How “truth decay” is harming America’s coronavirus recovery

“Truth decay encompasses four trends, each of which is relevant to what we’re experiencing now.
The first is increasing disagreement about facts and data. An example in this context would be the disagreement about the safety of vaccines and whether people will take them once they’re made and distributed.

The second trend is the increased blurring of the line between fact and opinion. This is caused a lot by commentary in cable news or social media, places where facts and opinion are mixed together and make it really hard to determine what’s real and what’s someone’s opinion or analysis.

The third trend is the increasing volume of opinion compared to fact. You’re just seeing a lot more opinion out there. If you’re looking for facts, you have to work pretty hard to dig through all that commentary before you can actually find the raw facts you might be looking for.

Finally, declining trust in key institutions that provide information. We’re experiencing this now with the government and the media.

Put together, people are not sure what’s true what’s not, and they don’t even really know where to turn to find factual information they’re looking for.”

“Dr. Anthony Fauci, for example, seems to be the guy providing the media and the public with the necessary facts about the coronavirus right now. But because the president undercuts him and disagrees with a lot of what he says, he’s become somewhat of a polarizing figure. If you’re a Trump fan, you might not be a Fauci fan, and vice versa.

At such a crucial time, how is the expertise of someone like Fauci or other public health experts not innately trusted?”

“people like to confirm their own beliefs. They don’t necessarily want to hear information that disagrees with their views, and it leads people to reject information from experts that doesn’t fit their narrative.”

“I’m skeptical this moment will lead to only facts coming from the top and an extra effort from the bottom to seek facts. Tens of thousands of Americans have died, millions have fallen ill, and yet there doesn’t seem to be a change. The US isn’t rising to the moment.”

“this is a national failure because it prevents us from making progress on the big issues that our country needs to confront if we want to continue being a prosperous nation and maintain the position we have in the world.”

America’s crisis of trust and the one candidate who gets it

“over the last several decades, conservatives have waged war on social and political trust, calling into question the fairness and independence of almost every major US institution from journalism to academia to science. They have created parallel institutions of their own, meant to support their factional interests. And they have relentlessly cast “libs” as an enemy within — an alien, hostile, and ultimately illegitimate force.

As a result, a large faction of the country has descended into paranoia and conspiracy theories, fighting intensely against the basic rules, norms, and post-war assumptions of American life. And because that faction has successfully rendered all political fights — even fights over basic facts — as vicious, zero-sum partisan struggles, another large faction of the country has simply tuned out, coming to regard politics and public life generally as corrupt and fruitless. Americans’ trust in their institutions and in one another is at record lows.”

“it works against the left’s purposes. The left needs for voters to believe that effective, responsive governance is possible — that we can, in fact, have nice things. The left needs social and political trust. Without them, collective action for collective benefit, the left’s stock in trade, becomes impossible.

This is the left’s challenge in the US: how to break out of the doom loop and get on a trajectory of better governance and rising trust.”