Houston Matters

What’s Behind Some People’s Distrust of Authority?

Egged on by the echo chambers of social media, cable news, and commercial talk radio, some Houstonians regularly perceive authority figures as threats to their personal freedom. They doubt law enforcement, statesmen, doctors – once-respected figures – by default. Consider this recent example: When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed Senate Bill 359, which granted Texas […]

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Egged on by the echo chambers of social media, cable news, and commercial talk radio, some Houstonians regularly perceive authority figures as threats to their personal freedom. They doubt law enforcement, statesmen, doctors – once-respected figures – by default.

Consider this recent example: When Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed Senate Bill 359, which granted Texas ER doctors power to temporarily detain mentally ill patients they perceive to be an imminent threat, it came as a shock to the bill's supporters and many lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. The bill was supported by mental health experts, medical groups, and law enforcement, and received little debate or opposition. Turns out, the Governor was heavily lobbied by a coalition opposing the bill, made up of an anti-psychiatry group, an anti-vaccine group, a group opposing water fluoridation, and others. What did these groups have in common? Distrust of government, and an intense desire to defend individual liberties. And they were apparently persuasive.

What's behind such distrust today? How does it play into public policy debates? We talk it over with Brandon Rottinghaus, professor of political science at the University of Houston, and Temple Northup, communication professor at the University of Houston.

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Michael Hagerty

Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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