Sunday, December 4, 2011

Propaganda, Deception, & Mental Conditioning

This post is a continuation of: "War is Constant, Inevitable, & Predictable." In this article I'll begin to address human behavior, methods of gauging sentiment, and stimuli that can be implemented to elicit relatively well-defined responses. This is mean't to be an exercise in developing awareness associated with deception and give clues as to how it's implemented.

Let's start with a simple truth: people have internally defined value systems. This implies that there is some sort of regular structure that obeys certain rules. Immediately one may argue that people often succumb to outside forces and abandon their values. This isn't really the case. What this actually implies is that outside forces go through a filter that can overwhelm or compliment their own internal constructs. Meaning, what a person says their values are and what they actually are may not be the same, or may have complex interactions with other values. In this light, how someone acts is far more important than what they say.

A 'good soldier' follows orders in a predictable fashion. There is minimal thinking and the internal value structure is designed into the soldier and defined during training. However, when the individual begins to think, it creates complex internal structures that aren't easily stimulated or controlled. In fact, someone who thinks becomes aware of manipulative gestures and begins to maneuver several levels deep. At this point, it becomes a game construct. A great example of this is in poker, say, Texas Hold'em. This is a game of incomplete information that utilizes deception. If an individual is unaware of deception involved in the game they will play in a very different manner than someone who understands that deception exists. Of course, the person who acknowledges that deception exists will regularly out-play the person who thinks that everyone is playing 'above-board.' This is the difference between winning and losing--being informed or misinformed. In this entire paragraph I'm trying to convey two simple ideas: 1) critical thinking is your best offense and defense against deception and 2) the presence of deception is an absolutely critical thing to be aware of. Without understanding these two concepts you will forever be subject to other peoples' ideas and conceptions. In a perfect world this might not be a problem, but in the real world, this is extremely dangerous.

So where's the danger? As described above, people have internal value systems that can be externally stimulated. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but the source of stimulation is critical. At some level we all have to get our information from outside sources, we simply can't know everything as it happens, or even be experts in every field. If you get all of your information from a particular source you are going to receive a certain bias and your information will be incomplete or tainted. Of course, many people are aware of this simple fact and try to hedge against misinformation by varying their sources. This is a better approach, but still incomplete. The next step is to climb the information ladder and determine the objectives of each source on the way up. Each entity or person that you encounter on your ascent has a particular agenda, some noble, some vile, and everything in between. The capacity to 'read' each of these sources and think critically about the presented content is an invaluable skill. All the while one must constantly be increasing their own critical thinking capacity and knowledge base, and in doing so, blunt the effects of propaganda. A truly free society demands this accountability.

Now on to some current examples... Often people claim that all they want is happiness and security for themselves and the ones they love. Other times people are unable to define exactly what they want, and much less how they obtain said things. So without knowing, people are open to suggestions, and this is where it gets interesting. They take cues from friends, family, media sources, celebrities, etc. When it boils down to it, they take advice from other people, whether it's written, televised, taught or tweeted. If the CIA says there are WMDs in Iraq, then surely there must be. If the Federal Reserve says there is no bubble in housing, then all is well. If Fukushima wasn't melting down then why were radioactive isotopes detected outside the plant? There was no other plausible explanation. Anyone with any critical thinking capacity knows that lies are rampant, experts are often wrong, and things aren't always as they appear. Fair enough. The trick is to utilize individual and collective motive as an additional tool in determining truth. In doing so, deception must be acknowledge to make any meaningful headway.

That's all for now...

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