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This Is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality
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This Is Not Propaganda: Adventures in the War Against Reality

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  561 ratings  ·  68 reviews
When information is a weapon, every opinion is an act of war.

We live in a world of influence operations run amok, where dark ads, psyops, hacks, bots, soft facts, ISIS, Putin, trolls, and Trump seek to shape our very reality. In this surreal atmosphere created to disorient us and undermine our sense of truth, we've lost not only our grip on peace and democracy--but our
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published August 6th 2019 by PublicAffairs
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Jan 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
By Their Language Ye Shall Know Them

All use of language is intentional. All speech. All conversation. All writing. If it weren’t intentional, speech and writing would have no purpose and therefore they would be not just vain but incomprehensible, less communicative than the twittering of birds or the chattering of the mad. The purpose of all human communication is to convince or endear or to intimidate or any of thousands of other intentions. Sometimes it’s purpose is to deceive. But it is
Over the years I've developed a set of rules to choose the books to pack as my Christmas reading. Based on bitter experience, I no longer choose large hardbacks, apocalypses, genocides, or Kafka. However, it is very difficult to avoid reading anything depressing over the festive season, simply because depressing things are often interesting and worth reading about. 'This Is Not Propaganda' is my accidental depressing Christmas reading this year. It's fascinating, but deeply alarming. I enjoyed ...more
Nov 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is excellent--it is well-written and it does what all the other books about this topic don't do, which is to give an insider account of the rest of the world--especially Russia. My favorite part of this whole book is when these Russian hackers hear facebook talk about Russian hacking and they crack up laughing because Americans are so freaking naive. This is a must-read.
David Wineberg
Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
This Is Not Propaganda is an alternate history of the present, a different view of the world. There is some irony in this, because it is all about how nothing is what it seems. The reason is the information revolution, and specifically social media. All sides and all factions make their biggest efforts misinforming others, while calling their own to glory. Some win by simply sowing confusion in general, and no topic is too trivial to abuse. The book is a survey of this disease all over the ...more
Maru Kun
Peter Pomerantsev wrote one of the defining books on propaganda and political manipulation under Putin Nothing is True and Everything is Possible. Fingers crossed this will be as good.
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, non-fiction
4.5 rounded down
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
... I see people I have known my whole life slip away from me on social media, reposting conspiracies from sources I have never heard of, some sort of internet undercurrent pulling whole families apart, as if we never really knew each other , as if the algorithms know more about us than we do, as if we are becoming subsets of our own data, which is rearranging our relations and identities with its own logic, or in the cause of someone else's interests we can't even see ...
The trick with
Dan Connors
Nov 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-books
Lies, especially lies meant to change public opinion, have always been with us. In the old days before the internet, authoritarian governments took over newspapers, radio, and television stations to broadcast their version of reality. Sometimes a simple paper flyer was left at people's doorsteps in a vain hope that they would be read and believed. There has always been a huge market for lies in the service of politicians and their parties.

Today, with 24/7 access to news feeds and information
Sep 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Politicians in post-Soviet Russia became experts at a new kind of information warfare that was designed to sow so much general confusion that the populace wouldn't be able to discern any kind of truths about what was happening in the country. This involved, among other things, flooding the media with false information; denying activities that were constantly taking place right before people's eyes; and playing different populations against each other by feeding them conflicting information.

Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-politics
We seem to be inhabiting a world whose functioning we seem to be blissfully unaware of. A greater point of concern might be the dangerous reality that we are not aware of the very fact that we are unaware of the true levers that are responsible for the behavior and actions that consume the lives of close to 7 billion human beings on our Planet. An era of digitization has resulted in us being swamped by a deluge of information. A ceaseless, shapeless, and remorseless alpha numeric cascade assails ...more
Nov 28, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2019
The nations of the world always seem to be at war, if it is not a hot war, then it is a cold war, but now we seem to be in a virtual war. But how do you find the people who are behind the denial of service attacks, who are responsible for trolling those that decide to make a stand against the common views and the physical locations of the bot farms that have sprung up.

What is truth in this modern age of fake news and disinformation? It is like we are living in a reimagined version of 1984, and
Sep 18, 2019 rated it did not like it
A book designed to wow dullards.
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I'll never again suggest that the postmodernists are hyperbolic. There is something deeply disturbing about This is Not Propaganda. I thought I read about Russian troll farms and weaponized disinformation in the news, but I must have skimmed over it. This was often a shocking read for me. Having said that, I'll be disappointed if, in five years, This is Not Propaganda remains the best book on this topic. It is not a perfect work. For now, however, I'm nearly at the halfway point in the 2019-2020 ...more
Dec 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Troll farms, misinformation, propaganda, smear campaigns, Trump, Fox News and more.

Recommended reading and a guide to how humanity blundered into a tepid rerun of the 30s.

‘And so the politician who makes a big show of rejecting facts, who validates the pleasure of spouting nonsense, who indulges in a full, anarchic liberation from coherence, from glum reality, becomes attractive.

That enough Americans could vote for someone like Donald Trump, a man with so little regard for making sense, whose
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
The last book I read, The Checklist Manifesto, says that failure originates from a lack of information or ineptitude. In This Is Not Propaganda, Soviet-born British journalist, author, and TV producer Peter Pomerantsev claims that the information is out there, and so are some very capable and well-meaning people who'd like to build checklists and action information in service of doing the right thing. However, the free flow of information itself has enabled many different powers-that-be to ...more
Whitney Milam
Jul 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A captivating, clear-eyed, and provocative look at what it means to live in the 'futureless present.'

"You need to build a fairytale that will be common to all of them." That fairy tale couldn't be a political ideology: the great ideas that had powered collective notions of progress were dead. The disparate groups needed to be unified around a central emotion, a feeling powerful enough to unite them yet vague enough mean anything to anyone.

A 2013 Pentagon paper about China's doctrine of Three
Marc Nash
Oct 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Really quite disappointing. First of all drawn from newspaper articles of his, and even though expanded here, this still has the feel of a review of existing material rather than investigative journalism that opens up new insights.

Secondly, though I profoundly believe in the digital-algorithmic manipulation of data offered up by people online to bespoke target them to influence their voting decisions, the examples and explanations offered here make it seem less probable. He cites an example of
Bronwen Griffiths
A timely but unsettling book about the 'weaponisation' truth. Pomerantsev examines troll factories, the way language is manipulated to serve certain types of 'truth,' how we can be manipulated by social media, the over-abundance of information which can confuse us. He doesn't offer any real solutions. Perhaps this is a slight weakness in the book but I found it both fascinating and alarming. A must-read for anyone concerned with the future.
Fascinating, terrifying, and important. Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand how the information war is being fought and won by those who don't have the best interests of society at heart.
Nov 02, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I didn't really learn an awful lot about how the internet works from this book or how governments social media to achieve political objectives.
Lisa Buren
Dec 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"This is not propaganda" is a well written family memoir mixed in with interviews of the present. Together, they make up a frightening portrait of the development of modern media in geopolitics. As the story takes you across the world to different elections, political beliefs and those involved, it slowly starts to connect events - in our globalized world, no elections is free from influence from outside. And that is exactly what you'll need to alter reality in your favour.
All together,
Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
First I should start out with some disclosures. I worked at Radio Free Europe when the author's father worked there and RFE features a bit in the author's story. This book is essentially a history or information warfare told from the author's perspective as a Russian immigrant to the UK (more or less) who became a journalist. Very narrative driven and the author takes us from the Philippines to Moscow and Beijing in his narrative. At times it reads a bit too autobiographical but, if you like ...more
Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
Some interesting bits on troll farms and the attempts to influence elections/voters. Hampered by rambling discussions that go nowhere (and loong reflections on his family history), clearly motivated by his indoctrination into continuing post-cold war politics (notice, no comment on Ivan's job for Radio Europe as similar to what he fears now), no critique of the US/UK for similar tactics (not even a mention or sign that he knows anything about it - which we might suspect he does) ....

One could
Aug 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Couple of interesting anecdotes that never seem to fall into a larger framework of understanding. Read "The Future Is History" instead.
Joe O'Donnell
If you’re feeling completely disoriented by our world of fake news, state-sponsored mass disinformation campaigns and psychological manipulation through social media, then “This is not Propaganda” could be the book that could help you to understand how we arrived in this dystopian state. Any of you who are familiar with Peter Pomerantsev through his superb previous book “Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia” will know he is a master at unravelling how ...more
One of three books that I would recommend to get a better understanding of the slippery reality that we inhabit today: The Attention Merchants by Tim Wu, Hate Inc. by Matt Taibbi and this fine book by Peter Pomerantsev. The internet has not only delivered us an overload of information but has also created bubbles or artificial realities tailored to the emotional hot buttons of social network participants (ie. nearly everyone) Chapter headings such as Pop Up People and Soft Facts suggest the ...more
Jim Parker
Jan 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
While lots of reviews say ‘everybody should read this book’, that case truly applies to this book. The author, with experience of KGB oppression in Russia, sees a new era of political manipulation dominating not just the emerging world but developed democracies as well. This error is being driven by an excess information, not a suppression of information. In troll factories around, the world, paid operatives are spreading lies and manipulation through social media channels. Many of the ...more
Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant and very disquieting portrait of our day. It leaves me wondering about solid ground and facts; can we still find it/them collectively? Is it at all possible? I’m grateful for Pomerantsevs concluding chapter that lets me, as a reader, see a little light ahead through literature.

Having finished the book today I’m already considering a re-read.
Jan 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4, cause I expected 6 after reading his perfect book Nothing is True and Everything is Possible.

I enjoyed the parts about propaganda (well written and researched), his memories and flashbacks to experiences of his parents less so (even though it made complete sense to mix these topics, it did not worked for me).

However, the parts about propaganda were really informative. I do recommend the book.
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Peter Pomerantsev is an award-winning contributor to the London Review of Books. His writing has been published in the Financial Times,, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, Daily Beast, Newsweek, and Atlantic Monthly. He has also worked as a consultant for the EU and for think tanks on projects covering the former Soviet Union. He lives in London.
“If all information is seen as part of a war, out go any dreams of a global information space where ideas flow freely, bolstering deliberative democracy. Instead, the best future one can hope for is an ‘information peace’, in which each side respects the other’s ‘information sovereignty’: a favoured concept of both Beijing and Moscow, and essentially a cover for enforcing censorship.” 0 likes
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