Because so many political transactions in modern organizations revolve around the distribution or exchange of information, devious tactics related to information are becoming increasingly common. The general approach involves withholding information, or distorting it before passing it along. Here's a short catalog of devious political tactics related to information.
- Hoarding information
- Since information can be power, withholding information from a target can deprive that target of power. But simple withholding is risky if you're caught doing it, because openness about harming someone invites retaliation. More sophisticated approaches involve distributing the information through channels the target ignores or cannot access, or timing the distribution so that it only becomes available when the target cannot benefit from it. These more sophisticated approaches allow the hoarder to deprive the target of information while at the same time reaping "points" for keeping the target informed.
- Trading in fool's gold
- Political operators who engage in information exchanges can often help each other politically. But perfidious operators sometimes offer information that appears to be valuable, but which they know to be worthless or nearly so. Perhaps it has a short shelf life; or many people, outside the awareness of the recipient, already know it; or it's incorrect in some subtle but very important ways.
- Disinforming en masse
- Disinformation is not only false — it's known to be false by the person disclosing it. But when disclosed to numerous people — over a wide area — it's usually received uncritically, because people believe that nobody would blatantly lie so widely without fear of being caught. In other words, the breadth and boldness of the distribution tends to lend credibility to the disinformation. To employ this tactic, the source of the disinformation must have confidence that the information cannot be easily falsified.
- Making errors in details
- Some information Perfidious operators sometimes offer
information that appears to be
valuable, but which they know
to be worthless or nearly sois valuable only if it's correct in every detail. Examples are procedures, directions, dates, times, email addresses, telephone numbers, URLs, and the spelling of names and places. Operators who don't wish to divulge such information, but who must do so when requested, can delay the disclosure, possibly rendering it worthless, by including errors in the material significant enough to prevent the recipient from using it successfully, but carefully designed to be plausibly explained as "typos."
- Cluttering the cupboard
- When operators absolutely must disclose the information, but don't want recipients to actually use it, they can include the information in a field of irrelevant clutter that prevents recipients from finding it easily. An excuse is usually required to justify the action. Example: "Oh, we thought you needed the results for all customers, not just the ones who complained." Example: "Sorry, we can't extract by that set of criteria — it isn't one we're set up for. So we used these other criteria instead."
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Read about more devious political tactics.
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Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming November 30: Avoiding Speed Bumps: II
- Many of the difficulties we encounter when working together don't create long-term harm, but they do cause delays, confusion, and frustration. Here's Part II of a little catalog of tactics for avoiding speed bumps. Available here and by RSS on November 30.
- And on December 7: Reaching Agreements in Technological Contexts
- Reaching consensus in technological contexts presents special challenges. Problems can arise from interactions between the technological elements of the issue at hand, and the social dynamics of the group addressing that issue. Here are three examples. Available here and by RSS on December 7.
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