Saturday, June 15, 2019

#2204: Pete Santilli

Santilli in his Bundy wildlife reserve
occupation days.
Pete Santilli is an unhinged Internet ranter whose self-appointed role seems to be to (unsuccessfully) make Alex Jones look reasonable. His broadcasts have trawled through conspiracy theories on everything from 9/11 (“the World Trade Center towers were turned to dust in mid air by a very powerful energy source”) to pizzagate to Sandy Hook, and though he used to have a relatively limited audience (he was “ready to take my show to national syndication”, but had doubts that “the FCC regulated AM/FM radio stations can handle my truth & honesty”), he began gaining traction around 2013 when Ted Nugent and Larry Pratt started to frequent his show; Pratt, for instance, worked with Santilli to develop his theory that President Obama was raising a private army to overpower the U.S. military. Meanwhile, Santilli would violently call for having the entire Bush family and President Obama “tried, convicted and shot” for “treason” (apparently the trial and conviction parts are really optional); H.W. Bush would also be found guilty for his “involvement with his cronies in the John F. Kennedy assassination” and Obama for “moving drugs through the CIA out of Afghanistan”. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, should be “tried, convicted and shot in the vagina.” Yes, Santilli is that kind of person. He went on to describe in detail how he personally wanted to “pull the trigger” on Clinton (he referred to her with a sexual slur) and watch her slowly die, the rationale being apparently revenge for what Santilli believes to be faking the SEAL Team Six’s Bin Laden raid. Even Secret Service apparently took note of that rant.

Later in 2013, in his capacity as spokesman for Truckers Ride for the Constitution, he argued that violence against the government would be justified if his group’s plan to jam the Capital Beltway that surrounds Washington, D.C. and ask members of Congress to resign, failed. Originally, Santilli and organizer Zeeda Andrews called for the arrest of in particular Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, but Santilli later backpedaled a little, denied that any arrestation attempts would be made but expressed hope that the senators would “voluntarily resign” as a result of the protest – before going on his radio show to threaten with a “bloody battle” against government if the protest failed, and saying that opponents of the government would have been “justified” in using violence. The event turned out to be somewhat disorganized, partially as a result of infighting over logistics and aims. At that point, Santilli also said that raising the debt ceiling would amount to “financial terrorism” and “an act of terroristic war upon the American people” to which his followers – Santilli explicitly called on the three-percenters – would be justified to “respond violently with the Second Amendment”. He also complained that the government wants to “take my guns away” in order to arm Al Qaeda. And in 2014 he explicitly called for a military coup to “restore the republic from a state of affairs that mostly seems to exist in his own deranged imagination.

Santilli is probably most famous, however, for taking part in and even figuring as a spokesman or at least live-broadcasting as a sympathetic reporter – at least Fox News acknowledged him as a spokesman – for the occupation of a federal wildlife reserve in Oregon led by Ammon Bundy in 2016, which also led to his arrest. (We wish to emphasize that we are somewhat dismayed by the fact that he was arrested for it, though.) It was not his first Bundy stunt: Santilli participated in the Cliven Bundy standoff, too, where he declared that he was prepared to fight to the death with federal agents who were trying to round up cattle that were illegally grazing on public lands – or last, to initiate deranged attempts at activism; “every individual right now needs to stop watching the decimation of our Constitution, the destruction of our country by that freaking NDAA [sic] basketball-dribbling, freaking Muslim Brotherhood bastard,” he said, referring to Obama in connection with the border security policies he was protesting with his “Cinco de Julio” campaign. (He also denounced wingnut hero Joe Arpaio after Arpaio referred to Mexican migrants as “illegal Hispanics”; according to Santilli, that is a diversion created to conceal the truth, that asylum-seeking Muslims are flooding the border to harm America; “there are Arabs coming over the border,” said Santilli: “I personally saw them.” We don’t doubt that Santilli sees lots of things). In more recent years Santilli’s antics seem to have made his popularity in wingnut circles surge.

Santilli is not a fan of gay rights either. In an interview with James David Manning, Santilli pointed out that “when we oppose the sodomites, this is not just a battle between the heterosexuals and the homosexuals, this is a battle between good and evil, a battle between God and Satan himself.

Santilli’s website promotes Judy Wood’s book Where Did The Towers Go? Evidence Of Directed Free-Energy Technology On 9/11, which argues that the Twin Towers were felled by an energy weapon on. Santilli gives the book his personal “100% satisfaction guarantee” and offers a refund if you “do not believe this is the most important book of our lifetime,” though he admits that the evidence that a “free energy technology” was involved in the 9/11-attacks may be “too much for the un-awakened mind”. His website also details the existence of a New World Order controlling the world from “behind the curtain”. “We’ve all been under a PSY-OP (psychological warfare operation) since 9-11,” says Santilli, though we are reluctant to go along further than to establish that there is indeed something off with Santilli’s psychological dynamics. And apparently Glenn Beck, who wrote an entire book detailing how Agenda 21 was a conspiracy to take over the US, is an agent for Agenda 21.

Diagnosis: As Ed Brayton (more or less) puts it, Pete Santilli stands to Michael Savage roughly as Michael Savage stands to Al Sharpton. Rabidly insane monster with ragingly violent delusion.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

#2203: Bernie Sanders

Thomas and Manju Sam are Australian, but their story is worth highlighting nonetheless, insofar as it provides a useful foil for the present entry.

Now, it will probably come as little surprise to readers that the authors of this blog have an overall very favorable view of Bernie Sanders’s candidacy for the type of position he is seeking. Nevertheless, despite his redeeming qualities, we should not overlook some serious flaws (and we’re not thinking about some questionable views on sexual repression and cancer he held 50 years ago): Sanders’s history of supporting medical quackery is rather disconcerting, as illustrated for instance by his 2013 sponsorship of a bill that would waste plenty of government dollars on totally ineffective and unsafe woo. But Sanders’s support for woo has been pretty consistent throughout his career (some background here and many details here), and in 2010, for instance, he said that “to me, the increasing integration of CAM and conventional care just makes sense. Research shows that more people are demanding and turning to integrative care because it parallels their personal values and desire to be treated as a whole personFor a wide variety of reasons, more and more people are not simply content to go to a doctor’s office, get a diagnosis and take a pill. They want to know what the cause of their medical problem is and how, when possible, it can be best alleviated through natural, non-invasive or non-pharmaceutical means.” Note for instance the appeal to popularity, the appeal to nature and the rather alarming dogwhistles about how quacks (as opposed to real medical professionals) will treat the “whole person” and the suggestion that quacks, also as opposed to real medical professionals, will get to the “cause of [someone’s] medical problem” (Sanders later suggested that altmed, as opposed to real medicine, focuses on prevention – se no. 21 here). Of course, alternative medicine practitioners don’t treat the whole person and won’t get to the cause of anything (see no. 13 here) – real doctors, however, demonstrably do – but those claims nevertheless constitute the core of the alternative medicine narrative, and the fact that Sanders is adept enough at using these dog whistles to blow all three in rapid succession should be a serious cause for concern.

Sanders is also often credited with inserting a provision requiring licensed CAM professions to be included as part of the healthcare workforce into the ACA. In 2013, he co-sponsored (the main culprit here seems to have been Richard Blumenthal) several bills before the U.S. Congress to expand the availability of quackery to military veterans and funding CAM research at the expense of legitimate research. Fortunately, they failed to pass. Sanders can, however, be at least partially blamed for getting naturopaths licensed in Vermont.

And it is not like he has given up on woo ideas. In November 2015, for instance, Sanders apparently praised holistic and alternative medicine at a meeting of the Veteran’s Administration, claiming that “the increasing integration of Chinese medicine and yoga, for example, as bright spots in a largely dysfunctional American health care system.” Well, his diagnosis of the health care system might be apt, but adding traditional Chinese medicine (“neither traditional nor medicine”) is not going to bring about any positive changes.

He also supports GMO labelling, which is a Trojan horse for the anti-GMO movement (https://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/should-there-be-mandatory-gmo-labeling/).

Diagnosis: Compared to some of his most obvious political opponents, including climate-change denying, antivaccine conspiracy theorist presidential incumbents, Sanders’s commitment to woo may not come across as particularly harmful. They need to be exposed, however, and should be a cause of concern.

Monday, June 10, 2019

#2202: Linda Salvin

We should probably give a honorable mention to VSP wanker lord Will Saletan, who apparently feels qualified to share his wisdom about any topic outside of his expertise that comes his way, resulting in egregious nonsense like this, thisor this (to mention a few examples), but the task of having to write up a complete entry for him fills us with dread, so we’ll let the opportunity pass.

Linda Salvin is much more (unintentionally) hilarious. Salvin is an intuitive healer, whose credentials include surviving a commercial airliner crash in 1981 (“As she exited the plane ... she heard reassuring voices that told her she would be unharmed”), being struck by a fire truck, a car accident and a life-altering surgery:  “[w]ith each of these experiences, her spiritual connection and psychic abilities began to grow,” says Salvin. Now she is ready to diagnose and heal you using her intuitions (currently, she is “directly linked to the other side due to a white light experience and three near death”). Medical school and evidence-based practices are for wussies. Apparently she is “on a journey”.

Well, to aid you in your healing Salvin offers several products for you to buy, including her wicks of wisdom, a “spiritual candle-magic line created by Dr. Linda in 1999 while on national radio.” (The “Dr.” part is not particularly well explained.) Apparently, “[s]he was trained in candle magic and took the concepts mainstream for people from all walks of life.” If we understand the procedure correctly, you light the candles (carefully following instructions) and offer some kind of incantation, and the magic will bring you wellness, fortunes and good luck. Oh, and she does fortune-telling, too: “If you are seeking answers to life’s questions such as love, finances, career, relationships, spiritual guidance, health and wellness, legal issues or anything more personal, then you want to book a session for a psychic reading.” Especially the legal issues thing seems to set her apart from most of the competition, which seems to be rather careful about offering that kind of advice. 

Diagnosis: Probably harmless, yet it continues to amaze us – even after all these loons – that people still fall for purveyors of good-luck magic. But apparently they do.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

#2201: Kamal Saleem

A.k.a. Khodor Shami (real name)

That evangelical fundies aren’t always deeply concerned with honesty should come as a shock to nobody. Kamal Saleem, for instance, is one of several “ex-terrorists” (Walid Shoebat is another) who claims to have been involved in islamist terror activities but saw the errors of his ways and is currently touring the religious right circus complaining about the evils of the Quran. In particular, Saleem claims to have been recruited by the PLO in Beirut in 1964 or 1965, four years before it was established in Lebanon, and ten before it was deployed to Beirut. Indeed, he claims to have been part of the Muslim Brotherhood at the same time (of course, his audience will probably not be aware that PLO and the Muslim Brotherhood were archrivals) and have met most of the most high-profile figures in the Middle East at the time. His fictitious backstory is ridiculous enough for one reviewer to dub him the “Forrest Gump of the Middle East.” Indeed, entirely according to himself, Saleem used to be important enough for the Muslim Brotherhood to put a $25 million bounty on his head, and he claims that there have been attempts to earn it: After a 2007 speaking event in California, for instance, he claims to have returned to his hotel to find his room ransacked and a band of dangerous Middle Easterners on his trail. He describes calling the police to alert them to an assassination attempt, though local law enforcement has no record of any such incident. We suppose you are supposed to blame a conspiracy backed by the pro-shariah government of the US.

Saleem used to work for Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network – CBN continued to use him as a source even after his back story was revealed as fraud – and was hired by Focus on the Family in 2003, before launching his own ministry, Koome Ministries, in 2006 to “expose the true agenda of [Muslims] who would deceive our nation and the free nations of the world ... America must wake-up and set a continued Christian agenda of Liberty and Truth as a standard to follow throughout the free world,” and embarking upon a lucrative career posing as an ex-terrorist. He has in recent years managed to become something of a mainstay in the religious right circus ring; his participation in The Call‘s “Dearborn Awakening” section – long after his fictitious backstory had been exposed – where he told rally attendees that he is descended from the “Grand Wazir of Islam” (a title that doesn’t exist in Islam) and urged attendees to pray for Muslims to convert to Christianity, is a typical example. 

While preparing for his The Call appearance, Saleem also said that President Obama planned “to break down Article 6” of the Constitution in order to enforce “Islamic law,” warning that “if he breaks this, the Sharia law will be supreme in America.” Not only is this of course deranged nonsense, Saleem is also, ironically enough, closely affiliated with explicitly dominionist groups like Transformation Michigan that are themselves fighting tooth and claw to overturn Article 6. 

Creeping shariah law is a mainstay of Saleem’s unhinged rants (we won’t even try to sum up this maelstrom of paranoid delusions). In 2012, Saleem claimed to have uncovered a liberal plot to use the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade to “bring Sharia law liberally in our face”. The formulations do admittedly suggest that he is poking fun at a paranoid audience, but the sum of evidence show that it is most likely an instance of unhinged insanity. He didn’t offer any details concerning howRoe v. Wade would lead to the implementation of shariah law, but did call it an “Islamic clause”. He doesn’t seem to know very much about Islam. Oh, and according to Saleem, the Obama administration didn’t merely wish to let Shariah law replace the constitution; it also sought to legalize terrorism through immigration reform – again there is a certain lack of detail, but apparently immigration reform means that “all the illegal Muslims will be legalized here” which entails that “terrorism will be legal.” President Obama was apparently also “sending millions to Hamas to import Muslim people” to the U.S. as part of a Muslim Brotherhood plot. The military is also involved: “many generals who swore to destroy the United States of America are generals in the United States”. Then he warned that “this world will become past tense and one day we’ll be wearing ragheads.” Apparently it all has something to do with the UN Resolution 16/18, which reaffirms “freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression” and opposes religious discrimination, and which will ostensibly force the church to “go underground” and thus impose Islam on everyone (or something). Let us at least all agree that there is something here that doesn’t quite add up. 

In 2014, Saleem caught President Obama red-handed, having figured out that Obama secretly wanted ISIS to attack the United States so that he could declare martial law, cancel the next election and become a dictator. And while waiting for the bombs, Obama was waging jihad and helping fundamentalist islamists to take over America with abortion and gay rights, two things fundamentalist Islamists are not known to be particularly fond of, but it is probably all a false flag. We should consider ourselves lucky that Saleem and fellow conspiracy theorists were there to expose the plot. Saleem also revealed that the Obama family was in fact secretly attending mosques every Christmas; he established this by the powers of speculations, which works better for him than facts (what good are theyFactswon’t fit his narrative. Come on!)

Of course, having been exposed as a fraud carries little significance in wingnut circles. In 2012, for instance, the tea party group Constituting Michigan brought Saleem to Allegan High School to warn guests of the danger of creeping sharia law. Responding to criticism of the event Bill Sage, one of the co-founders of Constituting Michigan, dismissed it as “the result of media bias”. It is not clear what piece of criticism that response was supposed to address, but we are also under no illusion that Sage has ever worried about truth, accuracty, honesty or accountability. Dave Agema was also scheduled to speak at the event. Here is the American Decency Association’s attempt to defend Saleem. It is oddly telling.

Indeed, the same year Saleem was also given a platform at the Values Voter Summit, where he entertained audiences with tall tales of his work for Lebanon, Syria, the PLO, Libya, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the Muslim Brotherhood and even Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, until he moved to the U.S. to wage “cultural jihad;” there he and his fellow terrorists “met the professors” at American universities and colleges – “our playgrounds” – and helped “the professors to establish new curriculum purposefully” to brainwash students to change “your children to hit your nation with everything they’ve got” (currently “45 percent of Common Core is Islamic indoctrination”; how he arrived at the figure is left open.) He also claimed that Hillary Clinton was working with Islamic countries to eviscerate the Constitution and “subjugate American people to be arrested and put to jail and their churches and synagogues shut down,” which he says would happen “early next year!” 2013 came and passed without subjugation, but the religious right has never turned their back on a false prophet. He made similar claims about Clinton in 2016, and in 2017 he repeated his warnings that the Democrats are plotting to let Muslim terrorists take over America. Mat Staver, for instance, still seems impressed.

Saleem has also produced anti-Islamic videos for the Oak Initiative. His fake backstory is laid out in his virulently anti-Islamic book The Blood of Lambs, which has been reviewed as “obsessively, sadistically violent.” He usually responds to criticism of his claims by accusing critics, including a Christian professor at Calvin College, of being Muslim Brotherhood agents working in cohorts with an Islamic “shadow government” that has formed an “unholy alliance” against him: “Today we the enemy of Islam, the liberal movement, the socialist movement, the communist movement, the women movement, Cod Pink, all of them are coming against me, the Occupy, all of these are coming against me.They have unholy alliances together with Islam, whether it’s homosexual or baby-killer, all these have unholy alliances.” Coherence is not his strong suit.

Saleem emphasized the same confluence of isms on Alex Jones’s show in 2016: “the isms are coming together: Islamism, socialism, secularism, fascism, liberalism, secularism, all of them are part of the ism movement for the Last Days and they are united together for a one-world order” and “world government”.

There is a decent Kamal Saleem resource here.

Diagnosis: First time you encounter him, you’d probably conclude that he is a professional liar, but it seems pretty likely to us that he just isn’t able to distinguish reality from feverishly incoherent imaginations. Completely and utterly batshit crazy.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

#2200: Ray Sahelian

Ray Sahelian is an MD and relatively well-known promoter of all sorts of herbal products and supplements for which there little or no evidence for efficacy, and a rather striking scarcity of evidence for safety. Though youtube seems to be his preferred marketing channel, Sahelian has written a number of books – peer review focusing on correlations between claim and reality, or the use of data is, shall we say, rather lax for such books, as supposed to real studies – on such supplements, including Mind BoostersThe Stevia Cookbook, Kava: The miracle antianxiety herb(if you buy into claims about something marketed as “miracle” anything you almost deserve what you get). His own products include the Physician Formulas line of nutritional supplements. 

Sahelian appears to like to come across as a fairly reasonable guy, but he is also critical of anyone expressing skepticism toward Big Supplement, such as Quackwatch. Now, and in his response to Quackwatch Sahelian didn’t actually blame Quackwatch for being shills outright (unlike most conspiracy theorists criticized by Quackwatch) – he did try to poison the well just a little bit by wondering why Quackwatch isn’t writing critical articles about Big Pharma; i.e. Sahelian doesn’t like that Quackwatch is calling out the supplement industry and would rather see that they were writing about something else – indeed, if we wish to play the game, it is worth observing that Sahelian is proud of the fact that he “also consults and formulates products for vitamin companies”, whereas Quackwatch’s Stephen Barrett has no ties to Big Pharma. Sahelian also claims that Quackwatch is unbalanced because Barrett “often, if not the majority of the time, seems to point out the negative outcome of studies with supplements […] and rarely mentions the benefits they provide.” Which may, of course, be because the supplements in question don’t really provide any health benefits and reality has an anti-supplement bias. To Sahelian, however, the failure to present both sides, even when there is only one, is unscientific: “A true scientist takes a fair approach,” says Sahelian. We suspect he doesn’t really have the faintest clue how science works, which would actually explain a bit of his behavior. 

Moreover, according to Sahelian, Barrett’s criticism of supplements is hollow since “[d]oes he take any supplements himself to learn firsthand how they work? […] Anyone who comments about supplements and has not taken them, or has not had feedback for several years from hundreds or thousands of patients, does not have a full understanding of how they work or what benefit or side effects they have.” Or put differently: anecdotes, personal experience and motivated reasoning trump carefully conducted, controlled studies, always.

Sahelian’s website pushes more or less any herbal supplement and natural cure you could imagine – yes, Sahelian does nominally warn readers about the fallacy of appeals to nature, but those are just words; the warning has certainly had no impact on the advice he himself provides. His claims are otherwise backed up mostly by anecdotes, though there is a smattering of appeals to ancient wisdom in there as well.  

Diagnosis: Though he likes to promote himself as “moderate”, there is little in Ray Sahelian’s advice or writings to distinguish him from Gary Null, apart from the tone and the rhetoric. We recommend maintaining a safe distance.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

#2199: Jonathan Saenz

Jonathan Saenz is the president of Texas Values, which is a piece of information that should really be sufficient to establish that he is a serious loon. Texas Values is the lobbying arm of the Liberty Institute, an organization notorious for peddling conspiracy theories and discredited stories about how government and progressive activists are attacking religious liberty.

And just as you’d expect, Saenz really, really doesn’t like gay people – that his former wife apparently left him for another woman might be part of it, but his lunacy is nevertheless all his own. The primary goal of his group is to combat LGBT equality and basic protections for LGBT people, such as efforts to prevent anti-LGBT bullying (that would, as they see it, constitute granting “special rights” to “homosexuals”). They also wish to keep anti-sodomy laws on the books, claiming that efforts to repeal such laws are efforts to push a gay “agenda”. In addition, Texas Values opposes sex education and considers themselves brave soldiers for good in the mythical “war on Christmas”, mostly by pushing conspiracy theories and myths: the “war” is “a key front in the radical movement to remove all religious expression from the public square” and create a world where children are too afraid to even talk about Christmas at school.

In 2014 Saenz called the marriage equality ruling in Texas a “hollow victory” (??), after calling it “one of the most egregious forms of judicial activism of our generation;” judicial activism, of course, is when the courts issue a ruling Saenz doesn’t like (https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Judicial_activism). To help himself cope with such decisions, Saenz has turned to denialism so delusional (growing support for gay marriage in the US is “a myth” – the vast majority of Americans really agrees with him; facts be damned) one would almost have felt sorry for him if he weren’t so hateful; the same sort of delusions are on glorious display here.

He is no fan of non-discrimination ordinances either, ostensibly because they discriminate against his religious freedom to discriminate against those who don’t share his religious beliefs. Indeed, with regard to Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, Saenz called it a demonic attempt to empower “sexual predators” to “terrorize women and children.” 

In conclusion, according to Saenz, gay people are like an enemy army, and “America today is occupied territoryThe enemies of religious freedom occupy every power center from government to academia. Everyone except its spiritual core…” That core would be the pastors, who are now “the Leaders of the Resistance,” who are accordingly targeted by this demonic army of gay people (therefore you should send Saenz money). Indeed, Saenz seems to think that the battle for marriage equality is really just a flimsy cover for a Satanic attack on churches and, ultimately, Christianity itself – gay rights advocates really want to “destroy” marriage, “attack churches,” and make sure “religious liberty will be obliterated”; indeed, advocates of gay rights ultimately want to throw their opponents in jail, or even in concentration camps. Of course, Saenz’s paranoia is partially fueled by his complete inability to grasp the distinction between criticism and censorship – true to form, Saenz has called those who criticize him “enemies of freedom”. He also, unsurprisingly, has a bit of trouble with the distinctions truth/falsehood and honesty/lying.


Though his energies have, at least the last few years, mostly been devoted to anti-gay efforts, Saenz has a long history of wingnut advocacy for a wide range of types of bigotry, denialism or pseudoscience. Saenz, a staunch creationist (the theory of evolution, which he doesn’t remotely understand, is a “left-wing ideology” that “any respectable scientist” should see through), was for instance a supporter of having Texas public schools teach creationism; when the education board decided that science classes should be devoted to science in 2009, Saenz was outraged and lambasted the board for wanting to “bow down to the scientific community”: “It’s outrageous that our highest elected education officials voted to silence teachers and students in science class” and thus prevent them from teaching kids all other non-science stuff that Saenz they might believe. “Despite being overwhelmed by e-mails and phone calls to keep strengths and weaknesses, the divided State Board of Education ignored constituents and sided with a small group of activists,” continued Saenz: “This decision shows that science has evolved into a political popularity contest. The truth has been expelled from the science classroom.” It is a lovely illustration of Saenz’s deranged mind that he failed to notice the blatant contradiction between those two claims. He did, however, commend the board for a resolution calling on textbook publishers to limit references to Islam, ostensibly to combat the stealth influence of Middle Easterners on textbook publishing.

He has also called it “untrue and factually and historically inaccurate” that the Constitution separates church and state, as if he had any idea what “untrue” and “inaccurate” mean.

There is a good Jonathan Saenz resource here.

Diagnosis: As confident as he is delusional, Saenz actually wields quite some influence in his native Texas. Extremely dangerous.

Friday, May 31, 2019

#2198: Kevin Ryerson

Channeling is a process where a fraud or loon (the “channeler”) claims to be invaded by a spirit entity which speaks through said channeler. Kevin Ryerson is one of the more familiar of these, after being featured in an ABC miniseries in 1987 hosted by Shirley MacLaine in which MacLaine has conversations with spirits through Ryerson. Of particular note is the spirit “John”, an alleged contemporary of Jesus, who spoke through Ryerson – interestingly not in Aramaic but in some sort of faux Elizabethan English – and told MacLaine that she (MacLaine) is a co-creator of the world with God, thus confirming MacLaine’s brand of subjectivist egotheism. MacLaine, who has never been accused of being among the brightest bulb on the New Age circuit, was understandably excited.

Ryerson, who bills himself as an  “author, lecturer, award winning consultant , expert intuitive, futurist and trance channel in the tradition of Edgar Cayce”, has been in the game for a while now. Currently, he seems to be mostly channeling one Atun-Re, an ancestor of Nubian descent and an Egyptian Priest who lived during the time of Akhnathen, and he offers Tele-Readings for a fee well above your usual last-page horoscope readers. He has previously served as board member of the Intuition Network and vice-president of the Berkeley California Society for Psychical Studies, as well as faculty at the “Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.), Omega Institute, Findhorn Foundation, Interface, Lily Dale Assembly, Philosophical Research Society, Learning Annex, and the Whole Life Expos” (we mention these for future reference). According to himself, he also “works extensively with medical doctors, scientists, parapsychologists and other professionals to add perspective and insight to various topics including physics,health, nutrition, biochemistry, geology and business,” though he is somewhat short on the details of that work. Ryerson is also the author of Spirit Communication: The Soul’s Path, coauthor of Future Healer (with Ron Henry, ND) and author of the foreword to C. Norman Shealy’sThe Future Healer. James Redfield is a fan, and covered Ryerson in The Tenth Insight.

Diagnosis: Probably a serious loon, though there are alternative interpretations of his business model. Ought to be reasonably harmless, but a shocking number of people is apparently impressed by his nonsense.