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Several thoughts of a communication specialist

Posted by NickGolovko , 14 August 2008 · 380 views

Things that happened recently in South Ossetia and also the reactions they have caused have revealed a very serious symptom that makes everyone who has some idea about communication theory feel nervous. It becomes more and more evident that many persons are awfully liable to certain forms of information war. Not only the common consumers of information can be meant here (though, of course, they are also the targets in this case), but also the individuals who bear the responsibility of making decisions concerning world security. The general lack of communicative and logical competence demonstrated by the members of UN Security Council are rather alarming as well.

A specialist in the sphere of communication often experiences difficulties when facing such incompetence in real and virtual life in contacts with ordinary people, but on this level it is generally harmless and requires nothing but the specialist's patience; at the same time on the level of international politics it is simply inadmissible and it provokes quite certain anxiety. People who are not competent in communication and logic are capable of taking erroneous decisions under the influence of information weapon.

The session of UN Security Council that took place last Sunday has been broadcasted in 'live' format and it has been exposing to a professional's consideration a rich and wide variety of logical errors - false analogies, hasty generalisations, making judgements without knowing the true disposition and real facts; the means of information influence were also flourishing - manupulation, data distortion, substitution of facts by emotions, extracting phrases from context.

That is rather sad to understand that Security Council members who, again, have the responsibility of deciding world security have demonstrated dangerous inability to critical thinking. This is probably one of the principal factors that cause gradual decrease of the UN's role in issues of peacekeeping. We all know from our history the results of weakening of an organisation whose destination is to prevent military conflicts.

There is no need of scrupulous searching for examples of information influence on people's mind that have been trrained and checked by the American side during this conflict. We could easily observe ourselves the three basic types of such influence.

1) Injecting false information provoking certain reactions of the receiver. For instance, several days before the information about destruction of 'Rokskiy' tunnel has been injected via Georgian media; it took several hours to disprove this information which had thus been taken as true one during this period. Taking into consideration the current speed of spreading information such period is rather large. The information about two non-existent Saakashvili's ceasefire suggestions has been injected to the Security Council through the Georgian representative; before Russian reperesentative Chourkin's speech which contained information disproving the above-mentioned statement the latter has also been considered as true data, thus forming the image of Russia as an aggressive country unwilling to stop the war.

2) Hyperbolisation. Saakashvili often acted like Napoleon who was sending bulletins from Russia containing false information - particularly, with messages about victory in Borodino, about minimal losses in his own military personnel, about dozens of killed Russian generals etc. : for example, 2 destroyed airplanes have been easily turned to 10, 3 Russian armoured vehicles - to 50 Russian tanks in Gori. We must conclude that all the remaining data of this type reported by the Georgian side should also be divided by 5 or 10.

3) Creating false connections between facts. It is known that facts are just a skeleton of a message, a text, a speech, but the number of possible variants of their interconnection can differ from 1. A bright example is D. Brown's 'Da Vinci Code': most of the facts given in the novel are true, but the connections between them belong to the author's own imagination; still both facts and connections are understood by readers as equally true. Saakashvili has chosen the same way in his interviews to Western media. Here belongs the replacing of reasons and consequences which has been also used in UN Security Council and, to a greatest disappointment, has been quite welcome there.

If such errors go on, it may lead to results that none of us would be glad to face. Still we must conclude that not only Mr. Bush had become a politician because all other occupations required much learning: many of his colleagues in America and Europe have obviously never heard about critical thinking. We can but hope that communicative and logical incompetence of foreign politicians would not lead to undesirable consequences.




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