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Attack from Within summary

Barbara McQuade

How Disinformation Is Sabotaging America

2.8 (25 ratings)
17 mins
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    Attack from Within
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    Disinformation through the ages

    In a world increasingly clouded by the fog of disinformation, the journey from the historical manipulation tactics of authoritarian regimes to today's digital-age threats to democracy reveals a disturbing yet fascinating story. It’s a story of deceit, one that stretches from the gaslit corridors of Victorian London to the high-tech disinformation campaigns of the twenty-first century, demonstrating how manipulation of the truth has evolved into a sophisticated art form. The dark genius of such tactics? They don’t seek only to deceive – they can also have a profound impact on democracy, public trust, and the very fabric of societal consensus.

    Where did this all begin? It turns out that the roots of modern disinformation can be traced back to age-old strategies, such as those employed in the classic tale Gaslight by the character Gregory Anton, who systematically manipulates his wife Paula into doubting her own sanity. This chilling strategy mirrors the broader, more insidious tactics used by authoritarian figures throughout history, from Stalin's photo erasures to Hitler's propaganda campaigns. These historical instances of disinformation were not mere aberrations, but precursors of the lies and manipulations that threaten the very heart of democratic institutions today.

    The evolution of disinformation reveals a disturbing adaptation to the digital era. Today's disinformers wield the internet and social media as their primary tools, amplifying their reach and impact to previously unimaginable extents. The tale of the Trojan Horse, a symbol of ancient deception, finds its modern parallel in the false narratives and alternate truths peddled by leaders like Vladimir Putin, who has leveraged social media platforms to disseminate divisive content. His aim? To influence elections and fracture societal unity, as seen in the orchestrated efforts to meddle in the 2016 US presidential election. His goal is to sow confusion and erode public trust in factual evidence –  and even in reality itself.

    Perhaps the most insidious aspect of modern disinformation is its ability to inure populations to lies, creating a cynicism that erodes the foundation of democratic debate and decision-making. This phenomenon, known as the liar's dividend, emerges when the relentless barrage of untruths breeds a pervasive skepticism, leading to a resigned acceptance of dishonesty as a common trait among politicians. This dangerous resignation not only normalizes deceit – it also eats away at the essential pillars of accountability that sustain a healthy democracy. Flooding the public sphere with misinformation allows those who deceive to benefit from lowered expectations regarding truthfulness, undermining trust in both the political process and the veracity of public discourse itself.

    In dissecting the anatomy of disinformation, from the simplicity of its messaging to the strategic repetition of lies, it becomes clear that the battle for truth is not merely an academic debate but a fight for the soul of democracy. As disinformation tactics become more refined and embedded in the fabric of daily life, understanding their history, evolution, and impact is not just an intellectual exercise but a democratic imperative. The journey from gaslighting to the digital age's disinformation reveals a stark warning: the greatest threat may come from within, challenging us to confront and disarm these tactics with truth, vigilance, and a steadfast commitment to democratic principles.

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    What is Attack from Within about?

    Attack from Within (2024) delves into the critical examination of how disinformation has been weaponized to challenge the fabric of democracy, distort public discourse, and erode fundamental trust in public institutions. This exploration serves as a call to action, urging you to recognize, confront, and disarm the insidious threats posed by disinformation, thereby fortifying the resilience of democratic values.

    Attack from Within Review

    Attack from Within (2021) by Barbara McQuade sheds light on the hidden threats within our society and the urgent need for vigilance. Here's why this book is a must-read:

    • Unveils the insidious nature of internal dangers, prompting readers to rethink assumptions about safety and security.
    • Offers eye-opening perspectives on how vulnerabilities can be exploited from unexpected sources, challenging traditional notions of threats.
    • Keeps readers engaged with its suspenseful exploration of internal risks, ensuring a riveting and enlightening read from start to finish.

    Who should read Attack from Within?

    • Students or practitioners of law interested in national security and disinformation
    • History and political science students
    • Advocates for democracy and free speech

    About the Author

    Barbara McQuade, with a legal career highlighted by her role as the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, currently teaches at the University of Michigan Law School. Her expertise extends to media, where she serves as a legal analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, and co-hosts the #SistersInLaw podcast. Her professional journey spans everything from journalism to significant legal practice, marking her as a seasoned expert in criminal law, national security, and data privacy.

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    Attack from Within FAQs 

    What is the main message of Attack from Within?

    The main message of Attack from Within is about identifying and combating threats to democracy from within.

    How long does it take to read Attack from Within?

    Reading Attack from Within takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just a few minutes.

    Is Attack from Within a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Attack from Within is worth reading for its insightful analysis on safeguarding democracy. A must-read for those interested in politics.

    Who is the author of Attack from Within?

    Barbara McQuade is the author of Attack from Within.

    What to read after Attack from Within?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Attack from Within, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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