Presidential hopeful Marianne Williamson recently tweeted that, “There’s an ancient strain of misogyny that labels any women who doesn’t toe the line with the status quo of her time as ‘crazy’ or ‘dangerous.’ Twas always thus.”
It’s true that women in male-dominated fields — like politics — are often held to a higher standard. And it’s true that Williamson has been labeled both dangerous and crazy.
But here’s something else Williamson has tweeted: “The power of your mind is greater than the power of nuclear radiation. Visualize angels dispersing it into nothingness.”
Anyone who has watched the HBO series “Chernobyl,” let alone anyone who has an adult’s understanding of the effects of nuclear radiation, knows that wishing it away isn’t an effective cure. Though, I suppose under Williamson’s logic, it’s possible the sufferers didn’t visualize those angels hard enough.
This mindset doesn’t just extend to nuclear radiation. Williamson has also tweeted, “If you ever read an article saying that I told people with AIDS they didn’t have to take their medicine because positive thinking would cure it; or that I ever told people who got sick that negative thinking caused it; please know both those things are complete and utter lies.”
You might wonder what that oddly specific tweet regards. In her book, “A Return to Love,” Williamson wrote, “Cancer and AIDS and other serious illnesses are physical manifestations of a psychic scream, and their message is not ‘Hate me,’ but ‘Love me.’ ” She also wrote: “Sickness is an illusion and does not actually exist.”
That’s interesting, because most medical practitioners would swear those illnesses are not an illusion but an actual real-life disease. If Williamson is not aware of this, that’s understandable. She has no medical degree and was a theater major before dropping out of college her junior year.
God willing, Williamson isn’t someone we need to worry about. She currently ranks just 15th among the Democratic candidates, according to polling website Five Thirty-Eight. As of Aug. 12, she claimed she needed 8,000 more donors to make the 130,000 donor threshold for the next debate on Sept. 12. So far, she’s raised $1.5 million for her campaign, compared with the top candidate, Pete Buttigieg, who’s raked in $24.9 million.
But, before you write her off, remember the terrible candidates who have started out as jokes.
In the meantime, Williamson is using her platform to spread ideas that are not based in scientific reality and could be actively harmful to very sick, very scared people.
Now, Williamson and her supporters can argue her ideas have been taken out of context (as if there is a normal context for claiming that sickness is an illusion), but their effect seems real. In response to some passages in “A Return to Love,” Dvorah Landsman tweeted, “I ran the Southern CA AIDS Hotline in the 90s. The number of people who were convinced by [Williamson] . . . that their illness was the disease from their own internalized whatever caused more people to die blaming themselves than I can count.”
Pacific Standard magazine recounted a story from a woman whose mother was a Williamson devotee. At age 8, after an injury on the monkey bars, she went to her mother for medical attention and was instead told, “You need to work on loving yourself more.” It was later revealed she had a cervical spine dislocation, and her lack of treatment led to medical problems in her adult life.
Williamson’s message of peace and love doesn’t seem to extend to those who have doubts about her record. When TED Talks’ senior social-media editor Ella Dawson criticized her for, among other things, claiming “that you can cure cancer and HIV with love” on Twitter, Williamson replied, “You might not agree with me, but to say horrible things based on things that aren’t even true is no different than what Trump does.”
Actually, a presidential candidate lashing out at private citizens on Twitter and claiming that any critique of them is fake news seems more Trumpian than anything Dawson said.
As for whether it’s motivated by sexism, Dawson told The Post, “I’m a proud feminist, and my values make supporting Williamson impossible. But I suppose it’s some kind of twisted progress for womankind that a shockingly unqualified disaster like Williamson can stand on the debate stage alongside strong female candidates like [Elizabeth] Warren and [Kamala] Harris.”
If Williamson’s thoughts-and-prayers approach feels a little familiar, that’s because it is.
There have always been people willing to tell you how you can will your problems away — as long as you buy their book or make a hefty donation to them. Williamson may have wrapped her rhetoric in liberal New Age terms like “peace and love,” but unqualified people profiting off the desperation of others is nothing new. Twas always thus.
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