The 36 Stratagems of War: Your simplest guide to understanding basic propaganda.

If you have ever wondered if there are anything out there to show you how liars, manipulators, and propagandists think, there is one old war manual that can give you some clues.

The 36 Stratagems of War. The rules can also be found here.

It is a list of ways you can lie to victory and beat an opponent, and lying, by its very nature, is an aggressive and psychically violent act.

Deception is a hostile act. Sun Tzu flat out stated that war is deception.

Peaceful people do not lie. People who want true solutions do not lie.

If you want to win an argument and you tell a lie, you do not want a solution: you want to impose your will on another. You want the other to submit and lose their free will and voice and you take the spoils all for yourself as you dictate the confines of an environment that is rigged in your favour. You do not want cooperation to create mutually beneficial solutions with long-term viability.

The 36 Stratagems is the guide to win a war by deception.

If we plug in variables into each stratagem, we can see how we are possibly being deceived.

For example:

Make a sound in the east, then strike in the west

Meaning the attack is a misdirection to keep attention away from the real goal. If a political party, business, or media outlet are focussed too much on one person or issue, why are they insisting on attention being paid to a single entity? What are they hoping people do not notice?

Or:

Create something from nothing

Does a con man boast too much? What is the actual goods? Is it real? Is it just hype?

Hide a knife behind a smile

Is someone a little too concerned about you and your group? Are they positioning you to become a pawn so that they do not have to sacrifice anyone, banking on your gratitude?

Tossing out a brick to get a jade gem

Is someone deliberately putting out wrong or stupid comments, hoping you will give them ideas they can steal?

Once we use the Stratagems as a guide, we can start to break the fortresses of lies. It is not a foolproof way of doing so, but it is an excellent starting point...