I read Like War earlier this year by P.W. Singer which has the subtitle, the Weaponization of Social Media. I was at a conference for work and I was discussing the book with a colleague and she recommended Clint Watts to me. She said that if I liked Singer, I’d love Watts. Then one of her co-workers came up and raved about Watts and added that their organization works with him and that he was both brilliant and great. I added Messing with the Enemy to buy queue right then but it took a few months for it to become available at my digital library.
Messing with the Enemy is a little autobiographical/memoir-y but also discusses the kind of work that Watts does. He begins the book by saying that though he is a two-time FBI agent and former military officer, this is not a book about cool guy missions. He adds that we have the Navy SEALs for that. Immediately, that told me that I was going to enjoy this book. It might be tough to explain why that is so funny to someone outside of the military but I’ll try. Think about every book you see on the best seller shelves that was “written” by someone from the military, they are all SEALs. Someone writes a book about every single mission that they do. Now, their missions are cool and exciting and sexy but for a group that prides itself on its “quiet professionalism” they sure do talk about themselves a whole lot but I digress.
This book shows how easy it was for Watts to influence a terrorist organization via Twitter. He then goes on to describe how bad actors could use those principles to influence larger populations, say Russia and the US electorate. He wrote an article in October of 2016 detailing how Russia was attempting to interfere with the election. If that kind of stuff is interesting to you, this book is great. You don’t need military experience to appreciate what Watts is doing.