Richard Thieme News

by rthieme on May 21, 2013

Hello! I will be using this section of my home page to keep you updated on current projects, plans, things I’m thinking about, articles, speaking engagements, etc.

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What’s real in the post-truth era?

by rthieme on December 4, 2016

What’s real in the post-truth era?

by Richard Thieme

From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, December 4, 2016.

http://www.jsonline.com/story/opinion/crossroads/2016/12/03/thieme-real-getting-harder-tell/94911082/

A web of truthiness, post-truths, and half-truths is replacing a once-shared goal of knowing the truth itself. The task of understanding our world has become more and more complex and difficult to navigate. As the recent presidential campaign illuminates, knowing what’s real is a non-trivial enterprise and the effort to understand is a task for experts, if they still exist. The relationship of the maps in our minds to the territory we call “the real world” is blurred and uncertain.

Ever since Eddie Bernays changed his occupation from “advertising man” to “public relations expert” a century ago, the distortion and manipulation of the truth through covert campaigns has been a mainstay of public life. We make light of it by calling it “spin” instead of covert information warfare, but covert warfare it is, and the prize is the capture of friends and enemies alike in webs of disinformation. In a world of global interconnections, it is impossible for information to be aimed at only one group. What intelligence professionals call “blow back” is inevitable and we deceive ourselves in the process of deceiving others.

“Post-truth” is a silly word for distorted images and ideas. The ubiquity of social media and the diminishing importance of responsible journalism has serious consequences. Words — stories, narratives – have been weaponized and collateral damage is extensive.

Here’s what’s coming our way:

(1) Propaganda from multiple sources. The Russians excelled in the use of stolen material, disseminated through Wikileaks, to impact the recent campaign. They have done the same with neighbor countries to undermine clarity about their intentions and actions. There is a NATO group, for example, that does nothing but peruse Russian propaganda to understand it, but it was discovered that even though they knew that was the task, they unconsciously absorbed false material as if it was true, because that’s what the mind does, it treats data as data, even when it knows the data is a fiction. So the NATO group has to be debriefed in order to recalibrate their maps of the real to … well, to the real.

But who debriefs the debriefers? Who debriefs us?

(2) Julian Assange has one goal, to “crush the bastards,” as he said, meaning anyone in power, anyone with authority, and to that end, he has disseminated stolen documents without discrimination, resulting in a great deal of “collateral damage.” Self-righteousness if a tricky path to walk, however, without a debriefing from outside the group-think of the inner circle. It will be interesting to see if he pursues messages from Trump with the same zeal.

Given the ease of hacking into servers, we can expect more of this from multiple parties but the narrative gets even hazier, because material can be (and has been) altered. We can read emails as if they are true, but we don’t know if they are true. This is a game that will be played both ways and many ways. A spectrum of amateurs and professionals with access to purloined materials will distribute both real and false information selectively and strategically. It will be a full-time job to untangle that mess.

(3) That job used to belong to the professional journalism, but the erosion of journalism and the substitution for it of hundreds of web sites has resulted in a world in which people believe anything and everything, and the critical thinking needed for research and discernment is missing in action. Confirmation bias is only a click away. A recent study showed that most teens do not even question what they read online or think about sources.

But it’s not just teens who check their brains at the door of web portals. The recent campaign revealed the impotence of newspapers which expressed near-universal disapproval of Trump – because many Trump supporters do not get “news” from those untrusted sources who are called out as dishonest crooks at mass rallies and booed by the herd. Let me provide one example of the outrageous narratives this leads some to accept.

I was asked to submit a bio to a local group as a possible speaker. My topics were misunderstood, distorted by the framework through which the contact for the group read them, and he sent an email defining the speech he hoped I could produce:

“ … it would be fantastic to have a “dream speaker” that could link the topics of the Power-Elite, Occult ritual, who’s teaching them how to do this, why they are doing it, pedophilia, bohemian grove, Eyes Wide Shut parties, the Clintons, technocratic globalism, child trafficking, main stream media, main stream entertainers/Hollywood, Alien/UFO government mythology, Lolita Island, War, Alister Crowley followers, state sponsored assassinations, CIA, FBI and much much more…. a speaker who can skillfully link all of these dark connections in an eloquent, matter-of-fact way.”

The email provided a link to a video in which three men discussed all this and more in sensational unsupported terms and added satanic ritual, cannibalism, and child rape to the antics of the power elite, crimes that are unreported by “the media” because publishers are at those parties, participating in rape and human sacrifice, hence unwilling to tell the truth about them.

That group is a mainstream group. That video has more than half a million hits. That absurd narrative collects unthinking people into a homogeneous group which by repetition reinforces the credibility of their assertions. In a similar vein, I am sometimes asked after speeches if I believe we went to the moon or have rovers on Mars.

How does one even begin to respond?

The inability to discriminate between plausible and crazy plus the impossibility of knowing what’s real in this perpetual fog of information warfare causes anxiety and fear, which people counter with narratives to comfort the afflicted soul. Then it’s called “truth.” When we feel helpless and lacking control over our lives, we project impossible narratives onto fragmented data and comfort ourselves with theories which, if examined closely, would be seen to be foolish.

And many won’t read these words in a newspaper, or if they do, will dismiss it as the propaganda of coastal elites, written between pedophile parties. These are omens of dark times ahead with dire consequences for the existence of a consensus reality, a sane map we can share, which is the basis and fabric of civil discourse and a free society.

 

Richard Thieme is an author and professional speaker based in Milwaukee. He has published four books in the past six years and his clients have included Microsoft, Medtronic, Allstate Insurance, as well as the NSA, Secret Service, FBI, U.S. Department of the Treasury, and Los Alamos National Lab.

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by rthieme on November 20, 2016

Trump Trauma

by Richard Thieme

November 11, 2016

Op Ed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – a USA Today Publication

http://milwaukeejournalsentinel.wi.newsmemory.com/?token=8f6d212d116c9d90a5f91a5b32b0bcf9&cnum=23568963&fod=1111111STD&selDate=20161120&licenseType=none&

A younger colleague, a brilliant guru in the security world, said of the impact of “the Trump event” on his family, “Well, on the galactic scale, none of this matters one whit.”

That was not the first time that I or someone else had to stretch our thinking to the cosmic, the galactic, or the ends of time to find a benchmark by which to say “in the big picture this will be insignificant” or something like it. During a crisis in my life years ago, I visited the Grand Canyon and looked down the walls toward layers deposited millions of years earlier and thought the same thing. “Keep this in perspective,” I thought, trying to diminish the impact of a traumatic event. People are doing that now, alluding to the Trump victory, and have invoked evolutionary time scales, the galaxy, the cosmos, all of known history, to make the felt impact of the campaign feel smaller than it actually is.

These attempts in fact signify the huge significance of it all, right here, right now. Those vast scales enable us to live with the event as if it is less manageable by ordinary means.

I am not hearing this just from liberals. I dined this week at a meeting of a very conservative forum of business people and government officials who gathered to hear an economist discuss the likely impacts of the election. Similar feelings were expressed. So it’s not just the crowd I run with: The impact spans the spectrum of political partisanship.

I spoke with a dear friend who is 101 years old. She was born during the Wilson administration and has lived through seventeen presidents. She said she could not sleep after she heard the election news and spent the day crying. She said we have had good and bad presidents but she has never seen anything like this.

By “this” she means nothing about Hilary or Trump as candidates; she knows that both candidates brought less than honorable records in business and politics to the table and that no one reaches those heights with clean hands. She means something deeper, she means the deplorable vitriolic assault on decency and the Republic that we dignify by calling it a campaign and which can not be erased from memory or our daily consciousness.

The lacerations caused by Trump’s words against so many people and groups cut deeply and indelibly into our souls, and healing will not be quick or easy. He did what he did and said what he said, regardless of whether he now acts “presidential.” Anyone who directed and followed the scripts of a reality show – yes, Virginia, they are scripted – knows how to play a part well. Transparent postures and role paying do not fool victims of trauma into thinking that everything is fine now, everything will be just fine. Instead we become hyper-vigilant, somewhat paranoid, and binary in our thinking.

The impact of traumatic events is what I am seeing, hearing, feeling. Trauma is what this is about. I have addressed traumatic impacts lately in speeches, and it is obvious to me that we are in shock from a trauma that struck many individually and the entire nation as a whole.

The symptoms of trauma are identifiable and present in the body politic. Other markers include the minimization and rationalization that pervades so much discussion and punditry. Smoothing things over is an attempt to normalize the abnormal, the aberrant, and make the flow of historical events include and tame this event, but it resists taming. It bobs along in the rapids like a movie monster with its head above the water, looking for its next meal.

Three people called this week to ask if I had tickets yet – for NZ, Australia, or Canada. I wish they were less than half serious. Older people have said, well, we can still live out our lives, we’ll be OK, whatever happens, and younger people have asked, how will this effect the decades ahead of me? What will my life – and my children’s lives – be like? One mentioned the flood of refugees that we mostly relegate to brief scenes on the nightly news and wonder if it could happen here. Walls, they fear, keep people in as well as out.

These are all markers of trauma, that’s all I am saying. This is something new under the sun, this is serious, and how we respond will be important. I am giving a speech these days called “Playing Through the Pain: The Impact of Dark Knowledge and Secrets on Security and Intelligence Professionals.” It’s about trauma and secondary trauma, the latter coming from engaging with people who are traumatized. For those people, rates of substance abuse, divorce, and suicide are high. I conclude that talk with a set of strategies for dealing with trauma in more life-giving ways They include restorative time with friends and family, music and gardening; they include greater mindfulness, awareness of our bodies and what they are telling us; they include the necessity for mutuality and frequent feedback from trusted others, for deepening bonds of community and strategies for collective response. Sanity demands at the least advocating for a fabric of civil discourse and mutual respect in our country to replace the derision and insults of shout shows and the recent spectacle of a campaign.

Acknowledging what has happened, knowing it and feeling it, is dark knowledge indeed and reveals painful wounds, it is visceral awareness of the darkness in the American psyche that we like to pretend is manageable or just not there. But it is there, and we are obligated to confront denial not with despair and pessimism but with realistic self-awareness and building frameworks for concerted right action.

Richard Thieme (thiemeworks.com) is an author and professional speaker based in Milwaukee. He has published four books in the past six years and his clients have included Microsoft, Medtronic, and Allstate Insurance, as well as the NSA, Secret Service, FBI, U.S. Department of the Treasury, and Los Alamos National Lab.

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One of 3 talks at Def Con 24, this short mini-keynote for r00tz Asylum spoke to “kidz” ages 6-16 on critical thinking, using biohacking and UFO studies as examples.

Richard Thieme: UFOs & Biohacking @ r00tz’16 DEF CON 24
In this talk at r00tz Asylum (r00tz.org) at DEF CON 24, Richard spoke with kids about critical thinking and importance of challenging the norms.

See More

Richard Thieme is an author and prolific speaker focusing on the impact of technology on individuals and organizations with an emphasis on security and…
YOUTUBE.COM

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Richard Thieme at Def Con 24 August 2016 on “Playing Through the Pain: The Impact of Dark Knowledge and Secrets on Security and Intelligence Professionals”

Dismissing or laughing off concerns about what it does to a person to know critical secrets does not lessen the impact on life, work, and relationships of building a different map of reality than “normal people” use. One has to calibrate narratives to what another believes. One has to live defensively, warily. This causes at the least cognitive dissonance which some manage by denial. But refusing to feel the pain does not make it go away. It just intensifies the consequences when they erupt.

Philip K. Dick said, reality is that which, when you no longer believe in it, does not go away. When cognitive dissonance evolves into symptoms of traumatic stress, one ignores those symptoms at one’s peril. But the very constraints of one’s work often make it impossible to speak aloud about those symptoms, because that might threaten one’s clearances, work, and career. And whistle blower protection is often non-existent.

The real cost of security work and professional intelligence goes beyond dollars. It is measured in family life, relationships, and mental and physical well-being. The divorce rate is as high among intelligence professionals as it is among medical professionals, for good reason – how can relationships be based on openness and trust when one’s primary commitments make truth-telling and disclosure impossible?

One CIA veteran wrote: “I was for a while an observer to the Personnel Management working group in the DO. I noted they/we were obscenely proud of having the highest rates of alcoholism, adultery, divorce, and suicide in the US Government. I personally have 23 professional suicides in my mental logbook, the first was an instructor that blew his brains out with a shotgun when I was in training. The latest have tended to be senior figures who could not live with what they knew.”

The bottom line is, trauma and secondary trauma have identifiable symptoms and they are everywhere in the “industry.” The “hyper-real” space which the national security state creates by its very nature extends to everyone too, now, but it’s more intense for professionals. Living as “social engineers,” always trying to understand the other’s POV so one can manipulate and exploit it, erodes the core self. The existential challenge constitutes an assault on authenticity and integrity. Sometimes sanity is at stake, too, and sometimes, life itself.

We might as well begin our discussion with reality. Choosing unreality instead means we have to spend energy and time on a trek from unreality to reality simply to begin. This talk is about reality – the real facts of the matter and strategies needed for effective life-serving responses, a way to manage the paradoxical imperatives and identity-threatening pressures of our lives and work.

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My keynote for the unique security conference Corn Con in Davenport Iowa on September 17 2016.

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Biohacking: A Voyage on the High Seas without GPS or Sextant or Stars”

Distinguishing the transhumanist hype from the sane science is not always easy. Then add the antics of real hackers to the mix – adventuresome sometimes reckless souls who want to tease out of a complex system ways to make it do what it was never designed to do, sometimes something playful, sometimes something malevolent. Biohacking is now established as the number one go-to domain for R&D in intelligence and counter-terrorism and a source of sleepless nights for those protecting food, humans, all other animals and plants, from mischief. And yes, we are well on the way to becoming another species – if mutants among us have not already taken that step.

Philip K. Dick was called a paranoid psychotic. But now we are living inside one of his novels.  From “Scanner Darkly” to “Androids Dreaming of Electric Sheep,” the future he imagined is already past, and the present is full of “unknown unknowns.” Take a walk on the wild side with Richard Thieme in this challenging keynote and be sure to bring your towel.

Richard Thieme recently spoke at Def Con for the 21st straight year. An author and professional illuminator of dark alleys, he has been addressing edgy issues for 23 years, traveling the globe and engaging with his betters, who teach him everything he knows. Whether speaking to the NSA about the chill wind blowing from their antics or keynoting Code Blue in Tokyo with “Fiction is the Only Way to Tell the Truth,” he makes the hyper-real real with insights and speculation and suggests strategies for staying more or less sane in a crazy world. As one enlightened author put it, “The situation is hopeless, but not serious.” So buckle up and enjoy the ride.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_p0lGqfCHs

2016 BDYHAX speaker Richard Thieme on YouTube
Watch as Richard Thieme discusses ethics in bodyhacking – and life – in “Where we’re going there aren’t any roads: Are there any ethical constraints on bodyhacking?”

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Friends and colleagues:

I will speak for the 21st straight year at Def Con 24 in Las Vegas in August. My topic is below, and I want to nuance things correctly so I am inviting your input. If this is “orthogonal” to your interests, the delete key is to the right.

I will focus on the genuine trauma, cognitive dissonance, ethical crossroads and conundrums, and other challenges to security and intelligence professionals that are an inherent part of the work. Everyone faces these challenges these days, since the “national security state” permeates all of our lives, but they are obviously more sharp-edged and intense “inside.” Inside, the hyper-real IS the real.

This is serious stuff, but seldom addressed aloud. People did not talk about the consequences of concussions from football, not that long ago. The long-term consequences I am discussing are not trivial either. They need to be acknowledged and addressed.

This is a request for insights or shared experience. Do you have a comment you can share or an insight or suggestion? Email rthieme@thiemeworks.com or neuralcowboy@gmail.com.

Many thanks.

Richard Thieme

www.thiemeworks.com

Playing Through the Pain – The Impact of Secrets and Dark Knowledge on Security and Intelligence Professionals

Dismissing or laughing off concerns about what it does to a person to know critical secrets does not lessen the impact on life, work, and relationships of building a different map of reality than “normal people” use. One has to calibrate narratives to what another believes. One has to live defensively, warily. This causes at the least cognitive dissonance which some manage by denial. But refusing to feel the pain does not make it go away. It just intensifies the consequences when they erupt.

Philip K. Dick said, reality is that which, when you no longer believe in it, does not go away. When cognitive dissonance evolves into symptoms of traumatic stress, one ignores those symptoms at one’s peril. But the very constraints of one’s work often make it impossible to speak aloud about those symptoms, because that might threaten one’s clearances, work, and career. And whistle blower protection is often non-existent.

The real cost of security work and professional intelligence goes beyond dollars. It is measured in family life, relationships, and mental and physical well-being. The divorce rate is as high among intelligence professionals as it is among medical professionals, for good reason – how can relationships be based on openness and trust when one’s primary commitments make truth-telling and disclosure impossible?

One CIA veteran wrote: “I was for a while an observer to the Personnel Management working group in the DO. I noted they/we were obscenely proud of having the highest rates of alcoholism, adultery, divorce, and suicide in the US Government. I personally have 23 professional suicides in my mental logbook, the first was an instructor that blew his brains out with a shotgun when I was in training. The latest have tended to be senior figures who could not live with what they knew.”

Richard Thieme has for years listened to people in pain because of the compelling necessities of their work, the consequences of their actions, the misfiring of imperfect plans, and the burdens of soul-wrenching experiences. Thieme touched on some of this impact in his story, “Northward into the Night,” published in the Ranfurly Review, Big City Lit, Wanderings and Bewildering Stories before collection in “Mind Games.” The story illuminates the emotional toll of managing multiple personas and ultimately forgetting who you are in the first place.

The bottom line is, trauma and secondary trauma have identifiable symptoms and they are everywhere in the “industry.” The “hyper-real” space which the national security state creates by its very nature extends to everyone too, now, but it’s more intense for professionals. Living as “social engineers,” always trying to understand the other’s POV so one can manipulate and exploit it, erodes the core self. The existential challenge constitutes an assault on authenticity and integrity. Sometimes sanity is at stake, too, and sometimes, life itself.

We might as well begin our discussion with reality. Choosing unreality instead means we have to spend energy and time on a trek from unreality to reality simply to begin. This talk is about reality – the real facts of the matter and strategies needed for effective life-serving responses, a way to manage the paradoxical imperatives and identity-threatening pressures of our lives and work.

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An Exercise in Intentionality

by rthieme on May 16, 2016

Write under each heading what spontaneously comes to mind. Don’t censor what you write. Let responses flow until there is nothing else to write. Some responses may overlap.

Return to the exercise until you know you are done (for now) and see where you want to go and what you intend to be, do, and have.

Taking responsibility for your intentions helps the arrow of your life fly toward the target. It’s the difference between riding a horse in the direction it’s going and letting the horse drag you, foot in a stirrup, head bumping down the road.

An Exercise in Personal Intentionality

Communications I need to deliver

Things started and not being worked on

Things being worked on and not completed

Things I want to have and don’t have

Things I want to do and am not doing

Things I want to be and am not being

Things I want to complete and am not completing

Things I have wanted to experience and haven’t experienced

Things I have wanted to have and don’t have

Things I want to stop and am continuing

Things I wanted to be and am not

Things I wanted to do and have not done

Things I have wanted to accumulate and haven’t

Things I wanted to start that I haven’t started

Things I have started that I have not completed

Things that I wanted to change that I am not changing

Things that recur and won’t stop

Things I can’t get started

Things about which I am dissatisfied

Things that are incomplete for me

Things I want to say that I don’t know how to say

Things I want to say that I don’t want to say

Things I want to say that I am afraid to say

Things I want to say that I am embarrassed to say

Something that I am holding on to

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An Unabashed Pitch for SOURCE Boston May 16-19

by rthieme on April 29, 2016

An unabashed but unapologetic statement on what we’re planning for SOURCE Boston May 17-18 2016. – because this conference will be genuinely different than others in the past.
SOURCE Boston (and SOURCE Dublin and Seattle) are well known as leading conferences in the security world. This year, the familiar high level of technical expertise will be deepened by presentations on how to make yourself a more focused and powerful presence in your work and  life.
We do not make that assertion lightly.
We’re planning a powerful joint presentation for SOURCE Boston on May 18-19 2016. I’ll be keynoting on the theme “Playing Through the Pain: The Impacts of Forbidden Knowledge on Security and Intelligence Professionals.” Then Rob Cheyne will join me to facilitate a workshop exploring the life-serving practical applications of the keynote’s themes.
Rob and I have years of experience presenting workshops that deliver on our promise to make a real difference in how you experience life and work. Deidre Diamond of Cyber Security Network will deliver a keynote and workshop aligned with our intention on the second day.
Please join us and over thirty other presenters on business and technology for a unique experience – honestly! – in the security world. Trainings are on May 16-17 and the Conference in on May 17-18.
http://www.sourceconference.com/
Contact neuralcowboy@gmail.com or rthieme@thiemeworks.com or neuralcowboy on twitter or skype or Richard Thieme on Facebook or linked.in or go to www.thiemeworks.com

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Full Tables of Contents for A Richard Thieme Reader

April 19, 2016

A Richard Thieme Reader An Anthology in Five Volumes available on Amazon Kindle @ $2.99 each A Richard Thieme Reader Volume One Islands in the Clickstream: A Selection Table of Contents Learning to Live in Cyberspace (the first column, 1996) Ferg’s Law Dreams Engineers Have Games Engineers Play Fractals, Hammers, and Other Tools Darling … […]

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