The Associated Press “unexpectedly” discovers that Americans have become an increasingly cynical lot:
These days, only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first asked the question.
Forty years later, a record high of nearly two-thirds say “you can’t be too careful” in dealing with people.
“There’s no single explanation for Americans’ loss of trust,” AP sagely cautions. Well, yes. There’s rarely a single explanation for anything:
The best-known analysis comes from “Bowling Alone” author Robert Putnam’s nearly two decades of studying the United States’ declining “social capital,” including trust.
Putnam says Americans have abandoned their bowling leagues and Elks lodges to stay home and watch TV. Less socializing and fewer community meetings make people less trustful than the “long civic generation” that came of age during the Depression and World War II.
Of course, distrust of the news media helps to sew the seeds of distrust in general — and that above quoted example isn’t quite what Putnam has said about America’s disintegrating trust:
In 2006, the scholar of civil society and author of Bowling Alone released some controversial findings: The more diverse a community, the less trusting it becomes.
“In the presence of diversity, we hunker down,” he told the Financial Times. “The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it’s not just that we don’t trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don’t trust people who do look like us.” Social trust was at its absolute lowest in Los Angeles, one of America’s most diverse cities, Putnam found.
And it doesn’t help matters that our current president is a former community organizer who’s been trained by the acolytes of Saul Alinsky, whose stock-in-trade is creating Emmanual Goldstein-like enemies, siccing the IRS on anyone who speaks out against him, and even creating division amongst families during holidays:
Curiously, the O-word appears to be absent from AP’s article. Wonder why?
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(Headline by AP in 2008 and quickly adopted as a recurring leitmotif of the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto.)