Why People Distrust Experts And What We Can Do About It

Mar 17, 2020

If ever there were a time to turn to the experts it’s now. And yet, there’s deepening distrust of expertise. We’ll talk about why and what to do about it.


Tom Nichols, professor at the Harvard Extension School. Author of “The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters.” (@RadioFreeTom)

From The Reading List

Vox: “Coronavirus is exposing all of the weaknesses in the US health system” — “The international response to the novel coronavirus has laid this bare: America was less prepared for a pandemic than countries with universal health systems.

“There is a real concern that Americans, with a high uninsured rate and high out-of-pocket costs compared to the rest of the world, won’t seek care because of the costs. Before the crisis even began, the United States had fewer doctors and fewer hospital beds per capita than most other developed countries. The rollout of Covid-19 testing has been patchy, reliant on a mix of government and private labs to scale up the capacity to perform the tens of thousands of tests that will be necessary.

“’Everyone working in this space would agree that no matter how you measure it, the US is far behind on this,’ says Jen Kates, director of global health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The New York Times: “Opinion: Please, Listen to Experts About the Coronavirus. Then Step Up.” — “The coronavirus is spreading faster than we can contain it, faster than municipalities can track it and here in the United States, much faster than our testing capacity can handle. By the time you read a statistic, chances are it’s outdated.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that people in power can’t keep up. On Monday, Alex Azar, the secretary of health and human services, said he couldn’t provide accurate numbers of tested Americans because private labs don’t have to report results to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The C.D.C. has come under fire for taking testing numbers off its website and for its inability to supply timely information on the spread of the virus. On Wednesday, Reuters reported that the White House told officials at the Department of Health & Human Services to classify coronavirus deliberations, adding a layer of secrecy to the government’s response.”

The Washington Post: “Trump’s critics aren’t ‘politicizing the coronavirus.’ Trump is.” — “A week before he was replaced as acting White House chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney said the media was overblowing coronavirus coverage because ‘they think this will bring down the president.’

“The same day, President Trump accused Democrats of ‘politicizing the coronavirus,’ describing it as ‘their new hoax.’ On Saturday, conservative commentator Erick Erickson tweeted that media coverage is helping Americans view the outbreak ‘through partisan framing instead of as a health situation.’

“By Monday night, Fox Business’s Trish Regan had taken it over the top, railing that Democrats’ criticisms of Trump’s coronavirus response were ‘another attempt to impeach the president,’ while blaming ‘the liberal media’ for using the coronavirus to try to ‘demonize and destroy the president.’ Nonsense.”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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