CEKAS Seminar: Tom Carson

CEKAS Seminar: Tom Carson
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Prof Tom Carson (Loyola)

‘How Misplaced Trust and Distrust Create Misinformation and Enable Lying and Deception in Politics and Public Policy’

Abstract

"A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both"  (James Madison)

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts,” (Daniel Moynihan).

“I beseech you... think it possible you may be mistaken...” (Oliver Cromwell).

 “the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome,” (George Orwell).

 “When the facts change I change my mind, sir.  What do you do?” (John Maynard Keynes).

 Public policies tend to go badly and sometimes produce extremely bad consequences when the people who shape them are poorly informed.  I illustrate this claim with some salient historical and contemporary examples.  In the United States, lying and misinformation have created seemingly intractable disagreements, conflicts, and hatreds that seriously threaten American democracy.

At present, political misinformation and the success of political lies are largely the result of misplaced trust and distrust in sources of information.  The distrust of science and trust in wild conspiracy theories, such as Qanon, are particularly serious problems.  Misplaced trust and distrust can cause us to have false beliefs or deprive us of knowledge and reasonable beliefs.  Misplaced trust and distrust are preventing the United States and other nations from taking desperately needed action to try to avert catastrophic consequences from climate change and also greatly hindering its response to the Covid pandemic.  Social media and the development of the internet (which has spawned a huge number of purported authorities and are the site of numerous attacks on reliable authorities) have greatly aggravated the problem of misplaced trust and distrust.

This talk will take place online. For more information and link to the talk, please contact Federico Luzzi: f.luzzi@abdn.ac.uk

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