Suppose you're an Internet writer who's fresh off of writing three straight columns that (not at all unreasonably) several people dismissed as conspiracy theory nonsense. Where do you go from there? Obviously, you follow it up by making fun of the crazy things other people believe. We do that on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by comic Jeff May and podcast sensation Brett Rader. Also, we're going to talk about it in this column today. Here are five insane things otherwise respected celebrities believe.
#5. The Wu-Tang Clan Thinks White People Were Made In A Lab
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It doesn't get talked about nearly as much, but there was a time when religion was every bit as influential in the course of rap music history as gang culture eventually was. The religion in question, specifically, was Islam. There are any number of explanations for why this changed, ranging from full-on conspiracy theory nonsense (record labels conspired to promote gangsta rap as a means of killing "conscious rap" and filling prisons) to the completely reasonable (rap nowadays is more of a reflection of America in general as opposed to just the inner-city neighborhoods where it started in its earliest days).
The sect of choice for discerning mid-to-late-'80s rappers looking to inject a little spirituality into their rhymes was the Nation of Islam, an offshoot founded in the United States back in 1930. They have, at various points in history, been accused of being "black supremacist" and "antisemitic," to the point where they're actually tracked as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
For a perfectly representative example of why that is, look no further than the story of Yakub.
It's way too long and insane to cover all of the specifics, but the short description is as follows: White people were created in a lab by an evil black scientist who was looking to create a "race of devils." This isn't some wackiness that the NOI came up with in the early days and then disavowed, either. It's still a widely-believed theory, and one that the group's leaders believe is backed by science. Depending on what your patience game is like, you can see Louis Farrakhan explain it all in this video from 2013:
Basically, if you've ever heard a rapper refer to white people as "devils" (and you definitely have), this is what they were referencing. You'll hear references to it all over early-'90s albums from rappers like Public Enemy and Ice Cube, if you're looking for some famous examples. However, the most enthusiastic supporter of all seems to be the Wu-Tang Clan. For starters, have a listen to the skit that was tagged onto the album version of their goddamn fantastic single "Gravel Pit":
If you'd like to skip ahead, the spoken word bit in question starts around the 4:17 mark, and here's what it says:
Sounds reasonable enough!
It's actually taken from a 1977 movie called Short Eyes, if you're looking for some trivia to wow your friends with at happy hour and such. That's definitely not the only reference to Yakub in their music; it's just the most obvious. But there's another wrinkle to the Yakub story that makes Wu-Tang the group most worth mentioning here. Have you ever wondered why the Wu-Tang Clan seems to be so into Asian culture? I can't prove it, but my suspicion is that it's because in The Autobiography of Malcolm X, the Yakub story is expanded to explain that all races except black people were actually a product of this evil experiment -- but also that Asians are considered a part of the black race. So that might explain it?
Or maybe they just really like kung-fu movies. What do I know? As a white devil myself, it's hard to be objective here.
#4. The Foo Fighters Used To Think That There's No Link Between HIV And AIDS
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This is something we touched on in the briefest manner possible on this site previously, but it's worth mentioning again. There was a point in history when, apparently, the Foo Fighters were convinced that there's no scientific evidence to support the idea that HIV is linked to AIDS. News of this curious stance on modern medicine first circulated way back in 2000, by way of this Mother Jones article about the band organizing a charity concert in Los Angeles to benefit Alive and Well -- a group which claims that AIDS is not caused by HIV, but rather by stress, drug use, and anal sex.
Rather than shy away from the association at the time, bassist Nate Mendel (the one responsible for bringing the cause to the attention of the rest of the band) went so far as to suggest that anyone seeking an HIV test should look up information about Alive and Well first.
What's not to trust?
The band also said that they were planning more shows to benefit the group. No word on whether those shows ever happened, but as recently as 2008, curious fans were still digging up pages on the Foo Fighters' official website featuring banner images that linked to information about the organization. A spokesperson for the group said that it was just an oversight by a web administrator who forgot to take the link down, but it wasn't really made clear how long ago that change was supposed to have happened.
That's beside the point, anyway. That they supported something like this for even a day is irresponsible at best. At worst, they might have indirectly killed a few people. In that same article, Mendel bemoaned the fact that once you're diagnosed with HIV, you're put on a cocktail of "toxic" drugs meant to ward off potentially deadly infections. What he left out is that those drugs actually keep people alive. In almost every instance, the most vocal proponents of the idea that treatment is unnecessary or dangerous, at least among those who've actually been diagnosed with HIV, eventually succumb to the very fate those drugs are meant to prevent.
In 2012, The Guardian wrote a story about HIV deniers which included sad tales like that of Karri Stokely, a woman who was diagnosed at the age of 29 and discontinued treatment after 11 years because she saw a YouTube video that said she didn't need it.
She died of pneumonia a few months later.
Another man, an American singer named Michael Callen, wrote a book about the theory in 1990 called Surviving AIDS. Three years later, he died from complications related to AIDS. That's not meant to sound funny. It's not funny. It's sad. As sad as knowing that the band that blessed the world with a song like "Everlong" was also behind spreading the kind of misinformation which sometimes leads to people needlessly dying.
That said, it's pretty safe to assume that the band has since given up on this idea. But I only say that because Christine Maggiore, the Alive and Well founder whose ideas first caught Mendel's attention, died from HIV-related complications of her own in 2008.
#3. Carlos Santana Thinks A Spirit Named Metatron Was Responsible For His Comeback
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I accept right up front here that, for all intents and purposes, Carlos Santana is one of the last entertainers on Earth you'd look to expecting to hear words that would ever register as "normal" to the average person. However, I'm not sure that people completely grasp just how bizarre his thinking really is. A great example of Santana at his Santana-est is the story behind how he came up with the idea for his multiple-Grammy-winning 1999 comeback album Supernatural.
It's the one with this fucking song it.
As the name implies, he had help from a ghost.
Fine, sorry; that's just me trying to make it sound weirder than it really is. It was actually a spirit. A spirit named Metatron, if formalities are your thing. Even better, Metatron didn't just enter Santana's life to oversee that one project. The two have apparently been in touch since 1994. His first dealings with spirits (and angels in general), though, first happened exactly as they do for so many other people ... through a book purchased at the Milwaukee airport.
Apparently, that in-flight reading material completely changed Santana's life, culminating in Metatron coming up with a grand scheme to spread spirituality to kids by mixing Latin-tinged classic rock shreddery with the top artists of the day -- which at the time meant Rob Thomas, Dave Matthews, Wyclef, Everlast ... and more!
You remember Eagle Eye Cherry, right?
Surprisingly enough, the plan totally worked. Well, the part where he was supposed to sell a ton of records worked. If there's been a massive shift toward New Age religions among the youth of this nation as a result of all those sales, it's not the kind of thing the media has covered extensively.
Nevertheless, where there's a crazy person claiming their music is informed by visits with beings from the spirit world who want them to spread a message, there's an equally crazy person who can definitively prove that those messages are in fact the work of Satan. I don't know if that's true, but I do know that he eventually recorded a song with the lead singer of Nickelback and released it as a single.
No way is he getting the benefit of the doubt from me after unleashing evil like that on the world.