"Celebrity chef Pete Evans has activated his last almond with the Seven Network."
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Michael: Okay, the only one that I could come up with which I came up with when I was plugging in my microphone a second ago was, welcome to Maintenance Phase, the podcast that is post-agriculture, but pre... tty good.
Michael: I can’t think anything about pre.
Aubrey: That’s the worst thing ever and I love it.
Michael: I am Michael Hobbes.
Aubrey: I'm Aubrey Gordon.
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Michael: Wait, should we do it in unison?
Michael: Like an 80s sitcom.
Aubrey: Okay, wait, do you want to try it?
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Aubrey: Okay. [laughs]
Michael: For the love of God, no. Just do it. [laughs]
Aubrey: If you would like to support the show, you can do that at patreon.com/maintenancephase or you can buy t-shirts, mugs, tote bags, masks, all manner of things at TeePublic. Both of those things are linked for you in the show notes. You are welcome to do either of them. You don't have to do either of them. If you want to keep listening, just keep listening. Hang out.
Michael: You don’t have to do it.
Aubrey: We're going to tell you a wild tale about an Australian TV chef.
Michael: Yes. And today, we are closing the account of Pete Evans. I have been bursting to record this episode.
Aubrey: Have you really?
Michael: Yeah. Because okay, you know that my entire internet presence is characterized by a total lack of impulse control.
Michael: I have had to sit in my house for four days and not Google this fucking guy and find out how the story ends.
Aubrey: I feel your Twitter presence is id and my Twitter presence is super ego.
Aubrey: And by our powers combined, we're like one person.
Michael: I like that yours is the best parts of your personality and mine is my worst parts-
Michael: -if it’s good balance.
Aubrey: So, Mike, last time, we started our story about paleo Pete Evans.
Aubrey: Walk me through what you recall of that story.
Michael: It's basically a story of radicalization. This guy, Pete Evans starts out as a fairly normal restaurant owner, and then he ends up being a judge on a reality show, and becomes a more prominent influencer. And then he gets into paleo, he gets just like further and further down a rabbit hole, and starts getting into like weirder and weirder stuff, and seems to become more disconnected from reality, and just like internet poisoned.
Aubrey: Yes. Part of the ways that that internet poisoning shows up is that he starts making these big, bold, wild, and almost completely unsubstantiated claims. He starts talking about how there were “mountains of evidence” that fluoride is a neurotoxin. He made a claim to a Facebook follower with osteoporosis that that person should stop eating dairy, because he believed that dairy would strip the calcium from your bones. We are going to check in with him in the year 2020.
Aubrey: At this point, Pete Evans has been a judge on the reality cooking competition show, My Kitchen Rules for about eight years. Despite all of these totally wild public claims, he's still a big TV star. He's still writing cookbooks. He's not really paying any price significantly or one that's visible to the public at this point, but that is true until 2020.
Aubrey: I told you last time, I'm trying to tell the story mostly in chronological order. This is going to be the one dramatic license moment.
Michael: Needle scratch.
Aubrey: So 2020, as you may recall was the year that the pandemic started in earnest globally. Folks are locked down, they're freaked out. For pretty much the whole year, we don't have vaccines, we don't have treatments, we don't have anything. In November of 2020, he went on a podcast and decided to talk about his philosophy and best thinking around COVID. And we're going to watch a little clip.
Pete: You're healthy. So, does that mean you can't live your life-based off the choices that other people have made? You live your life. You look like a fit, healthy human being that's open to, you know, right?
Interviewer: Yeah, that’s compliment. Thank you, thank you. You can see that right here.
Pete: Growth and expansion. So, should you be punished and not being able to live your life because there's other people out there that are sick?
Pete: You can't go outside today because somebody else might die. These are big, big, big questions and I don't have the answers, but I'm putting out the question out there. Let's just take this virus as an example, we know that it affects 0.00 part of the population that already have these issues. So, should we look after these people? Should we improve their immune system? Should we look at feeding them a wonderful diet? Should we look at doing meditation for these people? Should we look at what self-love means for these people [crosstalk] in the nursing homes? How do we encourage self-growth, self-love, self-empowerment? How do we change their immune system? Because we can.
Imagine if the government came together with the leading health professionals and said, “Okay, let's target this. Let's help these vulnerable people.” Everybody else continue on the way that you're living. But let's put the funds and the resources, wonderful anti-inflammatory diet. Let's make sure that there's no Wi-Fi in the vicinity of these people, because we know EMFs can have a problematic effect of the immune system. What about if we put these people into the Sun for a certain period of time, so we can increase the vitamin D? What about if we got the right pumped ozone into air? Or-
Pete: -however it works as a disinfectant? What about if we use certain light therapy that might help with these coronaviruses that are affected by light therapy?
Michael: [laughs] Oh, my God.
Pete: What about if we use heat therapy, because we know this works for certain coronaviruses?
Pete: What if we use this, this, this, this, this for our most vulnerable? Do you hear anybody fucking talking about that?
Aubrey: There you go.
Michael: Okay. I know nothing about the person who's interviewing Pete Evans. I have no context for this at all, but I was reading in his face. [laughs] He was listening to that thing that I have gone through whereas you're listening to somebody. It's like, “Oh, you are unhinged.” I need a strategy to deal with like what I'm hearing. Because in normal conversations, you're not doing a bunch of chest moves 17 ahead. But then, once you realize, it's like, “Oh, you're like a Wi-Fi causes cancer person.”
Aubrey: Yeah. [laughs]
Michael: So, now, in your brain, a whole paradigm of the conversation shifts and you're like, “How can I get to the heart of, what the fuck is wrong with you?” [laughs]
Aubrey: You absolutely see the light go out of his eyes, where he's like, “Oh, no.”
Michael: He’s incredible.
Aubrey: “Oh, no.”
Michael: You can see that moment where he's just like, “Oh, it's going to be this kind of interview.”
Aubrey: What's happening fundamentally in this clip is that, Pete Evans seems to be really pissed off that he can't go outside.
Michael: Yeah, they can't do stuff. Yeah.
Aubrey: And that he has to wear a mask. Pete Evans really seems to be reaching for a public policy justification for why he feels so frustrated. And his theory here is that there's some kind of incentive for people in power to keep us locked down, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Aubrey: He's not saying COVID isn't real. He is saying that the things that we need to do for COVID are continue operating as usual and pay special attention to disabled people and to elders, who are most susceptible to COVID. His answer to that is to put all of those people on paleo. [chuckles]
Aubrey: Teach them how to love themselves, even though as he puts it, they've made the wrong choices in their lives, which is why they're not healthy. That is like a cornerstone of COVID garbage.
Michael: It's also extremely funny in the context of COVID, specifically, because the number one risk factor for COVID is age.
Aubrey: Hey, man, you chose to get old.
Michael: Yeah. My grandma's 97. Changing her diet is not going to affect her vulnerability to COVID.
Aubrey: Totally, totally.
Michael: It's an interesting juxtaposition with the rest of his argument, because he's saying, “If you got COVID, it's basically your fault. But we should change government policy to make it more likely that you get COVID.”
Aubrey: And then, Mike, when you do get COVID, we put you on paleo, we teach you to love yourself, and you do some meditation, and we pump in some ozone.
Michael: My favorite thing in that little medley was that he mentioned meditation.
Aubrey: Yeah. [chuckles]
Michael: My understanding is that the health benefits of meditation are pretty well established. And meditating is very good for you. But--
Aubrey: Is it a treatment for COVID?
Michael: Yes. [laughs]
Michael: It's just this weird thing of like, it's this whole worldview where things are either good or bad. If you're sick, then you should just do more of the good things, regardless of the actual circumstances of like, “An air conditioner fell out of a window, and crushed my arm, and it was amputated.” He's like, “Have you tried yoga?”
Aubrey: Totally. It sounds like you don't love yourself.
Michael: [Laughs] Fuck. No, there's a specific thing with a specific cause.
Aubrey: I have another clip for us.
Interviewer: What would you say to somebody that might say that we might not have the technical training to understand certain things if we think for ourselves. I haven't studied anything to do with virology. So, when it comes to me understanding various different viruses and things, I don't think I might have that capacity. What would you say to someone that says that?
Pete: I would say, “Go with the basics, mate.” Breathe, live, eat, sleep, love. Why do you need to be an expert on viruses?
Interviewer: Well, I guess to determine whether COVID is a thing or not?
Pete: What does it matter? If nobody told you about it and you were living your life without ever hearing of it. Do you think you'd catch it?
Interviewer: Well, I guess they would say that perhaps, I wouldn't be in the demographic that would catch it, that would say that, “I'd be walking around. I'd visit my 90-year-old grandmother and then she might die, because I did that.” Maybe that's I would say.
Pete: There's a lot of people say, they still haven't worked out or isolated the virus itself and that's up for debate. The people that seem to be getting affected by this are the people that already have, at least one or two or three different comorbidities, which is other illnesses or diseases. Now, it's very controversial. But how did these people live their lives? What choices did they make through their life to get type 2 diabetes, or heart disease, or this, or that, or the other? Did they live in a state of freedom or did they live in a state of fear? What did they choose to put into their bodies as a diet for the last 60, 70, 80 years? What were their emotional beliefs throughout their life? Did they believe that they were lovable, did they have self-love, did they have self-worth, did they live in a state of victimhood?
Aubrey: Did they live in a state of victimhood?
Michael: Oh, this is the fucking-- This is like toxic conservative bullshit. But everyone's a victim now. Also, I'm a victim because you're asking me to wear a mask.
Aubrey: They're bad kinds of victims, but I'm a good kind of victim.
Michael: My victimhood is real, but theirs is fake, because they're only dying of an infectious disease that I will not admit exists.
Aubrey: The other thing that I will say is happening in this clip, he's totally just saying the quiet part loud.
Michael: I know. I respect it. It's like, “What if they deserve to die?”
Aubrey: I mean, the captain is going down with the ship.
Aubrey: The other thing that he's just laying out pretty plainly is that when he talks about who's at high risk for COVID, he's absolutely not talking about old people. He's talking about fat people, right?
Aubrey: The things that he named were heart disease and diabetes, the things that he talked about were the choices that people made and having self-worth. You don't invoke type 2 diabetes and heart disease to talk about thin people.
Michael: I love that it's like, “Fat people are unhealthy and maybe they deserve to die. And also, why do they have such low self-worth?”
Aubrey: Yeah, totally.
Aubrey: “Look at you, grotesque fucking trolls living under a bridge, you're all going to die and it's going to be your fault, if only you had loved yourselves more.”
Michael: I know.
Aubrey: Get fucked, asshole.
Aubrey: Uh. I think part of the reason I wanted to lift up this clip in particular is that it feels like the clearest and most crystallized example we have gotten on this show of something that we've talked about often on, which is healthism, right?
Aubrey: Healthism is a term of art used to describe the ways in which we ascribe morality and value judgments onto people that we perceive as being healthier, right?
Aubrey: It is strictly a visual assessment of another person. That's what healthism relies on. And that is genuinely the argument that he is sincerely advancing here. You made good choices. Your life shouldn't change just because other people made bad choices. If you're healthy, it's because you made good choices. If you're unhealthy, it's because you made bad choices. Sorry to everyone who has cancer, COPD, diabetes, depression, anxiety. That's all a result of your choices. If you want to have it, you should have made better choices and different choices. Sorry, oops, I made good choices.
Michael: And also, I feel COVID brought out a lot of that because it was asking people to make a common sacrifice for more vulnerable groups like that.
Michael: It broke a lot of people's brains.
Aubrey: Yeah, I think, so, in organizing world, there is a lot of discussion of like, “Our fates are intertwined.” But aside from taxes and voting, we don't actually ask people to act like it. This was one of the biggest asks that we had of a collective population to act as if we were caring for one another and act as if other people's fates and their lives and their livelihoods mattered as much to us as our own.
Michael: One thing that I'm so frustrated by is that, if you look at the actual polling, most people were fine with this.
Michael: Most people understood this. The first probably month of the pandemic, March, April in the United States was one of the greatest acts of solidarity in modern history. And then, people like Pete Evans that just poisoned it all and that started like whispering in people's ears about like, “Well, you've been home for so long and these other people, they're not grateful.”
Michael: It's all this bullshit. All of a sudden, all this whispering in people's ears started to become like a fucking grim social movement, which was never very big, but they were very loud and they were very fucking online. All of a sudden, it was like, “Okay, well, 8% of the population is being a real dick about this.” And so, we all have to build our policies around like, how these really scary people are going to react?
Aubrey: Do you remember how last episode I was like, “The beat hasn't even dropped yet?”
Michael: Oh, yeah. [laughs]
Aubrey: The beat is dropping, Mike.
Aubrey: We started with this podcast appearance. Now, we're going to rewind to the start of 2020 and just walk through the year.
Aubrey: In January and February and a little bit into March. Pete Evans is going hard. He's doing his Pete Evans thing. He posts a photo with a caption that is very complimentary of him and RFK Jr.
Michael: Oh, that’s the QAnon thing.
Aubrey: And antivax King, antivax RFK.
Michael: I feel having a photo of you and RFK Jr. in January of 2020 is being able to say that you bought Coldplay’s first EP.
Michael: Saw them at CBGB's or some shit. I was the antivax guy before they were even vaccines.
Aubrey: So, RFK picture, all of that happens. Then the pandemic hits, nations and cities start locking down. Pete Evans gets on Facebook Live at this time when folks have unreliable information, at this time when folks are reaching for anything that gives them a sense that they have some kind of talisman that makes them feel more secure and what's happening in a really insecure and uncertain time. People are just reaching for whatever. Pete Evans gets on Facebook Live and he starts talking about a device called a BioCharger.
Aubrey: We're going to watch a little video clip of an ad for the BioCharger made by the manufacturer of the BioCharger.
Jim: Scientific and medical studies have proven nutrition and exercise are both key factors towards optimal health and preventional recovery from chronic illness. But there is another important factor that's often overlooked. Voltage.
Jim: It's important to take care of our bodies. Hello, I'm Jim Law and I'd like to tell you about the BioCharger. An innovative and noninvasive technology that actually recharges our cells to the optimum level. Think of our bodies like a cell phone. Just as daily use drains this battery, our everyday lives diminish the voltage in our cells. The BioCharger is the world's first subtle energy revitalization platform. It's essentially the ultimate human recharging station restoring your body's natural energy. We believe that if you could mimic nature and find a way to produce the subtle energies in a biocompatible way that virtually anyone could benefit from having restored cellular voltage regardless of age or health, the three most important factors in cellular health are voltage, nutrition, and dealing with toxicity.
Jim: [crosstalk] as a common characteristic of all disease is inadequate cellular voltage.
Aubrey: Mike, what did you learn about the BioCharger? [laughs]
Michael: I learned that cellular voltage and toxicity are the things that you will be worried about?
Aubrey: Hey, man, if you're not feeling good it's because your cells don't have enough voltage in them.
Michael: Okay. I've seen lower production values in this grifty health stuff before. This wasn't as bad as it gets, but it's just like, here's a bunch of stock footage of conventionally attractive people like hiking and shit. And then when it talks about the actual machine, it cuts to people with like, “I guess, electrodes on them in some doctor's office,” and they're sitting in front of something that looks like fucking the Dalek from Doctor Who.
Michael: It’s like little weird robot from the future that's like [crosstalk] white lights.
Aubrey: Look, it's the thing that they put in a family movie about a science fair where a kid is tinkering around with it and then there's a big puff of smoke, and the kid's face is covered in soot, and they blink.
Aubrey: It looks scientifish.
Aubrey: Pete Evans goes on Facebook Live and he's like, “I've been using this thing. It's incredible. It's called the BioCharger NG.” It is on in the background behind him. He looks like an absolute super villain in the actual video.
Aubrey: He starts talking about the Wuhan coronavirus and how this is a great device to use to combat it.
Michael: Oh, that's like a little Easter egg for weirdos. I remember that.
Aubrey: Once again, the Australian Medical Association immediately tweets about it and issues a statement, and they keep calling it a fancy light machine. Doctor calls it a glorified lava lamp.
Michael: Has anyone could even end up looking into this actual company? I assume they were paying him to do this?
Aubrey: Also, almost immediately the manufacturer of the BioCharger NG releases a statement distancing themselves from Pete Evans and being like, “This isn't for COVID.
Michael: No. Even the cellular voltage grifters were like, “That's too far, man.” Like, “Let's dial it back.” [laughs]
Aubrey: [crosstalk] here, because I was like, “We probably won't read it. But your reaction to this makes me think we should.” This is a quote from their statement.
Michael: I'm so desperate to see this. Okay. It says, “Recent coverage points to the BioCharger as a cure or treatment to the novel coronavirus. The BioCharger is not a medical device. And for that reason, advanced biotechnology suggests that anyone seek medical attention from their primary care provider, if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID19 and all other diseases, infections, and ailments.” Oh, that's something like lawyers. The lawyers of the BioCharger people were like--
Aubrey: Oh, the lawyers got in there.
Michael: I love that whenever anybody takes one of these scammy medical manufacturers to court or whatever. They're always like, “Oh, this is fake.” Immediately, they are just like, “Oh, it's not real.” [laughs]
Aubrey: Oh, hey, all that stuff we said about cellular voltage and how everything boils down to this, actually, we're not selling a medical [crosstalk].
Michael: Okay. This video has 11,000 views. That's not very many views.
Aubrey: It's really not.
Michael: The fact that Pete was able to find this speaks to where the fuck he is on the internet. This is sub 3 AM infomercial stuff.
Aubrey: Oh, Mike, if you are distressed by this, the levels were going to drop too here momentarily.
Michael: Oh, my God. Oh, my God
Aubrey: The other thing that happens after his promotion of the BioCharger NG is that the Australian regulatory body called the Therapeutic Goods Administration immediately launches an investigation and within a couple of weeks issues a really significant fine to him. He's fined $25,000.
Michael: Dude, I love this.
Aubrey: I know.
Michael: Oh, my God. Oh, just basic accountability and non-impunity for people that tell fucking lies constantly.
Aubrey: He got charged almost the price of two BioChargers for talking about a BioCharger [crosstalk] [laughs]
Michael: That's how much a BioCharger costs?
Aubrey: Yes, my guy.
Michael: And as soon as their presser like, “Oh, it doesn't work.” [laughs]
Aubrey: Ooh, by the way, we bought this because he talked about it. Sorry.
Aubrey: Not only does he get fined for the BioCharger stuff, he gets fined 25 grand for that. But also, they launch more investigations into how he had discussed other health issues and treatments. And ultimately, his total fines are $80,000.
Michael: Love it.
Aubrey: That happens in April. In May, he is dismissed from My Kitchen Rules.
Michael: Okay. So, that was it.
Aubrey: The network says that it's because the ratings were down and they needed to mix things up. That seems extremely unlikely to me. The ratings might have been down. One month ago, he said a thing and then got fined by--. You know what I mean? I'm like, “No, it's looking bad for him. He's saying bad shit.”
Michael: Although, to be fair, I would not put it past a TV production company to just not give a shit. That someone's like a massive grifter.
Aubrey: Totally. I will say there was a piece about this in the age that had my favorite lead. Celebrity Chef, Pete Evans has activated his last almond with the Seven Network.
Michael: Oh, that's good.
Aubrey: Compliments to the chef. I love that lead.
Michael: Pete Evans has crammed his last trail mix into the shape of a slice of bread, end of it.
Aubrey: [laughs] So, in May, he gets fired from My Kitchen Rules. That same month he shares a video on social media. That video is a three-hour lecture. The lecture is being given by David Icke.
Michael: Who's that?
Michael: Is he bad? I'm using context clues.
Aubrey: I really thought you were going to know who David Icke is. Okay. David Icke is an English former footballer and current wild ass antisemitic conspiracy theorist.
Aubrey: You can catch him shouting about the New World Order and how the world is run by Hapsburgs and lizard people.
Michael: He's a fucking New World Order guy?
Aubrey: Yeah, 1,000%. And genuinely, he believes that the people running the world are not only Jewish, they are also a separate race of lizard people.
Michael: This is good.
Aubrey: But he'll talk about how you could look in their eyes and you can see the lizard eyes.
Aubrey: He's the conspiracy theorists that other conspiracy theorists distance themselves from.
Michael: [laughs] At least, I'm not David Icke, man.
Aubrey: It's not even trash in the conspiracy theory garbage bin. It's the juice at the bottom of the garbage can.
Michael: Sour garbage juice.
Aubrey: It's the sour garbage juice of conspiracy theories just distilled, and fermented, and terrible. In this particular video that Pete Evans shared, David Icke gives a three-hour interview in which he takes a bold garbage stance that effectively announced to plandemic.
Michael: Oh, this is the plandemic time. This is this fucking little subplot. God.
Aubrey: So, this is where Pete Evans gets, “It's a fake pandemic and that it's actually the result of 5G. He says in this video that, “Public health measures to stop the spread of COVID are akin to “Nazi Germany fascism.”
Michael: Oh, yeah, of course. Yeah. The funny thing is, this is so fucking mainstream now that it doesn't even shock me.
Aubrey: Yeah, totally.
Michael: Yeah. Comparing public health measures to the Nazis. Yeah, get to the good stuff, Aubrey. [laughs]
Aubrey: This is how the fucking Guardian covered this issue.
Michael: Oh, my fucking God. Okay. In his Instagram post linking to the interview, Evans wrote, “Here is an alternative view. I would be keen to hear your thoughts on this video as to whether there's any validity in this man's message, especially as there seems to be a lot of conflicting messages coming out of the mainstream these days. What is the truth? I personally love the last 30 minutes talking about heart frequency and love,” Evans told his 231,000 followers. “Icke has denied being antisemitic and a Holocaust denier.” The Guardian has contacted Evans for comment. There is no suggestion Evans holds antisemitic or racist views.
Aubrey: No evidence that he holds antisemitic or racist views. He just keeps posting racist shit on his fucking forward facing public accounts.
Michael: But this is my whole beef with coverage of these kinds of cultural figures. Because on one level in a bloodless debate club way, you could say that just because you have someone on your podcast, it does not mean that you hold all of their views.
Michael: It is possible to be the kind of person who just wants to hear out literally everybody. You have a podcast where people of all stripes come and they tell you their wacky ideas. But it doesn't sound like that's what Pete Evans is doing. This is not a podcast, where it's like one day there's a COVID denier and the next day, there's like a COVID doctor.
Aubrey: No, he's sure not. After this, he's having very famous antivaxxers.
Michael: Oh, yeah.
Aubrey: The podcast is entirely him just laying out A, clear worldview which I don't think it's a leap to presume that it's his clear worldview.
Michael: Right. I feel journalists are constantly doing this thing where they try to divine what somebody's “real beliefs are.” Like, “Oh, it's not clear if Pete Evans agrees with David Icke.” Actually, it's totally irrelevant whether he agrees with David Icke. The fact is, Pete Evans is very consistently delivering extremely fringe odious views to a mainstream audience.
Aubrey: It's lending credibility and the benefit of the doubt to a dude who's been publicly torching his credibility for eight years at this point.
Aubrey: Well, there's no suggestion. I'm like, “There's eight years of suggestion.” There’s a lot of suggestion.
Michael: Aubrey, what if this turned into a methodology queen episode, where we debunk the idea that there's lizard people in this world?
Michael: I'm like, “It’s a methodology”-
Aubrey: Oh, my fucking God.
Michael: -actually, there was a small end on that study. [laughs]
Aubrey: So, it is not a good time for Pete Evans. What he decides to do is to go on 60 Minutes.
Michael: I think you were going to say that he points his own front facing camera at himself in his car and talks at his camera for two hours.
Aubrey: No. You decide what energy he's bringing to this interview.
Michael: Oh, we have to watch 60 Minutes Australia again?
Aubrey: I know.
Aubrey: I'm so sorry.
Pete: I could very easily disappear, you know? Some people would like me to disappear. No doubt. And I'll just make this one statement. If I disappear or I have a fricking weird accident, it wasn't an accident, okay? And that's probably the most conspiratorial thing that I will say that I am of what I believe complete, sound mind and body and spirit.
Interviewer: This says to me, “You don't always feel safe.”
Pete: There's been too many coincidences out there in the world for people that have questioned certain things. Sometimes, those people don't last very long and that could just be a coincidence.
Interviewer: Or, you think that could be you.
Pete: I don't know.
Aubrey: Yep. It's bizarre. I will say as a person who has gotten pretty explicit death threats, there would be no reason for me to be oblique about. This to me reads as someone who has not been threatened, but who has been swimming in the soup of conspiracy theories long enough that they just sort of come to believe that anything is possible.
Michael: And of course, there's no specifics and it's just this weird, like, they killed JFK for his views or whatever other fuck. Argh, this shit is exhausting. It's just like, “What do you even do with this?” I feel at some point, this stuff tilts closer into mental illness/becoming untethered from reality than any kind of statement you can even parse or debunk. Yeah, I just don't know what do you do with somebody once they're this far gone, basically.
Aubrey: Yeah, I'm not sure either. I don't know what the intervention is here at this point. But I also feel pretty certain that the intervention here does not include-- There's no suggestion that he has racist or antisemitic views.
Aubrey: Nor does it include giving him airtime.
Michael: So, what's the actual episode like?
Aubrey: The actual episode is a bunch of shit like this, where he's speaking in these weird cryptic terms. He's refusing to clarify his position on a bunch of things. He's just doing like, “I don't know, you make the connection” like that is his favorite thing. It's just him coming off as not responding to the same observable reality as many viewers.
Aubrey: It just really feels like it's getting into the territory of just like, “Oh, you've lost the thread of maybe even being able to communicate with other people about what your ideas are.”
Michael: Yeah. This mechanism is just fascinating to me where you can so quickly become a person like this with no major stressor, like, the loss of a child or something. The pandemic was really stressful and becoming a celebrity is stressful, and all this other stuff. But it's normal stuff. But then it seems something just like broke in his brain.
Aubrey: It is very hard to know. All of those things are things that could cause someone to feel way less anchored in their world, way more hungry for different explanations of the world, all of that stuff. But none of that really explains why this is the one that you would land on. If you're experiencing a bunch of pressure points in your life and you need something to help you feel anchored in your life, you could just as easily get into LARPing. You could join a fucking trivia team. There're so many things that you could do. You don't have to be the guy who's like, “I got to publicly get up and be a David Icke stand.”
Michael: Right. It seems it's much more rare that it pushes people in a pro-social direction. It seems it oftentimes pushes these people down these very well-trodden paths of, like, it starts with wellness woo-woo stuff. Fuck, we did a whole episode on this. [laughs]
Michael: I really want to understand this, because it feels one of the extremely important mechanisms for understanding like what the world is going to be for the next 50 years.
Aubrey: Absolutely. I think it's worth noting as we're trying to understand that mechanism that there were also several and quite pronounced signs of this kind of thinking prior to the pandemic for him. Prior to the pandemic is when he was talking about how fluoride is a neurotoxin, prior to the pandemic is when he was talking about how basically, autistic people exist, because not everyone eats paleo. It's tricky, because definitely something shifted in the pandemic, but also, it was definitely there before.
Michael: It's interesting. We come across this all the time, the weird intersection between health and politics. This weird health stuff can be a gateway drug to political radicalization in a way that often doesn't look like political radicalization because a lot of this QAnon stuff seems apolitical because it's like, “They're kidnapping kids and drinking the adrenochrome.” It's so out there, where you're like, “Okay, whatever. It's people believing in bigfoot or whatever.” It doesn't necessarily have a political valence. But then once you actually investigate these online groups, where people are getting this sewage, it's extremely political. He went on was very explicitly a movement to defend Donald Trump and the idea that Donald Trump was speaking in code.
Aubrey: Totally, totally. It feels the health stuff leaves the foundation for the rest of it.
Aubrey: The health stuff is where he really starts exploring the space around this idea of like, “Oh, I don't actually have to take care of you. You have to take care of yourself.”
Aubrey: That is majorly softening the ground for extremely right-wing thinking about resisting any idea of collective care, all of those things. The starting point for all of that really appears to be Pete Evans investment in paleo and investment in the deeply ablest arguments about paleo.
Michael: We are canceling the shit out of paleo over the last two episodes. [laughs]
Aubrey: Oh, baby. All it took for me was reading the first book and having the be like, “You know, we could use more of his eugenics.”
Michael: Yeah. [laughs]
Aubrey: Genuinely, the thing that has stayed with me throughout this whole story and again, we have two more acts of the fall to cover here.
Michael: Oh, my God.
Aubrey: Yeah, we have a lot more. This was not the end.
Michael: I thought we were wrapping up, Aubrey.
Aubrey: No, Michael.
Michael: [laughs] How is there more?
Aubrey: Actually, you know what, let's just get into the more and then we'll circle back to this conversation, because holy shit.
Michael: Okay. [laughs]
Aubrey: In June of 2020, Pete Evans is on 60 Minutes. He just gets a bunch of bad press after that. It doesn't look good for him. Whatever your position is on this dude, the consensus is, he didn't do well in that interview. He has also been continuing on his social media nonsense taking big swings, blah, blah, blah. The Sydney Morning Herald did a piece called “Oh, for Pete's sake: The rise and fall (and possible rise) of Pete Evans.” That is great that it'll recap of like previously on Pete Evans.
Aubrey: And here's what they said. “Over time, the pronouncements became less funny. COVID19 was a hoax. Fluoride in water was bad for you. Vaccinations were dangerous.” He took to wearing Maga hats sharing posts from and in favor of Donald Trump. He hosted conspiracy theorists on his podcast. He shared the conspiracy theories of QAnon, according to which a cabal of pedophiles ruled the world and manipulates the sheeple.
Michael: Ooh, catching up with Pete.
Aubrey: Now, he's doing Maga, now, he's doing QAnon, now, he's going to explicitly pro Trump. Then in November of 2020, he makes a post on social media that really after all of this shit, this turns out to be the uncrossable line.
Aubrey: I would like to say, before we get into this--
Michael: Oh, is it going to be the biggest trigger warning imaginable?
Aubrey: Holy shit.
Michael: My mind is racing.
Aubrey: Big old trigger warning for very explicit antisemitism and for Nazi references.
Aubrey: Here's what I'm going to do. I am going to send you the meme that he posted.
Michael: Oh, no, it's a meme.
Aubrey: It's a meme-
Michael: Oh, my God.
Aubrey: -which I just sent to you.
Michael: Okay. Wait, I don't understand this. I am livid.
Michael: How is there something problematic on the internet and I don't know what it means?
Aubrey: Oh, buddy.
Michael: It's a cartoon drawing of a caterpillar and a butterfly and they are sitting and they are having coffee. It's like a political cartoon type of thing.
Aubrey: I believe they're having wine.
Michael: Oh, sorry. Yes.
Aubrey: I believe that is stemware which I find just like a very funny little detail.
Michael: The caterpillar has a Maga hat on and the butterfly has big black wings and has some sort of sign that you're about to tell me is super fucked up.
Michael: But it's like some Aztec Sun symbol, something.
Aubrey: It’s deeply not Aztec, but yes.
Michael: Something round with little spokes.
Michael: And the caterpillar says, “You've changed” and the butterfly says, “We're supposed to.”
Michael: I admit, no, no, no. I have no idea what this is supposed to mean.
Aubrey: [laughs] Oh, you've been listening to some old reply all.
Michael: A couple of reply alls.
Aubrey: Okay. “You've changed, we're supposed to.” The implication here is that the butterfly is the next natural evolution of the caterpillar.
Aubrey: The thing that makes this meme, especially troubling is the symbol on the butterfly's wings. That symbol is called the Black Sun.
Aubrey: It is a variant on an ancient Norse symbol called the Sun in red. The Sun in red looks different. This is the black Sun. The Black Sun was first used by Heinrich Himmler.
Aubrey: He used it as a floor mosaic in a castle that was used as the headquarters for the SS.
Aubrey: It is believed to have stood for victory amongst the Nazis. This is according to you, there's a Brandeis scholar who has done a ton of work on far-right extremism. Basically, throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, the Black Sun has been embraced by white nationalists by Neo-Nazis and by other far right, and specifically antisemitic and racist groups and individuals. Most notably, this was a prominent symbol used at Charlottesville. It was an image displayed by the Christchurch Mosque shooter and it's been repeatedly used in very public ways by specific Neo-Nazi groups in Australia itself. If you know this symbol you know it from Nazi movements.
Michael: So, this cartoon, the Maga caterpillar is saying, “You've changed” and the Nazi butterfly is saying, “We're supposed to.” The Maga movement is supposed to grow into a black pilled Nazi SS situation.
Aubrey: Yes, correct.
Michael: Man. I wish I didn't know about this. I wish-- [crosstalk] [laughs]
Aubrey: oh, buddy.
Michael: I wish this was still gibberish to me.
Aubrey: I'm sorry and also, I'm not.
Michael: [laughs] Oh, God.
Aubrey: Also, you might argue, maybe Pete Evans just didn't know and he thought this was a Maga shit posting meme. I would like to introduce you to the fucking comments on this meme. I just sent you a screengrab.
Michael: So, a commenter says, “The symbol on the butterfly is a representation of the Black Sun.” And then Pete Evans replies, “I was waiting for someone to see that.” They're like, “Yo, dude, this is some Nazi shit.” He's like, “I know.”
Aubrey: He's like, “Right.”
Michael: That’s why I did this.
Aubrey: He fully acknowledged on the post itself that he knew what the symbol was and he was waiting for someone to see it, lol.
Aubrey: The other thing that makes this even rougher is that Gizmodo did some reporting, where they did a Google reverse image search when this first came out, where they were like, “Where the fuck else has this shown up? I've never seen this before. It's a weird, shitty meme.” And they reported that they found that it had been previously posted one other time that they found on the internet and that was on a Neo-Nazi website.
Michael: Oh, like a straight up, like, neonazis.com.
Aubrey: Swastika GIFs, whatever else.
Michael: Oh, fuck. No.
Aubrey: Yes. That genuinely appears to be where it came from. When you were like, “What's he reading? Where's he getting this stuff?”, I was like, "[unintelligible [00:41:35] might get in there?”
Michael: Yeah. Oh, my God.
Aubrey: Uh-oh, this dude is fully apparently on Neo-Nazi websites. I didn't find other reporting that confirmed that also as soon as Pete Evans posted it, it popped up on a million other places on the internet. So, it's hard to do that search at this point. I can't confirm that, but also, I don't have any reason to believe that Gizmodo was making that shit up. I don't know why they would.
Michael: Also, at best, he didn't find it on the Neo-Nazi website, but he was DM-ing with somebody who did get it from the Neo-Nazi website and he's like, “That lit. I'm going to post it,” which is not that much better.
Aubrey: I'm going to post it and I'm going to show my work like I'm in grade school math class and be like, “See, I really get it. See, I understand this Nazi symbol. [unintelligible [00:42:20].”
Michael: So, what is the fallout from this?
Aubrey: Oh, Michael, first, we're going to talk about his response.
Aubrey: He said that the image was “like a Rorschach test” and that people should “be careful to jump to conclusions.”
Aubrey: He's like, “You guys are all jumping to conclusions. This is just an inkblot and you're seeing what you want to see and what you want to see as a Nazi symbol on a Maga hat.”
Michael: What? It's literally like a political cartoon with words and very legible symbols in it. [laughs]
Aubrey: It's so explicit and clear.
Michael: It's not like a photo of a cloud. [laughs]
Aubrey: Then he goes forth and publishes a full non-apology on Instagram.
Michael: Oh. It was just like, “Yeah, I did it and it whips, like, this was cool, and you shouldn't be mad at me.”
Aubrey: Nope. I just sent you a quote.
Michael: Oh, my fucking God.
Michael: It says, “Sincere apologies to anyone who misinterpreted a previous post of a caterpillar and a butterfly having a chat over a drink and perceive that I was promoting hatred. I look forward to studying all the symbols that have ever existed and researched them thoroughly before posting.” [laughs] Fuck this guy.
Michael: Fuck this guy.
Aubrey: So, earlier, you were like, “Hey, maybe there's some mental illness stuff happening, blah blah, blah.” Counterpoint, maybe he's a master horrible troll.
Michael: Counterpoint, fuck this guy. [laughs]
Aubrey: Counterpoint. Here's what he actually says and does.
Michael: I hate this shit, where somebody posts something with an extremely obvious intended meaning. And then you're like, “Oh, that intended meaning is bad.” It's like, “Oh, I guess, you just don't understand a cartoon about a butterfly.”
Aubrey: Sorry, you brought all your weird baggage to these Nazi symbols that I'm posting in an affirming way.
Michael: This is not how words and symbols work.
Aubrey: They are in fact intended to convey meaning.
Michael: Also, I have done the thing, where I've posted shit online and then somebody be like, “Hey that's actually from a bad source. There's shit in there that you don't know what you mean with that.” And I have like, “Deleted it immediately and apologized.” Having a grandma moment where you post something that you didn't totally understand is something that happens. It was much more telling than what happens is what happens afterwards.
Aubrey: Yep, totally.
Michael: Because I don't know what the fuck is Black Sun symbol means. I can see myself posting some weird like, “Here's the design I found on the internet, whatever.” But then if somebody's like, “Hey, Mike, that's a Nazi symbol.” I’ll be like, “Oh, fuck. Sorry, Jesus.”
Aubrey: You would go, “Hey, man, sorry, you saw a picture of a butterfly. You decided to get all your panties in a bunch or whatever.”
Michael: Yeah. [laughs]
Aubrey: That's absolutely not a response of a thoughtful and considerate human.
Michael: Yeah. I guess somebody doesn't know like internet humor like, “No.” [laughs]
Aubrey: Right. It's the most condescending possible way to tell us somebody to fuckoff.
Michael: Yeah. My fucking God.
Aubrey: I'm going to do some real quick hits here on all of the consequences, because it is like a little avalanche, right?
Aubrey: November 2020, his publisher drops him and tells booksellers to get in touch with them if they want to return any of his books. That same month, the network that he had signed a deal with to be on I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!-
Michael: Oh, nice. [laughs]
Aubrey: -drops him from that show. His fee was rumored to be between $100,000 and $200,000. In November that same month, Coles, Kmart, Target, and Woolworths all pull all of their Pete Evans branded products from their shelves. He has a branded foods line. And all of their statements emphasize that they have “No direct business relationship with him,” but that they have been getting his products through a third-party distributor. They are fully going, “I don't know her about someone whose products they have had on their shelves for quite some time.” One of the products that they pull from their shelves is something called his Jamaican Simmer Sauce, which had fish in it and the label didn't disclose that it had fish in it.
Michael: Good God.
Aubrey: In December, the next month, Facebook shuts down his account. In January, Spotify pulls his podcast from their platform for spreading COVID misinformation.
Aubrey: And then in February, Instagram shuts down his account.
Michael: It is amazing. What you have to do to actually get canceled?
Aubrey: Absolutely. A little coda to this part of the story and then we've got a coda to the story more broadly.
Aubrey: In February of 2021, an academic comes forward named Dr. Kaz Ross, who is a university professor who studies far right and extremist movements. She comes forward and says that she was sent screenshots of Neo-Nazis discussing Pete Evans as a recruitment target years earlier.
Michael: Oh, what?
Aubrey: Right. So, grain of salt here. I don't have any reason to believe that this doctor is not a credible source. But this story was published in The Daily Mail, so like gigantic grain of salt. At the same time, I don't know why this person would make up screenshots.
Michael: So, what's in the screenshots? It's Nazis talking among themselves about like, “This guy would be great to recruit?”
Aubrey: The screenshots, the press that I saw was like, “We've reviewed the screenshots, but we're not printing the screenshots for whatever reason.”
Michael: Oh, okay.
Aubrey: So, they're just saying, “There was discussion happening that was explicit about recruiting Pete Evans.” Pete Evans responds.
Aubrey: I just sent you a quote. Go for it.
Michael: “I am definitely not the right fit as I celebrate and love all of the different cultures on the planet as I believe that biodiversity and our wonderful uniqueness is the key for harmony. If somebody says like Mike, “Are you a Nazi?” I don't know if I'd say like, “I'm not the right fit.”
Michael: I think I'd say something slightly more forceful. Oh, my God.
Aubrey: Yeah. I feel my honest to God response to that would be like, “Jesus Christ, fucking no. God.”
Michael: The schedule doesn't suit me.
Aubrey: I can see why he would be an asset to their movement and why they would see him as a credible target. It's unclear whether or not they did.
Michael: Right. It sounds like the only thing we have evidence of is that they wanted to recruit him. Because me and you can sit around and say like, “We should have Oprah as a guest on the show.” But that doesn't mean that we've reached out, it doesn't mean that she's receptive. People talk about recruiting all kinds of other people. I think the fact that Nazis were thinking about him as a target and fairly early on seeing him as somebody who could be a vessel for their message is very telling.
Michael: Even if it doesn't seem there's any evidence that it went further than that or at least that we know of.
Aubrey: Yeah. And again, he's already laid his cards on the table so much prior to this instance that like folks who are part of active Neo-Nazi movements are like, “Hey, you know what we should get, we should get that guy.”
Michael: I would like to think that if my name ever comes up in chat logs between two Nazis. It's like, “Fuck that Michael Hobbes guy, that guy sucks.”
Aubrey: Yeah, absolutely.
Michael: That is what I want the Nazis to be saying about me.
Aubrey: I will say this to the aforementioned death threats. “Never great to get a death threat to get them from the people I've been getting them from.” Pretty good.
Michael: That's the bleakest thing you've ever said, but also, yes.
Aubrey: Fair and reasonable.
Aubrey: So, you might think that this was the end of Pete Evans in the public eye.
Michael: You're fucking kidding me. This is not the last chapter?
Aubrey: [laughs] Here is the coda.
Michael: Oh, my God.
Aubrey: That very same month, February of 2021, Pete Evans announced his newest venture, which was running for Senate.
Michael: Oh, God, did he win? Is he the President of Australia now?
Aubrey: No, he's not, he's not and they don't have one of those.
Aubrey: He ran as a candidate for Senate with a party called the Great Australian Party.
Michael: The GAP?
Aubrey: The GAP, fall into the GAP.
Michael: Gee, I wonder what their platform is.
Aubrey: Do you want to guess?
Michael: It's all this bullshit no like, I don't know, probably, close borders and weird. What even is eugenics fucking political party?
Aubrey: Yes, you nailed the first one. They believe in zero net immigration. They think that environmental groups are “funded by foreign interests with hidden agendas.”
Michael: George Soros playing the hits. Love it.
Aubrey: They think that vandalism is a major political issue and they think it's a result of the “lack of social responsibility” from families, schools, and courts. And they think that parents should be responsible for the costs of all vandalism from their kids until their kids are of age.
Michael: That one’s just weird.
Aubrey: On top of all of that, they also want to abolish personal income tax, they want to abolish family court. They are arguing for extremely fringe shit.
Michael: Abolishing. Okay, abolishing family court is, this is a bunch of angry divorced dads, isn't it? [laughs]
Aubrey: All of the family stuff, I was like, “Oh, this is all New World Order/men's rights.”
Aubrey: The thing to note here is that just to be really clear. The great Australian Party is not a significant threat to any major parties currently. In 2019, they won 0.04% of the vote in one of their highest vote getting elections, one of their best margins.
Michael: That's like eight people.
Aubrey: It's so teeny-tiny. So, Pete Evans announced his run for office in February. By the fall, he had quietly pulled down his campaign website and reporter called him to be like, “Hey, did you pull out of the race” and he confirms that he has pulled out of the race. The story that runs about this has the headline, “Thank Evans for that.”
Michael: Oh, that's pretty good.
Aubrey: Really good. And it's on a website called Crikey, just [crosstalk] Australia [laughs] So, that's where we stand today. He's no longer running for office, he's no longer on TV. He still has his podcast, which he continues to have extremely questionable guests on. He still has his line of foods that appear to mostly just be sold directly through his websites. He is on social media, but he's on Telegram.
Michael: Oh, I didn't even know you could like be on Telegram. Okay.
Aubrey: He is still around, he's not completely gone, but also, most folks just aren't given a much oxygen at this point. The thing that I feel left with in this episode is thinking as you and I often do about like, “What are the systemic ways that this could have gone differently?” I think that media could have cooled it much earlier on the like, “There's no suggestion that he holds racist or antisemitic views or we don't know how he feels personally.” There is some real garbage both sides-ism that allows us to continue considerably longer than it needed to. I would say, for me personally, it felt very clear pretty early on in this timeline that this was not a great dude.
Aubrey: When you're like, “Hey, man, if everybody ate paleo, nobody would have autism.” That's a pretty good sign that that is not, A, one of the great thinkers of our time, and B, not one of the great humanitarians of our time. I do think if someone on his team, or in the press, or at the TV network, or anything, at that point, that feels like the first major line crossed in this story when he's talking about autism and autistic people. If someone at that point had gone, “Hey, wait a minute, if this is a dude who's willing to say this thing in public, I bet there's more.”
Michael: I also think that celebrity and wellness media can also think of themselves as the first line of defense for this stuff. They tell you, keep monitoring your mole to see if it becomes skin cancer or you see if does it have jagged edges and stuff? Something about this to me, these celebrities that will say little hints of potentially more odious views, even if it's not necessarily an iceberg of their existing views, but it's like, “Oh, they're in a media environment that might be sending them down a radicalization pathway.” I just need to check in on this before I give them more attention. A lot of media is like, “Well, we're just wellness media or we're just celebrity pop culture media. We don't have to think about this stuff.” But as we've seen so many times this is a gateway drug for people and also Neo-Nazis and other radical groups are monitoring pop culture figures.
Aubrey: I think that's right and I also think there are some lessons here to your point just now. No, it's actually extra incumbent on health and wellness media to fact check the shit out of themselves, to get to the bottom of stuff, to ask tough questions of people like Pete Evans, even when you're doing a food diary of your emu meatballs and activated almonds and whatever else. I think all of this is because of the ways in which both it just sells people, straight up misinformation and disinformation at times, but also, because of the ways in which it softens the ground for this weird, very right-wing rhetoric. It feels really important to get to the bottom of what's going on.
Michael: Right. Because you're bringing somebody into people's homes and you're establishing them as an authority on health stuff. And so, when they turn, they're like, “Vaccines are full of metal or whatever.” Then it's like, “Well, they're cashing in the currency that you've given them.”
Aubrey: Absolutely. Those are some like, “Here are the things that I'm left thinking about.” What are some of the things that you're left thinking about?
Michael: I don't know. I'm in a pessimistic mood lately.
Aubrey: Me too.
Michael: This does seem some sort of harbinger of what's to come.
Michael: We need to understand these pathways and we need to be really clear eyed about what they are. I think there's a lot of weird retreat to abstraction, where it's like, “Well, everybody's getting radicalized or the internet is affecting society throughout.” It's like, “No, we have a problem with right-wing radicalization.”
Michael: We're having a resurgent, sometimes, violent anti-democratic right-wing movement that is now emboldened. Whenever we talk about like media literacy and misinformation, there is misinformation across the ideological spectrum. Of course, there is. But the kind of misinformation that we need to worry about and the kind of misinformation that is politically salient is right-wing misinformation. It is misinformation that carries with it this bullshit, like, conspiratorial, Jewish people minorities, people who are going to deserve the crackdown that is coming. And so, I think there needs to be a real push to be very specific about what the actual threat is. The threat is not people believing things that are not true. If people believe in bigfoot, I don't know that I really give a shit. The threat to the country is people who are joining violent, quasi-terror movements like QAnon, and the Proud Boys, and whatever the fuck that Black Sun symbol is, who pose an actual physical threat to other people’s safety.
Aubrey: I think that's exactly right. There's this constant impulse to depoliticize what you are calling internet poisoning, which I think is exactly the right term. There's a clear right-wing impulse here that is getting carried much further than any of this kind of stuff on the left goes and is leading to much more dramatic and physical repercussions, real world repercussions.
Aubrey: I'm totally with you.
Michael: I think the real lesson of all of this is that, if we want to save democracy, we have to cancel paleo.
Michael: That’s number one.
Aubrey: But Mike, then how will we equalize to our natural beautiful proportions? How will--
Michael and Aubrey: -we become human?
[Transcript provided by SpeechDocs Podcast Transcription]