The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Crazy People Are Dangerous

Posted on | November 26, 2023 | 3 Comments

When weighing career opportunities, most of us never give any consideration to cult leader as a job worth pursuing. However, I’ve spent some time contemplating the pros and cons of such a gig, and reached the conclusion that I’m simply not cut out for that kind of work. For starters, to be an effective cult leader requires a rare combination of traits — the charisma necessary to attract a loyal following of gullible idiots, the cleverness to come up with a uniquely weird belief system, and the cunning cruelty to exploit the aforesaid gullible followers.

Just not my idea of fun, really. So as much as I might enjoy imposing my personalized brand of Divine Wisdom on a brainwashed mob, enjoying the pleasure of polygamous relations with their nubile daughters, etc., I simply lack the basic aptitude, even if I were willing to accept the risk of the way cults typically end. Dying in a shootout with the FBI or serving a life sentence in federal prison are outcomes I’d prefer to avoid, so scratch “cult leader” from the career list. But there are other considerations.

How do cult leaders come up with the implausible bullshit they foist on their followers, and where do they find people stupid enough to believe it? Well, that’s what the Internet’s for, as exemplified by the Colorado-based “Love Has Won” cult and its deceased leader, Amy Carlson:

According to her family, Amy Carlson grew up in Dallas, Texas, and was a “straight A student”. In Carlson’s early adult life, however, she began to talk increasingly about “outlandish concepts” such as starships. During the mid 2000s, Carlson developed an interest in New Age philosophy, and became a regular poster on the forums of the website On the forum, she met Amerith WhiteEagle, who convinced Carlson that she was divine, and Carlson began to claim to experience paranormal phenomena. In late 2007, Carlson left her third husband, her children, and her job as a manager at McDonald’s, and ceased contact with most members of her family, and joined up with WhiteEagle in Colorado. The group was originally known under the name “Galactic Federation of Light”. The group posted their first videos to YouTube in 2009.

There is a new HBO documentary series about Carlson and her cult, and Saturday night I watched part of the first episode, enough to reach the conclusion that almost anyone could have their own cult nowadays, because the Internet provides access to an effectively unlimited supply of gullible followers. Nearly all of Carlson’s followers were the kind of dopeheads we used to call “burnouts,” people who’d done too much LSD and permanently fried their cerebral cortex. These wild-eyed kooks are interviewed for the documentary and let’s just say that none of them seem to have a very firm grasp on reality. Which isn’t surprising, when you consider the cult’s belief system:

The theology of Love Has Won has been described as fluid, combining New Age spirituality, conspiracy theories, and elements from mainstream Abrahamic religions. The group proclaimed that Carlson was a divine, 19 billion year-old being who had birthed all creation. Carlson claimed she had been reincarnated 534 times, including as Jesus, Joan of Arc, Marilyn Monroe and Cleopatra, and would lead 144,000 people into a mystical “5th dimension”. Carlson had several romantic partners throughout the group’s history, beginning with Amerith WhiteEagle, who were referred to as “Father God”, and who played a counterpart role to Carlson in the theology of the group. The group also adopted elements of the QAnon conspiracy theory.
The group claimed that Carlson was the queen of the lost continent of Lemuria, and the group incorporated the belief that Lemurians live within Mount Shasta in California.[9] Carlson had stated that Donald Trump was her father in a past life, and that she had spoken to the spirit of deceased actor Robin Williams, who she claimed was archangel Zadkiel. The group’s theology also included references to the concepts of Atlantis, the Anunnaki and “reptilians”. They believed that the world was run by a “cabal” determined to keep the planet in a “low vibration” state.

Unfortunately for the “Queen of the Lost Continent of Lemuria” and her followers, Carlson died at age 45 from a combination of anorexia, alcohol abuse and colloidal silver poisoning.


This is an unusual twist. We’re used to cult leaders dying in mass suicide rituals or being gunned down in a hail of automatic weapons fire. But what the heck is this colloidal silver thing?

Colloidal silver consists of tiny silver particles in a liquid. It is sometimes promoted on the internet as a dietary supplement; however, evidence supporting health-related claims is lacking.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that colloidal silver isn’t safe or effective for treating any disease or condition. Additionally, the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission have taken action against a number of companies for making misleading claims about colloidal silver products.
Colloidal silver can cause serious side effects. The most common is argyria, a build-up of silver in the body’s tissues causing a bluish-gray discoloration of the skin, which is usually permanent.
Colloidal silver can cause poor absorption of some drugs, such as certain antibiotics and thyroxine (used to treat thyroid deficiency). There is also some evidence that it can cause kidney, liver, or nervous system problems.

This explains why, when law enforcement in Saguache County, Colorado, found the mummified corpse of Amy Carlson, she was blue.

What sort of lessons can we learn from this? To me, it’s about how the Internet creates niche echo chambers of like-minded people. Even the tiniest fraction of a single percentage point of the population represents an audience of thousands, when you realize that there are 1.2 billion English-speaking Internet users worldwide (one-tenth of one percent = 1,200,000). Given the basic mathematics of the equation, it’s not really strange that “Mother God” Carlson could get 20,000 online followers, of whom about two dozen moved to Colorado to join her cult IRL.

Speaking of weird cult beliefs, the director of the HBO documentary is a liberal with an Ivy League diploma, who sees this as a political morality tale about health care and income inequality:

The self-styled deity sold remote healings and slowly gained an impressive online audience: almost 20,000 followers on Facebook and nearly 10,000 on YouTube. The group’s videos were watched more than 1.5 million times. All the while, she convinced more and more people to escape their lives and join her party. “You were high from the moment you woke up to the moment you went to bed,” a former follower recalls in the series.
Many who devoted themselves to Mother God were escaping one specific reality, according to [producer/director Hannah] Olson. “This is a group of people who were traumatized by the health care system,” the director says. One member arrived after struggling with an opioid addiction. Another found the group after losing his father to that same disease. One young woman joined after waking up from a coma to discover she owed half a million dollars in medical bills. “Love Has Won exists,” says Olson, “because people were searching online for how to heal their bodies and minds, because they could not afford to go to a doctor.” Many, if not all, were without insurance; the uninsured rate for American adults stood at 11% earlier this year.
“Reality doesn’t make sense for a lot of people because of the enormous income inequality,” Olson says. “My generation has not inherited the world we were promised.” (The director is a millennial.)

Like I said, weird cult beliefs. Despite the director’s politics, I haven’t found any liberal sermonizing in this HBO documentary, which is like watching a slow-motion train wreck, with a trainload of kooks.



3 Responses to “Crazy People Are Dangerous”

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    November 27th, 2023 @ 3:21 pm

    […] But is it boring to be a descendant of Rollo the Viking or Colonel John Bolling? These are just a couple of the eminent individuals in my own family tree, and who knows how many other extraordinary connections might be discovered if I ever did a complete genealogy? Everybody has eight great-grandparents, 16 great-great-grandparents, etc., so that if you can trace your ancestry back seven or eight generations, that’s more than 100 different lineages, and certainly some of them must be at least interesting, if perhaps not illustrious. Somehow, though, most people would rather be ignorant of their forebears, and in that sense, really don’t know who they are. This ignorance is, I believe, a crucial factor in leading people to manufacture fake identities, not just as fake Indians, but also such bizarre identities as “Queen of the Lost Continent of Lemuria.” […]

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