A powerful, pocket-sized citizen’s guide on how to fight back against the disinformation campaigns imperiling American democracy
The effort to destroy facts and make America ungovernable didn’t come out of nowhere. It is the culmination of seventy years of strategic denialism. In On Disinformation, Lee McIntyre shows how the war on facts began, and how ordinary citizens can fight back against the scourge of disinformation that is now threatening the very fabric of our society.
Drawing on his twenty years of experience as a scholar of science denial, McIntyre explains how autocrats wield disinformation to manipulate a populace and deny obvious realities, why the best way to combat disinformation is to disrupt its spread, and most importantly, how we can win the war on truth.
“In a society that still has a free press, disinformation is the new censorship,” McIntyre writes in the book. “Remember that scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Harrison Ford has finally found the Holy Grail but can’t tell which one it is because it’s surrounded by a hundred fakes? That’s the point of disinformation. If you can’t hide or destroy the truth, surround it with bullshit. You can always kill it later.”
McIntyre takes readers through the history of strategic denialism to show how we arrived at this precarious political moment and identifies the creators, amplifiers, and believers of disinformation. Along the way, he also demonstrates how today’s “reality denial” follows the same flawed blueprint of the “five steps of science denial” used by climate deniers and anti-vaxxers; shows how Trump has emulated disinformation tactics created by Russian and Soviet intelligence dating back to the 1920s; provides interviews with leading experts on information warfare, counterterrorism, and political extremism; and spells out the need for algorithmic transparency from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
On Disinformation lays out ten everyday practical steps that we can take as ordinary citizens—from resisting polarization to pressuring our Congresspeople to regulate social media—as well as the important steps our government (if we elect the right leaders) must take.
Compact, easy-to-read (and then pass on to a friend), and never more urgent, On Disinformation does nothing less than empower us with the tools and knowledge needed to save our republic from autocracy before it is too late.
On Disinformation in the media:
Lee McIntyre was interviewed on NPR/GBH’s Boston Public Radio about the book.
McIntyre wrote a “book bite” piece for the Next Big Idea Club, offering five key insights from On Disinformation. The Next Big Idea Club also included the book in a round-up of books to survive the future.
The author was interviewed by BIG THINK about the “post-truth playbook.”
LitHub published an excerpt from On Disinformation on the role that big tech plays in the spread of falsehoods.
NPR Dallas’s Think/KERA spoke to McIntyre about the book and about how ordinary citizens can combat the rising tide of disinformation.
The Financial Times included On Disinformation in its coverage of books that uncover how conspiracy theories have given way to authoritarianism.
McIntyre was interviewed for the LitHub Keen On podcast, discussing propaganda and how to fight back against it.
Kirkus Reviews called the book “thoughtful and illuminating” in its recent review.
On Disinformation was referenced in a Science magazine article about how to battle information bias.