I am leaving for China in the morning, this is my second trip there. Quite honestly, during my first trip I was very apprehensive. I expected Chinese police
and military on every street corner. I expected spies lurking in the airport, in my hotel, in my closet, in my bathroom, in every meeting room, outside my bedroom and watching what I ate, how I walked, my predilections and Mata Haris trying to seduce me at every turn. Well, I’m sure they watched me, noted what I liked and wrote down what I said and what I asked, but the point I’m trying to make is that I bought into the propaganda. I saw the police only in Tienanmen square and I traveled through much of the country. Beside one incident at the airport when I first arrived, which I describe later, I do not think I was trailed. I rarely saw the PRC flag. I even got to tour the national military museum and I did not see any propaganda.
Two years ago I was invited to speak at a conference in Moscow, Russia. I was invited by some very important people and I knew I was going to come in contact with some less than scrupulous people. The truth is, I was just fine. I was met at Domodedovo airport by a giant of man, about 6′ 13″ (yeah, I know, 7’1″). I talked with him for 20 minutes during the ride before I asked him what he did for a living and he said “Secret”. Oooh… now I’m excited. Let’s find out what he does! So I start talking about me, about what I like, asking him innocent things like “What’s your name? Have you been to the US? Do you know anyone there?” and so on… my incessant chattering finally broke down the wall and after two hours I asked him “Who do you work for”? He said, in what sounded like perfect German FSB. Ah… the follow on to the KGB, Russian internal security! This is great! So I said… “Oh, like the FBI?” He must have thought I was an absolute moron, so he started flooding me with information. By the time he dropped me off at Lomonosov Moscow State University, I had a new best friend… but I never got the feeling I was being tailed. I even met another FSB agent who supplied me with a taxi ride back to the airport. That’s another long story for another day, but I never got the feeling I was being tailed. …but I know I was.
One of the things I had always been lead to believe was that Russian women were all BIG and ugly. Not in the slightest. As a matter of fact I saw more supermodels in Moscow than I’ve ever seen on television. The worst was at Gum department store (across from the Kremlin) where all the brides posed for their wedding photos… each one looked better than many Victoria Secrets models…. On my last train ride from Red Square back to Moscow State University a young woman rode on the metro directly in front of me. Gentlemen, it was agony. She put Adriana Lima to shame. Quite honestly I did not see one woman wearing a
babushka nor one that was fat like many American women. I didn’t get out into the outlying villages, granted, but somehow the propaganda I was fed for years seemed so… ugh.
Fast forward to December 2010 and I see a woman in a long white stuffed coat at Pudong Airport in Shanghai not so subtly trailing me through the airport. Ah ha! She never looked at me, but once I picked up my luggage I headed to the down elevator and she did contortions trying to get into the elevator. Ah, amateurs. She later trailed me to where I was being picked up and a partner joined her but I left without her in tow. Later she showed up where I was speaking but the guard wouldn’t let her in. She flashed her ID: State Security. Cool. The rest of the ten days was great! I spoke at four think tanks and a few universities. I sat and talked with some of the leading academicians in the cyber warfare and information warfare fields. The Chinese are as scared of us as much as we are scared of them. Neither one of us is really scared but we don’t trust one another.
But the Chinese people. Wow. I took a tour to the Great Wall of China and ate lunch with a group of Chinese young adults. They were shy, wanting to speak, so I broke the ice. Then the dam broke and they were all trying to practice their English. I didn’t know they had six years of English required studying, and they all practiced at once! One of the young ‘uns was from Inner Mongolia and offered me one of their cigarettes… what a touching gesture! I experienced smog in Xi’an like you would not believe, it looked like a thick fog… I was told it was from the factories in Mongolia, but somehow I just don’t believe it.
These experiences, and the fact that I spent nine years in Special Forces and that kind of thing, caused me to think. Then I began to wonder. How much of what we read and what we see is propaganda? Not foreign propaganda, but domestic? How much of that domestic ‘information’ is propaganda? I know the pictures of Soviet, now Russian, women, were not in line with reality. I know that the pictures I was sold of the Chinese were not real. I have even experienced, in the past week, seniors within the US information operations and electronic warfare community feeding me absolute lines of bull ca-ca. When I exposed their untruths, I was told to stop spoiling their fun.
In 2012, Americans are going to be exposed to some of the biggest lies imaginable. We are going to be exposed to the absolute blather of political candidates running for office and somehow we are supposed to suspend reality and believe their lies? Listen to the radio on your way to work. Read the newspapers. Read the websites and the blogs and the tweets and the emails. We are being smothered in one lie after another. All in the name of politics. It seems to me that these politicians are almost complacent with us behaving like suckling pigs, absolute ignorant morons…
So I ask you, do you see more lies and propaganda here than I saw in China or Russia? I would say it depends on your perspective. I see more lies aimed at us from our own politicians than I have ever seen anyplace else in the world… you tell me. Are Americans more susceptible to propaganda?
- The BBC’s distortion of the truth helps Putin suppress his critics (telegraph.co.uk)