Reader Email: Why Is Jill Stein A Fringe Candidate?

Email conversations with Left Call readers. Published with consent.

LC Reader:
Why is it that when people decide they don’t want to vote for Clinton or Trump they say “Ok, well there’s always Gary Johnson!” Today alone, two different people have told me this. Suggesting that Johnson is someone worth voting for when the two main candidates aren’t worth considering. Why isn’t Jill Stein (or someone else) getting the same kind of consideration?

I just saw an interesting segment on RT’s “Redacted Tonight” (a halfway decent attempt to mimic the Daily Show on a liberal network), where they played an unedited clip livestreamed on youtube of Stein talking about jobs and the difference between Trump/Clinton, and then they showed the clip played on PBS News Hour, edited to remove the entire substance of what she said, and basically turning it into “the world will end if you vote for either of them.” It was pretty eye-opening, if you think of PBS as more non-biased. I’m not a Stein fanboy – I just find it annoying how the media is always trying to make Stein sound more crazy/fringe than she really is. People think she’s anti-vax, and afraid of wifi, and who knows what else, all because of bad reporting. Sure it’s good click bait, but I’d expect that from CNN, but PBS?!?

Left Call:
To speak specifically to the anti-vax claim, I think Jill Stein takes a similar position as Bill Maher, and he too has been accused of being anti-vax. Neither of them are anti-vax, but because they both are highly skeptical of the establishment, in this case Big Pharma, it could drive some people to believe so. In an overly-simplistic interpretation, they are saying that vaccines are good, but the vaccine establishment that makes them available is bad. This may be true (again, in overly-simplistic terms), but its not a stretch to see why some think they are sympathetic to the anti-vax movement, even if they are not.

Why do people say Johnson and not Stein? Well, where the two candidates sit in the polls probably has a lot to do with it, but I realize that’s a chicken/egg scenario. From my perspective, if I know someone is conservative, I will say something like, “Why not vote for Johnson if you hate Hillary?” But if I was talking to someone liberal, I’d say Stein. But I can only speak for myself.

As a side note, the media basically treated Sanders the same way until his support reached a critical mass, and then they still continued to treat him that way, only in a somewhat muted tone. He was always the joke of a candidate as far as the media was concerned. I don’t think they treated him like less of a joke when his support went up, but instead the media responded with bemusement that he managed to pull it off. And yeah, this is the so-called liberal media we are talking about.

LC Reader:
Yeah, you hit the nail on the head with all those points.

People mistake questioning of the establishment as being anti- whatever that establishment is promoting. You see this a lot in nutrition science too. It’s as if we aren’t allowed to question anything without being put into a neat little box that someone completely ignorant of the issue’s nuance thinks we go in. I guess to some extent its human nature, but it seems to happen more online and maybe more among scientifically-minded people for some reason (IMO).

Left Call:
I also think there are some who default to being anti-establishment to the point where its hard to see the difference between them, and for example, climate change deniers. Instead of skepticism that fuels a desire to learn, they assume somehow skepticism is the very thing needed to be educated on a topic. The problem is, they aren’t actually skeptics, but instead they enter the conversation already with a formed opinion which causes them to deny the establishment without doing the legwork necessary to actually dispel the establishment. This basically describes the anti-vax movement. It starts with a formed opinion and is enforced by selective “evidence.” On the other end of the spectrum you do have absolutists who believe no one should ever question the establishment, which is why I like bringing climate change into this discussion, because a climate change denier could say we come close to being absolutist in defending climate science. But here’s the thing, unless we choose to dive into the data and do the hard work and become climate scientists ourselves, we can’t really challenge it one way or another (including deniers). Of course that doesn’t mean we should just assume the establishment is right, and yes skepticism is good, but its not good when ideology is masquerading as skepticism, as is the case for climate change deniers and anti-vaxxers. We can say the same thing about challenging Big Pharma, although there’s a very different motivation. Money. And the science of pharma/drugs is much more murky. Although that doesn’t absolve us from doing our homework if we expect climate change deniers to do their’s. Its not good enough to just be skeptical of pharma because of money, because that is a pre-formed opinion, even if I share it. 🙂 But, it can be tackled from another angle. You don’t have to be learned on the pharmaceutical industry to support, for example, campaign finance reform that keeps big money from influencing elections. In other words, supporting transparency through regulations doesn’t require one to be an expert in a particular field. The transparency is not about the subject matter, its about the human transactions, especially between for-profit companies and elected officials.

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