Notes politics

Strategy 23: Weave a Seamless Blend of Fact and Fiction (The 33 Strategies of War)

Control people’s perceptions of reality to control them.

Hitler knew that the allies were deceptive, and he was alert to their covert tactics, but the Allies, in a masterclass of deception, managed to fool him.

In war-time, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.


The allies knew that the Germans had agents in France, but they did not capture them. Instead, they turned them into double agents by spreading misinformation. With the help of film directors and writers, they created a seemingly authentic script that described a completely fictional army, with made up plans. Hitler fell for the decoy.

Our happiness depends on understanding what other people are thinking. But we cannot get inside their heads. We are forced to read the signs through their outward behavior. We look for patterns, think about their words, and tone of voice. At the same time, many are trying to read us.

It is a constant game of appearance and perception. If we are clueless about other people’s intentions and they are well-informed of ours, then they have a large advantage over us. To control how others perceive you and misdirect them, it pays to be aware of some basic strategies.

The false front: Sun Tzu’s favorite, this is when you appear weak on purpose – bringing out the other side’s emotions and violence.

The decoy attack: To keep people from defending the points you want to attack, make real gestures toward a goal that you don’t care about. People will assume this is your real goal since you are invested in it, they are distracted and weakened.

Camouflage: Blend into the social landscape, talk and act like others. This makes it impossible for people to predict your behavior. This allows you to plot without being noticed.

The hypnotic pattern: People are lulled by patterns. Create a pattern for your enemies to focus on, this allows you to suddenly work against their expectations.

Planted information: People are much more likely to believe something they see than something they are told. Control what they see, and you control what they think.

Read The 33 Strategies of War

"A gilded No is more satisfactory than a dry yes" - Gracian

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