Misogyny, Racism and the Moscow Rules

If my intent is to write something useful that people can understand then it's better to write about the way things are instead of what we imagine them to be. Many have imagined the world in ways which don't really exist because how one lives is so far removed from how one ought to live that the person who abandons what one does for what one ought to do, learns frustration rather than clarity.”
Niccolo Machiavelli: The Prince

During the Cold War, Russia was the most dangerous place to be an American spy. The men and women who survived this dangerous and brutal environment followed a set of concepts called the Moscow Rules. These weren’t official guidelines. For years they were never written down. The rules were simple, easy to remember and essential if you didn’t want to end up dead in the street with a bullet in your back.

In the 21st Century, America has proven itself to be a dangerous and brutal environment for women and minorities. Look at the police brutality caught on tape (See Thoughts on Police Brutality). Consider the institutionalized misogyny of the NFL (See My Sixteen Game Ban on the NFL), Uber and the legal system when it comes to rape. Spend a moment thinking about all the hate groups, militias and interpersonal conflict in the United States and you might see parallels between Cold War Moscow and present day Ferguson (See Writing While the World Burns). 

Perhaps it is time for us to adopt the Moscow Rules for our own use. Maybe evolution is based on survival and survival is based on adaptation to circumstances. If you don’t know who to trust and you can’t rely on institutions or violence to protect you, then maybe you need a different approach.

Since there is no official set of Moscow Rules, I’m going to suggest my own. These are based on different versions of the Cold War ideas. I’ve simply modified them for the world we live in now.
  • Assume nothing. (Help may never come)
  • Pay attention. (You can’t avoid what you don’t know about)
  • You are never completely alone. (Threats can come from anywhere)
  • Everyone is potentially under opposition control. (I’ll let you define “opposition” for yourself)
  • Go with the flow, blend in. (If they don’t see you, they probably won’t get you)
  • Always give yourself a way out (of a conversation, altercation or attack)
  • Vary your pattern. (if they know where you are, you’re an easier target)
  • If it feels wrong, it is wrong. (Don’t ignore your instincts)
  • Maintain a natural pace. (Too fast or too slow draws too much attention)
  • Lull them into a sense of inactivity. (If they define you as a threat or an opportunity, they will attack)
  • Build in opportunity, but use it sparingly. (Pick your shots and your battles)
  • Don't harass the opposition. (Attack from a position of strength, not weakness)
  • There is no limit to a human being's ability to rationalize their actions. (Being “right” won’t protect you)
  • Keep your options open. (especially when it comes to getting away)
  • Technology will always let you down. (Rely on your wits and your skills, not your stuff)
  • Once is an accident. Twice is coincidence. Three times is an enemy action.  (Understand the patterns of human behavior)
  • Don't attract attention (Even by being too careful or prepared)

I’m not suggesting we need to be spies in our own country or personal lives. I’m not saying this is the right way for people to live. On a certain level, adopting these concepts as part of your daily routine involves a change in perspective. You might begin to see yourself as isolated and oppressed by your own society. Seeing life this way can create emotional and mental damage over time. But I’m not writing this in response to the way life should be. I’m looking at the world around me and writing about the way our society is now.

If you feel the institutions and systems you live in will protect you, then you have no need for the Moscow Rules. If you are willing to risk a bit of alienation to avoid being shot dead in the street, consider the Moscow Rules. They might help you adapt to the dangers and brutality of your environment.

If you hope the institutions and systems you live in will protect you, give you justice or make you whole again after you’ve been violated, good luck. Just remember; hope is not a plan and the news is full of people who didn’t have a plan.

Have fun.


The Horror That Lives Just Around the Corner

When I was learning to write, I was taught about the distinctions between different types of fiction. Horror, of course, was one of the main genres and came in two varieties. It was broken down into natural horror (stories based on threats like criminals, sociopaths and the violently insane) and supernatural horror (stories based on unconfirmed concepts like vampires, zombies and ghosts).  Right now the craze in horror is completely of the supernatural variety. All you have to do is look at all the media devoted to the zombie apocalypse to see what I’m talking about. But in spite of the current trend, I write natural horror because I believe that it makes the stories much more frightening.
I have three urban horror stories currently available for free on Smashwords:
  • The Replacements is a story about three high school boys who are forced to face their worst fears when they try to buy a girl in the sex trade.
  • Spare Some Change reverses the power dynamic between an urban yuppie and a homeless man deep in the tunnels under New York City.
  • Finally, Afraid of the Dark is set in a near future society where government sponsored killers roam the streets answering to no authority but their own.
I try to create a sense of realism in my horror that infects the mind of the reader. I don’t want you to imagine a theoretical horror. I want you to feel like “This could happen to me.” That’s when you get scared. That’s when horror works.
I know Halloween is traditionally about supernatural horror. I know that vampires and zombies have a lot of cache in modern entertainment. But I don’t relate to supernatural horror, so I don’t have any inspiration to write about that. Stories about being terrorized by homeless maniacs or slave traders might not be the trend now, but try not to follow the trends. I’m trying to tap into primal fears and the fear of someone who might be just around the corner is more powerful than the fear of something that might only exist in our collective imagination.

Have fun.

Read a Little Urban Horror and Your Train Ride Will Never Be the Same

A new urban horror story from Nightlife Publishing goes on sale this week. Here is a look at the cover and a preview of the special story I’ve written for Halloween.

Martin is young, arrogant and drunk when he decides to harass a homeless man on the train. But he doesn't realize the power that the old man wields in the tunnels. He can't escape from the wrath of the deranged torturers who want to punish him for the sins of everyone who has ever abused them. Will he be able to live through their brutality and see the outside world again?
Authors, book reviewers and bloggers who want to write a review for this or any other Nightlife Publishing title should contact me directly at gamalhennessy@gmail.com for press copies.
Have fun.

What to do When Bullets Start Flying (Responding to an Active Shooter)

By Gamal Hennessy
Most of my writing deals with crime fiction, but I often come across things in my research that can be helpful in real life, especially when you consider recent events.
The news over the past year has emphasized the idea that brutal massacres are not limited to war zones or ghettos. They are happening in summer camps (Norway), movies theaters (Colorado) and now churches (Wisconsin).
While the mainstream media will trot out the usual suspects from the pro and anti gun lobby, it is unlikely that meaningful debate or change will come out of the latest crime. There will be no major change in American gun laws because there is no political will to enact such a law. Even if a more stringent law could be passed, there is no practical way to collect and manage all the firearms in circulation. It would be easier to find and confiscate everyone’s iPhone at this point than take away their gun.
US society is not moving toward a period of fewer guns. If anything, recent events will inspire more amateurs to arm themselves in the naïve belief that a weapon alone will make them safer. This means more people will be armed on a regular basis. The standard response by government authorities and corporations is to implement armed security to respond to future threats. But armed security is only a deterrent to a rational actor. Many of the lone domestic terrorists among us are not rational and will not be deterred by security. They will simply find a new less secure target.
As members of an armed society with potential murderers who could strike at anytime, we are faced with two choices; hide in our homes or adopt principles that can help us avoid danger that might occur. This essay is meant to be an introduction to concepts of escaping an active shooter and increasing your chance of survival.
Defining an Active Shooter
In this essay, an active shooter is any individual firing repeatedly into a crowd. He is not threatening to shoot. He has already started shooting. He is not shooting at someone specific (as far as anyone can tell). He is simply trying to kill as many people as possible. There are other concepts that are applicable with other scenarios, but I’m going to focus on the scenario that has popped up with more and more frequency.
Preparing for an Active Shooter
If a gunman can appear at anytime in any location then it is impossible to be completely safe at all times. But there are preparations you can take to increase your ability to get out of danger.
  1. Get your body used to moving: If you never run you can’t expect to instantly become Usain Bolt if bullets start flying. There is a certain amount of energy that comes from fear but the more you learn how to use that energy before hand, the better off you will be. The type of running I’m referring to isn’t the jogging you do in the park to fit into your skinny jeans. This is running as if someone is shooting at you. Periodically sprinting (and not in a straight line) will give your body more exposure to the type of movement it has to do in an active shooter situation.
  2. Dressing for a retreat: The lady in the super tight skirt with the six inch heels and two purses isn’t going to be able to move very fast. The guy with the heavy backpack and the gym bag strapped to him on the train is in the same boat. I’m not suggesting that you only leave the house in Under Armor and track shoes, but you have to balance your wardrobe and luggage with the reality that you might have to leave it behind, assuming you actually have a chance to get rid of it. Lighter is faster and faster is better.
  3. Decide where you are going: Being able to move isn’t very helpful if you don’t know where you’re going. Trying to find the exits in the chaos of a human stampede trying to escape an active shooter is challenging at best. Whenever possible, it is prudent to locate the exits in your surroundings before you settle into whatever activity is on the agenda. This is also a good time to figure out if there are multiple exits or just one. If trouble occurs you can move yourself and your loved ones to the exits without any discussion or thought.
Reacting to the Active Shooter
The best writing I have found on this subject comes from a site called No Nonsense Self Defense. Violence expert Marc MacYoung has identified three main steps in avoiding an active shooter.
  1. Get out of the line of fire: move to a place where the barrel of the gun isn’t pointing
  2. Get out of the shooter’s field of vision: move to a place where the shooter can’t see you and will be less likely to aim at you and put you back in the line of fire
  3. Get out of the area where the shooter is located: move so far away from the shooter that he cannot continue shooting at you.
Becoming the Rabbit
In their seminal book On Combat, Dave Grossman and Loren Christensen divide the world into three types of people using the analogy of a sheep herd. The civilians who are potential victims are sheep. The criminals who prey on society are wolves. The police, military and first responders who have to deal with the criminals are sheep dogs.
It is difficult to determine where the wolves will strike next. The sheep dogs can’t be expected to be every where we need protection so we need a new script. I’m not suggesting increasing the number of armed civilians and creating a society of wolves. I am advocating a different model all together. Instead of lying down like sheep waiting for the slaughter, we can choose to be come rabbits. We are not involved in committing or stopping crime. We are only interested in getting out. Hopefully it is a set of skills we will never have to use.
Of course, following these steps cannot guarantee your safety if you encounter an active shooter. There are many variables that could hinder your escape including your own paralysis, a lack of exits, a lack of warning or a combination of all these factors. But consciously deciding how you will react and preparing for that reaction increases your chances of living through a horrible incident.

Gamal Hennessy

Five Lessons I Learned from the Colorado Dark Knight Shooting

Reports online are stating that a PhD student named James Holmes opened fire in a theater during the premier of Dark Knight Rises in Colorado last night. At this point, none of us know what really happened or why but there are five things that
1.       Appreciate the people in your life today, because they might not be here tomorrow.
2.       Live and love as if you might not be here tomorrow.
3.       Know where the exits are and watch your six, to give everyone a better chance of being around tomorrow.
4.       You can tell a lot about a person’s self interest by the way they respond to events.
5.       I’m going to see Dark Knight next week because my fascination with fantasy heroes is stronger than my fear of realities villains.

Have fun.