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My Interview With Stephanie Winn About Adults Inventing Magical Children
I had a lot of fun with Some Kind of Therapist
Therapist Stephanie Winn recently had me on her podcast to discuss the “trans child” phenomenon and other topics related to what we write about here at The Distance. Winn’s show notes are below, with my annotations, along with a few links to things I have written.
Many thanks to Stephanie for this wide-ranging talk, which her editor was able to make into something almost comprehensible despite the occasions where my thought-train derailed a couple of times. (Seriously, if you need a podcast video editor, she has a good one.) I have always preferred writing to speaking, this is why.
When Matt was 15 years old, he was told that he was an “Indigo Child” with a special “aura.” Today, he is an atheist who attributes his most mystical experiences to rock’n’roll. In this episode, we compare our observations of how quasi-mystical belief systems can rush to fill the religious voids left by our secular society, leading to magical thinking that idealizes children while neglecting their true psychosocial developmental needs. In what ways are today’s “trans children” similar to the “indigo children” of 30 years ago?
I did not get a chance to tell this story more fully during our discussion. During a celebration of the “harmonic convergence” of 1987, a “Native American woman” (self-identified, so who actually knows) told me in no uncertain terms, having gazed at me over a crystal, that I was an “Indigo Child.” I had never heard of such a thing before.
My own sense in the moment was that she was trying to please my mother, who had some credit with the local goddess community at the time, even though she was a monotheist. Thereafter, I discovered that “synaesthesia,” the supposed ability to see auras, was a mental trick people can play on themselves, and for a brief moment of adolescent idiocy I did just that, to hilarious effect.
Then I grew up, because invisible auras are not real, just like “gender identities.”
Many years later, mainstream media picked up on the “Indigo Children” idea. It is an example of how humans construct esoteric beliefs around childhood that lead to horrible abuses of children. As I discussed in this podcast with Stephanie, a person raised to believe in their own specialness will be under unimaginable pressures to continue conforming to the belief-system that has been imposed on their body.
This conversation covers a lot of ground. Matt assuages my ego, explaining why it wasn’t my fault that history was my worst subject in school. Later, I explain what I miss about being a quasi-Hindu hippie, as we compare my peak experiences drumming in call-and-response kirtan circles with the ecstatic joy he found in mosh pits. We also discuss the elements of ritual, transcendent unity, heuristics, adolescent development, social status, negative partisanship, historiography, subtypes of narcissism, family dynamics, parenting, our disconnection from nature, Jazz Jennings, spectral harms, the vital role of hardship in life, the long term mental health risk factors today’s trans youth are likely face as they age, and what might happen when we realize: the kids aren’t alright. Buckle up!
The rest is promotional copy Stephanie asked me to write:
Matt Osborne is a US Army signals intelligence and electronic warfare veteran, political scientist, and historian. He spent ten years in "netroots" as an online progressive activist. In 2012, he went from covering wonky policy topics and "movement news" to the strangest political "scene" in America upon the death of Andrew Breitbart, becoming the first "blogger" to write about Ali Alexander of 1/6 infamy.
That last bit requires some explanation. Whatever you think about the 1/6 event (or its bizarre echo in Brasilia), you need to know that Ali Alexander is a longtime political operative on the extreme fringe of what is even legal, let alone conservative. When I started writing about him, he was still named Ali Akbar (really!), and there is a real probability that my writing about his risible fraud prompted him to change his name.
While I cannot confirm that is the case, writing about Alexander’s giant waving red flags with young, gay conservative boys did elicit more than one quiet query from conservative journalists following the same trail. So the reader will understand that when Seth Abramson calls Alexander “one of the most dangerous people in America,” I actually laugh out loud at the #resistance grifter, because Ali is a bottom-dwelling catfish of a man. He deserves to be in prison, probably, but not for 1/6, or his politics.
Later in 2016, he was one of the first people to write about Cambridge Analytica, Donald Trump, and all things Russia, but with the warning that it was too easy to lose direction in a "wilderness of mirrors."
At a time of great reversals in my outlook, this might be the biggest of all. Cambridge Analytica is the great bugbear of Brexit and Trump-Russia conspiracy theories. I first took note of this company in February 2016, when they worked for Ted Cruz. Steve Bannon, the CEO of Breitbart at that time, and went on to “manage” the Trump campaign from the summer of 2016, was also the chairman of the Cambridge Analytica board. Robert Mercer was the primary American funder of Cambridge Analytica, and during the 2016 primary race, Bannon convinced his daughter Rebekah, who handled her father’s political donations, to back Trump over Cruz.
It was all very interesting as inside baseball, but as I tried to caution people, the whole entire point of Russian influence in Brexit, or the Trump Tower meeting in 2016, was to get westerners to attack each other over imaginary Russian spies under every bed. It worked well, didn’t it?
He was featured in the HBO documentary "After Truth" about his role in online information spaces during the 2017 special US Senate election in Alabama.
Fun fact, I helped remove Roy Moore from the Alabama State Supreme Court. Twice.
The second time, I worked with a drag queen named Ambrosia Starling. I still have the t-shirt from that.
Then I came up with an idea to keep Roy Moore out of the United States Senate, something so innovative and unpredictable and downright incomprehensible to outsiders that no one could see it coming. The most liberal newspaper in America interviewed me, the most liberal radio station in America interviewed me, and then an HBO documentarian decided to interview me.
I am in the middle ten minutes of this film. I am only on screen in the preview for one instant at 1:17. Andrew Rossi is a solid guy, this is a solid documentary.
Why, my now-former Democratic friends asked, did you do this? Why do a top secret project to elect Doug Jones to the US Senate and then gab about it to anyone who will listen? For freedom, dear reader. By the time I appeared in Rossi’s documentary, I was “gender critical,” no longer willing to toe ideological or partisan lines to make other people comfortable with all the truth I write.
Go ahead, call me “right wing.” See how much it hurts me.
Now disenchanted with the state of liberalism, and a repeat victim of "Cassandra syndrome," he has given up politics and become a conflict historian. His website Polemology.net is focused on the intersection of human minds and military revolutions. As an editor for The Distance, he puts the "gender identity" phenomenon in historical context as an emerging American New Age religious movement.
And so I hope to do, dear reader. This has been a confessional. I needed a therapist to get this all out. I’m glad I had this talk with Stephanie Winn. Who, by the way, is a big hero for her work with detransitioners and tireless administrative lobbying to get her profession to recognize the damage that “woke” “therapy” can do. When the history of How We Won gets written, she will have her own chapter. You can follow her on Twitter here, and follow her podcast in a zillion different ways here.
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