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Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
October 2020
Print publication year:
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Creative Commons:
Creative Common License - CC Creative Common License - BY
This content is Open Access and distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence CC-BY 4.0

Book description

The intentional spread of falsehoods – and attendant attacks on minorities, press freedoms, and the rule of law – challenge the basic norms and values upon which institutional legitimacy and political stability depend. How did we get here? The Disinformation Age assembles a remarkable group of historians, political scientists, and communication scholars to examine the historical and political origins of the post-fact information era, focusing on the United States but with lessons for other democracies. Bennett and Livingston frame the book by examining decades-long efforts by political and business interests to undermine authoritative institutions, including parties, elections, public agencies, science, independent journalism, and civil society groups. The other distinguished scholars explore the historical origins and workings of disinformation, along with policy challenges and the role of the legacy press in improving public communication. This title is also available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.


'This is a hard-hitting book that is richly layered theoretically. It adds much to our understanding of disinformation in democracy while also serving as proof of the necessity of making research on disinformation an area of study across disciplines. The intellectually diverse and distinguished contributors have produced a must-read volume for all interested in disinformation and anyone interested in the future of democracy.'

Bruce Bimber - University of California, Santa Barbara

'This volume traces the deep, thorny, and twisted roots of disinformation in American politics. In sobering detail, it lays bare the psychological, institutional, economic, partisan, technological, (geo)political, and regulatory underpinnings of disinformation, making it urgently clear why and how disinformation is neither accidental nor (easily) curable. Yet this book also offers a sliver of hope in the form of implicit and explicit guidance for changes that could help keep disinformation in check.'

Amber E. Boydstun - University of California, Davis

'The Disinformation Age offers a sweeping series of chapters from leading scholars that cover the history, politics, implications, and potential solutions to the problem of disinformation in democracy. This expertly curated book eschews disciplinary boundaries to offer a sophisticated holistic understanding of the problem of disinformation. Even more, it knits together the voices of scholars seldom in the same conversation and reveals the power of this emerging field to provide us with ways to protect democracy from those who seek to destroy its epistemological foundations.'

Daniel Kreiss - The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Full book PDF
  • The Disinformation Age
    pp i-i
  • Sponsored by the Social Science Research Council
    pp ii-ii
  • SSRC Anxieties of Democracy - Series page
    pp iii-iv
  • Copyright page
    pp vi-vi
  • Contents
    pp vii-viii
  • Contributors
    pp ix-xiv
  • Preface
    pp xv-xxv
  • The Origins and Importance of Political Disinformation
  • Acknowledgments
    pp xxvi-xxviii
  • Part I - Disinformation in Political and Historical Context
    pp 1-40
  • Part II - The Current Situation
    pp 41-92
  • 2 - A Political Economy of the Origins of Asymmetric Propaganda in American Media
    pp 43-66
  • 3 - The Flooded Zone
    pp 67-92
  • How We Became More Vulnerable to Disinformation in the Digital Era
  • Part III - Historical Roots of Disinformation
    pp 93-150
  • Part IV - The Policy Problem
    pp 151-210
  • 6 - How Digital Disinformation Turned Dangerous
    pp 153-168
  • 7 - Policy Lessons from Five Historical Patterns in Information Manipulation
    pp 169-189
  • 8 - Why It Is So Difficult to Regulate Disinformation Online
    pp 190-210
  • Part V - The Role of Public Broadcasting
    pp 211-258
  • 9 - US Public Broadcasting: A Bulwark against Disinformation?
    pp 213-237
  • 10 - The Public Media Option
    pp 238-258
  • Confronting Policy Failure in an Age of Misinformation
  • Conclusion - Defending Democracy in the Disinformation Age
    pp 259-260


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