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How Media, Politics, and Identity Drive Our Appetite for Misinformation
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An engaging look at how American politics and media reinforce partisan identity and threaten democracy.

Why are so many of us wrong about so much? From COVID-19 to climate change to the results of elections, millions of Americans believe things that are simply not true—and act based on these misperceptions. In Wrong: How Media, Politics, and Identity Drive Our Appetite for Misinformation, expert in media and politics Dannagal Goldthwaite Young offers a comprehensive model that illustrates how political leaders and media organizations capitalize on our social and cultural identities to separate, enrage, and—ultimately—mobilize us. Through a process of identity distillation encouraged by public officials, journalists, political and social media, Americans political identities—how we think of ourselves as members of our political team—drive our belief in and demand for misinformation. It turns out that if being wrong allows us to comprehend the world, have control over it, or connect with our community, all in ways that serve our political team, then we dont want to be right.

Over the past 40 years, lawmakers in Americas two major political parties have become more extreme in their positions on ideological issues. Voters from the two parties have become increasingly distinct and hostile to one another along the lines of race, religion, geography, and culture. In the process, these political identities have transformed into a useful but reductive label tied to what we look like, who we worship, where we live, and what we believe.

Young offers a road map out of this chaotic morass, including demand-side solutions that reduce the bifurcation of American society and increase our information ecosystems accountability to empirical facts. By understanding the dynamics that encourage identity distillation, Wrong explains how to reverse this dangerous trend and strengthen American democracy in the process.

Dannagal Goldthwaite Young is a professor of communication and political science at the University of Delaware. Young is an award-winning scholar and teacher, a TED speaker, an improvisational comedian, and the author of Irony and Outrage: The Polarized Landscape of Rage, Fear, and Laughter in the United States.

1. "People Like Us Believe These Things."
2. How do we Know What we Know?
3. Americas Asymmetrical Identity Alignment
4. Im One of Them: Social Identity
5. The Epistemic Divide: "People Like Us Understand the World This Way."
6. How Political News Rewards Identity Performances and Activates Identity Threat
7. Separate Me: Identity Distillation through Partisan Media
8. Curate Me: Identity Distillation Through Social Media
9. Solutions to Identity-Driven Wrongness

An engaging look at how American politics and media reinforce partisan identity and threaten democracy.

A compelling exploration of the psychological factors behind misinformation and belief.

— Library Journal

Dannagal Goldthwaite Youngs insightful book Wrong investigates the political and philosophical reasons why people rely on information that they know is false.

— Foreword Reviews

Anchored by Dannagal G. Youngs magisterial and powerful writing, Wrong lays out a social and psychological framework to help us see through our own needs-based biases, engage in reflexivity, and understand how and why we are wrong. In the process, we can hopefully reduce the incentives we provide to other actors in the process—such as media and politicians—and ultimately find our way to a less toxic political culture.

— Daniel Kreiss, University of North Carolina, author of Prototype Politics: Technology-Intensive Campaigning and the Data of Democracy

Powerful, distinctive, and utterly compelling, Wrong argues that the way we satisfy our needs for comprehension, control, and community is shaped by our social identities, which are at the core of both the supply and demand for misinformation. Because politicians and the media know this fact, they behave strategically in order to structure politics through this perspective. This book is sorely needed, and Dannagal G. Youngs argument is truly central to our understanding of todays misinformation problem.

— Jaime Settle, College of William & Mary, author of Frenemies: How Social Media Polarizes America

From one of the communication fields finest scholars, Dannagal G. Youngs Wrong is a provocative, original, must-read explanation of the ways in which our social and cultural identities affect the knowledge and behavior we endorse or spurn.  

— Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Annenberg Public Policy Center, University of Pennsylvania

Dannagal G. Youngs Wrong combines a remarkable sense of empathy with vivid examples and clear arguments to offer a comprehensive look at the psychological needs and political and media forces that help make us vulnerable to misinformation.

— Brendan Nyhan, Dartmouth College

Prepare to have your mind blown as Dannagal G. Young takes on conspiracy theories, blending sharp scientific insights, clever anecdotes, and a dash of irreverence.

— Jay Van Bavel, Director, NYU Social Identity & Morality Lab and author, The Power of Us: Harnessing Our Shared Identities to Improve Performance, Increase Cooperation, and Promote Social Harmony

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