Kent Harrington, a former senior CIA analyst, served as National Intelligence Officer for East Asia, Chief of Station in Asia and the CIA's Director of Public Affairs.
In 1958 the late Harold Isaacs, a foreign-correspondent-turned-political-scientist, wrote a book about American views of China and India examining popular attitudes toward the two societies. His research, an imaginative use of surveys and interviews, found that, from the man on the street to foreign policy experts, impressions of both countries lagged far behind their realities. As he considered future relations between the East's rising powers and the West, Isaacs worried about the effects of outdated perceptions, calling them, poetically, "scratches on our minds." A new study on the expanding international reach of China's news media by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Paris-based NGO that defends freedom of the press, suggests his worry is as relevant today as it was 60 years ago.
"The press should be not only a collective propagandist and a collective agitator," Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov wrote in 1901, "but also a collective organizer of the masses." Ulyanov, also known as Vladimir Lenin, couldn't have penned a better description of Donald Trump's media strategy today. Lenin wrote the line when he was editor of Iskra, a newspaper published by revolutionary exiles who smuggled it into Russia hoping to fire up opposition to the Czar's regime. Whether he credits the source or not, that Trump is channeling the former Soviet Union's founding father is as plain as the crossed hammer and sickle on the failed communist empire's national flag.
It takes an unusual mind, the English mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead once wrote, to undertake the analysis of the obvious. Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation and Radicalization in American Politics -- a book that explains how the media are accelerating the country's spiral into national crisis -- actually is the work of three unusual minds. Their thinking couldn't be more relevant or troubling in demonstrating how news coverage of the Trump presidency is deepening the divisions among Americans by the day.