A dense but highly relevant and useful study, especially as we approach the 2020 election.




A Johns Hopkins professor of strategic studies delves into the murky history—and current pervasiveness—of disinformation.

Rid, whose previous book, Rise of the Machines, focused on cybernetics, opens in 2016, as the Russians were employing disinformation to influence the American presidential election, and then moves back in time to offer a well-packed history beginning in the 1920s. “This modern era of disinformation,” he writes, “began in the early 1920s, and the art and science of what the CIA once called ‘political warfare’ grew and changed in four big waves, each a generation apart.” The first wave occurred as the widespread access to radio offered an effective new technology for enemy governments hoping to influence listeners to revolt against their own governments. The second wave occurred during the Cold War, with the CIA as the main culprit. The third wave encompassed the 1970s, with a massively funded Soviet bureaucracy as the main culprit. The fourth wave has extended into the present, with labyrinthine government spy bureaucracies losing ground to renegade computer hackers operating 24/7. While the digital era in general and the internet in particular have altered the tactics of government spy agencies, the author demonstrates in massive detail how such destabilization has flowed in multiple directions for the past century. The U.S. government, mostly through the CIA, has mounted countless campaigns to harm so-called communist nations, especially during the post–World War II era. On the communist side, Rid emphasizes the relentless disinformation campaigns emanating from the Soviet Union/Russia as well as from East Germany before its reunification with West Germany. 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.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-28726-9

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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