I grew up on Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Dr. Laura Schlesinger, and other conservative media, and along with the messages from church and my mother, I understood U.S. society from the perspective that we Christians were being suppressed — and us being suppressed meant Truth was being suppressed. The media, literature, universities; every avenue for the expression of ideas was slanted toward the “liberals” and as such, the real facts were being kept away from the average person.
It was easy, then, for my mother to buy into a similar line of thought about medicine and homeopathy. The idea that the medical community was filled with people who simply created drugs for profit; created drugs so that people would be forever dependent on them, was right in line with this way of thinking. After all, doctors went to college, colleges are made up of liberals who are either brainwashed, or doing the brainwashing, to keep the Truth hidden, and to fill everyone’s heads with lies.
When I see these ads with phrases of “ truth your doctor doesn’t want you to know about” “doctors are furious about this one trick” etc., I know exactly what demographic those ads are aimed toward. I think about my mother, putting “Natural Cures They Don’t Want You to Know About” on hold at the library, soaking up every show the author was on, nodding along. Of course! It all makes sense! And since “natural” sounds so good, sounds so right, and of of course the FDA is all in one giant conspiracy with the medical community which is all lying liberals, of course this poor author’s Truth is being suppressed.
I think about my mother buying Mangosteen off infomercials because it claimed it had magical health benefits. I think about all the “natural” that my mother tried to foist onto me or my grandmother or even herself, certain that “medicine” was bad, but “natural cures” was just pure and wholesome, so of course it would work.
It’s so very simple. As long as you have something that sounds right, something that reconfirms for these type of people that what they already believe is so absolutely, scientifically, undeniably true, and on top of that, the big liberal intellectual types are trying to keep this knowledge away from them, then it sounds absolutely like the truth.
I was too old for it to have any real-world consequences on me, but when one of youth pastor’s children was diagnosed with Autism, my mother was quick to believe that it was the vaccines. I’m not even sure my mother heard it from anything but members of our church, but of course it made sense — vaccines are full of terrible, long-sounding chemicals, and putting something so unnatural in your body could never be good for you! My mother was one of those types that believed that everything was being over-diagnosed — and it was being over-diagnosed so doctors could drug you up. Of course doctors would be okay with poisonous vaccines, they <i>like</i> poisoning people. Why? For money! Because liberals! The motivations didn’t really matter as much as the confidence that this was happening: doctors were about chemicals and drugs and hurting your kids, and we were living in a world with the consequences of that.
And this framework is born out of a perspective that says that truth is both easy, innate, and yet inaccessible; brainwashed out of you. I didn’t learn that the difference between a scientist and a layperson was that the scientist studied their field. “Scientist” was like “doctor”– the terms were about evoking authority when there is none. All beliefs are held equal. Academia was about instilling false confidence in people to believe that they had learned anything. If an academic paper sounds like gobbledygook that’s because it is — because if it’s not accessible to a child, or even to a layperson, then we could simply say, “Ah, you went to college so it could make you think you’re smart, but I, layperson, read it, and I can tell it’s really all nonsense.”
And that’s where you get things like “well, natural means good. If science isn’t simply writing ‘natural = good,’ then they’re not to be trusted, because that’s common sense.” Because everyone’s perspective on any given topic is just as valid as anyone else’s. There isn’t such a thing as a person who has more knowledge on a topic then you — there’s only scientists figuring out what every person with an ounce of common sense already knew. You went to college? Probably to learn that water is wet, the sky is blue, and fruits and vegetables are good for you. Duh. You learned things are more complicated than that? You poor deceived soul. You wasted money so you could be taught the world isn’t as simple as we think it is, so you’ve been brainwashed out of your common sense.
Common sense was Truth and Truth lined up quite nicely with our own common sense. And so it became very easy to see the larger world around you — especially the academic, medical, and science communities, which often was in stark contrast to our own beliefs — as at best in error, at worst intentionally keeping the truth away from people.
When I checked out Michael Brown’s “A Queer Thing Happened to America” from the library, the only description of it found on the book was that publishers refused to publish it. And that is a far more powerful claim than it might seem, because to people like my mother, that claim means that the book is true. Why would publishers not want to publish something unless they knew that it was so true, or they were afraid of the liberal powers that control our society? “People hate the Truth” we’d say, and we’d mean that the more our beliefs angered others, or the more others’ pushed back with “that’s wrong!” the more right we were. That was our measure of Truth — if it got under your skin, we were saying something real.
Of course, that meant that the more dramatic and powerful someone’s claim of suppression was, the more we could believe that it was something true. That was part of it. Truth wouldn’t be Truth if the liberal, demonic, anti-Christ powers in this world didn’t hate it, and weren’t trying to destroy it. If “the world” hates us, then we’re doing something right.
As much as commercials for products include “4 out of 5 doctors recommend” as a way of instilling trust and validity, so do articles, books, and other products that claim the opposite. “Doctors hate this” is about appealing to my mother’s demographic, “publishers won’t publish this” or “I’m being censored” are all about instilling customer trust for a specific kind of customer. If doctors hate it, if scientists are suppressing it, if censors are trying to keep this knowledge away from you, then that’s all the more reason to buy it, consume it, read it, and believe it. And if these ideas sound simple, sound just enough like common sense, or confirm already held beliefs and distrust of scientific and medical thought, then they sound all the more like Truth.
When I see these ads, or articles, or products evoking this kind of rhetoric, all I can think about is how much I was taught to buy into it. How had I gone a different direction, had I stayed within the religious and conservative thought I was taught, I would have remained that demographic. I wonder at this moment how many new products my mother has bought, what new diet she might be on because its commercial claimed it worked too well and so “doctors hate it!” And I have no patience for this rhetoric anymore. I know what it’s selling, and I know very intimately what it costs.