America Divided Cut

Inside Marianne Williamson’s Very Weird ‘Orb Gang.’ The Mystical ‘Healing’ of the Great American Political Divide. Vote on it.

Divided / Split / Cut America:

Zechariah 12:3 And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.

Matthew 12:25 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:

Mark 3:24 And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.

Mark 3:25 And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.

Luke 11:17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth.

Luke 12:53 The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

Inside Marianne Williamson’s Very Weird ‘Orb Gang.’ The Mystical ‘Healing’ of the Great American Political Divide. Vote on it.

It started with jokes about crystal balls, but a sudden surge of fans say they’re completely serious about their support for the self-help guru with some dangerous ideas.

Updated 08.01.19 4:09AM ET / Published 07.31.19 3:52PM ET The Daily Beast.

She’s zapping debate moderators with her laser eyes. She’s Jesus, but in psychedelic colors, surrounded by dolphins and crystal balls. 

She’s long-shot Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson and she’s here to levitate America’s soul onto another plane beyond partisan politics. Or at least that’s how a growing set of memes go. 

They are the work of the “Orb Gang,” the weird Williamson fanbase that knits niche internet subcultures in a meme-fueled campaign that spans the political spectrum. Williamson, a New Age self-help personality with decades of dubious health claims to her name, has attempted to distinguish herself on the Democratic debate stage by casting her politics as transcending “conventional” left-right divides.

The crystal ball jokes overlook Williamson’s skepticism over vaccines and past comments suggesting prayer or “visualizations” as a way to beat AIDS. Williamson has encouraged followers to heal themselves through mindfulness instead of medicine—a counter-science platform that might be disqualifying for other presidential candidates. Nevertheless, Williamson’s “post-ironic,” fan base is very much growing with earnest engagement from burnt-out memers on the left and right.

“I’m having an 🔮rbgasm!” one user posted on a popular subreddit for Williamson Tuesday night as she described structural racism as a “dark psychic force.”

Williamson’s spiritual language—she spoke of “the possibility of thriving” and “actualiz[ing] this ideal”—wouldn’t be out of place in a southern California meditation studio. Her fans have leaned into the bit, using crystal ball emojis and jokes about orbs and astral projection to describe the candidate. Many of the memes started out as ironic. But some of the Orb Gang is getting earnest.

“I feel like we have to do more than just meme in armchairs,” a moderator of a pro-Williamson server on Discord, a chat platform, told NBC News after her Tuesday debate performance. “That’s the part that freaks me out the most.”

The best encapsulation of Williamson’s candidacy appears in a meme. 

The image is a riff on the “Virgin/Chad” meme, which originated in forums for angry misogynists, but has since become a more popular way to describe a binary between things that are dumb (“virgin”) and things that are cool (“Chad”). “The Virgin Ironic Williamson Supporter,” this version of the memes says, is “trapped in materialist space-time ideology.” Meanwhile “The Chad Post-Ironic Orbgangster” is “post-Leftist, waiting to embrace others with care.”

Some of the new, “post-left” support is coming from unexpected types. “I lean quite a bit more conservative on a lot of issues,” one Redditor wrote after the debate. “I likely won’t vote for Marianne in the primary but I increasingly find myself cheering her on during the debates.”

Lately, Williamson has poached support from another long-shot Democratic candidate: Andrew Yang. A former tech entrepreneur, Yang calls for a $1,000-a-month universal basic income. His candidacy also survived on online support, some of it from semi-ironic and from alt-right forums. His supporters call themselves the #YangGang. But with a wave of Yang supporters declaring support for Williamson, a fusion hashtag has emerged. #YinYangGang, a riff on on Yang’s last name and Williamson’s New Age-y schtick, the hashtag posits an axis between the two candidates. (One meme shows the pair on a debate stage, crowned with halos, while a third candidate is obscured by a giant orb.)

The weird fusion of Williamson support might be best visible in a large Discord server run by her fans.

The Discord’s publicly available introduction channel is home to an impressive catalogue of internet tendencies. Earnest-sounding moms and Generation Z “Chapo Trap House” fans post alongside a recent addition with a Confederate flag avatar (“bruh that battle flag,” a member responded disapprovingly). Another recent member had a username and avatar that mocked a Twitter personality who accused a socially conservative socialist subreddit of fostering Nazis, an exhausting and niche internet fight that means nothing to everyone but a few thousand terminally online people.

During the debate, some of Williamson’s highest profile support came from the right. Conservative pundit Ben Shapiro shared multiple Williamson memes, including one of her blasting lasers from her eyes to silence a debate moderator.

Donald Trump Jr. also tweeted favorably about her. “People are gonna think that I’m trolling but compared to what else is up on this stage I think Marianne Williamson is actually winning this thing,” he wrote. “This is amazing. No question she seems to be drawing the biggest applause of the night.” Trump Jr. might well have been trolling by encouraging an unlikely Democratic candidate, but some Williamson fans shared the tweet as encouragement.

“THE ORB IS BIPARTISAN🔮🔮🔮🔮🔮,” one captioned Trump Jr.’s tweet on Reddit.

Williamson’s mysticism has previously drawn joking comparisons to QAnon, a far-right conspiracy theory obsessed with Satanism. “If QAnon recognized their own across the aisle, Marianne Williamson would absolutely be their candidate,” the podcast QAnon Anonymous tweeted after the first debates. 

And while most Q fans appear opposed to Williamson, whose spirituality they equate with evil witchcraft, a not-insignificant number of pro-Q tweeters have voiced support for her holistic language about illness, or even suggested that she “might be a [pro-Q] sleeper cell Patriots snuck in.”

Since before President Donald Trump took office, pundits have made noise about “healing” America’s political divide, to little effect. But Williamson speaks with the mystical vocabulary of the self-styled “healing” industry, currently on the rise alongside astrology and expensive crystal gimmicks. For those frazzled on years of contentious politics, the light-hearted memeing of the Orb Gang can feel like a balm. For those embittered by decades of policy failures, Williamson’s denunciation of policies and abstract talk about “dark psychic forces” can feel like a revelation.

The main chat room on the largest pro-Williamson Discord is called “🔮goodvibes🔮”. The room’s rules specify “good vibes ONLY.” It’s not a political demand (non-Williamson supporters are welcome) or a policy platform. It’s just a mood. 

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