By Chris Simmons
Recently, I introduced my loyal readers to the concept of “Imagined History.” We now need to revisit this issue so I may add additional depth and context to this important subject.
“Imagined History” does not occur for singular strategic issues like the American Revolutionary War. Quite the opposite, it occurs simultaneously on as many as four distinct levels: societal, regional, special interests, and personal. Over time, these overlapping narratives weave real events together with perceptions, assumptions, personal preferences, misinformation, and disinformation. The result is a distorted world view with significant consequences.
Perhaps the penultimate case study in “Imagined History” is the very fractured worldview held by Cuban Master spy, Ana Belen Montes. The highest-ranking Cuban agent ever caught and imprisoned by the United States, I led the Defense Department’s months’ long interrogation that followed her arrest. Never before had I witnessed an individual so completely able to rationalize and (mentally) segment events. In some arenas, she even held beliefs and values that contradicted one another. I believe it was this imagined history that enabled her to thrive in a world of massive self denial.
I observed many other spies, as well as innumerable Al-Qaeda terrorists, display similar patterns of anti-social behavior paired with belief systems derived from a multi-tiered integration of imagined histories.
In more “everyday” situations, the dangers of this phenomenon arise from the impairment of personal interactions. The filters and biases created and sustained by these imagined realties guarantee the misinterpretation of others’ actions and intentions. In some scenarios, the intensity of these filters and biases render one unable to anticipate the future behavior of others. This can eventually constrict one’s choices so severely that you are left simply reacting to circumstances created by everyone else.
Evaluate the means, motives, opportunities, and demonstrated behavior of others and their intentions will reveal themselves. However, one must be free from filters, biases, and imagined histories to succeed in such behavioral analysis.
Author’s Note: Disinformation is false or inaccurate information deliberately spread with the goal of making legitimate information useless. It is inherently different from misinformation, which is spreading information that is unintentionally false.