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Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Right-Wing Politics, Supplements, and Autism

 In The Politics of Autism, I write:

The conventional wisdom is that any kind of treatment is likely to be less effective as the child gets older, so parents of autistic children usually believe that they are working against the clock. They will not be satisfied with the ambiguities surrounding ABA, nor will they want to wait for some future research finding that might slightly increase its effectiveness. They want results now. Because there are no scientifically-validated drugs for the core symptoms of autism, they look outside the boundaries of mainstream medicine and FDA approval. Studies have found that anywhere from 28 to 54 percent of autistic children receive “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), and these numbers probably understate CAM usage.

Specifically, they resort to nutritional supplements.of dubious value. 

People who make money from supplements also subsidize the antivax movement.

And the supplement connection may help explain the link between antivax activism and right wing politics.

Paul Krugman at NYT:
Right-wing extremists, and to some extent even more mainstream conservative media, rely on financial support from companies selling nutritional supplements and miracle cures — and that financial support is arguably a significant factor pushing the right to become more extreme. Indeed, right-wing extremism isn’t just an ideological movement that happens to get a lot of money from sellers of snake oil; some of its extremism can probably be seen not as a reflection of deep conviction, but as a way of promoting snake oil.

This is clearly true in the right’s fever swamps. Alex Jones of Infowars has built a following by pushing conspiracy theories, but he makes money by selling nutritional supplements.

It’s also true, however, for more mainstream, establishment parts of the right. For example, Ben Shapiro, considered an intellectual on the right, hawks supplements.

Look at who advertises on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show. After Fox itself, the top advertisers are My Pillow, then three supplement companies.