This week, the World Health Organization was accused of peddling fake news. Critics say they’ve spread misinformation about how coronavirus spreads that will cause thousands of avoidable deaths as countries ease their lockdowns. For many of us, Cambridge Analytica put fake news at the map. And it’s now so central to how we read what we read, that we can’t always tell the difference between weaponised lies and scientific updates. Or, is there really no difference?
This week we’ve curated five books that look at false information, propaganda and fake news. From the slow death of democracy, to the impact of tech on our conception of reality, these texts unpick this widespread culture of lies from different perspectives.
1: Amusing Ourselves to Death - Neil Postman
“Mr. Postman is in an edifying tradition of medium-bashers. Theater, movies, newspapers, magazines and radio have all been charged with degrading public taste and morality and portending the barbarians’ victory over civilization. These warnings have not been without merit, and as Mr. Postman properly keeps reminding us, television’s impact is immeasurably more pervasive than anything that has gone before. Still, the barbarians, though always with us, have not quite triumphed.”
2: The People Vs Tech: How the internet is killing democracy (and how we save it) Jamie Bartlett
“He rightly characterises journalism as a weakened element of the public commons and worries that questions such as “What new injustices are tech creating?” are extremely difficult to answer, and that the complexity of investigating platform power will just be too expensive or difficult: ‘We are therefore in the unenviable position where the tech companies could become even less subject to the investigations that could keep their growing power in check.’.”
3: Cyberwar -Kathleen Jamieson
“Although we can never measure with precision the impact of the Russian influence campaign on the 2016 US presidential election, this detailed study by renowned political communication academic Jamieson is easily the best analysis we have. She argues persuasively that given the tiny margins in the poll results, the Russian influence campaign probably delivered the presidency to Trump.”
4:Weaponized Lies: How to Think Critically in the Post-Truth Era - Daniel J. Levetinn
“Daniel Levitin’s field guide is a critical-thinking primer for our shrill, data-drenched age. It’s an essential tool for really understanding the texts, posts, tweets, magazines, newspapers, podcasts, op-eds, interviews, and speeches that bombard us every day. From the way averages befuddle to the logical fallacies that sneak by us, every page is enlightening.”
5: Enemy of the People: Trump’s War on the Press, the New McCarthyism, and the Threat to American Democracy Marvin Kalb
“Kalb has written this book as something of a journalists’ call to arms, reminding them that determined reporters can and do make a difference in rooting out and spotlighting corruption, and in holding our leaders accountable to the people they represent. ”