In 2009, I published a book with Prometheus Press. It was titled “Distrust, American Style: Diversity and the Crisis of Public Confidence,”  and in it, I explored–and disagreed with–the then popular political science theory that America’s growing levels of social distrust and corresponding loss of social capital were a reaction to the country’s growing diversity, and the increasing numbers of neighbors who didn’t look like “us.”

My contrary conclusion could be summed up by an old adage:  fish rot from the head. 

By 2009, the failures of our social institutions had become more and more obvious–we had just had the Enron and Worldcom scandals, the Catholic Church was dealing with publicity about priestly child molestation, there were scandals in major league sports…and much more. Furthermore, as I wrote in the book, thanks to the Internet and the 24-hour “news holes” on cable television, it was the rare American who wasn’t bombarded daily with news of corporate malfeasance, the sexual escapades of “pro family” legislators and pastors, and the identity of the latest sports figure to fail a drug test.

At the same time, the Bush Administration was engaging in what then seemed an unprecedented assault on competent governance (who knew it could get worse?), exemplified by, but not limited to, the war in Iraq and the administration’s disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina.

In the face of so much evidence that Americans couldn’t trust our country’s most important institutions to operate honestly and effectively, is it any wonder that people were becoming wary, skeptical and distrustful? 

To say that things haven’t improved since 2009 would be an enormous understatement.

This lack of trust matters. It has allowed Trump’s accusations about “fake news” to resonate, it has encouraged acceptance of conspiracy theories and dismissal of warnings about the pandemic. The incredible growth of internet propaganda and social media since 2009 has only added to the cacophony of sources, voices, points of view–and levels of distrust. Too many Americans no longer know who or what to believe. (For many of those Americans, the Supreme Court’s predictable dismissal of Texas’ ridiculous lawsuit yesterday probably came as a surprise.)

I recently read an article comparing contemporary features of what the author called our “post-truth society” to Dante’s Inferno. The article pointed out that, to Dante, anyone who corrupted or discredited the institutions that support society was doing something gravely wicked, and would surely be consigned to the lowest circle of hell, the 9th. (The 9th, as I recall, is for treachery, and it is where Satan lives…)

Granted, the image of Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump dealing with Satan in that lowest circle gives me a “warm and fuzzy,” but I really don’t think Americans should defer remediation based upon belief in a just afterlife. We need to work on repairing the here and now.

When citizens cannot rely on the integrity of government officials, when they no longer expect those officials to enforce the rules against corporate and business malfeasance, when they see McConnell’s Senate confirming judges chosen in the belief they will be willing to corrupt the impartiality of the bench and tilt the scales of justice in the GOP’s favor–who should they trust?

Americans’ ability to trust each other depends upon the ability of our governing and social institutions to keep faith with the American values set out in the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Those values include equal treatment and fair play, and especially fidelity to the rule of law–the insistence that no one is above the law and that the same rules should apply to everyone who is in the same circumstances (or as we lawyer types like to say, everyone who is “similarly situated.”)

Allowing the rich and connected to “buy” more favorable rules is a massive violation of those values, yet that is what millions of Americans see happening every day. 

When governments and important social institutions all seem corrupt, trust evaporates, taking  social and political stability with it.  If the Biden Administration restores visible competence and  integrity to government, it will be the beginning of a long and urgently needed process of Institutional repair.

And hopefully, a restoration of trust.


  1. Trust. What a concept. For those who are all about themselves, self-absorbed and ego-centric, trust only occurs when they get what they want, when the want it and with the least amount of effort.

    That’s what those sorts of people have been taught and sold. When little children are plopped down in front of idiotic TV programs that act as baby-sitters and sold sugar, how else might they turn out? When parents give their teen-aged kids $100 to go have a good time (READ: Leave me the hell alone.), what else are they supposed to do but turn inward?

    There is no thought given to neighbors, community or anything else except gratification. Politics becomes a bore. Civics education becomes politicized by administrators and watered down by church dogma counter to the greater good – ironic, huh?

    All this human mayhem and lack of trust is a result of our post-WW II self-indulgence without doing anything to keep our society healthy enough to imbue trust in its institutions. Creatures like the Koch brothers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to undermine trust in those parts of government that keep our water and air clean, our education objective and our statue-of-liberty attitude toward our immigrants at arm’s length. Combine their “actions” with Milton Friedman’s self-destructive theories of capitalism and we have what we have. The sainted Ronald Reagan was wagged by Donald Regan who was a tool of Wall Street and the perfect foil for Koch and Friedman. Ironic, isn’t it.

    The very “leaders” that WERE trusted by the majority turned out to be the most self-centered and the most anti-government entities in our history. How do those not able to philosophize go any other way but down that same path?

    With Donald Trump, the ultimate con man and self-aggrandizing idiot we’ve ever thrust into the public eye, we see exactly what we deserved to get. The naked sedition and un-Constitutional idiocy of Ken Paxton (Perhaps the most corrupt politician in America) and his Republican supporters across the country (Ted Cruz runs a close second to Paxton here. They’re both Texas Republicans, of course.) show us how “successful” the Koch/Friedman efforts have been.

  2. “Granted, the image of Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump dealing with Satan in that lowest circle gives me a “warm and fuzzy,” but I really don’t think Americans should defer remediation based upon belief in a just afterlife. We need to work on repairing the here and now.”

    The fact that Americans on both sides of the Texas Law Suit held our breaths waiting for SCOTUS to overturn or support the presidential election is proof of the immediate need to work on repairing the here and now. Those of us who could not put our trust in SCOTUS to do the right thing and reject the law suit vs. those who fully expected SCOTUS to hear and approve the law suit, a direct action against democracy, is proof of how close we are to a dictatorship. And this is being supported by Representatives and Senators from Republican states. The CNN 4:00 a.m. Newsroom reported that Alito and Thomas dissented but said the suit should have been heard but they would have voted against it, puts them in league with all who supported the Texas Attorney General. Even hearing the bill would have set a precedent fully against democracy, Rule of Law and the Constitution of the United States of America. It would have opened the door to allow any state to rule over other states regarding their voting rights as well as their basic states rights as protected by the Constitution. It would have supported Trump’s attempted dictatorship.

    There is no light at the end of this tunnel yet and no indication there will be a light until and unless President Elect Joe Biden and Vice President Elect Kamala Harris are actually inaugurated on January 20, 2021. Even then; we still face the Georgia runoff elections to determine control of the Senate and POSSIBLE removal of McConnell’s power. We still cannot trust our own House of Representatives and our Senate who are still willingly under Trump’s control.

    “When governments and important social institutions all seem corrupt, trust evaporates, taking social and political stability with it.”


  3. Bravo Vernon!

    May I take a little bit of a different tack.

    Our Constitution was never meant to be fair, our Constitution was written by wealthy agrarian landowning Protestant white males!

    The Bill of Rights protected its citizens which happened to be those very wealthy agrarian landowning Protestant white males.

    John O’Sullivan, Rudyard Kipling, explained the thought process behind the white Protestant male, they were the Atlas of the world, holding civilization together by their very willpower, LOL! The 1800s brought us the Manifest Destiny, American Romanticism, American Exceptionalism, and the glorification of slaveowning in the South and moving the native populations to concentration camps they called reservations! Wow, reservations, sounds appealing don’t they? Almost like a fine dining restaurant or a resort, but in reality was a hell. And let’s not forget the misogynistic onslaught against females in society.

    Remember, African slaves were only considered 3/5 human, other religions besides evangelical Protestant were really not accepted for the most part. Even though George Washington acknowledged the Jewish congregation in Newport Rhode Island. Jews were relegated to ghettos in Europe and were viewed with suspicion. The Muslim religion was here longer than the Jewish religion, it came with the slaves. Wow, what a shocker that is huh?

    The Constitution was never meant to be fair, it was meant to strengthen the white Protestant males hold on power. To give them the rights and abilities to rule as they saw fit. The Germans used their Constitution which was written in 1919, to increase their hold on society, and this led right up to and helped nurture Nazi Germany and the 3rd Reich!

    Our Constitution has been considered a dead document for so long by conservatives, because it commands the white Protestant males hold on power. It also promotes that power from the agrarian to the capitalistic industrial incarnation of that power. The Constitution or our Bill of Rights should be a living breathing document as society is living and breathing and evolving. If this doesn’t happen, society will definitely die!
    All citizens deserve basic human rights and they deserve to receive the dignity humans should have, human dignity is just as important as human rights. Our Constitution and those who founded this country, did not look at that aspect when they wrote the Constitution, how could they? How could they envision present society while they were writing the Bill of Rights? They could never have!

    Unfortunately there will never be another guidebook written for this country, and, there will continue to be an attempt to force those white male Protestant beliefs on every individual in this country, which will lead to more Tumalt, as there are way too many beliefs, dogmas and religions for that to happen.

  4. Read Pete Buttigieg’s new book entitled “Trust”. It’s a really good look at where “trust” has gone in this country.

  5. Much of the divisiveness in our society can be placed at the feet of two sources, one which set out to divide in order to conquer and the other to unwittingly aid and abet in order to make a profit.
    The first is the right wing conservative movement that grew out of the John Birch Society that melted into the Reagan Republican Party that morphed into the cultural party of the Bush family and Newt Gingrich and then finally into the Trumpism of total corruption. Supporting the decades long metamorphosis were and remain the ugly twins of racism and greed.
    The second source of our society’s divisiveness is the television and internet media with their driving force…profit. The principles of journalism, the fairness doctrine and respect for the truth have been jettisoned in order to compete for the viewer customer. Conjecture has replaced fact. Who, what, where, and how have been replaced with could, might, and may. They are selling ads and using fear mongering and alarm to get your attention. And anyone can join in.
    Neither the purposeful divisiveness of the Republican Party nor the money driven propaganda of the media will be conquered by “taking the high road” or “reaching out”. What is needed is a disciplined organization of truth tellers, people willing to stake their lives and fortunes on the principles of democracy and Constitution by publically standing up to those who would destroy the country.

  6. Whatever you may think of polling…these numbers are rolling downhill…

    – Gallup – Summer 2020 – Institutions and the % of Americans that highly trust them:
    Supreme Court 40%
    Presidency – 39%
    Criminal justice system: 24%
    Congress – 13%

    The only ones over 60%? The military and small business (fading away as we type)

    – Pew Research – Feb. 2020
    “In 1958…73 percent of Americans expressed trust in government in Washington to do what’s right. Today, only 17 percent do.”

    Likewise: “74 percent say elected officials don’t ‘care what people like me think’ and put their own interests first”

    “40 percent or more of Democrats and Republicans see the other party not just as people they disagree with, but as a threat to the well-being of the nation”

    Numbers make it real. “Community” is slipping away…even as we face existential threats like pandemics and climate change. Used to be these brought people together….

  7. I’d say John said a mouthful, and once again, in 1949, a pacificist Jew with a scientific mind came along and told the world that the USA was an oligarchy, as John said.

    This was after Harry Truman dropped an atomic bomb on Japan, essentially ending the second world war.

    Did we listen to the greatest mind ever? The same mind paved the way to the atomic bomb and broke down all physical matter into small little pieces of matter. Quarks they became called. Quarks and anti-quarks. Little tiny sparks of energy.

    Along came a fellow in the 1970s trying to fuse the whole meaning of life thing and wrote a book called the Tao of Physics under the premise: “Science does not need mysticism and mysticism does not need science. But man needs both.”

    Why don’t we listen?

    What’s the definition of dialectic?

    Nobody listened to him either.

  8. Thanks, John. Nonetheless, we have grown, up to a point, to realize the idealism embedded in the Constitution. We’ve discarded slavery and finally allowed women to vote – Wyoming did that in 1869. I think the anniversary of that was December 10th.

    Now we have to keep working on the embedded racism, the most vicious echo of our original sin. If we don’t, we will be ruined. The consciousness among the oppressed is reaching revolutionary proportions, while the insistent bigots arm themselves ready to kill just for the sake of their own bigotry and stupidity.

    This is our razor’s edge now. Trust in our institutions is being eroded every day by the persistence of silk-draped bigotry found in the Rubio, McConnell, DeSantis, Kemp, Graham, McCarthy, Cruz, Pence, Murdoch, Hannity, Limbaugh and the flaming idiots on Newsmax, et. al. Until they’ve been eliminated from our government, pushed back against by overwhelming intelligence, we will continue down that dark tunnel still searching for the light.

  9. Theresa nailed it when she said things really started falling apart once we had a political party that is all ego and no morals, that was willing to fully exploit “the ugly twins of racism and greed”.

    I remember from high school civics that the main reason for the constitutions’s balance of powers, and the bill of rights, was to protect against “the tyranny of the majority”. I never guessed that trust in government would have eroded to point that you would have to worry about the tyranny of the minority.

  10. ” We need to work on repairing the here and now.”

    I so agree with this. For me the question is what are the most effective ways we can create this repair. It is, after all, hard to create a society of mutual trust amidst so much diversity when we are instinctually geared toward not trusting someone who is different from ourselves. It’s hard when we see Congress in a chronic gridlock, when leaders don’t reflect the diversity of our country.

    Gone are the days when there was a comfort zone where everyone looked, thought, believed like everyone else. In rural communities that homogeneity often still exists. In 2014 I went to White Cloud, Michigan which was the town close to where my parents took us on summer vacations. I was shocked to see all the fundamentalist churches in the little town. In the little towns everyone knows everyone else and they have very down to earth, concrete ideas about who each person in town is. These are the communities threatened by diversity and each little town has its scapegoats ie the town drunk, or the ex-convict.

    There are, of course, exceptions. Some small towns have been revitalized by immigrants from 3rd world countries and have realized how much they benefit their local economy.

    On the coast and in major cities such homogeneity does not exist. People from all over the world live in close proximity to one another. And yet, there is still segregation based on race, ethnicity, faith traditions, culture. So much of our personal identity is linked to the community and culture in which we were raised.

    So how do we repair the divide between those who want a white Christian straight male dominated country and those who are open to diversity, to women gaining power, to liberty and justice for all ? I don’t really know.

  11. Heather Cox Richardson writes on her blog:

    “The Republican Party has become a dangerous faction trying to destroy American democracy. Fittingly, after the Supreme Court decision, the Chair of the Texas Republican Party, Allen West, promptly issued a grammatically muddy statement saying, “Perhaps law-abiding states should bond together and form a Union of states that will abide by the constitution.”
    Americans unhappy with the results of a presidential election have done precisely this before.

    It was called “secession,” and it occurred in 1860 when elite southern Democrats tried to destroy the United States of America rather than accept the election of Republican Abraham Lincoln to the White House.”

    The trajectory of the GOP was clear from the Clinton Era, when the Whitewater Investigation turned into an investigation of Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. This was the “Culture War”.

    The Birther movement was stage two of the GOP missile.

    Other than control by any means possible, you can search in vain for what the GOP of Trump and his Cult actually stand for, i.e., programs and/or/policies. Cut taxes on the uber wealthy and destroy any regulations that limit profit are obvious.

    The Trumpet and his enablers have picked their “marks” so to speak – The Willfully Ignorant who somehow decrypt The Trumpet’s incoherent ramblings into – Golly Gee he says what I think.

  12. Love and respect are built on trust and that applies to very local relationships like family and big ones like corporations and government. In order to be sustainable that condition of trust must be based on a certain amount of optimism that the risk of disappointment is low. When people are generally optimistic about our big institutions they are confident that they can assume that good things will reliably flow over time from their relationship with that institution. All of that defines a stable condition whether in couples or families or corporations or government.

    Some people have experienced how difficult it is to restore stability in a love relationship once it’s been demonstrated to be unreliable. It’s hard to see that as not applicable to our relationships with institutions as well.

    It seems that the Trump era is such a horrendous failure that living through it has changed me forever. That seems to be true of many people who regularly post here as well. The mood here under Obama was optimistic, what problems could we solve together. Now it is pessimistic, can we ever recover from the memory of failure of such magnitude?

    In the absence of trust humans typically try to protect themselves from the condition by gathering power from association with others and other institutions that will win given that a battle is unavoidable.

    The question is, is the recovery of trust in our institutions even possible now? I always thought of myself as congenitally optimistic but now I wonder if that is affordable. I know now the risk of social instability, can I ever trust it again?

  13. Allowing the rich…to “buy”…favorable rules… is killing our democracy. Only a public campaign funding system can save us.

  14. Vernon, absolutely!

    There definitely have been attempts to level the playing field somewhat, with all of the amendments to the Constitution. It’s kind of like the B-52 bomber.

    The original bomber which flew in 1955, serve this purpose at that time, since then, there’s been many additions and upgrades, (could be called amendments) and we have a machine that seems to function in the modern day and age. But in reality, those planes are sitting ducks to modern weaponry. They say this aircraft can stay in service for 100 years, but it can nowhere close to match the modern and upcoming stealth and operating systems of the new generations of aircraft.

    I say our operating system might of been functional in the beginning, but something new is needed. Women as you mentioned had gotten the right to vote in Wyoming in 1869, Bravo!

    And yet, my comment yesterday about the pictures, 1909 in Oklahoma! A smartly dressed African-American woman with her wedding band prominently displayed, hanging from a bridge, lynched! All because they couldn’t find her husband, and the hell that woman had to deal with while they were raping her and getting ready to hang her! And it was used as a promotion to visit Oklahoma!

    We are not past that point of our history right now. We have someone who is in a rush to execute Black Inmates in federal prison before he leaves office, why? And yet will pre-pardon his boot licking cronies and family members!

    All certain segments of society needed was someone handing them a permission slip to be be who they are and really wants to be. Because those particular members of society are truly cowards when it comes to everything else, but, if they feel they have the authority behind them to be who they really are, racists, bigots, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and the like, well, they feel strong and will run off the precipice for that person.

    It’s the flaw in the human condition, and if the guardrails and penalties for misbehavior are not strong enough, we dive right back into disunity, bigotry and societal anarchy! The enablers for all of this are the ones that you’ve mentioned Vernon, and some talk about the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s probably a train.

    Look at the pictures, lynchings and drawing large crowds and bringing their children, hacking to pieces other humans while they were still burning and hanging from a tree. Or, disemboweling pregnant women in front of popcorn sellers and picture takers, and adults hanging out with their kids to see the show. It’s a sad sad sad take on society, but American romanticism glorified that behavior during the time of slavery and in the minds of those perpetrating it during the Jim Crow era which never went away.

    Certain subsections of the society cannot control their basest desires, and there needs to be a penalty for that, if there is no penalty, there is no behavioral adjustment on those who wish to do their fellow man and neighbors the ultimate harm! It shouldn’t have to be that way, but yet here we are in 2020! Right back to the German Bund marching through the streets of America, or, the torch lit marches and Lugenpresse, and the calls for eugenics! Definitely not progress.

    The desire is always there Vernon, the desire to demonize, and when someone hands those with the desire a permission slip, it’s like taking a trip in a time machine, back to the good old days as these lunatics call them.

  15. Good morning JoAnn, Pete, Robin, Todd, Larry,

    And all of the rest, excellent comments and very thought-provoking this morning I would have to say!

  16. Theresa, when you mention TV, I immediately, as others may, think of Faux News, selling BS for profit for over 20 years now.
    ML, I was unaware of the comment by Mr. West. so, he wants to secede…again? Yeah, we should have let Texas go when it wanted to, some years ago. So, here we have a severely titled SCOTUS, and it’s still not good enough for these “patriots?” No further comment that is printable comes to mind.
    As I wrote here, recently, we have been lied to soooooo many times, by one POTUS, or another; lied into wars, and such that trust has to have been eroded.

  17. im getting here late,but, ill say that social media has been a god send to many,whereas many see it as something great,and myself,privacy issues and cheap rants of whatevers,by whoevers,wherevers,meaningless….seems as the human gene has developed,we missed the boat on mindset regulation of ourselves to come to a undersatnding that,social media in its present form, doesnt make our human race any better,or,safer. my point,we as humans,seem to have a complete breakdown inviting this genre into our lives. whereas we could use it to compare,discuss and gain from practical solutions. instead, the majority are squandering the free ink for control of? or just being a menace. maybe in some decades when people understand rambling about shit that doesnt help anyone see better,or help as a whole,the human experience. i dont social media,except for a few places ive invaded,(like here).. i do gain alot of insight as to your way of thinking and enjoy the rambling from those who,are more like each other in the human experience.
    as we ramble here,a few have suggestions to overcome the past few years and why. my own experience is somewhat gray compared to others here, i am a working person,and still working,and allowed to speak like one. the warm and fuzzy Sheila has discribed i see it as a complete failure of the people to understand why,and how. the fact, the rnc and dnc and such,only allow who they want to run. the money is the fuel. today we may act as voters,when in fact we are hiring a lobbyest for the wealth. Naomi Klein , /a great many people did not vote for Biden,they voted against trump.because they,represent the tremendous threat he represents../like we had a choice. it doesnt matter Bernie of cruz, its still a one sided contempt to see that the status quo is just what we want, not what we need. social media has been paid to create a breeding ground for misinformation,and malfunctions that probably wouldnt be a severe if we all still possessed the need for human skills to face each other. instead we went underground,hiding and wasting time talking,thru thin air. the lack of visable forces have become the norm,and expected. though as we see it,as a right,the biggest names in media news see it as a threat. the newly elected will now be taught how not to, decorum and grace when speaking in our congress,making it,their congress..

  18. Many of us want to protect and strengthen investigative reporting and hometown newspapers as well as trust in institutions. How do we navigate those opposing forces?

    A neighbor and I were discussing the media, the decimated Indpls. STAR, and the town hall meetings our local state legislators hold. The meetings are jointly held by our Republican and Democratic legislators. The legislators are well-informed, always civil, and eager to talk with individual constituents before and after the meetings which are very well attended.

    But my neighbor was dissatisfied with them and electronic media coverage of everything. She said they talk in platitudes and generalities and live in their own world, seldom detailing the actual, difficult trade-offs and how decision-makers decided which path to take. Of course they want legislation to be fair and taxpayer-friendly, but we’re adults. We can handle and WANT more than that. I had to agree with her and added complaints of my own. Yes get to the meat of an issue, and would they PLEASE stop using initials and other ‘shorthand’ for legislation, agencies, and organizations which many don’t understand.

    Her comments reminded me of a “West Wing” TV program episode years ago where the President (before he became president) held a town hall meeting and was asked a pointed question by a dairy farmer. The farmer wanted to know why the President had opposed a dairy farm subsidy, without which the farmer was really damaged economically. As I am foggily recalling that episode, the President noted diary farmers’ legitimate need for the subsidy but also noted the difficult choice of funding that or subsidizing milk for needy children. The thing I most recall was the President’s comment – yes, you got “hosed”, and I’m sorry for that, but I was faced with a difficult choice, and I decided to provide needed nutrition to hungry kids. Wow, that kind of honesty was so refreshing, and because it was so honest, it also built trust.

  19. Mitch D., When I mentioned TV news I did intend for that to mean Fox News. But I also have a mighty bone to pick with local news. They have an hour and a half of air time every work day yet cannot find the time to give even one in depth report on the state legislature, the city county council or the budgets and taxes. They give scant coverage of the homicides, but alway include a few (if it bleeds, it leads). A shooting on my street this past week got zero coverage.
    An hour and a half! What a waste.

  20. Theresa Bowers; thank you for bringing out this vital point. Also, the back page of our November ballot was filled with local judges requiring a yea or nay vote to remain; also school board members. There seems to be no source of information to base decisions on regarding these individuals. Indianapolis has reached another historic level of murders this year; little is later reported regarding arrests or court cases. Sports coverage is usually lengthy and detailed.

  21. Right on target, Sheila. Trust has been going down, especially since Reagan said to not trust the federal government. He proved his point by cutting the services the federal government used to provide (much like subsequent Republican administrations).

    The real problem that I see, is that the people with the least trust in government are the Republicans, who won’t feel renewed trust in a Biden administration, but will continue to believe that Biden’s “victory” was “fake”.

    Why many people tend to believe the liars who (projecting) point a finger and say “those people lie”, I don’t know, nor what to do about them.

  22. Sadly, trust isn’t coming back any time soon.

    The people who believe the election was stolen are too far gone. They believe in the conspiracy theories too deeply; they are too invested. One need look no further than the reaction to Fox News calling states for Biden. That narrative was unacceptable so they turned their backs on the organisation they’d explicitly and indiscriminately trusted just two minutes earlier. At this point, any fact that doesn’t fit their narrative will be discarded out of hand, and anyone delivering that fact will have exposed themselves as an enemy.

    As an aside, I think this is why that group distrusts “elites” and “intellectuals”, i.e. people associated with places of “higher learning”. Those places teach people how to consider and make arguments, to evaluate and judge information, and to avoid dogmatism. Those virtues–which are fundamental to _my_ worldview–are antithetical to the conspiracy theorists. (Personally, I think the religious also suffer from the same flaws in many cases, and for similar reasons. Don’t look too closely!) As an example, I’ve been in online arguments with people about topics related to physics. At one point, they actually cited their _lack_ of “formal education” on the particular subject under discussion as a reason for their viewpoint to be considered. I was struck at that point, realising that we weren’t arguing from the same standpoint; only one of us was arguing based on reason and knowledge; the other was arguing based on feelings and presuppositions. We were orthogonal.

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