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Rules to Live By

Rules to Live By  Cover Image

K.A. Bachus

March 3, 2022

(Sometimes in a Literal Sense)

"What is the first rule of deception, Steve?"

"Lead, don’t feed."

"Very good. The best deceptions are thought of by the deceived. Now tell me the first rule of intelligence."



"Because of the first rule of deception."- Cetus Wedge

Everybody lies. Everybody is misinformed. All sides have a point. What do you use as a basis for gauging truth? In the intelligence world, information is currency, sources are capital, and analysis is the product. In our own daily lives we approach ordinary decisions with similar tools and comparable failures. We gauge the reliability of our sources, sift conflicting information and analyze the best course of action.

At times, people lie to us, or we misread a sentence. Grifters cheat us deliberately and we fall for their schemes because they strike an emotional chord. We can’t decide because we don’t know what’s true. Worse, we decide what’s true by making surmises based on falsehoods that appeal to us. In short, we are deceived.

Deception plays a key role in war. The use of propaganda is familiar everywhere and is not always nefarious. By definition it is an attempt to influence that can be blatant or subtle and run the gamut from bold fact to preposterous lie. It is wise to understand that much of what you read or hear is designed to convince about something. That is not always a bad thing, but it but can be dangerous when you do not recognize who, what or why a piece of information has been placed before you.

Who wants to influence you?

Why do they want to influence you?

What sort of information is this?

Is it true?

Is it designed to inform or incite?

I will cover the What in my next blog post, but for now, I advise the following preliminary approach to all the information you ingest.

1. Know yourself. Check your own biases and goals. Whether justified or not, they will make you susceptible to certain kinds of propaganda.

2. Know the biases and goals of the person or entity publishing the information. A bias is not a bad thing unless it is hidden, irrational, or dangerous. The key here is to understand where it lies.

Use these two important insights as primary filters in your analysis.

Example 1: Ukrainian media publishes a picture of a dead child near a demolished building. After eight years of low-level war, Ukraine is biased against the Russians who are today bombing the country. Their goal is to convince my government to support them in their struggle against the invaders.

My bias is against those who cause the deaths of children. My goal is to stop them.

Example 2: Russian officials threaten nuclear war if western nations attempt to intervene in what they consider to be their backyard. They hold an historical bias against the autonomy of surrounding nations. Their goal is to stop my government from helping Ukraine resist their effort to turn the region into a client state.

I have at least two biases against dying in a nuclear holocaust and giving in to blackmail. My goal is to prevent both.

As I begin with this preliminary analysis, my bias and goal filters clarify more questions to be answered. In example 1, I now require information about the photo. In example 2, I need data on technical capabilities and historical probabilities.

Armed with Who and Why, next week I will discuss strategies for discovering What.