On The Priming Potential of Stratfor

I have been thinking about writing something here for a long time. I have been postponing my next article for various other chores that have been consuming my time. One of those chores has been reading. The truth is that I have been reading each and every article of Stratfor since the past few months. I have been read every bit of what a free rider can get and I don’t think that I possess the means to get a paid subscription at this moment, neither do I think that that is important.

I really wanted to reflect on George Friedman’s Borderland series of articles that he finished writing around last month while traveling in Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Caucus. It was particularly touching to read how he was born to a Jewish family in Hungary and how his elders had to calculate the costs of Adolf Hitler’s military excursions in Hungary at dining tables, and the calculations of the price the Jews would have to pay. Indeed, it is a pity. However, his trip to Europe was motivated by the recent Russian intrusion in Ukraine.
I have been reading Stratfor quite thoroughly. And the truth is that I have found it rather impressive. Their geopolitical weeklies are absolutely enlightening, albeit ruthless. But such is the nature of geopolitics. Right into the middle of the 21st century it still tends to remain ruthless.

As I have been reading Stratfor, I have been wondering of writing up a research proposal to analyze Stratfor for its objectivity. The proposal that I have in my mind’s eye would require research to be carried out from a psychological point of view. I would roughly like to explain the proposal as follows.

Stratfor claims to be objective and non partisan. This is claimed in their core philosophy. The truth is that I have largely found it to be objective and non-partisan, except a few instances (where I have found it to be rather ambiguous). In reality, however, Stratfor might not really be as objective as it claims to be or as a reader like me finds it to be. This leads us to the idea that although Stratfor is objective most of the times and does not appear to be so some of the times, it is priming us in profound ways at times when it is actually not being objective whereas it is appearing to be so.

Stated in other words, when Stratfor is intentionally trying to manipulate the opinions of its readers by appearing as an innocent geopolitical analyst, whereas when it is actually not so, it is trying to psychologically prime us.

This can be a very nice idea to work on. It may as well lead to a very nice research based thesis. Having said it all, it is imperative to describe what priming really means in this context.

Priming is a psychological trick in which a subject is indirectly led into developing false beliefs and ideas by indirect manipulation, while the subject does not know that he/she is being played upon. For instance, in an easy exam in which everyone can do well (or everyone has done equally well on average), subjects can be asked to write down their about their ethnic backgrounds. Depending on their answers, some subjects would have the tendency to do poorly on the same type of exam as compared with others. The reason for this drift in performance is how they associate their ability to succeed with their ethnic roots on a subconscious level.

This is priming and I found this explanation in Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, a very nice book on snap judgements and other aspects of popular psychology.

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