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

ACTIVE MEASURES

THE SECRET HISTORY OF DISINFORMATION AND POLITICAL WARFARE

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...

NIGHT

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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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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