This story is not propaganda (well, we don’t *think* so)

Lifestyle

This story is not propaganda (well, we don’t *think* so)

In the age of too much information, a timely review of ‘This Is Not Propaganda’ by Peter Pomerantsev (Faber)

Tim Smith-Laing

We live in an era of astonishing “information abundance”. Those of us who spend large chunks of our lives online have, at any given moment, an entire world of knowledge (and pseudo-knowledge) at our fingertips. From articles like this, in the online versions of good old-fashioned newspapers, to vast uploaded libraries of books and journals, the never-ending channel-hop of YouTube, and on to the endless scrolls of Twitter, Facebook and a million million say streams, it is all just a few clicks away.

In my own case it sometimes feels like I am trying to absorb it all at once. My browser now has 26 tabs open, from a 1990 Esquire article on the Liberian civil war to my ever-filling e-mail inbox. The ease of it all is amazing and disorientating. Earlier today I pulled up a 16th-century Jesuit treatise on equivocation; when distraction kicked in, I found myself on Twitter reading live updates about a cruise ship brawl.

This is all wonderful, but as Peter Pomerantsev notes in This Is Not Propaganda, it comes with a legion of problems. In the 20th century, the goal of free-flowing information was closely tied to the spread of democracy, education and accountability. Informed citizens, through knowledge alone, had the means to resist secretive governments and hold shady corporations to account, and participate in a public sphere where evidence and reason might – at least in the long term – trump rhetoric and propaganda...

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