A “well-told” insider account of the State Department’s twenty-first-century struggle to defend America against malicious propaganda and disinformation (The Washington Post).
Disinformation is nothing new. When Satan told Eve nothing would happen if she bit the apple, that was disinformation. But today, social media has made disinformation even more pervasive and pernicious. In a disturbing turn of events, authoritarian governments are increasingly using it to create their own false narratives, and democracies are proving not to be very good at fighting it.
During the final three years of the Obama administration, Richard Stengel, former editor of Time, was an Under Secretary of State on the front lines of this new global information war—tasked with unpacking, disproving, and combating both ISIS’s messaging and Russian disinformation. Then, during the 2016 election, Stengel watched as Donald Trump used disinformation himself. In fact, Stengel quickly came to see how all three had used the same playbook: ISIS sought to make Islam great again; Putin tried to make Russia great again; and we know the rest.
In Information Wars, Stengel moves through Russia and Ukraine, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, and introduces characters from Putin to Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and Mohamed bin Salman, to show how disinformation is impacting our global society. He illustrates how ISIS terrorized the world using social media, and how the Russians launched a tsunami of disinformation around the annexation of Crimea—a scheme that would became a model for future endeavors. An urgent book for our times, now with a new preface from the author, Information Wars challenges us to combat this ever-growing threat to democracy.
“[A] refreshingly frank account . . . revealing.” —Kirkus Reviews
“This sobering book is indeed needed to help individuals better understand how information can be massaged to produce any sort of message desired.” —Library Journal