The provincial North Macedonian town of Veles placed itself on the world map as an epicenter for fake news during the 2016 US presidential election campaign, when the town’s tech-savvy youths posed as American political news portals and flooded the internet with clickbait articles. As Veles’ fake news articles were spread to millions of people via social media algorithms, many of the “news hackers” made substantial sums of money, and the sites are often regarded as having contributed to the election of Donald Trump.
Travelling to Veles, Jonas Bendiksen discovers the landscapes and people that make up the unlikely hub of misinformation. In this book, his images of the town are intertwined with excerpts and facsimiles from a 1919 archaeological discovery also called ‘the Book of Veles’ — a cryptic collection of 40 wooden boards discovered in Russia by an army officer, written in a proto-Slavic language. Once considered to be an ancient history of the Slavic people and the god Veles himself, the text has since been debunked as a forgery by scientific consensus. As intelligent as it is visually compelling, Bendiksen’s book examines historical and current efforts at both producing and guarding against disinformation and chaos.