Conspirituality

I’ve set aside part of my evenings the past few weeks practicing ink drawing mostly in an attempt to regain the patience I used to possess before my brain got fried by too much internet. While I draw (slow, poorly and painfully) I listen to old Art Bell shows from the 90s through the aughts from a large mp3 data dump. If you don’t know who Art Bell is he was a talk show host who devoted several hours every night, broadcasting solo from a desert compound in Pahrump, Nevada. His topics were a grab bag of the paranormal, everything from aliens, to Bigfoot to ghosts to bottomless pits.

I’ve been struck by just how innocent Art’s show now seems. It was just good fun, like the newspapers of the 19th century that could mix the news of the day with a few stories about flying bat people or underground lizard men. As a listener to Art’s show you knew that you weren’t supposed to take it too seriously, rather, you should just let Art’s voice lull you into a dreamland where the humdrum laws of the universe didn’t apply. Art’s show only makes sense in the deep, irrational darkness of night.

But this same paranormal and parapolitical material no longer seems so innocent in the age of Alex Jones and QAnon. This month I’ve witnessed someone fall deep into a QAnon hole as well as a homesteader on YouTube go full Militia LARP. What once could be appreciated as a paranoid if creative imaginarium now has real world consequences. People have been shot and bombs have detonated. Art had a brush with real world consequences when the Heaven’s Gate cult committed suicide after listening to a segment of his show but that’s a long way from January 6th’s Q-Shamannacht.

Silicon Valley’s predatory capitalism, with its feedback loops and addictive algorithms have led many down the Q Shaman’s bottomless pit in recent years including, unfortunately, many members of the “wellness” community. This is especially worrisome at a time when we need people to get vaccinated to stop this horrible pandemic. Here in Los Angeles there’s been so many Covid deaths that they’ve suspended air quality rules so they can deal with the cremation backlog.

But do you lead people out of conspiratorial, anti-vax movements? Successful rhetoric, in my opinion, doesn’t involve belittling people or telling them they’re stupid. This is one of the reasons I find most “skeptic” type science popularizers unhelpful. They’re just preaching to the choir at a time when we need to find ways to talk to people we have differences with.

The Conspirituality Podcast offers an thoughtful alternative to snarky skepticism. It’s hosted by Derek Beres, Matthew Remski and Julian Walker who describe themselves as, “a journalist, a cult researcher, and a philosophical skeptic” who get together to, “discuss the stories, cognitive dissonances, and cultic dynamics tearing through the yoga, wellness, and new spirituality worlds.” What I like about the show is that it’s done in a compassionate and civil way that, I think, has the potential to speak to people who might be heading down a self-destructive path. It respects the positive parts of the wellness movement while taking a critical look at the unhelpful parts.

They are much better at this sort of communication than I am. Early in the pandemic I got triggered by Charles Eisenstein’s promotion of some dubious ideas about vaccinations. Rather than get angry, the hosts of Conspirituality had Eisenstein on their show to model both civil discourse and to challenge his post-modern relativism. Their long two part discussion (part 1, part 2) is well worth listening to as both a model for productive dialog and if you have doubts about the vaccine.

If any of you listen to this show I’d love to hear your opinions, specifically if you think it speaks outside the choir.

Saturday Linkages on Sunday

How it started/How it’s going

Smart Cities and Finance

‘Not that good’: Montreal restaurant’s brutally honest menu pulls in the customers

LA’s New Falafel Stand Is a One-Man Masterpiece That Hails From Iraq

An anthropologist analyzes the Q Shaman

This might be the most toxic workplace ever

Some tips from the Recomendo Newsletter (Subscribe here): Educational resources that are likely free from your public library’s website: Lydia.com and The Great Courses (you can also watch the Great Courses if you have an Amazon Prime subscription)

Quarantine viewing suggestions: The Set-Up (1949) and the series Silicon Valley

Relics From the Age of Repair

Kelly went through some of my mom’s sewing notions this week and discovered a few relics from a pre-fast fashion era when people used to repair, rather than throw out, their clothes.

For instance, when you bought a box of White King Granulated Soap you got a set of sewing needles.

My mom saved a lot of these needles. On a side note can we please bring back this period’s handsome graphic design?

She also saved these hosiery mending kits that look like match boxes.

Inside was a needle and threads plus some match-like sticks that you moistened and applied to stop a run.

My mom was tall and had to shop for clothes and shoes in specialty shops.

When you bought something at the now defunct Over Five-Seven Shop you got this gimmicky miniature clothes line.