Active Measures: The Secret History of Disinformation and Political Warfare

Farrar. Apr. 2020. 528p. ISBN 9780374287269. $30. POL SCI
With this latest work, Rid (strategic studies, Johns Hopkins Univ.; Rise of the Machines) offers a history of the political control of information, usually in the form of disinformation. He includes several historical examples from the “information war” between the former USSR and the United States, and then moves into more recent examples of using information as a weapon by figures such as Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. The work spans from the time period between the world wars to the present, including illuminating examples from the German effort for information control during World War II. Later, Rid asserts that the rise of the internet and information being leaked and published by groups such as Anonymous and Wikileaks shows a change in the landscape and the context of politics itself. 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.
VERDICT A fascinating read for those who appreciate learning about history within a complex political context.

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