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.
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.
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:
- “How conspiracy theories hurt vaccination numbers” by Michael Stein and Sandro Galea
- “The fight against fake news and electoral disinformation” by Bente Kalsnes
- “The Black Death: how did the world’s deadliest pandemic change society?” by Mark Bailey
And in journals, such as:
- “From Bad to Worse? The Media and the 2019 Election Campaign” by Dominic Wring and Stephen Ward, from the September 2020 issue of Parliamentary Affairs
- “Russian News Media, Digital Media, Informational Learned Helplessness, and Belief in COVID-19 Misinformation” by Erik C Nisbet and Olga Kamenchuk, from the Autumn 2021 issue of the International Journal of Public Opinion Research.
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.