Being a targeted step-parent and scientific researcher of parental alienation, I am no stranger to flying monkeys. In the Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West used winged monkeys to drive the Wizard out of her territory, kidnap Dorothy and the cowardly lion, and tear the Scarecrow and the Tinman apart, limb for limb. Today, similar flying monkeys are frequently used by alienators to hurt targeted parents and anyone trying to advocate for them.
Unlike in Oz, where the flying monkeys were controlled by a magical golden cap, these monkeys are often motivated by anger or hatred towards the targeted parent. They could be an angry or emotionally unstable ex-romantic partner that the alienator enlists to act on their behalf; an old family friend or neighbor who had a personal slight against the targeted parent; or simply a formerly shared contact that chose the alienator’s side after the separation. The alienators meticulously feed their recruits biased, untrue, and vexatious information designed to fuel their existing anger, dislike, and hatred for the targeted parents. Thus, the monkeys accept the propaganda without second-guessing.
Other times, the flying monkeys have no direct experience of the targeted parent when they believe the alienators’ word, hook, line and sinker. These undiscerning flying monkeys attack because their own personal agendas are triggered when the alienator strategically shares certain “details” about the targeted parent. For example, the alienator may use stereotypes about parents to their advantage, telling others that a father is “abusive” or a mother is “mentally ill.” Rather than be suspicious as to why such information is shared with them, these flying monkeys not only believe what is said, but attack the target without question. Of course the Dad was abusive: he is a man. Of course the children should not see their Mom: she is not stable. You get the picture. This type of flying monkeys can be recruited from amongst social workers or therapists that automatically side with the alienator; news reporters who believe stories perpetrated by an organization whose mission it is to deny that parental alienation exists; or teachers who have never met the targeted parent before.
What do these flying monkeys do? Oh, they are just as mischievous as the non-flying variety. Given how easy it is to be “untouchable” and anonymous on social media, on-line attacks are a popular and convenient strategy. The alienator may write lies about their target on revenge themed websites, and then encourage willing monkeys to spread the word. The monkeys often stay up at night and make ad hominem attacks on targeted parents on social media sites, or slander their professional reputation (e.g., news articles, LinkedIn, or wherever the targeted parent's products or services may be for sale). They may chastise the targeted parent, even in public, and even in front of the children. They call the police and make false claims of abuse.
I’ve been there. I’ve lived through many such attacks. Many alienated parents I have interviewed and surveyed have faced similar onslaughts on a regular basis. We all have the battle scars to prove it. And those advocating for targeted parents seem to be a particularly attractive target.
Surviving such attacks is not easy, particularly when bystanders don’t understand how parental alienation works – that by enlisting the flying monkeys to do their dirty work, the alienators can sit back and appear innocent even as they orchestrate the entire offensive. Furthermore, the alienators point to the monkeys as “social proof” that the targeted parents must truly be deserving of what happens to them.
The solution? Sometimes time. The Wicked Witch of the West could only ask the monkeys to do her bidding three times before they were released. One could hope that eventually, these flying monkeys, too, will be released from the alienator’s hold.
Another solution is magical intervention, but the interveners need to understand the monkey’s motivations and who they work for, and order them all to stop or face negative consequences. In the original Wizard of Oz book, Dorothy gave Glenda the Good Witch the golden cap that controlled the monkeys. Glenda ordered the flying monkeys to cease and desist playing pranks on people. Our legislative and judicial systems, while far from magical, can play the role of Glenda, making and enforcing laws that guard against unjustified attacks that are nothing but another form of bullying and domestic violence.
Finally, we can band together. To destroy the hold that the Wicked Witch of the West had over the flying monkeys, Dorothy had to do something. She had to throw water on the Witch. When we do nothing, it only allows the alienator to recruit a larger army of monkeys to keep the targeted parent down. When someone is attacked for speaking up, we should not stay silent. That brave traveller in Oz needs our help to lift the heavy pail of water to put an end to the tyranny of the monkeys.