Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How To Deceive, Lie And Spread Disinformation: A Guide To The Most Effective Disinformation Tactics

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What is disinformation? How news media manage to deceive and lie? What you and I can do to recognize misleading sources? In this guide H. Michael Sweeney uncovers the most effective disinformation tactics to help you identify half-truths.

Photo credit: Sgame

Disinformation is false or inaccurate information that is spread deliberately. It is synonymous with and sometimes called Black propaganda. It may include the distribution of forged documents, manuscripts, and photographs, or the spreading of malicious rumors and fabricated intelligence. Disinformation should not be confused with misinformation, information that is unintentionally false. (Source Wikipedia)

Disinformation is carried out in different ways. Here are some examples:

  • A potentially dangerous news story may be ignored by mass media. Most people believe that something which has not been reported just does not exist.
  • A news story may be presented as a "wild accusation", especially by someone authoritative. People that have a large consensus or cover important positions in politics, economics or the military may leverage their reputation to label a a fact as false and preposterous.
  • A big media coverage of an important event may create enough distraction to deviate the attention of people from a real issue.
  • A rumor that is neither confirmed or denied may generate confusion and doubts in a large audience.
  • An individual or group of people may be forced or payed to provide false information that generate fake news stories.

Now that I have presented you some examples of how disinformation works, let me share with you some practical advice to protect yourself against misleading information:

  • Ask: Always ask yourself lots of questions when you hear a news story. Where is the news from? Is it a reliable source? Is somebody else reporting the same story? Question everything and take nothing for granted.
  • Verify: Search on the web or discuss with your friends and family any piece of news that comes from media sources. You may discover valuable information that put the entire story under a different light.
  • Keep position: Never underestimate your opinions and do not be afraid of authority. Beware "the guy who knows" who puts his credentials on the table. Everyone has the same level of reliability until they prove to be trustworthy.
  • Investigate: Be very careful with news stories claimed to be too complex to solve. No analysis of the story has probably been done and you are consuming information which has not been investigated or verified.
  • Focus: Do not try to split your attention to multiple news stories. Choose one and stick with it. Then move on. There is always a bigger news story screaming for attention that may distract your investigation.

These above are just some examples to help you think differently and develop a critical attitude towards everyday news you consume. In the contributing article from H. Michael Sweeney you are about to read, you will find a good list of tactics that disinformation artists use to deceive and let you buy into lies and fake news stories.

For those of you who have never heard of Mr. Sweeney, he is a disinformation expert and a book author. He also runs the website The Professional Paranoid which is a good reference to address items related to web security and personal privacy issues.

Here H. Michael Sweeney's guide to the most effective disinformation tactics:


Twenty-Five Ways To Suppress Truth: The Rules Of Disinformation


by H. Michael Sweeney

Built upon Thirteen Techniques for Truth Suppression by David Martin, the following may be useful to the initiate in the world of dealing with veiled and half-truth, lies, and suppression of truth when serious crimes are studied in public forums. This, sadly, includes every day news media, one of the worst offenders with respect to being a source of disinformation.

Where the crime involves a conspiracy, or a conspiracy to cover up the crime, there will invariably be a disinformation campaign launched against those seeking to uncover and expose the truth and / or the conspiracy.

There are specific tactics which disinfo artists tend to apply, as revealed here.

The more a particular party fits the traits and is guilty of following the rules, the more likely they are a professional disinfo artist with a vested motive.

People can be bought, threatened, or blackmailed into providing disinformation, so even "good guys" can be suspects in many cases.

A rational person participating as one interested in the truth will evaluate that chain of evidence and conclude either that the links are solid and conclusive, that one or more links are weak and need further development before a conclusion can be arrived at, or that one or more links can be broken, usually invalidating (but not necessarily so, if parallel links already exist or can be found, or if a particular link was merely supportive, but not in itself key to) the argument. The game is played by raising issues which either strengthen or weaken (preferably to the point of breaking) these links.

It is the job of a disinfo artist to interfere with these evaluations... to at least make people think the links are weak or broken when, in truth, they are not... or to propose alternative solutions leading away from the truth.

Often, by simply impeding and slowing down the process through disinformation tactics, a level of victory is assured because apathy increases with time and rhetoric.

It would seem true in almost every instance, that if one cannot break the chain of evidence for a given solution, revelation of truth has won out.

If the chain is broken either a new link must be forged, or a whole new chain developed, or the solution is invalid and a new one must be found... but truth still wins out.

There is no shame in being the creator or supporter of a failed solution, chain, or link, if done with honesty in search of the truth. This is the rational approach.


Avoid The Chain of Evidence


While it is understandable that a person can become emotionally involved with a particular side of a given issue, it is really unimportant who wins, as long as truth wins. But the disinfo artist will seek to emotionalize and chastise any failure (real or false claims thereof), and will seek by means of intimidation to prevent discussion in general.

It is the disinfo artist and those who may pull their strings (those who stand to suffer should the crime be solved) MUST seek to prevent rational and complete examination of any chain of evidence which would hang them.

Since fact and truth seldom fall on their own, they must be overcome with lies and deceit.

Those who are professional in the art of lies and deceit, such as the intelligence community and the professional criminal (often the same people or at least working together), tend to apply fairly well defined and observable tools in this process. However, the public at large is not well armed against such weapons, and is often easily led astray by these time-proven tactics.

Remarkably, not even media and law enforcement have NOT BEEN TRAINED to deal with these issues. For the most part, only the players themselves understand the rules of the game.

For such disinformationalists, the overall aim is to avoid discussing links in the chain of evidence which cannot be broken by truth, but at all times, to use clever deceptions or lies to make select links seem weaker than they are, create the illusion of a break, or better still, cause any who are considering the chain to be distracted in any number of ways, including the method of questioning the credentials of the presenter.


Fact Is Fact


Please understand that fact is fact, regardless of the source. Likewise, truth is truth, regardless of the source. This is why criminals are allowed to testify against other criminals.

Where a motive to lie may truly exist, only actual evidence that the testimony itself IS a lie renders it completely invalid.

Where a known 'liar's' testimony to stand on its own without supporting fact, it might certainly be of questionable value, but if the testimony (argument) is based on verifiable or otherwise demonstrable facts, it matters not who does the presenting or what their motives are, or if they have lied in the past or even if motivated to lie in this instance - the facts or links would and should stand or fall on their own merit and their part in the matter will merely be supportive.

Moreover, particularly with respects to public forums such as newspaper letters to the editor, and Internet chat and news groups, the disinfo type has a very important role.

In these forums, the principle topics of discussion are generally attempts by individuals to cause other persons to become interested in their own particular position, idea, or solution - very much in development at the time.

People often use such mediums as a sounding board and in hopes of pollination to better form their ideas.

Where such ideas are critical of government or powerful, vested groups (especially if their criminality is the topic), the disinfo artist has yet another role - the role of nipping it in the bud.

They also seek to stage the concept, the presenter, and any supporters as less than credible should any possible future confrontation in more public forums result due to their early successes.

You can often spot the disinfo types at work here by the unique application of "higher standards" of discussion than necessarily warranted.

They will demand that those presenting arguments or concepts back everything up with the same level of expertise as a professor, researcher, or investigative writer. Anything less renders any discussion meaningless and unworthy in their opinion, and anyone who disagrees is obviously stupid - and they generally put it in exactly those terms.

So, as you read any such discussions, particularly so in Internet news groups (NG), decide for yourself when a rational argument is being applied and when disinformation, psyops (psychological warfare operations) or trickery is the tool. Accuse those guilty of the latter freely.

They (both those deliberately seeking to lead you astray, and those who are simply foolish or misguided thinkers) generally run for cover when thus illuminated, or - put in other terms, they put up or shut up (a perfectly acceptable outcome either way, since truth is the goal.)


Twenty-Five Rules of Disinformation

Here are the twenty-five method , some of which don't apply directly to NG application. Each contains a simple example in the form of actual (some paraphrased for simplicity) from NG comments on commonly known historical events, and a proper response.

Accusations should not be overused - reserve for repeat offenders and those who use multiple tactics.

Responses should avoid falling into emotional traps or informational sidetracks, unless it is feared that some observers will be easily dissuaded by the trickery.



Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil

Regardless of what you know, don't discuss it - especially if you are a public figure, news anchor, etc. If it's not reported, it didn't happen, and you never have to deal with the issues.


Become Incredulous and Indignant

Avoid discussing key issues and instead focus on side issues which can be used to show the topic as being critical of some otherwise sacrosanct group or theme. This is also known as the 'How dare you!' gambit.


Create Rumor Mongers

Avoid discussing issues by describing all charges, regardless of venue or evidence, as mere rumors and wild accusations. Other derogatory terms mutually exclusive of truth may work as well. This method which works especially well with a silent press, because the only way the public can learn of the facts are through such 'arguable rumors'.

If you can associate the material with the Internet, use this fact to certify it a 'wild rumor' from a 'bunch of kids on the Internet' which can have no basis in fact.


Alice In Wonderland Logic

Avoid discussion of the issues by reasoning backwards or with an apparent deductive logic which forbears any actual material fact.




Invoke Authority

Claim for yourself or associate yourself with authority and present your argument with enough 'jargon' and 'minutia' to illustrate you are 'one who knows', and simply say it isn't so without discussing issues or demonstrating concretely why or citing sources.


Play Dumb

No matter what evidence or logical argument is offered, avoid discussing issues except with denials they have any credibility, make any sense, provide any proof, contain or make a point, have logic, or support a conclusion. Mix well for maximum effect.


Enigmas Have No Solution

Drawing upon the overall umbrella of events surrounding the crime and the multitude of players and events, paint the entire affair as too complex to solve. This causes those otherwise following the matter to begin to lose interest more quickly without having to address the actual issues.


Change The Subject

Usually in connection with one of the other ploys listed here, find a way to side-track the discussion with abrasive or controversial comments in hopes of turning attention to a new, more manageable topic. This works especially well with companions who can 'argue' with you over the new topic and polarize the discussion arena in order to avoid discussing more key issues.


Ignore Proof Presented, Demand Impossible Proofs

This is perhaps a variant of the 'play dumb' rule. Regardless of what material may be presented by an opponent in public forums, claim the material irrelevant and demand proof that is impossible for the opponent to come by (it may exist, but not be at his disposal, or it may be something which is known to be safely destroyed or withheld, such as a murder weapon.)

In order to completely avoid discussing issues, it may be required of you to categorically deny and be critical of media or books as valid sources, deny that witnesses are acceptable, or even deny that statements made by government or other authorities have any meaning or relevance.


Create Bigger Distractions

To distract from sensitive issues, or to prevent unwanted media coverage of unstoppable events such as trials, create bigger news stories (or treat them as such) to distract the multitudes.




Use a Straw Man

Find or create a seeming element of your opponent's argument which you can easily knock down to make yourself look good and the opponent to look bad.

Either make up an issue you may safely imply exists based on your interpretation of the opponent/opponent arguments/situation, or select the weakest aspect of the weakest charges. Amplify their significance and destroy them in a way which appears to debunk all the charges, real and fabricated alike, while actually avoiding discussion of the real issues.


Sidetrack Opponents With Name Calling and Ridicule

This is also known as the primary 'attack the messenger' ploy, though other methods qualify as variants of that approach.

Associate opponents with unpopular titles such as 'kooks', 'right-wing', 'liberal', 'left-wing', 'terrorists', 'conspiracy buffs', 'radicals', 'militia', 'racists', 'religious fanatics', 'sexual deviates', and so forth. This makes others shrink from support out of fear of gaining the same label, and you avoid dealing with issues.


Hit and Run

In any public forum, make a brief attack of your opponent or the opponent position and then scamper off before an answer can be fielded, or simply ignore any answer. This works extremely well in Internet and letters-to-the-editor environments where a steady stream of new identities can be called upon without having to explain criticism, reasoning - simply make an accusation or other attack, never discussing issues, and never answering any subsequent response, for that would dignify the opponent's viewpoint.


Associate Opponent Charges With Old News

A derivative of the straw man - usually, in any large-scale matter of high visibility, someone will make charges early on which can be or were already easily dealt with - a kind of investment for the future should the matter not be so easily contained.

Where it can be foreseen, have your own side raise a straw man issue and have it dealt with early on as part of the initial contingency plans.

Subsequent charges, regardless of validity or new ground uncovered, can usually then be associated with the original charge and dismissed as simply being a rehash without need to address current issues - so much the better where the opponent is or was involved with the original source.


Demand Complete Solutions

Avoid the issues by requiring opponents to solve the crime at hand completely, a ploy which works best with issues qualifying for "Associate Opponent Charges With Old News".


Emotionalize, Antagonize, and Goad Opponents

If you can't do anything else, chide and taunt your opponents and draw them into emotional responses which will tend to make them look foolish and overly motivated, and generally render their material somewhat less coherent.

Not only will you avoid discussing the issues in the first instance, but even if their emotional response addresses the issue, you can further avoid the issues by then focusing on how 'sensitive they are to criticism.'




Question Motives

Twist or amplify any fact which could be taken to imply that the opponent operates out of a hidden personal agenda or other bias. This avoids discussing issues and forces the accuser on the defensive.


Establish and Rely Upon Fall-Back Positions

Using a minor matter or element of the facts, take the 'high road' and 'confess' with candor that some innocent mistake, in hindsight, was made - but that opponents have seized on the opportunity to blow it all out of proportion and imply greater criminalities which, 'just isn't so.' Others can reinforce this on your behalf, later, and even publicly 'call for an end to the nonsense' because you have already 'done the right thing.'.

Done properly, this can garner sympathy and respect for 'coming clean' and 'owning up' to your mistakes without addressing more serious issues.


Fit The Facts To Alternate Conclusions

This requires creative thinking unless the crime was planned with contingency conclusions in place.


False Evidence

Whenever possible, introduce new facts or clues designed and manufactured to conflict with opponent presentations - as useful tools to neutralize sensitive issues or impede resolution. This works best when the crime was designed with contingencies for the purpose, and the facts cannot be easily separated from the fabrications.


Manufacture a New Truth

Create your own expert(s), group(s), author(s), leader(s) or influence existing ones willing to forge new ground via scientific, investigative, or social research or testimony which concludes favorably. In this way, if you must actually address issues, you can do so authoritatively.


Hide The Evidence


Vanish Evidence and Witnesses

If it does not exist, it is not fact, and you won't have to address the issue.


Call a Grand Jury, Special Prosecutor, Or Other Empowered Investigative Body

Subvert (the process) to your benefit and effectively neutralize all sensitive issues without open discussion.

Once convened, the evidence and testimony are required to be secret when properly handled. For instance, if you own the prosecuting attorney, it can insure a Grand Jury hears no useful evidence and that the evidence is sealed and unavailable to subsequent investigators.

Once a favorable verdict is achieved, the matter can be considered officially closed. Usually, this technique is applied to find the guilty innocent, but it can also be used to obtain charges when seeking to frame a victim.


Silence Critics

If the above methods do not prevail, consider removing opponents from circulation by some definitive solution so that the need to address issues is removed entirely. This can be by their death, arrest and detention, blackmail or destruction of their character by release of blackmail information, or merely by destroying them financially, emotionally, or severely damaging their health.



If you are a key holder of secrets or otherwise overly illuminated and you think the heat is getting too hot, to avoid the issues, vacate the kitchen.

Originally written by H. Michael Sweeney for WHALE and first published on April, 1st 2000 as "Twenty-Five Ways To Suppress Truth: The Rules of Disinformation".

About the author


H. Michael Sweeney is an author, publisher, and consultant who has specialized in crimes of the intelligence community and personal privacy and security. Best known for his non fiction Professional Paranoid series of books on these topics, he has also published Fatal Rebirth, a four-volume fiction series which looks at ties between terrorism and the seemingly random domestic bumps-in-the-night of America's political past. Michael Sweeney writes at

Photo credits:
Twenty-Five Ways To Suppress Truth: The Rules Of Disinformation - Jimmy Lopes
Avoid The Chain Of Evidence - Andrey Solovyev
Fact Is Fact - LiveStock
Avoidance - Darko Novakovic
Confuse - Rene Jansa
Attack - Jose Manuel Gelpi Diaz
Fake - gromaler
Hide The Evidence - 3dfoto

H. Michael Sweeney -
Reference: WHALE [ Read more ]
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posted by Daniele Bazzano on Wednesday, August 19 2009, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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