... superb ... Rid’s achievement in this book is that he places our crazy, upside-down politics in a coherent historical context. The digital tools of our adversaries may be new, but the mission of manipulation is as old as the spy business ... Anyone who reads this account and doesn’t conclude that the Russians played the Trump campaign like a violin has a tin ear. But the deeper value of Rid’s book is that it takes us to the beginnings of modern manipulation, when Moscow created 'The Trust,' a fake pro-Tsarist movement in the 1920s that allowed Moscow to watch, mislead and ultimately subvert its adversaries.
... elegant ... In rich detail, Rid walks us through a hundred years of political warfare, recounting the exploits powers both major and minor inflicted on one another via the disinformation units of their intelligence agencies. Some of the stories are hair-raising ... The characters...are pure le Carré ... what Rid discovers is that while Russia kept going right until the bitter end, 'the West deescalated' its disinformation hostilities following the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Rid doesn’t offer much by way of explanation, leaving the reader to suspect that Western spymasters concluded that there was no active measure they could concoct that would better alienate citizens of the Eastern bloc from their masters than de facto imprisonment behind a high wall topped with barbed wire.
Soon after the 1917 Russian Revolution, the Bolshevik regime used misinformation to confuse its opponents ... By the time the Cold War ended, such measures had become almost routine. Moscow has revived them in recent years as Russian relations with the West have become more hostile, with the added impetus and reach of social media. Rid concludes this fascinating and well-researched history by warning of the need to take the challenge of misinformation seriously while being careful to not exaggerate its effects.
Based on the book’s title, and its inclusion of the term 'political warfare', a reader might be forgiven for expecting the book to give its attention more equally to the two sides of the East-West conflict ... That is not to say Rid reports nothing of the CIA’s activities during the time period he covers ... There is little doubt Rid is correct that the effectiveness of disinformation is difficult to measure, though some aspects of his interpretation of Cold War chronology may be more debatable ... While he mentions the CIA’s notorious MK-Ultra 'mind control' experiments in passing, Rid does not discuss Helms’s decision in the early 1970s to destroy documents related to the controversial program, which involved a wide array of deceptive tactics. Nor does he mention Helms’s approval in the late 1960s of Operation CHAOS, which continued into the 1970s and involved what amounted to 'political warfare' against domestic political dissidents ... Though Rid details Russian online operations aimed at sowing confusion in the runup to the election, it is unlikely that Russian internet trolls 'convinced many, if any, American voters to change their minds,' he writes ... a well-written and engaging account, and despite some elements of the narrative retaining the potential for debate – as is almost always the case with books on anything as controversial as the history of intelligence agencies and propaganda – this may be the result of inherent ambiguities of interpreting events as much as anything. Rid has clearly done extensive research and an admirable job presenting it. His book should be required reading for anyone interested in how propaganda methods have developed over time.
Rid, who testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 2017 on disinformation operations, recounts elaborate and sometimes shocking tactics used to disinform democratic societies and inflame passions ... Active Measures has much to say about the shadowy internet influence campaigns that followed the rise of Vladimir Putin from KGB intelligence officer to Russian president, though attributing the source of internet activity is always tricky. Ultimately, Rid concludes that Russian and Russia-linked efforts to fill the internet with disinformation most likely did not cause many people to change their minds in 2016.
With this latest work, Rid...offers a history of the political control of information, usually in the form of disinformation ... Covering a lot of ground in this dense but thorough account, Rid further includes primary sources that brilliantly show how 'information wars' have been waged throughout history ... A fascinating read for those who appreciate learning about history within a complex political context.
The shadow war of lying—and truth-telling—between Russia and the U.S. is explored in this revealing study of covert propaganda ... There are plenty of clever, clandestine capers in Rid’s well-researched, briskly paced narrative, as well as shrewd analysis of the subtleties of making disinformation both damaging and believable, and the difficulty of knowing whether it is effective. The excellent discussion of Russian pro-Trump social media propaganda concludes that 'it is unlikely that [Russian] trolls convinced many, if any, American voters,' and that its main impact was the media hysteria it generated. Rid skillfully illuminates and demystifies this ballyhooed but much-misunderstood subject.
The chronological narrative will demand significant effort from lay readers—not due to lack of clarity by the author, whose style is engaging, but because every extended case study requires separating partial truths told by the spy agency from the vast untruths that are necessarily part of the mix. For readers interested in current politics, Rid offers expert opinion that Russia is actively working to erode the foundation of U.S. democracy ... A dense but highly relevant and useful study, especially as we approach the 2020 election.