Want to understand Trump’s die-hard fans? Look to alternative medicine.

How is this possible, asks the weary majority of Americans who accept Joe Biden’s win? Despite disavowals of fraud from one conservative election official after another? Despite a complete lack of evidence?

To understand them, it’s helpful to turn to an unlikely parallel: the world of wellness, natural health and alternative medicine. It’s a world of unsolved medical conditions, chronic illness, suffering for which the establishment has no answers. Often that suffering is looked down upon or dismissed, leaving patients alienated and ripe for exploitation. Uncertain and angry, they need a new system to make sense of their situation and give them hope.

Where Trump’s favored enemy is mainstream media, alternative-health gurus rail against mainstream medicine. Both paint their opponents as deeply evil propagandists who quash truth by censoring it. All standard sources of evidence become suspect. Strangely, this widespread evil is a source of clarity and hope. Your suffering has an easy resolution, if only “they” would allow it.

The parallels are unmistakable. Consider these lines from a 2020 Trump speech:

“The radical left demands absolute conformity from every professor, researcher, reporter. … Anyone who dissents from their orthodoxy must be punished, canceled, or banished.”

“Modern-day ‘science’ demands absolute obedience and conformity to industry claims; all dissenters must be silenced and punished.”

In both, basic consensus on facts is evidence of sinister conformity. According to this logic, losing one’s credibility or position for insisting on falsehoods is evidence of heterodox heroism.

With authorities discredited, Trump and the gurus encourage their followers to feel as if they have figured things out for themselves instead of submitting to the decrees of mainstream experts. This allows them to provide the same existential prescription: empowerment and freedom. Those who take mainstream medicine are “sheeple,” and so are those who believe in mainstream media. “The sheeple have got to be led,” explains one Trump supporter. “If you go out and look for alternative media sources, you get the truth.” (All cults exploit the empowering thrill of discovering occult knowledge: “Do your own research” is a mantra in the fringes of alternative health and within the QAnon conspiracy theory — a shared foundation that demystifies the seemingly bizarre overlap between the two communities.)

Like Trump, alternative-medicine gurus are frequently inconsistent. They will decry mainstream institutions and elites as hopelessly corrupt, and then they triumphantly cite a study from Harvard University or an article from this newspaper as their evidence. But supporters do not care about consistency. What matters instead is the rush of empowerment that makes the passive patient a powerful actor. “Take control of your health,” promises Joseph Mercola, the owner of an influential natural-medicine website. (Each article on the site comes with its own “Fact Checked” certification.) “Own Your Body, Free Your Mind” says Kelly Brogan, a popular “holistic psychiatrist.”

The ideological overlap of alternative medicine and Trump’s philosophy explains why the following lyrics, rapped by two Trump supporters at the “Million MAGA March,” include a reference to vaccines alongside standard political conspiracism:

Read More

Lakers, Dodgers fans helping drive uptick in LA virus cases

The success of the Los Angeles Lakers and Dodgers are bringing fans together in the LA area and that may be helping drive an uptick in coronavirus cases, Los Angeles County’s top health official said Monday,

The Lakers won the NBA championship two weeks ago and the Dodgers are one game away from winning the World Series. Their run through the playoffs has prompted watch parties and celebrations.

Los Angeles County is the nation’s largest, with 10 million residents, and positive cases there increased this month from an average of 940 per day to nearly 1,200 last week, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.

She praised fans’ “incredible spirit,” but “the downside of this is that during a pandemic some of the things we’ve done in the past just don’t make sense.”

Health officials have warned of a second wave of virus cases and Ferrer said LA County’s increase wasn’t immediately apparent because of a backlog of cases due to technical issues with data collection systems.

“We’ve been seeing, first, very low case numbers a couple weeks ago and then in the last few days very high case numbers,” she said. “Now that we’ve processed the backlog of cases from the state, and analyzed the numbers by episode date, it is clear that our cases increased. This increase is not as steep as what we saw in July, but this is a cause of concern.”

Health officials rely on having accurate data to forecast surges in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, intensive care needs and deaths. California overall has reported steady numbers even as there have been surges in many other states.

State officials also use the data to determine whether counties can advance to less restrictive tiers in the state’s four-stage, color-coded system. Los Angeles County remains in the most restrictive tier while most San Francisco Bay Area counties have moved to fewer restrictions and San Francisco itself is in the most permissive category.

As a result of problems from the backlog, statewide reported cases jumped from 2,940 on Wednesday to 6,141 on Thursday and remained above 5,000 newly reported cases on Friday and Saturday before dipping back to 2,981 on Monday.

The state Department of Public Health, in a note on its tracking web page, said that the daily number of new cases included an estimated 2,000 backlog cases from Los Angeles County. State officials on Monday did not immediately provide more details, or explain what the county said were “processing issues in the state’s reporting system that resulted in a large volume of duplicate records being sent to LA County.”

Neighboring Orange and Riverside counties said they did not have a backlog, and none was reported by other major counties.

A much larger backlog problem involving up to 300,000 records overwhelmed California’s infectious diseases reporting system in August and forced it to hasten the creation of a new dedicated data collection system. The state’s public health director abruptly resigned days later.

The LA County backlog that resulted in the

Read More