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How to Fake It in America

joe biden
The disinformation panic has prompted Democrats to have a far broader reconsideration of how they use the internet. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images
Peter Hamby
April 1, 2024

When the journalist Sasha Issenberg published his book The Victory Lab, back in 2012, it was hailed as “Moneyball for Politics,” the definitive look at a new generation of operatives who were using statistical modeling and microtargeting to reach voters in new ways. Every smart person I know in politics has it on their bookshelf.

But in the years since, the technology of politics went haywire. Social media saturated American society, obliterating our shared reality and giving partisan mischief-makers new tools to confuse the electorate and “flood the zone with shit,” as Steve Bannon once said. Watching these developments, Issenberg felt uneasy about the optimism that coursed through his old book. After Donald Trump’s victory in 2016, he began talking to some of the Democratic operatives who committed themselves to fighting back against the disinformation campaigns and anti-democratic tactics polluting the modern political process. Those conversations turned into The Lie Detectives, Issenberg’s new book about winning elections in the disinformation age.