Source: A Bright Red Flag for Democracy | The Atlantic, by Ethan Zuckerman
Watching the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students engage with their elected leaders is a crash course in understanding how people develop mistrust in representative democracies. The fear is that the experience will quickly teach the students that change is impossible. The hope, instead, is that they will learn that change can occur, but perhaps not through the methods they’ve been taught to use. … The uncomfortable lesson may be that corporations are more responsive to customer concerns than lawmakers are to their constituents. This may be good news in the short term for activists, but it should be a bright red flag for anyone concerned for democracy in the long term.
Mistrust is corrosive. … mistrust of an unresponsive government can easily lead to the conclusion that no vote, no phone call, no protest can make change
When you find yourself denying the very existence of legitimate opposition to your point of view—when people who disagree with you become paid plants hired by George Soros or the Koch brothers—it’s a good indicator that your mistrust has led you through partisanship into alienation.
Mistrust can be weaponized. … When people begin to distrust what their leaders say, what the media reports, what ultimately constitutes reality, something predictable happens: extremism flourishes. Those less confident in their views withdraw from the public sphere, ceding the space to those certain of their views. … That’s the goal of weaponized mistrust—to create a world so angry, so confusing, so hard to recognize that we either arm ourselves as combatants against the other side, or withdraw entirely into inaction and passivity.