Monday, November 11, 2019

The Williamson Institute: not quite Trump U, but still crapitalism

Though she is for all practical purposes currently on the sidelines of the 2020 presidential race -- or at least that's how it appears at the moment -- don't count McSpirituality guru Marianne Williamson out of the larger game. You can't keep a good New-Wage crapitalist down.

On November 5, 2019, the Rolling Stone site ran a feature by Tessa Stuart,
"That Marianne Mind$et: Obeying the Law of Divine Compensation." Stuart opens with a mention of an early August 2019 email blast directed to those who had signed up for Williamson's campaign mailing list earlier in the year. The message featured a "soft-focus portrait of the presidential candidate gazing placidly at the pages of a hardcover tome beside a golden Buddha and an orchid."

That's so Marianne.

The email came from something called the Williamson Institute, and the subject was, "Summer Sale Now On!"

“For one week only, indulge in any of our on-demand courses and seminars for 45% off!” the email read. “Whether you want to invoke the romantic mysteries, create a career that matters, divinely align your body and soul, or focus on another area of your life in a miraculous way, now is the time to treat yourself. As always, we hope this offering will enrich your life and nourish your soul.” Interested parties were advised to use the code “SummerSale.” 
There was one teeny-tiny little problem, though. At the time the email was sent out, the Williamson Institute did not yet technically exist, though a note on Williamson's personal web site said that it would be launching "soon." But skilled hucksters never let the unicorn status of anything stop them from promoting that thing.
The email linked instead to, where for a cool $249 one might enroll in a four-part online course on “aging miraculously” or a five-parter on “miraculous relationships.” The four-part weight-loss seminar, five-parter on making money (or, rather, obeying “the law of divine compensation”), and a three-part “Aphrodite Training” were each comparative steals at $149 a piece.
Heck of a bargain, right? Can you say, "New-Wage sales funnel," boys and girls?

Stuart continues:

Williamson’s campaign blamed the email on a “vendor error” and, perhaps because Williamson isn’t a top-tier candidate, the use of a public campaign for private profit barely registered as news.

Or maybe it didn’t register because, at this point, it’s basically accepted that many (if not most) people who run for president are ultimately running one grift or another. Herman Cain used the email list he amassed during a failed bid for the Republican nomination in 2012 to
hawk dozens of get-rich-quick schemes and dubious cures, including an erectile dysfunction drug called “TestoMax 200.” Rick Perry parlayed his aborted campaign into a turn on Dancing With the Stars. Mike Huckabee’s failed White House run transformed him into a one-man media empire, complete with a terrestrial radio time slot opposite Rush Limbaugh and a hosting gig on Fox News. (Alas, the long-promised Huckabee Post never materialized.)

Of course no review of presidential candidate hucksterism would be complete without a mention of one candidate who actually won the presidency, and is without a doubt the biggest huckster of them all, Donald J. Trump,
Scammer in Chief, whose arguably most infamous contribution to Scamworld was the totally bogus "Trump University." Trump U actually did exist, for a few years, but it wasn't a real university, and Trump, who was known for boasting that he "never settles" in a lawsuit, ultimately agreed to pay $25 million to settle three of the suits against his ersatz education endeavor.

Stuart doesn't mention Trump U in the Rolling Stone piece, but she does remind us of a few other points.

Donald Trump — despite having boasted in 2000 he could possibly be “the first presidential candidate to run and make money on it” — lost money on his run for president, but he has since turned his presidency into a four-year-long paid advertisement for his hotel chain. (He also, apparently, had a contingency plan: By election night 2016, when most everyone was predicting him losing, the candidate and his family had compiled a list of ideas to capitalize on his newfound cachet, including a budget line of Trump hotels and a TV network to rival Fox News.)
Not to mention the apparently well-founded rumors that Trump has been talking, at least casually, with Apprentice creator Mark Burnett about another future "reality" show, a "White House" edition of The Apprentice. Trump denied it, of course. But his lips were moving, so that should give you an idea of how credible his denial is. In any case, there's a very good case to be made that Trump has been running his entire presidency like a reality show. Unfortunately, as Sean Illing, the author of the Vox piece linked to in the previous sentence, noted, it's "the show we can't turn off, the car crash we can't look away from the news cycle we can't escape."

But we were discussing Marianne Williamson, right? Not that revisiting Trump's various scams and hustles is irrelevant -- not at all. After all, as some observers have noted,
Trump and Williamson are in several significant ways just two sides of the same (narcissistic, celebrity-culture) coin. (Williamson has even been called a left-wing version of Trump.) And Williamson herself has famously declared on several occasions that she is the most qualified of all of the Democratic candidates to meet Trump on the battlefield that really matters: the one where the battle for the heart and soul of America is being fought (this being one of her more recent declarations).

And what about the Williamson Institute? I still can't seem to find a separate web site for the thing.
There is a Facebook page, plugging a ten-part online "course" called "The New You: A Total Life Makeover," and currently Williamson's main web site leads with basically that same plug, and follows with an announcement that the Williamson Institute will be "launching soon." Of course the site contains various other links to ways you can fork over your hard-earned lucre to Williamson.

Williamson insists she is not driven by the profit motive, though. From Tessa Stuart's Rolling Stone piece again:

But ask Marianne Williamson if her campaign has a profit motive, and a beatific expression will shimmer across her face. “It’s quite the opposite,” Williamson tells me, sitting at a sun-drenched rooftop bar a few blocks from Manhattan’s Bryant Park in early fall. “I’m not doing the things right now that you do in my career to make a living — speaking fees, etc. I’m not off giving seminars. A senator running for president is still getting a Senate salary, right? This is the opposite of a lucrative thing to do.”

Williamson continues, plugging her most recently released book by name, “If you look at my Politics of Love that came out, it is not a bestseller. It is way down on Amazon.” (It was, at press time, ranked Number 25 in “Religious Studies: Church & State,” Number 74 in “Spiritual Healing,” and Number 79 in “History of Religion & Politics.”) She fixes me with a bemused look. “If I want to, I kind of know how to sell a book. It’s called a book tour.”
Condescension duly noted, Marianne. (By the way, considering the many millions of new books that are constantly being published, and zillions of older ones still actively on the market, those press-time Amazon numbers aren't really all that bad.)

Tessa Stuart writes that Williamson's campaign denies that she planned from the beginning to capitalize on the exposure she'd get from a presidential run with money-making schemes like the Williamson Institute. In fact Williamson's campaign manager, Patricia Ewing, expressed surprise that Stuart would even ask such a question, and suggested that perhaps there was a bit of sexism behind the inquiry. "Is the same question being asked of businessmen in the race?" Ewing asked, adding that no one seemed to be questioning the motives of Tom Steyer, Andrew Yang et al. when their respective businesses continued to "innovate" while they were on the campaign trail.

But the difference, Stuart points out in her article, is that neither Steyer nor Yang is launching a new business predicated on asking fans or supporters "to pay for the privilege of hearing what they have to say."

Exactly. Furthermore, there has been plenty of criticism about Donald Trump continuing to profit from his own businesses while in office. So it isn't just a matter of giving "businessmen" a pass while the poor put-upon "businesswoman" catches all of the flak. This is not to deny that sexism and double standards riddle our political landscape. They most certainly do. But this is not that.

Marianne Williamson has said that the only way we can defeat the "outrageous lies" of Trumpism is by telling "outrageous truth." She is clearly branding herself as the standard-bearer of this truth, but anyone who truly believes this is as misinformed or deluded in his or her own way as any of the MAGA-cap wearing Trump devotees who cheer at his fascist rallies. And while I am emphatically not suggesting that Williamson's fans are hate-filled bigots like so many (not all, but so many) of Trump's fans, nor am I insinuating that Williamson's crapitalism is on a scale with Trump's, or that her narcissism is even remotely as dangerous at this point as Trump's, the devotion of her base is not necessarily a harmless thing.

Lest you accuse me of Williamson-bashing, I am not categorically declaring Marianne Williamson to be devoid of truth. As I've noted here in previous posts about her -- and as was noted in
this excellent August 2019 piece in The Intercept -- there is validity in some of her core messages, despite the wackadoodle new-agey veneer in which so many of them are wrapped. But it's gonna take a whole lot more than abstract declarations of moral and spiritual truths to defeat the orange blob and fix our egregiously broken system, which was broken for many years before Trump but has been immeasurably damaged even more since he's been in power. Marianne Williamson is simply not the person to accomplish this. And I am pretty sure that at some level, she knows it.

But don't cry for her, because one way or the other, with or without the "Williamson Institute," she'll be laughing -- beatifically, of course, and with a shimmering expression of thinly veiled condescension on her lovely face -- all the way to the bank.

Related on this Whirled:
  • 10 January, 2011: Snippets for a Monday afternoon (under "What's wrong with this (big) picture?") -- Marianne's weight loss book and the totally contrived marketing backstory that she cooked up with Oprah.
  • 5 July 2019: So wrong, Marianne -- Musings on Williamson's first debate performance in late June, on her history as a New-Wage icon, on the new-agey "love and light" mindset, and on why Marianne is the wrong choice to go up against Trump.
  • 31 July 2019: Marianne Williamson: still so wrong -- Williamson got to talk more during her second performance at the Democrats' "debate," and some of what she said made sense, but as the title of the post noted... still so wrong.

Sunday, November 03, 2019

Wead it and reap: selfish-help author/Christian fundie/right-wing political hack pens new book that kisses some yuuuuge orange butt

It isn't every day that politix, Scamworld, and the modern-day theocracy converge on this Whirled. This is one of those daze.

The convergence comes in the form of some very good news for Donald John Trump devotees who are disgusted by
the spate of anti-Trump books that have been published since their Mad King ascended the throne. Selfish-help author Doug Wead, who has deep ties to both Amway and hypoChristian fundamentalism (more on that below), as well as to right-wing politix, is set to release a new sure-to-be-a-bestseller book on November 26 titled, Inside Trump's White House: The Real Story of His Presidency.

Apparently this is one of the boldest political books ever written, or at least the boldest book ever written about Trump, because it doesn't rely on "anonymous sources." From the promo blurb on the book's Amazon page:

After dozens of books and articles by anonymous sources, here is finally a history of the Trump White House with the President and his staff talking openly, on the record.

In Inside Trump's White House, Doug Wead offers a sweeping, eloquent history of President Donald J. Trump's first years in office, covering everything from election night to the news of today. The book will include never-before-reported stories and scoops, including how President Trump turned around the American economy, how he "never complains and never explains," and how his actions sometimes lead to misunderstandings with the media and the public. It also includes exclusive interviews with the Trump family about the Mueller report, and narrates their reactions when the report was finally released.

Contains Interviews with the President in the Oval Office, chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, Jared and Ivanka Kushner, Donald Trump, Jr., Eric and Lara Trump, and White House insiders.
Color me impressed! The Trump family and Trump's most loyal minions are willing to go on the record about how wonderful Trump is and how much he has accomplished and how wrong all of the critics are about this deeply misunderstood man. What bold risks they are taking to get the true story out to the public, as opposed to those off-the-record cowards and anon sources who had nothing more to worry about than having their careers wrecked, their lives ruined, and their physical safety threatened by vengeful Trumps or egregiously offended Trumpanzees.

But let's look more closely at that claim, quoted in the promo blurb above, that Donald Trump "never complains and never explains." Never complains, huh? Hey, Doug, have you forgotten that Trump is constantly ranting and raving at his fascist rallies, or rage-tweeting, or angrily shouting about something or other during those impromptu press ops just before he boards a helicopter? Even before he was elected he'd become notorious for griping about being treated unfairly.

And Donald Trump
"never explains?" More than any other president in recent memory, he spends more time "explaining," in the form of rationalizing and defending, his goofy words and reckless or ill-advised actions, and of course defending himself from his many critics. He even defended the size of his penis on national TV, back during the 2016 campaign.

Among other revelations in Doug Wead's new book,
as reported today in Axios, is that murderous North Korean despot Kim Jong-Un actually views Trump as a father figure. Apparently Wead got that particular tidbit from noted psychology expert Jared Kushner, who reportedly told Wead: "It's a father thing... You can see from these letters that Kim wants to be friends with Trump, but his father told him never to give up the weapons. That's his only security. Trump is like a new father figure. So, it is not an easy transition."

All righty, then!

Wead was apparently allowed to read several of the letters exchanged between Kim and Donnie, and in one of them Kim addressed Trump as, "Your Excellency." My first thought was that this is just Kim trolling, and being passive-aggressive, but Wead seems to believe otherwise.

Ahead of his latest book's release,
the author himself weighed in on Fox News.
What I discovered inside the Trump bubble was quite different from what had been reported. No, Melania and Donald were not estranged, they were tender lovers, who playfully teased each other. On almost any subject -- North Korea, China, Mueller -- the president brought up her name.

Publicly, the whole family talks about what a privilege it is to serve the country, but privately they have no illusions about the horror they are going through. The president sometimes eases the tension by teasing the first lady, saying, sarcastically, with puffed up importance, “Melania, honey, look at this incredible journey I have brought you on.”

“It’s like a joke between them,” Lara Trump told me. “Everyone is attacking all of us and she’s smeared for no reason other than pure jealousy and he says, ‘Hon, isn’t this amazing?’

“And she’s like, ‘Oh yeah, thank you so much.’ “It’s hilarious. I love it.”
In other words, "I REALLY DON'T CARE. DO U?"

And later in Wead's Fox op-ed, there's this...

Donald Trump is the sixth president I have interviewed and I came away impressed. Some will say that he is only lucky. He was lucky to win the nomination and the election. He was lucky to see what every great economist in the world had missed about the GDP, lucky at finding jobs that no one else could find, lucky at bringing back hostages that other presidents had left languishing in foreign prisons, lucky at achieving energy independence, lucky at defeating ISIS so easily.

Trump is, arguably, the first president in 40 years to avoid starting a hot war. You can say he is lucky. I say he is great.
Oh, yes. Herr Twitler did indeed win the election... and he bested the world's greatest economists in figuring out how to grow the GDP... and he created jobs "that no one else could find" (and here's another link about that)... and he is absolutely the greatest hostage negotiator ever, in contrast to Obama, who was a total do-nothing... and he almost single-handedly achieved US energy independence... and of course we all know that his defeat of ISIS was easy-peasy.

And good for Trump for being "arguably the first president in 40 years to avoid starting a hot war," unlike that warmonger Obama,
who almost got us into a hot war with North Korea. (Trump prefers trade wars, which he has assured us are easily winnable. Not to mention his love of dick wars, which of course bolsters America's standing in the eyes of the rest of the world. Not that the rest of the world's opinion matters, of course!)

But seriously now. Wead hasn't merely kissed the Mad King's ass; he has opened wide and swallowed it whole.

* * * * *

Long-time Whirled visitors with especially long memories may recall that we met Doug Wead briefly on this blog eleven years ago, when I opened one of my posts about Scamworld elder statesman Bob Proctor with a quotation from Wead, praising Proctor as a "master thinker."
“Zig Ziglar may be the master motivator, Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield of Chicken Soup for the Soul, the master story tellers; Anthony Robbins may be the guru of personal development, but Bob Proctor is the master thinker. When it comes to systemizing life, no one can touch him.”
~ Attributed (by Bob Proctor) to
Doug Wead, former Special Assistant to the President of the United States

I've known for a long time that
Scientist Bob Proctor is a deep thinker, but reading the above quotation from author, philanthropist and former Diamond-level Amway salesman Doug Wead just confirms it. "Well, gee, Cosmic Connie, is Wead really a reliable source?" you may be asking. To which I can only respond, "If you can't trust a person who betrayed the trust of a future President of the US by secretly recording conversations and then publishing them, whom can you trust?"
And that last sentence may bring up some older memories still, of the time when Doug Wead secretly taped then-Texas governor George W. Bush for three years without Bush's knowledge or permission. Previously Wead had taped the Bush family with their knowledge and permission, in the service of writing a very flattering book about the Bushes, which was based largely on these taped conversations and was published in 1988. But the seekrit taping took place later, between 1997 and 2000. From Wikipedia:
The release prompted some hostility from members of Bush's inner circle: Bush's wife, Laura Bush, said in an interview, "I don't know if I'd use the word 'betrayed,' but I think it's a little bit awkward for sure"; while Bush evangelical ally James Dobson said he was "shocked by [Wead's] breach of trust". Bush himself did not comment.[16] The tapes' release also provoked negative reaction from some commentators, such as Bill Press, who called Wead "scum", and Bill O'Reilly, who called Wead "the lowest form of debris in the country."[17]
You might think that when a theocrat like James Dobson accuses someone of engaging in a "breach of trust," and a right-wing darling such as Bill O'Reilly calls him "the lowest form of debris," that person's career as a sycophant of right-wing royalty would be doomed. You might assume he would at least be tempted to hang his head in shame and just go away quietly.

But Wead is from Scamworld, and "shame" simply isn't in the Scamworld purview. Wead
continued cranking out books, including a political hack job called, Game of Thorns: The Inside Story of Hillary Clinton's Failed Campaign and Donald Trump's Winning Strategy, which purported to be the never-before-told inside story of what really happened in the 2016 US presidential election. On Amazon the book seems to have received overwhelmingly positive reviews, but as is often the case, it is the negative ones that are the most revealing, such as this one:
Cornelius C. Walsh
1.0 out of 5 stars
If you hate Hillary, You'll Love ThisJuly 24, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Same old, same old. Didn't get more than 20 pages in as the background focused on old, old anti-Clinton issues and very little on events/issues related to contemporary and election related issues. Great for Clinton haters but really not what I was looking for.
But clearly, it was what the Trump devotees, who almost without exception are Clinton haters as well, were looking for.

If you want additional background on Doug Wead's evange-a-scam creds, as well as his past forays into politix, you'll find plenty
in this February 2005 piece from the (sadly now-defunct) Village Voice. From that piece:
Unless you were an Amwayer, you wouldn’t know that Lennon Ledbetter, a tall young man in a dark suit who served as the emcee of Wead’s campaign kickoff rally, was one of Wead’s Amway business associates in Arizona. Or that Wead campaign aide Billy Childers, who introduced Ledbetter, is the son of a prominent Amway friend of Wead’s who lives in North Carolina.

More important, you wouldn’t know that John Godzich, who runs an Amway-like organization in France and also builds American-style houses there, is someone Doug Wead met years ago through Amway, and that Godzich, himself a newcomer to Arizona, is a major source of money for Doug Wead’s political ventures—much to the ire of some Arizona Republicans. You wouldn’t know that Godzich is the older brother of Pastor
Leo Godzich, the leader of the drive against Phoenix’s proposed gay-rights ordinance and associate pastor at one of America’s largest churches, Phoenix First Assembly of God, whose pastor is Tommy Barnett. This business of clues has been used by Doug Wead before. During the 1980 presidential campaign, he wrote a quickie book entitled Reagan in Pursuit of the Presidency. Timed for publication just before the GOP National Convention, it was a campaign-trail journal capped by a Reagan campaign speech before a wildly cheering crowd in Charlotte, North Carolina. Doug Wead himself introduced Reagan to the crowd. There were countless standing ovations. At one point during Reagan’s speech, the assembled masses erupted into “God Bless America.” Must have been quite a speech, right? Not necessarily. If you were an Amwayer reading the book, however, you knew exactly what was going on. Reagan was at an Amway rally, where practically everybody gets standing ovations.
For that matter, in an April 2013 Whirled post about serial scammer and ex-Amway star Kevin Trudeau's bankruptcy, I cited a 2004 opinion piece linking Amway, Republicans and That Old Time Religion. Under the sub-head, "The Bush Family & Religious Heathens," the author wrote:
Several members of the media have looked into the relationship between the two Bush Presidencies and members of the extreme Religious Right Wing. After reading up on that gang, the only thing I know for sure, is that there is not a single honest person in the whole bunch.

First off, let's take a look at evangelist Doug Wead, a divorced Baptist Minister, and former Diamond distributor, who is still a regular speaker at Amway conventions

Wead was the first President Bush's liaison to the Christian Right and he later served as Special Assistant to the President in the first Bush White House. Time magazine referred to him as "the man who coined the phrase the compassionate conservative." ...

...At one time, Wead and his ex-wife Gloria, were both Diamond distributors, sponsored by Dexter and Birdie Yager. Wead earned large sums of money by speaking at Amway functions throughout the Yager organization.

Wead and another kingpin, Jean Godzich, eventually branched out and set up an Amway in France. In 1986, the French government began investigating it and decided the company was a dangerous mind-control cult, and a fraudulent business. Amway France terminated the distributorship of Godzich, from whose group most of the complaints had originated.

So what do Wead and Godzich do next? They set up a new MLM in France, called Groupement or GEPM. Its product line consisted of Amway products, its business structure was identical to Amway France, and its cultic activities were just as blatant as they were in the first operation.

After receiving numerous complaints about GEPM, French authorities moved in to shut it down, but this time it issued criminal arrest warrants, 13 for the company’s distributors, and 2 for Godzich and Wead. Godzich took all the cash and fled the country and Wead never returned to France.

This man is the same Doug Wead, who 2 years later, would become a White House Aide to the first President Bush, and spiritual adviser to the second. God help us!!!
God-if-there-is-one help us indeed. All I'm really trying to say here is, if you insist on reading Doug Wead's Trump book, go ahead. Let me know what you think about it, positive or negative; my blog is always open to comments. But even if you're a Trump fan, you might consider the possibility that Wead, like the principal subject of his book, is not exactly what the journalists would call, if you'll pardon the word, an unimpeachable source.

Related on this Whirled:

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