Did you know that Dr. Harvey Kellogg, the inventor of corn flakes, believed that candy was linked to sexual deviancy? Guilt and suspicion led to a full-blown panic attack across the nation and ended up ruining Halloween. This was further leveraged by some people who actually gathered clout and spread fear by adding harmful things like cyanide to candy, affecting many innocent children in the process.
Public opinion shapes the rules and laws that govern our lives. The immense power of public opinion also comes with significant risk – if a large group of people start to believe in a fallacious and misleading message, they may support policies that are actually bad for them. The consequences can be very far-reaching – moral panics, urban legends and conspiracy theories that spread like wildfire, changing the course of history.
American Hysteria is a podcast about the bizarre beliefs that Americans have embraced throughout history. The podcast has a very interesting origin story. The host, Chelsey Weber-Smith was influenced by her father, who was a conspiracy theorist. This makes the listeners half expect that it would be a harangue raging against the beliefs she grew up with. However, her story is a journey from a blind believer to a logical thinker. This is not to say that the episodes are just her talking about herself. The podcast is a labour of thought and love, a lot of research neatly wrapped into the structure of the episodes.
Each episode deals with a very relevant topic, including school shootings, the gay agenda and pornography. The episodes are often horrific accounts of how people in America ‘freaked out’ and the surrounding beliefs that wreaked havoc – including rampant genital mutilation and child sexual abuse. The most horrifying series of episodes has to be the ones about Satanic Panic. The organized network of child sexual abuse that came with the advent of Satanism shook the very foundations of rationality and belief.
The podcast puts forward powerful statements, discussing the people who actually often cause the spread of the beliefs, the ones who shrewdly manipulate public opinion to suit their profits. It is liberating and enriching. We must remind you, that there are explicit trigger warnings that come with it, but that increases the reliability of the episodes instead of sensationalizing them.
A must-listen if you’ve ever thought about the power of beliefs that spread like epidemics. Listen