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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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6. Conclusions

Extract

There is clearly more that can be said and done in relation to the challenges described. No one book and no one author can provide all the answers. But find answers we must. In that context, it is hoped that this discussion has contributed in some theoretical as well as tangible practical ways. In summary, this analysis leads to three key propositions that, in turn, require a number of strategies that have been outlined in Chapter 5 and are summarized here.

Three key propositions advanced in this analysis that identify a requirement for and form the basis of the strategies outlined are as follows.

We are all complicit to some extent in fake news, disinformation and the slide towards post-truth.

Understanding of the media and public communication ecosystem as it exists today, and the many players and interests that interact in and shape it, is important to move beyond finger-pointing at a few individuals or groups based on the doctrine of selective depravity and a view of others—not us—as the evildoers.

The conclusions of a 2019 Institute for Public Relations (IPR) report on Disinformation in Society are an exemplar of finger-pointing and ducking responsibility in that they make no mention of public relations (PR), but instead identify “the biggest culprits” responsible for creating disinformation as “fake social media accounts” (55%), “politicians” (45%), “Trump” specifically (40%), and “the Russian Government” (33%).1 As discussed in Chapter 5, the industry leaders and...

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