Friday, April 24, 2009

540 Plausible Deniabily

540 Plausible Deniability 

This is your secret weapon if you want to use it.  It protects you against being blamed for something for which you appear to be responsible.

It's been used by everyone from the CIA to your commuter railroad -- with varying degrees of success.

Early on, the spy agency compartmentalized activities so that no single spy knew the entirety of an operation.  Thus, if captured, the agent couldn't tell a hostile power the whole story.  That might end badly for the agent, but not for the agency.  The captive might even be able to convince said hostile power that he really IS a "cultural attache, and not someone seeking secret info from say the nuke program in Fiji.

The late John Gotti, reputed gangster, said he was a salesman of plumbing supplies.  And, yes, there was a plumbing supply business with his name on it.  Does anyone think he ever sold a single sink washer?  Or even knew what a sink washer was?  So in the world of weaponry, this is a plausible deniability that jams or misfires. 

The Long Island Railroad loves to survey its riders.

The surveys have said the same thing for more than a century.  Dirty cars, late trains, overcrowding.  The railroad's answer?  "We have a clean train campaign.  We have a 'watch the gap' campaign.  We're trying.  Really."  Plausible deniability.

Same story with hearings on fare increases.  Everyone with something to say says it. And then they do what they please and try to sugar coat it by pointing to a hearing record the size of a Manhattan telephone book.  "See this," they'll say we listened.  Really."

Professional wrestling:  can the ref really say his back was turned and didn't see one guy hoist a folding chair and bring it down sharply on his opponent's head?

Here's the puzzling part.  The people who use this weapon are, well, people.  When they're on the receiving end, they look at it with the same incredulity that you do.  And then they go back to the office, the shop, the campaign trail or the squared circle and continue using it as usual.

We hear an awful lot these days about taking responsibility for our actions, often a good idea and the right thing to do.  But many who advocate this don't themselves do it. Instead, they haul out plausible deniability.  

Believe them at your peril.



Shrapnel:  

--The Voice of America news website isn't updated nearly often enough.  But it has some of the best writing you can see today.  The AP and Reuters should take an occasional look.

--The Pennsylvania state legislature has defeated a bill that would have barred use of hand held cell phones and texting in cars, something that most civilized states have approved.  One opponent called it a "new tax."  This guy might want to de-criminalize bank robbery for the same reason.

--"Madoff the Movie?"  Yes, someone's putting one together and trying to get Dustin Hoffman to play Bernie.


I'm Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

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