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The Old To and Fro

If there is one thing that Americans can agree upon in these turbulent times, it’s that no one trusts one another. Democrats don’t trust Republicans; Republicans don’t trust Democrats. The right doesn’t trust the left; the left doesn’t trust the right. The climate warriors don’t trust the climate deniers and vice versa. We’re awash in a sea of “fake news” – whatever that is. What’s going on here?

No one trusts anyone anymore.

True. In the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer – which measures trust among various countries, institutions and businesses, etc. – trust is reported to be at an all-time global low. With all the clamor about “fake news,” it’s not too surprising that the media has claimed the top spot (or should that be bottom spot?) among institutions worldwide as the least trusted. Five out of eight respondents say “they do not know how to tell good journalism from rumor or falsehoods.”

Is this a by-product of the gut-wrenching changes happening in the media world? The explosion of bloggers, news websites and social media may have spurred the general population to question and challenge the more established news sources. Is that challenge warranted? It depends on whom you trust.

Perhaps it’s this inability to distinguish fact from fiction that has led to “a staggering lack of faith in government” which has lodged the U.S. among the world’s dregs in the trust business with “the largest-ever-recorded drop in the survey’s history.”

Before his epic run as star of The Tonight Show, Johnny Carson hosted a game show called “Who Do You Trust?” It seems like the entire country (or world) is among the losing contestants.

Where will it all end? We may not be at the end just yet, but we just may be at, or nearing one of the extremes. If history has taught us anything, it has demonstrated a great ebb and flow of ideas, beliefs, movements, etc.

Consider the movement of the pendulum. Back and forth. Back and forth. Multi-national conglomerates go from centralized to diversified and back to centralized. The upper hand reverts from management to labor; from labor to management. Prices rise and fall. Unemployment increases, then decreases. Governments go from liberal to conservative and back again. Hemlines rise; hemlines fall. Populations lean toward being piously religious and then to base secularism.

Perhaps we’re just experiencing the far end of a pendulum swing and in the not too distant future the pendulum will be fully extended and will start to swing back again.

There are murmurings among journalists of the need to combat fake news. Maybe an intensified effort to correct that wide swing of the pendulum will lead to more people starting to trust the media again.

Maybe, or maybe not.


“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” — Albert Einstein

“Opinion is like a pendulum and obeys the same law. If it goes past the centre of gravity on one side, it must go a like distance on the other; and it is only after a certain time that it finds the true point at which it can remain at rest.” — Arthur Schopenhauer

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