An ‘epistemic bubble’ is an informational network from which relevant voices have been excluded by omission. That omission might be purposeful: we might be selectively avoiding contact with contrary views because, say, they make us uncomfortable. As social scientists tell us, we like to engage in selective exposure, seeking out information that confirms our own worldview.
But that omission can also be entirely inadvertent. Even if we’re not actively trying to avoid disagreement, our Facebook friends tend to share our views and interests. When we take networks built for social reasons and start using them as our information feeds, we tend to miss out on contrary views and run into exaggerated degrees of agreement.
An ‘echo chamber’ is a social structure from which other relevant voices have been actively discredited.
Where an epistemic bubble merely omits contrary views, an echo chamber brings its members to actively distrust outsiders.
In their book Echo Chamber: Rush Limbaugh and the Conservative Media Establishment (2010), Kathleen Hall Jamieson and Frank Cappella offer a groundbreaking analysis of the phenomenon. For them, an echo chamber is something like a cult. A cult isolates its members by actively alienating them from any outside sources. Those outside are actively labelled as malignant and untrustworthy. A cult member’s trust is narrowed, aimed with laser-like focus on certain insider voices.
In epistemic bubbles, other voices are not heard; in echo chambers, other voices are actively undermined. The way to break an echo chamber is not to wave “the facts” in the faces of its members. It is to attack the echo chamber at its root and repair that broken trust.
"...I watched my mother grapple with the sturdiness of her own beliefs in the face of death. I realized that many of the ideas I took as my own because they sounded good were just exactly that: palatable sound bytes that translated well to the western mind. I needed to find my own answers, and I wanted to do so without the obligation of broadcasting those answers to the public. I stopped teaching and returned to my writing desk to ask more questions than I could answer..."
So what if a few people needlessly spend a bit more and get nourished a bit less, chasing after a gluten-free miracle that may never come? That needn't affect the rest of us. Except it does. The language used in wellness circles doesn't just point to the ostensible effects of gluten on our health—it soars clear of dietary science and straight into another realm altogether. On popular wellness blogs, the gluten I've heard about is "evil," "poison," "contaminating," and "toxic." There's even a leading Australian gluten-free site called glutenisthedevil.com. This isn't just about nutrition, it's about morality, and when food becomes imbued with this kind of scandalizing language, the dinner table becomes a minefield.
I spoke about this purity fetish to Nigella Lawson, whose guilt-free approach to eating helped to reconfigure my attitude to food when I was at my most vulnerable. "I despair of the term 'clean eating,'" she said, "though I actually like the food that comes under that banner. ['Clean eating'] necessarily implies that any other form of eating—and consequently the eater of it—is dirty or impure and thus bad, and it's not simply a way of shaming and persecuting others, but leads to that self-shaming and self-persecution that is forcibly detrimental to true healthy eating."
But between the lines of the wellness cookbooks, I read a different story, and it's not just gluten in the firing line. In Madeleine Shaw's first cookbook alone, the vocabulary used to describe countless foods, and the way they make us feel, suggests a less accepting view of health: "junk," "sluggish," "bad," "foe," "cheat," and "fat" are all words she uses. She also reminds us that our friends might try to sabotage our diets, but that we must learn to ignore them. Ella Mills begs us to treat ourselves when the craving takes us, but that given enough time, those treat foods will begin to seem "kind of gross, actually."
It gives rise to a kind of all-or-nothing approach to nutrition where all the delicious nuance of cooking, eating, and pleasure is brusquely swept aside. When I asked dietitian and advocate of the Health at Every Size campaign, Michelle Allison, about this dichotomy, she explained: "There is no third option presented by diet culture—there is only black or white, good or bad, dieting or off-the-wagon... And many people flip between the two states like a light switch, on or off, for more or less their entire lives." Nobody sums up the totalitarianism of wellness better than Deliciously Ella herself, though. "It's not a diet—it's a lifestyle." And that's just the catch.
she found her boss had been importing a supplement, called Ukrain, and giving it to their cancer patients. Under his medical orders, she had given it to patients too. “I felt sick in giving something that was unapproved [for cancer treatment] to cancer patients,” she says. The best-case scenario, she thought to herself, was that the supplement had done nothing to her patients; had been a scam. But even then, they were spending lots of money—out of pocket—to afford this treatment.
Within just a few days , Hermes saw a lawyer, quit her job, and reported her boss to Arizona State’s naturopathic board. She says when she resigned, her boss tried to intimidate her. He said she would get in trouble too, because she had also administered the supplement. He also accused her of being against the naturopathic profession, because they all used herbal supplements, which are not subject to FDA regulation. It was part of the gig.
This news was earth-shattering. Hermes says that after two days of intensive Google research, she realized her boss was right. All the supplements she’d been giving to people—that she’d been taking herself—were barely regulated. And while the advice to exercise and eat unprocessed food wasn’t harmful, a lot of the more intensive treatments she’d been doling out had no oversight, no evidence behind them.
“I had this big blind spot about the profession where I just naively went along with whatever any naturopath told me was safe and effective,” she says. “To say I was a mess is an understatement. I was having a full-on life crisis.”
Everything she thought she knew about life, medicine, and wellness suddenly didn’t make any sense. She started having panic attacks. As she tried to educate herself on the other ways naturopathy had misled her, it opened new wounds. As she read more about naturopathy, she had flashbacks to times she gave patients wrong information, or treatments that had no effect. “I could only take in information in micro doses, and at a very slow pace,” she says. “I really cried my whole way through it.”
Compared to a physician (MD or DO), nurse practitioner, or physician assistant, naturopaths are not prepared to manage patients’ health care. Yet, NDs argue they are the solution to the great primary care shortage. This real health care problem cannot be fixed with blatant quackery, such as homeopathy, anti-vaccine propaganda, and paltry clinical training based on pseudoscience.
Naturopathic “medicine” appears to have an ethical framework unlike anything in the medical community. I could not have learned this more abruptly than having that naturopathic “elder” discourage me from reporting a federal crime. Months later, I fully realized the danger of naturopathic self-regulation when the state’s naturopathic board disciplined my former boss with a mere slap on the wrist.
So “John of God” used fake healing to gain access to women he would sexually assault.
Two somewhat-related things come to mind:
1) A personal memory about how one of the cults I was in overlapped with the John of God cult.
2) Questions about how the Boomers mainstreamed sociopaths and charlatans alongside their true heroes.
1. A Personal Cult Memory
I never went to see John of God, but he had a following at the cult I was in at the time — Endeavor Academy. I distinctly remember one of the lead teachers at Endeavor going to him for a “spiritual surgery”. She brought a cohort of lightworkers who videoed the meeting. They showed the tape to the whole group as proof positive that he’d extracted a tumour from her belly that she didn’t know she’d had.
Of course she didn’t know, because she didn’t. You could see that the dude dropped a chicken liver out of his sleeve and pretended to pinch it out of a fold in her skin.
I sat there in the big room while people watched the chicken liver slither around and a lot of them stood up and started jumping up and down, doing the kundalini jitterbug, barking like happy dogs because a miracle happened.
What’s so strange about such moments, if you happen to be able to retain some sense of internal self/stability, is that the enthusiasm is somatically contagious, even while you know it is making you sick. It’s entirely possible to know on one level that you are in a mentally ill environment and on another level to want to participate in some way that will relieve the pressure of that illness. So the contagion works on two levels: you are infected, and then joining in seems as though it would be an antidote, or at least it would make things more tolerable.
The Endeavor leader, Charles Anderson, was as jealous of John of God as he was resourceful at co-optation. It really got his goat to see the women especially go bananas over having their chicken-livers removed.
John of God sells snake oil and assaults women, and Tolle mumbles dissociative word salad to cool a burning world.
See article here:
All three have been at Omega. All three have appeared on Oprah.
Under the assumption that they share something in common, these men are elevated on either side of the feminist activist who actually got shit done.
Who will show how John of God has been valued at places like Omega because, in part, he posed an alternative to the medical realism so essential to things like the reproductive rights movement? Or because he represented an acceptable, “shamanic” version of how to dominate (mostly women’s) bodies with charisma?
Who will study how Tolle has been valued at Omega because he let people off the hook of agitating for structural change, by telling people that conflict is all story in their minds?
When I think about the fractured Left, I keep thinking about this room, this photo gallery, as incoherent as a family’s. John milking charisma with that smile. Eckhart perpetually out-of-focus. Gloria, beaming fullness and generous agency.
Out where the river broke
The bloodwood and the desert oak
Holden wrecks and boiling diesels
Steam in forty-five degrees
The time has come to say fair's fair
To pay the rent, to pay our share
The time has come, a fact's a fact
It belongs to them, let's give it back
How can we dance when our earth is turning?
How do we sleep while our beds are burning?
How can we dance when our earth is turning?
How do we sleep while our beds are burning?