by Philip Ingram MBE
There are elements of the press who seem to suggest that fake news is something new, it isn’t, and it has its roots back to the 6th century, but before I delve that far back I want to take a quick look to only 74 years ago. The Second World War shows just how important “fake news” was to the war effort; fake news, when targeted for an effect is also known as Propaganda. William Brooke Joyce, nicknamed Lord Haw-Haw, an American-born, Anglo-Irish Fascist who became the Nazi propaganda broadcaster to the United Kingdom during World War II was probably the most famous mouth of fake news, but the Japanese had English speaking female broadcasters who were nicknamed Tokyo Rose.
The use of fake news or propaganda was not limited to the Germans or Japanese and arguably the greatest military success of the Second World War, D Day, was enabled by fake news through an operation called Operation Fortitude. With this being linked to a military operation this is where I want to bring in 6th century teachings.
Sun Tzu the 6th century Chinese general, military strategist, and philosopher, arguably the greatest military tactician and strategic thinker ever, said in his book the Art of War, “All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.” His teachings have stood the test of time!
The Russian term маскировка (maskirovka) literally masking, was defined in the International Dictionary of Intelligence from 1990 as the Russian military intelligence (GRU) term for deception. Vladimir Putin would have “grown up” in an organisation where maskirovka was a normal part of everyday thinking. At every level of my military training we studied maskirovka, so imagine my surprise when Robert Hannigan, the ex-director of the UK spy agency GCHQ, said of the Russian threat in an interview this year, ‘We didn’t see Russian use of disinformation coming’. It clearly demonstrates a naivety with the UK’s senior intelligence officials, charged with keeping our politicians abreast of the threat to that which underpins our way of life, democracy.
This failure highlights that those self-same senior intelligence officials have forgotten one of Sun Tzu’s most famous quotes. “If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperilled in a hundred battles; … if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperilled in every single battle.”…………….
This is an excerpt from my full article that can be accessed HERE on HQ The Home of Global Security Magazine for the International Security Expo 2018.
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