Essay:
The Alt-Right Wellness Loop
Where alt-health meets the alt-right.

  • Words Robert Ito

At the dawn of the pandemic, Los Angeles–based yoga and fitness instructor Derek Beres began noticing an uptick of tweets and Facebook posts pushing a variety of conspiracy theories related to QAnon and COVID-19. The messages weren’t coming from the radical right and its malcontents, however, the sorts of folks one might expect to believe that a cabal of blood-drinking, Satan-worshipping pedophiles is trying to take over the world, or that COVID-19 was caused by 5G.1 No, these tweets were coming from leaders and influencers within the yoga and wellness community, people not unlike himself, some of whom Beres personally knew.

In 2011, sociologists Charlotte Ward and David Voas coined the term “conspirituality” to describe this weird blend of New Age spirituality and the shadowy world of the conspiracists. The burgeoning web movement, wrote Ward and Voas, was based on two core convictions. The first was that a secret organization, whose members may or may not include Tom Hanks...

( 1 ) 5G technology does not cause or spread COVID-19. According to UNICEF, the conspiracy theory that it does is more often believed by people who do not use the internet.

( 2 ) Rhonda Byrne, author of the bestselling self-help book The Secret, once claimed that the victims of 9/11 were in the wrong place at the wrong time due to their own negative thoughts and outlook.

( 3 ) A March 2021 report by the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a UK/US nonprofit and NGO, found that the majority of COVID-19 anti-vaccine misinformation and conspiracy theories originated from just 12 people. Around 65% of the 812,000 Facebook posts and tweets they analyzed originated from this “disinformation dozen."

( 4 ) Northrup is also the author of Dodging Energy Vampires: An Empath's Guide to Evading Relationships That Drain You and Restoring Your Health and Power. In April 2021, Instagram disabled her account, severing her from her followers for spreading misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines.

( 5 ) Fascism and New Age theories have made strange bedfellows before. Many prominent figures in the Nazi party indulged in New Age thinking during the 1920s and 1930s. Joseph Goebbels was fascinated by Nostradamus’ prophecies, which he thought predicted Nazi success; Heinrich Himmler supported alternative medicine—such as using plant extracts to heal cancer.

( 6 ) Between 1932 and 1972, the United States Public Health Service conducted the Tuskegee Syphilis Study—an ethically abusive study in which more than 400 Black men with syphilis were deliberately denied effective treatment to determine the natural course of the disease. The men were not informed of the nature of the experiment, and more than 100 died as a result.

ISSUE 52

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