Sunday, August 18, 2019

This is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality (Peter Pomerantsev)

Peter Pomerantsev's This Is Not Propaganda is the author’s second book, a follow-up to Nothing is True and Everything is Possible about Russian propaganda. Pomerantsev’s latest tackles the information war that is waged daily via social media, cable news, and in official government channels and shows how we are constantly barraged by misinformation, half-truths, or worse on a local, regional, and global scale.

Pomerantsev’s family emigrated from the former Soviet Union through Austria to England, where his father worked for the BBC during the latter stages of the Cold War. The book parallels much of what his family experienced in the Cold War along with current events, showing the stark contrast between the traditional Western style of media and what his family was subjected to. Pomerantsev’s modern parallel steers us from internet troll farms to Twitter mobs to the art of protest that is waged and raged around the world. Each of these tries to control a narrative and help steer the story that we are bombarded with. With as much information as we are subjected to, Pomerantsev argues that we have not only lost our grip on peace and democracy but our notion of what those words mean, as is evidenced by what he stumbles across in a trip to China.

This Is Not Propaganda tries to imagine how we can reboot our politics and ourselves when our definition of reality and sense of order are changing at warp speed. The author struggles to come up with hard suggestions but shows one parallel, that order is not always constant, evidenced by the history of his family’s Ukranian town. The best suggestion in his final chapter is constructive news, where practical solutions are provided in a facts-based environment. In an era where what passes as news is often blended with entertainment, agenda, or both - a more constructive and less hyperbolic approach to how we gather information may be a good first step to regain a sense of balance in news.