I’ve suddenly come to realize that a rising political group, the so-called “Alt-Right” (basically nothing more than “…white supremacists who have repackaged the hate and served it up in a more palatable form for human consumption…“) and much of the “Alt Med” movement (including purveyors and proponents of alternative, complementary, integrative, functional, holistic, and assorted other terms for quackery through the years) have a lot in common.
Both operate in fact-free zones. Reality doesn’t seem to matter to either of them. Immigrants are objectively not streaming across our borders threatening our way of life, and as anyone with a third grade level of science education understands, water does not have memory (homeopathy.) Race is nothing but a sociological construct, so “protecting one’s race” is meaningless. There is also no magical life force other than well-understood neuronal impulses flowing through our spines (chiropractic), no meridians or chi (acupuncture), and so on and so forth.
Both movements have been with us a very long time, in one guise or another. Neo-nazis begat skinheads, begat today’s Breitbart, while Alternative spawned Complementary which morphed into Integrative. Nothing changes the essential truths of white supremacy and quackery, respectively.
Interestingly, though, both are quite media savvy these days, allowing them to spread their unreality (a more tactful word than “lies”) to ever larger number of people. Both are also trying harder than ever to legitimize themselves to the mainstream, with alarming results when they succeed. The problem of course is that facts, along with their correlate “reality,” are irrelevant to ideology. Your belief that vaccines are dangerous won’t stop your kid from dying of measles complications. Funny how that works.
I’m more interested in why people are drawn to movements built on things that are demonstrably, objectively false. In the case of Alt-Med, I’ve already written about it:
(Read the whole post. It’s pretty good, even if it was written way back in 2007.)
I believe the same holds true for the so-called alt-right as well.
There are folks who for whatever reason are not doing as well as they hoped or expected. Maybe it’s their fault, though often not. Yes, there was once a time in this country when a single earner with a high school education could support a family. This is no longer the case, and there are those who find it terribly unfair. Finding someone — anyone — to blame is more cognitively satisfying than doing the hard work of coping with a newly untenable reality. That’s where the so-called alt-right comes in.
Targeting the disaffected, they provide a sense of belonging and power, mainly by providing scapegoats. It’s not your fault you can’t find a job; it’s all those immigrants swarming over the border. (Never mind the inconvenient fact that immigrant jobs like landscaping and agriculture are thankless, backbreaking, and poorly paid.) Can’t get a girl to go out with you? It’s the gays…somehow. Blaming the “other” is so much easier than actually doing something about your own situation.
Coal is not coming back, any more than the horse and buggy, or the thriving ice trade that predated refrigeration technology. Robotics has converted manufacturing into a more cerebral industry requiring highly educated workers to service the robots than high school graduates to do the actual manufacturing.
Cancer can be treated, but not always. People are going to die from it, as well as from heart disease, dementia, and complications of vaccine-preventable infectious diseases. Magic water is not going to help. Neither is spinal manipulation, energy healing, or chakra balancing.
Those are facts, rejected by both Alt-Med and the so-called “alt-right.” However you cut it, reality is a bitch.