On Disinformation

On DisinformationFirstly, On Disinformation is a pleasure to hold simply as an object. It’s a physically small book, the cover only about half the surface area of a regular paperback and less than 200 pages inside. Something about it feels like an old style chapbook that has something definitive to say, doesn’t employ any flourish to do it (the cover contains simple typography and colours with little real design), comes to tell its story and gets out.

After that, the content is just as satisfying. McIntyre, an American academic who’s well versed in the topic, thinks the confusion and obfuscation surrounding simple facts in modern politics (particularly in America) isn’t an accident of history or a zeitgeist bought about by the politics of division and hate spearheaded by Trump.

He thinks the ‘post-truth’ political climate that’s given rise to climate change denial, QAnon conspiracy nutjobs and the January 6 Capitol attack is the result of a concerted effort by specific powers that be with very specific agendas.

MacIntyre starts On Disinformation by recounting the story about how the tobacco industry – knowing full well how harmful its products were – embarked on a carefully planned campaign to sow division and confusion to put off regulation and scrutiny and protect its profits for decades.

Since then it’s been an accepted tool in the playbook of the rich and powerful to maintain their grip on the status quo, it’s just become more blatant and frankly comical in the post-Trump era when it seemed like all bets were off.

As well as making very considered arguments and drawing logical conclusions from them, McIntyre considers democracy itself under threat, and On Disinformation is the literary equivalent of a sharp slap across the face, a voice asking if any of us can really be so dumb, and a challenge to see it all before it’s too late.