Espionage: Competitive Intelligence
Foreign interference of our elections reminds me of cigarette package warnings; expressly described and consciously ignored by its users and adopters.
I have often wondered if the Surgeon General’s warning has ever prevented smoking? Even the European versions that use horrific pictures of smoking’s dangers likely lack true preventive aspects. Note: I am not suggesting that anti-smoking campaigns, health education, government projects, social pressures, etc. haven’t impacted smoking, I am sure they have; rising prices and sin taxes simply may have been as effective.
I raise the topic of Smoking-Warnings as a corollary to the recent and ongoing debates, discussions, and frustrations surrounding Russian and other foreign nation interference in our elections.
It should be clear to anyone with an IQ above the ambient temperature that foreign adversaries leveraged a cyber attack via our vulnerable social media portals of all types to promote and encourage disharmony and disruption leading to improving the chance that candidates they prefer are elected. Their influences are not up for debate.
Note, this discussion excludes comments or suggestions as to what current and former politicians may know, may have known, may have done, may not have done, may have conspired with, and/or may not have conspired with. There are plenty of other perspectives on these matters, so my observations are likely unproductive at this moment. Moving onward……
So, if we are aware of former and continuing interference isn’t it essentially a lot like cigarette warnings? Meaning, thanks for reminding me, but do I care? Once I know about it, aren’t I NOW responsible to invest my own thinking into what is competent information versus what might be politically motivated?
Aristotle and Plato taught that “… it was the opinions of those that knew that mattered…”. Milton Friedman changed this to “how do you know? And, why do I care?”. As a member of the University of Oregon’s national debate team, we were taught that the quality of evidence used in the argument was of paramount importance. Meaning, who said it and understanding their inherent bias(es) was necessary to validate the veracity of statements, claims, and conclusions.
While participating in debate teams, the team with the best analysis and evidence should always prevail. In reality, sometimes the marketing of the evidence was superior to the analysis. This occurred more often when we used inexperienced community members as judges over experienced debate professionals, lawyers, and judges. Simply knowing how arguments are presented and recognizing that what appears to be true sometimes just isn’t.
Social Media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) holds tremendous benefits for human connections. Friendships, sharing, discussion, arguments, and celebrations are commonly formed and/or engaged in via these programs. People who were once strangers quickly become “friends”. These platforms and their algorithms connected participants with more “likely friends” and through indiscriminate acceptance, users expand their influencers beyond their known networks. Once users begin receiving news, information, and postings from “friends” who they do not really know, the primary ingredients necessary to influence the unwary exist. Expanding mistruths is easy. Think back to the game of “telephone” many of us played as children. If your outcome was like mine, the statement at the beginning was completely different than the one at the end. It is human nature to simplify what is read and heard. Subsequent repeated communications consolidate informational sharing until only the final summarized sound bites remain. These sound bites are shared again and again until they easily become background facts. Too frequently, these facts are witnessed by our close friends and colleagues and all too often, we hesitate to push for clarity.
The “how” of foreign interference is easy. Simple marketing and sales pitches inside a “news envelope” to people already primed to believe the message. Knowing this, the online huckster can simply craft a new national dialogue to their unknowing victim (you).
Only the naïve would believe that we (in the USA) haven’t been influencing elections abroad since the birth of our Declaration of Independence. In business, we call this “Competitive Intelligence…
The “why” of foreign interference is also easy. It is an old tradition of both enemies and allies, alike. Learn what you can for a competitive advantage. Influence what you can to improve your odds of receiving a more favorable outcome. Only the naïve would believe that we (in the USA) hasn’t been influencing elections abroad since the birth of our Declaration of Independence. In business, we call this “Competitive Intelligence” (Industrial Espionage).
Then, “WHY is this so shocking and continuing to go on?” is what confounds me. Maybe I simply believe this is the modern version of influence; Cheap, Fast, and Simple. A marketer’s dream; if it was only this simple.
Our citizenry is bi-polar with this revelation. A near majority are quite upset and believe that the influence was not only part of the President Trump’s victory, they believe that there were improper connections between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. The other near majority of our citizens are nonplused. These other U.S. citizens don’t care about the foreign interference as they believe that while likely true it didn’t impact the election. Their conclusion is essential, “why such a big deal”?
I dislike that our fellow countrymen and women are at odds. I dislike that people don’t understand that Russian and other interference isn’t new news. I really dislike that unsubstantiated statements are passed around as facts when so many lack any form of substance. I frequently wonder if people simply don’t question sources or use any form of logical reasoning.
What I believe about the impact of former and future foreign interference is irrelevant. What I hope is that people begin to ask tougher questions before passing on as fact that which is truly fiction. The difference between the two can be subtle. It is our human weakness for simplicity that provides the gateway for transmitting gossip, fibs, and fables, as truth and fact. Ultimately our best defense is to be on the offensive and our best offense is to remain steadfastly diligent and accountable toward the Truth (facts).
Truth is frequently stranger than fiction. The difference is one can be proven and other remains a mystery.
Now – Go enjoy your day.
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