Over the last decade, the internet has devolved into a playground for influencers who sell and show off anything and everything you could ever imagine. But my guest today, Helen Lewis, says it isn’t all just superficial TikTok stars telling you how to properly contour your face to look like a Kardashian. Helen argues that the internet has actually become a digital revival tent, and that it’s full of new gurus. In fact, she says, we’re living in a
Oh boy, another tough listen. I get that Bari’s interviewing style is ‘let them talk’. But Lewis just constantly says misinformed and untrue things. She says that ‘right-wingers’ don’t trust Fauci for political reasons, for example. Well, anyone who’s payed attention to Fauci’s constant flip flopping, lies and (successfull) attempts to silence the opinions of other scientists, such as Jay Bhattacharya should NOT trust him, if they’re thinking at all. Really wish Bari would push back a bit harder
I’ve been sensing a Bari pivot towards the establishment in the past few podcasts and it made me wonder-did the FBI put a horse head in her and Nellie’s bed because of the Twitter files?
But after this podcast I’m thinking it’s because she's worried she'll become a ‘guru’ and perhaps forcing some establishment broccoli down her contrarian subscriber's throats will help remedy that?
I’m not sure I buy the guru argument in the first place. It sounds to me like sophomoric hero worship. A British newscaster finds Jordan Peterson’s work amazing but then he sees mean tweets so has to disavow him?? Can’t he just treat Peterson like a human who has flaws and take the good with the bad? Since when did liking someone’s work mean you have to care about anything else in their life? At the end, Helen (who I’m convinced is really Emma Thompson) suggests we direct our need to follow toward dead authors. Why because they can remain a figment of your imagination and not challenge you with mean tweets? If you need to follow someone who cannot disappoint you by being human why not pick a classic that has stood the test of time like Jesus or the Buddha?
Bari, no one here sees you as a guru. We subscribe to you and the Free Press to hear stories and perspectives we can’t get anywhere else. When local news died so did the feeder system to the coasts about what is really happening in 'fly over' country. We want you to find those stories and the reporters who are out there in these places, without fancy college degrees (remember what you said on Bill Maher) who can share these perspectives.
Do more debates! Have one on energy. Are we really jumping off a cliff by forcing our grids onto renewables?
But Emily Oster, Ken Burns, Helen Lewis, with all due respect...we can get that perspective anywhere.
Still love you… and especially Nellie. OK…maybe Nellie is my guru ;-)
I am very happy to come on here and see that most people agreed with what I was thinking.
This might be the most disappointing thing I’ve ever listen to or read out of Bari Weiss’ sphere.
I agree with the complete lack of pushback. It’s the first time I’ve literally had the thought during a podcast or an interview that Bari did of thinking “is this just one of Bari‘s good friends that she has coffee with?“
No pushback and the idea of “guru“ sure strikes me as eerily similar to labeling someone “a conspiracy theorist“.
(remember when suggesting the vaccine did not stop the transmission was a conspiracy? Remember when thinking that one of the hypotheses that should be explored is that the virus came from the Wuhan lab was a conspiracy?“ Remember when thinking that the social media companies had banned the Hunter Biden laptop story with no actual evidence that it was Russian collusion was a conspiracy? remember when saying that potentially the mRNA vaccines could heighten the chances of heart issues in people was a conspiracy?
Seems like labeling them a guru does a very similar thing.
Guru sort of implies that someone is “taken in” by listening to these people.
I actually had downloaded Helen’s podcast. Because I heard her on something else briefly, but it was super brief and although on that podcast, I had some red flags as well it seems like an interesting topic. I was not even halfway through the first episode and was also really noticing its lack of integrity. And sure seems like labeling them a guru does a very similar thing.
Guru sort of implies that someone is “taken in“ by listening to these people.
I actually had downloaded Helen’s podcast. Because I heard her on something else briefly, but it was super brief and although on that podcast, I had some red flags as well and seem like an interesting topic. I was not even halfway through the first episode, and was also really noticing its lack of integrity. And sort of its feeling that it was trying to dismantle heterodox thinking. But just using a new word “guru“ instead of “conspiracy, theorist“
After listening to this whole interview, I just deleted Helens New guru podcast I don’t think I need to listen to that woman. It is really disheartening that Bari would have that long of a conversation with that little pushback as a lot of the rest of you have said.
Full disclosure, I listen to the Darkhorse podcast, and in my opinion it is overwhelmingly scientifically, and logically-based conversation that is in no way “sure of itself“ which is what good science should be.
This was absolutely terrible. Of course just because I don’t seem to necessarily agree with this woman’s take on a lot of things doesn’t mean I don’t want to listen to her. That is the point of why most of us would be part of the community listening to the Free Press podcasts and reading it. But it’s the first time it felt SUPER super softball.
This is beyond the fact that if you listen to the most recent Darkhorse podcast, Heather and Brett do bring up this conversation, and I feel like their rebuttal and statements about it hold vastly more water than Helen’s does.
And I’m sure if Helen reads these are comments she’s going to just think that I’ve been “taken in“ by the “new guru“ that is Bret Weinstein. See how you use these things to just dismiss it? Like Brett and Heather talk about in their podcast in reference to this conversation Bari does a very unethical and kind of snide thing in the comment about “being skeptical of Fauci and then all of a sudden you are thinking that Bill Gates is putting micro chips in your vaccinations“
I don’t remember the exact quote. But the slippery slope argument that is very weak is basically akin to this.
It’s so disappointing because it seems so below Bari’s critical thinking. I’m just shaking my head. I don’t know what happened here. I have no problem disagreeing with someone’s point of view, but this was , the least challenging and worst thing I’ve heard come out of Bari’s media entities since I first became aware of her. Which was a long time back and I’ve been a big supporter over the years.
Come to think of it in a way this is more damaging vernacular than “conspiracy theory“ because it one it sounds like someone believes one idea that is just so crazy like “vaccines might not stop transmission of Covid” but the other one discounts everything the person who is the “guru“ says basically. I mean, hopefully in her podcast she talks about even if they are shams they do good for people. I’m sure she does. But saying that someone who listens to the Dark horse podcast, or Jordan Peterson, is following a guru means that they’ve been taken into such an extent that it’s not just one idea it’s a whole catalog of ideas that the stupid people have fallen for. And very didn’t push back against it basically at all. So so disappointing.
I don't get it. First, Helen Lewis is a quite bland modern leftie intellectual with no insights on anything. Second, where's the push back ? This lady got destroyed by Peterson during more than an hour, looked a complete fool for at least 6 months and now she's doing to rounds of many podcasts pushing all you can eat buffet of platitudes like nothing happened. I mean, when she says that Peterson is just being mean with his comments on Page and Sports Illustrated models, im here with my mouth wide open aghast : is she stupid, she doesn't read or she doesn't care ? Blah
I didn't know who Helen Lewis was. I listened. Ms Lewis is intellectually uninteresting and sort of run of the mill prejudiced journalist. Cherry picking and speaking in half truths and hyperbole. Yawn.
She's a big fan of all the mainstream Covid superheroes Father Fauci, BigPharma etc.
Well the good news is that no one who listens to this will mistake Helen Lewis for being a guru on anything.
Bari - obviously love your work and am a supporter, but it escapes my why anyone would find Helen Lewis’ ideas compelling.
Happy to have someone convince me otherwise.
Bari, why did you not push back on some of the Covid inaccuracies that your guest was stating as fact? There is plenty of evidence that the vaccines were not safe and effective; there was NO evidence, ever, that the vaccines would stop transmsission. She stated them as gospel truth.
This podcast bothered me. Not because of the topic or the bias of Ms Lewis but it did take me a bit of time to sort through these to get to the heart of it. Mrs Weiss there is nothing in this hour plus long interview that I couldn't have gotten from the NYT, NPR, BBC, or from The Atlantic. What ultimately bothered me is this platform of yours, at least I thought and I accept that the mistake maybe mine, is supposed to cut through the bias noise, no matter who or where it comes from, and get to truth. But this was none of that. It was a gal pal romp through Ms Lewis's groupthink. Mrs Weiss, if this project of yours is just going to be the NYT light then what's the point? The NYT at least has a cooking section.
I listened to the entire podcast and while I respect Helen Lewis, I think she offers a narrative here that is disappointing and tainted by her own confirmation bias. Lewis posits this newly coined definition of "Guru" which appears to be another example of the pseudo intellectual theories that are rampant in our society today. Theories that are interesting and make sense at first glance, but have no foundation.
To begin with, her use of the term Guru, (a term intended for an individual who sincerely shares spiritual wisdom), is defined in her narrative in ways that clearly describe something closer to occult leader and con-artist. Not to say there is no history of disingenuous people posing as gurus, however, that fact does not change the intended meaning of the word, (this is perhaps a reflection of her view of spiritual teachers through an atheist lens).
Further, her application of this theory is wrought with bias. Lewis states that the core traits of the "guru" is galaxy brain, grievance mongering, overt vulnerability, anti-establishment and the mantra "never criticize me". The interesting thing to me is that Joe Rogan, Jordan Peterson and Brett Weinstein are the primary focus of this discussion of gurus, but I've never heard any of them take a "never question me approach", they passionately defend their perspectives in thoughtful ways but on multiple occasions I've heard them change their mind or soften their perspective when faced with a factual counter-point. I personally respect their approach to intellectual exploration even when I don't agree with their view.
The discussion also ignores that the "outsider/vulnerability' piece in each of these cases were not self-ascribed as a part of an act, but were based on legitimate injustices that were inflicted on their careers. Injustices that run counter to basic principles of academia and free speech. Meanwhile, the only person mentioned in this interview who has repeatedly expressed a "never criticize me" edict, gets a grade of A- for his handling of the pandemic.
I think Lewis is an intelligent individual and there is much that she writes that I agree with and many points in this interview that I think she gets right. However, I was disappointed in Bari's wholesale acceptance of Lewis' new definition of guru, and particularly the unnuanced dissection of Rogan, Peterson and Weinstein.
It's interesting to me that I subscribe to The Free Press, have gifted a subscription as well and shared numerous Honestly interviews with friends, family and co-workers all while praising Bari Weiss, yet the way I found out about her is by hearing her praised by the three people above she has indicted as "gurus" in this interview.
What if the phenomenon here that is worth our examination as a society is not this ill-constructed theory of the modern "guru". What if the more important exploration is asking why David Fuller and millions of other educated, and good hearted people need to worship people who are genuinely exploring and sharing ideas as part of their own imperfect journey.
Without much effort, I can review past work of Helen Lewis and Bari Weiss, and use this silly construct to make an argument that they are themselves the modern gurus they hunt. But I don't want that, because I value and respect Lewis and Weiss and their contribution to our society. I also value Rogan, Peterson and Weinstein, not because they always get it right, but because they kept the dialogue open during a period when it really looked like it was going to be extinguished, and by the way, the success of the Free Press and the very recent re-balancing of the Atlantic Monthly is built on the personal risk that these imperfect individuals and others took when it was a lot harder to decent than it is today.
I love Bari Weiss, and the Free Press, but I don't know Bari Weiss and I have developed no para-social relationship with her in my mind. Does that mean she is not a guru? Does the fact that their is almost undoubtedly people out their who have created a para-social relationship with her in their minds make her a guru. The construct is faulty, like so much in our society today that focuses, and lays blame on the "Activating Event" and ignores the "Beliefs and Consequences" that are forged within the mind of the beholder. Albert Ellis got a lot of this right forty years ago, yet we have doubled down on the dysfunctional side of the equation today. Creating endless lists of "triggers", "offenses" and "demons", while ignoring the need to self-regulate and coexist.
In my opinion, using the definition of guru offered by Lewis, is just another way to identify the "other", the "demon" and unfortunately, that jeopardizes the greater societal dialogue. If you disagree with someone, say why and support your why with facts, but call them by their name while you're doing it, don't allow yourself to dehumanize them in your mind by calling them "guru" or some other childish other-term.
Friends at Free Press and Honestly, thank you for all you do. Thank you for keeping the dialogue alive. In the shifting sands of intellectual discourse, it is easy to worry that you're losing perspective, especially when some suggest that their are no facts and everything is a construct. My humble recommendation is to schedule an interview with Dr. Karen Reivich of U-Penn's Positive Psychology Center. Her resiliency program work is tremendously important and extremely grounding.
I've no idea what this podcast is about. The "gurus" are probably not perfect, but produce substance that can be discussed. HL not so much.
Seems Bari mistakenly put on her buddy cap instead of her journalist hat, which turned out poorly for us, depending upon how much of this schlocky budcast we listened to before turning it off.
How original...a journalist purporting to care about intergenerational poverty that is ALSO quick to label the COVID-19 vaccine rollout a success despite the havoc vaccine mandates wreaked on poor communities, small businesses, unprecedented inflation, and another generation locked out of home ownership due to skyrocketing interest rates and restrictive lending practices. Oh not to mention criticizing people that LITERALLY everyone in the mainstream criticizes (Joe Rogan, Jordan Peterson) yawn.
With regard to the “IDW” I think the point is it really wasn’t a thing meant to last - just a brief collision of voices from the right, left, and middle coming together to confront the onslaught of this strange new corrosive “wokeism”. Helen Lewis famously tried to take Jordan Petersen down in 2018 in the “GQ” interview. It’s not clear to me she has any understanding of what he was (is) trying to accomplish. Pointing out that he has weaknesses and sometimes says dumb things (on twitter) doesn’t really explain why his general advice for living shouldn’t be considered. None of these “gurus” have any power beyond the willingness of people to financially support them. Caveat emptor.
Overall really enjoyed the podcast, something I found a bit strange was toward the end though was Helen talking about people overly weighting/focusing on things like campus controversy as opposed to things that are societally more important like intergenerational poverty....which don't disagree but....you run a podcast on internet gurus, can't see how that heuristic doesn't apply at least as much if not even more so to that subject as it does to campus issues
Great subject and discussion, thank you! One thing always looms large for me in these types of discussions when trying to make sense of cultural and intellectual trends, which are always fluid and should be in my mind, is that once on a track, once in the groove of criticism of a particular trend, we still fall prey to the same type of bias as the influencer/guru, in that proving the point of why we should be skeptical and always attempt to sense-make, we devolve a bit, or much, in our objectivity.
Beware false idols. Beware any idols at all. People are fallible. All of us. Every single one. Even, and perhaps most especially, experts in their field of study because expertise requires a type of tunnel vision. It is almost impossibly impossible to be fully objective. We must always question the individual thoughts, and actions, of humans rather than take them or discard them in their entirety. Either way-fully in or fully out- we miss all the important bits (facts and data) and quibble over emotion and bias.