the end of the day. Not religious, but still, essentially, a cult.

          Look, I know for a fact that I am completely right that [insert whatever latest thing trump did that was awful] but I’m not going to have that conversation with my mother because she is, frankly, delusional when it comes to that (and many other things), and the only thing a conversation will get is trouble. And that’s not someone in my professional field, or who could potentially decide I’m One Of Them.

          1. cmcinnyc*

            These people are showing up armed to the teeth in Oregon and firing paint balls at people, macing people, running with the Proud Boys. Whoop dee do “my integrity.” You’re going to get shot. If you think that’s hyperbolic, you do not live in the USA.

          2. Lobsterp0t*

            Not to mention they’re involved in this whole “p*dosexual” thing which seeks to smear LGBT people by linking us to pedophilia and calling it a sexual orientation.

            Which is obviously not a new trope, but given the extremely hot potato of SB145 in California happening right now, is absolutely terrifying to see this old and tired form of bigotry brought back around full circle.

            Like it genuinely makes my blood run cold that many people are now drawing a direct line between those two things.

        4. kt*

          While I was going to argue with you, maybe I’ll change my mind. Maybe we do need enough of us normal people being accused of pedophilia. The danger of course is that then actual accusations of pedophilia that are based in fact will be ignored, which might be the goal (it would certainly help wash away things like the actual baby- and sex-trafficking scheme perpetrated recently in Arkansas on teen girls from the Marshall Islands).

          1. Observer*

            That’s exactly right.

            A lot of activists for trafficked children (ACTUAL trafficked children) are tearing their hair out a bit over the fact that QAnon has essentially co-opted #savethechildren.

            Child sex abuse is a real thing, and QAnon has made it much harder for activists to get anything done.

        5. Observer*

          What doesn’t work in real life? Not engaging with someone who is deranged?

          The reality is that QAnon people may not be evil (I’m not talking about the peddlers – they ARE evil), but they clearly have bought into a worldview that is detached from reality and which leads to some extremely problematic behavior.

          Do you realize that these people are waiting, and in their minds working towards, the time when all of the people involved in these terrible activities will be rounded up and executed? This is not just a “throw the bums out” type of movement.

          1. JSPA*

            Some are not waiting; they’re showing up to blast their way through to the (nonexistent) child storage and torture chambers that they’re sure exist behind / below / above your house or place of business.

            Accusing everyone who points out the holes in Qanon of being a pedophile is

            a) a smoke screen any actual traffickers can hide behind

            b) a way to destabilize families and communication and

            c) a trigger to set off people who are looking for a cause to die for, or kill for, or both.

            It’s important to speak out broadly and generally; that does not mean it’s safe or wise to engage with people who know where you live; are ideally placed to start whisper campaigns against you; or converse regularly with the sort of people who might show up with guns or call the police on you to swat you.

          2. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Agreeing with you here. For instance, when I start to hear voices (yup am schizophrenic) I do NOT need someone to try and engage with them, convince me they aren’t real (I know they’re not, I can still hear them) or worse, try to tell me that all this is too much and I have to stop it or they’ll never talk to me again.

            What I need is quiet time and people to go away in silence if they can’t handle it, or ask me if I need assistance if they come from a position of knowledge.

            Given that QAnon people frequently want people like me shot I’d run far away. Cut off all ties.

          3. Sacred Ground*

            A major belief of QAnon is that there is going to be, any day now, something they call the Storm. The Storm will be the mass arrest of everyone in government, every official in the Democratic Party, every major media figure or celebrity that has ever opposed Trump. This is eagerly anticipated by the Q cult.

            So, the mass arrests of tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of Americans for their political opposition to the current administration is not viewed with horror but with genuine glee. They can’t wait to see thousands rounded up and jailed or deported or simply killed for their political views. Every day that goes by without those mass arrests they get angrier.

            I wish I were exaggerating. This is what they say they believe, this is what they are saying in every possible forum. They are demonizing everyone who isn’t them and valorizing terrorists who are already killing people.

            And the President and his party aren’t distancing themselves but are embracing them.

            You either don’t live in the US or you live under a rock in the US.

            Doubt me? Go ahead and talk to them yourself. Any of them. They aren’t hard to find, they aren’t secretive. Go ahead and engage, attempt a reasonable conversation. Explain to them with kindness and respect their errors. Then come back and tell us how *we* are in the wrong for putting these people out of our lives.

      4. Des*

        This would be an end-story for you, but likely not for the cult member and you would risk repercussions. If this is the hill you really want to die on, then go ahead, but I seriously doubt looking for confrontation is a good idea for the OP considering the different power-levels at play.

      5. Archaeopteryx*

        It’s true that OP is now “busy”- she’s too busy to waste her time and reputation on a white supremacist. Conflating “Telling the truth” with giving a detailed explanation of your every thought toward someone else is highly simplistic.

        Even though this would be for self-preservation and practical reason instead of manners, it’s the same basic principle as telling someone that you just can’t make it to their party Rather than going into every single thing that rubs you the wrong way about them and every reason you don’t think you would enjoy attending their party. rather than going into every single thing that rubs you the wrong way about them and every reason you don’t think you would enjoy attending their party. The idea that having to tell her mentor that she doesn’t want to be associated with her anymore because of her cold allegiance it’s somehow wimpy or untruthful it’s kind of like treating people as robots instead of adults who have to pick their battles and deal with each other with nuance.

      6. AngryOwl*

        The point people are making is that it would most likely *not* be “end of story” there. With a reasonable person? Sure. But with a Q conspiracy theorist, you can’t expect her to just say “okay!” and walk away. There are very real dangers that you’re just not acknowledging. And it has nothing to do with integrity.

        1. Things That Make You Go Hmm*

          Yes, it’s funny to observe the odd commenter who thinks LW should say something who are illustrating your point perfectly. Instead of considering others’ points of view and “walking away”, the commenter posts numerous comments, disagreeing, digging in, repeating the same points, arguing, etc. — illustrating what happens when a reasonable person tries to disagree with someone like a QAnon believer.

    9. Alex501*

      “There doesn’t have to be any drama in it.”
      Hahaha. Are you familiar with the current US political environment?

          1. Claire*

            Yes, to me it’s ok. But I can make sure my side does not cause/escalate/foster drama. I find typically that’s enough to preempt or diffuse it. I guess I’m also not convinced that ghosting her or lying to her with “I’m busy” isn’t going to have repercussions.

        1. Ashley*

          You can try and be drama free but that doesn’t mean the other person won’t be drama free. Sure the risk to the LW are minimized if the mentors beliefs are made public but that doesn’t mean the mentor won’t create drama over the issue leaving the LW to be more public about the mentors beliefs.

        2. LDF*

          You can’t control whether another person creates drama or not. You can’t treat someone unreasonable the same way as someone reasonable and expect the same result.

          1. Claire*

            I agree, you can’t control what others do. I can only control my own actions and aligning them with my own sense of integrity. To me, that includes not ghosting or lying to someone I know. Everyone has to make their own determination about how to show up in relationships, and how to end relationships.

            1. KaciHall*

              You’re like the person who tells Alzheimer’s patients their spouse is dead every day, rather than lie to them and say they are away. Sure, you tell the truth, and all it does is cause a meltdown and drama. Points for integrity, negative points for common sense.

              (My grandpa’s arguments about why grandma has actually faked her own death, and the number of people that were in on it that I could ask to ‘hear the Truth’ really were very similar to the illogical arguments QAnon trots out. I didn’t argue with him because it would be mean and pointless, and I don’t argue with QAnon supporters because it’s pointless and headache inducing. And potentially dangerous in some areas.)

            2. Penny Parker*

              Your integrity is indeed messed up. Her duty is to herself, and you underestimate how dangerous Qanon is. The best integrity she can have is to act in a manner which helps her save herself from any repercussions from the Qanon cult.

            3. Archaeopteryx*

              Ghosting means abruptly cutting off all contact with someone you were close to as though you had just disappeared. Letting the relationship cool and being vague or citing conflicts with what the mentor wants to do is not the same thing as ghosting.

              It’s also not the same thing as lying. “I’m busy“ or “I can’t make it“ are true in the circumstances. The idea that you owe every other person and extremely detailed account of why your attitude toward them has changed isn’t integrity, it’s some kind of weird zealotry.

            4. Batgirl*

              I think youve got it into your head that ghosting or lying is necessary for letting a relationship cool naturally. Not at all. You dont owe people for the past if they stop being that person. If they suddenly become poor company it’s entirely truthful to say you are now too busy for such company. Being unenthused is not ghosting, it’s the reality of your reactions. You don’t owe a professional contact an explanation or a ‘break up’ – they aren’t married for chrissakes. Indeed I would find it overstepping if someone told me I had recently changed and that they disapproved. Firstly, because I would probably already know my opinions had changed and are likely to drive people off and secondly, if I haven’t asked for approval it means I don’t want it.

            5. JSPA*

              Not to godwin the thread, but there was a recent article about a Mother Superior hiding jewish children at a convent school in France during WWII.

              As the BBC tells it,

              “Sister Denise knew it would be possible to hide Jewish children among her Catholic pupils. But she worried about endangering her fellow nuns, and about the dishonesty that this would entail.

              “Her own bishop supported Pétain so she wrote to Archbishop Saliège for advice. She records his response in her journal: ‘Let’s lie, let’s lie, my daughter, as long as we are saving human lives.’ ”

              Qanon supporters are certinly not all (or even mostly) armed attackers who believe they are washed of all responsibility by their greater calling; but enough of them are exactly that, to render other adherents dangerous by proxy.

              If your morality does not ever allow for a lie, I suppose we have no further conversation here; if it does ever allow for a lie, avoiding not mere awkwardness but the risk of the shedding of one’s (innocent) blood, is a darn good reason.

            6. Gazebo Slayer*

              Valuing absolute truth-telling in every situation over actual people’s safety makes it clear your moral compass is broken.

            7. Sacred Ground*

              “Everyone has to make their own determination about how to show up in relationships, and how to end relationships.”

              Apparently not. This contradicts your entire argument here.

        3. Observer*

          You’re “very involved” in politics but don’t understand the depths of QAnon?

          Are you aware of PizzaGate? And the fact that someone actually tried to shoot up the pizzeria that supposedly hosted the “pedophile ring”? Do you realize that the conspiracies have grown from there?

    10. Observer*

      There doesn’t have to be any drama in it.

      Assuming that you are dealing with a reasonable person. But given what QAnon folks believe, that’s just not a foregone conclusion. Because what a lot of QAnon types are going to hear is NOT “we have different views of the world” but “It’s just FINE for Hillary to run a child sex ring. And covid is a good excuse to impoverish hard working people, but it wasn’t engineered by Bill Gates to subjugate us all. And the vaccine – which will of course be unsafe and maybe even a means of mind control – most definitely should be forced on people.”

      And, to be honest, if you really believe the QAnon theories, it’s easy to see that someone might react quite poorly to hearing that.

  4. High Score!*

    Given all the people that have been drawn into QAnon or Antifa or other cults (they are cults), I think you should say something, gently like Alison suggested. Maybe it’s all the isolation? I had a friend who got involved in a pyramid scheme. Would not associate with anyone not involved, had no time for non-pyramid friends but would happily send out spam trying to lure me in to the point that I blocked her. I wish now I had told her why but I didn’t have the words. Now she’s trying to come back into our social circle but I’m not ready to unblock her. Maybe if enough people say why they are distancing then it will make a difference.

    1. Justin*

      “QAnon or Antifa”

      Oh nooooooo you didn’t.

      (That’s all I’m going to say before this gets ugly.)

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        For anyone unfamiliar with the term, “Antifa” is literally anti- fascist. That’s it. If you resist fascism and you’re looking for a catchy word for resisting fascism, you’re antifa.

        1. Ann Nonymous*

          …which is no way equivalent to or in any way similar to QAnon. We all *should be* antifa. Literally nobody should believe in QAnon.

    2. Nia*

      Antifa is not a cult. All it is is being anti fascist. If you think that’s a bad thing perhaps you should take a look in the mirror.

    3. Millerk*

      Nope. Nothing you mentioned is the same as QAnon which promotes insane and vile and patently false information. QAnon is a unique and specific problem.

  5. Detective Amy Santiago*

    OP this sounds so hard. I feel like the best option is to quietly disengage because the folks who are buying into that sort of thing aren’t exactly known for their logic and honestly, I would worry that if you did bring up the political stuff that she would somehow damage your reputation. I hate being that cynical, but, well… the last four years have made me lose a lot of faith in people.

    1. Mazzy*

      “the last four years have made me lose a lot of faith in people”

      I’ve seen people disagree on political and cultural issues and still get along and I’ve seen it get discussed respectfully in the workplace – which I don’t recommend, but that cat got out of the bag. I don’t think we’re being helpful by telling the OP the conversation is going to end horribly.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        It’s pretty clear you don’t know much about the type of people who espouse QAnon beliefs.

  6. Colette*

    My personal policy is no one gets a pass – so if anyone (former coworkers, my 75 year old cousin, that old friend from high school) posts Q-ish stuff, I comment. (Usually it’s not full-on QAnon, but it’s often stuff like “our veterans are sleeping in the streets while we spend billions of dollars on other countries”.) I don’t argue, I just point out where what they’ve said is wrong, with links to reputable organizations. “We spend X on veterans, and Y-which-is-much-smaller-than-X on foreign aid. I think it’s important to help people suffering due to war, famine, or natural disasters, don’t you?”)

    I do this for two reasons – first of all, I want the people I’ve connected to to live in reality. But also, I don’t want that kind of racist stuff out there unchallenged, for the sake of everyone else who sees it.

    I’ve found there are a few things that happen. Either other people jump in to support me, sometimes changing the original poster’s mind, or the original poster gets really mad and unfriends me and then I don’t have to see that kind of stuff anymore.

    So my point is I think it’s OK to call out the mentor directly. “Hey Mentor, this just isn’t true, see A, B, and C”. Do it kindly, but it can still make a difference.

    1. beanie gee*

      This is admiral, but it’s also ok to not keep fighting it, from the OPs perspective. The OP is very very unlikely to change her mind with facts. It’s emotionally and physically draining and really time consuming.

      1. Mazzy*

        ” The OP is very very unlikely to change her mind with facts”

        I’ve had these types of conversations – not this one in particular, but on important issues. The point isn’t to prove them wrong and make them see things a certain way in that second. You present information, they nod and disagree on some points. Then later on if they want to look up what you told them about, so be it. You’re planting a seed. That’s it. We cannot expect people to just change over the course of one conversation.

        1. Colette*

          And like I said, to point out to other people watching the conversation that what they’re saying is not OK.

    2. Lucy Honeychurch*

      THANK YOU FOR THIS!! – “I do this for two reasons – first of all, I want the people I’ve connected to to live in reality. But also, I don’t want that kind of racist stuff out there unchallenged, for the sake of everyone else who sees it.”

      So many people have the attitude that “it won’t change the person’s mind” but to me, it’s not about them. What about the young people in their lives, forming opinions, reading social media? If they never see anything unchallenged, how is that okay? I think this mindset of “not engaging” is one of the things that is leading to the problems that we are having. The crazy people say what they want, unchallenged, constantly, and the sane people just let them.

      1. Anon Lawyer*

        Well, and the fact is sometimes it DOES change the person’s mind. Consistent exposure to actual facts does, ultimately, deradicalize some people.

        Now, personally? I do not have the energy to argue with Q Anon folks on social media. But I’m glad some people are doing it. Sometimes it works. The NYT podcast Rabbit Hole had a really interesting example of this.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Here’s the thing. It’s not okay to expect someone who is in a marginalized group defend their very existence. I will vocally call people out for racism because I am white and that’s my responsibility as an ally. But I will very rarely engage with homophobia because that’s too personal for me.

      1. Colette*

        I don’t hunt down people (except to report them on Twitter, I don’t engage), but if it passes my Facebook feed, it’s fair game.

    3. Gumby*

      “our veterans are sleeping in the streets while we spend billions of dollars on other countries”.) I don’t argue, I just point out where what they’ve said is wrong, with links to reputable organizations. “We spend X on veterans, and Y-which-is-much-smaller-than-X on foreign aid. I think it’s important to help people suffering due to war, famine, or natural disasters, don’t you?”

      I have no problem with spending on foreign aid. (Though I might quibble on some specific instances, overall I am fine with it.) I do not hold the view that the US should not spend anything on foreign aid unless every single veteran is housed. However, there is nothing wrong in saying “our veterans are sleeping in the streets while we spend billions of dollars on other countries.” As an isolated sentence, that is factually true. Roughly 40,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. We spent around $14 billion on foreign aid in GFY 2020 with an additional ~$10 billion obligated.

      At that point we are arguing priorities – not facts. So I cannot phrase it as “you are wrong because we spend more on veterans than foreign aid.” Instead I phrase it as “there are competing priorities and foreign aid is important in ways A, B, and C; veterans are also important and we already do D, E, and F. I agree that homelessness among veterans is a problem and urge you to seek out ways to help with organizations like X and Y.” This framing, hopefully, would turn people away from ranting about a situation to taking action. In some cases it can be quite powerful. In others, the original person wants to rant more than they want to find solutions which is important information for me to have and will change the way I will interact with them. Though, to be fair, I should disclose that I spend very little time on social media and am only aware of QAnon from news articles so I probably have these conversations in less fraught circumstances.

    4. Observer*

      Usually it’s not full-on QAnon, but it’s often stuff like “our veterans are sleeping in the streets while we spend billions of dollars on other countries”

      There is a major difference between this and full on Q. And also, the stakes are a lot different in this context.

      1. kt*

        I think that’s part of the point Colette was making — if you can engage in a substantive and fact-based conversation before things go full Q, maybe you can provide some nudges back to useful reality-based action, like calling your senators and representatives to emphasize your support for veteran’s services, and not falling for false dichotomies (example: our veterans are sleeping in the street while in 2018 Americans spent $72.56 billion on their pets according to the American Pet Products Association — which dwarfs the $55.9 billion we spent on foreign aid in 2018 according to Global Citizen. Therefore we should euthanize all our pets!!! and veterans will have homes. Right?)

    5. Kaaaaaren*

      I agree. The OP should try to — respectfully and gently — bring her mentor/friend back to reality. People believe conspiracy theories because they help give meaning and reason to an often confusing and seemingly senseless world and because having “special knowledge and understanding” that the average people does not have makes them feel smarter and more enlightened… in the know. The best thing we not-cultists can do for people we love/like who get roped into conspiracies and other nonsense is to try to bring them back to Earth.

  7. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    If she’s been your mentor for 15 years, and she’s 20 years older than you, then she’s now at least 55 years old. If you have any kind of communication channel with her family, it might worth suggesting to them that she get a physical and mental workup.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I’m not sure this is a good idea. Either her family shares her beliefs and OP risks making enemies of the whole lot of them or they are already on top if it.

    2. aebhel*

      Dude, no. Plenty of perfectly mentally sound people are involved in QAnon. Stop blaming their bigotry on the specter of mental illness or disability.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        OMG, this. Disabled people and the mentally ill are not white supremacists. If OP’s mentor believes in this nonsense, it’s because it resonates with her core beliefs and values.

        1. Quill*

          Given the strong thread of bigotry towards disabled people in white supremacy… the mentor needs a reality check but as it turns out, the primary risk factor for buying into white supremacy is spending time with white supremacists.

        2. Anon Lawyer*

          It doesn’t sound like that’s what happening here, but susceptibility to conspiracy theories and scams actually can be a sign of early dementia.

        3. WantonSeedStitch*

          THIS. While sometimes brain trauma or illness that affects the brain can alter a person’s personality, that’s very rare. Mental illnesses do not make you a jackass, and with something like dementia or a brain tumor that theoretically COULD have an effect on someone’s personality, it would almost certainly manifest in ways other than just “this person started believing crazy conspiracy theories.” Paranoia would come out in other ways. There would be memory or comprehension issues. This mentor isn’t sick, she’s just awful.

          1. Anon Lawyer*

            Paranoia wouldn’t necessarily only come out in other ways though. Sometimes it can latch onto something like this. If I had an elderly relative who suddenly started believing this type of thing, I’d absolutely be worried about their mental acuity.

            That doesn’t mean that’s what’s going on with the mentor – there’s no indication of that in the letter and it’s not the case for the vast, vast majority of Q Anon subscribers so I wouldn’t even usually consider it. But dismissing the possibility of anyone starting to subscribe to a conspiracy theory like Q Anon as an early warning sign of dementia is going to far in the other direction. (Which doesn’t mean there aren’t other signs as well but not all signs are equally obvious on social media.)

      2. Lucy Honeychurch*

        “Plenty of perfectly mentally sound people are involved in QAnon. Stop blaming their bigotry on the specter of mental illness or disability.”

        THIS x 1000000000

    3. beanie gee*

      People who believe these theories aren’t necessarily dealing with physical or mental issues. Otherwise smart people are getting sucked into this stuff. Suggesting that she get a physical or mental exam won’t change anything.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      Excuse me, but being 55 years old and/or having adopted a cult belief is not automatically indicative of a mental decline. Don’t be ageist.

      1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        Hey, I’m 54. And I have friends and relatives with early-onset dementia. If I start going off-kilter, I want somebody to speak up.

        1. Colette*

          Believing in propaganda that a significant percentage of the population also believes (even though it’s not true) doesn’t mean you have dementia. I doubt it’s even a likely symptom.

            1. Colette*

              Based on the OP’s account, it’s not a sudden change – she’s been moving in this direction since at least 2016.

            2. Elizabeth West*

              I still wouldn’t go straight to dementia without other indicators, and at least in OP’s letter, there aren’t any. Plus, see Colette’s comment.

            3. Observer*

              Suddent changes in personality ARE a symptom. But they are not necessarily age related. So if someone I know started going off the rails I would seriously consider alerting their family, but age (especially 55-60) is not the issue.

      2. LDF*

        Of course it’s not automatically indicative which is why that comment suggests a checkup and doesn’t say “it’s definitely because she’s old and has dementia”. It’s not ageist to acknowledge that it’s an age where mental issues related to aging can pop up.

    5. Esmeralda*

      Hard no. That’s only going to make everything worse. Her family no doubt already sees it / gets an earful of it. Possibly agrees with it. And in general, it’s not your place to butt into your mentor’s personal life nor to offer health advice.

    6. Metadata minion*

      I would assume that either she is sharing this sort of stuff with her family on a regular basis as well, or they’ve cut off contact with her over it or other things and thus aren’t going to be a good source of help. If the LW actually has a close relationship with a family member it could be worth checking in, but if that were the case I’m guessing they would already have done that.

  8. Mel_05*

    I think it’s more representative of how it *feels* on the outside. That’s how I’ve felt with friends who have been engulfed by addictions (not quite the same, but the closest thing I have). They made choices that lead to where they’re at, but it feels like the thing just swallowed them up.

  9. Kate M*

    I’m not sure if it’s okay for me to post a link here or if that’s too promotional but I’m attending a webinar at the end of the month that covers how white people can speak to other white people about white supremacist groups and beliefs. If it’s okay with Allison I could share the link for OP in case it’s helpful?

    1. AW*

      You can share it and it will go to moderation so if Alison doesn’t think it’s appropriate she can not publish it.

  10. kwagner*

    OP I agree with Alison. Especially with you in the specific position of ‘mentee’, but even if you were an outside-of-work friend or family member. QAnon stuff is cult-like and requires deprogramming-like actions. This cannot and should not be done by someone like you, who has their own work reputation and, more importantly, life to take care of. I hope you are able to distance your work-self from any damage she may be doing to her own career and I wish you peace mourning this relationship :(

  11. Happy Pineapple*

    If you feel comfortable engaging her on these beliefs and you don’t think she would lash out and harm your professional reputation, it might be worth trying. Hopefully she respects your opinion as much as you once respected hers, and maybe she’s willing to see an opposing viewpoint. Even if it’s just giving her third-party, objective, trusted resources that debunk the myths she’s spreading, it might trigger something in her to reevaluate her stance.

    At the same time, it’s not always mentally and emotionally healthy to try to educate those who are far gone. You have to decide if it’s worth the potential fight. You could say, “I’m sorry to see that you now support (insert morally repugnant belief). This goes so strongly against my own beliefs that I think it’s time for us to part ways. I am incredibly grateful for your mentorship over the past fifteen years. I wish you well in your future endeavors.” Or you could simply fade out of her life.

    1. Nicole*

      I really like this one. It’s cordial without leaving any mystery behind why OP is stepping back but it’s non-confrontational. If the mentor has any trace of reason left, it’s a soft enough message that it may help them realize that they’re going off the rails and if not, it’s not some inflammatory thing the mentor can use to support/fuel her delusions.

  12. Lucette Kensack*

    How can she handle the (potential) fallout for her own reputation? If she is so associated with her mentor that she’s referred to as “mini-Mentor” at conferences, she may need to do some damage control to ensure that folks don’t assume that she is in alignment with her mentor on this. (It would make me wonder!)

    1. Bree*

      I wonder if there’s a way for her to go on record about her own very reasonable beliefs or opposition to misinformation? Not in an over-the-top way, but in a way that’s appropriate to her field through thought leadership, in interviews, presentations, etc. If the LW puts a little extra effort into showing herself to be a reasonable, progressive, community-minded person she’s less likely to fall under the former mentor’s shadow.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      This is a good question.

      Maybe if OP is able to establish her own expertise, she could get away from the association with Mentor. Fly from the nest, so to speak. That would be a good answer to questions about why she’s not working so closely or presenting with Mentor anymore. “I’ve learned a lot about [work thing] from Celestina and I’m doing my own thing now.”

    3. Colette*

      I think that if she cuts ties, she’s moving in the right direction. It’s likely that many of the people she knows professionally don’t know that the mentor is a QAnon believer, but if it comes up, the OP can say “Yes, I know, I had to cut ties with her because I didn’t want to be associated with those beliefs.”

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        Presumably, if Mentor is that big of a name in the field, a) there are many other former mentees/colleagues in LW’s position and b) there are other people who are distancing themselves from Mentor as well. LW will be in good company with people who are in the same boat.

        That said, Mentor might be the tip of the iceberg: there could be other QAnon followers in LW’s field, and she’s going to have to keep an eye out for them and act strategically to keep them at arm’s length without provoking them into turning on her.

    4. 867-5309*

      I think as long as OP can say something like, “Oh, we are not as close as we used to be” or “I haven’t spoke to [mentor] is quite awhile,” the point will be taken. I do not think most people will look at OP’s past connection and judge her harshly.

      Also, she does not need to explain the reasons why. If asked, she can continue to be vague. People will get the hint.

      1. Bree*

        I’m just worried about their history of publishing and presenting together, which could mean they are quite strongly linked in people’s minds. Especially as they are women in a male-dominated field, that could be memorable and some might think they share many of the same views (or at least that the LW tolerates the mentor’s views).

  13. I'm A Little Teapot*

    Honestly, at some point we’re going have to figure out how to de-program these people. Collectively. Because honestly, yeah, my parents were always kinda conservative, but mom wasn’t always nuts like she is now. And she isn’t even the worst example. It’s a real problem. She’s not able to make rational decisions, she’s not even able to make decisions that are purely in her self-interest. All she can do is follow the programming. And the consequences of it are really going to hurt her – financially, emotionally, and ultimately physically.

    1. Jennifer*

      I listened to a great podcast about a woman who’s father was taken in by similar views but managed to come out the other side. It is possible. While he was in the hospital, they got rid of his radio and computer and they started playing other, more balanced, programs for him.

        1. Jennifer*

          I’m sorry, it was a documentary. I listen to and watch so many things now that we’re on lockdown they all run together :)

          The documentary is called The Brainwashing of My Dad and it’s free with ads on IMDBtv. There’s also a brief summary of the story on youtube. The video is called “How Fox News and Right-Wing Media Brainwashed This Dad and Destroyed a Family | Opinions | NowThis”

          Disclaimer: I realize that not every conservative is a bigot, but this particular person began believing hateful points of view after becoming brainwashed by conservative media.

        2. Jennifer*

          Now I remember why I thought it was a podcast. I listened to another one recently with a similar subject.

          This one was called “Into America,” and the title of the episode was “Into the Rise of QAnon During the Pandemic.” It focuses on the woman who destroyed the display of masks at Target and recorded herself while doing it and how she got sucked into QAnon.

      1. Cascadia*

        This is a different podcast, but check out the NY times mini podcast series “Rabbit Hole” – it goes into this and follows a guy who got sucked in and got out, and how it happened for him. Fascinating/Terrifying listen.

        1. Chyll*

          Thank you! Much appreciated. I had heard of the title of the Podcast in passing but didn’t realize what it was about. Will have to listen.

      2. Jim Bob*

        Wait, what? “I don’t agree with my father’s views, so I’m going to steal his belongings and choose his programming till he changes” is something this podcast endorses?

        People have agency. Even people whose views we find abhorrent. This is a cornerstone of American society. If someone’s going to be a nutso conspiracy theorist or disgusting racist, there is unfortunately their decision; once we get in the business of brainwashing views we deem unacceptable out of people by force, we’ve set a precedent we can never take back.

    2. HR Bee*

      So much this. Both my parents and my husbands parents have gone off the deep end and there is no reasoning with either of them. My parents especially used to be so independent and would truly weigh each side with facts and rationality before voting. My father voted for Obama!

      My husband and I are both would traditionally describe ourselves as conservative, but we just can’t anymore. We’ve both gone ‘independent’ and plan to vote Biden/Harris.

      Neither of our parents have gone full QAnon (of which I just fully learned about over the last week), but yes, some kind of help to get them back to rational think is definitely needed!

      Apologies if this got too political!

      1. I'm A Little Teapot*

        My mom isn’t full QAnon, and my dad has dementia so it’s hard to tell. I think he’s more rational than mom. In mom’s case, this is at least in part the result of 10+ years of increasing isolation. She’s essentially done it to herself, and that’s with her adult children trying to get her to stop isolating herself. It’s unrealistic, but I’d love to make her leave the house and go somewhere with people where it’s semi expected to socialize for about 4 hours a day.

        1. Alex*

          I know that under covid this isn’t possible, but depending on your area, in the US adult daycares, senior centers, and group activities designed specifically for seniors (I.e. tai chi classes, group shopping outings) could be an option, calibrated to her independence label. Your family is in my thoughts, that sounds so tough.

    3. Mazzy*

      Please can we stop with the deprogramming stuff in the comments? I know people of all walks of life who post crazy things online and want to “tear down the system” but are sweet as pie in real life. For me, that’s more about social media being toxic and anyone able to mindlessly share any link without thinking about it online. It’s really creepy and an overstep to think that you need to catalog all of these social media posts and then decide who needs deprogramming. What if someone said that about you?

      1. Sam*

        If I belived in QAnon? Of course I’d be happy someone was trying to steer me away from conspiratorial thinking. Why do you think this doesn’t come out in their behaviour? Why do you think that Qanon is anything other than a pretty out-there conspiracy?

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Nah, people who post racist, anti-semitic crap are not “sweet as pie” in real life (and the internet is part of real life). Don’t repeat that here, please.

      3. I'm A Little Teapot*

        I’m not talking about social media posts. I’m talking about real life people, who say and do things in real life, with real life consequences. When someone is not thinking clearly, not acting rationally, and actively and repeatedly making decisions that will result in negative consequences for them (sometimes severe consequences) despite being told that x bad thing will happen, that is a real problem.

        And frankly, if someone is sweet as pie in real life but is posting crazy stuff online, you might need to reconsider your assessment of that person’s character or mental state. The masks tend to come off online, especially if it’s anonymous.

      4. Escapee from Corporate Management l*

        I have found people who post bad things and are “sweet as pie”’ to me are not so sweet to others. It’s amazing how their sweetness depends on the color of my skin, my obviously American accent, and/or my “traditional” family.

        1. Jessica will remember in November*

          Yeah, and sometimes the reason they’re sweet as pie in real life is because in real life they only associate with the kind of people they like, but online they encounter a much broader assortment of folks. I’m inclined to judge someone else’s character by a combination of two metrics: how do they treat other people, and how broad is their definition of “other people.”

      5. Batgirl*

        One of the saddest things in life is that ‘people who are sweet to x’ and ‘people who are racist to y’ are not mutually exclusive groups and Yeah, thoughtlessness is a big part of that recipe. If the only people who practiced bigotry were criminals and bogeymen it would be a far less common experience.

      6. Keymaster of Gozer*

        If I was running around spouting racist and violent opinions on any media I would hope that polite society would conclude that I need deprogramming from such vile filth.

        It’s not the same as ‘person a believes apples are the best fruit while person b hates the taste of apples’ where it would be wrong to say either side is ‘true’. This is a movement that has no fact, no truth, just lies and evil levels of hatred. If you try to convince me that I should tolerate such evil in life then you’ve not understood what tolerance means at all.

      7. Nanani*

        If your “real life” only shows you the sweet side and not the effect of all the bigotry that this specific conspiracy entails… what can I say but yikes.
        Your privilege is showing.

    4. Allison*

      This is an excellent point. I am dealing with the same thing – I’ve lost my parents to a completely alternate universe, and it’s horrifying.

    5. Metadata minion*

      The organization Life After Hate does a lot of this work, and there are other similar organizations. It’s *hard*, and not necessarily something an untrained family member can do, if the person is fully sucked in and not just saying their racist thoughts out loud more than they used to.

  14. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Coming from a “rough and tumble” “blue collar” industry, there’s a lot of this kind of stuff that floats around that goes quite high in ranks.

    I had to remove them from my social media, this way people aren’t concerned about me being connected to them on a personal level. It’s strictly business.

    And if they were a former mentor, that’s tough but sometimes you will outgrow these individuals. This woman is now on her own to drag her image down, you don’t need to stand by and go down with that ship.

    It’s easier to disengage and if someone does ask you, you say “Yeah I learned a lot from Large Marge but then she went all sideways with the politics, so I had to step back from that. We don’t talk anymore, sometimes we present together but it’s a business relationship only.”

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      And if they were a former mentor, that’s tough but sometimes you will outgrow these individuals.

      This bears repeating. Everyone isn’t meant to be in your life for a lifetime. Your mentor’s season is over, OP. Mourn the loss, then slow fade away and work on ensuring your own reputation doesn’t take a hit from this association.

      1. Jennifer*

        This is a good point. I don’t know if this idea comes from books or movies or what, but many of us have this concept that all friends must be in our lives forever but sometimes people are only meant to be in our lives for a brief period of time to serve a purpose. It sounds like the mentor has done that and it’s time to move on. It’s sad, but it’s not the end of the world. Mourn the loss and then move on. It makes it easier to frame it that way. You aren’t a failure if you can’t maintain all of your relationships with people indefinitely. That actually sounds pretty time-consuming.

        1. The Original K.*

          You aren’t a failure if you can’t maintain all of your relationships with people indefinitely.
          I think this is really important because so often relationships, especially romantic relationships, are framed as failures if they don’t last forever. It’s so binary – either a marriage lasts until one person dies, or it’s a failure. “My marriage failed.”

          A few years ago I had a great relationship with a man that ended, but I don’t look at it as a failure – it taught me a lot and it brought us both a lot of joy. My childhood best friend and I aren’t especially close anymore, but that doesn’t negate all the fun times and closeness we had as kids. The OP’s relationship with her mentor and all the professional gains it brought her aren’t negated by the fact that she now needs to move on from it. A 15-year mentor/mentee relationship is pretty damn successful.

          1. Jennifer*

            I agree. There are a few people I hope are in my life indefinitely, and I think it’s great when you can maintain a successful relationship that long, but everyone else maybe it will last forever, maybe it won’t.

            I have no mentor/mentee relationship that lasted 15 years, so I’m pretty impressed.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              The only people who would be in my life that long (indefinitely) are my mom, brother, and nieces – that’s it, lol.

              1. The Original K.*

                My professional relationships tend to last as long as we work together, with the occasional “will you be a reference?” request popping up throughout the years. I would love a mentor!

                1. Diahann Carroll*

                  That’s how my professional relationships typically shake out. I currently have a mentor through my company, but I imagine that once the program ends, she and I may drift apart due to very busy schedules.

              2. allathian*

                Yeah, I hear you. For me it’s my parents and my sister and a few friends. We moved around a lot when I was a kid, but I’m still friends with a few people I met in middle school/junior high 35 years ago.

                Oh well, I met and started dating my husband 15 years ago, so by this metric, my husband and in-laws also qualify. I’m not really counting my aunts, uncles, and cousins that I haven’t seen in years and only exchange Christmas cards with.

          2. Paulina*

            A 15-year mentor/mentee relationship is indeed very successful. A long mentorship is great; it can also be great for the mentee to strike out on their own, work independently, and perhaps take someone else junior under their own wing as mentee. The LW could consider moving on in a positive way, taking the good that they were given and passing it on (without the conspiracy theories). This may also come across better and be less open to question than simply being “busy”.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It’s just a different philosophy is all.

          I come from a family who is very spread out and not very close to one another, lots of “lone wolves” came out of the large pack. My mother has even told me that friends aren’t meant to be forever. She was raised by practical folks who had to travel a lot to find work, so that instilled her idea of “Just passing through, not here for a long time, just here for a good time.”

          Military families are like this as well. You don’t make life long friends because life won’t allow it. Whereas those who live in the same area their entire life, I have learned are much different than those who have drifted!

        3. Gazebo Slayer*

          I think the “friends are forever” idea is sort of a cultural holdover from a time when most people did actually live in small communities where they stayed for their whole lives.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah. My mom, who was born in the 1940s and her siblings will be the first members of their family who will die more than 30 kilometers/20 miles from their birthplace. One of my aunts traced my maternal family tree to the mid-1500s, that’s how I know.

      2. Sharbee*

        Exactly. And it’s ok that we outgrow our attachments to other people. This event is just speeding up a transition that would have happened regardless. Losing our heroes, or seeing our heroes fall from grace, is difficult, but it’s just one more life lesson. No one is infallible. No one.

  15. Ashley*

    I agree with the 2020 exhaustion. This is nothing like the Hillary comments of 2020. Since this is so gut wrenching for you, you could try the busy route for a few months and see what happens in November. (Not that I am even thinking about November … the calendar stops at Halloween. It is how my brain is handling the 2020 exhaustion.)

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          How about Dan Quayle being lambasted for not being able to spell potato? Ah, the good old days.

  16. Ellen N.*

    I have a counterpoint view. Our dog trainer who has become a close friend is an adherent to QAnon views. My husband and I are extremely liberal. Our liberal views are as outlandish to our dog trainer as his QAnon views are to us. Thankfully, he has a sense of humor so we tease him unmercifully about QAnon.

    For those who haven’t heard, QAnon adherents believe that there is a worldwide group of Satanists/pedophiles/cannibals who traffic children, rape them, kill them then eat them. They believe that many entertainment people are involved (astonishingly including Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks). They believe that Trump is working tirelessly to bring these Satanists/pedophiles/cannibals to justice.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that there appears to be less racism in QAnon views than a lot of other conservative views. At least in our dog trainer’s case, the people they accuse of worshiping Satan, trafficking and eating children are Caucasian.

    The letter writer can choose to disconnect with her mentor, but she has other choices. She can tell her mentor that she’d like to continue their friendship, but keep politics off the table as a subject of discussion or she can choose to see her relationship with her mentor as a view into an extremely different way of thinking.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      The problem is that by continuing the friendship, OP risks harming her own professional reputation if the mentor goes too far off the rails.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      And btw, as an LGBT person, if you were someone in my life who had a close connection with someone who believed in QAnon and weren’t actively calling them out, I’d stop associating with you too because I’d assume you’re okay with it.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yep. It’s along the same lines of if you ever feed me the line “I don’t agree with your lifestyle but I love the sinner, hate the sin!” I’ll be all “Nope, doesn’t work for me. You’re saying that my LGBTQ status isn’t a deal breaker to “hangout” and be “friends” but I’m saying that your belief that this is a “chosen lifestyle” and a “sin”is indeed a deal breaker for me. I need to be comfortable trusting you. I don’t want to think of how if I’m killed in a hate crime one day, that you may just sympathize with my murderer.”

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Exactly. I have to categorize people as either “safe” or “not safe” and associating with people who don’t give a damn about my life and well being will land you in the latter category.

      2. Ellen N.*

        Huh? Our friend who believes in QAnon is a supporter of LGTB rights. I haven’t heard of QAnon having a view on LGBT issues.

        I am a lifelong, vocal supporter of LGBT rights.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          QAnon is a right wing conspiracy that is perpetrated by people with ultra conservative views.

        2. Diahann Carroll*

          You might want to look further into this group your “friend” supports. It’s racist, anti-Semitic, anti-LGBTQ, etc.

        3. AvonLady Barksdale*

          But all the other stuff is ok by you? Even the belief in outrageous, damaging, disgusting conspiracies? That’s just “different thinking”?

        4. Sylvan*

          You might want to investigate it. This might be because I’m in a homophobic area, but I haven’t yet seen a Qanon supporter miss the chance to say something homo/transphobic.

        5. LabTechNoMore*

          They’ve been attacking Democratic politicians and public figures supporting LGBT issues as pedophiles. Their whole basis revolves around a fictional pedophilia sex trafficking ring. Those of us familiar with gay rights movement understand the homophobic nature of the word “pedophile” being misapplied to gay men. This is just a weird extension of that since now it’s not just the LGBT community, but all progressives.

        6. kt*

          One of my QAnon acquaintances (who I mostly stay FB friends with so I can keep an eye on the evolution of borderline-racist men’s rights stuff) would certainly not say he’s anti-LGBTQ, but he posts a lot about pedophilia and gayness. He’s particularly offended by the new California bill that he says ‘legalizes gay pedophilia’, which is entirely false — it says that for consensual sex between two people over the age of 14, a judge can use discretion as to whether someone should be registered as a sex offender if it’s anal or oral sex. Currently, if a 17-year old and 18-year old have consensual anal sex in California, the 18 year old must be registered as a sex offender no matter what. If a 24-year old has ‘consensual’ penile-vaginal sex with a 15-year old, the 24 year old need not be registered as a sex offender — it’s left up to the judge’s discretion. So the QAnon presentation of the bill is very homophobic.

      3. The Original K.*

        Yep. I’ve done this with white people who have racists in their lives – “he’s got some old school ideas about race but he’s nice to me!” Those “old school ideas” threaten my life, as does your tacit support of them, so I’m done.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yep. I am not a member of the LGBTQ community or a person of color, but this is a hill I will die on with people.

      4. Quill*

        I’ve fled much more permanent and personal relationships from just a whiff of people being much lower-stakes homophobic or racist than QAnon.

        At some point us liberals who have personal relationships with people nosediving into fascism need to evaluate whether our continued involvement is helping them or enabling them.

        And QAnon is so much more toxic than eating dinner with your uncle “Well they’re being an ass but free speech” twice a year.

    3. Savannnah*

      Above is a great example of liberals being unfamiliar with antisemitism and how it looks in 2020. I’d encourage folks to do a little digging before dismissing it as simply an ‘extremely different ways of thinking’.

      1. anon for this*

        See how often your dog trainer brings up Soros. Anti-Semitism at its most classic — and yet half the people conspiracy-theorising about him don’t even know it. That’s how this stuff is seductive: you can tell yourself, “I’m not an anti-Semite. It’s just that this guy is rich and doing shadowy things, it’s not about his heritage.” And then 10 months later you are babbling about the (old banking family) investing in cryptocurrencies so they can destroy paper money and enslave us to their will (these are talking points from Russia Today combined with Nazi propaganda, I want to be clear — and basically what a family member involved with QAnon spends her time posting on Facebook, *alongside* anti-mask memes that picture Anne Frank and say “The People who hid Anne Frank were breaking the law. The people who killed her were following it”).

        So yeah, Savannah is right.

    4. lazuli*

      The “eating children” thing is a reference to antisemitic blood libel ideas. It’s not harmless, in terms of inciting violence and bigotry against groups of people.

      1. lazuli*

        And that’s why they believe “many entertainment people are involved.” “Hollywood” is a dog whistle for “Jewish.”

    5. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I don’t quite follow this logic. It’s not racist, therefore it’s ok? It’s not racist, so all that other stuff is just a “different way of thinking”?


    6. AnonInTheCity*

      Without wishing to get into a political debate, I really think “Jews eat children” is over the line in terms of things people of good conscience can reasonably agree to disagree on.

    7. jack*

      if you were my friend and you were accepting and friends with someone who believes QAnon, you wouldn’t be my friend anymore.

      1. Mary Connell*

        Agreed. I’d have a hard time trusting someone who was openly friends with a QAnon cult member.

    8. Peridot*

      This is, in the kindest way I can envision putting it, morally and intellectually lazy. You’re in a position where you can dismiss these views as some sort of quirk in your friend instead of seeing them for the appalling mess they are.

      1. Anononon*

        It’s also the definition of privilege. “I’m able to see past these views because they don’t immediately effect me.”

    9. A*

      It’s cool that you deeply value your friendship with someone who believes the world is run by violent Jewish pedophiles who need to be exterminated but for a lot of people that is a relationship deal breaker.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        “George Soros runs the world!” feels almost mild and quaint compared to this business. (Don’t @ me, I know it’s not, trust me.)

    10. a clockwork lemon*

      You’re off-base here. The people they’re accusing of Satanism etc are, by and large, Jewish. QAnon trucks in extremely anti-Semitic rhetoric rooted in harmful stereotypes that have been perpetuated about Jews for hundreds of years (including and especially eating children).

      There is not “less racism” in QAnon views. There are just quieter dogwhistles and a deliberate exploitation of existing stereotypes that people find it acceptable to perpetuate because most Jewish people in the United States generally fall under the umbrella of white privilege in and around major metropolitan areas.

      1. Hedwig*

        ‘because most Jewish people in the United States generally fall under the umbrella of white privilege in and around major metropolitan areas.’ is also an antisemitic trope. Jews=rich, ‘white’ and privileged, therefore can be attacked by the left as well as the right. Jews are rich, poor and middle class just like any other group and exist outside New York City and Hollywood. Being in a metropolitan area doesn’t guarantee being wealthy and/or white.

        1. LabTechNoMore*

          Reading the comments, I’m realizing how broadly appealing the QAnon xenophobic rhetoric is to the -ism crowd (for lack of a better term). They include Antisemitic tropes with the Satanism/baby-eating narrative, Homophobic tropes in the pedophile-fighting centered narrative, Islamophobic tropes (“Satanism” again), while also dehumanizing the BLM movement, Democratic politicians, and progressives as part of the Deep State. QAnon as clever a propaganda movement as it is disgustingly horrifying.

    11. tabby cat troubles*

      “Our liberal views are as outlandish to our dog trainer as his QAnon views are to us.”

      This sounds sort of “both sides” adjacent. QAnon is not simply a difference of opinion, and it is weird to act like your views and his views are equally legitimate.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yes. That is being so open-minded your brain falls out. That is tantamount to saying “there’s no such thing as truth.”

      2. Actual Vampire*

        I would really be interested in hearing specific examples of which of Ellen’s liberal views are as potentially outlandish as QAnon.

        1. Actual Vampire*

          (…but I realize that probably isn’t allowed under the site rules. Definitely not trying to start a political argument.)

      3. Ice and Indigo*

        The thing is, liberal views are outlandish to him because he subscribes to a completely false idea of ‘normal.’

        Of course he thinks you’re wrong. That’s because he’s wrong. If you lose sight of that, then you’ve lain down with a dog and got up with fleas.

    12. LizzE*

      I will add another angle to this: I know people who work in anti-trafficking organizations and QAnon propaganda harms their efforts. Not only does QAnon misrepresent how trafficking happens, it undermines decades of research and information from credentialed professionals. Additionally, there have been upticks in false reporting of so-called pedophile rings.

      So to be blunt, downplaying these beliefs is ignoring the harm that QAnon and similar conspiracies perpetuate for victims of trafficking.

    13. Not A Manager*

      “For those who haven’t heard, QAnon adherents believe that there is a worldwide group of Satanists/pedophiles/cannibals who traffic children, rape them, kill them then eat them. They believe that many entertainment people are involved (astonishingly including Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks). They believe that Trump is working tirelessly to bring these Satanists/pedophiles/cannibals to justice.

      “So we tease him unmercifully about QAnon.”

      Yeah, because that shit is fucking hilarious.

      1. Curiouser and Curiouser*


        There’s also a reason that Steven Spielberg is involved in their beliefs and it’s not “astonishing”…it’s basic antisemitism.

    14. Hiring Mgr*

      “One thing I’ve noticed is that there appears to be less racism in QAnon views than a lot of other conservative views.”

      Talk about damning with faint praise…

    15. Batgirl*

      Lots of people said very similar things about their Nazi friends in the thirties. It gets embarrassing later on, to put it mildly. Who cares if someone is a hoot at cocktail parties if they’re suggesting that Jewish and gay are synonyms for paedophile.

    16. Actual Vampire*

      My great-grandparents came to the US from Germany in 1935. Sometimes I wonder how they knew it was time to give up their whole lives and flee. I wonder about the rest of their family, who didn’t make it out in time. Since I was a kid, I’ve wondered whether I will be able to live in my home country – the US – for my whole life. Sometimes I wonder if I will be one of the ones who sticks around till it’s too late.

      Anyway, hope you enjoy joking around with your dog trainer about Jews eating kids or whatever.

      1. Ellen N.*

        “Anyway, hope you enjoy joking around with your dog trainer about Jews eating kids or whatever.”

        He is Jewish and a supporter of Israel, as am I, so that’s not where our conversations go.

        1. lazuli*

          That is where QAnon goes. Internalized antisemitism is a thing, as is ignorance of the tropes. It’s not less dangerous because either of you is Jewish.

          1. Argh*

            You don’t get to dictate to Jews if they are “Jewish” enough for you or if they have “internalized anti-semitism.” Just because a Jew doesn’t agree with you, doesn’t mean you can dictate what they should believe. Check your privilege before telling people they hate themselves. (Speaking as a Jew who is sick of left wing and right wing antisemites assuming we’re a monolith)

            1. Hedwig*

              Internalising oppression is indeed a thing. It’s how some women can be sexist and misogynistic as we saw this week in the letter about the woman whose female manager photographed her breasts and passed the photographs around. You are right that Jews are not a monolith, sadly some can be antisemitic, racist towards black people, homophobic etc while many would be horrified at such behaviour. It’s important to call out these things in our own communities although, of course, we’re not responsible for the actions of other Jews.

          2. theharuspex*

            My aunt is HARDCORE into QAnon, and would be horrified if anyone thought she was anti-Semitic. She has actually been called out on Facebook for some of her George Soros/New World Order/Elite cabal of bankers dog whistles but insists they’re not anti-semitic, just “the truth”. I think a lot of non media-literate QAnon people truly don’t understand that they’re sharing and propagating these dog whistles.

        2. Not A Manager*

          Listen, lady, you can talk about how your dog walker isn’t homophobic and supports Israel all you want. The fact is, you’ve characterized his beliefs as “there is a worldwide group of Satanists/pedophiles/cannibals who traffic children, rape them, kill them then eat them. They believe that many entertainment people are involved (astonishingly including Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks). They believe that Trump is working tirelessly to bring these Satanists/pedophiles/cannibals to justice.”

          This is both loony toons and dangerous. It’s not cute, it’s not bothsider, it’s not whatabout, it’s dangerous and ugly. You “tease someone mercilessly” when they support a different sportsball team. You don’t “tease someone mercilessly” about believing that there is a cabal of cannibalistic child predators controlling the world. And yes, those putative predators mostly just happen to be Jewish.

      2. saf*

        My family came earlier, in the 1900s. However, there was an older gentleman down the block when I was a child who left, all on his own, at 15 or 16, in the 30s. His story, “I didn’t like that Hitler fellow, and I knew it was time to go to America. Nobody believed me.” He was German and Lutheran. I never asked what happened to the rest of his family.

  17. Bree*

    I keep hoping that people who specialize in helping people leave cults/help families get back people who have been lost to cults will chime in with expertise on this. I feel so sad for the LW and others in the same boat right now. I wish we had, like, a toolkit of strategies to try.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      As someone who has spent far more hours than I care to admit reading stories of people who left Scientology and the FLDS church, the common theme I have seen is that there is not going to be a strategy that will be widely effective. It’s going to be very much dependent on the individual.

    2. Anon for this*

      In case you are interested in the true story of someone who was in a cult and then left it, I recommend this one, available on Amazon: The Agony of Freedom: How I Lost Myself in a Cult, Rebuilt My Life, and Faced My Death with Peace.

      It contains the story of how and why the author joined and stayed in a cult and shows just how easy it is to believe unbelievable things. I’m sure she would have lots to say about why people are believing the Qanon conspiracies and how difficult it will be to convince them otherwise.

      The book was written by a friend of mine (with a coauthor who finished the book after my friend’s death).

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I don’t have expertise but read a number of good books about people who’ve escaped cults like Scientology and the common theme seems to be them getting away from the programming, either by actually meeting people of opposing views, reading stuff about opposing views or just moving away from the cult and the propaganda entirely.

      I’m in awe of anyone who does this as a profession. Ye gods the mental strain alone must be colossal.

  18. Elle by the sea*

    It must be a great disappointment indeed. But as long as she doesn’t bring this into her professional life and mentorship, I don’t see any reason for disengaging with her professionally. I’ve had many mentors who were on the complete opposite side of the political spectrum as me, but neither of us wanteto force our views on each other. And I also felt uneasy about some friends who wanted to push their opinions on everyone (e.g. being pro choice), even though I shared their views. So, as long as this person is not actively racist, antisemitic, etc. towards the people around her and she doesn’t impose this cult on her professional environment, I would not take this whole thing too seriously.

      1. Mary Connell*

        Again agreed. I don’t use the term evil lightly, but find it appropriate for the people behind QAnon, based on the damage I’ve seen it cause to families and communities.

      2. Wakeen Teapots, LTD*

        in addition: it is paranoid batshit crazy crackers. It is layers on top of all of that. It is vile AND mentally disturbed.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Not taking this sort of misinformation being spread seriously is exactly why we are where we are as a society right now. It’s why more than 180,000 Americans have died from Covid-19.

      1. Elle by the sea*

        For sure. But the question is whether she espouses these views in her professional network. Is she eager to convince people around her and engages in political debates with others aggressively. If she doesn’t, I would continue learning from her professionally but would keep a distance as a friend. And if I decided to cut ties with her, I would be honest. Ghosting someone who you had such a close relationship with and who helped you in your professional career so much is not a gracious thing to do.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          You don’t owe someone who espouses these views in any aspect of their life any sort of grace.

        2. The New Wanderer*

          It’s enough that she publicly supports “these views.” It doesn’t matter if she’s actively debating this IRL or just reposting crap on the internet. It’s not like “she’s a staunch Republican and I’m a life-long Democrat,” it’s “she believes vile, horrible things about large groups of people because she fundamentally believes ‘those people’ are capable of those vile things” and that’s the heart of bigotry. There’s zero chance that does not affect her professional choices and in fact OP might find that this information provides context to stuff that had happened in the past.

          There is literally nothing to be gained by continued association with someone of such poor character, and lots to be lost.

        3. Escapee from Corporate Management l*

          “She’s a racist and anti-Semite, but not at work” is not going to fly in 2020. We know there is no separation.

          1. Sinister Serina*

            Seriously. How does someone who feels that way separate it from work? Short answer: they don’t.

        4. Batgirl*

          It’s OK to have a spine and to let an integrity which will not condone evil supersede your professional ambitions. It’s also OK to distance yourself from someone who is batshit banana crackers out of concern that your professional reputation would be harmed. Either way, ‘ghosting’ is a win-win for the OP who really doesn’t need to be gracious to someone who can’t wait for the mass murder of People who are Different. Do people really need it explaining to them that their anti semitism and racism is bad? No, they know well enough to use the dog whistles.

        5. Cassidy*

          I’m sorry, but what is there to debate here? qanon beliefs are horrific, to say the least. I won’t even honor the name with proper grammar.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      If I learned that a work colleague held racist views, I wouldn’t associate with them, and I would probably call it to someone’s attention. If I overheard a work colleague saying something anti-Semitic while out with that person on the weekend, I would cut off as many ties as I could. I don’t– can’t– tolerate that.

      This is not, “I don’t care if he goes out and gets plastered” or “I don’t care if he’s cheating on his wife” or “I don’t care that she strips on the weekends for extra money.” This is, this woman is involved in something scary and dangerous that absolutely affects her work and her reputation.

      Not forcing views on each other… I can’t. This is Not Okay. This is how people get demonized, ostracized, and killed.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        Completely agree, QAnon is extremely dangerous. I’m recalling the white supremacists who showed up armed to the teeth in a town over the summer because QAnon had falsely posted there was going to be a protest about removing offensive statues, or something like that, working from memory here. A Black man just happened to be visiting a grave at a local cemetery wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt. These armed people surrounded him and the police escorted him away, in their words for his safety. The police didn’t protect him and tell the other people to leave, but that’s a whole other post.

      2. Paulina*

        Yes. Associating with such people supports them, and supports them having power and privilege. It’s also not realistic to expect that if you’re not in a group affected by these people’s problematic views, you’ll notice all of the ways that those views can be manifest to the detriment of others. For example, I might easily miss subtler ways that a racist colleague might be discriminating against or hurting POC, since I am not one; once I’ve noticed their racism, it’s a problem.

    3. No Tribble At All*

      I disagree — if any other people in their industry are aware that former!Mentor has fallen in with QAnon, they may associate OP with the conspiracy theory, harming OP’s reputation.

      1. Quill*

        It is basically impossible for this to have gone unnoticed throughout the past four years, unless of course the industry has zero queer people, people of color, jewish people, disabled people…

        And come november, no matter what happens, the impossibility is going to be dialed up to eleven and the knob is going to be yanked off and smashed with a sledgehammer.

        OP’s reputation, I’m 99.9% sure, has already been harmed since 2016, at this point it’s a matter of getting out before that gets worse.

        1. Amaranth*

          Do you think it would be enough to just ask to present separately? Rather than doing a joint seminar, OP could present on their own and, if not interested in making waves, could say its time to leave the nest rather than ‘I don’t want to be associated with you’ and spurring retaliation.

    4. Sinister Serina*

      I too have had friends and colleagues on the opposite side of the political spectrum, but none of them ever espoused that Jewish people were cannibalistic pedophiles or that there were tunnels underneath Comet PingPong where children were being held and that there was a person named Q who knew everything that was going on and was drooping cryptic hints about it every once in a while. That’s what Q does, right? I can’t wait until the QAnon people get to Congress-I’m sure that will go very well. The OP should just back away slowly-no need to spell it out. If people know her (the mentor) and know the QAnon stuff, they’ll figure it out.

    5. AngryOwl*

      QAnon is not just “the opposite political side.”

      I have to believe you and other commenters saying similar things just don’t really know what QAnon is. I suggest looking into it.

    6. Paulina*

      In my experience, people with problematic views don’t compartmentalize them away from affecting how they act professionally. It doesn’t have to be active overt racism to be a problem. Additionally, a senior person who actively mentors is shaping the field.

    7. Metadata minion*

      Your feelings on abortion, while presumably present somewhere in the back of your mind while at work, aren’t actually going to be relevant the vast majority of the time unless you work in healthcare or a similar field. Your feelings on whether certain groups of people are actually human beings worth of respect is going to come up even if you’re not actively saying that they should be killed.

  19. Secretary*

    Maybe I’m just really uninformed about QAnon… but I’m really not seeing why the OP can’t be at all associated with this mentor. It seems this mentor has given the OP a lot of value in her perspective on the OP’s professional track. Why can’t the OP continue to seek perspective from the mentor and just allow the new knowledge of this mentor’s politics to color their view of the mentor’s opinions?
    Is this different from being liberal and finding out that your mentor is conservative? Just because someone is conservative doesn’t mean that their racist, like just because someone is liberal doesn’t mean their NOT racist. Like, I wouldn’t throw away a great working relationship with someone over finding out their opinions differed, I would just be more cautious and try to learn more about how extreme they are. Would love to know why this is different with QAnon, as I’m not very familiar with them other than the (in my opinion extremely wacky) conspiracy theory.

    1. Peridot*

      Is this different from being liberal and finding out that your mentor is conservative?

      Yes. Yes, it is.

        1. Sylvan*

          Being conservative is different from believing “global elites*” are abducting, abusing and eating kids for Satanic purposes. And that’s just a part of the conspiracy theory.

          *this is anti-Semitic code for Jews, who some conspiracy theorists think are secretly taking over the world

        2. Sacred Ground*

          If only there were a convenient and simple way to find information other than asking random strangers to spell it out for them.

          If only the entire thread preceding this comment had already explained the details.

    2. Colette*

      QAnon believers have lost touch with reality in many significant ways, many of which are racist (among other things). Reasonable people can disagree about the role government should play in providing social services; they cannot disagree on the sort of delusions and harassment that comes from QAnon – either you live in reality or you don’t.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Right. This isn’t that the mentor is a Libertarian or something. It’s far more disturbing.

    3. Marny*

      I recommend educating yourself more about QAnon if you want to understand why this isn’t just a difference of opinion.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          It’s not mean to tell you to research what this group is first before making a statement conflating this cult to conservatism in general or saying this is just a difference in political beliefs. It is not that at all.

          1. Mazzy*

            In their defense, someone just wrote something about LGBT and was just googling QANON / LGBT and not getting great hits on Google besides other people searching the same question. So it’s probably good if people are going to respond, if they transfer information in the comment.

        2. Colette*

          Saying you wouldn’t throw away a working relationship with someone just because they believe in QAnon is like saying you wouldn’t throw away a working relationship with someone just because they’re a zombie. I’m sorry, the person you knew isn’t there anymore.

        3. Anononon*

          I’m not sure why you think this is mean? QAnon is a known super dangerous, actively hateful conspiracy theory that causes a lot of distress to people. There is going to be push back against comments suggesting that it’s just a difference of opinion.

          1. The Original K.*

            Right. It’s not even in the same universe as a conservative grumbling over tax and spend liberals. People have killed and committed violent acts in the name of QAnon. A woman was arrested on her way to try to murder two prominent political figures she believes to be a part of this alleged trafficking ring. It’s sick, disturbing stuff.

            1. Colette*

              And QAnon trolls spend their days harassing people (largely women) on platforms like Twitter. Check out any tweet by Hillary Clinton and look for replies with the pizza emoji or the word adenchrome. They’ll be there, on every single tweet.

            2. UKDancer*


              QAnon is nota disagreement on a political issue. It’s a conspiracy theory with some fairly unpalatable bits. It’s not like my disagreeing with my Uncle Paul over a pint on something like trickledown economics or whether to re-nationalise the British railway network whether both arguments are potentially valid. QAnon is a disturbing and antisemitic conspiracy theory which has no validity at all.

              I say this as someone who grew up in the shadow of one of the first pogroms in England (York 1190) which was party caused by an antecedent of this type of antisemitic bullshit.

        4. AndersonDarling*

          Their beliefs are so abhorrent that it’s difficult to type. I don’t want to manifest those words, so I can understand that everyone is just asking for the curious to use google.

        5. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Yes, you’re looking for information– you shouldn’t be jumped on. There are a few comments already to this effect, but QAnon isn’t simply a different political view, like, say, the Tea Party. QAnon is a movement based on conspiracy theories that revolve around supposed rings of pedophiles who kidnap, murder, and eat children. Supposedly they’re out to get Trump and Trump is fighting a war against them. That’s the simple version. It’s far from a difference of opinion. If the LW wrote in and said she’s pro-Bernie and her mentor is a big Ted Cruz fan, the reactions would be very different and, I dare say, quite a bid milder.

          I’m not going to LMGTFY to you, but I will say that there’s a ton of information out there from non-crazy sources that can tell you more. John Oliver did a segment about it on his show, that’s a good place to start.

          1. Secretary*

            Thanks AvonLady as well! Like I said to Jack in the next comment thread down, I looked it up but didn’t get the difference.

          2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            The Atlantic just had a big article on QAnon, as well, that did a good job explaining it.

        6. Pippa K*

          You basically said “I don’t really know what QAnon is but here’s how I think someone should respond to it…maybe someone should tell me what it is?” I would gently suggest that if don’t know much about it, maybe look it up before commenting – or just read the comments here to learn why people are reacting differently than you’d have expected.

          1. Courageous cat*

            Seriously! Like, if you want to let out a strong and somewhat controversial opinion about it, it would be worth taking 5 minutes to google and read about why it’s so terrible rather than being like “why did everyone jump on me i’m just ignorant” – you have the same tools at your disposal that we do. Do ya homework

            1. Emi.*

              I feel like “use google to find learn more about a group known to be good at indoctrinating people on the internet” is actually really, really bad advice.

                1. Diahann Carroll*

                  Well, one could read the articles linked and the comments here from people who explained exactly what it is before commenting.

        7. Sinister Serina*

          A QAnon believer came to my city and shot into a pizza place because he believed what they said-that children were being held in tunnels underneath the place (Comet PingPong) for the purpose of trafficking/eating them/were pedophiles. He thought he was rescuing children and instead scared people who eating in a neighborhood pizza place-and he didn’t find any hidden basement or tunnels, because there aren’t any-the DC Metro system doesn’t count. My point is that they are dangerous, as opposed to a difference of opinion on political beliefs. It’s not the same thing.

    4. jack*

      Here is just a short list of some of the beliefs of QAnon:
      – almost all prominent Democrats (and some moderate Republicans) are members of an elite global cabal (funded by George Soros and the Rothschilds naturally) that kidnaps children, scaring them to within an inch of their life to produce “adrenochrome” to keep them young and living longer
      – the foster care system is used to funnel these children into sex trafficking and essentially all government employees are in on it
      – Bill Gates created COVID19 and will use the vaccine to chip every human on the planet
      – mask requirements are being used to bring Sharia law to the US
      – Donald Trump is a messiah figure who will have all of these people arrested (and possibly publicly executed) and #SaveTheChildren

      1. Maj. Pothead, reporting for doobie*

        I’ve taken a look at some of their Facebook pages, just out of curiosity, and in addition to everything you’ve mentioned above, a lot of them also seem to believe that John McCain was actually executed for treason against the United States. As proof of this, they cite the fact that there was a wrinkle on the flag that was draped over his casket and that is somehow an “inside” signifier that he was a traitor.

        Granted, it is difficult to separate the true Qanoners from people that are just trolling them on those FAcebook groups, but there is a semi-frequent mention of “reptilians” running our government, major corporations, etc. Some of them seem to believe in actual lizard people.

          1. Sinister Serina*

            Aww, that makes me sad. I love a good conspiracy theory and the lizard people is one of my favorites-I didn’t realize it was an antisemitic dog whistle. At least now I know.

              1. lazuli*

                Yes, totally! “A small group of elites runs the world” is generally at the heart of most conspiracy theories and is generally always based on centuries-old antisemitic tropes. They’re general inseparable.

            1. Actual Vampire*

              This is why I, as a Jew, avoid people who say they “love a good conspiracy theory.” Conspiracy theories aren’t a cute hobby. Almost all of them are anti-Semitic.

              1. Actual Vampire*

                (Also, sorry, I just realized this sounds kind of rude! I didn’t mean to call you out specifically. I just know so many people who think conspiracy theories are heaps of fun and don’t seem to realize that conspiracy theories exist to hurt people and it is hurtful to hear them repeated, even as a joke.)

                1. Sinister Serina*

                  It’s okay-I don’t really think of them as fun-I think of them as saying a lot about the country from which they originated and so I’m always curious about how one started. And it’s true, at heart most (all of them? Probably) of them have an anti-Semitic origin story. And I thought I was aware of that with practically all the conspiracy theories I know-and if I’d thought more about the lizard people theory, I would have realized it, so that’s on me. I apologize as well for not thinking it through as well as I should have-my Dad the teacher would not be happy with me!

              2. theharuspex*

                I think a lot of people genuinely don’t understand their origins and think they’re just fun stories or sort of bizarre ideas with no real basis in reality.

                1. Actual Vampire*

                  Yes, that’s my point exactly. They are dangerous ideas that are spread quickly and easily by people who think they are funny and harmless. The fact that someone is sharing the conspiracy theory without intending to be anti-Semitic isn’t relevant. They’re still giving clout and airtime to a theory that is, at its core, anti-Semitic.

          2. Gazebo Slayer*

            Though some of them do apparently also believe in actual literal alien lizards shapeshifting into human form…

        1. jack*

          thank you, this is a good addition. i didn’t even know where to get started with all of their “symbolism”, literally everything means SOMETHING to these people

          1. Maj. Pothead, reporting for doobie*

            Yes, that is absolutely true. They have given themselves license to ready anything into everything. The most mundane fact is always somehow “proof” of some global cabal. They seem to obsessed with “Epstein flight logs” (people that have supposedly flown on the Lolita Express to Epstein’s pedo island) and take great pleasure in posting them after they are “dropped” by Q. The “flight logs” in question (at least what I’ve seen posted to their group pages) are literally nothing more than a Word doc list of Trump’s main enemies. What I find extremely baffling about this is that Trump is REPEATEDLY photographed and videoed in large public gatherings with Epstein.

            1. Marny*

              And then the next step is endlessly harassing the people on these fake flight logs via social media or any other way they can figure out how to get to them.

              1. Gazebo Slayer*

                Not to mention that lawsuit from Katie Johnson about what T***p allegedly did to her at an Epstein party when she was 13.

      2. Secretary*

        Thanks Jack! I looked up what QAnon was when I first saw this posted, but didn’t see that the most benign views of it were still really extreme. I could see now why being associated with this mentor could be harmful to your career.

        1. jack*

          of course. it’s one of those things that i (unfortunately) know too much about and honestly wish we all didn’t have to know it. but as this becomes more mainstream (we will have at least one QAnon congressperson in Marjorie Taylor Greene in 2021), we all need to be on alert for these people

      3. Bree*

        This list of a great illustration of why QAnon is harmful not only as a belief system that hurts people (which can also be true of more mainstream belief systems) about which they have a difference of opinion, but is also just a pile of nonsense. Like, it is total fiction that people are treating as reality. It is a collective delusion built on lies. Its followers have lost touch with reality. That’s an additional reason for the LW to cut ties – the mentor has lost the ability to think critically, something that is presumably necessary in their field.

      4. Nobby Nobbs*

        In case you don’t know he dogwhistles, “funded by George Soros and the Rothschilds” is code for “controlled by Jews.” It’s a recycled version of the old “Jewish people eat children” blood libel. (“Elite” and “Hollywood”, in this context, mean the same thing.) And now I need a shower.

      5. SM*

        + 100 because apparently the commenters on this post can’t be bothered to google QAnon before calling names and saying we’re overreacting!

      6. J*

        And “naturally” it’s led by Soros and the Rothschilds because they are Jewish. QAnon is flagrant antisemitism. Seriously. This is so not conservative versus liberal. And if some commenters are mean because you aren’t googling to see this for yourself, well, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      It’s not really about opinion, and really, it’s probably time for this mentorship to fade away anyway. If OP still wants a mentor they undoubtedly can find one who isn’t sucking up batshit conspiracy theories.

    6. seabear*

      alison actually linked to a really helpful new york times article in her answer about QAnon that goes over some of the ways it is really, really dangerous rhetoric to be spreading. i found it helpful as someone who didn’t know a ton about it before reading this post, but some of the top lines are: the theory is accusing a large swath of politicians and hollywood people of being pedophiles and getting involved in child trafficking, plus taking over otherwise positive tags like #savethechildren to spread incredibly harmful lies. also, a lot of people associated with QAnon have been linked to violent crimes that are related to these beliefs. the new york times article gets less into this, but this theory/group is also deeply entwined with antisemitism–george soros and hollywood and liberal elites + the fact that they’re being accused of eating children are all dog whistles based on antisemitic tropes that have been around for a long time, but many people don’t really know about them. in essence, this is extremely serious and scary, and it is not at all like being affiliated with someone who’s conservative or libertarian or something, and very much like being affiliated with someone who is an anti-vaxxer or a white supremacist or something. hope that helps

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Not to mention that “QAnon,” “white supremacist,” and “antivaxxer” make a Venn diagram with a huge amount of overlap.

    7. WoodswomanWrites*

      QAnon is not the same as a conservative political viewpoint. It’s extremely dangerous and violent. I’m recalling the white supremacists who showed up armed to the teeth in a town over the summer because QAnon had falsely posted there was going to be a protest about removing offensive statues, or something like that, working from memory here. A Black man just happened to be visiting a grave at a local cemetery wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt. These armed people surrounded him and the police escorted him away, in their words for his safety. The police didn’t protect him and tell the other people to leave, but that’s a whole other post.

    8. hmm what*

      So it’s OK to continue reaping professional benefits from someone with sincerely abhorrent, socially dangerous views, so long as those views don’t target and affect you personally? How convenient for you.

    9. WFH with Cat*

      Hi, Secretary –

      If you want to understand more about QAnon, you could start by reading the two articles that Alison linked in her response to the OP: and

      If that’s not enough info to clarify for you how and why being a QAnon conspiracist *does not* equate to simply having a different political stance or point of view from someone else, I recommend targeted Google searches from reputable media resources. It’s easy to do in any search engine (Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo). Just add “site:” and the website you want to search to your search terms. For instance, searching for “QAnon” will bring up results from The Atlantic’s website; searching for “QAnon” will bring up results from the Washington Post. No rabbit holes … Unless, of course, you choose to follow whatever links they include in their articles.

      Hope this is helpful.

  20. Reality Check*

    OP, you spent a lot of time in your letter singing your mentors praises. You said your crushed to lose her. Do you have to, though? Is this viewpoint she holds the sum total of her existence? Does it negate all of the good things you mentioned? Does it have to be all or nothing?

    I gave up looking for perfect people with whom I agree on everything a long time ago. They don’t exist.

    1. Lance*

      To that, though… it’s one thing to agree on everything. It’s another to continue a close association with someone whose social media feed has become whatever they believe out of something like QAnon, which is what’s going on here. It’s that close association to those viewpoints that the OP isn’t wanting to risk here.

        1. fhgwhgads*

          What you’re suggesting is analogous to “OK so you found out your mentor is a prominent member of the KKK, do you really need to break ties?”

    2. Bree*

      Comments are shifting in a weird direction here… I feel like either we’re about to be invaded by QAnon trolls, or actually just a lot of people don’t really understand what it is or why it’s so dangerous (and goes far beyond a simple difference of opinion).

      Just a note for the latter group – Alison has linked to some articles in the post you should read.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m keeping an eye on it and my impression is it’s coming from people who don’t fully know what QAnon is all about and assume it’s just some political differences (and are reflexively going to “you can have relationships with people you have differences with” without realizing how this is different). Anyone reading who’s unfamiliar with the topic is getting informed from the discussion, so the discussion is useful. (I haven’t seen anyone defending the mentor following those explanations.)

      2. tabby cat troubles*

        Yeah I’m concerned. I’ve been gravely concerned with QAnon in general, and these comments are frightening.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          So far it’s 3, maybe 4 people, none of whom are defending QAnon, just misunderstanding why it’s a big deal and not just routine politics. That doesn’t seem off to me.

          1. Kevin Sours*

            It’s hard to tell but the “just asking questions”, “just a difference of opinion”, “why let politics get in the way of a friendship” is *definitely* part of the online playbook for these people. I’m less sanguine about the level of good faith here than you are.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This is not “I like pineapple on my pizza and she doesn’t” this is “she believes things that are actively harmful to marginalized groups”.

      1. Blarg*

        This is “she believes the place where we got the pizza from us a pedophile den and supports the guy who went and shot up the pizza place — literally.”

        Pineapple on pizza is great, though.

    4. Ashley*

      I agree there are no perfect people with who I agree on everything with, but this is a major character item. I think all individuals have the right to lines in the sand of when people do X, I won’t count them as friends, mentors, etc and they aren’t part of my lift. I think support of QAnon as a reasonable line in the sand as being extremely reasonable. Yes this does create more and more rifts in our society but at some point you get to say I don’t want certain people in my life.

      1. designbot*

        This can be a difficult line to walk, but I think LW is asking the right questions. I will say that I’ve never had a mentor that didn’t also actively harm or discriminate in some way—so at least when I say “you’ll never find a perfect person/mentor” that to me does encompass some pretty deep rifts. Like, the guy I learned the most from? I was the only one in our group willing to work with him, and he tried to manipulate me into agreeing to transfer teams (to follow him, long story) by telling me half-truths and leaving out big chunks of highly relevant context. Another mentor used to actively scream at people. Another was the biggest proponent of women I knew in our industry… and simultaneously told the women who reported to her to “don’t be such a b****” in their reviews and regularly sent people home crying, and then counted them as less stable and trustworthy because they were too emotional. So, deeply problematic stuff that affected me very directly. So that’s the place I’m coming from when I say that we have to come to a point where we see our heroes as humans, and often very deeply flawed humans. Nobody’s going to be perfect. Learn what you can from them, and leave the rest. I don’t think I’d burn the bridge but I’d take care not to be publicly associated with them.

    5. blaise zamboni*

      I’m fascinated that so many “pro-tolerance” comments about this situation popped up one by one over the course of half an hour.

      OP doesn’t *have* to distance herself, but she’s writing in because she *wants* to distance herself based on her revulsion to this woman’s views. She’s crushed to lose her as if this woman has actually died; that isn’t salvageable, so long as the mentor holds these views (which OP can’t do anything about).

      Of course people can have strong relationships with others who don’t share their views exactly. I have a pretty small group of people who I call true friends, and more than half of them are not aligned with me politically. We have good, interesting discussions about our respective viewpoints on a regular basis and I’m very grateful to have them in my life. But we’re all coming from the same basic perspective that racism, antisemitism, sexism, and general discrimination and cruelty are wrong. We disagree on most other points but we find common ground there.

      QAnon followers are not coming from that basic foundation. The foundation of their views is hostile and discriminatory and shouldn’t be validated by society. OP’s mentor is not some poor, beleaguered conservative who’s being bulied by the libs or whatever. Her viewpoints are wrong and should be rejected. This is not a minor difference of opinion, by any means.

    6. digitalnative-ish*

      In this case, yeah. If someone I was closely associated with started denying the Holocaust or joined the KKK, I’d cut ties. For obvious reasons.

      And QAnon is definitely on that side of the spectrum, to say the least, if people are wondering why about the strong, visceral reaction against it.

    7. Ominous Adversary*

      “Nobody’s perfect” is a terrible way to try and spackle over a friendship with someone who holds dangerous, irrational views.

    8. The Ginger Ginger*

      QAnon is so vile, that yes, it has to be all or nothing. It’s such a wild, vile conspiracy theory that to be remotely attached to someone who is a known believer in it would potentially be very damaging, and if someone I knew started subscribing to it, I’d be backing away as well. There are somethings that are weatherable from a disagreement standpoint. QAnon is not one of them.

    9. yala*

      “I gave up looking for perfect people with whom I agree on everything a long time ago.”

      This feels…not gaslighty, exactly, but definitely trying to diminish a genuine concern and chide OP for having it in the first place.

      There is a significant gulf between “looking for perfect people” and “looking for people who don’t believe a massive anti-semitic conspiracy theory.”

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes. None of my friends are perfect and I have things I don’t agree with them about ranging from the political to the spiritual. I’m sure they find me equally irritating at times.

        None of them believe in a repugnant and outlandish conspiracy theory because if they did, they wouldn’t be my friends.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yeah, I know what you’re saying! It reads to me more like “I’m not racist! But I’m not saying racism is a deal breaker for me.”

        Yeah, nobody is perfect but drawing your line at harmful bigotry isn’t expecting “perfection”!

    10. hmm what*

      So it’s OK to continue reaping professional benefits from someone with sincerely abhorrent, socially dangerous views, so long as those views don’t target and affect you personally? How convenient for you.

    11. Batgirl*

      I don’t really understand this desire to hold on to people who say hateful, racist things. Some people must be true hoarders of friendships. Sure the old personality may be in there somewhere and you can miss it, grieve it or hope for an awakening. However it’s OK if the OP doesn’t want to get drinks with someone fantasising about mass harm and a new world order.

  21. Bubbeleh*

    OP, I’m just here to commiserate. Many, many years ago, when we were in college, some of my friends and I visited a beloved teacher, who had been so wonderful to us in and out of the classroom…and who that day all of a sudden went off on a racist tirade. My friends and I were too flabbergasted to say much beyond that we didn’t agree, and we hurried up and left asap.

    It was like a kick in the gut to have someone we admired so much become, instantaneously, someone we didn’t admire at all.

    So I’m sorry you are dealing with this.

    1. cncx*

      this happened to me with a teacher who actually set me on my career path- not a racist tirade but i had gone back to campus for a visit and she was just having an off day and took it out on me. It stung, like you said it was a kick in the gut.

  22. Jenny Says*

    I’m sorry, this situation just sucks. I recently had a similar experience with a friend of mine. I’ve known him for nearly 20 years. He started texting a group of us some angry facts, things that were so far from what we typically discuss that it was difficult to ignore. Finally, after another round of anger directed at THEM, I called him out on it. It was a brief, terse exchange. We all tried to ignore it after that and I hoped it would dial down his rhetoric… but he had obviously been chewing on the conversation. A week later he went after me and another friend. I don’t know how, when, or why the switch was flipped, but it did. On one level I was sad to lose my friend, but on another, it was very obvious to me that the friend I knew no longer existed. I wish him well. I hope whatever has angered him will resolve. But, I will not be friends with him again.

    But that doesn’t change the good times we had before and the same can be said for you. The fact that your mentor can no longer mentor you doesn’t take away from the support they gave you previously and in fact I would argue that it was due to their mentorship that you are able to look at this situation and overcome it. It’s ironic to be sure, but no less important.

    1. allathian*

      This is true.
      That said, friendships can last a lifetime. Mentoring relationships shouldn’t, because at some point, the mentee should be able to stand on their own two feet without feedback from their mentor. Actually, I think that if a mentoring relationship goes on for too long, it can be counterproductive. That doesn’t mean that a mentoring relationship can’t turn into a more equitable friendship. But in the OP’s case, the friendship is definitely on hold at least for now and may be salvageable in the future if the former mentor disengages from QAnon completely, which I think is fairly unlikely.

  23. jack*

    If you’re coming to the comment section to try and argue that QAnon is just a “difference of opinions” I suggest you stop, take a moment to look up what QAnon believes and represents, and then keep it to yourself. Anyone who actively believes this drivel is a danger to themselves and their community (there have been multiple terrorist actions and kidnappings associated with the ‘movement’).

    1. Former Conservative*

      Exactly. I’m a former conservative (and current moderate) and I have had friends all over the political spectrum for most of my adult life. I still do now. QAnon’s associated beliefs are not political positions, in the same way that racism is not a political position.

      1. Sinister Serina*

        Same. Well, I’m a lifelong liberal, but I’ve always had friends from one end of the spectrum to the other. This is not that. It’s not the same at all.

    2. cncx*

      yes, i am not here for both sides stuff when the sides are not equal. this isn’t just political differences.

  24. Maj. Pothead, reporting for doobie*

    I feel for you , OP. I had a similar challenge several years ago as a couple of friends seemed to be embracing the Incel/MGTOW movement and I just had to kind of start distancing myself from them. This Qanon business is way worse than that and, in my opinion, and is right up there with being a flat-earther. I’m really not sure how anybody really CAN maintain a relationship with someone with such wildly irrational beliefs. This is not a disagreement about how much tax various types of people should pay, or what types of regulations we should have for firearms, or how our healthcare system should be structured. Those are topics about which reasonable, intelligent people can easily disagree with viewpoints still grounded in reality.

    I’m a political moderate that is pretty liberal on social issues, so take that for what it’s worth. This Qanon movement is simply out of touch with reality. All relationships are based on trust, so how can you trust someone who’s general assessment of reality is absolutely insane? I don’t know that you can. Frankly, if I were you, I would be looking at your mentor as someone that has up and decided that the Earth is flat and treat them accordingly. It stinks to lose the relationship, but there’s not much else you can do.

    1. Former Conservative*

      I agree that this is a different kind of thing–a different category–than disagreements about firearms, gun control, healthcare, and so on. Thank you for making that distinction.

  25. sorry for this*

    There is a discussion above about potential dementia which seemed to get a lot of push back. Hoping that dementia is the reason a person very close to me has become so hate-filled is the only way I can survive- and even that is not easy. I don’t know enough about Q-anon to know if it is that- but I suspect it is very close. Nothing excuses the things said and the attitudes expressed- they are evil and hurtful- but I need something to hold onto- so blaming it on dementia is all I have.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I have to say that as someone who lost someone to dementia in the last few years, I want to drill it into EVERYONES head that this is NOT standard “Dementia”. You don’t start believing in the Boogyman just because you start losing your memories, your memories are locked in a box and that’s why they sometimes have lucid phases where those memories will come back to them at times.

      BUT! This can be caused by other sustained brain-damage! You can have this happen with damages associated with strokes or other massive traumas to your head. Strokes are known to change people into completely different individuals.

      1. allathian*

        People with frontal lobe dementia can undergo drastic personality changes as well, and it tends to affect much younger people than so-called senile dementia. Most people are working age (40-65) when they start to show symptoms, including in some case drastic personality change and inappropriate sexualized behavior. However, as irrational as QAnon followers appear, I wouldn’t blame dementia for it.

  26. Former Conservative*

    My father is heavily into QAnon. In recent years, he pretends to be concerned about pedophilia. But, when I was a child, he knowingly allowed me and my siblings to be exposed to known child sexual abusers at our church and its affiliated school. To this day, he continues to defend sexual abuse that occurs in those environments. He also defends the practice of child marriage. From this, I have concluded that he is likely not genuinely concerned about child sexual abuse or sex trafficking in general. Instead, he wants to appear concerned about these topics so that other people don’t question his past actions.

    1. Sinister Serina*

      This is awful I’m so sorry-and I agree that you should at least find a way to distance yourself from him.

    2. anon for this*

      This is an important comment. The person I know who writes most about QAnon & pedophilia on Facebook is not allowed any contact with his children as per custody agreements/restraining orders; I don’t know the details, but the way he has talked about his ex-wife and kids has frightened me and I have stayed away from him in person for years now.

  27. Jennifer*

    I’m so sorry, OP. I was prepared to just say dump her as a friend/mentor and move on but reading your letter I really can feel your pain and understand how much this woman has meant to you over the years. This may seem like a shot in the dark, but are you absolutely sure she’s the one that is posting all of this stuff to her facebook? It just seems like such a dramatic shift. But there are otherwise intelligent, reasonable people who have been drawn into this stuff.

    I agree with Alison about quietly disengaging, but leave the door open in case she ever comes out the other side. You may have a reversal of your relationship.

  28. SometimesALurker*

    I’m so sorry. While I haven’t had the kind of professional relationship you describe, reading what you said about her, I thought, “Oh, so like if my mentor/mentee relationship with [Mentor] was much more so, and longer,” and it doesn’t sound dramatic at all that you are distraught over this.

  29. Mommy MD*

    It’s sad when someone close to you has nut job beliefs. You won’t be able to talk her out of it. I’d just withdraw the friendship to the acquaintance level. Polite and superficial.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      I said essentially this above – totally agree. This relationship wasn’t meant to stand the rest of time. It’s sad, but that’s life.

  30. Pdub*

    You mentioned she posted stuff on her personal Facebook but is she discussing these with you? f the mentor isn’t bringing their personal political beliefs into the workplace, I don’t see how this is your business. My advice? Delete your co-workers from your personal social media.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      You’re naive if you think this woman’s beliefs aren’t being brought into the workplace.

        1. Ashley*

          People may not overtly discuss politics in the workplace but they come out in little ways. Like the coworker who is complaining about traffic because of the protests. Or why people are off work for MLK day and say things like ‘that shouldn’t be a holiday’. Or just general homophobia you have to listen. Plus this is mentor relationship where she use to be called mini-mentor. Distance is required.

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          QAnon is not an assumption. It’s far more frightening than that. I have a few people in my circle who have really, really different views from mine about a couple of subjects. I’m not putting my cousin-in-law on blast because she believes the economy should be completely open again and she doesn’t believe in social distancing. I think she’s misguided and a bit nuts, but whatever. I’m not going to shun her. But someone who believes in conspiracy theories that involve hate and perpetuate stereotypes… that stuff does not stay contained. If William in Accounting is a pretty chill guy who keeps to himself, I’m not going to ignore that he marched through Charlottesville with a tiki torch chanting about how I’m not going to replace him, I will damn well disassociate with him and I will for sure bring it up to someone at work.

        3. hmm what*

          It’s not that you’re not making assumptions — it’s that you’re being deliberately obtuse about what this person’s views represent and whether or not they can (they will) infiltrate the workplace and how this woman treats those around her.

          What if her views were in support of the Nazis? White supremacy? Female inferiority? Censorship of the news? Her beliefs are on par with these.

    2. Jennifer*

      Well, it sounds like this became an actual friendship. It was beyond just a pleasant working relationship. That’s why it’s so painful.

    3. The Original K.*

      You can’t un-ring a bell. OP already knows this person’s beliefs and based on the letter, can’t pretend that she doesn’t. She’s torn up over it because she knows how harmful those beliefs are.

        1. yala*

          And if the person was a holocaust denier?

          Some beliefs are abhorrent enough that it doesn’t matter if they “don’t bring it into the workplace.”

        2. Sam*

          Do you not think people have the right to choose who they associate, and whether holding hateful beliefs changes the way you can interact with them?

          Is there any personal behaviour that would cross the line for you?

        3. Me*

          Still missing the mark. These people believe hateful racist anti-semetic things.

          Calling it good at just not my business is tacit agreement. This is not some harmless group.

          Again, educate yourself on what these people believe and what they stand for.

    4. J*

      “Well, she’s never burned a puppy at work. She only posts videos on her social media of her doing it during her free time. Block her on Facebook and move on.”

    5. AngryOwl*

      People who believe these things don’t just leave it on social media. It influences how they act out in the world too.

      1. Malarkey01*

        Even if she only left in on Facebook, she’s a recognized person in the industry who speaks at conferences, this will be very known and will absolutely hurt her professionally, if not push her out of work. LW cannot continue to be closely associated with her.

    6. Kevin Sours*

      One thing I haven’t really seen addressed here is the “what if I’m asked by others?” And here is where you are going to need to weigh risks. Because there is a good chance that she is going to reflect badly on you (if she hasn’t already) because of your past closeness. It may be to your benefit to put some distance between you and to take the opportunity to make clear that you do not share her vile views.

      On the other hand, I don’t know how much you fear retribution from her if you do that — and I certainly would not expect a rational response from anything you do or tell her.

      It would also be polite to speak to her first before telling other people. For God’s sake do not negotiate or debate — that way lies madness. But given the situation I’d focus on what minimizes the harm to your reputation and maximizes your sanity. Talking to her is not, realistically, going to accomplish anything directly (though I suppose it might affect the opinions of other people whose good opinion you value).

  31. 867-5309*

    OP, I do not think expressing your thoughts if she asks, even as gently as Alison provided in her script, is going to matter & within this community, it is more likely to enrage. I was simply be non-committal. It is painful.

    A woman who once once close friends with my parents has fallen down this path. She lost her job as a nurse practitioner because of things to said to patients (including telling them NOT to take life-saving drugs) and she blamed it on “liberal media” and an “inability for them to see the truth.” Her adult children have said they want their mother back. But no matter how gently or kindly people approach her with an opposing view or even saying they miss her, it turns into a multi-message rant and insult.

    It is said and I’m sorry for this loss – because it is a loss.

    1. YuliaC*

      I don’t know about that. I am not pollyanna-ish optimistic, but my mother had turned the q-anon way of thinking in the last 5 years or so. She used to be my leading star in life, reasonable, kind, brilliant and ballsy and all. And then when she turned about 65 she started to voice these notions. My adult son and I were appalled and tried reasoning with her, which seemed futile as she always just asserted we were brainwashed, not she. But we kept at expressing, calmly, the truths we stand by. With all the emotional workup included, no dithering, no blaming, just the truth we see. And she started listening again, after a long couple of years. People can be not hopeless. You’ve got to try. Harder with a boss than with a mother, I’m sure – but still, I wouldn’t write a person off completely.

      1. 867-5309*

        I think a parent or close family is quite a bit different from even a close colleague/mentor. This is not someone OP speaks to weekly, at least it does not sound that way.

      2. allathian*

        I would write the former mentor off completely. It’s not the OP’s responsibility to even gently try to make her see the error of her ways. The OP should do what it takes to protect her own career and reputation, including disengaging with people whose opinions she finds distasteful. It may be a different matter with family members, but even in such cases, sometimes going no contact is the only option to protect one’s mental health.

  32. TL -*

    Does your mentor have a history (recent or not) of professionally attacking or blackballing people? Do you have reason to believe, based on their actions (recently, and previously) that you saying something would have strong professional repercussions?

    If not, I would suggest letting them know why you no longer feel comfortable presenting with her. Be kind, be direct, and most of all, don’t try to engage or change her mind. Just say, “As a mentor, you’ve been invaluable to me. But one of the things you’ve taught me is to be direct and honest in all dealings. Your recent social media posts are directly in conflict with my personal beliefs, to the point that I think it’s disingenuous for me to keep working with you. I’ll always appreciate what you did for me, but I wanted to be honest with you about why I’m taking a step back from our relationship.”

    You’re not trying to change her mind, or argue the validity of her points, or even really call her out. You’re just a) being honest with someone who has been important to you and b) being explicit that her actions have consequences. You’re the person who is feels consequences are necessary so you should tell her why. (unless she has a history of ruining people’s professional lives, in which case, just get out.)

    Saying that is going to be difficult, but I think you should. For yourself, and in respect of the relationship you have, and also because maybe if enough people tell her why, something will click for her eventually. It’s not on you if it does or doesn’t, but if you want to stand up for the people she’s hurting with her beliefs, the one thing you can do is draw the line between her actions and your behavior.

  33. Posting Anon*

    My late-teenage stepson began pontificating on thoughts shared from 4Chan and it was devastating. As parents, our approach had to be different: Despite how the virtual made our stomach turn, we listened and offered alternative points of view, but never yelled. He knew we strongly disagreed but we maintained civility. We encouraged him to read a book or magazine article we found interesting.

    The reason for this approach is that if you read about cults and cult-like organizations, they offer no outside perspective. Recommendations from a child therapist are to try to engage so at least the child will still come to you vs. only listening to the 4Chans of the world.

    This is different than a beloved mentor and I wish I had better advice for how you should manage it. Alison is right; however, you should not speak or publish alongside them anymore. I also do not think it would be prudent to answer honestly about why you are distancing yourself.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Late-Teens brains, Lordie love them but what a nightmare to deal with from such a personal prospective!

      The thing is that our brains aren’t fully developed until 25 years old, so you approach it so much differently.

      It’s also the age range that’s ready to push boundaries and from a former rebellious teenager, just ef’ing with you on some level. I wore certain things and said stupid crap because of the reactions.

      You’re doing well with the approach to be calm and presenting alternative sources, don’t take the bait!

      It’s sadly a world of difference between how we can communicate and interact with our adult family/friends/professional acquaintances verses our direct family :(

  34. Retail4life*

    I generally agree with AAM here, bowing out without saying much is probably the best strategy. There really isn’t any winning this argument if someone believes this Q-crap you’re not likely to change their mind and you’ll only do damage to your own personal mental health.

    I would push back on one aspect… the speaking engagements. I think you should absolutely tell them why you are uncomfortable sharing a speaking engagement with your former mentor. I just think of all the people who continued to work with Harvey Weinstein even though they knew he was harming people. Racists, sexual abusers, and people who support conspiracy theories, etc, etc, are getting a pass and are able to continue to do damage without any consequences. Maybe the conference won’t care and still let your mentor speak but at least they’ll have the information. Maybe think about it as if she believed a possibly less harmful conspiracy theory – say she was a flat earther. Wouldn’t you be able to say to the organizers that you no longer feel you can share the stage with someone who has such a belief and in a way that would make sense that you wouldn’t want to share a stage with that person? I would want to know that the person I’m giving a platform to is deserving.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I certainly agree with the spirit of your suggestion, but in OP’s shoes, I would have to be 100% certain that the person I was sharing that information with was not in agreement with my mentor before I’d risk my own professional reputation.

  35. Free Meerkats*

    To paraphrase a common saying here, your friend sucks and isn’t going to change.

    It’s sad and frustrating, but you need to write her off and move on.

  36. redflagday701*

    QAnon is so wild because thousands (millions?) of people believe a person with top-level security clearance uncovered a global child-sex ring and decided the best way to stop it was posting nonsense on forums for angry teenage gamers.

    1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      Not merely angry teenage gamers, though. It was set up to be an entirely “censorship” free space where anything and everything can be shared and discussed anonymously. That includes extreme violent and racist content, actual child pornography, mass shooter manifestos, and so on. I think it diminishes the profound absurdity of the origin of qanon and the kind of dangerous ideas associated and propagated by it to think of it as merely angry teenage gamers – it was and is far more harmful and reaching more people than that. However it has clearly morphed way beyond its beginnings.

      1. redflagday701*

        You are right, thanks. I couldn’t think of a pithy way to describe 4chan, and that felt like a good way to sum up the mentality over there. Either way, it would have been very low on the list of Places From Which to Warn the Public About a Global Network of Child Abusers.

  37. Why isn’t it Friday?*

    I think you should also give yourself some time and space to grieve, OP. You’re essentially losing an important relationship because the other person has made really disappointing choices. Take care of yourself!

  38. El-Alamein*

    But you can’t engage with her as a mentor right now.

    OP, you can do whatever you want. That includes engaging with her as a mentor on industry related matters, but not political matters. (I’d agree you should distance from her in public by not appearing on the same panels or what not.) But if she still knows how to sell teapots, drink some tea and avoid politics. I’m really proud of the fact I *don’t* unfriend people who disagree with me politically on social media.

    1. Not A Manager*

      What level of disagreement are you “proud” of tolerating? My social media is full of white supremacists, anti-Semites, and people who literally believe that Hilary Clinton is a pedophile. I’m pretty damn proud of not being friends with those people.

      Why is it a point of pride for you to tolerate explicit hate with an actionable agenda?

    2. Sam*

      Again, this is actively-promoted bigotry which has various elements, including direct calls for violence. What, exactly, do you think you’re getting out of reading the postings from people like this? What do you think they’re gaining by continuing to be associated with you?

      What do you think the people affected by these racist, antisemitic conspiracies think of your approach?

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Tolerance of bigotry and dangerous mindsets is literally leading to people dying. You have nothing to be proud of.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Cool, I hope you realize that your POC and LGBT and disabled friends very likely no longer trust you because you think their lives are “political disagreements”.

    5. fhgwhgads*

      This is not a matter of political opinion. QAnon is widely recognized as a terrorist group. Would you unfriend someone on social media for joining a terrorist group?

    6. hmm what*

      “I’m really proud of the fact I *don’t* unfriend people who [believe socially destructive, racist, sexist, antisemitic things] on social media.”

      Are you? Why?

    7. Kevin Sours*

      She can do what she wants. And what she wants is to distance herself from someone with insane and vile views. Which is wise because people will draw conclusions from the choices she makes. And the conclusions one draws from sharing speaking engagements and byline with a QAnon supporter are not going to be favorable to her reputation.

  39. Jennifer*

    Trying to convince people who don’t think QAnon is a big deal that it actually is a big deal is a waste of energy over the internet. I see a lot of that in the comments here and I hope y’all find better ways to spend your afternoon :)

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I’d like to believe that some of these people just don’t spend as much time on the internet as I do and are unaware of the depths but… you’re probably right.

      1. TiffIf*

        I mean I don’t spend a lot of time in many places on the internet ( I don’t have a facebook account, I have a twitter account that I use sporadically and no other social media accounts) but it is specifically because I know exactly what a terrible morass it can be and so I either 1) seek out reputable information or 2) don’t rush to say something “can’t be that bad” when I know nothing about it.

  40. Malty*

    George Takei has a really good episode on his podcast ‘Oh my Pod’ where he talks to experts about how people get sucked into conspiracy theories and also why the roots of so many conspiracy theories lie in racism. It’s a good listen that helps you understand but doesn’t condone

  41. Argh!*

    I have unfollowed a couple of professional acquaintances/friends for things like this (also Bernie supporters who became quite obnoxious and equally unhinged).

    Unfollowing allows me to be blissfully unaware of their crazy side, and they don’t have to know that they’ve been unfollowed.

    re: conferences, it would kind of depend on who else is on her friends list. If her views are well known within the profession, and they are outlier views, you could say you worry that you would become an outsider. If the professional community doesn’t care, then I wouldn’t either.

    1. NotToday*

      Supporting Bernie is nowhere near believing there’s a secret worldwide cabal of pedophiles that Trump, specifically, is rooting out alone–and that information and hints about the secret worldwide cabal is visible in random details of everyday life.

      These two things are not equivalent.

      Supporting Bernie or Rand Paul or even Mike Pence is something that one might arrive at through reality-based thinking. QAnon is much closer to being a flat-earther or believing in alien abductions or believing that Hitler is still alive and sending secret messages to his followers.

    2. Perpal*

      Yes I have friends on the left and the right I had to unfollow because… just too much stress, and some would get super personal if I said anything, always looking for the worst interpretation and then attacking. I could still be friendly with them at a social gathering and enjoy the things we always enjoyed but; we can just not be political together. Not like that anyway.

  42. TeapotNinja*

    I would completely avoid mentioning anything about political differences with respect to QAnon, as advised by Alison. It gives room for the OP being accused of not being openminded, etc.

    QAnon is a conspiracy cult. Conspiracy theory cultists don’t like referred as such, but let’s not downplay this situation by referring to the reason why she’s cutting contact with her mentor as a disagreement about her mentor’s politics.

  43. Dragon_dreamer*

    What’s really sad is that it’s been proven that the main QAnon site is literally owned by the guy who owns 8chan. It’s a massive, sadly successful, trolling attempt. The people who started it really DON’T believe anything they’re spouting, they just want to cause as much chaos as possible. And people are falling for it.

    He didn’t even hide it. The two websites are registered to the same LLC, which is a single individual.

    I think what we’re seeing are people’s true colors. It doesn’t matter that the whole “movement” is founded on outright fantasies. As soon as they thought their views had wider support, they no longer tried to hide them.

    OP, I’m so sorry. You’re stuck mourning the person you thought your mentor was.

    1. Perpal*

      I mean, look at scientology, etc; so many things people throw themselves into body and soul are just… no? Not logical, obviously fake, moneymaking scam, IDK. People can be weird.

  44. Mannheim Steamroller*

    Basically, you’ll just have to accept that she is one with the Conspiracy Industrial Complex. All the best in your career and life without her.

  45. Jennifer Juniper*

    My wife has gotten pulled into the rancid dumpster fire that is the far-right section of YouTube. (Ironicall, she’s of mixed Berber/white/black ancestry. I’m white.)

    I have found it best to:

    1. Watch the videos she wants me to watch, whenever she wants me to watch them. (We’re both on disability, so time is not an issue.)

    2. Give no opinion at all unless I actually agree with her.

    3. Practice reflective listening, where I paraphrase back to her what she says.

    4. Respond with “uh-huh,” “yes,” etc. as appropriate.

    5. Play solitaire on my phone when she talks about those videos. This gives my hands something to do, requires no thought at all from me, and enables me to sit with her as long as she wants me to. I can sit with her for hours now. (I’ve timed her.)

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      You have absolutely no obligation to sit and listen to that crap with her, even if she is your wife. Being on disability does not mean your time, your wishes, and your sanity are worth nothing.

    2. pancakes*

      In other words, you watch any videos she wants to watch, you affirm that you’re attentively listening to her views on them, and you don’t express any opinions of your own about the contents. I’m not following as to why you believe that’s necessary, let alone the best response. Marrying someone doesn’t require silently accepting any and all political views they adopt, nor hiding your own.

    1. Jennifer Juniper*

      Update: My wife asked me to unsubscribe her from all those toxic nutcases! So I did. I was so happy that she decided not to listen to them anymore. She figured out all that stuff was stressing her out.

  46. NewCommenter*

    I want to gently push back, and offer your mentor a reason why you are changing your stance. Letting her know that you feel really strongly about the role she has played in your career, and that you also feel strongly to not share harmful views. You can say that you know you have had a lot in common in the past, and want to come from a place of sharing those positive views before you present your ideas as shared again.

    I would also invite her to have a conversation about why her views are changing, and offer to always be available to thinking through new ideas together.

    1. allathian*

      Why should the OP do that? QAnon is poison. There’s no need for the OP to expose herself to that crap. The relationship is unsalvageable and what’s more, the OP doesn’t need the mentor anymore, she’s established in her career.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      No. Never suggest that you are “always…available to thinking through new ideas together” with a person whose ideas are as bizarre, irrational, and harmful as QAnon.

      Not all ideas are valuable. Some are actively destructive.

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        And that could also change OP’s views and behaviors for the worst if she’s influenced by QAnon supporters. We are social animals who are influenced by things that surround us, especially if they are endorsed by trusted authority figures.

        1. Metadata minion*

          Agree. People who study conspiracy theories academically have to guard against starting to believe in them; it’s a known problem in the field.

  47. Hank Stevens*

    I’m curious, will this “ex-mentor” not feel any professional backlash for her wacky public views? OP had mentioned she was a leader in their field. I assume she’s not untouchable.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Coming to say this! Yes, surely word will get out that this person has gone wacky, and OP will do well to make sure asap that she is no longer associated with her in any way.
      OP may need to get out ahead by saying to as many people as possible that “now that I’ve decided to no longer work with her she may well start accusing me of crazy stuff (on a par with Hillary running a pedophile ring out of the basement of a pizza parlour), please know whatever she says is not true.”

  48. Saradactyl*

    I consider it a social obligation to use the Channel Blocking feature on all televisions to block Fox ‘News’ off the televisions of everyone in your social sphere that you possibly can. Once they’re no longer being fed that garbage daily, they usually become at least somewhat saner again. I know doing this is not easy during C19, and likely not possible with family you’re not close with or who live far away, but please, try very hard.
    Added bonus, using some sort of child protection software to block right-wing/alt-right sites and conspiracy groups on their computers.

    1. Jennifer Juniper*

      Also, newage (rhymes with sewage), anything that supports COVID-19 denialism, and MSNBC. I am a liberal, but MSNBC is about as useless as Fox News due to its sheer bias.

  49. Director of Alpaca Exams*

    I was in a very similar situation where someone I respected immensely (as both a colleague and an ardent feminist) and learned a huge amount from signed an open letter full of transphobic bullshit. She was clearly puzzled about why I stopped being friendly with her. She knows I’m trans. I didn’t feel like explaining that I’d seen the letter and no longer felt safe having any kind of conversation with her beyond “hi, nice weather we’re having” when we coincided in the office kitchen. No matter how friendly she is to me, on some level she doesn’t think people like me are who we say we are or deserve to be treated fairly. I could take the risk of trying to talk her around, but my workplace is already full of transphobic microaggressions and I decided I didn’t want to seek out more dehumanization.

    The people talking about grief and mourning are correct. This person is lost to you. It’s tragic, and do give yourself space to be really sad about it.

    Then take it as a sign to diversify your connections, and a reminder that you no longer need to depend on this person—you’re not Mini-[Name], you’re a respectable force in your own right, and leaning into that isn’t a bad thing.

    I’m very sorry for your loss.

  50. allathian*

    You’re 15 years into your career and you’ve established yourself by now. At this point, you could be a mentor for someone who’s just starting out. So I hope you can start out by thinking of your former mentor as a peer. No doubt you’ll always be grateful for what she did to help you get started in your field, but there’s no need for you to be sucked into her toxic sphere.

    In your shoes, I’d just stop asking her for advice. Perhaps you could send her an email thanking her for everything she’s done to help you, but that you feel you’re established enough now to stand on your own two feet. With a bit of luck, you can avoid any references to the QAnon thing completely.

    If she’s at all vocal about her opinions, other people in your field who don’t agree with her, will probably not question it if you distance yourself from her in future.

  51. Perpal*

    I was going to write a rambling post about the value of maintaining some kind of relationship but making your views politely clear (that you don’t agree at all with QAnon) for someone you care about and otherwise respect and are on good terms with in many ways, vs severing ties with people who are rude/toxic/overall draining. But I wasn’t sure where I was going with it really; OP you know your mentor and relationship best. If there are enough good things there maybe it’s worth respectfully pointing out that you don’t agree with QAnon and don’t want to have it associated with your professional image, vs if the relationship has run it’s course then ghosting is probably best and just maintain polite, nonpolitical, career focused interactions when you do meet. If you have planned collaborations though that is more tricky.

  52. Lobsterp0t*

    I’m sorry for your loss.

    It’s ok to grieve her. It isn’t ridiculous at all.

    I have lost my Dad to the same cult. People saying that people have choices are somewhat right. Unfortunately, people have psychological and emotional vulnerabilities that enable them to be manipulated by these types of movements.

    Some of those vulnerabilities arise because people fear a loss of privilege or power. Others are more complex.

    In either case, there’s very little you can do to bring them out of it. The main thing is to put boundaries in place to protect yourself – both emotionally and professionally.

  53. Hazel Edmunds*

    I can’t really add anything except sympathy for your situation. Allow yourself to grieve then move on.

  54. Kat Maps*

    I am so so sorry you’re experiencing this – I know what it’s like to have someone you admire get sucked into cult-like behaviour and beliefs.

    I’m not sure if this is appropriate to share here, so please delete if it’s not, but I found some refuge in the Reddit group ‘QAnonCasualties’. Group members share stories of family members, friends, and loved ones they have lost to Qanon, and offer support to others.

    I’m really sorry for your loss.

    1. Ice and Indigo*

      I had a look at that Reddit group and found this:

      Probably NSFW, but it talks about how a lot of the core Q pages include a lot of disquieting p*rn that would probably disturb people like this lady. I don’t know if that’s useful information for anyone unable to avoid arguments about this, but some people are more disturbed by impropriety than bigotry, so just in case.

  55. Empire State*

    I’ll be honest and say I did not ready through all of these comments – but the ones I did read all had the same idea to them – try and explain it to her and to quietly let her go as a mentor.

    I think you do need to let her go – no you should not be in a mentor / mentee relationship, no you should not be presenting with her at conferences or sharing a byline with her at all.

    However, I do not agree that it should be so quiet….I say you voice your opinion – do not be ambiguous about your reasoning. Let her know that while you respect her right to free speech and her right to choose her political affiliation, you personally do not feel the need to engage both personally and professionally with someone who has decided to embrace such wild and harmful conspiracy theories. I would explain that you will not have your professional reputation ruined by being associated with her.

    I say this because YOU need to control the narrative of why you are no longer presenting or working together – do not let her and her “cult” mindset ruin your reputation in professional world in which you live.

  56. 40 Years in the Nonprofit Trenches*

    One of the wisest observations I ever heard was, “If you have a problem with somebody, chances are you aren’t the only one having a problem with that person.” (And I heard this from an *exceptionally* problematic colleague, who was making a veiled dig about/at me!) I would conjecture that you are not the only one who has become aware of your mentor’s evolving beliefs; I wonder how many people in your field (conference organizers, editors, etc) are on the same WTF track as you, if not to the same degree. My guess is that you can start extricating yourself from co-appearances and if/as her looniness gets more public, she’ll start getting fewer asks. The thing as far as one-on-ones goes, it doesn’t sound like she’s trying to recruit you during your professional conversations, or post anything on *your* social media — as long as she keeps the crazy on her own time & her own dime, can you continue to have work-specific contact and keep things hedged that way? And unfollow/hide her social media feeds without unfriending her so you don’t have to actually see her embarrassing herself? Good luck.

  57. Delphine*

    My boss has become a conspirationist.
    Since we are in Belgium, we do not have Qanon issue.
    However he is in full “the vaccine will contains microship”, “this all because big pharma wants more money from us”, “masks are bad for your oxygenation and don’t protect from the virus”, “this is just another flu anyway”, “we have a solution, it is HCQ and D Trump is not so bad since he promoted it”.

    It is very painful for me. We have worked together for 13 years, grown the team together.
    And now he is sending email to the whole team saying “use your critical mind” and giving links to conspiracy video, twitters accounts of persons that are not representated in the media “since there is censure from the governement that tries to run us” …

    It is hard to see someone I liked and respected express such absurd views. It is all the more harder as I have to still work with him, take his orders/recommendations. How can I trust that he has still good judgment on some topics when he is so far into compiracies ?

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