Listen here: The Chauncey DeVega Show
Sociologist Joseph Baker joined me recently for a conversation on this week’s edition of “The Chauncey DeVega Show.” He is the author of the book “Paranormal America: Ghost Encounters, UFO Sightings, Bigfoot Hunts, and Other Curiosities in Religion and Culture”. In our conversation, Baker shared his insights about alternative knowledge systems and conspiracy theories, the rise of Donald Trump, Alex Jones’ “Infowars,” fantastical thinking, as well as how those people who believe in Bigfoot, ghosts and UFOs construct reality. “UFOs are a place where conspiracy culture really survives and thrives,” Baker told me. “In the original version of alien contact, it was a version of New Age ideas couched within this combination of life from other planets,” he added. “In the late ’70s is when it really began, but in the ’80s and ’90s it transferred to this abduction-abductee narrative. Which was a lot more sinister, against your will, probing by small creatures narrative. In the end that ended up getting more play in popular culture.” Which brings us to the connective tissue between Donald Trump’s claims of being the victim of a “witch hunt,” conspiracy theories and the moral panic often found around supernatural and paranormal phenomena. “There’s no better place for a conspiracy theory than a moral panic,” said Baker. “Moral panics tell us a lot about how people perceive things they’re afraid of, and in a lot of ways how the manifestation of that fear can bring into life real consequences.” Baker also shares some great stories about searching for Bigfoot and spending time with ghost hunters.