Published: 10 November 2022
Updated: 9 November 2022
Whether it’s wellness influencers, Bitcoin evangelists or the self-styled ‘anti woke’ warriors, today’s internet gurus have enormous power to shape our shared culture, whether we know their names or not.”
Almost everywhere on the internet, people are giving – and receiving – advice. Advice that promises to transform our lives. How to eat. How to think. How to get rich. How to get a date. But who are these self-appointed gurus? Where did they come from, and how much power do these charismatic individuals wield?
Across eight episodes, Helen Lewis travels through the often strange and sometimes hidden digital spaces created by these new icons. She asks if Steve Jobs, the man who gave the world the iPhone, also gave birth to the concept of the internet guru. Her journey leads her to a variety of digital worlds: from Jordan Peterson to Russell Brand, who have millions of followers worldwide, to the murky world of pick up artistry and the gamification of romantic encounters.
Over the course of The New Gurus, Helen questions why so many of us have turned away from mainstream medicine, mainstream politics and the mainstream media to embrace the power of charismatic individuals instead. From productivity hackers to dating coaches, from crypto bros to wellness influencers, when did the internet get taken over by gurus? And has the decline in organised religion and community left a void that these new internet gurus are able to fill?
Helen Lewis says: “I’ve been fascinated by internet culture since my teens, and how big, dynamic, influential communities can exist which are often invisible to outsiders. Whether it’s wellness influencers, Bitcoin evangelists or the self-styled ‘anti woke’ warriors, today’s internet gurus have enormous power to shape our shared culture, whether we know their names or not.
“With this series, the BBC has given me the opportunity to go spelunking through some of the most interesting corners of the internet. There is a huge market online for spiritual, ethical and practical guidance, and so sorting the wise teachers from the false prophets is one of the biggest challenges of the modern world.”
Daniel Clarke, Commissioning Editor for Factual at BBC Radio 4, says: “The internet has helped to create a guru for everything, and more of us than ever before seem to be going online to find the person to fix our problems. In The New Gurus, the brilliant Helen Lewis takes Radio 4 listeners on a journey into some of the most interesting pockets of the digital world, to try and understand the appeal – and, sometimes, to flag up the dangers – of the charismatic individuals who offer a life path for their devoted online followings. Over eight episodes she provides a powerful insight into what this says about us as a society.”
The New Gurus (8×30’) is a new series by Helen Lewis, whose other Radio 4 programmes include Great Wives and The Church Of Social Justice. It is a Tempo & Talker production for BBC Radio 4. The series producers are Tom Pooley and Morgan Childs. The editor is Craig Templeton Smith. It was commissioned for Radio 4 by Daniel Clarke.
The New Gurus will broadcast weekdays on Radio 4 from Monday 19 December at 12pm, and it will be available on BBC Sounds.
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