Silicon Valley isn’t the best place to be hypersensitive to electromagnetic fields.
Peter Sullivan and I are driving around Palo Alto, California, in his black Tesla Roadster when the clicking begins. The $2,500 German-made instrument resting in my lap is picking up electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from a nearby cell tower. As we follow a procession of BMWs and Priuses into the parking lot of Henry M. Gunn High School, the clicking crescendos into a roar of static. “I can feel it right here,” Sullivan says, wincing as he massages his forehead. The last time he visited the tower, he tells me, it took him three days to recover.
Sullivan is among the estimated 3 percent of people in California who claim they are highly sensitive to EMFs, the electromagnetic radiation emitted by wireless routers, cellphones, and countless other modern accouterments. Electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome—famously suffered by the brother of Jimmie McGill, the lead character on AMC’s Better Call Saul—is not a formally recognized medical condition in most countries and it has little basis in mainstream science. Dozens of peer-reviewed studies have essentially concluded that the problem is in peoples’ heads.
An estimated 3 percent of Californians believe EMFs are affecting their health.`
White nationalist leader Richard Spencer aims to “get them while they are young.”
A Twitter post by Identity Evropa showing its members at a white nationalist conference in November
How much support is there for the loose-knit coalition of white nationalists and other far-right extremists known as the “alt-right”? Despite a spike in media coverage for the movement in the wake of Donald Trump’s victory, a recent conference hosted by white nationalist Richard Spencer, who coined the term “alt-right,” drew only about 275 attendees in Washington, DC. And after a video from the event went viral, showing audience members giving Nazi salutes to Spencer’s cry of “hail Trump,” the movement faced a fierce backlash. Although Trump named alt-right hero Stephen Bannon as his chief White House strategist, the president-elect went on to disavow the alt-right—in general terms, at least—in an interview with theNew York Times.
The movement gained momentum online in 2016 but is no longer just about social media, says Spencer; he sees a need to prove that the alt-right can attract supporters in the real world. And he says the best place to do that is on college campuses, starting with a speech he plans to deliver on Tuesday on the campus of Texas A&M University. “People in college are at this point in their lives where they are actually open to alternative perspectives, for better and for worse,” Spencer says. “I think you do need to get them while they are young. I think rewiring the neurons of someone over 50 is effectively impossible.”