(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, Steve’s Tumblr, and Pillowfort. Find out more at my newsletter, and all my social media at my linktr.ee)
Anyone politically involved has one or more of those stories about how they became politically aware of something and it changed them. I’d like to share my most recent as it’s relevant to life and to you, my readers. It all involves New Age charlatans and the realization some of the worst people we know trying to lead us are also addicts.
If you’re any follower of religious/spiritual happenings, you’re aware what we call New Age has had it’s grifters and criminals. As I’ve followed the community for the last few years – especially in light of alternate health claims and radicalization – I’ve found the grifters to be awful people. Watching them spew out a book of hack spirituality, overcharge people, and blatantly lie is amazing and terrible.
These grifters also keep reinventing themselves and keep coming back – sometimes a re-invention is where they become a spiritual grifter. Your failed documentary career can become an “expose” on how aliens are using vaccines to enslave us via 5G. You can spend one decade fighting Satan and the next channeling Starseeds. Sometimes I have to check to make sure two separate spiritual conpeople aren’t the same person a few years apart.
It’s no wonder New Age stuff has merged into conspiracy lore and extreme politics. It’s the exact same thing you’ll see play out again and again in political personalities. The politician leaping from the latest media-made panic to next is no different than internet coemmenter going from libertarian techbro to religious right fundamentalist. There’s no difference between the newly minded anti-vaxx New Ager and the failed entertainer who pivots to coded racism to get on podcasts.
Grifter of one kind or another, grift is grift.
Now some of these people – perhaps all of them – are awful people. But there’s something of an addict’s desperation and shamelessness about them. It’s obvious that some of them can’t stop as otherwise the gravy train ends, but watching pathetic-if-effective-displays of piety or spirituality it feels different. It feels like there’s a compulsion that reminds me of drug addiction.
First of all, we’ve all looked at a hack writer, posing preacher, or craven politician and known in our heart of hearts we could probably do that con too. Let me extend that to ask what happens to those that do this and get rewarded for it? When the cash starts coming in, imagine the rush you get from seeing “I can make money at this.”
It’s probably very easy for even relatively moral people to see a sudden cash infusion and get some kind of high from it. Remember that great new job you got, and how that higher paycheck felt for the first time? Imagine that, but with more money and all you had to do was claim aliens are turning our kids gay via video games.
But beyond the high of money, let’s not discount emotional high these grifter-criminals get.
People will agree with the stupidest thing you say. People will praise your heroism for fighting woke vaccine with effusive internet praise. You’ll be told you’re a hero for taking Superpac money while making people’s lives worse. You’ll be courted on podcast and even television.
All other benefits aside, your brain is awash in dopamine and serotonin all because you’re a lying asshole. Want to keep that high? Just keep lying.
Some of the worst people we know, from arrogant hack authors to spiritual quacks to politicians are addicts. I mean they’re also terrible people, yes there is the desire for power, etc. But the craven behavior, the rage, the willingness to say anything, the need reminds me of a junkie.
Which even more means that you’ve got to work hard to stop them. They can’t be shamed, they know they hurt others, and they’re getting a buzz off of it. Even if you think you can help them, you have to stop them before they hurt others. They don’t just want the money and power, they want the rush.
Shun them, sue them, vote them out, etc. Even if they somehow know what they’re doing is wrong, it won’t stop them as they’re addicts and we can’t hope they get better. We have to stop damage then we can see about healing.