Read This: “LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media” by P.W. Singer and Emerson Brooking

LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social MediaLikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media by P.W. Singer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In a recent Tweet, Peter W. Singer (@peterwsinger) wrote, “And digital literacy is now a national security issue.” His book, LikeWar: The Weaponization of Social Media, co-authored with Emerson Brooking, makes a good case for that assertion.

In fact, it’s hard to read LikeWar without being overcome by an overwhelming sense of doom. The genie is out of the bottle, and it’s hell-bent on destroying all that is good and decent in the world! Truth itself is no longer knowable (!) and our minds are pixelated mush just waiting to be manipulated by any number of terrorists and dictators, at home and abroad…

And yet it would be a mistake to use this book as an excuse to abdicate your responsibilities as a global and digital citizen, especially as those two terms—“global” and “digital”—merge in ways only the most prescient tech theorists could have imagined even a decade ago.

What’s more, thank goodness, LikeWar provides us with a battle plan, which starts with an unflinching view of the battlefield itself (that it is, in fact, a battlefield):

Like every other technology before it, the internet is not a harbinger of peace and understanding. Instead, it’s a platform for achieving the goals of whichever actor manipulates it most effectively. Its weaponization, and the conflicts that then erupt on it, define both what happens on the internet and what we take away from it. Battle on the internet is continuous, the battlefield is contiguous, and the information it produces is contagious. The best and worst aspects of human nature duel over what truly matters most online: our attention and engagement.

The proper response to this existential threat, it seems, is not a Luddite’s conscientious objection. It’s to wade into this fog of war, attentive and engaged, armed first and foremost with the knowledge that we are fighting for our lives against clever and insidious adversaries. LikeWar, the comprehensive, well-researched, and even-keeled knowledge it offers, has opened my eyes and ears to that essential truth. I’m certain it will prove indispensable in the fight for still other essential truths, even justice, in this (mis)information age.

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