An Old Veteran's Commentary on Fear and Conspiracy Mongering
I’ve read a few posts, comments and a couple of articles about the recommendations by government and leaders suggesting that military members “scrub” their social media accounts for anything that pinpoints their location or advertises their experience. I realize this news hit the air as much as 6 months ago; yet, there is a lot of fear mongering still running wild today thanks to the media and conspiracy theorists.
Much of this fear mongering started last December (2014) when the various media outlets parroting the US Department of Defense notices to military members soon after ISIS/ISIL (take your pick) made their threats that they would target individual military members and their families where they live. And yet, oddly enough, I've run across a few posts that believe this is conspiratorial effort by the government to stifle free-speech. Of course, this conspiracy mindset demonstrates a lack of historical awareness. This type of threat isn't new. It's not purely a "modern thing." There is a bit of history repeating itself in this new age.
History Repeating Itself or "What You Slept Through in Your High School History Class."
Let me start by saying that I’ve chosen not to post comments directly to those folks that post blogs and articles on the topic because – first of all, some of these writers are veterans and I’m not going to attack my brothers and sisters of the military; I’m just going to assume that some are young and possibly misinformed. Secondly, responding to the real genuine conspiracy nuts would be a waste of my time. So this is a general address to those folks, and younger veterans, that have possibly let slip from their memories the lessons of World War II (WW2).
I particularly draw your attention to a quote used ubiquitously throughout the U.S. during the WW2: "Loose Lips Sink Ships." So what’s that got to do with anything? It’s simple. During WW2, in the early days, many soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines wrote letters to their families about how they were doing, what they are doing, and where they were located. Families would share the news with each other and sometimes with the media (newspapers, radio, and television). Even though the mail was supposed to be secure and not available for just anyone to access, it happened often, and by the wrong people.
70 Plus Years Later and the Media isn't any Smarter
The majority of the media, just as they are today, was more concerned with being the “first” with the latest news to publish and little to no regard for any adverse effect their broadcasts and publishing may cause. Additionally, those individuals that presented the most valuable information to the press, also provided good information to our enemies and thus found themselves being targeted for collection (from an Intelligence/Information perspective). Now the idea of targeting is more literal, as in less information collecting and more towards efforts to harm individuals.
Remember, our enemies, even then (1940-1945 and Hitler/Germany/Nazi/Japan; hopefully most of you remember your world history) were very capable at reading our newspapers, listening to radio broadcasts and watch the television. So what’s changed today? There is more information available to anyone with a computer and internet access. Anyone and everyone can be a news reporter or an expert on world affairs. Anyone can scrape through the social media pages to identify who is who and where they live. It’s not rocket science and it doesn’t take an intelligence analyst to work up a personal profile.
Soon after the start of the first Iraq War (Persian Gulf War, 1990-91), many of us in the military were advised to avoid drawing attention to ourselves while in uniform, in public and to avoid putting military stickers on our vehicles. It was even suggested that we avoid having military license plates on our vehicles. Every vehicle entering the Post/Base gates was inspected and the occupants checked for valid government identification cards. It was not a conspiracy, it was a matter of fact that a general threat existed against all military personnel within the United States, United Kingdom, and allies. For a period of time when the threat level was increased certain personnel within the military community were advised to wear civilian clothes when traveling off post and change once they (we) returned to post. It might not have made the news but don't worry, it wasn't a secret. The point is that, the concept of military personnel cleaning up their public exposure is not new and not a government conspiracy.
Scrub Your Facebook Cause the Governments Going to Get You: Seriously?
Scrubbing your social media accounts is not a “government” conspiracy; it’s not a move by the government to control what you do or say for the shear purposes of being evil; it’s about protecting you; and, it is a choice. Would you post your social security number and credit card numbers on your Facebook and Twitter accounts just because you can? Probably not. Today, it’s even more difficult to protect yourself. The bad guys can read, listen and watch. They can find you and harm you and those you care about. So how do you reduce the chance of you and your family being targeted? Many countries have already dealt with this type of tragedy. Pretending that it doesn’t exist is just being naïve. It's one thing to decide to expose yourself to risk or danger; it's something completely different to risk the safety and security of the people around you. If you still believe it’s a conspiracy, direct your attention to the people who have the most to gain by harming you. You can’t get mad at the government by claiming that they are trying to collect all your personal information – then get mad at them and claim that they are not letting you post your information. It can’t be both.
The Worlds a Little Different. But Then Again, is it Really?
We live in a different world now. Thanks to technology, grade school students target each other in cyber-bullying; an individual fan can cyber-stalk a celebrity as well as the every-day person just trying to make it through life. Facebook and Twitter are not simply social and family fun tools. They are used in identity theft and as weapons to collect actionable information and cause harm. As for me, I will say that I have no intention of scrubbing my accounts because I doubt that old retired guys, such as I, are worthwhile targets. My position is that: I’m old, I’m mean and I’m armed ;-) So, you veterans and folks still in uniform need to make up your own minds.
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