In Hanks We Trust

     Who do you trust?
     If you’re a “Survivor” fan, the answer should be no one, but we’re not that cynical – are we?
     Actually, we are – although we love our fictional characters.
     In case you missed it, Reader’s Digest recently published a list of “The 100 Most Trusted People in America” and it turns out that according to the Digest poll, people who pretend to be things they’re not are more trusted than people who actually are things.
     This has received a fair amount of news coverage, but you might be most interested in what The New York Daily News pointed out: Judge Judy and Judge Joe Brown are more trusted than any U.S. Supreme Court justice.
     This is an interesting result and worth comment, but I have to note here that I’m not sure I trust Reader’s Digest or its poll.
     OK, I can buy Tom Hanks as the most trusted man in America. He has won two Oscars. He ought to be able to convince people he can be trusted.
     Alex Trebeck at No. 8 makes a lot of sense. He’s got all the answers (and the questions too).
     I can even buy Sandra Bullock at No. 2. She was a wronged woman. We’re on her side.
     But Robert J. Lefkowitz at No. 11?
     Quick – don’t look him up! – tell me who he is. (OK, I know you can’t tell me because I’m not with you, but you know what I mean.)
     I’m pretty sure Robert J. Lefkowitz, trustworthy as he may be, wouldn’t make the top 11 of the People in America We’ve Heard Of. So how does he get on the Most Trusted list?
     Then we have Brian K. Kobilka at No. 14 and Lloyd Shapley at No. 15.
     Now Google the coverage of the poll result and see if you can find anyone talking about those three guys.
     How did this happen?
     I don’t know, and since you know I can’t be trusted, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you anyway. But I have my suspicions.
     After all, if I asked you whom you trusted most, wouldn’t you say something like “Mom?” Robert J. Lefkowitz wouldn’t pop into your mind. For that matter, Tom Hanks or Sandra Bullock wouldn’t either.
     (By the way, in case you’re wondering, my response would have been Kermit the Frog. There’s something so sincere about him.)
     So I’m guessing what really happened is either Reader’s Digest made this whole thing up as a sort of gullibility test or the pollsters showed respondents a list of people – with descriptions of who they are – and then asked for trust responses of some sort.
     Either way, that makes the poll rigged.
     Be that as it may, the TV judges coming out way ahead of real judges is something to think about. Given a choice between Judge Judy and Justice Sotomayor, people would pick Judge Judy to hear their case?
     If you’re concerned about the image of the legal system and faith in American justice, you should learn from this.
     If you want judges to be truly respected, they need to be on TV.
     Preferably at least five times a week, and they need to yell at litigants every now and then.
     A few movie roles or maybe a game show-hosting stint wouldn’t hurt either.
     Trust is vital to the functioning of a free society.
     Do you think anyone would filibuster a Judge Judy nomination to the Supreme Court?
     The polls have spoken.
     Inspiration: If you haven’t seen the full poll results, I have to let you know that Reader’s Digest provided an “inspiring quote” from each person on its list.
     Here’s the one from Judge Judy: “I love the truth. If you don’t tell me the truth, you’re gonna be eating your shoes.”
     Now that’s how you create trust.

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