There have always been conspiracy theories (and real conspiracies), but now they have more scope than ever. Indeed, if the New Scientist is to be believed, they are a product of normal human psychology (an ongoing disaster!). I believe I have complained before about security services and establishments generally hiding away into secrecy, and thereby feeding the conspiracy theories.

Yet I am now indebted to the philosopher Onora O'Neill for making me realise that it is not trust as such we need more of, but trustworthiness. For everyday life as well as democracy we need to use well directed mistrust (suspicion) as well as well directed trust. But I don't know whether O'Neill realises how radical her point about making yourself vulnerable being strong evidence of trustworthiness is in relation to institutions.

Not the least of the problems with conspiracy theories (including the most outlandish) is that institutions ranging from clerical to military to business commonly assume reputation and authority depend on an image of invulnerability. Amongst other things this leads to efforts to avoid admission of error or failure. That is, the very opposite of O'Neill's suggestion for demonstrating trustworthiness.

Either O'Neill is wrong, or a vast range of institutions around the world - including some of the most august such as the Vatican - would need to overhaul their practices and training of officers to demonstrate they are trustworthy. Perhaps O'Neill can invoke support of conspiracy theorists to make her case. What might Professor O'Neill, critics of Saudi Arabia or the CIA, and QAnon together not achieve?

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