Magazine article Foreign Policy

War in 140 Characters: How Social Media Is Reshaping Conflict in the Twenty-First Century

Magazine article Foreign Policy

War in 140 Characters: How Social Media Is Reshaping Conflict in the Twenty-First Century

Article excerpt

War in 140 Characters: How Social Media Is Reshaping Conflict in the Twenty-First Century

DAVID PATRIKARAKOS, BASIC BOOKS, 320 PP., $17.99, NOVEMBER 2017

MANY COMMENTATORS THESE DAYS like to proclaim that conventional military strategy is passe and war is now waged via smartphones and Facebook feeds. But what does that actually mean in practice? Journalist David Patrikarakos's new book chronicles in granular detail exactly how social media has transformed the way that modern wars are fought.

Patrikarakos argues that narrative war has become more important than physical war as a result of new technologies. Crucially, the spread of social media has brought about a "virtual mass enlistment" that gives civilians as much--and sometimes more--power as state propaganda machines. He is clear-eyed about this leveling of the playing field. "The state will always fight back," he writes--and it has.

Patrikarakos goes to great lengths to show both sides of each conflict he covers. His chapter on Israel's 2014 war against Hamas in Gaza, known as Operation Protective Edge, first brings us into the home of Farah Baker, a 16-year-old Twitter activist who became the voice of Gaza during the Israeli bombing campaign. We then follow the author into the inner sanctum of the Israel military and see how the defense establishment adjusted, slowly, to fighting a new enemy and a narrative war.

In Ukraine, Patrikarakos meets a middle-aged mother and former public relations executive who uses Facebook to source boots and body armor and then drives them to the front line in subzero temperatures. …

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