In This Review

Active Measures: The Secret History of Disinformation and Political Warfare
Active Measures: The Secret History of Disinformation and Political Warfare
By Thomas Rid
528 pp, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020
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Soon after the 1917 Russian Revolution, the Bolshevik regime used misinformation to confuse its opponents. With word of a faux anti-Bolshevik conspiracy within Russia, the Soviets forged links with real anti-Bolsheviks abroad, persuading them that encouraging developments in Russia would dampen the need for outside intervention. Although the United States was not above using such “active measures” during the Cold War, the Soviet Union and its satellite states, such as Czechoslovakia and East Germany, were more accomplished in their design of them: they planted stories to convince the United States’ European allies of the threat posed by Washington’s imperialist warmongering and reckless preparations for nuclear war. By the time the Cold War ended, such measures had become almost routine. Moscow has revived them in recent years as Russian relations with the West have become more hostile, with the added impetus and reach of social media. Rid concludes this fascinating and well-researched history by warning of the need to take the challenge of misinformation seriously while being careful to not exaggerate its effects.