01.25.11

Dept. of Make Stuff Up

Posted in Crazy Weapons at 10:35 am by George Smith

It’s not uncommon to see stories on the US military filled with material that appears to not even have the slightest connection with reality.

So yesterday, when I was passed a journo query as part of the repping I do for GlobalSecurity.Org, it was quickly realized we’d run into one of those instances.

This concerns the Navy’s Next Generation Jammer.

The make-stuff-up part can be illustrated by simply republishing the lede grafs from a recent Aviation Week piece by David Fulghum:

A top U.S. Navy official acknowledges that the service’s Next Generation Jammer (NGJ) — designed for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler and F-35 — will feature a network invasion capability.

Such a capability was demonstrated a few years ago by the U.S. Air Force, which created a focused datastream with its EC-130 Compass Call aircraft that could be filled with invasive algorithms and fired into the antenna of an integrated air defense system and its wirelessly connected missile launching vehicles. The effects on the enemy network were monitored by an RC-135 Rivet Joint. This network invasion effort was known as “Suter.”

The consensus view, as the mail went back and forth between Globalsec and your host was that the alleged capability, also reported briefly by others, was bullshit.

The Aviation Week story is four whole paragraphs.

Historically, the claims of the US using, or wishing to use, jammers on aircraft to do “network invasion” go back to close to the first Gulf War. Over the years they’ve also been closely associated with stories about electromagnetic pulsing and those wonderful EMP guns and bombs that never seem to arrive, except in computer games.

There’s never been a shortage of print on the subject.

At the time I edited the Crypt Newsletter and had developed a little joke glossary called the Joseph K Guide to deal with such things, usually centered on claims made by the military, or technology vendors and politicians on the primacy of soon-to-be-here awesome devices.

The old guide, coincidentally brought up by a reader last week, is here.

This old coinage jumped out:

The Daily Crapper: your local newspaper.

Usage: The Daily Crapper featured science and technology reporters who often turned in stories that claimed soon computers would be made of DNA and protein or that by the year 2006 the U.S. Army would defeat enemies through the clever use of telepathy and electric rays.

Another factor that’s worth consideration in such stories has to do with extraordinary claims. In real science, one needs extraordinary evidence to back such claims up. Not just, say, a couple paragraphs or a ten page .pdf file that uses argument from authority.

And this also ties in with Langmuir’s Laws of Pathological Science. Or bad cutting edge science — often practiced by the US military and its many vendors.

The basic tenets of this type of badness are here.

To which one might add the obvious addendum: In the US press, the rightness of a thing is determined by the number of others willing to adopt the same view. Particularly if accompanied by idiotic jargon like, for instance, ‘invasive algorithms.’

And so it’s all rather common for obvious professional reasons.

When reality is too dull, when you’re in hot competition with others who will print anything, or when cable television is full of miraculous shows on dubious cutting edge technology, the strong need to get going.

So go with the made-up stuff.

And if you’re an admiral or a vendor in hot competition for budget dollars, you need to be strong in this area, too.

You know in your heart that it just makes sense.


The Joseph K Guide shows it age — the mid-Nineties. But it’s still worth a couple titters.

To wit:

fictive environment: a new description for psychological operations against an enemy; or, the creation of a world of information fraud surrounding consumers, marks or targets.

Usage: In the mid-Nineties, the business of a significant number of Americans armed with computers became the spinning of fictive environments, the aim of which was to defraud others of cash money.

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