SecretWar: Plain Jane Tries to Kill the Yakuza Boss

The Power of Random for Marketers,” by Rohit Bhargava, Influential Interactive Marketing, 20 July 2005, (also at AdPulp).

Conjectures and Refutations,” by Matt McIntosh, Conjectures and Refutations, 20 July 2005, (from ZenPundit).

Interesting, Dan,” by Curtis Gale Weeks, tdaxp, 21 July 2005,

SecretWarriors Walk Without Rhythm, Won’t Attract the Worm,” by Dan, tdaxp, 23 July 2005,

Random is not Random if Used as a Marketing Tool,” by Nellie Lide, New Persuasion, 24 July 2005,

Note: This article is about 5th Generation War (“5GW”), or “SecretWar.” This post is part of an ongoing discussion that was started by Mark Safranski. I posted my thoughts, fixed a significant error, received valuable feedback by Mark and others, and followed up with my post “Dreaming 5th Generation War.” My 5GW posts since then (Emerging Tactic, Walk Without Rhythm, etc,) have been derivative of “Dreaming….” My thinking has been vastly improved by the wonderful comments I have received. At the time of this writing, Mark had just compiled several 5GW articles and enlightened the world with his thoughts.

Earlier I wrote about the need for SecretWarrirors, fighters in a 5GW, to “walk without rhythm”. By that I mentioned the danger of predictable or repitious acts, because


In SecretWar, or 5GW, the fighter tries to hurt without being hurt — at all. If the world knows the SecretWarrior exists, she has already lost. 5th Generation War allows very weak fighters to attack, because the world does not know about them. If the world knew about a 5GWarrior she could be eliminated easily.


In the same post, I quoted Curtis Gale Weeks who wrote


I was thinking more along the lines of a scenario in which multiple, seemingly unrelated events hurt one nation (or a group of nations) repeatedly, as if “the hand of God” were behind those events: say, one major terrorist act, one major financial crises, one upsurge in bird-flu, one natural disaster, one powergrid failure, and a case of a targeting error in some ongoing conflict (killing many innocents), over the period of 9 or 15 months.


To me, the two statements seemed identical, and the obvious implication was that the SecretWarrior must “walk without rhythm” and act unpredictably.

But then, I read an article on NP that made me wonder if my advice to 5GWarriors to walk without rhythm was dangerously wrong.

It was about five years ago that my two teenagers started saying things like “That was so random” or just “Random.” It was sort of random how the word random entered their vocabulary. Anything that was random caught their attention and they usually found it funny.

My reaction on reading this first paragraph was “uh oh.”

It gets worse:


A radio station here in the D.C. area – WRQX – just changed to a format, “the best mix of everything” – I find myself listening to it whenever I’m in the car now (and not changing channels) because I want to hear what they’ll play next. I’ve already heard some songs that I hadn’t heard in years and years and I was so happy. They play a 60’s song, then a 90’s song, then a 2001 song, then a 2005 song, then maybe a 70’s song. It’s the randomness that keeps me coming back.


To sum it


What makes random such a powerful marketing tool? Is it the promise of surprise? Or the fact that it stands out from more traditional and predictable marketing messages? Consumer attention is precious and most theories today focus on how attention can be driven by credibility, trust or brand authenticity. While I agree with these theories, there is another force that works outside of any of these. Curiosity. Randomness drives curiosity, and curiosity drives attention. Anyone who has worked with children knows this to be true. Children are inherently curious – and this curiosity drives their attention.


To see this yourself, AdPulp gives as an example of fascinating randomness.

Because randomness is very attractive, a succession of “random” catastrophes striking a nation will be very, very suspicious. People are superstitious — they are gifted with “fingertip feeling” or Fingerspitzengefuhl — and will implicitly decide that something is doing this to them. To a 5GWarrior, who cannot afford to have her cover exposed, a paranoid victim is a dangerous victim.

Imagine the 5th Generation Warrior as an assassin on the large, crowded, dance floor. She cross the floor and get close enough to the yakuza boss to kill him. However, she is weak and unable to defend herself in a fight.

The SecretWarrior must cross the dance floor unseen. She must not walk with noticeable skill, dexterity, or charm. If she “walks with rhythm” she will be attractive and will have her movements watched.

However, she must not be clumsy. Mao’s old advice, just act recklessly and everything will be all right, would be foolish. For a woman crossing the dance floor, tripping is even more noticeable than swaying her hips.

The 5GWarrior must hide in the crowd, making the most probable explanation of her behavior that she is just “normal,” not that she is attempting to murder a Boss. She must arrange her enemy’s observations, depriving him of meaningful information about her existence if she must supply him with meaningless data of her existence.

As a post on C&R put it, in an unrelated discussion


One of the key consequences of Shannon’s formalization is that the amount of information conveyed by a transmission is a function of the uncertainty or unpredictability of what the particular message will actually be. The (a) strings seem more redundant and thus the next character carries less information than it does in the (b) strings, which are less redundant and hence more unpredictable. This comes out more intuitively in example (3) — most English-speaking people wouldn’t have any trouble guessing what the next few blanks of the (a) string are meant to be, but nobody would have a clue what the next few blanks of the (b) string will be; if the missing content turns out to be “Gerald”, this string would have a higher information content than “tates” in the (a) string.


Predictable movements paint a simple picture in the enemy’s mind. This is what attacking “Observation” — intellectual warfare — means. The 5th Generation Warrior’s movements should be predictable and should be part of a recognizable pattern — a boring and wrong pattern.

The 5th Generation Warrior must be a “plain Jane” to kill the Yakuza Boss.

He will never know what hit him. Nor, if the 5GW does her job well, shall anyone else.

4 thoughts on “SecretWar: Plain Jane Tries to Kill the Yakuza Boss”

  1. Hi Dan,

    5GW has another appeal – it is highly *economical* for small but well-governed powers to implement.

    On a 5GW field, Singapore can stand level with China or Britain. If they choose to specialize within a subfield of interest they might eclipse *all* other powers in that niche which can be leveraged elsewhere.

    This allows small powers to relegate traditional military establishments toward the primary task of assuring internal security and static defense against an external conventional attack – relatively less expensive in terms of investment

  2. I wonder what would happen if randomness became predictable, or expected. The person listening to WRQX expects the randomness, believes it is randomness, so any non-randomness (or thread) is overlooked. I wonder if the station occasionally plays Egyptian music or classical music…

  3. Mark,

    Extremely good point, especially if the 5GW is “latching on” to an existing non-SecretWar (like in the example of the Nativists).

    For example, the author of “Charlie Wilson's War” relates that not only the US, UK, Saudis, and Paks were involved in the Afghan Resistance, but also China, Singapore (!), and the Yugoslavs.

    All were dictatorships with Muslim minorities that had much to fear from Islamic restlessness or rapid democratization. But each were able to leverage what they could supply cheaply (China labor for inexpensive weapons, the Yugoslavs old Soviet weapons, etc) in order to better secure their states against being Prague'd.

    So while the Soviets knew there was a battleifled, they were ignorant of the 5GW component even after it terminated.

    Also like in my previous example, the success or failure of the “wider war” didn't interest the the Chinese, the Sings, or the Yugoslavs. They wanted the Soviets hurt enough that it would end Moscovite expansion. They succeeded.

  4. Curtis,

    Your question cross information theory and psychology. This means it works on both the full Observe-Orient-Decide-Act loop, and the much more commonly used Observe-Orient-Act subloop.

    Mammals instinctually overall irregularly spaced positive hits. So if you had a definite pattern of +++000+++000, or an irregular pattern say of ++0+0+0000+0, mammals will care more about the first than the second, even if the “+” represent something they really care about.

    The gambling industry makes a fortune off this fact.

    Ditto mutual funds.

    So if I can turn your point around, I wonder what the effect of this ability to see too many patterns — “faces in the clouds” — will be. In war it could lead to a “paranoid style.” Is that useful, when SecretWar means ConspiracyWar?

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