The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer survey, which is the latest in the annual Edelman series taken in 28 countries, shows that the people of China have the highest trust in their country’s institutions, and that the people of U.S. recorded an all-time-record loss of trust as compared to the prior year: a stunning 37% loss of trust — that’s comparing 2017’s 52% of Americans trusting America’s institutions, down to 43% of Americans trusting them, a 9% slide, which Edelman referred to by saying, “Trust decline in the U.S. is the steepest ever measured.”
That 9% was the average loss for each one of the four institutions measured; and, so, Edelman’s Technical Appendix explained: “We then added these changes together across the four institutions, yielding a value of -37. This shows that in the U.S., the four main institutions lost a combined 37 percentage points.”
For comparison this year, against that -37%, the second-biggest loss of trust was the -21% in Italy. Tied for the third-biggest and fourth-biggest loss were Brazil and South Africa, both at -17%. Tied for fifth-biggest and sixth-biggest loss were Colombia and India, both at -13%. However India still remained one of the four highest-trust nations, having been #1 in trust in the 2017 survey, down now to the #3 position this year. Last year, China was #3; so, China and India switched positions between 2017 and 2018. The -37% for America simply outclasses all those other declines; and so this trust-plunge in America is major news.
At the very bottom of trust in institutions is Russia, which displays 36% trust in its institutions. Second-lowest is Japan, which displays 37% trust. The two lowest in 2017 were Russia, at 34% and Poland at 35%. Russia was at the very bottom both years because one of the four “Institutions” is NGOs, and “Trust in NGOs” ranged worldwide in 2018 from a top of 71% in Mexico, down to a bottom of 25% in Russia, and this Russian bottom is a stunning 12 points below the second-from-bottom, Germany, which is at 37%. By contrast, for example, “Trust in Government” was 44% in Russia, and is only 33% in the United States. Trust in Government is the highest in China: 84%. (That’s the highest-trusted of the four Institutions there; the lowest of the four Institutions there is NGOs: 61%.) So: whereas the plunge across-the-board is record-shattering in U.S., the sheer lowness of trust in that one institution, NGOs, is (and has been) record-shattering in Russia, and perhaps these are the two main take-aways (or main findings) in this Edelman study.
The four “Institutions” surveyed are: NGOs, Business, Government, and Media.
The page “Trust Crash in U.S.” shows that, in the “General Population,” Americans’ trust in NGOs plunged 9 points from 58% to 49%; trust in Business plunged 10 points; trust in Government plunged 14 points; and trust in Media plunged 5 points. However, amongst America’s “Informed Public,” these figures are even drastically worse that that: down 22 points on NGOs, 20 points on Business, 30 points on Government, and 22 points on Media. Looking further into those figures: what has happened in the U.S. is that, whereas in 2017, America’s Informed Public had enormously higher trust in each of these four Institutions than did the General Population, now the Informed Public (which in all nations typically displays much higher trust than do the General Population) plunged down not only to below where the General Population’s trust-level had been in 2017, but even to below that, and is now almost as low as is that of the General Population. That’s a stunning plunge amongst the elite. So, Edelman’s reports noted for “Informed Public”: “23-point decrease: fell from 6th to last [28th] place,” meaning that the average decline on the four Institutions was 23%.
Furthermore: “U.S. Trust in Media Diverges Along Voting Lines” so that whereas 27% of Republicans trust the Media, 61% of Democrats do. This is the biggest type of partisan divide shown.
“Government Most Broken in the U.S.”: Whereas only 4% of Americans consider NGOs “broken,” and 7% consider Business “broken,” and 21% consider Media “broken,” 59% consider Government “broken.” In China, these figures are: 24% consider NGOs “broken,” 38% consider Business “broken,” 12% consider Media “broken,” and 10% consider Government “broken.” Though Russians place NGOs in the sewer, Americans place NGOs on a pedestal. That says a lot.
“Media Now Least Trusted Institution” amongst all 28 surveyed nations. However, trust in the media is above 60% in three nations: China (71%), Indonesia (68%), and India (61%). 7 nations have less than a third of the population trusting their media: Turkey (30%), Australia (31%), Japan, Sweden and UK (32%), and France and Ireland (33%).
Digging deeper into the “Media” issue: there has been, amongst the 28 nations, a movement away from online news (called “Platforms” by Edelman) toward traditional sources of news (called “Journalism” by Edelman): “While Trust in Platforms Declines, Trust in Journalism Rebounds”: trust in “Journalism” rose from 54% then, up to 59% now, and trust in “Platforms” sank from 53% then, to 51% now. This supports the view that the global campaign by “Journalism” (print and broadcast media) attacking “fake news” as being a product of “Platforms” (social media, search engines, and news aps) and not at all of themselves (such as the newspapers and TV that trumpeted “Saddam’s WMD” etc. and yet still are trusted as if they hadn’t been the ones spreading that pathologically fake ‘news’) has succeeded. In other words: ’news’ that is print or broadcast and thus can’t provide to its audience easy access to its sources being merely a click or two away, is more trusted than is online news, which can (and some of which sites actually do) provide such ability for the audience to check its allegations easily for themselves (merely by clicking onto a link). In other words: the public evidently don’t want to be empowered to verify allegations, but instead want ’news’ that they either can’t verify for themselves or would need to physically do their own personal investigation (not just by means of a click online) in order to decide whether or not to trust the purported ’news’. This shows that the billionaires, who control all of the traditional sources of ‘news’, will likely continue to control the ‘news’, perhaps even more in the future, than now. And it shows that the public, worldwide (at least in these 28 nations), want them to continue controlling the ‘news’. Independent online news-sites will thus likely be easy to crush. They aren’t even being called “Journalism,” no matter how much better than such “Journalism” the best of them might actually happen to be.
“Trust in Platforms Decreased in 21 of 28 Countries” and there was the “Steepest decline in U.S.” So: especially Americans are increasingly trusting and getting their ‘news’ from the Establishment (which generally crave every invasion that the government is considering).
“Uncertainty Over Real vs. Fake News”: 63% worldwide agree with “The average person does not know how to tell good journalism from rumor or falsehoods.” People are passive about that; they accept this personal incompetence that they attribute to themselves. The vast majority of people don’t know that all ‘news’ media that don’t require all reporters to link to any source that they’re using that’s online, should be distrusted and simply avoided, not relied upon (such as is increasingly being done). If there aren’t links provided to all reasonably questionable allegations, and if no quotations are provided of titles or key allegations that can conveniently be web-searched to find and evaluate its source, then that ‘news’ medium can’t reasonably be trusted — but it is instead trusted the most. Since there’s more trust in the non-verifiable print and broadcast ‘news’ media than in the verifiable online ones that do provide clickable links to their online sources, most of the public are satisfied to trust media on the basis of sheer ‘authority’, not on the basis of the reader’s open-mindedness and critical evaluation of every allegation.
“Voices of Authority Regain Credibility”: Out of 11 types of “spokespersons” cited in ‘news’ reports, what’s most distrusted are “A person like yourself” (now rated “at all-time low”) and an “Employee.” What’s most trusted of all is a “Journalist” (presumably here print or broadcast) and what’s second-most-trusted is a “CEO” — these two (the mega-corporates) are trusted considerably more than, for examples, a “Technical expert,” or than an “Academic expert.” So: the mega-corporates don’t even need to cite their own selected and paid ‘experts’, and can just cut their costs, while retaining the loyalty of their (and even growing) following. That makes dictatorship so easy to do — even while cutting costs.
“Employers Trusted Around the World”: this ranged from a low of 57% in Japan and South Korea, to highs of 90% in Indonesia, 86% in India, 83% in Colombia, and 82% in China. Obviously, CEOs are exceptionally high-status around the world. Employees, by contrast, are at or near the bottom.
“Trust in Government” is the highest in China (84%), UAE (77%), Indonesia (73%), India (70%), and Singapore (65%). It is the lowest in South Africa (14%), Brazil (18%), Colombia (24%), Poland (25%), Italy (27%), Mexico (28%), and France and U.S. (33%). Here is that complete list, from the top, all the way down to the bottom: 84% China, 77% UAE, 73% Indonesia, 70% India, 65% Singapore, 54% Netherlands, 51% Turkey, 46% Sweden, 46% Malaysia, 46% Hong Kong, 46% Canada, 45% South Korea, 44% Russia, 43% Germany, 41% Argentina, 37% Japan, 36% UK, 35% Ireland, 35% Australia, 34% Spain, 33% U.S., 33% France, 28% Mexico, 27% Italy, 25% Poland, 24% Colombia, 18% Brazil, 14% South Africa. Since UAE is the very opposite of being a “democracy”, that cannot reasonably be considered to be possibly a rank-ordering of these nations according to the extent they’re a democracy. However, it might possibly be a rank-ordering of the extent to which the public are satisfied with their government; and, so, the complete list is shown here on that factor.
“Trust in Media” national rankings are quite similar to the national rankings on “Trust in Government,” except that Turkey ranks at the very bottom, 28th on this, at only 30%, whereas Turkey ranks 7th (51%) on “Trust in Government.”
“Trust in Business” is topped by Indonesia (78%), India and China (74%), Mexico (70%), UAE (68%), Colombia (64%), and Netherlands (60%). At the bottom on this are Hong Kong and South Korea (36%), Ireland (40%), Russia (41%), and Japan (42%). Canada and U.S. are in the middle: respectively #14 (49%) and 15 (48%).
“Trust Declines in Nine Country Brands” (defined by “company headquartered in”) and by far the most decline of all (6% down, from 55% to 50%) was for U.S. products and services. The most-trusted brands shown (all rated 65% to 68%) are #1 Canada (same as last year) Switzerland (down 1 percent from last year but still #2), and Sweden (down 3% from being tied last year with Canada). The most-distrusted brands shown were India and Mexico (32%), Brazil (34%), China (36%), South Korea (43%) and U.S. (50%). Consequently, for example, any corporation that moves from U.S. to Canada, would, as of now, rise from being a 50%-rated national brand to being a 68%-rated national brand. Of course, such a trick would be more effective for a relatively new corporation, not for one that has already become widely known to be a U.S. brand.
“Polarization of Trust” contrasts the “6 markets with extreme trust losses” (which are topped by U.S.) versus the “6 markets with extreme trust gains.” The latter group are #1 China +27%, #2 UAE +24%, #3 South Korea +23%, #4 Sweden +20%, #5 Malaysia +19%, and #6 Poland +17%. Those latter 6 are becoming places where headquartering a corporation there is adding significantly to the brand-value of that corporation’s products and services.
Hardened US and Iranian positions question efficacy of parties’ negotiating tactics
The United States and Iran seem to be hardening their positions in advance of a resumption of negotiations to revive a 2015 international nuclear agreement once Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi takes office in early August.
Concern among supporters of the agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program which former US President Donald J. Trump abandoned in 2018 may be premature but do raise questions about the efficacy of the negotiating tactics of both parties.
These tactics include the Biden administration’s framing of the negotiations exclusively in terms of the concerns of the West and its Middle Eastern allies rather than also as they relate to Iranian fears, a failure by both the United States and Iran to acknowledge that lifting sanctions is a complex process that needs to be taken into account in negotiations, and an Iranian refusal to clarify on what terms the Islamic republic may be willing to discuss non-nuclear issues once the nuclear agreement has been revived.
The differences in the negotiations between the United States and Iran are likely to be accentuated if and when the talks resume, particularly concerning the mechanics of lifting sanctions.
“The challenges facing the JCPOA negotiations are a really important example of how a failed experience of sanctions relief, as we had in Iran between the Obama and Trump admins, can cast a shadow over diplomacy for years to come, making it harder to secure US interests,” said Iran analyst Esfandyar Batmanghelidj referring to the nuclear accord, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, by its initials.
The Biden administration may be heeding Mr. Batmangheldij’s notion that crafting sanctions needs to take into account the fact that lifting them can be as difficult as imposing them as it considers more targeted additional punitive measures against Iran. Those measures would aim to hamper Iran’s evolving capabilities for precision strikes using drones and guided missiles by focusing on the providers of parts for those weapon systems, particularly engines and microelectronics.
To be sure, there is no discernable appetite in either Washington or Tehran to adjust negotiation tactics and amend their underlying assumptions. It would constitute a gargantuan, if not impossible challenge given the political environment in both capitals. That was reflected in recent days in Iranian and US statements.
Iranian Spiritual Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei suggested that agreement on the revival of the nuclear accord was stumbling over a US demand that it goes beyond the terms of the original accord by linking it to an Iranian willingness to discuss its ballistic missiles program and support for Arab proxies.
In a speech to the cabinet of outgoing President Hassan Rouhani, he asserted that the West “will try to hit us everywhere they can and if they don’t hit us in some place, it’s because they can’t… On paper and in their promises, they say they’ll remove sanctions. But they haven’t lifted them and won’t lift them. They impose conditions…to say in future Iran violated the agreement and there is no agreement” if Iran refuses to discuss regional issues or ballistic missiles.
Iranian officials insist that nothing can be discussed at this stage but a return by both countries to the nuclear accord as is. Officials, distrustful of US intentions, have hinted that an unconditional and verified return to the status quo ante may help open the door to talks on missiles and proxies provided this would involve not only Iranian actions and programs but also those of America’s allies.
Mr. Khamenei’s remarks seemed to bolster suggestions that once in office Mr. Raisi would seek to turn the table on the Biden administration by insisting on stricter verification and US implementation of its part of a revived agreement.
To achieve this, Iran is expected to demand the lifting of all rather than some sanctions imposed or extended by the Trump administration; verification of the lifting; guarantees that the lifting of sanctions is irreversible, possibly by making any future American withdrawal from the deal contingent on approval by the United Nations Security Council; and iron-clad provisions to ensure that obstacles to Iranian trade are removed, including the country’s unfettered access to the international financial system and the country’s overseas accounts.
Mr. Khamenei’s remarks and Mr. Raisi’s anticipated harder line was echoed in warnings by US officials that the ascendancy of the new president would not get Iran a better deal. The officials cautioned further that there could be a point soon at which it would no longer be worth returning to because Iran’s nuclear program would have advanced to the point where the limitations imposed by the agreement wouldn’t produce the intended minimum one year ‘breakout time’ to produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb.
“We are committed to diplomacy, but this process cannot go on indefinitely. At some point, the gains achieved by the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) cannot be fully recovered by a return to the JCPOA if Iran continues the activities that it’s undertaken with regard to its nuclear program…The ball remains in Iran’s court, and we will see if they’re prepared to make the decisions necessary to come back into compliance,” US Secretary Antony Blinken said this week on a visit to Kuwait.
Another US official suggested that the United States and Iran could descend into a tug-of-war on who has the longer breath and who blinks first. It’s a war that so far has not produced expected results for the United States and in which Iran has paid a heavy price for standing its ground.
The official said that a breakdown in talks could “look a lot like the dual-track strategy of the past—sanctions pressure, other forms of pressure, and a persistent offer of negotiations. It will be a question of how long it takes the Iranians to come to the idea they will not wait us out.”
Wendy Sherman’s China visit takes a terrible for the US turn
US Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman, had high hopes for the meeting in China. At first, the Chinese side did not agree to hold the meeting at all. The reaction had obvious reasons: Antony Blinken’s fiasco in Alaska left the Chinese disrespected and visibly irritated. This is not why they travelled all the way.
So then the State Department had the idea of sending Wendy Sherman instead. The US government actually needs China more than China needs the US. Sherman was in China to actually prepare the ground for Biden and a meeting between the two presidents, expecting a red carpet roll for Biden as if it’s still the 2000s — the time when it didn’t matter how the US behaved. Things did not go as expected.
Instead of red carpet talk, Sherman heard Dua Lipa’s “I got new rules”.
That’s right — the Chinese side outlined three bottom lines warning the US to respect its system, development and sovereignty and territorial integrity. In other words, China wants to be left alone.
The bottom lines were not phrased as red lines. This was not a military conflict warning. This was China’s message that if any future dialogue was to take place, China needs to be left alone. China accused the US of creating an “imaginary enemy”. I have written about it before — the US is looking for a new Cold War but it doesn’t know how to start and the problem is that the other side actually holds all the cards.
That’s why the US relies on good old militarism with an expansion into the Indo-Pacific, while aligning everyone against China but expecting the red carpet and wanting all else in the financial and economic domains to stay the same. The problem is that the US can no longer sell this because there are no buyers. Europeans also don’t want to play along.
The headlines on the meeting in the US press are less flattering than usual. If the US is serious about China policy it has to be prepared to listen to much more of that in the future. And perhaps to, yes, sit down and be humble.
Why Jen Psaki is a well-masked Sean Spicer
When Sarah Huckabee Sanders showed up on the scene as White House Press Secretary, the reaction was that of relief. Finally — someone civil, normal, friendly. Jen Psaki’s entry this year was something similar. People were ready for someone well-spoken, well-mannered, even friendly as a much welcome change from the string of liars, brutes or simply disoriented people that the Trump Administration seemed to be lining up the press and communications team with on a rolling basis. After all, if the face of the White House couldn’t keep it together for at least five minutes in public, what did that say about the overall state of the White House behind the scenes?
But Psaki’s style is not what the American media and public perceive it to be. Her style is almost undetectable to the general American public to the point that it could look friendly and honest to the untrained eye or ear. Diplomatic or international organization circles are perhaps better suited to catch what’s behind the general mannerism. Jen Psaki is a well-masked Sean Spicer, but a Sean Spicer nevertheless. I actually think she will do much better than him in Dancing With The Stars. No, in fact, she will be fabulous at Dancing With The Stars once she gets replaced as White House Press Secretary.
So let’s take a closer look. I think what remains undetected by the general American media is veiled aggression and can easily pass as friendliness. Psaki recently asked a reporter who was inquiring about the Covid statistics at the White House why the reporter needed that information because Psaki simply didn’t have that. Behind the brisk tone was another undertone: the White House can’t be questioned, we are off limits. But it is not and that’s the point.
Earlier, right at the beginning in January, Psaki initially gave a pass to a member of her team when the Politico stunner reporter story broke out. The reporter was questioning conflict of interest matters, while the White House “stud” was convinced it was because he just didn’t chose her, cursing her and threatening her. Psaki sent him on holidays. Nothing to see here folks, move along.
Psaki has a level of aggression that’s above average, yet she comes across as one of the most measured and reasonable White House Press Secretaries of the decade. And that’s under pressure. But being able to mask that level of deflection is actually not good for the media because the media wants answers. Style shouldn’t (excuse the pun) trump answers. And being able to get away smoothly with it doesn’t actually serve the public well. Like that time she just walked away like it’s not a big deal. It’s the style of “as long as I say thank you or excuse me politely anything goes”. But it doesn’t. And the American public will need answers to some questions very soon. Psaki won’t be able to deliver that and it would be a shame to give her a pass just because of style.
I think it’s time that we start seeing Psaki as a veiled Sean Spicer. And that Dancing with the Stars show — I hope that will still run despite Covid.
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