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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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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