One trope I’ve seen a lot working in the “disinformation industrial complex” is this idea that certain kinds of information erode trust in public institutions. Certainly, this can be true in some cases, but it’s rare to ever hear anyone say that this might in other instances be well-deserved.

Cory Doctorow, however, says it in this recent interview:

From the transcript:

“People’s confidence in our institutions has collapsed because our institutions are are not worthy of our confidence, right… When the NIH lets Moderna make an mRNA vaccine using NIH patents without taking a license and then doesn’t step in to assert that patent when Moderna quadruples the cost, right, and scoops up for itself a four thousand percent margin on this vaccine that was produced with 10 billion dollars in public money that that is a reason to doubt our institutions…”

I don’t have much specific knowledge of the details he’s describing above with Moderna, but for me it’s merely illustrative of many cases where there may be legitimate grievances with public (or private) institutions which are the root cause of the erosion of trust in them, over and above chatter on social media, which is merely symptomatic.

Treating the symptoms while ignoring the root causes is not a great way to find solutions.