Alternative Realities

When fiction is stranger than truth

Sam Ochstein
3 min readOct 1, 2022


Photo by Marcus P. on Unsplash

My mom believes there’s a global cabal headed by the Vatican, the deceased Queen of England, the United States, and other key actors that run everything.

According to my mom, these cabal leaders engage in satanic seances and other rituals, including child sacrifice, where they drink the blood of their victims.

She also believes that Donald Trump is trying to expose and bring down the cabal.

And, in her view, this is why Trump is hated by traditional, reliable news sources, the political establishment in Washington D.C., and other global elites. Because they’re all in on it, my mom says.

I don’t know how to talk to her about this.

My mom informed me today during a phone conversation that a lot of things will be coming out soon. Things that will reveal “the truth.” She chastised me for refusing to believe “the truth.”

I don’t know what that means. But I know it means something very different than what I understand as reality.

“It’s coming,” she said. “You’ll see your momma wasn’t so stupid after all.”

I have these conversations with my mom at least a few times a month. Except they aren’t really conversations. They’re exercises in futility and frustration.

For both of us.

She thinks I’m a blind, biased, liberal nutjob.

I think she’s incapable of discerning fact from fiction, and commentary and opinion from real reporting.

She thinks I believe the “fake news” that’s the “enemy of the people.”

I think she believes that Russian propaganda and propaganda from other foreign actors are real news. Not to mention the heavy helpings of conspiracy theories that inform her worldview and shape her reality.

Here’s the thing.

If there’s no baseline agreement on what counts as fact and what counts as fiction, what is true and what is false, and what is a reliable source of information and what is not, then there is no common ground for a constructive conversation.

We’re just talking past each other.



Sam Ochstein

Former Pastor | Reader | Writer | Walker | Whiskey Lover | Contemplative Extrovert | MMin, MATS, MDiv (unfinished)