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Democracy Matters - Episode 52: Insurrection as a civically responsible form of social change


 
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SUMMARY: In this episode, we talk with Ethan Zuckerman, associate professor of public policy, communication and information at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, who argues that rather than rebuilding trust in institutions, we should question whether institutions are worthy of our trust. We can either work to make our existing institutions better, or we can recognize that they’re no longer fit for purpose and build new ones in their stead.


From the 1970s to today, Americans report having less trust in the police, organized religion, the medical system, the Supreme Court, public schools, banks, organized labor, newspapers, television news, the criminal-justice system, and big business. We are in a moment in which trust in institutions is not only low, but also deeply polarized. There are also deep divides over how to address the very public problems those institutions are meant to solve. Mistrust can be a powerful tool for driving change. In this moment, we have to ask whether systems are reformable through institutional change or whether insurrection as a civically responsible form of social change is required. 

In this episode, we talk with Ethan Zuckerman, associate professor of public policy, communication and information at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, who argues that rather than rebuilding trust in institutions, we should question whether institutions are worthy of our trust. We can either work to make our existing institutions better, or we can recognize that they’re no longer fit for purpose and build new ones in their stead.  

Ethan is founder of the Institute for Digital Public Infrastructure, a research group that is studying and building alternatives to the existing commercial internet. He is author of two books: Mistrust: Why Losing Faith in Institutions Provides the Tools to Transform Them and Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection, both published through W.W. Norton.  He is also the co-founder of global blogging community Global Voices, and has worked with social change nonprofit organizations around the world. He’s previously been at the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard, the MIT Media Lab and Comparative Media Studies at MIT, Geekcorps, and Tripod.

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Published: Monday, February 15, 2021

Last Updated: Monday, February 15, 2021

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