For a lot of listeners, I suspect conspiratorial thinking is something you connect with religion or right-wing politics. But of course it’s also rampant in the world of New Age spirituality. Think Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Kennedy, Jr. They’re not explicitly religious, but their fans are not exactly known for their critical thinking skills.
My guests today have been dissecting that kind of BS for years. Julian Walker has written extensively on cults and gurus and New Age nonsense. Derek Beres is an author & media expert who’s worked with a number of media and tech companies. Julian and Derek are also active yoga enthusiasts, a practice that’s become rife with spiritual silliness that they oppose.
Both of them, along with Matthew Remski, are co-hosts of the podcast Conspirituality, which tackles how spiritual beliefs that can nurture creativity and meaning have transformed into memes of a quickly-globalizing paranoia.
They just published a book about this topic called “Conspirituality: How New Age Conspiracy Theories Became a Health Threat.” (Affiliate link)
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4:30 Your podcast began shortly after the pandemic shut everything down. What was it about that time that made you think this was the right time to talk about these issues?
7:20 What is it about being a contrarian that makes people—right-wing atheists or New Age believers—susceptible to propaganda?
12:00 You recently had an excerpt of your book, a part about RFK, run in Time magazine. What’s the danger of RFK for people who haven’t followed his career?
14:30 Why is anti-vax propaganda so powerful given that we just went through a global pandemic?
18:10 Who is responsible for spreading spiritual misinformation? It’s not like the New Age crowd has a FOX News or Newsmax.
21:21 Why do conspiracy theories always seem to align with right-wing politics?
24:20 Do the purveyors of this nonsense know it’s BS or are they True Believers?
28:00 Is it helpful when people like Dr. Oz and RFK run for office and lose? Or are those still opportunities to spread misinformation regardless of the outcome?
32:48 What has frustrated you both about media coverage of spiritual grifters?
36:45 Who’s more dangerous: Gwyneth Paltrow or Alex Jones?
41:00 What is the “eugenics to yoga pipeline”?
45:20 What one question do you wish people would ask when grifters pitch a product?
49:25 Should we be debating vaccine efficacy?
55:15 What’s effective in combatting these lies?