How to Spot – and Defeat – Disruption on the Internet

George Washington's picture

David Martin’s Thirteen Rules for Truth Suppression,  H. Michael Sweeney’s 25 Rules of Disinformation (and now Brandon Smith’s Disinformation: How It Works) are classic lessons on how to spot disruption and disinformation tactics.

We’ve seen a number of tactics come and go over the years.  Here are the ones we see a lot of currently.

1.  Start a partisan divide-and-conquer fight or otherwise push emotional buttons to sew discord and ensure that cooperation is thwarted.   Get people fighting against each other instead of the corrupt powers-that-be.  Use baseless caricatures to rile everyone up.  For example,  start a religious war whenever possible using stereotypes like “all Jews are selfish”, “all Christians are crazy” or “all Muslims are terrorists”.  Accuse the author of being a gay, pro-abortion limp-wristed wimp  or being a fundamentalist pro-war hick when the discussion has nothing to do with abortion, sexuality, religion, war or region.  Appeal to people’s basest prejudices and biases. And – as Sweeney explains – push the author into a defensive posture:

Sidetrack opponents with name calling and ridicule … Associate opponents with unpopular titles such as “kooks”, “right-wing”, “liberal”, “left-wing”, “terrorists”, “conspiracy buffs”, “radicals”, “militia”, “racists”, “religious fanatics”, “sexual deviates”, and so forth. This makes others shrink from support out of fear of gaining the same label, and you avoid dealing with issues.

2.  Pretend it’s hopeless because we’ll be squashed if we try.  For example, every time a whistleblower leaks information, say “he’s going to be bumped off”.   If people talk about protesting, organizing, boycotting, shareholder activism, spreading the real facts, moving our money or taking other constructive action, write things to scare and discourage people, say something like  “we don’t have any chance because they have drones and they’ll just kill us if we try”,  or “Americans are too stupid, lazy and greedy, so they’ll never help out.”  Encourage people to be apathetic instead of trying to change things.

3.  Demand complete, fool-proof and guaranteed solutions to the problems being discussed.   For example, if a reporter breaks the story that the big banks conspired to rig a market, ask “given that people are selfish and that no regulation can close all possible loopholes … how are you going to change human nature?”, and pretend that it’s not worth talking about the details of the market manipulation.  This discourages people from reporting on and publicizing the corruption, fraud and other real problems.  And it ensures that not enough people will spread the facts so that the majority know what’s really going on.

4. Suggest extreme, over-the-top, counter-productive solutions which will hurt more than help, or which are wholly disproportionate to what is being discussed.   For example, if the discussion is whether or not to break up the big banks or to go back on the gold standard, say that everyone over 30  should be killed because they are sell-outs and irredeemable, or that all of the banks should be bombed. This discredits the attempt to spread the facts and to organize, and is simply the web method of the provocateur.

5.  Pretend that alternative media – such as blogs written by the top experts in their fields, without any middleman – are untrustworthy or are motivated solely by money (for example, use the derogatory term “blogspam” for any blog posting, pretending that there is no original or insightful reporting, but that the person is simply doing it for ad revenue).

6.  Coordinate with a couple of others to “shout down” reasonable comments.  This is especially effective when the posters launch an avalanche of comments in quick succession … the original, reasonable comment gets lost or attacked so much that it is largely lost.

7.  Use an army of sock puppets.  You can either hire low-wage workers in India or other developing countries to “astroturf” or – if you work for the government – you can use hire military personnel and subcontractors to monitor social media and “correct” information which you don’t like (and see this), or use software which allows you to quickly create and alternate between numerous false identities, each with their own internet address.

8. Censor social media, so that the hardest-hitting information is buried. If you can’t censor it, set up “free speech zones” to push dissent into dank, dark corners where no one will see it.

9.  When the powers-that-be cut corners and take criminally reckless gambles with our lives and our livelihoods, protect them by pretending that the inevitable result - nuclear accidents, financial crisesterrorist attacks or other disasters – were “unforeseeable” and that “no could have known”.

10.  Protect the rich and powerful by labeling any allegations of criminal activity as being a “conspiracy theory”.  For example, when Goldman gets caught rigging markets, label the accusations as mere conspiracies.

The following 4 tactics from Sweeney are also still commonly used …

11. Become incredulous and indignant. Avoid discussing key issues and instead focus on side issues which can be used show the topic as being critical of some otherwise sacrosanct group or theme. This is also known as the “How dare you!” gambit.

12. Use a straw man. Find or create a seeming element of your opponent’s argument which you can easily knock down to make yourself look good and the opponent to look bad. Either make up an issue you may safely imply exists based on your interpretation of the opponent/opponent arguments/situation, or select the weakest aspect of the weakest charges. Amplify their significance and destroy them in a way which appears to debunk all the charges, real and fabricated alike, while actually avoiding discussion of the real issues.

13. Hit and Run. In any public forum, make a brief attack of your opponent or the opponent position and then scamper off before an answer can be fielded, or simply ignore any answer. This works extremely well in Internet and letters-to-the-editor environments where a steady stream of new identities can be called upon without having to explain criticism reasoning — simply make an accusation or other attack, never discussing issues, and never answering any subsequent response, for that would dignify the opponent’s viewpoint.

14. Question motives. Twist or amplify any fact which could so taken to imply that the opponent operates out of a hidden personal agenda or other bias. This avoids discussing issues and forces the accuser on the defensive.

15. Associate opponent charges with old news. A derivative of the straw man usually, in any large-scale matter of high visibility, someone will make charges early on which can be or were already easily dealt with. Where it can be foreseen, have your own side raise a straw man issue and have it dealt with early on as part of the initial contingency plans. Subsequent charges, regardless of validity or new ground uncovered, can usually them be associated with the original charge and dismissed as simply being a rehash without need to address current issues — so much the better where the opponent is or was involved with the original source.

Postscript:  Over a number of years, we’ve found that the most effective way to fight disruption and disinformation is to link to a post such as this one which rounds up disruption techniques, and then to cite the disinfo technique you think is being used.

Specifically, we’ve found the following format to be highly effective in educating people in a non-confrontational manner about what the disrupting person is doing:

Good Number 1!


Thanks for that textbook example of Number 7!

(Include the link, so people can see what you're referring to.)

The reason this is effective is that other readers will learn about the specific disruption tactic being used … in context, like seeing wildlife while holding a wildlife guide, so that one learns what it looks like “in the field”.   At the same time, you come across as humorous and light-hearted instead of heavy-handed or overly-intense.

Try it … It works.

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Zero Govt's picture

Can i add a No.16 please GW...

...anyone that wants freedom and an end to the rotten monopoly  institution, Govt, and it's equally/unsurprisingly rotten 'Rule of Law' is an "anarchist"

I'm sure that's what you think GW but you, and the many liberal/law/Constitutional garbage swallowers, never actually think much past trite meanings of words. If you did you'd realise Govt (a small group of deranged toerags running riot across society) defines Govt

Da Constitution was just the thin end of the wedge for another 5,000 laws to mangle, strangle and suffocate the economy and society in ....try thinking deeper than the window dressing old chum, you might learn something (new)


EnslavethechildrenforBen's picture

You are spot on, except that the original intent was limited government, long since bastardized and thrown under the Bus. I know that at the very least you would acknowledge that the original intent of the Constitution did not endow rights, it simply Recognized them in an attempt to further strengthen it's Independance from it's Despotic Government.

And that is exactly where we are again today


Zero Govt's picture

Da Constitution gave Americans the right to bear arms. Govt found a number of ways around that, including ensuring the State Police are always over-armed

..and 500 rat holes written by the human scum (lawyers) in Washington have seen to it that every other Constitutional protection has been usurped by these oily toerags 

there is never a 'good' Law but as good as this crap gets is the English 'Freeman' Law which stated you could do anything in England that which was not banned by Law. A statement of the bleedin obvious but that's about as high IQ the garbage that is Law gets

you will not prevent/stop or cure war, murder, theft, fraud or any other human activity (drugs, alcahol, eating fatty foods) by having a Law, rule or regulation. The Law is a 100% act of utter futility on the grounds it is neither effective nor can anybody be trusted to apply it (see false illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, theft in MF Global, Wall Street mortgage fraud etc etc)

GW needs to re-think, indeed he just needs to think rather than hum his 200 year old mantra. You do not rest any authority in a monopoly authority, be it governance or law. All you're going to get is crap results out of a monopoly and nobody is listening to other mens words written down on scraps of paper. Rules don't work, it's in front of GW's nose, but he's still singing the same tune running on the vacuum of a belief system, not reality

JOYFUL's picture

In the absence of anyone willing to step up n claim the 'minion of the day' award[anybody seen LoBlo, lately?], all that's left to do is sum up this startling & revealing peek into the minds of the dissimulationist and fellow travellers...and the future USSA!

a pre-emptive strike aimed at any opponents to the plan of the powerz = throw the banksters under the bus by blaming them for everything, while pulling out all the stops to keep the Kenyan in the kockpit for the last, fatal demolition of the towerz...a truly Orwellian duplicity...


this desperate left uppercut lunge has unbalanced our author and exposed the soft underbelly of his proto-fascistic roots - quash all dissent(aka challenge to the program); lead the sheeple into the jungle under pretence of a holiday picnic(neo-socialist OWS "revolution"): then drop the nets and begin the karnage, with Billy&Bernadette in charge of the kapo krew which will make the Mississipi run red with the blood of all those who bought the pys-op...

while Rahm n Kompany hose down the paving stones of the world's biggest stockyard in preparation for the celebratory tour of the Pol Pot entourage! Chicago...Alinsky, Obummer, Emmanuel, WU, Friedman&Strauss... arsehole of the universe!*

"Disruption on the Internet"\translation\ domestic terrorists and other Enemies of the  kleptokorporal STATE!

*with apologies to Bobby, Glen, Stan, Nestor & the rest...hey, yu can't always choose yur employer, but at least the work was clean!

magpie's picture

The really tough guys (the people paying the people paying the people behind the See Eye Aye) had (have) means of backdating fake information.

EnslavethechildrenforBen's picture

Non Trolls are for an Educational System that teaches children the Truth

Trolls are for using our Educational System to brainwash our children using mind control and propaganda, so they will grow up to be obedient, productive, non questioning slaves

Zero Govt's picture

which 1 of your 8 posts says it best?

EnslavethechildrenforBen's picture

Currently comment #2 has 4 up votes and 4 down votes.

For Zerohedge to Evolve, it has to change. Physics.

Change is beyond the mental capacity of most people.

Zerohedge is a perfect example of the fact that people prefer Routine

Instead of using 3 Authors over and over again, they could add a little variety once in a while.

Allowing users to post "Truth or Lies" type comments (such as the ones I have posted above)would allow Zerohedgers to vote on the most relevant issues and reinforce our determinating to counter the Trolls.

One of the Trolls main objectives is to divide us all. I'm simply attempting to provide a platform for UNITY

Notice how the Trolls have neatly balanced the up arrows and the down arrows!

Zero Govt's picture

ZH is a disparate (sometimes desperate even!) bunch, i think your search for "Unity" like GW's here to indentify systemic trolls is the beginnings of a new religion (GW loves religion, humming a mantra given him 200yrs ago beats thinking which is such a stress)

The Green and Red buttons are a bit nicer than "Truth" or "Lies" ...i don't get much support on GWìs thread as they're all Ron Paul worshippers that think small govt (which is a train wreck across the Western world) is better than Big Govt (cue yet more Govt trainwrecks)

they pray to the Founding Frothers, hum the mantra of Da Constitution never once asking why it doesn't work and never noticing small govt is the exact same garbage as Big Govt

if our job here at ZH is to stay unified against devisive trolls then i think we already do a pretty good job even without GW's new 14 Rules for spotting the scum

society doesn't work by trying to unify it, it works by giving it freedom for each man to decide their own way ..Da Constitution like the 10 Commandemnts and Da Law is just another bunch of old farts dictating to the sheeple ..meddlers patronising us never works

EnslavethechildrenforBen's picture

Non Trolls are for the Occupy Movement, because Revolution is required

Trolls are for having the Cops beat the Protesters, because they want to perpetuate their enslavement to benefit the Bankers

EnslavethechildrenforBen's picture

Non Trolls are for ending Nuclear Power because it can not ever be used safely

Trolls are for Nuclear Power, because they don't care about anything but Corporate Profit

EnslavethechildrenforBen's picture

Non Trolls are for ending the Fed, and ending their ability to steal all the money they feel like

Trolls are for keeping the Fed, with their ability to steal all the money they feel like

EnslavethechildrenforBen's picture

Non Trolls are for a Unified America and Direct Democracy

Trolls are for divide and conquer tactics, and for a Pretend Democracy

EnslavethechildrenforBen's picture

Non Trolls are for people being independant from the Grid and from the Government

Trolls are for people being dependant on the Grid and on the Government

EnslavethechildrenforBen's picture

Non Trolls are for maintaining Infrastructure and creating jobs for Americans so they can afford to buy homes for their families

Trolls are for letting infrastructure fail and preventing job growth so the Banks can repossess more properties, homes and business for a profit

EnslavethechildrenforBen's picture

Non Trolls are for loans without interest, because they have learned that interest is mathematically unpayable

Trolls are for interest bearing loans, because the Bankers benefit immensely from enslaving others

EnslavethechildrenforBen's picture

Non trolls are for a Gold Standard and peace

Trolls are for paper Money and the associated Wars that it enables

merizobeach's picture

I see the list continues to lengthen..  A thought: how many consecutive posts to non-trolls post (rather than wrapping the ideas up into a single comment) before they actually become trolls?

Bananamerican's picture

i guess it doesn't really matter Meri cuz after reading GW's list (Hi GW!) i've come to the conclusion that we're all trolls.

EnslavethechildrenforBen's picture

Since nobody else is drawing the line between the Trolls and the Non Trolls, I decided to throw out a few main areas of contention and let Zerohedge readers vote (if they choose to participate) so that we can set the argument aside for once and for all

Does this make me a Troll?

Bansters-in-my- feces's picture

I don't know if it makes you a troll but it sure makes you annoying.

EnslavethechildrenforBen's picture

Non Trolls who simply tell the Truth can be both Annoying and Boring. Judging by all the down arrows, Zerohedgers would prefer that the Truth not be told. If you all are so adamantly against Truth Tellers, what are you for, Trolls?

JOYFUL's picture

Boom! Direct sword cut thru somebodies' tungsten breastplate... Centurian rips one of the many masks offa our pseudo-populist MasterBlaster!

Spend a bit of time just studying how any critique of the neo-Bolshi[Alinskyist faction = dialectical match of the neocon faction]line here is dealt with in the course of a GW's posting, and yu will see a display of most of the same items as appear on this here list....employed on his the usual useful tools - and how Georgie practices the fine art of maligning his opponents with accusations of the very same techniques which he hisself tirelessly takes advantage of!

it's almost slick, the way MR G. tirelessly tries to stay ahead of the kurve, in kombatting those wise to his a manner I've broken down for the benefit of the careful reader heretofore...

in the end, no matter how many get fooled into buying the soyburger being peddled here, it just ends up as another pathetic example of how the effete urban intellectual klass is employed by the powerz to bamboozle the crowd whilst they effect their schemes of socialist wealth redistribution - from the goyz, according to their ability, to the khosen few, according to their needs!

Dissent Disruptive to our Master's Voice  will be Krushed \cue: Georges' ankle biting Legion of Lilliputians - massed in order to slay the messenger, whenever a 'disruptive' message cannot be refuted via reasoned argumentation!

monad's picture

You left out bloviating drivel until you repulse everyone. Works in the world too. Its Al Gore's one true talent. 

Lord Koos's picture

"Start a partisan divide-and-conquer fight or otherwise push emotional buttons to sew discord and ensure that cooperation is thwarted." 


This is standard practice on Zerohedge. I'm never sure if these types of posts are from racist boneheads or from NSA net-bots but either way it has the same effect.


Centurion9.41's picture

Georgie, your pieces are filled with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15...

Thanks for laying out your battle plan for us tho....

George Washington's picture

If you're a military man, please remember your oath to protect and defend the constitution and the people.

If you're a defense contractor, please remember that serving those who would destroy America and her people will destroy you and your family as well.  (I am not threatening you ... I am talking about the universe and Karma.  Even the Devil will reap what he sews).

No matter how tough you think you are, you will regret screwing the people if you do not change now.

If you are a man of religion, be still and listen to the real God ... not what others try to tell you God is saying.

If you're an atheist, remember that cruelty and hate will give you early heart disease ... and your family will end up despising you.

There are many older warriors for the bad guys who have reformed, and are much stronger now...

We the American people who love the Constitution, liberty and prosperity want and need you on our side. 

We need the soldiers, sailors, seals and flyboys ...

We need the defense and intel contractors and mercenaries ...

We need all of y'all to help us - the American people.

You know in the very deepest part of your gut, in the center of your mind and in your heart that it's true.

Centurion9.41's picture



As an officer who served 20 years, I have defended (even unto signing over my life to control of the Politician-in-Chief elected by the people) the Constitution, the people of America and the ideals that are America.  So, please, unless you've tried to do the same (maybe you tried but were turned away for a medical condition) don't preach to me about oaths.  And here's one for you sport.  As an officer, unto my dealth I serve at the "pleasure of the President of the United States; I can be called upon at any time to give my life for those things you throw around like punch lines in one of your disruptive rants.

In the center of my mind, and depth of my heart I know this Georgie.  You are a very well intentioned and deeply confused man who knows very little of what he speaks against.

That's the truth Georgie.  That's why you use the very things laid out in the 15 disruptions.

That Georgie,

God Bless America

disabledvet's picture

I just want a good night sleep. Is it too much to ask? How can a guy who's favorite life activity is sleeping be a threat? To ANYONE? The only people who worry me are people who really want to stay up all the time and "do things." "Where do you find the time for this shit" is the constant question mark over my head whenever i see someone do "the crazy thing." HEY FOLKS...CRAZY TALK OKAY, CRAZY ACTIONS BAD.

EnslavethechildrenforBen's picture

If you are employed in Law Enforcement, please keep it in mind that this great country only exists because our forefathers were not afraid to overthrow their own government. They provided us (we the people) with instructions to do the same (the Declaration of Independance) You have been trained that your highest priority is to maintain continuity of government no matter what, when maybe your highest priority should be to align yourself with your friends, family, neighbors and community, and then help us discontinue the present form of government, because it is only a pretend democracy, not a real one. Do not let the pretend elections fool you, Politicians are simply purchased by large Corporations, they are no longer elected by the voters. Maybe we the people should be allowed to govern ourselves as our founding fathers intended. Maybe we should have a Direct Democracy, that is truly representative of the peoples decisions, honest, transparent and accountible. Maybe, just maybe, you should rethink things before you point a weapon at your fellow American that is protesting in order to look out for your best interests in the long run. Maybe Government by Banker is not the best form of Govenment

CPL's picture

Don't worry about it.


The soldiers, contractors and police will get it once their bank accounts are full of worthless fiat that couldn't buy a glass of dirty rain water.  THen as a fine howdy doo, most of those already retired will and should expect their retirement cut short and their displacement to any number of tent cities around the world should underline their fuck up in working for the wrong guys.


It'll be too late by then of course, of course if we are discussing Spain, Italy, Ireland and Greece.  They'll be starving, leaderless and poor.  Basically a group that no body will give  fuck about.  Not even their mothers, because their mothers are dead and they'll die alone and more to a point...worthless to the human race and forgetten.


Centurion9.41's picture

PS dip shit.  Thanks to the lib/progressives they are the ones who have guns; save places like TX, VA & CCW friendly states. 

All men "go mad" and do things they never thought they would do, for leaders they never thought they would follow, when they see their family and friends threatened by a mob. 

Don't kid yourself.  Look at what the Police in WI did, who they stood beside, when it came to trying to apply some discipline to the way civil servants were paid.

You are very ignorant of human nature.

Bob's picture

Thought provoking and hopeful to a fault, I'll give you that, Geo.   But people, and most especially trolls, start playing with those rules, too.  I've seen a rush of claims to "Straw Man" objections lately, for example. 

But, sure, why not try to get a handle on shit. 

I wonder how many rulez I broke right there alone.

If only it were just that simple.

wang's picture
wang (not verified) Aug 13, 2012 8:49 PM


George Washington's picture

Thank you Number 13 for making a guest appearance!

strannick's picture

Dont forget Saul Alinsky's 'Rules for Radicals', when listing fascist manifestos on manipulation, which also happens to be the operational handbook for our Disembler in Chief and Rahm ''never let a good crises go to waste'' Emmanuel.

George Washington's picture

I'd be grateful if you could summarize Alinsky's disinfo approaches.

strannick's picture

Haha. Alinsky at work. Marvellous. Obama could use a man like you.


monad's picture

Loudly blame others for your crimes and mistakes, demand that they pay you reparation and when they don't, fuck up their shit while complaining bitterly about how they're making you do it to them. Sound familiar? Alinksy is a sideshow for suckers, stay on the accountants.

merizobeach's picture

Sounds similar to ole Rumsfeld: pre-emptively accuse your opponent of everything of which you yourself are guilty, thereby reducing denials and truthful rebuttals to "no, you did it!".

TrainWreck1's picture

Three rules:

Ignore everything.

Post & never look back.

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KK Tipton's picture

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gwar5's picture

We need to see all of this for what it really is, which is an act of war by our own government against the sovereign American people.


The elites see us as the enemy like in the Soviet Union. They do not have legal authority to do this, we are the ultimate legal authority. The only thing allowing them to continue down this road is the threat of force and violence as we pretend it's not really happening.

We can thank Cass Sunstein for admitting this administration's conspiracy to use taxpayer resources to undermine our free speech on the internet by secretly infiltrating and messaging the masses that, "Any anti-government feeling out there is all just crazy talk".  Oh, the irony.

It's very disturbing how they feel they can reveal it to the public. They are bragging how they can use/waste our own taxpayer money against us to shut down our free speech.

George Washington's picture

Yes, Obama's boy Sunstein was a big part of the problem. He is leaving the Office of (cough Disinfo) ... er ... Information and Regulatory Affairs.

But his deranged legacy will live on.

Indeed, he is widely considered by legal commentators to be a leading candidate for supreme court justice.