Sunday, February 2, 2014

TUTORIAL - The Grey Man: Master of Misdirection

There is a concept learned by magicians known as "misdirection". It simply equates to them performing some blatant and obvious action in order to draw the eye of the hapless viewer so that they may perform their sleight of hand in plain sight of the subject without ever getting caught. When the magician wiggles his fingers and passes his hand over the deck, the trick is already long-done. What he's doing now is all for show, you just don't realise it yet - simply because you've been looking in the wrong place.

In this scenario, the performance is broken down into a set of visual cues called "beats". Everything that you are meant to see happens to the beat: the waving of the hands, the swirling of the handkerchief, the movement of the gorgeous assistant in the seductively short skirt... But these actions are all gaudy and obtuse in order to make the viewer fall into viewing the performance in time with the beat - this way, they never see what happens in the gaps between the beats.

This is the domain of the Grey Man, and as time marches unstoppably forward, the need to become a Grey Man increases.

The concept - and even the name "Grey Man" originated in the early days of modern espionage and intelligence gathering - particularly during the cold war. Some members of special forces or intelligence units like the CIA or the KGB would have to work undercover to perform observation roles, move between locations unnoticed or similar. This would involve dressing appropriately (while still being functional), moving in a certain way, learning local culture and sometimes even new languages or accents to the point of not being quickly detectable.

The more time you spend amongst a people whom you are trying to blend in with, the more at-risk you become, so time is of the essence, and the Grey Man recognizes this, moving quickly - but not noticeably so. Learning a few common phrases such as "hello", "excuse me", "yes", "no", "sorry", etc in several languages to the point where your delivery is unnoticeably flawless is something that can behoove the Grey Man greatly.

An excellent example of the Grey Man slipping up over something simple - yet noticeable - is shown in the fictional film "Inglorious Basterds" by Quentin Tarantino. A British operative posing as a Nazi officer raises his hand to indicate to the bartender that he would like three glasses of Scotch Whiskey, but raises his hand like this:

If he had studied more thoroughly beforehand, he would have known that Germans never show "3" on their hand this way. It is considered to be foreign and odd to them to do this. They instead show "3" on their hand like this:

In the film, this mistake leads to the operatives discovery and death. While this is an over-dramatized example, it does show a fantastic example of how such a small and simple mistake can lead to your entire cover being blown.

So why study the ways of the Grey Man at all? As a prepper, you are - automatically - in a position that the powers-that-be do not want you to be in, and that is one of self-reliance. You don't rely on the authorities for food, water, power, protection or organization. As such, you are much harder to control and manipulate via staged shortages, media or other propaganda, fear tactics, etc. However, a big part of this preparedness involves equipment and agendas that are not - in all cases - strictly legal, such as carrying a weapon. Even the act of carrying a bug-out bag is enough to get you stopped, detained and searched in many countries, as it looks suspicious and makes people assume that you're a "baddie with an evil agenda". You can try and explain that you're only out for yourself and are attempting to be prepared for a disaster, but that isn't likely to get you far, despite it being the utter truth. Your average street cop isn't going to see the contents of your kit, nod sagely and wave you on your way.

As such, any good prepper needs to be able to adopt the Grey Man principle, which is broken in to various categories:

Dress: The Grey Man dresses in a way which blends with the crowd, but allows him to still be functional. Wearing boots is very practical if your bug-out route involves lots of walking, but choose a pair that when covered by the hem of pants look like relatively normal shoes at a glance. Avoid provocative shirts or gun-brand clothing. Tactical attire is not recommended, but with the right adjustments can be made to look fairly normal. Camouflage gear sticks out and should be avoided at all costs.

Behaviour: The Grey Man moves as if a part of the herd. If people are drifting, drift. If people are following a path, follow the path. If you cut a beeline through a crowd in an opposing direction, you will stand out. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. If you move like a part of the crowd, you become a part of the crowd.

Culture: The Grey Man acts culturally appropriate. This does not only apply to foreign locations, but also to your own country. A 30 year old prepper doesn't act like a normal 30 year old, and generally looks upon large crowds with disdain, but he must learn to look the part of a normal 30 year old and move, act, speak and respond accordingly.
In a foreign location, however, it is important to study those of your gender and age, as well as learn the language and try your hardest to lose your accent, as it will give you away. Keep your responses short and this will become easier. Learning to say "hello", "excuse me" and "thank you" with utterly flawless pronunciation will benefit you far more than learning the entire language.

Movement: How you move can be the difference between getting caught and not getting caught. A man walking with a purposeful stride, eyes fixed on his destination, easily stepping around obstacles and paying no attention to other people is going to be very noticeable, whereas someone meandering, perhaps poking around in their shopping bags, nearly bumping into people and looking around curiously as they move is not going to look intimidating. Of course, one needs to not make it look obvious - subtlety is the key - but authorities seek to profile people, and it's hard to profile someone as dangerous when they look like they're trying to find a food-court.

Colour: The selections you make in what colours you wear make a big difference. The term "Grey Man" is figurative, not literal. To find out what to wear, simply look around. If you're 30, look at what other 30 year olds are wearing - likely jeans and some brand-name t-shirt. If you're 70, look at what other 70 year olds are wearing - likely pressed slacks and a polo shirt. It's about blending in and not standing out. What you're wearing matters, even if it's just the colour of an otherwise standard piece of attire.

Improvisation: If something happens that you didn't plan for, then improvisation is a must. While you are prepared and ready for the unexpected, the timing of when to start acting like a prepper is crucial. It may well behoove you to stay blended with the crowd and act panicked or unsure, as people may still be watching in the early stages. Blend in until you get your own space. Think Clark Kent looking for a phone booth.

Study up, act accordingly, practice in small-scale when you get the chance, and learn to be the Grey Man. It may well save your skin one day.

And remember, be prepared, not scared.

- CumQuaT

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