SDF 43: The wearing away of trust

In the first episode in 2021 of our monthly Small Data Forum podcast, Thomas, Sam, and I discussed the big picture of Trump and what’s next for him, Joe Biden and America post-Trump, and in the context of our predictions in episode 42 in December.

Those predictions weren’t that shabby, as it turns out.

We considered what social media is: platform, publisher, or leech, which provoked some lively and trenchant opinion. We pondered the consequences and outcomes of the Capitol riots or insurrection (pick your label) on January 6 including peering into the American abyss. Our UK focus centred on politicians fighting the coronavirus pandemic, with nary a mention of Brexit – a good start to 2021 but don’t count on it continuing.

We discussed the Edelman Trust Barometer 2021, published last week by the eponymous PR firm.

Trust, actually, is a theme that connects all we discussed in this episode, from the negative as presented by Edelman in how they encapsulate a view of trust as a state of ‘information bankruptcy‘; and looking in from the other end of the spectrum at trust as a prerequisite for encouraging the embrace of selfless actions to combat the pandemic.

The topic also included a lively exchange on each of our different perspectives on this report about the state of trust around the world, published every year since 2001, and the report’s purpose.

As ever, Thomas wrote the show notes on the podcast blog, clearly illustrating his stellar qualities in writing outstanding narrative copy that maximises deep understanding of the English language and good use of irony and wit. It also highlights why I don’t do the show notes, leaving that task to Thomas and Sam (who alternate those duties): instead, I concentrate on the technical production of the podcast itself.

And so, without further ado, here is the introduction to episode 43:

I predict a riot

“The masses have never thirsted after truth. They turn aside from evidence that is not to their taste, preferring to deify error, if error seduce them. Whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master; whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim.” (Gustave Le Bon, The Crowd, p. 64)

What would Monsieur le Professeur Le Bon make of the fact that his 1895 masterpiece The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind is as timely and relevant today as it was then?

Written under the influence of his experience of the Paris Commune, the civil war between Paris and the rest of France which killed thousands and saw the burning of Tuileries Palace on 25th May 1871, some 150 years before the storming of the Capitol on 6th January 2021 (see this remarkable report from the Guardian archive), he was wary of “our savage destructive instincts” and the “cowardly ferocity” of crowds.

He should have come and watched a match at the New Den pre-lockdown.

Of course, the first SDF convention of 2021 (the sixth year of our chatventure, no less) on Friday 15th – still a Zoom affair, plus ça change – had a lot to say about that Capitol offence from nine days earlier …

Listen to Episode 43:

Enjoy the show! If you have questions or comments, let us know: either leave a comment on the show notes, or send us a message.

We look forward to shining a light again on the uses and abuses of data big and small that continue to dominate politics, business, and public life – we’ll be back with episode 44 to be published on 22 February.

(Photo at top by Ben Rosett on Unsplash)