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When 60-year-old Minnesota Democrat Kim Holmberg went public with her long-term relationship with a QAnon-believing conservative, it might have been the Trump era’s most extreme case of opposites attracting.
She’s a diehard liberal and Hillary voter who had campaigned for her in 2016. Her boyfriend, Blake Sohn, is just as equally devoted to Trump. But as Holmberg described for Esquire last August, their political differences didn’t drive them apart, they brought them together. They bantered and debated, all the while growing closer together, introducing their families to each other, and even beginning to co-mingle their finances and household.
And then QAnon came along, and Sohn got consumed by the conspiracy theory that military intelligence avatar QAnon was secretly dropping hints at an upcoming purge of the deep state, which is crammed full of pedophiles, Satanists, thieves, and would-be usurpers. At the time, Holmberg told Esquire that while the two were getting into more arguments because of QAnon’s theories, they could still cool things off.
Now, though, they’ve broken up. And Q is to blame.
“I worry this unknown force that is Q will create an even deeper divide between us, if we allow it to continue,” Holmberg said at the time. As it turns out, she was right to worry. Because the unlikely pairing between the liberal Hillary campaigner and the conservative who had embraced the conspiracy theory that Hillary is a baby-eating Satanist ended with Sohn ending the relationship due to Holmberg’s “toxicity.”
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Dot, Holmberg detailed the descent of the man she loved (and still loves) down the spiral of conspiracy theory, emotional dislocation, and eventual solitude—all because of an increasing obsession with QAnon.
“It was a complete and total shock,” Holmberg said. “He went from saying ‘we’re in this for the next 30years’ [to some] overnight rage-tweeting with people online, and then we’re done because I’m the one that’s caustic and carries all the hate. I was told that it’s because of my hate for Donald Trump and for QAnon that he can’t be with me.”
Sohn had embraced the QAnon conspiracy theory soon after it first emerged from the swamps of 4chan in November 2017. But before then, Holmberg described someone whose link to that world was merely enjoying political intrigue in the same way any fan of Tom Clancy or James Bond might.
“He was not always into conspiracy theories,” Holmberg said, saying he disdained ideas like flat earth and reptilian overlords. But it was the Trump “Spygate” scandal, where Trump accused the Obama administration of illegally surveilling his presidential campaign on behalf of Hillary Clinton, [that] truly turned him into a Q believer.
And according to Holmberg, he should have known better. “Blake is a very smart guy, he’s got two degrees, he’s run his own business, he’s a dad, he’s a Christian, he goes to church,” she said. But she watched helplessly as he declared that he was going to “figure out” the spying scandal, even buying a huge framed poster of the “connections” between all the players and hanging it in her living room.
From Spygate, it wasn’t a long jump to a full-throated embrace of the supposed military intelligence intrigue of QAnon. And for a while, Holmberg could keep the peace simply by having a shared agreement not to talk about it, and to go to separate corners when things got too heated.
But after the Esquire piece in August, Sohn became more enraptured with the web of QAnon decoders who have carved out a niche of daily YouTube videos, podcasts, and tweet threads expanding upon what Q’s drops meant—and the coming of the day when, as Sohn sadly told her, “I’m saved and you’re not.”
What she described was a man who had started to eschew family and work connections in favor of a never-ending diet of QAnon media, all reinforcing the message that Trump was a persecuted spiritual figure and that the Obamas and Clintons were at the heart of a web of pure evil. Early on, Sohn was diligent in trying to “save” Holmberg, but even that fell by the wayside.
“He gave up on the books, then gave up on the YouTube videos,” she said, referencing them as ways he’d tried to convert her. He became more solitary in his media consumption, blasting Dan Bongino podcasts at full volume, even when she asked him to turn them off. And the “research” became a round-the-clock affair.
ObamaGate: No Misdemeanors, Only High Crimes https://t.co/j7kFQVgV36— Dan Bongino (@dbongino) April 30, 2019
“He’s down the rabbit hole in the middle of night,” she said, referencing Sohn reading endless threads on Reddit, Voat, 4chan, 8chan, and Twitter deep into the wee small hours. He was drawn into the endless grift of Q and Trump gurus like Praying Medic, “Firefighter Prophet” Mark Taylor, Tracy Beanz, and others. “I had to listen to this stuff every day,” Holmberg said, and with it came a rising level of paranoia.
“A while back, we came back from Mexico and he said he was sure the CIA [had] broken into his house and had stolen his files, and that they were hacking his phone,” she said, reminding him that the military intelligence complex likely would have little interest in someone who merely ran a marketing firm.
Even though she would continuously “shove away” the Q material he forced on her, Holmberg made it clear that she never stopped loving Sohn. And when QAnon went on their occasional hiatuses from posting, their relationship actually improved. “There was a point in time [around the first of the year] where Q had stopped posting, and I thought there was a crack in his Q armor,” Holmberg said. “Then Q came back and suddenly he dug his heels in even stronger.” And Sohn was unable to accept even gentle ribbing about Q maybe having taken a Christmas vacation.
After that, they stopped talking about politics altogether, “because he got so angry. On almost a daily basis I’d be goaded into arguments, just picking and picking.”
By the end, she described Sohn as being “completely consumed” by QAnon. “Now he’s completely solitary, his kids have distanced themselves from him, he’s lost all his friends, his parents. He is absolutely alone, and it’s of his own doing.” She advises people going through what she’s gone through to listen, but not respond. Don’t call the believer crazy, don’t call them stupid. And don’t get sucked into it yourself.
If Sohn were to walk away from QAnon, Holmberg made it clear she’d take him back. “My life will be better without [QAnon] in it, but I also lost my best friend,” she said. For now, she’s content to tweet about her plight, and she’s cultivated a support group over Facebook of about a dozen people (mostly women, but a few men) who reached out to her after their relationships suffered trauma due to QAnon.
But while she would take Sohn back if he addressed the underlying issues behind his Q obsession, she’s not counting on it. “I can handle a Trumper, I knew that going in,” she said. “I love the guy, he was my life partner. I wanted to be there and help. But I’m not holding my breath.” And she’s going to keep pushing back, no matter what.
“I see examples of Q destroying relationships every day.”
Mike Rothschild is a writer who specializes in researching and debunking conspiracy theories and fringe beliefs. He also writes about politics, history, and breaking news.