Friday, March 29, 2013

Some notes on Deception by RPP Part 4

Today's entry is the last in RPP's Notes on Deception which he posted to Spladdle Forum.

If you missed the previous parts of the series, please read:

Notes from Chapter 23 of Robert Greene's 33 Strategies of War

Chapter 23 - Weave a seamless blend of fact and fiction: Misperception strategies

Since no creature can survive without the ability to see or sense what is going on around it, you must make it hard for your enemies to know what is going on around them, including what you are doing. Disturb their focus and you weaken their strategic powers. People's perceptions are filtered through their emotions; they tend to interpret the world according to what they want to see. Feed their expectations, manufacture a reality to match their desires, and they will fool themselves. The best deceptions are based on ambiguity, mixing fact and fiction so that the one cannot be disentangled from the other. Control people's perceptions of reality and you control them.

Military deception is about subtly manipulating and distorting signs of our identity and purpose to control the enemy's vision of reality and get them to act on their misperceptions.
  • It is the art of managing appearances.

Since appearances are critical and deception is inevitable, what you want is to elevate your game - to make your deceptions more conscious and skillful.

To master this art, you must embrace its necessity and find creative pleasure in manipulating appearances -- as if you were directing a film. The following are the six main forms of military deception, each with its own advantage.

(1) The False Front

Oldest form of deception.
  • Originally involved making the enemy believe that one was weaker than in fact was the case.

The appearance of weakness often brings out people's aggressive side, making them drop strategy and prudence for an emotional and violent attack.

Controlling the front you present to the world is the most critical deceptive skill. People respond most directly to what they see, to what is most visible to their eyes.
  • You need to present a front that disarms suspicions.

That best front is weakness, which will make the other side feel superior to you, so that they either ignore you (and being ignored is very valuable at times) or are baited into an aggressive action at the wrong moment.
  • Once it is too late, once they are committed, they can find out the hard way that you are not so weak after all.

Making people think they are better than you are -- smarter, stronger, more competent -- is often wise.
  • It gives you breathing space to lay your plans, to manipulate.

(2) The Decoy Attack

This ruse began as a solution to the following problem.

If the enemy knew you were going to attack point A, they would put all their defenses there and make your job too difficult. But to deceive them on that score was not easy: even if before battle you were able to disguise your intentions and fool them out of concentrating their forces at point A, the minute they actually saw your army headed there, they would rush to its defense. The only answer was to march your army toward point B or, better, to send part of your army in that direction while holding troops in reserve for your real objective. The enemy would have to move some or all of its army to defend point B. Do the same with points C and D and the enemy would have to disperse all over the map.

The key to this tactic is that instead of relying on words or rumours or planted information, the army really moves.
  • It makes a concrete action.
  • The enemy cannot afford to guess whether a deception is in the works: if they guess wrong, the consequences are disastrous.

The decoy attack keeps the enemy dispersed and ignorant of your intentions.

To keep people from defending the points you want to attack, follow the military model and make real gestures towards a goal that does not interest you.

You must seem to be investing time and energy to attack that point, as opposed to simply trying to signal the intention with words. Actions carry such weight and seem so real that people will naturally assume that is your real goal.

(3) Camouflage

The ability to blend into the environment is one of the most terrifying forms of military deception.

Preventing your enemies from seeing you until it is too late is a devastating way to control their perceptions.

There are two applications of the camouflage strategy:

(1) Blend into the social landscape. Avoid calling attention to yourself unless you choose to do so. When you talk and act like everyone else, mimicking their belief systems, when you blend into the crowd, you make it impossible for people to read anything particular in your behaviour (Appearances are all that count here -- dress and talk like a businessman and you be must be a businessman).

(2) If you are preparing an attack of some sort and begin by blending into the environment, showing no sign of activity, your attack will seem to come out of nowhere, doubling its power.

(4) The Hypnotic Pattern

Machiavelli's view of people: human beings naturally tend to think in terms of patterns. They see events conforming to their expectations by fitting into a pattern or scheme. They believe the chaos of life is predictable.

Machiavelli's "acclimatization": deliberately creating some pattern to make your enemies believe that your next action will follow true to form.
  • Having lulled them into complacency, you now have room to work against their expectations, break the pattern, and take them by surprise.

Once people feel you have deceived them, they will expect you to mislead them again, but they usually think you'll try something different next time. No one, they will tell themselves, is so stupid as to repeat the exact same trick on the same person.
  • That, of course, is just when to repeat it, following the principle of always working against your enemy's expectations.

Poe's "Purloined Letter": hide something in the most obvious place, because that is where no one will look.

(5) Planted Information

People are much more likely to believe something they see with their own eyes than something they are told. They are more likely to believe something they discover than something pushed at them.

If you plant the false information you desire them to have -- with third parties, in neutral territory -- when they pick up the clues, they have the impression they are the ones discovering the truth.

No matter how good a liar you are, when you deceive, it is hard to be completely natural. Your tendency is to try so hard to seem natural and sincere that it stands out and can be read.
  • This is why it is so effective to spread your deceptions through people whom you keep ignorant of the truth -- people who believe the lie themselves.
  • When working with double agents of this kind, it is always wise to initially feed them some true information -- this will establish the credibility of the intelligence they pass along.

(6) Shadows Within Shadows

Deceptive maneuvers are like shadows deliberately cast: the enemy responds to them as if they were solid and real, which in and of itself is a mistake.
  • In a sophisticated, competitive world, however, both sides know the game, and the alert enemy will not necessarily grasp at the shadow you have thrown.

So you have to take the art of deception to a level higher, casting shadows within shadows, making it impossible for your enemies to distinguish between fact and fiction.

Make everything so ambiguous and uncertain, spread so much fog, that even if you are suspected of deceit, it does not matter -- the truth cannot be unraveled from the lies, and all their suspicions gives them is torment.
  • As they strain to figure out what you are up to, they waste valuable time and resources.

If you are trying to mislead your enemies, it is often better to concoct something ambiguous and hard to read, as opposed to an outright deception -- that deception can be uncovered and enemies can turn their discovery to their advantage, especially if you think they are still fooled and act under that belief. You are the one doubly deceived. By creating something that is simply ambiguous, though, by making everything blurry, there is no deception to uncover.

Chapter 23 -- Reversal

To be caught in deception is dangerous.
  • If you don't know that your cover is blown, your enemies have more information than you do and you become their tool.
  • If the discovery of your deceit is public, on the other hand, your reputation takes a blow, or worse.

You must use deception with utmost caution, then, employing the least amount of people, to avoid the inevitable leaks.

You should always leave yourself an escape route, a cover story to protect you should be exposed.

Be careful not to fall in love with the power that deception brings; the use of it must always be subordinate to your overall strategy and kept under control.

If you become known as a deceiver, try being straightforward and honest for a change. It will confuse people and your honesty will be a higher form of deception.

This was the final installment in the series of RPP's Notes on Deception.  Deepest gratitude to RPP. Hope it helps you in your Sojourn of Septillion Steps!



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