“I Was at a Loss for Any Facts that Would Actually Stick”: An Investigative Reporter on Losing His Mom to QAnon

WASHINGTON, DC—JANUARY 06: Crowds gather outside the U.S. Capitol for the Stop the Steal rally. Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images.

I Miss My Mom,” Jesselyn Cook’s HuffPost piece, is another read on losing a parent to QAnon.

At Buzzfeed News, Albert Samaha recounts his unsuccessful efforts to pull his mom out of QAnon. She had been an early adopter of the far-right conspiracy theory and has believed, since 2018, that Donald Trump is the anointed one — a savior in a war between good and evil. By 2020, it was clear to Samaha that there was no longer any “overlap between [their] filters of reality,” and he had given up trying to argue with her over basic, indisputable facts. After all, in her eyes, he was a dangerous member of the “liberal media” — a journalist of the “evil deep state.”

In the piece, Samaha traces his mother’s journey to QAnon, first explaining how she came to the U.S. from the Philippines and was initially indifferent to politics. But that changed during the 2000 presidential election, and in that race between George W. Bush and Al Gore, she “saw the candidates as pieces on God’s chessboard.” Later, she would declare her support for Barack Obama, but that period, writes Samaha, “turned out to be the final chapter of [their] political alignment.”

Meanwhile, she wondered where she’d gone wrong with me. Was it letting me go to public school instead of Catholic school? Subscribing to cable TV channels operated by the liberal media? Raising me in Northern California? She regretted not taking politics more seriously when I was younger. I’d grown up blinkered by American privilege, trained to ignore the dirty machinations securing my comforts. My mom had shed that luxury long ago.

She was a primary school student, living in a big house in the suburbs of Manila in 1972 when President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in response to a series of bombings across the capital and an assassination attempt on the defense secretary, which he blamed on communist insurgents. But Marcos had actually orchestrated the attacks as justification for his authoritarian turn — a plot exposed only years later. The successful conspiracy ushered the Philippines into a dictatorship that jailed dissidents, embezzled public funds, and installed a bribe-based bureaucracy my grandparents refused to participate in. Having a hard head runs in the family. To this day, my aunties and uncles debate if they would have been better off had their parents just given in to the new rules of the game.

The year my mom began falling down QAnon rabbit holes, I turned the age she was when she first arrived in the States. By then, I was no longer sure that America was worth the cost of her migration. When the real estate market collapsed under the weight of Wall Street speculation, she had to sell our house at a steep loss to avoid foreclosure and her budding career as a realtor evaporated. Her near–minimum wage jobs weren’t enough to cover her bills, so her credit card debts rose. She delayed retirement plans because she saw no path to breaking even anytime soon, though she was hopeful that a turnaround was on the horizon. Through the setbacks and detours, she drifted into the arms of the people and beliefs I held most responsible for her troubles.

In the early afternoon of Jan. 6, a piece of shrapnel landed in my text message inbox: photos of my mom and an uncle among a crowd of Trump supporters in front of the state capitol in Sacramento.

Outraged, I texted them both a righteous screed proclaiming my disappointment with how irresponsible they were, gathering with maskless faces even as COVID cases surged in California — and for what? It was one thing for my mother to risk her life at campaign rallies, but now she was doing so on the basis of a lie, a lie that only seemed to gain momentum. Would it ever end? Would my mother spend the rest of the pandemic bouncing from rally to rally, calling for an overthrow of a democratically elected government, breathing in the angry shouts of mask-averse white people who probably would’ve preferred she go back to the Philippines if not for the pink MAGA hat confirming her complicity?

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