On Disinformation: How to Fight for Truth and Protect Democracy (Paperback)
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.
About the Author
Lee McIntyre is Research Fellow at the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University. Formerly Executive Director of the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University, he has taught philosophy at Colgate University, Boston University, Simmons University, Tufts Experimental College, and Harvard Extension School.
Included in The Next Big Idea Club’s August 2023 Must-Read Books list
"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."
“On Disinformation: How to Fight for Truth and Protect Democracy, a new book by Lee McIntyre, captures some of the current alarm. His book is a pocket-size polemic warning of ‘truth killers’ running ‘a coordinated campaign’ intended ‘to spread disinformation out to the masses—in order to foment doubt, division and distrust—and create an army of deniers.’ McIntyre, a philosopher and research fellow at Boston University, points to conspiratorial falsehoods about Covid vaccines and the 2020 election. It’s not that accurate information about the vaccines and the election was unavailable — it’s that it was competing against a fire hose of falsehoods made infinitely easier to disseminate on social media and the internet.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Most scientists have an enduring belief that even if scientific truth is not embraced in the short term, it will be eventually. Lee McIntyre’s new manifesto, On Disinformation, packaged—like Mao’s—in a little red book, urges those who care about scientific truth and democracy to make a stand now rather than wait for society to come around.”
“The philosopher Lee McIntyre, author of several books about disinformation and the scientific method, has written a short prescriptive polemic...The subject of On Disinformation is not QAnon as such but the related phenomenon of “denialism”. The two are linked for the obvious reason that denying the realities of man-made climate change, Covid-19 or the Biden election are essential if you are to posit a conspiracy by the deep state or the Clintons to foist these “false” ideas on an accepting, sheeplike citizenry.”
—The Financial Times
"On Disinformation follows hot on the heels of McIntyre’s How to Talk to a Science Denier, in which the professional philosopher illustrated how difficult it is to argue with your enemy unless you understand how they think; in which he recommended taking even the most bizarre of opposing viewpoints seriously, if only to level the playing field.In what feels very much like the next logical instalment of his discourse on living in a post-truth world, On Disinformation builds on McIntyre’s earlier work by examining how ‘strategic denialism’ is created, amplified and accepted into fringe orthodoxy."
—E&T, Engineering and Technology