Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Richard Stengel

Richard Stengel's new book is Information Wars: How We Lost the Global Battle Against Disinformation and What We Can Do About It.

From the transcript of his interview with Fareed Zakaria:
ZAKARIA: Let me ask you about something Fiona Hill said during her testimony. She talked about how the idea that Ukraine was actually the country that had hacked the 2016 election was part of a kind of Russian disinformation campaign. It was fiction. And yet it has taken hold in a large part of the American public that, you know, a lot of people in -- on the Hill, the Republicans believe it. A lot of people who watch Fox News believe it. What does one do about that kind of disinformation?

STENGEL: By the way, there are decades of Russian disinformation. The CIA caused AIDS. The CIA shot John F. Kennedy. All of these things get embedded in our psyches. That's why disinformation is so dangerous. It's hard to rebut it. It gets stuck in our brains. And the Russians are very good at it.

I think the other reason that disinformation works is people want to believe it, right? And it's confirmation bias. If the Republicans are looking for a conspiracy theory to help Donald Trump, of course, they're going to be more receptive to it. That's why disinformation works. It's not just a supply problem. It's a demand problem.

ZAKARIA: Right. And it seems to me the demand problem is almost at the heart of it. Because, as you said, there were conspiracy theories in the past, but you didn't have a third of sometimes half, sometimes more of Republicans believing it. I mean, if you have a desire to want to believe this, it becomes--

STENGEL: Yes. I mean, we may have something in our DNA to believe conspiracy theories. Maybe it's evolutionary, effective behavior. But, I mean, a third of voters during the last campaign believed that Hillary Clinton was running a child sex trafficking ring out of a pizza parlor in Washington D.C. I mean, that's part of the problem. And you can't...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue