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Distrust in institutions: past, present, and future [podcast]

Research shows that American distrust in government, scientists, and media has reached new heights, and this distrust in institutions is reflected in much of the world.

In his play, Orestes, Euripides opines, “When one with honeyed words but evil mind persuades the mob, great woes befall the state.” Might we still overcome this onslaught of misinformation and preserve our trust in the very institutions that have governed and enriched us, in some form or another, for centuries?

On today’s episode of The Oxford Comment, we spoke with Brian Levack, author of Distrust of Institutions in Early Modern Britain and America, Robert Faris, co-author of Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics, and Tom Nichols, author of Our Own Worst Enemy: The Assault from within on Modern Democracy and The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters, to discuss the past, present, and future of institutional distrust, with a particular focus on the contentious 2016 and 2020 US presidential elections.

Check out Episode 76 of The Oxford Comment and subscribe to The Oxford Comment podcast through your favourite podcast app to listen to the latest insights from our expert authors.

Recommended reading

To learn more about the themes raised in this podcast, we’re pleased to share a selection of free-to-read chapters and articles:

Here you can read the Introduction to Distrust of Institutions in Early Modern Britain and America by Brian Levack.

Network Propaganda, by Yochai Benkler, Robert Faris, and Hal Roberts, is fully Open Access, but we wish to highlight “Chapter 1: Epistemic Crisis” and “Chapter 8: Are the Russians Coming?”.

Tom Nichols, author of The Death of Expertise and Our Own Worst Enemy, has written numerous blog posts and quizzes for the OUPblog, including “Reality check: the dangers of confirmation bias” and “The news media: are you an expert?”.

Additional articles and blog posts on distrust, conspiracy theories, election fraud, and public health disinformation can also be found on the OUPblog, such as:

And in journals, such as:

Lastly, the Open Access articles “State, media and civil society in the information warfare over Ukraine: citizen curators of digital disinformation” by Yevgeniy Golovchenko, Mareike Hartmann, and Rebecca Adler-Nissen, and “You Are Wrong Because I Am Right! The Perceived Causes and Ideological Biases of Misinformation Beliefs” by Michael Hameleers and Anna Brosius, can be found in the journals International Affairs and International Journal of Public Opinion Research, respectively.

Featured image: “United States Capitol outside protesters with US flag” by Tyler Merbler, CC BY 2.0 via Flickr/Wikimedia Commons.

Recent Comments

  1. Iftekhar Sayeed

    The complaint that the liberal establishment tried to gag conservative voices is not sheer fantasy.

    In “The Radio Right: How a Band of Broadcasters Took on the Federal Government and Built the Modern Conservative Movement”,
    Paul Matzko details just this censorship.

    The 19th century newspapers that created the modern nation-state were able to police contents, if not exactly like Pravda. It seems that American democracy has come to resemble that other democracy where truth and rationality were heavily discounted: Athens.

    The sophists have found their voice.

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