During the final three years of the Obama administration, Richard Stengel, the former editor of Time magazine and an Under Secretary of State, was on the front lines of the new global information war. At the time, he was the single person in government tasked with unpacking, disproving and combating both ISIS's messaging and Russian disinformation. This memoir explores that important time.
Stengel’s account of what happened in that effort is well-told, though not exactly gripping, given the nature of the work...But the book Stengel seems to have wanted to write was about the culture of the State Department, and in this regard he is much more successful. In fact, the first few chapters of his book should be required reading for new State Department employees ... [Stengel] introductory portrait of life at the State Department is compelling, but after a while, he began to fit in, and his account becomes laden with initials and jargon ... Stengel’s book ends with several recommendations, such as changing Facebook algorithms and having newspapers explain better what they do. While some of these are thoughtful, he admits it’s not clear they will fix the problem of pervasive disinformation.
[Stengel] thoughtfully details his time working within the State Department to promote American ideals in the face of an array of disinformation generated by Russia and others during and before the 2016 U.S. election ... This sobering book is indeed needed to help individuals better understand how information can be massaged to produce any sort of message desired. Recommended for general political science and current affairs collections.
... astute ... As a Washington insider and former journalist, Stengel writes from a rare and illuminating double perspective ... fascinating ... Stengel’s recounting of the events and individuals, including Putin and Trump, involved in the surge in and fight against propaganda and misinformation is jarring yet hopeful as he concludes with a blueprint for remedy and change.