This is illuminating and terrifying: Tobias Rose-Stockwell (who did the images too) on the rise of “democratic propaganda” through social media, aka This Is How Your Fear and Outrage Are Being Sold for Profit.

It’s impossible to look at the media system as a separate thing from functioning democracies. Our opinions are always affected by the news, and our voting decisions reflect that knowledge. If you look at society like a big collective human organism, the news media is something like a central nervous system. It helps us respond to threats, share information, and figure out what needs to be fixed.

How this nervous system is controlled and influenced dictates a tremendous amount about how society works — what we care about, who we protect, who we fight. Throughout the 20th century, politicians, moguls, and academics knew the value of this influence. It had a name: propaganda.

Propaganda required money, talent, and infrastructure to create and distribute. It was an expensive and blunt instrument for top-down control.

Today we have democratized propaganda — anyone can use these strategies to hijack attention and promote a misleading narrative, a hyperbolic story, or an outrageous ideology — as long as it captures attention and makes a profit for advertisers.

Journalism — the historical counter to propaganda — has become the biggest casualty in this algorithmic war for our attention. And without it, we are watching the dissolution of a measured common reality.