A Case Study in How the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) Demagogues Against National Defense Programs.I’ve considered something similar to what you are about to read many times, but I never pulled the trigger because I hadn’t yet figured out how to cover it without either making most people’s eyes glaze over from too much psychological exposition on the one end of the spectrum, or oversimplifying to the point that the explanation does violence to the phenomenon on the other end. I was at a symposium this week that I believe provided me with a way to reach the middle ground I’ve been seeking. One of our Keynote Speakers (yes, there were several) spoke on the subject of how we humans ‘Innovate’ and how organizations and individuals can overcome barriers to innovation.
The speaker presented us with four fundamental characteristics of the human psyche that affect our ability to (among other things) be “insightful” and “innovate”. She also reviewed how those characteristics are inhibited or disrupted by outside influences. It occurred to me at the time, that what she was describing was, among other things, a pretty good explanation as to how propagandists are also able to manipulate public attitudes. Shortly afterward, I realized it would be helpful in achieving my goal of getting a substantial explanation as to how POGO/Winslow Wheeler and crew operate. By showing how POGO and fellow travelers manipulate the elements of Perception, Attention, Context, and Emotion (PACE) we are able to adequately grasp the manner in which they exploit human nature to further their agenda of subverting national defense acquisition programs.
P.A.C.E: A Tour Inside POGO’s Meme MachineWinslow Wheeler and POGO have provided any number of examples of what I’m about to cover, but their latest machinations concerning the recent “F-35A Joint Strike Fighter Readiness for Training Operational Utility Evaluation” report is as perfect an example as any to use for this discussion.
The report in question was issued by DoD’s Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, J. Michael Gilmore, and is as close to being more of a political document than a technical one as any I’ve seen issued from that office (but that is another topic for another time). But the most interesting aspect to the report was in how it was apparently leaked to POGO/Winslow Wheeler ahead of the public release, and the ONE thing POGO/Winslow Wheeler chose to lift from that report to propagate was a statement by an evaluation pilot that the F-35’s “Aft visibility will get the pilot gunned every time”. That ‘money quote’ was then repeated throughout the mainstream media before anyone had the chance to really digest the contents of the report in their entirety.
POGO,Winslow Wheeler and “Perception”In this example, POGO and Winslow Wheeler were continuing the long-standing practice of ‘poisoning the well’ against any positive perception that might arise from any public reporting on the F-35. In this case, the ‘report’ in its totality is remarkably unsurprising. What the OT&E evaluators found concerning the training program after a limited exposure to early configuration F-35s is pretty much what one would expect. But in highlighting a single comment in the report POGO made the report about the F-35 itself and not the status and readiness of the training program. The Director of OT&E was an enabler (codependent?) in this development due to the report’s excessive regurgitation of ‘old news’ that didn’t belong in this report, but POGO is the ‘perp’ that picked the forbidden fruit.
When each of us perceives something, it is estimated that only 20% of that perception is based upon what we actually sense as new, and 80% of the perception is due to what we’ve already experienced in life. As most people have little or no working knowledge of what it takes to field advanced technology and designs, that makes their ‘80% experience’ base highly vulnerable to any manipulation of the ‘20% new’ information. POGO selected and amplified a quote concerning how a pilot felt about rear visibility in a plane that does not yet have the key technology installed that makes such rear visibility concerns moot. That pilot brought his experience and training to a new aircraft and applied his old knowledge to a new situation. Without his experiencing what is the baseline F-35 EODAS and HMD capabilities that were yet to be delivered, his comments should have been noted in the backup data. But in an objective document this never would have been a feature in the report.
In cherry-picking the “get gunned every time” quote, POGO and Winslow Wheeler exploit the general ignorance of the public as to how the jets and training program are still in development, how the F-35 program is structured and how capabilities are scheduled to be brought on line by deliberately injecting into the public’s consciousness the misperception that the F-35s now being used for initial type training are representative of the capability that define the baseline F-35. This is only the latest in a long series of flagrant misrepresentations of F-35 truths, in effect LIES, committed by POGO, and the F-35 is only the latest in a long line of weapon systems to receive that special POGO/Winslow Wheeler ‘touch’. We can expect nothing but more of the same from POGO and Winslow Wheeler because they dare not let any positive or neutral development concerning the F-35 go without preemptory and presumptive criticism, as the façade of failure that they work so hard to build up from nothing requires constant maintenance to prevent it from crumbling around their ears.
POGO, Winslow Wheeler and “Attention”Long-time observers of POGO, Winslow Wheeler and other so-called ‘reformers’ will note that the ‘get gunned every time’ sound bite will be dropped fairly quickly and something else concerning the F-35 will be targeted as a ‘failure’, ‘mistake’ or ‘criminally negligent’ decision/design feature/performance characteristic, perhaps from the same report, or from one to come later. This is because POGO et al are acutely aware that an extended exchange or dialog with anyone who disagrees with them will expose the misdirection they (POGO et al) endeavor to sustain. POGO and Wheeler go for the sound bite to plant negativity into the public’s consciousness knowing that the general public’s attention span is short. By the time anyone dives deep into a POGO/Wheeler claim and cries “Hey! Wait a minute!” the public has moved on to other circuses. Such ‘Hit and Run’ tactics, along with their careful cultivation of media enablers, allow POGO/Wheeler relief from ever having their methods, biases and motives undergo serious public scrutiny. This is classic guerrilla warfare of the information domain.
Once the initial ‘buzz’ is past, if the ‘get gunned every time’ line is ever again referenced by POGO/Wheeler, it will be as only one item in a litany of similar perversions of reality in support of some general condemnation of the F-35 or as an introduction to the next misdirection issued by POGO/Wheeler. It is a clear testimony to POGO’s and Wheeler’s confidence in the public’s inability to critically examine information POGO/Wheeler spoon feed the media, that POGO and Wheeler have felt comfortable posting the source documents which they pervert at their own websites.
POGO, Winslow Wheeler and “Context”If there is a hallmark to POGO/Wheeler PR announcements, it is that whatever is being decried or derided will be framed in as little context as possible. What context that is provided, will be selectively added to support the official POGO/Wheeler meme du jour. In this instance, the “get gunned every time” comment is highlighted without any reference to the inconvenient (to POGO and Wheeler) fact that the F-35s EODAS and Helmet are still being developed, the software releases to exploit these systems were not sold off for the aircraft used for the training readiness evaluation, or that if later version aircraft that are now flying had been available, the ‘get gunned’ claim would probably never have been uttered.
As individuals, we perceive reality in terms of context. When we see two circles, one drawn within the other, depending upon where our heads are at the time, or depending upon what else is drawn beside the circles determines whether we view the circles as representing a bagel, a wheel, a ring, or any number of other similarly- shaped objects. Stripping the context from the ‘get gunned’ comment allows POGO/Wheeler to insert their own meaning and relevance: a constructed perversion for consumption by the uninformed and only marginally-interested public.
POGO, Winslow Wheeler and “Emotion”Indignation and inflammatory statements about defense acquisition programs are the stock and trade of POGO and Winslow Wheeler. Consider how in the original ‘story’ at TIME Winslow Wheeler attempts to paint a ‘horror story’:
Perhaps the biggest horror story is the poor showing of the Lockheed plane’s complicated, expensive helmet-mounted display system that distorts and obscures – rather than enhancing — the pilot’s vision and awareness of the outside world.
Wheeler seeks to elicit the reader's emotion by making an assertion that the F-35’s HMD’s performance is deficient (oh woe is us!), by obliquely referring to much (at least two years) earlier technical development challenges as if they were still current and relevant. Yet Winslow Wheeler, if he was honest when asked about the HMD, would have to acknowledge that the F-35 program is fairly confident in the current state of HMD performance and sees no ‘show-stoppers’ in delivering the desired capability. Lockheed Martin was discussing positive HMD developments nearly a year ago. It is notable that the latest GAO report did not highlight any definitive problems with the HMD system, only the usual ‘concerns’. When the ‘alternative’ just-in-case helmet being developed in parallel is cancelled (possibly this year), don’t expect any surrender from POGO or Wheeler on this point: “DOOM!” will always be just around the corner.
Using our neurons takes considerable (relatively) energy and it is estimated that we can only have about 2 ½ % of our brain active at any one time. When we are irate, our limbic system/amygdala can compromise, to varying degrees, our reason and judgment. Thus, when POGO, Winslow Wheeler, or others appeal to our emotions (Waste! Corruption! Conspiracy! War Mongering Military-Industrial Complex!) they are really attempting to subvert our ability to see through the flawed logic that binds whatever nonsense they are peddling at the moment.
Know Your Reformer Bonus Content: About Winslow Wheeler’s Move to POGOI still consider Winslow’s move under POGO a positive development. In May of last year I noted the move from the Center for Defense Information (CDI) to POGO and as I also noted, I like it when targets bunch up. The tendency of radical activism to date has been to splinter and re-label itself when caught in the daylight. This may be a consolidation for survival (one can only hope).
CDI had been slipping for years but was often extremely entertaining to watch – it was like a zoo for disillusioned and misunderstood ‘military geniuses’ founded by possibly the biggest crackpot ever to reach ‘flag’ rank.
At the time, I didn’t know that the ‘Strauss Military Reform Project’ moved with Wheeler to POGO, so the same ‘photographer’ cum ‘radical chic’ trust-fund baby must still be paying Wheeler’s salary. The ‘Strauss Military Reform Project’ is little more than a one-job program for Winslow Wheeler. Strauss, when he isn’t producing forgettable photography, or financing disgruntled, ex-Congressional staffers’ caterwauling and rabble rousing, is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of that iconic bastion of American culture (/sarc) “Mother Jones”. How cliché can you get?