Bizarre CNN: ‘Individualism, Distrust of Institutions’ Breed Climate 'Conspiracy Theories’

February 5th, 2024 9:00 PM

Laura Paddison, the senior climate writer for the CNN Wire news service, wrote about the “dangerous” threat of social media “wellness influencers” having unapproved opinions about the weather: “Wellness influencers fueled pandemic misinformation. Now they have another big conspiracy in their sights.”

The CNN writer rhetorically set her hair on fire over what one "influencer" with a relatively minor following was saying about the wildfire in Hawaii:

When wildfire ripped through Hawaii’s Maui last August, the impact was devastating: a whole town reduced to ashes, more than 100 lives lost. The inferno was described as the “largest natural disaster in state history.”

But some on Instagram suggested, without evidence, there was something much more nefarious at play.

Wellness influencer @truth_crunchy_mama told her 37,000 followers to “stop blaming things on nature that were actually caused by the government.” They’re “going to keep setting wildfires until we all submit to their climate change agenda,” she said in another post.

The story, which was circulated on Microsoft News (, took a hysterical view of social media posts while accepting as absolute truth the idea of an urgent climate emergency. One subhead actually read "Dangerous rhetoric."

Does Instagram change the weather?

….for years there has been a merging of wellness, disinformation and conspiracy, as a subset of influencers use the backdrop of aesthetically pleasing, pastel-colored posts to spread much darker messages, weaving together alarming conspiracy theories with calls for users to buy their supplements or services.

This phenomenon exploded during the pandemic, when anti-vax sentiment took hold in large parts of the wellness community. As interest in the pandemic waned, experts say some wellness influencers have latched on to climate change to galvanize followers.

Their concern: Those influencers -- some with hundreds of thousands of followers -- are exposing new, and younger, audiences to a slew of misinformation and undermining efforts to tackle the climate crisis.


Some focused on deadly extreme weather events, saying they were orchestrated by the government, or that malign global forces were modifying the weather. Others claimed climate policies were a plot to control people’s lives, bodies and diets…

If the shoe fits

Paddison’s story contained some truly ominous sentences denigrating personal freedom and mocking mistrust of authority, odd stances from a journalist:

A strong thread of individualism runs through wellness accounts, alongside a deep distrust of authorities. “They emphasize individual solutions to collective problems, and they sell wellness as a response to climate anxiety,” she said.

Public health authorities suffered a well-earned loss of legitimacy after their authoritarian, capricious, panicky reaction to the coronavirus, shutting down schools and businesses and mandating vaccinations and useless cloth masks. And Paddison was upset the influencers were capitalizing on it:

Many of these influencers maintain they are merely speaking truth to power. It’s a theme of @truth_crunchy_mama account, who calls herself a “truth teller.” The person who runs the account did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

Another bizarre sentence:

….Wellness has now come to mean almost anything, said [Stephanie Alice] Baker, but at its core it revolves around ideas of individualism, self-enlightenment and distrust of institutions -- a near-perfect breeding ground for conspiracy theories to flourish.

Paddison took the most extreme views on climate as undeniable truths that must be protected by censorship if necessary:

….Climate misinformation is having “a profound impact” both on people’s beliefs and on the normalization of fringe perspectives, Caulfield said. Not only does it undermine climate solutions, it also depoliticizes people, sowing distrust in climate policies.

Paddison nodded along to her sources’ calls for extreme censoriousness in support of the fanatical narrative. "It’s particularly worrying as it allows climate misinformation to reach new audiences, experts say, including young people that might otherwise be supportive of climate change action," she wrote.

And who should decide what “contradicts climate science”? Environmental extremists, of course:

For others, the focus is much more on the other platforms hosting these influencers. Hood is pushing for more clarity on climate policies, and for measures including bans on amplifying and monetizing content that clearly contradicts climate science.