Active Measures: The Secret History of Disinformation and Political Warfare, Thomas Rid

Hello my loves!

The reviews are a bit spaced out right now, and it’s likely to stay that way for a few months. I’m getting close to both the end of the year, and the date by which I need to send my advisors a full draft of my thesis, and ya girl has some work to do.

This book, however, is one that actually functions as both fun to read, and useful for my thesis – multitasking for the win! Active Measures is Thomas Rid’s latest book and I think the second (?) one of his that I have read, the first being Cyber War Will Not Take Place. I enjoy Dr. Rid’s writing style and he clearly demonstrates his expertise in his work. I picked up Active Measures because of late, much of my research for both work and my thesis involves disinformation, both as a concept and in terms of actual operations that have recently or are currently taking place.

This book is a really good overview of the development of disinformation and political warfare, or what we can otherwise call active measures. The book is fairly heavily focused on United States-Soviet Union/Russia operations and agencies, but is a mine of information for that field. And I do mean a mine – at 435 pages plus endnotes, this is a hefty tome. The sections of professional interest for me are toward the end of the volume, when Rid starts to detail and explore the transition of active measures and disinformation operations to the digital sphere. An interesting conclusion is that, removed from the breathless reporting of modern media agencies, cyberspace (and the beleaguered social media platforms) might make the diffusion of disinformation easier and faster, but they actually degrade the quality of such campaigns in comparison to their twentieth-century counterparts.

If you do have an interest in intelligence operations and agencies, or disinformation and active measures, I would genuinely recommend that you pick this up. It’s incredibly interesting reading even for someone not in the field, or adjacent to the field, and despite the size the writing style makes it easy to get through.

Let me know if you give this one a go!

Image credit: my photo of my copy of the book.

Categories: Intelligence

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