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Feb. 20, 2023

EP 188: Interview with Cynane Shay, author of “Taking Off the Tinfoil Hat”

EP 188: Interview with Cynane Shay, author of “Taking Off the Tinfoil Hat”

Hi, everyone! Today, we have a guest, Cynane Shay, the author of an upcoming book about fundamentalist Christianity in the United States, “Taking Off the Tinfoil Hat.” You can find her on Instagram @taking.off.the.tinfoil.hat and on her website, http://takingoffthetinfoilhat.com/.

Cynane grew up in a small conservative town in Florida. She grew up alongside many fundamentalist Christians, many of whom now believe in conspiracy theories about Biblical end times, QAnon, and the Flat Earth.

In “Taking Off the Tinfoil Hat,” she seeks to explore how these crackpot conspiracies led to the dismantling of her patriotism, evangelicalism, and her entire worldview. Her book will also be a warning commentary on the increasing polarization in the U.S. and how current events eerily parallel historical Fascism.

I, Imelda Wei Ding Lo (Fortunus Games), asked Cynane Shay the following questions:

  1. How did you get the idea to write this book?
  2. How have you been writing this book? Do you follow a set schedule? Or do you write whenever you have energy or inspiration?
  3. Research is often the hardest part of writing a book, especially non-fiction. How do you find the process of doing research for your book? As you told me, you are an engineer. Do you think your scientific background has helped you with finding sources for this book?
  4. Your book has a very important message about the increasing polarization of politics and beliefs in the U.S. How will you be marketing your book? Will you be going on any talk shows and podcasts?

Follow Cynane on Instagram @taking.off.the.tinfoil.hat and on her website, http://takingoffthetinfoilhat.com/.

--- Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/fortunus-games/message


Fortunus Games: The nuts and bolts of writing.

Fortunus Games: Season Two, a podcast where we talk about literature, the ins and outs of writing, and how to actually start writing.

Fortunus Games: Hi everyone.

Fortunus Games: Today we have a guest, sunine shea, the author of an upcoming book about fundamentalist christianity and conspiracies in the United States, Taking Off the tinfoil Hat.

Fortunus Games: You can find her on Instagram at Taking Off the Tinfall Hat and on her website, Taking Off the tinfoil Hat sene grew up in a small conservative town in Florida.

Fortunus Games: She grew up alongside many fundamentalist Christians, many of whom now believe in conspiracy theories about biblical end times, qanon, and flat Earth.

Fortunus Games: In Taking Off the tinfoil Hat, she seeks to explore how these crackpot conspiracies led to the dismantling of her patriotism, evangelicalism and her entire worldview.

Fortunus Games: Her book will also be a warning commentary on the increasing polarization in the Us.

Fortunus Games: And how current events eerily parallel historical fossils.

Fortunus Games: Welcome to the show.

Cynane Shay: Thank you so much for having me.

Fortunus Games: So we're going to dive into the questions to explore more about your book.

Fortunus Games: And the first question is, how did you get the idea to write this book?

Cynane Shay: It's really kind of a memoir.

Cynane Shay: A lot of it is my own personal story, so I didn't really get the idea.

Cynane Shay: But what kind of spurred me to actually start writing stuff down because I definitely do not have a background in writing or literature or anything like that was all of the conspiracy theories and things that came up in 2020 around cuban and especially for my family, around COVID and vaccine hesitancy and things like that.

Cynane Shay: I had had countless conversations in person via text, via messaging and things with a bunch of people in my life.

Cynane Shay: My mom, several of my best friends, my brother and I could not make any kind of progress.

Cynane Shay: I was just met with a conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory and I started also kind of looking into cults and cult thought reform or mind control tactics and how that kind of works because it just did not seem the conversations I was having were very you couldn't get anybody to just agree on anything.

Cynane Shay: So in order to deprogram and not everybody likes to use the word deprogram, but basically to get somebody to leave a cult or a cultic belief and it's very similar to talking somebody out of a conspiracy theory.

Cynane Shay: Most of the successful people in that field, everything that I've read kind of talks about like interventions.

Cynane Shay: So you gather everybody's loved ones.

Cynane Shay: It's a very emotional process.

Cynane Shay: It is not an intellectual process necessarily.

Cynane Shay: And you have to really get down to the root of why they believe what they believe, not just address the surface conspiracy theories or the surface beliefs, but I was not capable of doing that.

Cynane Shay: Instead of having an entire community sit one person down in the stage of intervention, it was me as one person trying to do that for an entire community and I don't live in my hometown anymore, so I'm physically not there all the time and there was just too many people to do this for.

Cynane Shay: So I thought initially, like, what if I just write it all down?

Cynane Shay: What if I write down everything that I know and I address things as deep to the core as I can think to address them?

Cynane Shay: And basically I'll write an essay and I'll just give it to my parents like a little kid and just be like, please stop hoarding hydroxychloroquine.

Cynane Shay: And I started writing it out and I realized that it was going to be much longer than an essay and that it went way deeper than I had initially anticipated it to.

Cynane Shay: And I just kept reading book after book after book and touching on a lot of different topics that I realized needed to be incorporated into this.

Cynane Shay: And it kind of became a book.

Cynane Shay: And so I just went with that.

Cynane Shay: And that's kind of how I decided to what made me start writing a book.

Cynane Shay: It was kind of by accident.

Fortunus Games: That makes a lot of sense.

Fortunus Games: Yes, definitely.

Fortunus Games: During the pandemic, I felt like a lot of people started believing a lot of these things.

Fortunus Games: Also because of social media, I think a lot of social media became more and more polarized and more extreme during the pandemic.

Cynane Shay: Social media played a huge part in it.

Cynane Shay: And honestly, there are people who are doing research into this, so there are experts.

Cynane Shay: But I do also think that it's kind of a new phenomenon.

Cynane Shay: Like, social media has not been around for long enough for us to truly understand how it's going to affect us psychologically on a large societal scale.

Cynane Shay: But there are people who have been doing basically, like, radicalization just little studies or little experiments of, like, how quickly does it take somebody who so, for example, I've seen several of these studies where they would only like anti lgbtq content or they would pick one topic and they would only like a TikTok video related to that content.

Cynane Shay: And by doing that, they eventually were being shown things from like the Three percenters or the Proud Boys or the Oath keepers or these are like very extremist violent white nationalist groups or extremely violent anti trans content.

Cynane Shay: Within a matter of hours.

Cynane Shay: My parents are the quintessential boomers.

Cynane Shay: All right, so they are not on TikTok.

Cynane Shay: They are not really even on Instagram.

Cynane Shay: My dad's not on anything.

Cynane Shay: My mom's on Facebook, though.

Cynane Shay: They're not doing the TikTok radicalization, but they do end up finding these ideological echo chambers.

Cynane Shay: It connects them to people who believe the same things that they believe.

Cynane Shay: And when you have accepted something as a premise, as an idea, it's very easy to down spiral into that.

Cynane Shay: So even just something as what's basic for me, maybe not anybody listening of biblical end times.

Cynane Shay: The rapture very much like left behind the tim lehay book series of the antichrist taking over the world with like a New World Order, all of that, that was very common in just like my evangelical community.

Cynane Shay: So if you just accept that as truth and then you go on social media and you find things connected to that, it very, very quickly tailspins into some very extreme conspiracy theories and very quickly into anti COVID conspiracy theories.

Cynane Shay: So yeah, it's something that I think needs to be studied a lot more.

Cynane Shay: And I know that it is being studied, but social media plays a huge part, definitely.

Fortunus Games: And even without social media, like people like your dad, they already have something called Fox News to enforce their views.

Fortunus Games: And Fox News is very extreme and I think has become more extreme in recent years, especially since Trump became president.

Cynane Shay: Fox News.

Cynane Shay: Yeah.

Cynane Shay: So my dad is definitely not on social media, but it's like life finds a way, extremism finds a way.

Cynane Shay: He fishes for a living.

Cynane Shay: He's old Florida man, loves to talk to strangers and diners like exactly what you would expect.

Cynane Shay: Shows you pictures of fish on his phone and all of that.

Cynane Shay: But he will literally get emails from his old man friends who are also like 70 plus year old men who don't have any connection to social media.

Cynane Shay: One of the last times I saw him, he came into the room super upset because somebody had sent him an email and it was literally just like a chain of memes.

Cynane Shay: My dad doesn't know what a meme is.

Cynane Shay: And one of them was like, oh, this is very racist.

Cynane Shay: So like a trigger warning, I guess.

Cynane Shay: But another one of the conspiracy theories that I grew up with was that Obama was the antichrist or that he was secretly Muslim or that he was a terrorist.

Cynane Shay: And that was very normal for me to hear as a kid.

Cynane Shay: But one of the memes that he just got recently, like in the last two years or so, was obviously photoshopped picture of Obama with like a turban on his head and like a 1995 desktop computer and the caption said something like selling our secrets to terrorists or something.

Cynane Shay: And my dad thought that was real.

Cynane Shay: He couldn't even tell that it was photoshopped or that it was fake.

Cynane Shay: It doesn't take just social media.

Cynane Shay: What I have come to realize and what is kind of like the principle to the second half of my book, is that, you know, the problem is not conspiracy theories.

Cynane Shay: The problem is not qanon, the problem is not even Trump.

Cynane Shay: The problem is the ideology that all of this is based on.

Cynane Shay: Like what is at the root of all of this is white Christian nationalism.

Cynane Shay: And so you have to address like, why do people believe in white Christian nationalism and adhere to that?

Cynane Shay: Because that's why somebody like my dad is afraid of COVID vaccines and is believing in Obama conspiracy theories and things.

Fortunus Games: Yes, I totally agree, because I've been reading about this subject, too.

Fortunus Games: And one of the books I've been reading recently, I think was featured on your Instagram, I think was called Jesus, John Wayne and Jesus.

Fortunus Games: And it's a really fascinating dive into how all of these things are connected, especially since this idea of white masculinity and how that's connected to evangelicalism going all the way back to the early 20th century and maybe even before.

Cynane Shay: Yeah, so I would love for any of your listeners to check my Instagram just to see the book recommendations because that's really what I am the most excited.

Cynane Shay: And one of the very first books that I read was Jesus and John Wayne by kristen kobez dumez.

Cynane Shay: I might be saying her name wrong, I'm so sorry, but oh, my God, that is one of the most important books in all of my lists.

Cynane Shay: Her book specifically is kind of like a journalistic look at white Christian nationalism, specifically in relation to Christian patriarchy and male headship and complementarianism and basically just like the subjugation of women in the white evangelical church.

Cynane Shay: And the history of that, as you said, going back for basically the last century, it does go much farther back in history.

Cynane Shay: And there's a couple of other books that I have recommended that I would highly recommend, especially Anti Intellectualism in American Life by Richard hofstadter that's really not connected to religion in any way, not really.

Cynane Shay: He's a historian, so it was a historical look at anti intellectualism in the United States going all the way back to, like, the 17 hundreds.

Cynane Shay: And I think that that plays a huge part into evangelicalism today.

Cynane Shay: But the other element of this that Christian cubes dumez does touch on in Jesus and John Wayne is the racism that is present in evangelicalism white Christian nationalism.

Cynane Shay: And there are a couple of other books that I would highly recommend related to that as well.

Cynane Shay: The Color of Compromise by jamar Tisbee was earth shattering for me because I was raised in this white Christian nationalism.

Cynane Shay: I understood Jesus and John Wayne because that was my experience as a woman raised in evangelicalism.

Cynane Shay: Like, I understood that kind of oppression.

Cynane Shay: But to read The Color of Compromise as a white person, it just exposed what I feel like had been whitewashed and covered up throughout my entire childhood.

Cynane Shay: And the other one that was I actually read before that was Divided by Faith, and I love Divided by Faith by Michael O.

Cynane Shay: emerson because he's a sociologist and so he uses a lot of polls and statistics and numbers, and I'm attracted to that.

Cynane Shay: And it kind of talks about a little bit like, why white evangelical, white Christian nationalists are essentially racist.

Cynane Shay: It's not, like a nice thing to say, but the entire region is built on a history of racism and the white Christian nationalist rejection of the idea that there is still systemic racism in the united States or that this country was built on systemic racist laws and history.

Cynane Shay: They reject that.

Cynane Shay: And Michael O.

Cynane Shay: emerson and Divided by Faith kind of gives a little bit of a sociological look into why that.

Fortunus Games: Makes a lot of sense because from what I've seen, it seems like a lot of evangelicals, they do not like some of them anyways.

Fortunus Games: They openly admit that they do not like civil rights.

Fortunus Games: They think that it was not necessary.

Fortunus Games: They think that state rights, which is a code word for many things, are more important than civil rights.

Fortunus Games: And they're saying, oh, I only oppose civil rights because I don't want the federal government intruding on me.

Fortunus Games: And this also goes back to this American idea of anti centralized governments and that's also connected to the evangelical idea of the one world government, I think.

Cynane Shay: Yeah, there's so many connected lines.

Cynane Shay: I feel like a crazy person, but a big part of it, too.

Cynane Shay: And I haven't read this book in a long time, and I'm going to go back before I try to write about this.

Cynane Shay: But a big part of it is the principle of individualism.

Cynane Shay: Like, it's a philosophical concept very big with, like, John locke, the Founding Fathers, you know, like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin and that whole lot.

Cynane Shay: They were heavily influenced by John locke and this idea of individualism.

Cynane Shay: And that goes hand in hand with capitalism and the modern American conception of christianity or specifically protestantism.

Cynane Shay: We have all these different denominations.

Cynane Shay: And the reason why we have a lot of those denominations is because of almost kind of like a capitalistic principle of them marketing themselves to different groups of people in different ways and different times to make them more popular.

Cynane Shay: And the part of individualism that really impacts the racist element of all of this is because it's almost like we have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and savior.

Cynane Shay: And so if you believe in h***, in heaven, we get to go to heaven because Jesus died for our sins.

Cynane Shay: That's what they say on the surface.

Cynane Shay: But when you look at it on a different level, like a little bit deeper, you chose to accept Jesus as your Lord and savior, so you kind of saved yourself like Jesus saved you, but you saved yourself by choosing to follow Jesus.

Cynane Shay: And so if you don't choose to follow Jesus, you deserve h***.

Cynane Shay: And if you that ties into this American individualist idea of you should pull yourself up by your bootstraps.

Cynane Shay: If you're not willing to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and save yourself, then you deserve to be poor.

Cynane Shay: You deserve to not have health care or any of the other issues that we're facing.

Cynane Shay: And it really ties back into just like, the very basic concepts of white Christian nationalism.

Cynane Shay: This belief in heaven, this belief in H***.

Cynane Shay: calvinism is kind of a little bit of a different thing, but it's very much deeply run into that with the chosen elite versus the unchosen, then you have prosperity gospel, which is just vile.

Cynane Shay: But if you're a good person, God blesses you.

Cynane Shay: So if you have a lot of wealth and a lot of money, then you must deserve that because God is blessing you.

Cynane Shay: Whereas if you're poor or if you're sick, then you must deserve that because you must have done something to deserve that.

Cynane Shay: And so it just allows people to just sidestep empathy and justify not doing anything about it, like send thoughts and prayers, not money or volunteer time.

Fortunus Games: And also they feel like a lot of the stuff that's anti individualism, for example, socialism or socialized health care, they think it's an extension of communism.

Cynane Shay: Yeah.

Cynane Shay: And that again, Richard hofstadter has written some incredible histories looking at the intellectualism around the McCarthy era, like the og McCarthy, not our McCarthy now, and the just absolute panic that was around the Cold War and the Communist wave.

Cynane Shay: And I think that this is especially relevant to us because I'm 30.

Cynane Shay: So that was my parents generation.

Cynane Shay: They lived through this Red Scare and this idea of godless communism.

Cynane Shay: They very successfully, through propaganda, tied the idea of communism to godlessness and a rejection of faith.

Cynane Shay: And so it made it inherently evil, not just like an ideological social structure or like a thought experiment.

Cynane Shay: It is now like, morally evil because it's been tied to this godlessness.

Cynane Shay: And we're still living with the effects of that.

Cynane Shay: That propaganda that was like child indoctrination into our parents we're still living with.

Cynane Shay: And you can talk to I'm using my family as a case study, and I understand that other people are a little bit different, but you could talk to my parents about socialism, fascism, marxism, communism, and ask them to describe the difference between all these capitalism.

Cynane Shay: They could not.

Cynane Shay: They fear it because they don't understand it, and they don't understand it because they've been told not to.

Cynane Shay: It's almost become and then you get into the anti intellectualism again, it's good for them not to know about it.

Cynane Shay: They don't need to learn about what they already know to be a lie.

Cynane Shay: Like, when I was a kid, I was always told never to study the koran or to study, like, Christian cults or any of these non Christian groups because you don't need to study what is a lie.

Cynane Shay: You should only study the truth.

Cynane Shay: I can't tell you how many times I heard this growing up.

Cynane Shay: They used this analogy of and I don't know if this is true, but in the United States Treasury, people who work for the treasury don't study counterfeit money.

Cynane Shay: They only study true American money so that if you hand them a counterfeit bill, they can tell just by touch that it is false.

Cynane Shay: And so they told us, you don't need to study other religions to know that they're false.

Cynane Shay: You just need to study the one true religion.

Cynane Shay: And so I think that that ties into kind of the anti intellectualism around socialism and communism.

Cynane Shay: We don't actually need to understand it.

Cynane Shay: We already know that it's wrong.

Cynane Shay: And it also feeds into a lot of conspiracy theories because anywhere where there is this ignorance, it's going to be filled with fear and misinformation.

Cynane Shay: And then you have and what's happening now in American politics is just these people who see that as an opportunity and step in as bad actors to take advantage of these now very large swaths of the population who kind of fall into that category, definitely.

Fortunus Games: Especially since so many of these themes are tied together.

Fortunus Games: And in a previous episode I discussed homeschooling and how that's tied into I think that ties into anti intellectualism because a lot of people who home school their children, they believe the government has no say over how they can educate their children.

Fortunus Games: And I've heard people, for example, the Ron Paul home school, there was one where he interviewed an alumna from his school and she said, I don't care if someone teaching me has a diploma or not.

Fortunus Games: I get to decide what I want to learn.

Fortunus Games: And just because someone has a diploma teaching me doesn't mean they're legitimate well.

Cynane Shay: And that's something that I heard over and over and over again with the conspiracy theories in the last couple of years, was like, do your own research.

Cynane Shay: And at one point, my ex best friend who had to kick out of my wedding because she thought that 5g radiation could control her mind.

Cynane Shay: I can't remember the exact quote, but it's very nearly it's not about what's right.

Cynane Shay: It's about what's right for you.

Cynane Shay: And I was like, no, it's about what's factually correct when you're discussing something that can be factually figured out.

Cynane Shay: But the whole homeschooling thing, I did listen to your episodes on homeschooling and anybody who has not yet done that, please go back and listen to them because I was like yelling at my phone, like, yes, everything that you guys are talking about.

Cynane Shay: And I want to say that I definitely recognize that there is a need for homeschooling in spaces and especially for people and children who might have learning disabilities or medical situations or there's a plethora of reasons why home schooling would be a very good option for families.

Cynane Shay: And I know several people who do home school very responsibly.

Cynane Shay: But I was raised around, all of my friends were homeschooled and they were religiously homeschooled.

Cynane Shay: And so my experience in general is that it is just used as a tool of control.

Cynane Shay: It is a violation of children's rights because they use it to prevent education so that they can indoctrinate children however they want to at the expense of them receiving a proper education.

Cynane Shay: And so you end up with this generation of adults who are coming out of this high control, child indoctrination, lack of education, homeschooling who are then faced with the real world that they have never experienced before, and they don't know how to handle that.

Cynane Shay: And so they basically have to start from a point of such disadvantage as an adult because their parents did not give them what they needed as children.

Cynane Shay: And a lot of times, especially for women and I don't want to make up too many broad generalizations, but this is what I saw growing up.

Cynane Shay: They don't expect it to become a problem because they don't expect you to ever face the real world.

Cynane Shay: They expect you to grow up, become an adult, especially for women, you'll just marry somebody at 18 or 19 years old and then work in the church, be a housewife, and you'll never have to figure out the real world.

Cynane Shay: And for the men, you can work in the church or you can work in your family's business or you can stay in your very small town.

Cynane Shay: And so you're just not faced with having to figure things out so much.

Cynane Shay: But if you do try to leave, if you do try to support yourself, you have nothing to do that with.

Cynane Shay: And it's a means of control.

Cynane Shay: People are discouraged from leaving the group or the church or the family or whatever it is because it's so difficult.

Cynane Shay: And I don't think that most of the time this is done maliciously.

Cynane Shay: I think most of the families who are home schooling their children are doing it because they genuinely want the best for their kids and they are afraid of a satanic, demonic world that they're trying to protect their children from.

Cynane Shay: But that just doesn't exist.

Cynane Shay: And so you're just children's rights with good intentions.

Fortunus Games: Yeah, but intentions don't mean anything if the result is so terrible, unfortunately.

Fortunus Games: So, yeah, all of these things are connected.

Fortunus Games: And it's very interesting that your book will explore this because I think sometimes a lot of people don't necessarily tie the conspiracy theories to these underlying problems.

Cynane Shay: Right when I was growing up, I was surrounded by conspiracy theories and I either just didn't recognize that they were conspiracy theories because they were just so normalized, or especially as I got a little bit older, I just thought it wasn't that important.

Cynane Shay: It's not that big of a deal for somebody like my husband, who was not raised in evangelicalism or white Christian nationalism, somebody like him.

Cynane Shay: They don't think that he sees my family and he's just like, oh, well, they're just crazy.

Cynane Shay: They just believe some crazy things and they're on the fringe.

Cynane Shay: But the problem is that they're not, that these are the cultural forces that are very deeply rooted at the highest levels of our government.

Cynane Shay: And just like society in general, the education system and the battle that you see going on right now for parents rights and the fight against CRT and somebody like Mike Pence or Mark meadows who are deeply involved in evangelicalism and these evangelical lobbying groups and stuff.

Cynane Shay: People just don't realize that it's all connected.

Cynane Shay: And my book is kind of just how I went through that through my own memoir.

Cynane Shay: So I saw people talking about Jewish space, lasers and microchips and mind control, like 5g radiation mind control.

Cynane Shay: And I was like, oh, something's wrong.

Cynane Shay: And so I started looking into conspiracy theories and then through looking at conspiracy theories, what was at the bottom of that barrel was white cushion nationalism.

Cynane Shay: I tried to write it in sequence of the things that I learned in the order that I learned them because that's just how my thought was.

Cynane Shay: That if this is what kind of changed my mind or things that I didn't know as somebody who was an evangelical, then I think that hopefully my path would lead some other people in the same direction.

Cynane Shay: Or at least if I didn't know it as an Evangelical, then this will be information that other people maybe just didn't have.

Fortunus Games: Right, that makes sense.

Fortunus Games: So how have you been writing this book?

Fortunus Games: Do you follow a set schedule or do you write whenever you have energy or inspiration?

Cynane Shay: That's a good question.

Cynane Shay: It's kind of a mix.

Cynane Shay: I definitely do not write on a schedule.

Cynane Shay: And for anybody who is listening to this, like, as a writer, this is where you should ignore everything that I say because I have no idea what I'm doing.

Cynane Shay: I work full time.

Cynane Shay: I'm a civilian contractor in the navy's Nuclear propulsion Training Program.

Cynane Shay: So I work full time.

Cynane Shay: We are renovating our house.

Cynane Shay: I just have to live my life in general, like making dinner and stuff.

Cynane Shay: Like we take trips and things on the weekends.

Cynane Shay: So I have to work around all of that.

Cynane Shay: So I am probably slower than like a professional writer would be.

Cynane Shay: And then as far as inspiration and stuff goes, the first half of the book I have drafted and that is mostly my personal story.

Cynane Shay: So I really had a firm grasp of where I was going with all of that and it was just a matter of filling in the finer details.

Cynane Shay: That was pretty straightforward.

Cynane Shay: The second half of the book is definitely I feel like I now have a much better grasp of it, but it's built on a lot of the ideas like I've been learning as I've been writing.

Cynane Shay: There have been times where I had to kind of pause a little bit, like read some books and really digest some information to figure out how that connects to what I'm trying to say.

Cynane Shay: And I'm still doing that.

Cynane Shay: I think I'll be learning for the rest of my life.

Cynane Shay: Obviously I'll be reading and learning ideas that I want to put into the book long after the book is done, I'm sure.

Cynane Shay: But yeah, so I'm working on it as fast as I can.

Cynane Shay: And as far as inspiration goes, I would say the only thing that's kind of slowed me down a little bit is when I'm talking about like the really rough conspiracy theory stuff like qanon and antisemitism and all of that, that is like really deeply connected.

Cynane Shay: It gets a little bit dark and it was very demoralizing to just look at that bald in the face, like that much hatred and ignorance.

Cynane Shay: So I did have to take a little bit of a break after that.

Cynane Shay: So really advertising what you guys are going to want to read when you read the book.

Cynane Shay: But yeah, so no set schedule and it's a learning process as I'm writing.

Fortunus Games: That makes a lot of sense.

Fortunus Games: And yes, I totally agree about the antisemitism.

Fortunus Games: I mean, there's so many theories that on the surface to a layperson doesn't seem antisemitic, but when you look closer at it, like the lizards and stuff like that, it's obviously antisemitic.

Cynane Shay: And I tell people about this all the time.

Cynane Shay: People are like, please stop talking.

Cynane Shay: But yes, people just don't know.

Cynane Shay: I had no idea.

Cynane Shay: But pretty much any conspiracy theory that's talking about a global elite is antisemitic because there's two historical roots to this and that includes blood libel, which is this medieval conspiracy theory that Jewish people were kidnapping usually children or Christian priests and sacrificing them in blood rituals.

Cynane Shay: And this was just something that has been circulating through folk stories and conspiracy theories since the Middle Ages then.

Cynane Shay: And this is like the really bad part is The Protocols of the Elders of zion.

Cynane Shay: And off the top of my head, I don't have the dates right, but I want to say that sometime around, like, the 1900 point, there was this pamphlet that was released called The Protocols of the Elders of zion.

Cynane Shay: And it described a Jewish elite, a secret cabal who were super wealthy and influential and controlling all of the world's governments.

Cynane Shay: And then it also involved sacrifices and satanic rituals.

Cynane Shay: And it came out later that this pamphlet was literally just plagiarized from a French satire that had nothing to do with Jewish people.

Cynane Shay: It was like a satirical pamphlet somebody stole that injected a bunch of antisemitism into it and then released it as The Protocols of the Elders of zion.

Cynane Shay: I think that the Holocaust Museum has quoted as saying the Protocols of the Elders of zion is like the single most damaging piece of antisemitic literature in the history of mankind.

Cynane Shay: It is horrible because it has just been regurgitated over and over again in every single conspiracy theory.

Cynane Shay: Anything that uses a global elite is really just copying the Protocols of the Elders of zion.

Cynane Shay: And if you go deep enough down any conspiracy rabbit hole, you'll find people saying it's the Jews.

Cynane Shay: So stuff is completely random as flat earth.

Cynane Shay: They believe in a globalist elite conspiracy theory.

Cynane Shay: You will find them talking about a Jewish elite conspiracy and secret N*** bases and all sorts of stuff like that.

Cynane Shay: So yes, everything queue non, deeply antisemitic COVID.

Cynane Shay: Conspiracy theories, it always finds a way back to antisemitism.

Cynane Shay: If you remember all the people wearing the Stars of David for being antivaxxers.

Cynane Shay: So, yeah, no, it's gross.

Fortunus Games: Absolutely.

Fortunus Games: It is terrifying.

Fortunus Games: And it's normalizing, these beliefs, because people who may not be necessarily antisemitic, the deeper they get into this, they become more and more antisemitic.

Cynane Shay: Yeah, and that's something that I talk about a lot in qanon, but it's also just a cult tactic, and that is soft pill versus hard pill.

Cynane Shay: So you will get people to believe an idea on a surface level, not really understanding where it comes from before they actually truly understand it.

Cynane Shay: So, like with qanon, you'll talk somebody into believing in a government corruption or Bill Gates type rich elite cabal, or that child sex trafficking is a problem.

Cynane Shay: All of these things are, on the surface, very believable and agreeable.

Cynane Shay: So, yeah, on the surface, all of that seems completely reasonable.

Cynane Shay: Government corruption, these are all things that you can kind of be on board with.

Cynane Shay: But what you don't immediately learn about is ritualistic child sacrifice and adrenochrome and mole children and the second coming of jfk Jr.

Cynane Shay: And all of these, like, other more crazy elements.

Cynane Shay: And it's the same with most conspiracy theories.

Cynane Shay: People don't just jump all in on lizard people.

Cynane Shay: They jump in on something that is more palatable, and then they find their way to lizard people.

Cynane Shay: Soft pill to hard pill.

Fortunus Games: That makes a lot of sense.

Fortunus Games: And I think that stuff in Evangelicalism, even before qanon and all of this other stuff, it was already paving the way towards these beliefs such as Young Earth creationism.

Cynane Shay: Oh, my God.

Cynane Shay: Yeah.

Cynane Shay: So I had like, a little bit of an unpleasant epiphany a couple of weeks ago remembering that Ken Ham do you know who Ken Ham is?

Cynane Shay: Yes.

Fortunus Games: Answers and genesis.

Cynane Shay: Right.

Fortunus Games: And Creation Museum.

Cynane Shay: Yes.

Cynane Shay: The Young Earth Creation King himself came to my school, which was a private Christian school, when I think I was in kindergarten or first grade and gave a seminar.

Cynane Shay: So an officially sponsored school event had Ken Ham come give us a lecture.

Cynane Shay: So I know all about that.

Cynane Shay: The idea that Adam and Eve were real people and the idea that noah's ark was a real thing, that the entire globe was flooded and that there were dinosaurs on the ark, all of that is yes, it paves the way to believe kind of crazy stuff if you already believe kind of crazy stuff.

Cynane Shay: And the other thing that I think about, which is so interesting with qanon specifically, and I should maybe give a little preface for people who don't know exactly what qanon is at the heart of it, it was a message board.

Cynane Shay: So, like, reddit, four chan, eight Chan, these super Internet nerd places.

Cynane Shay: It was a message board troll or prank where somebody was pretending to have a top level security clearance in the government and was like, leaking secret information.

Cynane Shay: And the secret information, the conspiracy that they were describing was that there is a global pedophile billionaire elite that is controlling the entire world and driving the world towards this very evangelical one world order.

Cynane Shay: But they are also running massive rings of child sex slavery with hundreds of thousands of children.

Cynane Shay: In some versions of the conspiracy theory.

Cynane Shay: They're saying that they're even breeding children, like mole children and tunnels under every major city.

Cynane Shay: And the only person who is fighting the elite is Donald Trump.

Cynane Shay: They're geotis or like God emperor of the United States, which is a playoff of potus, president of the United States.

Cynane Shay: It's all ridiculous.

Cynane Shay: There's also a fun spin off about Donald Trump being a time traveler.

Cynane Shay: That's my favorite.

Cynane Shay: But when you are presented with the idea rings of hundreds of thousands of children being sex trafficked and satanic ritual murdered, that is, that's insane, right?

Cynane Shay: And so you would think that there would be people out in the streets forming civilian armies to go fight the satanic cabal and free all of these children if they truly believe that that was happening.

Cynane Shay: But there have been several incidents of shootings and actual crimes of people who did take this seriously, but on the larger scale for the number of people who believe it, you would think that there would be more of that.

Cynane Shay: But when you look at evangelicalism at large, at a group of people who believe that every single person that they interact with is going to h*** to burn for eternity in torture and torment for eternity, every single person that they meet who's not a Christian.

Cynane Shay: And they're not every single waking moment of their 80 years on this earth out there trying to save people from eternal torment.

Cynane Shay: It's kind of the same thing.

Cynane Shay: Oh, there's just like satanic child trafficking rings and that's bad.

Cynane Shay: everybody's going to burn in h*** forever and that's bad.

Cynane Shay: But it's in God's hands or it's in Trump's hands, it's in some higher power and so it's another obfuscation of responsibility.

Fortunus Games: Quick question.

Fortunus Games: So now that Trump isn't that popular because desanis is kind of replacing him, are people thinking that he's their savior in the qanon conspiracy or not?

Cynane Shay: So I think what's happening with qanon, and I'm not a fortune teller, I have no idea what's going to actually happen.

Cynane Shay: But I think that January 6, the storming of the capital, really took the wind out of the sales of qanon.

Cynane Shay: Hugh stopped posting just before January 6 and went dark for like a year or two or something.

Cynane Shay: They have come back and have been posting a little bit recently, but it just doesn't have the same following.

Cynane Shay: So I personally kind of think that qanon as like a very centralized, rabid conspiracy theory is petering out, it's going to die.

Cynane Shay: But I think that how qanon has normalized conspiracy theories, especially in the right wing politics and in American christianity is going to be, like, a lasting consequence that we're going to be dealing with for a very long time.

Cynane Shay: And that's always kind of been the danger of qanon, is that if you talked to somebody in my family or one of my friends who believed in a conspiracy theory and you told them like, that you believe in qanon, they wouldn't know what you were talking about.

Cynane Shay: They wouldn't know who Q was.

Cynane Shay: They wouldn't know what even Adrenochrome was.

Cynane Shay: They would be like, oh, I don't believe that.

Cynane Shay: I just believe in government corruption or whatever.

Cynane Shay: So I think what we're going to be left with is nothing but the soft pills, and we're going to get weird little spin offs and flurries of weird conspiracy theories and stuff that turn up.

Cynane Shay: Maybe somebody will be able to re harness all of that energy under one banner.

Cynane Shay: Again, I don't know.

Cynane Shay: But I think that Trump is old.

Cynane Shay: I think he's in his mid to late 70s.

Cynane Shay: So realistically, he is not going to be around long term, not wishing ill upon anyone.

Cynane Shay: But desantis is a very real, very scary problem because he is young, and he has the same populist following that Trump kind of had in Florida even after January 6.

Cynane Shay: Talking to people in my hometown, one of my best friends, she was like, okay, well, maybe Trump is not the best.

Cynane Shay: Okay, I'll give that to you.

Cynane Shay: Trump has some problems.

Cynane Shay: I recognize that there's some issues with Trump, but then the next words out of her mouth were, but I love desantis.

Cynane Shay: desantis has not been tainted by qanon or January 6.

Cynane Shay: So he's pedaling the same snake oil, but he's just in a different brand.

Cynane Shay: So all of that energy will be focused.

Cynane Shay: If he can harness it, I think he will.

Cynane Shay: I'm very scared that he's going to be kind of like the next reagan.

Fortunus Games: Oh, I think so.

Fortunus Games: At this point, it does look like it, because who else is there in the Republican Party other than him?

Fortunus Games: And as you said, Trump's getting old.

Cynane Shay: Yeah, that's just going to be something that time will tell.

Cynane Shay: And I am heavily biased in one direction.

Cynane Shay: I come from a world that is just steeped in right wing conspiracies and racism and islamophobia and extreme connection between religious beliefs and political beliefs.

Cynane Shay: The Republican power that Trump harnessed and that desantis is poised to harness is no longer just like a political party.

Cynane Shay: It is a religious it is a religion, which is what makes it so powerful.

Cynane Shay: But from my point of view, I'm very much like an alarmist.

Cynane Shay: Like, oh, God.

Cynane Shay: This is what's coming.

Cynane Shay: It's everywhere.

Cynane Shay: But again, somebody from my husband's perspective who didn't grow up in this and nobody that he's friends with believes any of this stuff.

Cynane Shay: He's just like, It's not that big of a deal.

Cynane Shay: So I think the answer is somewhere in the middle, but it is something that we need to keep an eye on it's like having a spider in the room.

Cynane Shay: Like you just want to know where it is.

Fortunus Games: Well put.

Fortunus Games: Research is often the hardest part of writing a book, especially nonfiction.

Fortunus Games: How do you find the process of doing research for your book?

Fortunus Games: As you told me, you are an engineer.

Fortunus Games: Do you think your scientific background has helped you with finding sources for this book?

Cynane Shay: So as far as research goes and like a scientific background, most of what I am dealing with is not like high level science.

Cynane Shay: I'm not digging through equations and scientific articles and research and things.

Cynane Shay: If you were going to combat the specific conspiracy theories, I think that you could get into that.

Cynane Shay: If you were trying to disprove hydroxychloroquin as an effective treatment for COVID, you would go through the scientific research papers and get into the nitty gritty of that.

Cynane Shay: But that's not really what I'm doing.

Cynane Shay: I'm again just trying to address the root cause of why people believe those conspiracy theories, not fight the individual battles.

Cynane Shay: So as far as research, when I started all of this, I've been going through deconstruction, which is basically a crisis of faith because I was an evangelical, I was hook, line and sinker, bought into all of the religion, I was the good girl, did everything right.

Cynane Shay: And so there's been this personal kind of psychological journey and I've been reading a lot of books about that, which is why I'm in like cold psychology.

Cynane Shay: But when I started, like, I didn't know to call it deconstruction.

Cynane Shay: I didn't know what was happening to me or what to do about it or that there were resources for me.

Cynane Shay: So very sloppy.

Cynane Shay: But I really started kind of on TikTok of all places.

Cynane Shay: Started seeing videos of people who were ex evangelicals, people who had left the church and were saying things that really resonated with me.

Cynane Shay: And then those social media influencers were referencing books.

Cynane Shay: One of the first ones was Jesus and John Wayne.

Cynane Shay: And then also divided by faith, by Michael O.

Cynane Shay: emerson.

Cynane Shay: That was a TikTok recommendation.

Cynane Shay: So I went from these social media influencers to some books and then from there books, referenced other books and I really found some very helpful podcasts.

Cynane Shay: Straight, white American Jesus.

Cynane Shay: Amazing.

Cynane Shay: Love you guys.

Cynane Shay: They talk to a lot of authors and they specifically focus on experts and people with degrees, PhDs and professors and people with a lot of credibility.

Cynane Shay: So I really appreciated that and I went in and I read a lot of the books that they recommended and then qanon Anonymous is another podcast and that I still find this to be absolutely fascinating.

Cynane Shay: They latched on to qanon like months after it started, like well before it was ever in any kind of mainstream news articles.

Cynane Shay: This was like a fringe thing that was happening on the internet.

Cynane Shay: And these guys started this podcast following the conspiracy theory.

Cynane Shay: And so when I figured out that my family was connected, their beliefs were connected to qanon.

Cynane Shay: I went back and I listened to two years worth of qanon anonymous podcasts just to understand what qanon was, as well as going on to some of the websites and like, hhan and that kind of thing.

Cynane Shay: And after I realized that what I was doing was called deconstruction.

Cynane Shay: And I found publishing groups of authors that were writing about this sort of thing and found that there was this history of racism and misogyny in American evangelicalism, and that there were a number of books talking about that history, I finally had a direction to go in.

Cynane Shay: And then as far as my engineering background, how that has really tied into this, maybe like I said, not directly on like a scientific level, but in two ways, I think that it has really affected the book.

Cynane Shay: And just like, why I have gotten to the point where I have gotten, and that is that I understand and appreciate expertise because I do something that is highly specialized and highly technical.

Cynane Shay: I just have a bachelor's degree, but it was a very difficult bachelor's degree in nuclear engineering.

Cynane Shay: And so I understand that if somebody has a degree in microbiology or something that I don't understand at all, there was a lot of work that went into getting to that point.

Cynane Shay: You can't just read one article and expect to understand the intricacies of reactor dynamics or whatever microbiology is.

Cynane Shay: So that's where I think I very much differed from people like my ex best friend who said, oh, it's not about what's right, it's about what's right for you, or do your own research and that kind of stuff.

Cynane Shay: And for me, I'm just like, you're not a doctor.

Cynane Shay: You can't just do your own research.

Cynane Shay: Read some article from some quack who says you can take horse Dwormer for COVID and call it a day.

Cynane Shay: No, you have to look at the general consensus of expertise.

Cynane Shay: So that's a huge thing.

Cynane Shay: And then the other part that is more personal, I think, for why I'm writing this as a book is that my education gave me a confidence that I feel like some of the people in my life maybe don't have.

Cynane Shay: I know that.

Cynane Shay: Sorry.

Cynane Shay: I'm, like all over the place.

Cynane Shay: When you come out of a cult, like if you're in a hardcore cult cult like heaven's Gate or Jones Town, or like a real cult, or even just a group that uses cultic thought reform tactics.

Cynane Shay: So I would not say that I was raised in a cult, but I definitely would say that I was thought reformed.

Cynane Shay: When you come out of a cult, stephen Hassan and Dr.

Cynane Shay: Margaret Singer, these are cult psychologists and psychiatrists, they basically say that you almost immediately revert back to your original worldview.

Cynane Shay: You almost have this second dual personality, a cult personality that takes over when you're in a cult and when you leave a cult, you go back to your original self.

Cynane Shay: But for somebody like me, who was indoctrinated from birth into white Christian nationalism, when I deconstructed from that, there was no original worldview or personality to revert back to.

Cynane Shay: So I think that that is why a lot of people are so struggling with deconstruction, especially from childhood, because we have to rebuild an entire worldview, an entire understanding of how the world works, what we believe, what we don't believe, what is our faith, our personality, our social connections.

Cynane Shay: We have to rebuild all of that from scratch as an adult.

Cynane Shay: And it leaves you kind of floundering.

Cynane Shay: And when I was floundering simultaneously, looking at this mountain of information, that was like, what is qanon?

Cynane Shay: What is conspiracy theories?

Cynane Shay: What is all of that stuff?

Cynane Shay: Once I kind of got over that, I was again left at the foot of this mountain of information, of what are cults?

Cynane Shay: What is the history of racism?

Cynane Shay: What is the history of misogyny?

Cynane Shay: What is the history of the Church?

Cynane Shay: How does this tie to fascism, populism?

Cynane Shay: What is socialism and communism?

Cynane Shay: Because I've only ever been taught that they're just evil, but that doesn't seem to be right.

Cynane Shay: If there's no h***, if there's no heaven, if there's abortion, the horrible evil that I was always taught it to be like, you have to question everything.

Cynane Shay: But I have, because of my education, done difficult things before.

Cynane Shay: I processed vast quantities of information, and I got my degree, and I've done it before.

Cynane Shay: And the job that I work now for the Navy, I went through another very intensive training program, so I've done it before.

Cynane Shay: So I think that that just kind of gave me more of a confidence than maybe some of my friends back home would have to sit down and try to even just try to go through it all.

Fortunus Games: That is very true.

Fortunus Games: I went through a very difficult degree, too.

Fortunus Games: After my bachelor's, I went to law school.

Fortunus Games: So that was a lot of stuff to digest.

Fortunus Games: And, you know, even though I'm not practicing as a lawyer right now, for various reasons, I learned a lot.

Fortunus Games: I learned how to analyze vast amounts of information, which is helping me with my current job as a writer.

Fortunus Games: And this is something that one should not take for granted, I was thinking, because a lot of people won't be daunted.

Fortunus Games: They will not be able to process so much information, and they would give up.

Fortunus Games: But people who have taken these degrees or done things that require this much effort, they know how it is like to go through this process well.

Cynane Shay: And that's also why cults are so effective and high control religions are so effective because they isolate you so much from the outside world that to venture outside of your bubble is too scary.

Cynane Shay: So most people just don't.

Cynane Shay: And then they simultaneously, like we were talking about with homeschooling and everything, they strip you of the tools that you would have to do that even if you chose to.

Fortunus Games: Exactly.

Fortunus Games: So, final question.

Fortunus Games: Your book has a very important message about the increasing polarization of politics and beliefs in the Us.

Fortunus Games: How will you be marketing your book?

Fortunus Games: Will you be going on big name talk shows and podcasts?

Cynane Shay: We're still early days.

Cynane Shay: The book is not fully written.

Cynane Shay: I don't have a completed manuscript yet.

Cynane Shay: Like I said, I'm about halfway done with the drafting, so that's all I think.

Cynane Shay: A little bit farther out, I have been talking on a series of podcasts such as yourself and I'm just really excited to talk to people who have a similar experience and are kind of going through the same thing, but also just kind of a little bit.

Cynane Shay: I have a social media platform on Instagram, I have the website.

Cynane Shay: I will be ramping up, hopefully if anybody will have me ramping up.

Cynane Shay: I have also talked about potentially starting after the book is written, starting like a podcast, talking about the topics that are in the book just to try to get it out a little bit more.

Cynane Shay: And it's really just going to be a matter of what opportunities are available at the time.

Cynane Shay: So I'm open to podcasts or even in person speaking engagements, events, whatever, and I will be improving the website and adding some resources on that as the book is closer to completion as well.

Fortunus Games: That makes a lot of sense.

Fortunus Games: Yes, it is a good idea to start thinking about that when you're done your book because then you'll have a better idea of what to say and what to do from there.

Cynane Shay: Right.

Cynane Shay: And I think that it will appeal to a lot of different spheres of interest.

Cynane Shay: So talking to people in the deconstruction media space, people who are talking about cults, talking about conspiracy theories, talking about politics, so I think that there's like a lot of different spaces where this could be relevant and I just am looking forward to connecting a little bit more.

Fortunus Games: Right, well, thank you so much for coming on sunane.

Fortunus Games: This was a wonderful conversation.

Fortunus Games: We learned so much about your book and all these politics and beliefs that are running amok and I can't wait for your book to be released.

Fortunus Games: This will be a very exciting book and it will go right next to Jesus and John Wayne on my bookshelves.

Cynane Shay: Oh my God.

Fortunus Games: And all the other books I'm buying about this topic because it's very intriguing.

Cynane Shay: Yes, everybody just go read all of the books that I've read.

Cynane Shay: Yes.

Fortunus Games: Alright, thank you so much.

Fortunus Games: See you next time.

Cynane Shay: Thank you so much.

Fortunus Games: bye.