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WATCH: RFK Jr.’s Supporters Made Me Doubt the Truth

The latest installment of Ben Meets America is out now.

Last week I was in Oakland, California, where the independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. officially announced his running mate, the lawyer and technologist Nicole Shanahan.

RFK Jr., as I’m sure you’ve heard, is a man who believes our institutions have been utterly corrupted by corporate influence, and that he is the only candidate who can return us to an America governed by and for the people. Perhaps in confirmation of his central thesis, mainstream media has dismissed him as a conspiracy theorist, largely due to his anti-vax views.

I was interested in why Kennedy’s followers find him trustworthy in the face of so many naysayers. The answer, of course, was that they had no faith in the naysayers. Corporations “own the media,” after all. I suspect their cynicism also stems from the politicization of scientific reporting on topics from Covid to youth gender medicine.

When you lose faith in authority, what do you rely on for the truth? In covering RFK Jr.’s supporters, I had to confront my own belief system, which is based not on personal research into every empirical question, but on a mix of accepted wisdom and an animal instinct for whoever seems right. If I were better, I would delve deeply into the literature on, say, the supposed link between vaccines and autism, so that I could not only confidently report that such an idea has been debunked by The Science, but be able to defend that assertion in detail.

All of which is to say, I came away from my day with RFK’s true believers with more questions than answers. I didn’t know whether to envy their certainty or to lament it.

Watch Ben’s previous dispatch, in which he met the Lady Lowriders of California, here. Learn more about the series here. And if you believe in good-faith debate and the importance of finding consensus, especially in this election year, support Ben’s cross-country coverage by becoming a Free Press subscriber today:

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