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  • Foto van schrijverBrigitte Opel

"It's a matter of Trust"

Sure you’ve seen a photo like this one these days: Macron comforting the crowds is Beirut, in the harbour district that was wiped out earlier this week. Did you also wonder: what is Macron doing there? I learned that Lebanon was established in 1920 under French rule when it was separated from Syria as a Christian protectorate. And I learned that Macron was the only leader who has visited the apocalyptic site so far. And that is the real issue. Lebanese politicians had to abort their trip to the mourning crowds for fear of their lives. When Macron promised financial help to rebuild the area, the people begged him not to give it to the ruling elite. "It’s a matter of Trust".  Over the last few months, we have seen that in some countries people trust their governments and leaders amd in others they don’t: they maintained physical distance and wore face masks or they didn’t. People only change their behaviour if they believe that it is the right thing to do, meaning if they trust the people that provided the guidance. This is true for measures for dealing with a pandemic but it is also true for trusting your government to take care of the people and the country’s welfare in general. And we must not forget that the landscape of communication and information sharing has transformed considerably over the last years.  The trust in governments is connected to the trust in media. The availability of information through social media has multi-folded. With the increase in media sources, people get more vocal and more critical. That is an issue for governments in all countries but even more so in countries with hieractchical structures that are used to obedience and discipline but not questioning and criticism, some even openly as demonstrations and sit-ins.  I believe that if we studied the impact of internet media, we would see that the trust in traditional institutions decreases with the increase of online news consumption. For some part this can be attributed to opinions that deviate from the government’s mantra but also because people can get confused by the variety of perspectives and interpretations.  On a smaller scale:  If you search the internet for possible causes of your stomach-ache, you have anything from pancreas cancer to ulcer. If your doctor tells you to resort to a day in bed with a cup of tea – it takes a while before you accept it, right? What if the doctor doesn’t respond to your doubtful question 'are you sure it’s nothing serious'? You turn to another doctor. Just like some people in Lebanon now seem to turn to another leader. (Song title by Billy Joel)

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