Fake News is Old News: The British Origins of 21st Century Psychological Warfare.
In recent years, the idea of the internet being “weaponised” to disseminate propaganda and warp public perceptions has been presented as a new means of waging war. The idea of one state using the latest communications technology to engage in psychological warfare against another, however, is far from new, nor is it the uniquely Russian practice that it is often presented as today. As this talk will explain, so many of the psychological warfare techniques used by the trolls of today were not developed in Russian “bot factories”, but in top secret radio stations in Britain over 70 years ago. There, during the country’s darkest hour, a rag-tag group of journalists, poets and political hacks conspired to wage a war of words against Hitler’s Germany, and in so doing pioneered what we in the 21st century now call fake news, targeted propaganda, and communications hi-jacking.
James Crossland is a Senior Lecturer in International History at Liverpool John Moores University. A specialist in the history of modern warfare, intelligence and the laws of armed conflict, he is the author of War, Law and Humanity: the Campaign to Control Warfare, and Britain and the International Committee of the Red Cross, 1939-1945.
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