Civil society must be defended: Misinformation, moral panics, and wars of restoration

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In this article, I propose that we think of the recent concern over fake news, misinformation, disinformation, and conspiracy theories as a moral panic. I revisit Stuart Hall and his coauthors’ concept, updating it in two ways. First, I focus on how the current panic has altered what they called “primary definers” (which now includes professional journalism, as a result of their own waning authority). Second, the new alliance of panic actors (journalism, technology companies, intelligence agencies, politicians, civil society organizations) are expressions of a crisis policing that is now martialized. I assess this new nexus in terms of a breakdown of civil peace into outright hostilities; as a counterinsurgency operation. I draw on Michel Foucault’s strategic analysis of power and society that challenges boundaries between politics and war. This nexus is waging what I call a war of restoration, one that has significant implications for dissent and oppositional knowledges.




Bratich, J. (2020). Civil society must be defended: Misinformation, moral panics, and wars of restoration. Communication, Culture and Critique, 13(3), 311–332.

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