Invisible Rulers

The People Who Turn Lies into Reality


By Renee DiResta

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$44.00 CAD

An “essential and riveting” (Jonathan Haidt) analysis of the radical shift in the dynamics of power and influence, revealing how the machinery that powered the Big Lie works to create bespoke realities revolutionizing politics, culture, and society.

Renée DiResta’s powerful, original investigation into the way power and influence have been profoundly transformed reveals how a virtual rumor mill of niche propagandists increasingly shapes public opinion. While propagandists position themselves as trustworthy Davids, their reach, influence, and economics make them classic Goliaths—invisible rulers who create bespoke realities to revolutionize politics, culture, and society. Their work is driven by a simple maxim: if you make it trend, you make it true.
By revealing the machinery and dynamics of the interplay between influencers, algorithms, and online crowds, DiResta vividly illustrates the way propagandists deliberately undermine belief in the fundamental legitimacy of institutions that make society work. This alternate system for shaping public opinion, unexamined until now, is rewriting the relationship between the people and their government in profound ways. It has become a force so shockingly effective that its destructive power seems limitless. Scientific proof is powerless in front of it. Democratic validity is bulldozed by it. Leaders are humiliated by it. But they need not be.
With its deep insight into the power of propagandists to drive online crowds into battle—while bearing no responsibility for the consequences—Invisible Rulers not only predicts those consequences but offers ways for leaders to rapidly adapt and fight back.
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  • “[A] fiery debut…a well-informed take on what ails social media, and a vigorous riposte to conservative narratives of persecution by Big Tech.” 
    Publishers Weekly
  • “Renée DiResta is a superhero protecting reality from insanity. Her work and voice are indispensable. If humanity doesn’t ruin its future through idiocy, DiResta will be one of the reasons why.”
    Jaron Lanier, author of Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now
  • “Once you have seen what Renee DiResta has seen—how the trainwreck that is now public discourse is so rapidly undermining our politics and society—you can’t unsee it.”
    Tim O’Reilly, founder and CEO, O’Reilly Media
  • “I am in awe of DiResta’s ability to see through the digital haze and identify many of the most important threats coming at the United States and humanity more broadly. As AI supercharges social media and the power of conspiracy theorists, foreign intelligence agencies, and all who would turn lies into reality, we are so fortunate that DiResta shares her hard-won knowledge with us—and her battle scars. Invisible Rulers is essential and riveting reading.”
    Jonathan Haidt, Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership, New York University, Stern School of Business, and author of The Righteous Mind
  • “Who decides what we pay attention to, whom we trust, and how we engage with each other? In Invisible Rulers, a unique and unusual work of observation and scholarship, DiResta provides the answer—and it is not reassuring. Among them are people who know how to game algorithms, people who want to sell advertising, or people who want to alter our politics, foreign authoritarians among them. DiResta shows how domestic trolls and foreign oligarchs now wield influence on a global scale, turning online trends into truth, and shaping our understanding of reality itself.”
    Anne Applebaum, author of Twilight of Democracy
  • “In this compelling and beautifully written book, DiResta sheds fresh light and understanding on the greatest threat to social cohesion. If you care about securing a better future for generations to come, read this book, and work with others to implement DiResta’s thoughtful recommendations.”
    General H. R. McMaster, author of Battlegrounds and At War with Ourselves
  • “No one understands this new world of information warfare, a world where the rumor mill and the propaganda machine work in tandem to distort reality, better than DiResta. She is the go-to person for everyone who wants to understand influence operations, from technologists to government officials. She sees things before others do. And more important, she knows what it takes to fight back.”
    Bruce Schneier, author of A Hacker’s Mind
  • “No analyst of the online world exposes its lies and perversities with greater courage, insight, and devotion to democratic values than DiResta. This gripping and trenchant work shows how the toxic interplay of social media influencers, algorithms, and viral crowds is shredding truth and trust and threatening the future of democracy. Spanning disciplines from history and politics to communications theory and social psychology, DiResta documents the descent of the ‘public square’ into a ‘fantasy industrial complex’ and offers a path forward to a more transparent and civil online world.”
    Larry Diamond, senior fellow, Hoover Institute
  • “Anyone trying to create change in the world needs to understand the field they’re playing on, and Invisible Rulers will open your eyes to the nature of a game most of us don’t even realize we’re playing. DiResta provides a roadmap not only for concerned individuals, but also for our institutions, who need to step up. Invisible Rulers is required reading.”
    Jennifer Pahlka, former US deputy chief technology officer, and author of Recoding America
  • “Invisible Rulers provides a superb analysis of how social media has fostered a world of ‘bespoke realities’ in which truth is shaped by online influencers rather than empirical facts, thereby fostering the extreme polarization in which we now find ourselves.”
    Francis Fukuyama, author of The End of History and The Last Man
  • Invisible Rulers is an indispensable guide for navigating the complex future of information warfare. DiResta masterfully unveils the unseen forces shaping our perceptions and beliefs, illustrating the profound shift in the dynamics of power and influence. An interesting, if unnerving, must-read for anyone concerned about the future of technology, truth, governance, and societal cohesion in the digital age.”
    Amy Webb, CEO, Future Today Institute, and author of The Big Nine
  • “[A] fluid and deeply informed work on social media influencers: their rise, their methods, their targets.”
    The Bulwark

On Sale
Jun 11, 2024
Page Count
448 pages

Renee DiResta

About the Author

Renée DiResta is the technical research manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory, a cross-disciplinary program of research, teaching, and policy engagement for the study of abuse in information technologies. Her work examines rumors and propaganda in the digital age. She has analyzed geopolitical campaigns created by foreign powers such as Russia, China, and Iran; voting‑ related rumors that led to the January 6 insurrection; and health misinformation and conspiracy theories pushed by domestic influencers. She is a contributor at The Atlantic. Her bylined writing has appeared in Wired, Foreign Affairs, Columbia Journalism Review, New York Times, Washington Post, Yale Review, The Guardian, POLITICO, Slate, and Noema, as well as many academic journals.

DiResta has been a Presidential Leadership Scholar (a program run by the Presidents Bush, Clinton, and the LBJ Foundations); named an Emerson Fellow, a Truman National Security Project fellow, Mozilla Fellow in Media, Misinformation, and Trust, a Harvard Berkman-Klein affiliate, and a Council on Foreign Relations term member.


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