But since the COVID lockdown began, it’s started spreading to a new kind of believer — one that’s more feminine and with a cleaner aesthetic, mostly brought in through Instagram. In this moment of growth, one community in particular has found itself prey to QAnon: the yoga, wellness, and spirituality world, where skepticism about vaccines has intersected with the rapid spread of disinformation online to create a toxic stew known as “conspirituality,” a term popularized by a podcast of the same name that tracks the convergence of conspiracy theories and “faux-progressive wellness utopianism.”
Seane Corn, yoga instructor: Well, QAnon is very strategic, very well organized. And in the wellness world, they’re really playing to empathy. So a perfect example, of course, would be the #saveourchildren and talking about child sex trafficking. And so they’re playing on the heartstrings of the community. They’re also talking about things that are also of a concern, which is health and wellness. So spreading information that COVID is a lie, that we shouldn’t wear masks, that if we take vaccinations we’re going to be implanted and controlled. This is the kind of misinformation that is speaking to maybe a part of someone’s subconscious that believes it’s true. And they invite people into this rabbit hole where they give enough truth, but then keep spreading more and more lies. And they talk about things like forces between good and evil, the great awakening, a paradigm shift. All of this is yoga speak.
Host Carol Off: So they use of language of healing, of spirituality. They are using language that you would normally use within the community, but then twisting it toward this QAnon agenda, is that right?
SC: Absolutely. And they’re also using branding. Like, when you go into Instagram, very often when you feel a wellness practitioner post, the colours might be pastel, the fonts are very specific, there’s maybe one pose of someone doing yoga, then the next day it’s their food. Next day, it’s a lifestyle shock. But on maybe the fourth day, there’s going to be a post that says, you know, very prettily ‘COVID is a hoax.’ But when you look at it from the outside, it could look like any 25 year old, you know, wellness influencer posting about their life. And it’s a recruitment technique. And it’s working.
[Our] findings suggest that processes which may appear as unrelated or opposing forces—the emergence of new religious movements, the transformation of traditional religious symbols into profane branding, far right nationalist movements—may be part of a single, post-secularization process. Secularization, having fissured the sacred, leaves religion a pliable cultural tool.