One of the biggest challenges we face in preparedness and trying to respond to situations is information overload. We have phones that provide us with instantaneous access to intelligence information that would have taken weeks or months to produce in World War 2. The problem, though, is the inundation of raw data and confusing that with intelligence product; they are not the same thing.
Wisdom is a shelter
as money is a shelter,
but the advantage of knowledge is this:
Wisdom preserves those who have it.
The best example I can give today comes from the Russo-Ukrainian War (also known as the Slavic Civil War). We are currently seeing raw data and raw video from Bucha. It’s horrendous and there were clearly war crimes committed there, and most likely by the Russians, but there has been no time to conduct thorough analysis. This hasn’t stopped the stopped the media from making pronouncements.
Let’s be clear, I’m using the incident to illustrate the concept of analysis, I am in no way claiming the Russians did NOT do it, in fact, I said above it’s highly likely that they did. We are going to look at how to analyze information using it as an example.
This is the scale we use to rate information. In the Bucha case, the video comes from the AFP, so we rate them as B, “Usually Reliable”. However, the AFP reporter was on a guided tour with a Ukrainian government agent, so we can’t give it a top credibility score. The Ukrainian side, as well as the Russian, has put out false information (like the Snake Island 13).
One point we must consider is “Who benefits”? The Ukrainian government would certainly benefit. This doesn’t make the information untrue, but it’s a consideration that should temper our analysis.
Now, Russians are known for their harsh treatment of civilians, so that would seem to move this up the reliability scale. The issue we have is that the Ukrainian government has also allowed, and in fact encouraged, the lynching and killing of suspected Russian collaborators, so we can’t immediately discount that possibility. Based upon these facts, we can rate the information that Russia committed the massacre as “Possibly True” or “Probably True” at best, since it is consistent with other information, yet not certain.
My rating on the raw data is B2, “Usually Reliable Source/Probably True”. The problem is that the media and western governments, without any investigation, is treating the information as A1 – “Completely Reliable and Confirmed by Other Sources”, which is just not true. The problem with this is that they are using it to drum up support for military intervention.
So, how can we prevent falling into this trap? By critically analyzing sources.
For example, one person told me he had “about 8 confirmed sources” that Russia DEFINITELY committed the atrocity. I asked him to please send me the sources. When he did, only 3 sources were sent, and in reading the documents, all three “sources” cited the same AFP raw video and interview with a Ukrainian security official as their source. In other words, rather than “multiple sources”, he had multiple people with the SAME SOURCE. This means only ONE SOURCE.
This is a common problem with intelligence analysis in the modern age and we call it “RUMINT” or “Rumor Intelligence”. That term started as a joke about people presenting rumors as facts, but it’s become a real thing. It’s also a real problem.
We need to always ask people for sources and then dig deeply into those sources to find the TRUE SOURCE, in this case a single report by a reporter with an agenda on a guided tour by others with the same agenda. This doesn’t mean it’s untrue, it means we need to wait for further information.
A great resource is to sign up for the Forward Observer service at http://www.forwardobserver.com. That team puts out great information.
Also, check out the Future Conflict channel on YouTube, where I appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (0900-1100 Eastern) and Saturday evening (1900-2100 Eastern). We discuss current and future conflicts and their impact on your preparedness. The channel can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/c/Kyoshi080. Like and subscribe.
Fast forward to 6 months after a collapse and you’re trying to manage intelligence for your Mutual Assistance Group. Your patrols all report that 3 different refugees walking along the freeway mentioned a large military group heading down the road. If your patrols were trained to ask those refugees where they got that information, you might find that they all talked to the same farmer along their route, who warned them. You just went from confirmed by three sources to only one source. You would then go to that source and make further inquiries to determine the truth, rather than running with the falsely confirmed information, which might put you at risk from another threat.
They do this by tactical questioning, which is covered in Chapter 6 of TW-03, Defensive Operations.
In uncertain times, the deluge of raw data flying at us can be scary and we need to be certain that we aren’t falling victim to the hysteria caused by “RUMINT”. In Doctor David Perrodin’s book, The Velocity of Information, he interviewed me regarding fighting this phenomenon during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, when rumors of National Guard roadblocks & checkpoints and impending lockdowns were rampant. I pointed out that there is no substitute for sending someone you trust to go and confirm the information.
Another point Dr Perrodin makes is to have a “Member Check” network. This is a group of people you know and trust that you can call and ask for observations in their area, to either confirm or refute information. His book is FULL of solid preparedness advice on Human Thinking During Chaotic Times.
I hope these ideas help you navigate the information landscape. Learn to be critical of information, even if you want to believe it. Determine the true source and then find other true sources to verify information.
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