This Is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality
By: Peter Pomerantsev
PublicAffairs (August 6, 2019)
This Is Not Propaganda is a book about exactly that: Propaganda. See, in an age of over information, the truth is easier to drown out and distort. And that is just what we see. Then there are the tech oligarchs – in bed with the governments of the world – deciding what speech is acceptable and simply hiding what they disagree with. Of course, I am intellectually curious about the persuasion aspects of this topic. But I have no doubt centralized authority is in the business of lying for self-preservation. This book is a solid follow-up volume to Nothing Is True And Everything Is Possible.
(I think the future is a private web, the bifurcation of these centralized systems. It’s a move from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0. But that will take time.)
Two of my favorite quotes:
Vucic has also swapped a dated form of media influence for a more sophisticated one. In 1999, Vucic would call in newspaper editors and threaten them if they didn’t toe the line. Today there are dozens of media, including many foreign ones. However, if a newspaper or television station wants to win government advertising, or if its owners want to win government contracts, then it has to toe the government line.5 It’s the same in Erdogan’s Turkey or Viktor Orbán’s Hungary: market-orientated in form, authoritarian in content. One of the premises of democratization was that a plural media based on free-market rules would help ensure democracy. It was always a tenuous idea. Tycoons with special interests often own the media in democracies, but now it can be utterly hollowed out from the inside.
And as a worldview it grants those who subscribe to it certain rewards: if all the world is a conspiracy, then your own failures are no longer all your fault. The fact that you achieved less than you hoped for, that your life is a mess—it’s all the fault of the conspiracy. More important, conspiracy is a way to maintain control. In a world where even the most authoritarian regimes struggle to impose censorship, one has to surround audiences with so much cynicism about anyone’s motives, persuade them that behind every seemingly benign motivation is a nefarious, if impossible-to-prove plot, so that they lose faith in the possibility of an alternative, a tactic the renowned Russian media analyst Vasily Gatov calls “white jamming.”