Who Cares If Hunter Biden Owns a Computer? Crimson Herrings and Reflexive Keep an eye on


 Advent: Propaganda and Disinformation in Well being Care and In different places

 We used to write down about propaganda and disinformation used to advertise well being care items and products and services (stealth advertising
campaigns), and recommend for insurance policies favorable to non-public well being care
organizations (stealth well being coverage advocacy and stealth lobbying).  Some stealth advertising, lobbying and
coverage advocacy campaigns surround now not simply propaganda, however disinformation.  As an example, imagine the medical insurance corporate marketing campaign to derail the Clinton management’s try at
well being reform as described through Wendell Potter in Fatal Spin (glance right here). 
The ways hired in that marketing campaign incorporated: use of entrance teams and
3rd events (helpful idiots?); use of spies; distractions to make
necessary problems anechoic; message self-discipline; and entrapment

However again within the day, the perception of propaganda and disinformation as an actual risk to well being care, a lot much less our democratic procedure and society as an entire, used to be beautiful radical.  That used to be then.  By means of 2019 we have been writing a couple of  a brand new (ab)customary
that incorporates propaganda and disinformation within the provider of opposed
authoritarian overseas states supposed to disrupt extra democratic
governments, regardless of the value in human well being and lives.

And in 2023, propaganda and disinformation are within the headlines always.  However it’s nonetheless necessary for well being care pros and the general public at huge to comprehend the mechanisms of each, and methods to mentally shield in opposition to them.  In 2023, in spite of the headlines, the propagandists and disinformationists don’t seem to be slowing down.  So it is time to overview how they perform once more. Let me provide a contemporary instance that stuck my eye.

Who Cares if Hunter Biden owned a Actual Computer?   

As Elon Musk’s Twitter will get increasingly more raucous, the propaganda and disinformation that seem therein has gotten again to fundamentals, offering some stark examples of the ways used.  As an example, see this 5 phrase Tweet from Rep Elise Stefanik (R-NY), a Harvard skilled Congresswoman who has change into a first-rate booster of Trump. 

Hunter Biden’s pc is actual.

What may just it imply? Is there a debate occurring whether or not Hunter Biden (the son of President Biden) owns a pc? Who would care?

In fact, it seems that there’s a very giant controversy, promoted through individuals who reinforce Trump, about whether or not some sides of a pc ostensibly as soon as owned through Hunter Biden recommend that each Bidens are unethical, corrupt, or worse.  As an example, Washington Publish journalists attempted to research the debate and the quite a lot of questions raised in regards to the provenance of the allegedly incriminating knowledge:

gigabytes of knowledge supplied to The Publish on a conveyable arduous force through
Republican activist Jack Maxey. He stated the contents of the transportable
force originated from Hunter Biden’s MacBook Professional, which Hunter
reportedly dropped off at a pc restore store in Wilmington, Del., in
April 2019 and not reclaimed.

overwhelming majority of the knowledge — and many of the just about 129,000 emails it
contained — may just now not be verified through both of the 2 safety professionals
who reviewed the knowledge for The Publish. Neither discovered transparent proof of
tampering of their examinations, however probably the most information that may have
helped examine contents weren’t to be had for research, they stated. 

It is transparent there used to be no transparent chain of custody spanning Hunter Biden, the pc, its arduous force, the knowledge on that onerous force, and the knowledge in the end given to the Washington Publish.

Moreover, the importance of this digital knowledge and the strengths of any arguments in regards to the conduct of Hunter Biden, President Biden, or other folks in line with it are very unclear.

So what used to be the purpose of Rep Stefanik’s stark remark (and plenty of others love it)?

The Crimson Herring Logical Fallacy

One easy clarification is that Rep Stefanik et al have been using the Crimson Herring Logical Fallacy.  One definition of this fallacy is:

Making an attempt to redirect the argument to any other factor to which the individual
doing the redirecting can higher reply. Whilst it’s very similar to the heading off the problem fallacy, the purple herring is a planned diversion of consideration with the goal of seeking to abandon the unique argument.

So that is like the numerous different examples of using logical fallacies to advance self-serving arguments about well being care, coverage, or different problems that we have now mentioned

Reflexive Keep an eye on

Then again, Rep Stefanik’s 5 phrase statement would possibly in truth be a part of one thing extra subtle.

It can be a part of a bigger means of reflexive keep watch over.  Discussions of reflexive keep watch over used to basically seem in quite esoteric puts, eg in issues of army and intelligence methods, sport concept, and so on. Right here is a few background from the Georgetown Safety Research Evaluate from 2017:

With confusion swirling round ‘selection information,’ the results of
disinformation and Russian meddling are simply starting to take hang.
This phenomenon is also new to American politics, but it surely’s an outdated
technique within the Kremlin. To know and fight the results and objectives
of disinformation, we will have to perceive the concept that of reflexive keep watch over
and the way it suits into larger Russian technique.

Reflexive keep watch over is a ‘uniquely Russian’ thought in line with maskirovka,
an outdated Soviet perception by which one ‘conveys to an opponent particularly
ready data to incline him/her to voluntarily make the
predetermined resolution desired through the initiator of the motion’.
This is, reflexive keep watch over is a sustained marketing campaign that feeds an
opponent choose data in order that the opponent makes the choices
that one needs him/her to. Strategies of reflexive keep watch over come with
spreading false data, leaking partial data at opportune
moments, and projecting a distinct posture of oneself than what would possibly
in truth be the case.
The function of reflexive keep watch over is to ‘keep watch over’ the ‘reflex’ of the
opponent through developing a undeniable type of conduct within the machine it seeks
to keep watch over.
Essentially the most elementary approach to try this is to find the vulnerable hyperlink within the
machine and exploit it thru ethical arguments, mental ways, or
appeals to express leaders’ personality.

This idea has an extended historical past in Russian army technique, with
the Soviet and Russian Armed Forces learning reflexive keep watch over at each
the tactical and operational ranges.
Reflexive keep watch over has additionally lengthy been taught at quite a lot of Russian army
faculties and coaching techniques, and is codified as Russian nationwide
safety technique within the Gerasimov Doctrine. Nowadays, reflexive keep watch over is a key part in Russia’s concept of hybrid struggle.


Right here is an invaluable abstract from the PropWatch Undertaking about how it is accomplished:

 A messaging means of reflexive keep watch over conveys specifically ready
data to an opponent to incline that opponent to voluntarily make
the predetermined resolution desired through the initiator of the motion.’ In different phrases, reflexive keep watch over is a method to get an opponent to willingly defeat himself. 

First offered within the former Soviet Union through mathematician and
psychologist Vladimir Lefebvre, reflexive keep watch over is a idea that has
been perfected through Russia for the reason that 1960’s. A method of reflexive keep watch over will also be decreased right down to 4 elementary elements, often known as the 4Ds:

Dismiss – to easily deny any involvement in a question and discredit the accuser.
Distort – to warp, twist, or fabricate your individual information.
Distract – to introduce sure novel data into the combination or accuse your accuser of the similar. 
Dismay – to play with feelings through the use of fear-mongering ways.

Accusing one’s political enemy of denying the lifestyles of an object (a pc) when the actual questions are sophisticated ones in regards to the truthfulness of proof and one of the best ways to interpret it sort of feels to suit proper in.


The issues of propaganda and disinformation in well being care and coverage not appear esoteric.  As a substitute they have got change into central issues of our time, and a transparent problem to our beliefs of democratic executive.  With no functioning democracy, IMHO seeking to make incremental adjustments in well being coverage to cut back well being care disorder turns into an workout in frustration, if now not futility.

Well being care pros and most of the people will have to higher perceive and discover ways to shield in opposition to each crude and complex makes an attempt to warp coverage and politics, and corrupt democracy to forestall the onset of a brand new darkish age.

We on Well being Care Renewal  will proceed to take a look at to do our small section to shield in opposition to those darkish arts.



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