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:

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The Trumps don’t seem to understand that their supporters are dying from the coronavirus

For two consecutive nights, as President Trump was barnstorming swing states, his two eldest sons appeared on Laura Ingraham’s Fox News program, where they dismissed the threat posed by the coronavirus.

a man wearing a suit and tie: President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up during a campaign rally at Phoenix Goodyear Airport in Goodyear, Arizona, U.S., October 28, 2020. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

© Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
President Donald Trump gives a thumbs up during a campaign rally at Phoenix Goodyear Airport in Goodyear, Arizona, U.S., October 28, 2020. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

On Wednesday, Eric Trump made his appearance. His interview was centered on the unfounded claim that social media companies were “censoring” conservatives.


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“The one thing you don’t want to do to Americans is take away their free speech. It’s our First Amendment right for a reason,” he said, conflating Twitter’s efforts to stem disinformation with government censorship of speech.

“I’m telling you,” he added, “people aren’t happy about it. I think it’s probably become the number one issue in politics in the last couple of weeks.”

A claim that social media companies adding warnings to false claims by the president (which is really the recent spur for this frustration) is the number one issue in politics is unquestionably ridiculous. That the son of the president, someone who has been on the campaign trail stumping for his father, would say this with sincerity during a period when deaths from the coronavirus are on the rise is simply callous.

On Thursday, though, his brother Donald Trump Jr. tried to tell Ingraham that deaths weren’t on the rise.

“The reality is this,” he said. “I put it up on my Instagram a couple days ago, because I went through the CDC data, because I kept hearing about new cases, but I was like why aren’t they talking about deaths? Oh, oh: because the number is almost nothing.”

As The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake reported, Trump Jr.’s claim that deaths were down to “almost nothing” was a function of his making a mistake that has been made repeatedly over the course of the pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks coronavirus deaths by confirming death certificates. Those certificates can come days or weeks after the deaths — deaths that are reported by counties and states in near real time. So the CDC numbers necessarily and demonstrably show fewer recent deaths but, over time, equivalent long-term totals.

It’s like arguing that there are very few coronavirus infections after scaling back testing for the virus. Which, of course, is what President Trump would like to do.

As his sons were misinforming Fox News viewers, Trump was misinforming attendees at his rallies.

“A safe vaccine is coming very quickly — you’re going to have it momentarily — that eradicates the virus,” he told a crowd in Arizona on Wednesday. “And we’re rounding the turn regardless.”

This assertion from Trump that the country is “rounding the turn” on the virus even without a vaccine is as untrue as his son’s claim that deaths are falling. Both cases and deaths are up, the former leading the latter by about two weeks. On Thursday, the country saw

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Parents Who’ve Lost a Baby Understand the Importance of Chrissy Teigen’s Bereavement Photos

Photo credit: Chrissy Teigen/Instagram
Photo credit: Chrissy Teigen/Instagram

From Woman’s Day

Trigger warning: this post discusses infant loss.

Melanie Rodger was a 20-year-old soon-to-be mom living on a military base in Japan with her husband, as excited as anyone would be when they’re expecting. She had enjoyed a textbook pregnancy for 32 weeks, imagining all the future memories she would make as a mom to a newborn son. Then, during a routine OB-GYN appointment, her doctor started to show concern: at 35 weeks pregnant her belly was measuring about the same as it was at 32 weeks. Something was wrong.

“The OB called me on a Friday night, and we had tickets to see the new Harry Potter movie out in town at a Japanese theater,” Rodger tells Woman’s Day. “I remember the phone ringing right before we left and I thought, ‘Who would be calling on six o’clock on a Friday night?’ So I answered the phone and it was the OB I had seen that day and he had told me that they were more concerned than they’d ever been my entire pregnancy.”

Rodger had been diagnosed with “intrauterine growth restriction” — a condition in which a fetus grows smaller than it should be and, as a result, is at higher risk of low birth rate, decreased oxygen levels post-birth, problems handling the stress of labor and delivery, trouble maintaining body temperature, and high red blood cell count. Her doctor told her they would likely induce her at 37 weeks, but not to worry: at most an induction would require a week’s stay at the hospital and some steroid injections for her son so that his lungs could develop. The following Monday, Rodger was induced.

“I remember this rush of excitement, like ‘OMG it’s finally that time to have a baby and he’s going to be here. He’s going to be our baby,'” Rodger says.

Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Melanie Roger
Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Melanie Roger

After 32 hours of labor, baby Bennett was born at 2:00 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning. Rodger wasn’t able to hold him, as he was rushed to the warming table and then quickly to the nursery. But still, she wasn’t worried. “When he was born alive and crying I didn’t think there was going to be any situation when he wasn’t coming home with us,” she says.

30 hours later, baby Bennett died.

So when Rodger saw the pictures Chrissy Teigen posted of her pregnancy and infant loss, she instantly knew how Teigen felt. The helplessness that follows the realization that there’s nothing more the doctors can do. The pain of having all your future plans — all the family outings, birthday parties, and lazy Sundays spent cuddling on the family couch — that you’ve conjured up in your brain suddenly vanish. The devastating emptiness and overwhelming sense of longing that leaves you almost breathless the moment you walk out of the hospital without a baby.

“I saw the first picture she posted, just looking down at her feet

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I watched my sister die, so I understand what Rush Limbaugh is going through

It appears that Rush Limbaugh is dying. He announced on his radio show Monday that his lung cancer had gotten worse and is “going in the wrong direction.”

I have never cared for Limbaugh’s kind of politics. I’ve always felt like the right-wing talk radio host’s sole purpose was to further polarize America and push conservatives further away from a middle ground.

In spite of that, I am saddened that his cancer is terminal. I would like to see his condition turn around, but he doesn’t seem to think that it will.

“It’s tough to realize that the days where I do not think I’m under a death sentence are over,” the 69-year-old host said.

“We all know that we’re going to die at some point,” he added. “But when you have a terminal disease diagnosis that has a time frame to it, then that puts a different psychological and even physical awareness to it.”

He described his life the past eight months as a roller coaster, with lots of ups and downs.

“Many people have experienced this,” he said. “If it isn’t lung cancer, it’s some kind of cancer. If it isn’t you, it is someone really close to you.”

My father died of lung cancer in 2006 at the age of 91. But it is my sister’s death in 1995 from myeloid metaplasia, a rare form of bone marrow cancer, that haunts me still. Patricia was only 54.

It is difficult to imagine what it must be like to learn that you are dying. For some, I suppose, such a diagnosis could be met with relief. After months of agonizing pain, there is respite in knowing that it will be over soon.

With such advance notice, there also is a rare opportunity to try to right what you have done wrong. To say to loved ones words that needed to be said. And to ask for forgiveness for the things you cannot change.

But for most, such news likely would cause overwhelming grief. Most of us, regardless of our age, feel as though we have much to live for and many more things to do. Taking that opportunity away seems unfair.

Like Limbaugh, Patricia understood that her illness was considered terminal. Still, she believed that she would somehow defy the odds and live past the maximum 10-year survival period of people with her form of cancer.

She thought that she could beat the monstrous illness if she fought hard enough. The idea that she wielded such control got her through the painful days and nights. She fought with every bit of strength she had — until she couldn’t.

She had grown thin and frail. Food wouldn’t stay down, but she kept trying to eat. She used to enjoy the broccoli casserole from Piccadilly cafeteria, and when she asked for some, I rushed out to get it. But even the aroma of it made her nauseous.

With her spleen filled with blood — one of the effects

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