By now we know that there are creeps and abusers in pretty much any industry that exists today. In the world of podcasts, the question appears to be: are we really going to create an investigatory series detailing the horrors lurking within every single one?

Yes — of course — seems like the resounding answer. New York magazine has launched a new podcast, Cover Story: Power Trip, and its first season is devoted to rooting out the predators and boundary-crossers of one extremely minor occupational field: the psychedelic therapeutic community. It seems that certain leaders in...

By now we know that there are creeps and abusers in pretty much any industry that exists today. In the world of podcasts, the question appears to be: are we really going to create an investigatory series detailing the horrors lurking within every single one?

Yes — of course — seems like the resounding answer. New York magazine has launched a new podcast, Cover Story: Power Trip, and its first season is devoted to rooting out the predators and boundary-crossers of one extremely minor occupational field: the psychedelic therapeutic community. It seems that certain leaders in this growing and increasingly legitimated business, which administers drugs such as ketamine, MDMA and psilocybin as an aid during therapy sessions that seek to remedy psychological issues like post-traumatic stress disorder, have taken advantage of their patients’ altered states. There has been non-consensual touching and unwanted sexual attention, but also more routine exploitation. One therapist convinced a patient to do his lawn work for free.

In the course of the investigation, hosts iO Tillet Wright and Lily Kay Ross talk to “Susan,” an anonymous victim who was physically groped and emotionally manipulated by her therapist while in a drugged, susceptible state. When she tried to break off their therapy, he responded like a spurned lover, begging her to give him one more shot. And though she initially complained to this therapist’s “supervisors,” she later found out that they, too, were bad actors, having been sued by a former patient for inappropriate touching and other unseemly actions.

According to Susan, her first response was to “find a podcast” that would help her get the word out. It’s a weird impulse! And yet, here we are. The media is now our favored form of negotiating protections at work, especially when the field is unregulated or illegal, as psychedelics (and thus these clinical “practices”) are in most states. Finding your place within the shadowy avant-garde — whether that’s research or cultural revolution — usually means dealing with a lot of frauds and narcissists. It almost certainly means that there won’t be an HR department to field your complaint.

Don’t get me wrong, the stories are fascinating. That’s why we’re listening in: for the prurience. Yet Power Trip offers very little background on the development of these therapeutic techniques. There’s a whole section about Americans going to the Amazon basin to partake in “ayahuasca ceremonies,” involving the ancient psychoactive plant brew favored by indigenous peoples of that region. Apparently, the American demand for ayahuasca is so high that indigenous communities are running out, and they need it for their traditional religious practices. Yet Power Trip glides over such issues to focus instead on the rape accusations against one shaman.

There’s a lot of that going on in the series. When the hosts start to talk about one Mexican therapist who used drugs, sleep deprivation and loud music to “break down” his patients’ inhibitions, they only mention in passing that he was accused of applying these same techniques for the government on political prisoners. Then it just goes back to the sex stuff. Sexual violence is a serious matter, to be sure — but so is the torture of protesters and dissidents. So are a lot of things.

You’ll find more nuance in the podcast series Power Corrupts. Host Brian Klaas is also the author of the 2021 book Corruptible: Who Gets Power and How It Changes Us, so he’s a bit of an authority on the matter. One week Klaas might take a look at a war criminal’s trial at The Hague; the next, he’ll investigate some troll peddling fake news on Facebook.

The scope of the show is admirable. Klaas ably covers a wide range of stories from around the world. One particularly good episode is “Loot,” a look at stolen art objects and the conflicting claims of ownership that are currently rocking the museum world. The episode focuses on a body of Chinese artwork that was looted, violently, by British troops in the nineteenth century and that had been residing in European museums ever since. Until, that is, a series of robberies that involved motorcycle chases and speedboats. The robberies have never been solved, though it’s suggested that Chinese state actors may have something to do with it. Klaas takes a critical and philosophical approach to the shenanigans. Why were these Chinese artifacts still in European hands in the first place? Is it really theft if the work originally belonged to “you”?

This article was originally published in The Spectator’s April 2022 World edition.