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Beyond Post-Communication

Challenging Disinformation, Deception, and Manipulation

Jim Macnamara

While many analyses have examined disinformation in recent election campaigns, misuse of ‘big data’ such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and manipulation by bots and algorithms, most have blamed a few bad actors. This incisive analysis presents evidence of deeper and broader corruption of the public sphere, which the author refers to as post-communication. With extensive evidence, Jim Macnamara argues that we are all responsible for the slide towards a post-truth society. This analysis looks beyond high profile individuals such as Donald Trump, Russian trolls, and even ‘Big Tech’ to argue that the professionalized communication industries of advertising, PR, political and government communication, and journalism, driven by clickbait and aided by a lack of critical media literacy, have systematically contributed to disinformation, deception, and manipulation. When combined with powerful new communication technologies, artificial intelligence, and lack of regulation, this has led to a ‘perfect data storm’. Accordingly, Macnamara proposes that there is no single solution. Rather, he identifies a range of strategies for communication professionals, industry associations, media organizations and platforms, educators, legislators, regulators, and citizens to challenge post-communication and post-truth.
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As with all books, particularly those informed by international research, the author owes a debt to many. Some directly contributed to the analysis and discussion through interviews or provision of documents or data. Others indirectly provided assistance and support through their own important research that I have drawn on, and through their collegiality in discussions and feedback.

In particular, I wish to thank the leading scholars and professionals working in various media and communication disciplines including journalism, advertising, public relations, and corporate, government, and political communication, who agreed to be interviewed. Some preferred to remain anonymous, so I thank them collectively. Those who agreed to be quoted are duly acknowledged in the text and in citations. Industry leaders who generously gave their time and knowledge and agreed to be named include (in alphabetical order by surname): Richard Bagnall, Sylvia Bell; Stuart Bruce; Peter Fray; Lucas Bernays-Held (the grandson of Edward Bernays); Bob Jensen; Alan Kelly; Stefan Kloet; Anne Kruger; Sean Larkins; Barry Leggetter; and Therese Manus. As noted in the text, these communication professionals have held a range of senior positions in media or government, corporate, or political communication in a number of countries. In addition, insights and advice were gained from senior academics including Anne Gregory at the University of Huddersfield in the UK, who is immediate past chair ←xi | xii→of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management (the peak global body representing 280,000 practitioners), and Jisu Huh from the University of Minnesota,...

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