After the outbreak of COVID-19 – a virus constituting a genuinely worldwide risk – fear internationalised in just a few weeks. As the COVID crisis has profoundly shaken societies on a global scale it has contributed to a reconfiguration – perhaps a multiplication – of risks and their perceptions. While foremost constituting a biological hazard, the pandemic has large repercussions on other types of risks, ranging from long-term economic and digital disruption to psychological distress and political confrontation. The nature and frontiers of risks are thus moving as the multilateral system, the most adequate framework to deal with global risks, is ailing and current risk mitigation strategies are increasingly put to question. The six articles of the present Dossier explore these changing hierarchies of risk and the underpinning structural issues that endanger our existence.
The present issue seeks to better apprehend the nature of this new era of digital disinformation and how it differs from prior eras marked by the dissemination of more traditional propaganda (notably the Cold War) or by the spread of American (or liberal) soft power through mass media and consumption. In so doing the issue seeks to address a series of questions such as: has traditional propaganda consisting in over-selling a model or ideology by means of manipulation and mass media been replaced by the generalisation of disinformation in the post-truth era characterized by systematic epistemic deconstruction and the outright discreditation of any truth claims? What is the role of states (as opposed to other actors) in this process and what tools and operational mechanisms are they mobilizing to pursue their global (dis-)information campaigns? What is the impact of the generalisation of alternative facts and disinformation campaigns on the international order? Who is to win and lose from it? What can be done, notably at the international level and the UN, to counter the noxious effects of global disinformation campaigns and to recreate trust in the global information order?
Narrative Warfare in the Digital AgeReading time: 6 min
Propaganda and Disinformation between East and West: A Long-Term PerspectiveReading time: 5 min
The Politics of International Legal Justifications: On Truth, Lies and BullshitReading time: 5 min
Interpreting DisinformationReading time: 6 min
Vulgar Vibes: The Atmospheres of the Global Disinformation OrderReading time: 5 min
The Propaganda War over Ukraine: Unanimity, on Both Sides?Reading time: 4 min
“Dezinformatsiya” and Foreign Information Manipulation and InterferenceReading time: 6 min
The Politics of Information Manipulation in the 21st Century: A Case Study of the Islamic Republic of IranReading time: 5 min
The Islamic State’s Virtual CaliphateReading time: 5 min
While the 20th century has been characterised by the generalisation of democratisation processes, the 21st century seems to have started with the reverse trend. An authoritarian-populist nexus is threatening liberal democracy on a global scale, including in its American and European heartlands. Charismatic leaders – thriving on electoral majorities and popular referenda – methodically undermine the rule of law and constitutional safeguards in order to consolidate their own power basis. Coupling inflammatory rhetoric with modern communication technologies, they short-circuit traditional elites and refuse to abide by international norms. Agitating contemporary scourges such as insecurity, loss of identity, mass migration and corrupt elites, they put in place new laws and mechanisms to harness civil society and political opponents. In order to better understand the novelty, permanence and global reach of “illiberal democracy”, this second issue of Global Challenges proposes seven case studies (Russia, Hungary, Turkey, the Middle East, Uganda, Venezuela and the United States) complemented by a series of expert interviews, maps and infographics.