The partisan hack book that always come out feel so immediate and important, but then go to a used bookstore and look back at the same dumb crop of these books over the last 40 years. I bet they go back farther than that, but something about the 80s and 90s really created the demand.
This is not one of those books. For one, Timothy Snyder actually knows things. It’s no accident that he worked closely with Tony Judt before he died because they come from a similar school of thought and approach. Both are kinds of scholars of history, but also of public will, public good, and public discourse. Both are also experts in European History. Tony Judt died ten years ago, but within his writing there’s so much living history we’re seeing today. If it’s true that there’s nothing new under the sun, books like Judt’s and Snyder’s show that.
This book charts the recent history in Russia, the UK, Germany, Ukraine, and the US to show how specific tactics and forces to destabilize public discourse and public opinion in Russia has been increasingly exported to other places: in the UK around Brexit, in Germany for anti-Merkela propagnada, surrounding the 2014 Russian invasion of Ukraine which is currently back in a hot spot, and of course in the US election in 2016. One of the running themes of the analysis here and something that was definitely playing into pre-2020 election discourse are the ways in which Russian disinformation campaigns seeded propaganda that made its way into all realms of the Right, a lot of the Left, and even mainstream Democrat voters. The common thread being that any disinformationa nd chaos is ultimately good. The throughline is based in Putin and his regime not working to make Russian better, but to make everywhere else worse. Combined with the myths Americans already tell about themselves, the goal was to put Americans to work toward their own disillusionment.