The definition of "The Establishment" is so broad and vague that it covers almost anyone with any power or wealth at all. Because of this ideological puritanism is inevitable. No one can cross the picket line and do any kind of negotiations or compromising with the establishment because this would make them part of the establishment themselves. Any kind of acknowledgement of a centre ground or agreement on issues can be painted swiftly as a betrayal of the movement. It's how experienced left wing campaigners can suddenly find themselves branded "red Tories" or "corporate stooges" as the populist movement behind them jostles to occupy the purest anti-establishment territory. It's how respected judges are branded "enemies of the people" by wealthy non-dom media tycoons who gleefully coat their front pages with savage condemnation of the people they suddenly care so much about.
This inability to compromise isn't necessarily as self-destructive as you would think, because it leads to acceptance of figures with a myriad of abhorrent positions and personalities as long as they can stay pure on the anti-establishment front. It's how a serial-lying, serial-sexual harasser like Trump can be embraced by women because he "tells it like it is". It's how Stop The War can maintain support whilst refusing to condemn the bombing of Aleppo by Putin's Russia and Jeremy Corbyn can stand at rallies hosted by rape apologists. Julian Assange is surprisingly insistent on transparency for someone dodging legal proceedings to uncover the truth of rape allegations against him. Their failings are seen as minor as long as they continue to rage against "the machine". The greater evil somehow isn't rape, murder and genuine tyrannical oppression, it's being part of the cogs of power and not saying loudly enough just how awful every cog around you is.
Because, being honest, none of the chosen figureheads of the alt-left and alt-right are anything but members of the establishment they oppose to build their support. Trump is an inheritance-made Billionaire who has avoided tax, milked government laxity on big business to crush the little man and uses his power to get away with systematic sexism and racism. Corbyn is a middle-class lifetime politician who has collected his high wages for decades whilst achieving absolutely nothing of note in three decades before being elected Labour leader. Nigel Farage is a millionaire ex-financier career politician who rides the EU gravy train whilst shirking work. These are not profiles of the downtrodden and disenfranchised, they're exactly those of the establishment their supporters protest against so much.
So how do they have that support? Because as long as they stand against the "establishment" as the source of all wrongs they will never be held to the same standard those who remain part of the machine. They will be praised as telling it like it is and speaking for the people even as bare faced untruths become the currency of their support, praised for their character even as personal failings are swept under the rug. All whilst the desperate defences of their colleagues are scrutinised to the bone for anything that may smell even slightly of dishonesty or a lack of integrity.
This double-standard is reinforced by the echo chambers their supporters are provided by social media. In the old days of anti-establishment figures erupting to power before the internet they did so by dominating traditional media and squashing free speech. Today, online, their supporters do so by inhabiting carefully curated online worlds that do not challenge their biases and instead confirm them over and over again. They cherry pick their news sources from the most partisan papers available to them. Almost everyone is guilty of some degree of this kind of cherry picking but the purist attitudes of the anti-establishment has turned entire realms of the internet no-go areas for dissent or exclusive chambers for support of their opinions. The result is that any lie can be justified, any level of bigotry hand-waved away, all whilst any minor failing of those seen as part of the mechanisms of power is pounced on and dragged up again and again. In this bizarre world of alt-truth the BBC, one of the most respected media organisations in the world, is condemned as biased and corrupt (somehow towards both the left and the right). Instead they share, with praise, the work of government-controlled propaganda channel Russia Today with absolutely no sense of the irony involved doing so.
Even worse, the conviction that the entire population of political figures are liars and corrupt in doing this is a self-fulfilling prophesy. It rewards those who embrace the judgement as being "honest" (despite being an honest liar seeming a little oxymoronic) whilst condemning those who try and keep genuinely honest as being two-faced and as bad as all the rest. Where there is no reward for good behaviour what is the benefit to being an honest politician outside of personal integrity? As the abuse piles higher it is unsurprising that so many throw in the towel and embrace the characteristics so many have decided they already have.
Throughout the 2016 US election the cries of "they're just the same" and "lesser of two evils" have been common among those of anti-establishment sentiment. This position should not be dignified with the respect of a carefully considered political stance. It cannot be pretended that Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump are on an equal playing field. Clinton is one of the most successful and productive politicians of our time with a single security failing brought up on a daily basis to paint her as dishonest. Trump is a sexually abusive, racist billionaire who lies more often than should be tolerated in our political leaders. The fact that the race between them is even competitive should be inconceivable. The Brexit campaign was not dissimilar - The Leave campaign lying on almost every front of their platform but still somehow leading the remain campaign to be hypocritically branded "project fear" and seen as dishonest. There was no real comparison on the levels of dishonesty between the experts of remain and the populists of leave.
The condemnation of the expert and the "lying politician" leaves the idea of truth as meaningless. When the people whose jobs it is to present reality as it is are condemned as corrupt liars who is left to turn to? The ranting keyboard warrior and tabloid columnist suddenly have an equal say in complex issues as the academic specialist and the experienced political analyst. There is no real equal footing between these two groups, but in the social media echo chambers of anti-establishment activists and politicised papers every opinion has the chance to present its own reality. The death of objective truth is a failing of our democracy that lies squarely at the feet of the creators of post-truth politics - the alt-left and alt-right who see anti-establishment credentials as the absolute deciders of both moral righteousness and the gatekeepers of the real "truth".
But the real world does not match up to the conspiratorial themes of the internet and tabloids. In the internet melting pot of every opinion in the world, whether scientists, politicians, economists or Joe Bloggs, they all get an equal say on our timelines. But they're not "all the same". With time each conspiracy falls away as another round of nonsense, even as their backers avoid learning from those experiences and leap on the next anti-establishment conspiracy to come like an especially stubborn doomsday preacher. Maybe it will take the hard reality of Brexit and the election of morally bankrupt incompetents such as Donald Trump to wake up the alt-truth activists from the dream of their online realities to the real world around them.