cover image Attack from Within: How Disinformation Is Sabotaging America

Attack from Within: How Disinformation Is Sabotaging America

Barbara McQuade. Seven Stories, $35 (416p) ISBN 978-1-644-21363-6

MSNBC legal analyst McQuade debuts with a concise introduction to the threat to American democracy posed by “the deliberate use of lies to manipulate people, whether to extract profit or to advance a political agenda.” She covers all aspects of disinformation, including its historical antecedents, the ways in which the human mind is susceptible to it, and the possibility that technological advances such as AI will exacerbate an already serious problem. McQuade makes clear that the phenomenon predated Donald Trump’s candidacy and presidency, quoting the Federalist Papers to show that the Founding Fathers were concerned about disinformation. Still, while McQuade notes examples from both sides of the political divide, the bulk of her critique is aimed at Trumpists, in particular for the 2020 election denialism that led to the January 6 insurrection. She remains cautiously optimistic about the future of American democracy and proposes logical if familiar actions to mitigate the harm of disinformation, such as holding social media more accountable for content on their platforms, strengthening local journalism, teaching media literacy, and restoring civics education to school curricula. Though there’s not much new here, it’s still a useful guide for those curious about the past and future of political disinformation. (Feb.)