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Cyberwar: How Russian Hackers and Trolls Helped Elect a President: What We Don't, Can't, and Do Know Hardcover – October 3, 2018
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"A meticulous analysis of online activity during the 2016 campaign makes a powerful case that targeted cyberattacks by hackers and trolls were decisive." - Jane Mayer, The New Yorker
"In her breakthrough new book Cyberwar, Kathleen Hall Jamieson applies her legendary skills to a forensic examination of the Russian hackers, trolls and bots who reshaped American public opinion through social media platforms, using data analytics to achieve maximum impact. Her masterful study provides a compelling answer to the question of whether Russia likely helped elect an American President." -- Andrea Mitchell, NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent, MSNBC Anchor
"Kathleen Hall Jamieson has performed a great service not just for politicians, journalists and curious citizens, but most important, for American democracy, by taking a scholar's approach to answering one of the most urgent and gnawing questions of our time: how did Russia try to influence the U.S. elections of 2016 and how much difference did that make? This is a must read for everyone who cares about the future of the American electoral system." -- Judy Woodruff, Anchor and Managing Editor, The PBS NewsHour
"Kathleen Hall Jamieson mounts a strong challenge to the conventional wisdom that the Russia interference in the 2016 presidential race did not affect the outcome. Drawing on her expertise in presidential elections and how messages are received, she shows how the hacked emails influenced the media's focus and traces the powerful synergies between what the trolls were saying and what voters were ready to believe. It is hard to imagine a better application of careful scholarship to a central question for our country and deserves a wide readership." -- Robert Jervis, Adlai E. Stevenson Professor of International Politics, Columbia University
"Offers a detailed and compelling case" -- The Washington Post
"Jamieson's illuminating, timely Cyberwar is a major step forward in trying to understand the 'new' media order -- and how open this digital landscape is to malicious exploitation." -- Nature
"Necessary reading for those interested in the democratic process and its enemies." -- Kirkus
"In her breakthrough new book Cyberwar, Kathleen Hall Jamieson applies her legendary skills to a forensic examination of the Russian hackers, trolls and bots who reshaped American public opinion through social media platforms, using data analytics to achieve maximum impact. Her masterful study provides a compelling answer to the question of whether Russia likely helped elect an American Presiden
"Jamieson's expertise in US political communications allows her to unfold what issues were raised, made important, gained traction, and mattered in the back and forth between candidate messaging, media coverage, and voter engagement. Her very title announces the severity and malign intention of the activities she describes." --Katherine Voyles, Public Books
About the Author
Kathleen Hall Jamieson is Elizabeth Ware Packard Professor at Annenberg School for Communication of the University of Pennsylvania and Director of its Annenberg Public Policy Center and an award-winning scholar. She has authored many books, including Packaging the Presidency, Eloquence in an Electronic Age, Spiral of Cynicism (with Joseph Cappella), and The Obama Victory (with Kate Kenski and Bruce Hardy).
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She also explains how the media assisted in the hacking by focusing their stories on events around Wikileaks and the email dumps, but the author does not focus on the media in this book as much as she focuses on HOW the hacking was accomplished.
This is an amazing read and confirmed my long held suspicions. I know some will see this as a partisan book, but this researcher/author has bonafides in this field and should be taken seriously as these acts threaten the security of our country which is NOT a partial issue.
Our eroded democracy, which is pretty much already an oligarchy, was ripe for attack by Russia. Professor Jamieson presents comprehensive facts to support her thesis. A main concern was, “the news media who inadvertently helped them achieve their goals” by the bread and circus atmosphere of the 24/7 news cycle. She painstakingly explores who, what, how and why the attacks this time were successful. I appreciated the scholarship of this work and recommend it.
This book is neither for right-wingers desperate to cast the Mueller probe as a witch hunt nor for left-wingers desperate for proof of collusion (and thus the illegitimacy of the Trump presidency). Rather, this is a meaty must-read for people who have a genuine curiosity about the distinguishable intent and extent of Russian interference in our 2016 election, and a concern for the structural integrity of their democracy.
In the beginning of every episode of Bozo's Circus, Ringmaster Ned would ask the audience, "Who's your favorite clown?" And Little Vlad would join the audience screaming in unison, "Bozo-o-o-o-o!" He watched him every day through his sickness until he got better.
So when Little Vlad grew up and became the great Vladimir - the leader of Russia - he never forgot how Bozo helped him in his weeks of need. Putin loved clowns and he had a great idea. He said to himself, "What if I could get a clown elected to the presidency of the United States?
Bozo wasn't available for this job so Putin arranged for an even better replacement.
Ms. Jamieson thoroughly elucidates the machinations employed by the Russians in trolling the neanderthals into voting Bozo's successor to the presidency. It's just too bad Bozo knew more about US history than the clown who replaced him.
Reader Emily Durante's style just does not seem well-suited to either socio-political or technical subject matter. While her enunciation is clear, and her speed well-measured, her cadence betrays a lack of engagement with and perhaps understanding of the subject matter. It sounds as if she is oblivious to the gravity of the implications of what she is reading. She speaks of Russian trolls as if they were characters in a fairy tale, in the slightly sing-song cadence of a not-very-interested adult reading a child a bedtime story. The over-all effect is soporific. Definitely not an audiobook to listen to while driving.
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The book looks specifically at the probability that the US election result was affected by Russian interference to present a skewed or inaccurate representation of the facts and smear Trump's political opponents, most importantly, Hillary Clinton. It examines both the various methods used (bots, trolls, selective reporting on fake news outlets, targeted social media ads etc) and the statistical likelihood of these activities having changed the result of the election.
It does this in forensic and intensely academic detail, and this is why I think the book will lose the general reader, whatever their political persuasion. Here's an example of a typical sentence from one of these passages, just to give you an idea of the type of academic language being used:
"Interpolating the troll strategy (which in the next sentence I will synopsize and insert in brackets) into the findings of a state-of-the-art meta-analysis will illustrate the nexus I will posit between past research and my hypotheses about the 2016 troll and hacking effects."
If you can wrangle sentences like that one to the ground successfully, this is the study for you; if, like me, they tend to give you a headache, you will have to be satisfied with gleaning only the gist of the author's argument. However, it's good to see a contentious subject like this treated with sober scholarly method - complete with footnotes, graphs, statistics, a huge index and abundant appendices - than with the kind of hysteria we're increasingly seeing everywhere, from the streets right up to our political assemblies.
She concludes that although those with entrenched views probably won't be affected by this kind of modern electioneering, the point of the exercise is to sway the floating voters, especially in the final few days of the run-up to an election. there were certainly indicators that this is what happened in the run up to the Brexit referendum in the UK; people are more panicky, more susceptible to instant appeals to their fears and vulnerabilities, and they have less time to go away and do some fact-checking. The last internet meme or troll post or fake news article they see before voting may have a disproportionate effect on their decision. Kathleen Hall Jamieson gives many powerful examples of these types of last-minute targeted appeals in the US, especially in those all-important swing states, and also asks whether former FBI Director James Comey's investigation of Hillary Clinton's emails was also tainted by the effects of Russian machination.
She finally includes that there were sufficient numbers of "susceptible voters" to have altered the outcome of the election if their minds were to have been changed by Russian-backed propaganda and other interference. What she can not know for sure is whether they were. However, there is enough material here to concern anyone on either side of the Atlantic who has an interest in the survival of truly democratic elections. the book ends with a summary of the various moves that have been made since 2016 to rein in the power of social media and better identify the sources of articles and advertisements of a political nature. Much more transparency is evidently needed.
This sounds as if it will be interesting, and it is; however the book obviously has an intended audience that is not your average reader as it goes into enormous amounts of often quite technical detail that would leave many people baffled. If you’re able to cope with this — the book is aimed at a scholarly audience — then it is fascinating, and I’ve enjoyed my last week working through it. The one danger with this book is that it is continually in danger of being overtaken by real-world revelations as links between Russia and Trump’s staff continue to be make news but that can’t be helped and isn’t the book’s fault. Heavy going, but of great interest.