You don’t have to fool all of the people all of the time; you just have to fool the right people some of the time. (folk wisdom)

On June 18 (1941) Timoshenko and Zhukov tried once again to persuade Stalin and the Politburo to put the Army on full alert. The more Zhukov spoke, the more irritated Stalin became. “But you have to understand that Germany on her own will never fight Russia.”  He stormed out, then suddenly put his head around the door and shouted, “If you’re going to provoke the Germans on the frontier by moving troops there without my permission, then heads will roll, mark my words.” In Stalin’s mouth, this was not a figure of speech. (Gorodetsky, Grand Delusion, p. 299. The account is indirectly derived from Timoshenko himself.)

The novelist strives to enter us into an alternative world by means of suggestive description, ‘realistic’ scenery, convincing dialogue, and character motivation. “Yep, that make’s sense,” we say.

The director manipulates props, light, sound and movement to guide the audience eye from here to there.

Misdirection is beyond a doubt the most fundamental principal of magic. In magic, misdirection directs the audience’s attention towards the effect and away from the method that produces it.  The key word in this definition is attention. (Bennett and Waltzer, 63)

Female wild turkey

On a mid-October day, overcast and threatening, on my farm, I am walking through the pine plantation to a a quiet spot where I often smoked my cigar, a place where swamp grasses had suffocated the seedlings to create a small clearing. I step into the clearing. An apparition, immense and brown and white and flashing bright red like a police cruiser, rises from the grass three feet before me to eye level (I seem to remember) flapping and squawking.  My unlit cigar strikes my epiglottis.  The apparition swears, falls to the ground and struggles off to the left, dragging a wing and a leg.  To the right from the corner of my eye, I see a dozen or so fluffy yellow and brown turkey poults scurry into tall grass.

In most of the literature on strategic deception misdirection has been mostly treated as a subset of the deception, the terms  diversion, or display, or feint or decoy or simulation.

The enemy diversion you are ignoring is the main attack. (Murphy’s Laws of Combat, author unknown U.S. Army captain)

The USAF deception analyst  who broke a massive Soviet denial and deception operation at Sharapovo-Chekhov, an operation which had remained hidden from US intelligence for over a decade, did so  by closely examining a false wind tunnel which had been meant to misdirect US attention.

The sergeant taught that when the Soviets concocted a deception, they had something to hide.   One’s first response on hearing this teaching truism is schoolyard sarcasm, “like no kidding, Einstein.”  To follow  the schoolyard analogy, he didn’t just say ‘liar!” which children are,  and intelligence analysts were, wont to do, and then dismiss it,  but he asked the next question:  “Why did they lie?”

U.S. intelligence analysts were taught to look through deception to find truth. “Just the facts, Ma’am.” A false laser test range would be no more revealing to the photo interpreter that a one-hectare square canvas tarp. It is all camouflage, concealment and deception (until gradually replaced with denial and deception, now the common usage). This uncommon sergeant taught that misdirection was significant, meaningful and should be regarded as ‘sticking out like a sore thumb.”  Granted, a more striking metaphor may have served better to teach, but the real question  is why is your opponent trying to make you look the other way?

The deception’s objective is to point your eyes away, misdirection. The cunning analyst is immediately suspicious. Examine the false object. It will clue you into what the enemy is trying to hide.  Notice that I said ‘clue you in.’ You only have surmises which  point out the need for further research.    This is not easy stuff.

A caveat.  I have not had access to secret U.S. intelligence, such as there might be in this age of wiki-leaks, for over twenty years.  It appears however that denial and deception remains oft-times effective in the affairs of man and state.

The turkey’s image comes from