For me, this was the book that started it all. It's a wonderful overview that includes a number of relevant and concise case studies along with well-reasoned theories about what has caused the alarming growth of misinformation that has followed us into the 21st century.
The primary topics covered:
- McIntyre summarizes what science denial is and provides a historical roadmap, citing The Tobacco Strategy as the fundamental blueprint for all modern anti-science campaigns.
- There is a wonderful summary of the primary cognitive biases that cause misinformation to spread. McIntyre references some fascinating psychological studies in his short but to-the-point review.
- The values of Traditional News Media have been undermined by profit-first motives paired with a public preference for extremely partisan content.
- The rise of computers, social media, and do-it-yourself online publishing have undermined traditional media. As we move away from traditional media, we also move away from the well-developed checks and balances built into journalistic ethics and best practices. There are no more gatekeepers.
- Postmodernism is tangled up with "fake news" and modern propaganda. There are certainly influences that run between both topics, even if the causal relationships are hard to track down. The underlying idea of postmodernism - that truth is relative - undermines the primary tenant of science and journalism: that there is a single Truth to be found (and a well-established set of steps and processes to find Truth and communicate it to others).
- All of the prior subjects and points are outlined in order to define guidelines for fighting post-truth. McIntyre ultimately suggests that it's every individual's responsibility to optimize and prioritize their information hygiene.
“How ironic that the Internet, which allows for immediate access to reliable information by anyone who bothers to look for it, has for some become nothing but an echo chamber. And how dangerous. With no form of editorial control over what is now sometimes presented as “news,” how can we know when we are being manipulated?”
“Why search for scientific disagreement when it can be manufactured? Why bother with peer review when one’s opinions can be spread by intimidating the media or through public relations? And why wait for government officials to come to the “right” conclusion when you can influence them with industry money?”