It’s always useful when one thing you really despise proves to lead into something else you really despise. In this case, it’s that people who are super into New Age “spirituality” turn out to be prime Qanon marks:
Alan Hostetter, the former La Habra police chief who’s facing charges for his role in the January 6 Capitol riot and is under investigation for using his nonprofit to rail against COVID-19 precautions, is also a man who touts the benefits of yoga and attributes to it his own “miraculous recovery” from spinal surgery.
It’s not a contradiction.
The links between right-wing extremism and New Age wellness circles have become increasingly evident, as fissures appeared during the pandemic among wellness influencers on social media over the effect of conspiracy theories. Last fall, some influencers put their names on a public statement denouncing misinformation spread by adherents of QAnon, the far-right delusion that Satanic cannibals and pedophiles have vast influence over the government.
As new reporting indicates, QAnon has infiltrated L.A.’s wellness circles during the pandemic to an even greater degree than previously known. According to the Los Angeles Times, “several” New Age spiritualists knew more than a dozen people from yoga, meditation, and other circles who traveled to Washington D.C. to take part in the Capitol riot. Some of the participants had been encouraged to promote controversial ideas as a way to build a social media following, either to launch a channel or simply endure during a pandemic that precluded many in-person classes and events.
Primed by nearly a year of rallying against science-based understanding of the novel coronavirus, including promoting a video that claimed a “shadowy cabal” of scientists and companies were linked to the rise of the virus, many in the wellness community were especially susceptible to the kinds of theories that fomented the insurrectionists. Underpinned by a belief in alternative therapies, spiritualists and wellness influencers have long embraced special access to informal knowledge and a distrust of authority.
Far from being infiltrated by QAnon, it could be the case that New Age thinking has always been a breeding ground for conspiracy theories. “It’s always been the water we were swimming in,” one yogi and dance teacher told the Times.
There’s a lot going on here. People who are “searching” for some kind of personal alternative spirituality in their lives are naturally going to be likely to search for personal political alternatives too. The distrust of science and medicine goes deep, back to the quackery pushed by the Rodale publishing empire in the 50s and 60s that laid the groundwork for the organic movement and for the bullshit supplement industry. That the Rodales had a lot of good points about the problems with industrial agriculture actually reinforces the larger problem. Like any conspiracy theory, there’s roots in some sort of truth that can ground people while they head off into kooky land. This is where you see anti-vaxxers on the left and on the right converge for instance. There really isn’t that much difference between the right wing white nationalist extremist and the hippie parents “unschooling” their kids while listening to Jenny McCarthy instead of the medical profession. In the end, both think mainstream society is a cabal to destroy our health. And in a society where we so deify the individual making choices about their bodies and their rights and their feelings instead of any sort of collective bodies or collective rights or collective feelings, you empower idiots. That I put up a picture of Rajneeshpuram for this post is also intentional, as this was a transformational moment when the hippie movement went full New Age, with all the individualism, all the fake-spirituality, all the alternative prosperity gospel and the all the grifting that these movements have today. In fact, it would be fascinating to see a study of vaccination rates of people who were on Rancho Rajneesh back in the day, especially given that they are in their 60s and 70s and 80s now.