Peter Pomerantsev’s book “This is not propaganda. Adventures in the War Against Reality„ provides an overview of the forms in which information manipulation has developed in the world with the help of abundant examples.
Pomerantsev is a well-known journalist and media thinker, one of the creators of the term “fact driven”, of whom Propastop has also written. Pomerantsev’s previous work “Nothing is True and Everything is Possible“: focused on Russia and talked about manipulating reality by our Eastern Neighbor.
The book “This is not propaganda” cannot bypass Russia. The story is of course, about the infamous troll factory in St. Petersburg, but also about the Bronze Soldier Night information attacks against Estonia and the propaganda and disinformation campaigns related to the war in Eastern Ukraine.
Pomerantsev’s view is broader than just issues on Russia. We get an idea of how information, media and public opinion can be directed by the example of different regimes and authorities. The severely firm handed Philippine dictator Rodrigo Duterte, the Syrian tyrant Assad, the Chinese government as well as the Mexican drug cartels are all using the same information weapon.
However, information campaigns are not just tools for dictatorships and criminals. In the book, we can read about the activities of Srdja Popović, an exporter of social movements with Serbian roots, the Brexit campaign in the United Kingdom, as well as the SDI Institute for Strategic Dialogue also in the UK, which is trying to persuade extremists over with “counter-speech”.
The protagonists of the easy-to-read short chapters are real people Pomerantsev has met. People like Maria Ressa, head of the Philippine media publication Rappler, Alberto Escorcia, a Mexican media analyst, Rashad Ali, an SDI activist, and Khaled Khatib, a Syrian video blogger, make every case alive and easy to read.
Pomerantsev’s parents left the USSR when Peter was an infant. The book is filled with the familiar confusion of a person from the Soviet era about the change that has taken place with information. How has it happened that the ideal of freedom of information, which meant democracy, justice and clarity at the end of the Cold War, has become such a confusing reality in a few decades?
The book was published by Tänapäev in 2019 and translated into Estonian by Heija-Liis Ristikivi.
Peter Pomerantsev’s photo: Jindřich Nosek (NoJin) /Wikipedia /CC