From Panic to Policy: The Limits of Foreign Propaganda and the Foundations of an Effective Response (Spring 2024)



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Texas National Security Review


American leaders and scholars have long feared the prospect that hostile foreign powers could subvert democracy by spreading false, misleading, and inflammatory information by using various media. Drawing on both historical experience and empirical literature, this article argues that such fears may be both misplaced and misguided. The relationship between people’s attitudes and their media consumption remains murky, at best, despite technological advances promising to decode or manipulate it. This limitation extends to foreign foes as well. Policymakers therefore risk becoming pessimistic toward the public and distracted from the domestic, real-world drivers of their confidence in democratic institutions. Policy interventions may also prove detrimental to democratic values like free expression and to the norms that the United States aims to foster in the information environment.


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