If you’ve been watching the news in the last few days, you are sure to be aware of the Gun Rights Rally held in Richmond, VA. And, depending on which news you watch, your ideas of what happened, who attended, what the rally was about, and how it proceeded could be radically different than the person next to you at work.
And on the other, it was a diverse and peaceful rally to show the state government of the Commonwealth of VA to not intrude further on Constitutional Rights.
And while I definitely fall on the side of the latter, I cannot think of a better real-time example of the value of not just information, but trusting the sources, evaluating bias, and the value of collecting information from other, opposing sources and viewpoints in order to make good decisions for your survival in the urban area.
The value of good intelligence
In the USE&E approach, information and intelligence (in the military sense, not the intellectual sense) are some of the most valuable things we can have. It helps us make decisions, lets us see what may be happening in our world that we need to prepare for, and gives us a view of enemies, allies, neutral parties, resources, and other things to make our lives better.
The first rule of intelligence gathering is to listen to it all, but believe none of it until you can verify it independently. This is especially true when you are inclined to trust the source.
A popular saying in old journalism schools is; “If your mother says she loves you, verify it with three sources.” This goes double for life-saving or actionable intel. As much as you might like a radio host, you should take their information at face value until you can get it from a few different sources.
There are a few reasons why.
What is the reason for the information?
In a mass media endeavor, information is not the prime reason for a show. Advertisers are.
There is a certain alternative host that is known as the greatest water filter salesman in history, and this is for a reason. No matter what knowledge he puts out, his primary job is delivering for advertisers.
It doesn’t mean his information is wrong or right, it means you need to take it for what it is, and get other, corroborating stories that will either prove or disprove it.
Look out for willful disinformation and propaganda
The next category is watching out for willful disinformation. This is probably the most common and rampant occurrence when seeking sources. The cause is usually easy to see if you can maintain a neutral viewpoint as you are consuming the news or information.
Mostly, it is doled out as half-truths dressed up as the full truth in order to advance an agenda, make someone look good or bad, or distract you from seeing the whole picture. The worst of it plays into your biases to keep you docile, or even worse, thinking that you are doing something worthwhile when in reality, you are just being kept busy and out of the way.
A nasty side effect is that you will usually share the disinformation, thus spreading it to different people, and roping them into that loop. This takes advantage of the normal human instinct to share what we find important and helpful with those close to us.
On a smaller scale, like work, for example, most of us have experience with the coworker that will half-lie for their own benefit, file false HR grievances to sabotage the competition, or various other acts using information as a weapon. This is the same thing I was talking about above, just on a different scale.
The final category is outright propaganda used to steer a population or a person into a false belief or false action.
We can see examples of this all around us, and the mainstream media’s behavior over the last few years can be used as a model to learn about this.
Why you have to watch out for bad intel
Now, after all of that, here is why I find it important to talk about this. As mentioned above, information is a currency all it’s own. It enables us to make proper decisions and act when needed.
But there are other reasons that looking at these things is important. Time is the most valuable resource we have. We need to spend our time wisely, and wasting it on false information is dangerous. It takes our time away from things that will really help us in the world we live in and makes us waste even more time worrying about things that do not matter. Neither of these things makes our lives better or our prepping worthwhile.
Another reason is that we need to watch against being guided or steered into harmful action, or inaction that benefits others but not ourselves.
The main reason, however, is the need to make the decisions for the lives we live now, and the lives we want to live in the future. If we continuously follow rabbit trails, swallow unproven conspiracies, let media inflame and enrage us, we are not living and preparing for our lives. We are reacting to others and living for them.
In the end, prepping and surviving requires us to act in our own best interest. We cannot do that if we do not have clear sight and a calm mind. We cannot help others if we do not know what is actually happening.
We cannot make allies and find helpers if we have a false picture of who to trust or believe.
In this case, we can become our own worst enemies. We are the only ones that can deceive ourselves to the point of danger. The more information we can trust, the less we can be susceptible to fooling ourselves based on what others try to shovel us.
Sometimes it is obvious that we are seeing a piece of disinformation, and sometimes it plays on a blindspot we have. Many of the false “be aware of this” viral posts on Facebook take advantage of our lack of knowledge of criminal behavior. Like the posts recently warning women about the zip tying of windshield wipers as a prelude to being abducted. If you don’t know how this actually happens, you will be worried about a false problem, and not looking for real danger signs, thus making you less safe.
In the future, I will be talking about warning networks, neighborhood networks, how to set up varying networks locally, and things to pay attention to in an urban environment to stay safe and prepared. We will also discuss various tricks of the trade and ways to get by. But none of that information will help if you cannot trust the sources you receive your information from.
Trust your gut.
Terry Trahan has been a long term martial artist and teacher of personal protection, as well as an author for numerous publications. His experiences from being a gang member, enforcer, protection specialist, and bouncer have given his teachings a strong bent towards the practical. Fighting his way out of extreme poverty and some unsavory environs also gives him insight into survival and everyday life not often commented on. He can be contacted at terry.trahan at gmail.com