In This Review

This Is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality
This Is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality
By Peter Pomerantsev
PublicAffairs, 2019, 256 pp

Combining personal memoir with investigative reporting, Pomerantsev shares vivid and chilling reports from the frontlines of the disinformation wars. He explores the worlds of hackers, trolls, and purveyors of fake news, making stops in the Philippines, Russia, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine, and a number of countries in Latin America. The dark arts are evolving as authoritarian regimes learn to speak in the vernacular of the digital age, spreading fake news through social media, talk shows, and reality TV shows. “Digital vigilantes” employed by hostile governments flood Western societies with conspiracy theories and “alternative facts” to sow confusion and erode faith in democratic institutions. Through many anecdotes and colorful stories, Pomerantsev tells a depressing morality tale of the age: it was thought that technology and information would strengthen democratic, liberal, and open societies; make public debate more informed; and generate cooperation across borders—but the opposite has happened. Information is now weaponized, and one country can come close to destroying another “almost without touching it.”