Fool me, I like

Sun-Tzu was the great Chinese military leader of the Century 5 bC, who first said that the whole art of war is based on deception. It was timely when he explained that: when ready to attack, we must seem unable; when active, we show the inactive; when we are near, we make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we’re close; and that it is necessary to simulate disorder and offer bait to attract and then defeat the enemy.

As reported throughout history, his thoughts turned to dodge rival dating back to antiquity. The legend of the Trojan Horse, described in the “Iliad” of Homer, or the legacy of Sun-Tzu himself, described in “The Art of War”, which also suggests that “the ultimate skill is to subdue the enemy without having to fight” demonstrate the knowledge of our ancestors on the practice of misinforming the opponents.

Disinformation is the technical name given to the “art” to deceive targets to achieve a particular effect, either hiding or distorting facts and inducing opponents to misjudgment. Broadly speaking, the artifices to deceive are part of day-to-day life of most people, sometimes in the workplace, either on the streets or even within their own home, when taking advantage of various pretexts cleverly constructed to fool others and meet unmentionable interests. There are even those who say that if we had a lie to hide, life as we know it, would become unviable.

In literary terms, the disinformation is routinely approached from the angle of the Cold War, most acute phase of the East conflict — West emerged at the end of World War II (1939–1945) and began to undo only with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. In this troubled period, the secret services of the countries involved in this war without borders, and their satellites, were engaged to undertake complex undercover operations where manipulated strategic information for the purpose of destabilizing the other contenders. Whereas always be well informed was the first condition of survival in any environment, misinformation, seen here as an effective instrument of competition, no longer just an abstraction between good and evil.

Despite its scope at present, misinformation is has vast and still poorly known populations. There is no safe registration of public sources to enable research it systematically and objectively. If so, these sources are protected from indiscriminate access. More often than you would get are reports of historical cases, true or not, romanticized in films or published in specialized books, war stories or spy fiction. Therefore, misinformation is generally no more than a melodramatic plot to most of the people who perceive it in a remote risk of achieving them, while all the enormous potential manipulation that may be submitted them.

In turn, Clausewitz, the military philosopher who codified the Napoleonic experience, devoted some provisions of the disinformation war environment. Currently, these tricks are incorporated, at least to Western military doctrines, serving as multipliers of the operational capacity of the armed forces. And recent striking example of this occurred during the first Gulf War (1991), when a division of US Marines remained embedded near the mouth of the Tigris River threatening to land at the oil export port of Iraqi. The dictator Saddam Hussein took the bait and its main force, the so-called Republican Guard, remained immobilized in the defense of the place, leaving free access to US Army to the desert.

In fact, disinformation can be conceived according to a set of active defense measures, the result of meticulous planning and processing of intelligence analysts. In its preparation, they are used false materials combined with true information in order to ensure the credibility a necessary condition for the ruse. There are numerous techniques that can be used in the machining of the plot, and the limit of this joint is the technical capacity and the imagination of those who produce it.

Disinformation is basically maintains the interest of the rival in a particular subject or fact. To be successful disinformation operation, your sponsor needs to stimulate or properly cultivate the target interest, feeding him a set of assumptions, false, that make possible the realization of deception. The outcome of the plot usually happens a resounding success, as a disastrous failure. When badly designed, it is inevitable “turn the spell against the sorcerer.”

The Internet, regardless of their virtues and the invaluable services it provides to humanity, was transformed in a data maze and dubious information — one bland mixture of serious topics with cheap deception, half-truths, exaggerations of all kinds and forms, views politically biased and even sincere lies. So to speak, the Internet entails the permanent opportunity to thrive disinformation, to be free of stricter controls, which favors secrecy and impunity of its sponsors. The network can easily bewitch people who do not care about the truth of the facts, but who cares, and, just for the effect of what is published on the Web. It is worth noting here that had said Goebbels, Minister of Nazi Germany Communication — the larger and more repeated the lie, the more it suggests and contaminates.

With this entire going on you can already estimate that the Internet has converted the largest global source of misinformation at every level, individual, corporate, state or transnational. Indeed, you never know who or what is really on the other side of the screen. Nevertheless, and this reinforces its important role in society, the Internet has been also the most effective channel for the dissemination of ideas of who differs from “government establishments hypocrites and dictatorial”. In such cases, the lie runs rampant like crazy entity between the two sides, of the executioners and the victims. Let us remember, too, that governments, with their public positions of democracy, in short, are perfect places for those who want to cheat, steal, corrupt and cheat.

Undoubtedly, all truths are always the first victims of human tragedies. It is difficult to evoke a higher truth to others. However, regardless of this fact, as it tends to surface sooner or later, the time factor is a key element in the discovery of misinformation. Everything happens very fleeting way in disinformation process.

Lying communications, rumors, false documents, false advertising and other unorthodox information tools are usually employed in handling facts and situations. To “plant” a false “truth”, it is necessary to make her go to the target interest the meeting, favoring the realization of their desires and illusions. However, you cannot saturate it with data beyond his perception ability, judgment and assimilation. Inputs are offered gradually, so that it arrives at conclusions expected by the sponsor. However, excessive false data tends to arouse their suspicion, making collapse the warp.

As the interests of dispute is part of people’s lives, and ethics is still far from crown human relations, the misinformation instrument has great advantages for obtaining the surprise factor, and this is fundamental in carrying out maneuvers political, judicial and commercial as far as it is in military operations.

Analyzing the threat of misinformation by business size, it is good that there are people in organizations that use of their time studying critical information that often have little to do with the actual business itself. This availability provides the discovery of certain attacks not material than other employees, busy with tasks of day-to-day, cannot see. Because, normally, conventional security systems are not structured to detect it and it is very difficult to neutralize it before it begins to produce its harmful effects. Only focused specialists can perhaps understand these types of attacks.

Disinformation, as a structured process intended to make someone who takes strategic decisions believe in certain situations or facts especially manipulated to make it act contrary to their own interests, but favorable to the desire of the sponsor of the transaction. In terms of safety, only carefully monitor the news and the external inputs are not all; a deeper knowledge about the real intentions of competitors is essential for the detection of misinformation. Fighting it requires having the ability to put in place rivals amid the conflict of interest.

When the goal of misinformation is the penetration into the structures of a rival, it sets up a powerful instrument applicable to the Social Engineering. Thus, the intended use, sly, deliberate and intentional sympathy, seduction, the influence of lies and persuasion to attract, convince, deceive, manipulate and get the conscious or unwitting cooperation of one or more persons, all with the purpose to get features, advantages and, above all, actual or potential access to data, information and situations of high interest, in person, distance or a combination of both (by Eugenio Moretzsohn), is a definitive example of that, even though veiled, we can do against an opponent.

Often holding political articulations, misinformation serves the masses control strategy, the systematic reaffirmation of non-truths. The events of electoral dynamics clearly show that this works. It is a specially developed set of techniques, tested and approved, whose collateral damage in the population, is striking. In addition, this ensures that the power is irresistible enough to fan and always count on someone willing to kill and die for him.

Still on the paradox of misinformation conveyed by the Internet, reaching indiscriminately almost all of mankind, just follow the development of new generations to see that almost everyone today is born and grows with the words manipulation features and pictures in hand, passing most of the existence in virtual worlds. Perhaps, therefore, the most enlightened people already have to become accustomed to distrust what their eyes see. Sectors of the international scientific community are skeptical that anything can be swiped. Many beings still ask if the man actually set foot on the moon, and all those epic images spatial products in a refined and colossal disinformation operation.

It is strange to imagine that a planned and systematic process of imaging done to evade billions of souls can put in check our certainty of cognitive awareness of the reality. The “I saw with my own eyes” has been a valid argument to put an end to any controversy. Now, however, there are not more definitive certainties: everything can be almost anything and nothing can be almost everything. The ruthless totalitarianism and genocide of the 20th Century could not have occurred without the false emotions without simulations and feints without the realities created especially for a mankind unprepared to defend themselves.

But times the soft misinformation stayed behind. Now, in the era when you get the power to pay nothing, the era in which they want to send the act to subjugate the others, not only search so convincing, although the systematic imposition of lies. What really counts in this ivory tower is to occupy and maintain power, in any case, not only “for this” or “that,” but simply to stop it, just to enjoy it, as a lifelong condition without having to negotiate with anyone, including God.

We live in a dangerous situation in which the immaterial weapons such as misinformation, take the place of the weapons so destructive can no longer be employed. This is the time when the religious and ideological tyrannies are imposed and remain as if it was nothing more than a contest between briefs, dishonest lawyers who are confronted in international forum and courts, in which the goal is to balance the law of edges of men, and even to deny any valid proof of idea that might interfere in the sponsor’s interests in a material universe in which nothing became morally superior to anything where there is no irrefutable facts, only myriad versions, and where reality comes constantly being recreated.

So, how do you do and how much costs all of this? Well, it can be seen, for those who read producing these things, it matters little, especially when the sponsor of intangible attacks lost the legal status to compete. In that case, it may be rewarding avail themselves of alternative means to bring the war in terms of psychosphere where the weapons are different, gentle persuasion, but no less effective.

The arsenals of poison information act invisibly against targets that are even aware that they are being slaughtered before they can make use of defense systems. To distinguish the disinformation information requires testing data, subject them to torture, to get to the truth as possible, making use of direct observation, interviews and… luck.

Although for many people is easier to live in illusion than reality, by mistake, and a short time, since the lack of principles and the exclusive interest can not prevail indefinitely, not slow, the nature returns to reposition the forces seconds the logic of the universe, when then everything resets to a new period. In any case, it must remember that things conceived by mistake can be as real as things conceived by reason and necessity.

And gradually, we will all coming to a point in life where there’s no more to cover the sun with a sieve; the important things, especially of human political and social connections, need to be conversed frankly, eye to eye, putting the record straight. It is curious to see how people’s minds work differently. However, the day will come when everything will become clearer before our eyes, when you can no longer lie and cheat with impunity, and our feelings will be perfectly clear to anyone.

Considering the painful relationship of disinformation to ethics, and in order to dispel any idea that the author is a villain, it should be clarified that the approach to the subject was highly technical, observations fruit on human conduct, aiming to bring more light on a subject that is often discussed superficially.

Walter Felix Cardoso Junior Doctor is in Applications, Planning and Military Studies from the School of Command and General Staff of the Brazilian Army (1990) and PhD in Industrial Engineering from the Federal University of Santa Catarina (2003).