Manipulating a Bad Guys Mindset Part I

“If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.”

― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Every tactical or strategic question in the world can be answered with just two words.  It depends.  That is not to dodge questions, it is the truth.  A good coach should then be able to start unpacking the things that it depends upon.  Providing when and why they’d use this, that, or the other tactic or strategy.  We have to look at the context. The rules of war are different from criminal laws.  In the United States of America state statutes vary from one state to the next.  In war, irritating your adversary might be the right strategy as it may cause him to act too soon, recklessly, or to make mistakes.  When it comes to protecting your family and yourself as a civilian, saying or doing things to aggravate your adversary is a quick way to lose on the legal battlefield.  The second part of the quote is what interests me for the vast majority of civilian deadly force encounters: Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.    For those who would immediately question this in the interest of brevity I’ll just say it’s a timing thing. In this post I’ll begin unpacking how this applies to civilian use of defensive force in the United States of America.

With just a wee bit of introspection we’ll recognize that when we get angry we don’t think so well.  Likewise, when we’re afraid we don’t think so well.  Fear often underlies anger.  Nearly all of the arguments between my wife and I began with some underlying fear that one of us was struggling with.  Maybe I don’t think her great idea is affordable.  Maybe I think her idea is actually unsafe.  Those underlying fears lead me to anger and then I don’t think so well.  That compounds the problem because I then lose the ability to articulate why this, that, or the other idea is actually a bad idea.  What does this have to do with legitimate self-defense?  Fear and anger are the two primary emotions that are most likely to result in your untimely death or a prison sentence.  Those who are afraid hesitate or fail to act which often results in injury or death.  Those who are afraid panic acting with violence of action too early resulting in prison.  Sometimes angry folks act to defend when defending would be ill advised resulting in injury or death.  In other words if an innocent person of good will fails to do an accurate assessment of the violent problem and commensurate solutions, they may find out too late that they’ve bitten off more than they can chew.  The likelihood of injury or death increases when you get the timing wrong by immediately acting when a pause is needed or failing to act when action is immediately required. Also, you have to do the time consuming work of building skills to be able to perform those skills under life and death circumstances. Training that focuses more on marketing and novelty than truth can build false confidence and false confidence can be a major problem in a life and death fight.

I retired from Law Enforcement after a twenty six year career.  Police officers do not pretend to be weak.  Quite the opposite, we project (and have) confidence regarding the physical battlefield.  Part of that confidence stems from the acceptance and willingness that if someone is bigger, faster, and stronger, losing isn’t an option.  The ultimate option for an officer is deadly force via the firearm.  Police officers have to make arrests which means the very nature of their work involves potentially violent confrontations with unjust criminal aggressors.  Bad guys don’t want to be detained, cited, or arrested.  For that reason the law is designed so that officers don’t have to worry about being perceived as an aggressor or mutual combatant.  On the other hand civilians do have to concern themselves with what they say or do because these may define them in the eyes of the law as an aggressor or as a  mutual combatant.  Why?  Simple, if it’s clear you were the initial aggressor or a mutual combatant you lose the ability to make the legal claim of self-defense or defense of another.  Self-defense isn’t defined by what you think in your head or how you feel about the incident – it’s a legal term defined by the statutes of your state.  In Illinois, statutory language offers a way back from mistakenly entering into conflict as the aggressor or mutual combatant.  I’m no attorney and I don’t have time for a deep dive into Illinois Statute 720 ILCS 5/7-4 but a small part of it says: 

 “(c) (2) in good faith, he withdraws from physical contact with the assailant and indicates clearly to the assailant that he desires to withdraw and terminate the use of force, but the assailant continues or resumes the use of force.”  

It’s better to avoid saying or doing things that move you into the category of aggressor or mutual combatant.  Witnesses will be more likely to see or hear the insults, gestures, or other acts of aggression as you and your adversary “step outside to settle this like men.” Those witnesses may not be present for your showing a clear desire to withdraw and terminate the fight.  That part might be disputed if your adversary lives or your word only if he dies.    

The legal battlefield as it pertains to violence is fraught with risks.  Those risks are increasing for innocent people of good will in many and various leftist jurisdictions throughout this country.  Why?  Progressive activist district attorney’s are confusing good guys and bad guys.  If you decide to own or carry a firearm for protection you need to bulk up on knowledge relating to the legal battlefield.  I recommend clients purchase the book The Law of Self-Defense by attorney Andrew Branca.  I let my clients know this book is a good starting point.  Another great resource is a book called Violence of Mind by author Varg Freeborn.  Mr. Freeborn has a lot of free content available through interviews on podcasts and other social media.  This content offers folks a glimpse into the criminal world as Mr. Freeborn shares his own experience with violence, the criminal justice system, and ultimately a prison sentence. That leads to another quote by Sun Tzu, The Art of War:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

If you’ve taken a concealed carry course and believe you’ve reached the fullness of knowledge on the legal battlefield that is a serious mistake.  A concealed carry course is a bare bones introduction to some of the concepts that your state legislature has approved as an acceptable curriculum.  I also recommend to my clients to consider following Andrew Branca on free social media platforms like YouTube as a kind of hobby.  Why?  Mr. Branca breaks down criminal cases and other violent incidents in the news which provides an application of the principles he teaches in his book.  I cannot overemphasize how important it is for you to bulk up on the legal battlefield. For instance, I retired as a Lieutenant co-leading our Professional Standards Division, Internal Affairs.  I did the work to become a craftsman in the profession of Law Enforcement.  I understood the laws associated with police officer use of force.  

Upon retirement an acquaintance asked if I intended on purchasing concealed carry insurance.  Not knowing what I didn’t know, in arrogance I said:  No, if I have to use my firearm as a civilian I’ll likely receive a good Samaritan award.  After a few months it dawned on me that I had not actually done the work of identifying the underlying fundamental principles involved in civilian claims of self-defense.  Certainly I understood the basics of deadly force but I didn’t yet understand some of the subtle distinctions between acting as an officer and acting as a civilian. Also, as a police officer where I had served we didn’t have hostile activist prosecutors that might take some liberties with the prosecutor’s discretion in an attack on an innocent defender showing bias and favor towards the bad guys.   In 2017 that was just beginning to ramp up in our Country.  I didn’t know what I didn’t know.  I set about reading, highlighting, and annotating three dozen self-defense cases in my home state of Illinois.  I did this before I read attorney Andrew Branca’s book and found the same fundamental principles.  Suffice to say I came to understand concealed carry insurance was a worthy investment as it relates to using any kind of force in a violent confrontation.  The laws for justifiable use of force have some profound distinctions between police officers acting in the line of duty and civilians.  Understanding what makes you an aggressor or mutual combat is a matter of freedom or incarceration.

In the Illinois statute two important words that jump out to me are “initially provokes.” Imagine another driver cuts you off in traffic so you speed up to pull alongside to express your displeasure.  Guess who initially provoked the incidentIt’s you!  You are the aggressor.  Instead imagine you are at a tavern and become involved in a verbal disagreement with another patron who says to you:  Would you like to step outside and settle this like men?  You might say: Yes, I’d like that very much!  Or you might tacitly agree by standing up and following him out the back door to the alley.  Either way you are now a mutual combatant.  If you end up fighting and you win the fight which results in his injury or death you are NOT going to be able to claim self-defense or Justifiable Use of Force: Exoneration.  

In the second part I’ll continue to unpack why civilians should NOT initially provoke or stir to anger an unjust criminal aggressor.