Book Review – Plato’s Fear

Plato's Fear by Ajit Maan

Dr. Ajit Maan has provided a short book that helps us understand how information can be weaponized to spread fake news, hoaxes, and propaganda. Her explanation of the ‘narrative’ informs us how humans observe and process information at the unconscious level.

This easily digestible book describes how adversaries influence people to the point of radicalization, incite insurgencies, and destabilize societies. It describes what the ‘narrative’ is in terms that national security professionals can understand. As a society we are struggling to defend ourselves against disinformation and propaganda. The book helps us understand how do defend ourselves in a narrative war.

The book’s title bears some explaining. Plato was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece. He is considered the founder of Western political philosophy. Plato believed that artists were dangerous people because of their ability to evoke passion in audiences. He was afraid that passion can overrun reason – even in trained minds. Plato felt that ‘reality’ was understandable through a logical process. However, he felt that the ‘representation’ of the unfolding of events (a narrative) by artists, poets, story-tellers had the power to help people understand events – even if not a realistic and logical understanding.

The author relates how a powerful narrative can not only describe an event but how it can help people understand the event. Powerful narratives can preclude the telling of any alternative narratives or stories. They are also a means to discredit, undermine, and question existing power structures.

Maan’s book is informative to those in academia, government, and the military engaged in the fight against violent extremist organizations (VEOs) and insurgents around the world. Understanding the concept of the ‘narrative’ will aid understanding how people may be swayed into supporting insurgencies or VEOs.

Ajit Maan, Ph.D. is CEO of Narrative Strategies, Professor of Politics and Global Security at Arizona State University, Affiliate Faculty at the Center for Narrative Conflict Resolution at George Mason University, and the author of several books.

Plato’s Fear was published in March 2020 (50 pages) and is available on in paperback and Kindle.


Image: Cover Plato’s Fear.

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