A powerful, pocket-sized citizen’s guide on how to fight back against the disinformation campaigns that are imperiling American democracy, from the bestselling author of Post-Truth and How to Talk to a Science Denier.
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.
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.
Praise for On Disinformation
“This brief but impactful book offers trenchant commentary on the current war on truth and workable solutions to protect democracy in an increasingly chaotic world. Thoughtful and illuminating.”
“In post-truth America, reality isn’t dying by accident or suicide; it’s being poisoned on purpose. Lee McIntyre—a philosopher of knowledge as well as a student of disinformation—names the culprits and exposes their methods. Even more important, he shows how to foil the crime. On Disinformation is the brisk, bracing primer that everyone should read on how to make America truthful again.”
—Jonathan Rauch, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution, and author of The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth
“McIntyre’s latest book connects the sordid history of science denial and climate denial to today’s election denial, exposing how interests exploit disinformation and work fissures in our society to weaken citizens’ trust in our democracy and in one another.”
—Sheldon Whitehouse, U.S. Senator, Rhode Island
“Lee McIntyre has emerged as our foremost scholar of science denial and an intellectual activist combatting the attempted assassination of truth. In the teeth of fake news, alternative facts, conspiracy theories, identity politics, postmodernism, and epistemological relativism, McIntyre’s On Disinformation expertly identifies who the enemies of truth are and how to counter their claims with reason, science, and compassion. A tour de force of scholarship and advocacy.”
—Michael Shermer, Publisher Skeptic magazine, Presidential Fellow Chapman University, author of Conspiracy, The Believing Brain, and Why People Believe Weird Things
“McIntyre returns to deliver one of the most important books of the year. If you’re going to buy one book, buy this pocket-sized guide and help save our democracy from disinformation.”
—Sander van der Linden, Professor of Social Psychology in Society, University of Cambridge; author of Foolproof: Why Misinformation Infects our Minds and How to Build Immunity
“We hear and read a lot about disinformation but too often this phenomenon is presented as something random or chaotic when it is in fact organized and deliberate. Professor McIntyre brilliantly dissects the strategies and mechanisms fueling disinformation, as well as its major actors and perpetrators. This information is essential if we ever hope to topple disinformation in America and maintain our democratic values.”
—Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, Dean, National School of Tropical Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine and Director, Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development
“Some people carry around a pocket Constitution. In today’s post-truth era, Lee McIntyre’s On Disinformation is another pocket guide Americans would be wise to keep close at hand. Understanding how to identify and respond to the erosion of our shared reality is an indispensable prerequisite for restoring democratic norms and guardrails laid out in our founding document.”
—Asha Rangappa, Senior Lecturer, Yale Jackson School of Global Affairs and former FBI Special Agent