“Bill” recently graduated Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where he survived the 2018 shooting that left 17 classmates dead. Already suffering from survivor’s guilt on its three year anniversary, Bill’s home life started simultaneously deteriorating: His father had fallen for QAnon conspiracy theories and has since become convinced that the shooting was a hoax.
“He’ll say stuff like this straight to my face whenever he’s drinking: ‘You’re a real piece of work to be able to sit here and act like nothing ever happened if it wasn’t a hoax. Shame on you for being part of it and putting your family through it too,” Bill wrote in a post shared to Reddit’s QAnonCasualties, a support subreddit for friends and loved ones of QAnon supporters.
“I think my dad has gone f***ing insane. It’s going way too far and I have trouble processing the last 5 months. He’s always been very conservative, but now QAnon has consumed his life to the point where it’s tearing our family apart along with my mental health,” he also said.
“Bill,” whose identity as a Parkland shooting survivor has been confirmed by VICE, spoke on the condition of anonymity as he feared backlash from the QAnon community should his name be revealed.
The onset of Bill’s father’s relationship to QAnon mimics that of many Americans: It started amid the pandemic, when he desperately sought solace in others who didn’t believe the science. “It started a couple months into the pandemic with the anti-lockdown protests,” Bill recalled.
“His feelings were so strong it turned into facts for him. So if he didn’t like having to wear masks it wouldn’t matter what doctors or scientists said. Anything that contradicted his feelings was wrong. So he turned to the internet to find like-minded people which led him to QAnon.”
But it wasn’t until his father saw a video of Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene that things truly took a turn for the worst. Rep. Greene has been criticised by other politicians for repeatedly claiming the Parkland shooting was a hoax— a lie apparently convincing enough to make Bill’s father think the same. Since then, his father affirms that the shooting was a “false flag” event, the shooter “a radical commie actor,” and people who believe otherwise are “sheep.”
“From there it snowballed into what he is today, believing that if the government is able to overthrow an election, then everything else is probably a lie too,” Bill said.
Bill told VICE he hopes to move out of the house soon, as he can’t handle his father’s behaviour anymore. What’s more, his once-decent relationship with his mom has started dwindling as well.
“It used to be fine but deteriorating quickly, [especially] after telling her that if she doesn’t start putting her foot down, I’m leaving with no interest in seeing my dad again.” But Bill’s mother won’t stand up to his father, even in light of Bill’s threats to leave.
“It’s not really going anywhere because she’s too naive to think he’ll magically get over wanting to constantly retraumatize me and I’m not waiting around for that.”
Bill isn’t convinced his father will ever see the light — he’s simply too far gone. But even he miraculously did return to the man his son once knew, the damage has already been done. “He’ll never stop on his own, because there are always new theories and goalposts being moved,” Bill said. “I don’t know how to help someone that far gone. My guess is restricted access to the internet and lots of therapy.”
“But even if there was hope he’d eventually snap out of it, it wouldn’t change my mind on never wanting to see him again. So it doesn’t really matter anymore.”