Song 04 - Digging That Hole. Click to explore themes and stories relating to this song.

What do we do when the people around us succumb to propaganda and conspiracy theories?

Stories and Remembrances


Newton’s third law says that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. The ancient principle of yin and yang is that all things exist as inseparable and contradictory opposites. And in a similar spirit, the theme of this next song exists in a somewhat painful contrast to the unbridled celebration of the previous song we released for this project. (click to continue reading)

In the stories we collected while researching for 2020101, people shared with us the confounding and gut-wrenching experience of watching neighbors, fellow citizens, and sometimes even friends or family members become invested in narratives that were not based in facts or supported by science — narratives driven by certain media institutions and people in positions of power, all of whom stood to benefit from sowing chaos and division among us. 

It’s one thing when a person buys into, believes, and acts upon a lie for which the outcome affects only them. But one of the things that was highlighted for us in 2020 is that our individual actions can have a huge impact on every other person around us — we are inextricably tied to one another, for better and for worse. The consequences of one person’s bad ideas or bad actions don’t necessarily redound only to that person — we all stand to reap the repercussions of the actions of others with whom we share a society.

And that’s why people shared with us how they watched with despair when people in their lives who bought into those false and harmful narratives … 

… often became unwilling to act in support of the broader public good — like when they refused to wear masks in public, or when they rebelled against guidance from public health experts to refrain from gathering with people outside their households;

… or spread dangerous disinformation about the virus being a hoax, or about the development of vaccines;

… and sometimes became wholly invested in conspiracy theories about the origin of the virus, or about the legitimacy of our election, all of which were detached from observable reality.

We were confounded that — when confronted with empirical evidence and material truths that directly challenged those destructive narratives, or upon receiving pleas to consider how their actions were causing suffering in the lives of others — so many of our neighbors, fellow citizens, friends, and family members did not alter their thinking or courses of action, but rather doubled down on the fictions into which they’d invested themselves.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure it out for myself. Because I, too, have been confounded, deeply disappointed, saddened, and angered by this same experience. I try my very best to be a person who is oriented by a compass of compassion and understanding — and from that framework, I really tried to put myself in the shoes of the folks who I saw descending ever more into a realm of alternate reality, to try to figure out WHY. 

I wish that I could tell you that I got to a place where I have it figured out. Sadly, I don’t. 

But there is one thing that I did learn in my quest for understanding: when a person has in some way attached their own identity to a belief system or a narrative, the potential psychological pain of retracting that belief, or of reevaluating that narrative — which, remember, has been tied up in that person’s own sense of self — is much, much greater than the psychological pain of continuing to exist in a realm defined by its contradiction of observable reality. 

Even when entrenchment in that realm stands to harm others around them — whether by contributing to the spread of a potentially deadly virus, or by contributing to the demolition of our democracy — it is often easier for the human psyche to continue living in a lie than to injure its ego by confronting how it has gotten things so, so wrong. 

And, given that aversion to psychological pain, if ever a nagging feeling does pop up that maybe they have, indeed, gotten it all wrong, it seems like the readiest remedy that the psyche grabs onto is to dig in even further. It’s a terrible, self-inflicted downward spiral that can lead a person to isolation from relationships, disconnection from reality, and alienation from society. I can’t imagine that’s a happy place to be.

It was heartbreaking and infuriating to watch this phenomenon play out this last year. And it continues to be so, because none of us can control the actions or thinking of another person. We can’t force anyone to be different than they choose to be. We only have the power to change our own thinking and our own actions. And the rest, I guess, is an exercise in acceptance. 

So, for me, I’ve arrived at an approach that feels aligned with my own sense of humanity in this moment:

— I will continue to honor and process the grief — and sometimes anger — that I feel over watching people around me dig further and further into those dark and untethered places;

— I will continue to try and cultivate compassion for all people, even them;

— and I will do absolutely whatever is in my power to do to fiercely protect myself and others from being swallowed into the consequences of the harmful beliefs that exist in our society. 

It might not feel like much; but it’s what I can do. 

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I don’t know whether to scream or cry
Hearing you parroting lie after lie
You’re digging that hole

I don’t know, I counted on more from you
It’s killing me, you looking out for just you
You’re digging that hole (click to continue reading)

And it’s so deep
But you keep digging like you’re gonna reach a reason
But you’ve dug beyond the light
It’s so wide
Growing like an appetite
It’s swallowing all of us in
Swallowing all of us inside

I don’t know how to get through to you
It’s your denial, but all of us stand to lose
You’re digging that hole

And it’s so deep
But you keep digging like you’re gonna reach a reason
But you’ve dug beyond the light
And it’s so wide
Growing like an appetite
It’s swallowing all of us in
Swallowing all of us inside

It’s so deep 
But you’ve dug beyond the light
It’s so wide
Like an appetite
It’s swallowing all of us in
Swallowing all of us inside

words and music by Shannon Curtis
published by Shannon K (ASCAP)
all rights reserved; lyrics reprinted by permission

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If you have a story to share about how someone in your life, family, or community succumbed to propaganda or conspiracy theories in 2020, please send it to Jamie at jamie@misfitstars.com.

  • james h.
    I’ve always tried very hard to find silver linings, and to believe that truth, even ugly truth, is better than living with the false sense that everything is ok. Through his comments, tweets, and actions over the last 5 years our country’s president slowly and systematically stirred the sleeping giants of racism, sexism, and nationalism… Continue reading james h.
  • anonymous
    My wife and I instituted a hard boundary with my parents like seven or eight years ago around talking about politics – namely, that they’re not allowed to around us. No oblique mentions, no little side comments – nothing. (My Dad, mostly … my Mom is a reasonable conversation partner, and willing to listen … my Dad… Continue reading anonymous
  • shelia b.
    I think what is so hard to articulate is how drastically people succumbed to all the rhetoric. We watched those we loved and served shoulder to shoulder with accept indecency after indecency, swallow half truth after half truth, and follow blindly every and any conspiracy theory. They have become numb to facts and have disposed… Continue reading shelia b.
  • anonymous
    My sister’s boyfriend has become obsessed with all conspiracies over the last year and a half. It started off harmless, but now has impacted my sister’s life so much that I fear for the safety of her and her two kids. Obsessed with Trump and how he will come back and win and he’s doing… Continue reading anonymous
  • anonymous
    My father is a diehard Republican and Fox viewer. He is also a devout Catholic. It is difficult to reconcile the good moral person I know with the beliefs of the party he will never veer from. Put an ‘R’ after someone’s name and he will vote for them regardless of how opposite their actions… Continue reading anonymous
  • anonymous
    Who knew that something like a pandemic would also bring a surge in conspiracy theories? We have known there are the conspiracy theorists among us, but the pandemic caused a more extreme uprising and almost migration of types. I found myself cut off from many of them, because I spewed science and public health information… Continue reading anonymous
  • anonymous
    Once upon a time I was a registered Republican. I have always been humanitarian-leaning, but at that time I naively and erroneously believed that the Right was the way. In my circles I am now the token liberal. At work it’s ok, there’s mutual respect and we don’t talk politics … much. But with many… Continue reading anonymous
  • lizzie m.
    I thought a lot about how to summarize, and this is what I came up with: I am dismayed to find that when the conspiracy theories tie into right-wing rhetoric as it relates to things like racism, Covid and climate change denialism, etc., that my self-concept of allowing people to have their own opinions isn’t… Continue reading lizzie m.
  • anonymous
    My husband is from an Amish background. I didn’t realize how rampant these theories seem to be in that culture. It has been very difficult to have these conversations with him. We’ve gone from gun rights, to vaccines, to stolen elections. All I can say at the end of it is that I am glad… Continue reading anonymous
  • dan a.
    It sucks but I’ve found I just have to cut them off. For my own mental health I can’t keep that toxic stuff in my life.
  • alise i.
    I managed to temporarily block and hide my family’s posts all through the Trump presidency, and I would sort of engage with them, but was still careful not to rock the boat too much. Then in the past few weeks, a switch has flipped and IDGAF! I’m starting fights with everyone! Fuck ‘em! If they’re… Continue reading alise i.
  • kathy k.
    I changed the way I share on Facebook. I exclude those I love but don’t want to unfriend or engage with on political or Covid subjects. We are becoming more and more isolated.
  • anonymous
    Since my grandparents got old enough to sit in their chairs and constantly watch CNN, with that then devolving into FOX “News,” my mom has been subjected to fake news and propaganda leaning in the Republican direction. That started 20 years ago. It’s gotten crazy worse. At her house, CNN or Fox is always on… Continue reading anonymous
  • michael c.
    My friend found out I voted for Biden and he became extremely hostile. I’ve known him ever since I was 14. He taught me how to play guitar. He knows how much of a friend I have been over the years. When he found out who I voted for, he used snide comments and memes… Continue reading michael c.
  • anonymous
    A few people in my family jumped on the Trump train, and my mom was one of them, along with her new husband, who is evidently an aspiring conservative pundit (he wrote a book … I got through a chapter before having to put it down, it’s … not well-researched ). She’s basically believing anything… Continue reading anonymous
  • brady c.
    The people in my life who have fallen prisoner to the Q effect spent their lives being primed by a delusional level of fervent religiosity. It’s difficult to define it as a story rather than an ongoing syndrome. There seems to be no beginning and no end. Only a ridiculous and devastating middle.
  • joyce r.
    Saddened and disheartened that people can be fed a diet of fear and hate, passed off as “news.” I choose to no longer engage in political discussions with those who have gone down the rabbit hole.
  • martin g.
    I lost a good friend this year due to their political views being so reprehensible to my moral barometer. Mark goes back a good forty years with me. He married a kind and caring wife. We lost track of each other for about 15 years as I dealt with my daughter’s medical issues, but reconnected… Continue reading martin g.
  • erica k.
    What I have noticed is that even if I question out of curiosity, I get cut off. There’s no conversation. I feel like what I hear mostly is “I’m going to tell you something that NO ONE ELSE will tell you.” But I’m not allowed to have any questions or a differing opinion. Even though… Continue reading erica k.
  • anonymous
    Ok so what I want to share is so true and so very disappointing to say the least!! Frustrating enough for me to shout out loud and 2 ‘Christian’ friends who truly believed in Trump, one for economic reasons and the other one, truly I know, because she is so not informed at all and… Continue reading anonymous
  • angela d.
    My father has gotten worse over the years and I guess I’m glad for the pandemic because we keep further distance from him. I’ve only visited three times (of the usual 6) in 2020. He’s always been a provocative person and I’m unsure if he does it just for conversation or it’s become what he… Continue reading angela d.
  • bethany l.
    I struggle to articulate my experience around misinformation and the way it seeps into so many places in my relationship with certain dear family members. Because of conspiracy theories and fundamentalism, we have lost access to almost every topic that matters to me: my art, my faith, my kids … there are landmines of fear… Continue reading bethany l.