War in 140 Characters: How Social Media Is Reshaping Conflict in the Twenty-First Century
War in 140 Characters by journalist David Patrikarakos posits the emergence of a type of human whose global connection via the Internet has opened new fronts in conflict zones, further blurring the line between civilian and combatant. From the Gaza Strip to Eastern Ukraine and Syria, the courses of modern conflicts are being molded by the Internet as much as bombs and guns. The new soldiers are armed with only a smart phone and a social media account. From shaping public opinion to recruiting fighters or organizing supplies, these Twitter combatants are challenging the traditional powers of the wartime nation state and forcing changes to centuries-old military conventions.
Patrikarakos's first case study is the 2014 Gaza war, during which a Palestinian teenager tweeted her harrowing experiences under Israeli bombing. Her accounts won worldwide sympathy, and posed an unprecedented public relations challenge to the Israeli Defense Force. Patrikarakos then turns to a Ukrainian woman who uses Facebook to help supply soldiers fighting separatists in Eastern Ukraine. He also interviews a former professional troll in Russia, who was paid to spread Kremlin propaganda online, and explores how an amateur sleuth helped prove that a Russian missile shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Finally, Patrikarakos chronicles the recruitment and propaganda efforts of the Islamic State and those trying to stop them.
War in 140 Characters is an illuminating look at the intersection between the oldest of mankind's undertakings and our latest technology. The digitally decentralized future holds as many promises as it does dangers. These early examples of that future are both empowering and ominous, and make for fascinating reading. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer