Democracy & Elections

The Lawfare Podcast: With Disinformation, The Past Isn’t Past

Jen Patja, Quinta Jurecic, Heidi Tworek
Thursday, August 12, 2021, 12:00 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

We live in the Disinformation Age. The internet has revolutionized our information ecosystem and caused disruption totally unprecedented in human history, and democracy may not survive. ... Just like it didn’t survive the television, radio, telegram and printing press before it. Right?

When it comes to talking about the internet, all too often history is either completely ignored with bold claims about how nothing like this has ever happened before—or it’s invoked with simple analogies to historical events without acknowledging their very different contexts. As usual, the real answer is more complicated: talking about history can inform our understanding of the dilemmas we face today, but it rarely provides a clear answer one way or another to contemporary problems. This week on our Arbiters of Truth series on our online information ecosystem, Quinta Jurecic spoke with Heidi Tworek, an associate professor at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs and History at the University of British Columbia. In a recent essay, she made the case for how a nuanced view of history can better inform ongoing conversations around how to approach disinformation and misinformation. So how do current discussions around disinformation leave out or misinterpret history? What’s the difference between a useful historical comparison and a bad one? And why should policymakers care?

Jen Patja is the editor and producer of The Lawfare Podcast and Rational Security. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of Virginia Civics, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of leaders in Virginia by promoting constitutional literacy, critical thinking, and civic engagement. She is the former Deputy Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and has been a freelance editor for over 20 years.
Quinta Jurecic is a fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and a senior editor at Lawfare. She previously served as Lawfare's managing editor and as an editorial writer for the Washington Post.
Dr. Heidi Tworek is Canada Research Chair and Associate Professor of Public Policy and History at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. She is a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation as well as a non-resident fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and the German Marshall Fund of the United States. She is an award-winning researcher of the history and policy of communications.

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