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Once again, fake news is being weaponized to undermine our elections

Misinformation newsstand in Manhattan. Person holds magazine that has “Misinformation” on the cover.
Misinformation newsstand in Manhattan. Person holds magazine that has “Misinformation” on the cover.
A “misinformation” newsstand in New York. Photo: Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

About 66 years ago, the United States ousted the democratically elected president of Guatemala, the popular reformer and FDR fan, Jacobo Árbenz. That story is well-known by now. But over the past year, my research team and I investigated a more obscured aspect of that coup that has taken on surprising relevance today: The primary weapon the U.S. used to overthrow Guatemala’s democracy was fake news. A key part of why the plot worked tells us something important about what Americans need to watch out for as the Russian government tries to interfere with our democracy in 2020.

To get rid of Árbenz in 1954, CIA agents and U.S. State Department officials created a hoax radio station in the style of Orson Wells’ War of the Worlds. CIA director Allen Dulles, in a now-declassified memo to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, explained the plan. “The entire effort,” Dulles wrote, was “more dependent upon psychological impact rather than actual military strength.” …

About

Shane Snow

Explorer, journalist. Author of Dream Teams and other books. My views are my own. For my main body of work, visit www.shanesnow.com

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