On the 12th anniversary of the attacks that forever changed this country, a new poll came out by the internet market research group YouGov. The poll dealt with governmental claims concerning what happened on September 11, and how much the public has bought into them. After being shown a 30-second video of the Building 7 collapse, respondents were then asked how they interpreted the source of the building collapse.
While the poll was sponsored by the 9/11 Truth movement, it was conducted by a reputable firm. An amazing 46% said they thought the building collapsed as the result of a controlled demolition, compared to just 28% who believe the official account of a fire. Additionally, 38% of respondents said they had trouble believing the government's broader account of what happened on that fateful day, 10% do not believe the government at all, and 12% don't know what to believe. But this extends beyond September 1. What this poll and others like it point to is a profound breakdown in Americans' trust for major institutions. Americans have simply lost faith in the institutions that have historically secured the trust of large amounts of people, whether it's the government, the church, the media, corporations, or even vaccination programs. Gross abuses within these institutions by U.S. leaders has spurred major contempt and distrust, and with each abuse made public, the level of paranoia appears to grow.
And this cannot be characterized as totally irrational or excessively paranoid. After all, these are the same institutions that led us into an unnecessary, expensive, and bloody war all built on a lie. These are the same institutions that defrauded homeowners through lending practices and foreclosure fraud. These are the same institutions that have proven that they are more interested in covering the skin of their own, and shielding themselves from prosecution, than investigating serious crimes like child rape. Stories like the more recent NSA revelations, as important as they are, have become less and less surprising. Americans have simply lost faith in the ability of major institutions and their leaders to tell the truth.
Faced with a mountain of evidence implicating major institutions, American distrust can in fact be characterized as rational. In that light, it becomes easier (but not too much easier) to comprehend the strange Sandy Hook conspiracies that were floating around. It may explain some of the visceral opposition to a Syrian strike as well. If you are out long enough, you can feel the levels of paranoia in the air. It becomes readily apparent when you tell someone that you are studying political science, and they take the time to convey to you their seemingly whacky conspiracy theory about one issue or another. Of course there has always been groups of people that have held fast to the conspiracy theory model of explanation. But as this.
People feel like they don't have much to hold on to. This feeling was articulated in an op-ed by Thomas Day on the heels of the Jerry Sandusky revelations. Day, an Iraq war veteran, Penn State graduate, Catholic, and a member of the now infamous second mile program, appears to be the poster boy of this phenomenon on resume alone. Day states:
"This week the world found the very worst of human nature in my idyllic Central Pennsylvania home. I found that a man my community anointed a teacher and nurturer of children, instead reportedly had them hiding in his basement. The anger and humiliation were more than I could bear. I can't wait for my parents' generation's Joshua any longer. They've lost my faith."
While the characters within the story may be different, this larger story of distrust when it comes to leaders and institutions to do right is becoming increasingly shared. Crumbling trust in major institutions is not a desirable feature of any society.
To paraphrase Robert De Niro, once you break that circle of trust, you are out — and that appears to be where our major institutions are headed at the moment.