The Gateway: Gizmodo's New Podcast About
Controversial YouTube Guru Teal Swan (TRAILER)
The Gateway is a six-part series about Teal Swan, a new brand of spiritual guru, who draws in followers with her hypnotic self-help YouTube videos aimed at people who are struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. Some followers move to Teal’s healing center—a spiritual startup in Atenas, Costa Rica—where they produce content and manage social media accounts. Teal insists her therapy saves lives, but her critics say Teal’s death-focused dogma is dangerous.
**TRIGGER WARNING: This post deals with suicide and other awfulness.**
Last fall Gizmodo gained incredible access to teal's operation. Reporter Jennings Brown not only interviewed teal several times, he was allowed to take a crew into Philia, her retreat center in Costa Rica, to observe one of her high ticket Curveball retreats. The result of his year-long investigation is a six-part podcast series that is by far the most extensive profile of teal yet by a mainstream media outlet. Days before Gizmodo first interviewed teal, she was interviewed by reporter Addison Nugent for OZY, an international, online magazine. The interview was uncomfortable for teal, which she expressed immediately, and somewhat intemperately, on her blog. Neither the resulting OZY article nor "The Gateway" podcast series — which began airing at the end of May and has aired three episodes to date — have been mentioned by teal or her team. (In the interest of full disclosure, I was interviewed by both reporters and my statements appear in both pieces.)
The day ends. The house falls into the dark silence of sleep. The next morning we board a plane to Paris. I have one more interview to do; a segment for the provocateurs section of OZY. This interview marks the end of this European tour. I have five minutes to change my outfit before the camera is switched on in our hotel room. The style of this interview is not what I expected. There are two different styles of interview, one is supportive and the other is antagonistic. In a supportive style interview, you are already going into the interview being loved. The entire structure of the interview is set up to make you look good. In an antagonistic style interview, the majority of the focus is placed on challenging you. No one holds your hands in support in this type of interview. Instead, the interviewer gives you the opportunity to fight though the power of narration to earn people’s good opinion by putting you on the spot. The interview started off with this: “I have interviewed spiritual leaders from everywhere and many of them have been doing this for more than 30 years and to be honest, none of them have the amount of controversy, hatred and dedicated antagonists as you do. There is so much written against you out there in the world, they call you things like ‘the suicide catalyst’, why do you think that is?” In an antagonistic style interview, you spend your time trying to answer questions while simultaneously trying to caretake the vulnerable aspect of you that feels targeted and like hiding under a blanket while sucking its thumb. Sometimes the interviewer is already biased against you and is simply setting up the interview as a trap to make you look bad so their pre-conceived, concrete concept of you can then be shared by the world in order to make them feel personally validated. But if the interviewer is genuinely non-biased, the antagonistic style of interview often leads to the best content. Nonetheless, it is always awkward when this style of interview ends because everyone acts as if nothing just happened and everyone is really friends when in reality both you know and they know that it was an antagonistic interaction that made all parties involved socially uncomfortable. I decided to order minestrone soup after the interview was over to comfort myself and take a bath before I fell asleep. [all emphases added]