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Why Should I Blend In With the Crowd?
If you have ever watched any action movies such as the Bourne series of films, you get the Hollywood feel of what blending in with the crowd can do for you. Often times our survival depends on flowing fluidly out of a bad situation without attracting attention. As we have seen numerous times this year, legitimate protests have consistently spun off violent riots that leave property destroyed and innocent and often, uninvolved people injured or dead. We can debate the validity of the of the protests and justification of the riots to no end and likely not change anyone’s opinion so i propose we seek to learn to survive and, if possible, avoid being a statistic in any situation that is turning bad or already there. Remember, unlike Jason Bourne, we don’t have the benefit of a script or special effects to help us vanish in plain sight.
The Gray Man
The gray man is the name often used to describe someone who seems to vanish. There is no mystical or magical force here, nor any slight of hand, it’s simply a matter of not drawing any attention to yourself. Being as forgettable as possible has helped thieves, spies, and assassins, among other nefarious characters, go about their deeds almost unnoticed. If someone can operate in such a manner for criminal purposes, there’s no reason that we can’t employ the same measures to go unnoticed in survival situations.
An example happened at a protest in Birmingham, AL recently over a Confederate memorial statue. The Mayor showed up and seemingly appeased the crowd by offering to have the monument professionally removed if the protesters agreed to peacefully disperse. Other than some petty vandalism around the park with spray paint, it seemed that order would prevail and the situation was under control. All of this was being live streamed of Facebook by some of the local news reporters who began to follow the crowd as they dispersed when a faction of the group began to vandalize businesses. As these young journalists were live streaming, one of them was mugged and robbed on camera then had a bottle broken over his head. Luckily he sustained only minor injuries and the media got out of the mix before any more of them were assaulted. Now I know that they were doing their jobs and were likely aware that things could turn violent if the protest became a riot so I am not questioning their awareness or visibility in the crowd. What i would like to do is use them as an example of being the opposite of the Gray Man. These young men and women were dressed differently than the bulk of the crowd. They were using their phones to live stream, as others were, but they were obviously reporting news, not simply streaming to friends. They were making no attempts to blend into the crowd and were quickly noticed as outsiders and attacked.
Had these reporters chosen attire more closely matching that of the participants and been more discrete with their filming and reporting, it is possible that they would have become gray to the point that no one paid them any attention.
How do I Go Unnoticed in a Crowd?
The military term OPSEC, or operational security, comprises many elements and I’ll discuss it at length in other posts, however it means to limit what you give away about your plans. Being the Gray Man is a prime example. The less you are noticed, the less your intentions and plans are to be scrutinized. Most of the time as preppers, we simply are planning to move away from whatever danger is present and reach a safe place. The more we stand out, the more likely we are to be targeted or followed.
The Gray Man isn’t necessarily wearing the color gray. He or she is simply dressed in a similar manner as the people that he or she needs to blend in with. Someone in a suit and tie will draw lots of attention while poolside at a resort. It may be a manager or administrator, however, he looks out of place in a sea of swimsuits and can be noticed almost immediately. Consider also the flip side. Someone showing up to a formal event in jeans and a t shirt. They would stand out like a spotlight in a crowd of tuxedos and evening gowns. The giveaways are often less obvious though. Many of the firearms enthusiasts, including myself, have seen a huge explosion of clothing geared towards us in the past several years. Tactical fever has swept the land and with a quick trip to a sporting goods store we can walk out looking like we are staging for a SWAT raid in the parking lot. I like to wear cargo pants for the pockets, but i know they can begin to have that armchair commando look. To limit this, i don’t pair them with combat boots or official looking shirts such as the Polo style shirts with the sleeve pouches for pens. I wear a ball cap in some of my videos that has a morale patch on the front, but in public i don’t wear a hat, or chose a team or company hat instead. Little things make for big cues, especially when there are people actively looking for someone out of place.
I am a bit of a gear head and enjoy having my lifted Chevy and a Jeep based rock crawler. Depending on the surroundings, both of those could be obvious and easily noticed and remembered. I have to be mindful of that fact when I drive those. If i cut someone off in traffic, there is no denying that it was me the next time they see me out. My daily driver, however, is a plain pickup with stock wheels and no real tell-tell signs other than a bent tailgate. It’s a common color for the model and i see several in my area that look very similar. While far from invisible, it isn’t something that would raise any eyes or likely stick in someones mind after seeing it. I also shy away from bumper stickers. I share the same sentiments as the majority of the men and women i see with a Gadsden Flag sticker or vanity plate. I mentioned in my EDC video that I am a fan of Glock pistols, however I chose not to have a “Glock Perfection” decal on my back glass. It not only identifies me as potentially armed, it also signals that there is a higher probability that there may be a firearm left in the vehicle to steal. (Side note: Please do not leave your guns in vehicles if at all possible and look for ways to secure them if you must) These examples don’t have to be gun, prepper or patriot related however. Simply having bright paint or decals can draw attention and that is often the reason we add them. This is not an indictment towards anyone with an attractive or eye catching vehicle, but a reminder of other things that can render us more noticeable.
Should I Conceal or Open Carry My Firearm?
Another topic for debate among those of us who carry a weapon for self defense is whether or not to reveal our armed status. I’m sure that I’ll get into the pros and cons of both in a later post or video and possibly cause flames and fury in the comments, however for now, I’m going to keep it limited to the terms of being noticed. If we find ourselves in a group of clearly armed individuals such as at a 2nd Amendment rally or in a group of militia members who have converged in an area, having an exposed firearm will be a factor that may actually increase our capacity to go unnoticed. On the other hand, walking into the local Walmart with our polished 1911 in a custom holster with Punisher logos on the grips will likely draw attention. It may be perfectly legal and even supported, but as a general rule, our image will be more memorable to those who see us and I can assure you anyone with bad intentions will take stock of what to do about our presence as well.
Behaviors That Help us Blend Into a Crowd
If you want to go unnoticed for whatever reason, consider your behaviors and mannerisms. You don’t have to be looking through binoculars from a hedgerow to be noticed as a person who is looking for someone. Pulling at your belt or fondling your pockets can give away that you might be armed. Uneasy looks or unnatural movements may indicate you are nervous and may be up to something. Try to figure out what your nervous habits are. Do you have poker face when being engaged by someone?
I plan to continue to research this topic and link to applicable resources as I find them. We must begin, however, by being aware of the impressions we make and how to limit them if we need to go unnoticed for any reason. In the meantime, here’s a book that offers some insight on how far you can go to “disappear”:
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