How to Vanish

How to Vanish
Bill Rounds 
Date: 0000-00-00
Subject: Privacy Rights

Philosophizing about a world where individual liberty is respected and all associations are purely voluntary is an important and fulfilling activity. But, at the close of a debate of Marx vs. Mises, we step back out into the world as it now exists and are faced with the reality that the world we live in does not mirror our philosophical ideals. Individual freedom is suppressed and, whether we like it or not, we cannot ignore the force and coercion imposed upon us. Practical solutions, available immediately, become necessary to help bridge the gap between our current reality and a future ideal.

I have a good friend who is a former special forces soldier. He and I sat down to lunch a few days ago and the topic of conversation turned to training. Every special forces soldier gets millions of dollars worth of training making them the best trained soldiers to have ever walked the earth.  He didn’t get into anything that he was prohibited from sharing, of course, but I was fascinated by some of the things he shared about surviving when captured by an enemy and even how to survive torture. 

Something about what he said made me realize that it was applicable to far more than those being held captive in a military engagement. The principles that we discussed apply to many other situations where individual freedom is suppressed. The two fundamental principles that keep soldiers, and anyone else, alive and strong while suffering in captivity is to follow the rules and to win small mental victories.

Why Should We Care?

There are very few of us who will be captives in a military campaign like John McCain or hostages of the FARC. Most of us will probably not even be political prisoners like hikers in Iran or Aung San Suu Kyi.  It is more likely that we might find ourselves in a country, whether on vacation or not, that is less than respectful of individual liberties and human rights.

The world is full of countries that torture prisoners, assassinate civilians without due process of law, publicly execute minors who have not been charged with a crime, institute mass sexual assault, and humiliate innocent people by forcing public nudity.  North Koreans, for example, are held captive by their government and need to strictly obey ridiculous laws to keep from being imprisoned or publicly executed.   People in these circumstances are captives and need to use the same tactics to survive both mentally and physically as a soldier captured in the theater of battle.  If residents of repressive regimes are to survive, they need to obey the two main principles of surviving in captivity.

Surviving Captivity Rule #1: Follow The Rules

Whether captured by an opposing army, imprisoned by a brutal dictator, or held for ransom by a rogue band of narco-terrorists, the first rule of survival is to obey the rules of your captor.  Captors may or may not care whether a captive lives or dies, but the chances of survival are greatly reduced by being a nuisance. A captive, relying on the mercy of captors, can increase their chances of survival by complying with the rules.

There will inevitably be unfair and stupid rules.  Violating unfair and stupid rules could lead to severe punishment and maybe even death.  Anyone who has seen The Great Escape will remember the iconic image of Steve McQueen tossing a baseball against the wall in solitary confinement. The reality of punishment for disobeying captors is rarely so kind. In dire circumstances, staying alive by following the orders of your captors is a high priority.

Surviving Capture Rule #2: Win Secret Battles

The second most important goal after physical survival, is mental survival. Surviving physically might be worthless unless you survive mentally as well.

To avoid mental break down, captives find ways to win secret battles against their captors.  Winning a secret battle means doing something that demonstrates that your heart and mind do not belong to your captors. These signs of independence are most safely done in private.

One of John McCain's POW companions secretly sewed images on the inside of his clothes to win a small victory against his captors. The character Evey, in V for Vendetta, was able to win small victories against her “captors” by reading the journal hidden in a crack in her cell wall. Another example of winning a secret battle would be to secretly flip your captor the bird while their back is turned. If you do it and they don't see, you have won.

You Need Privacy To Win Little Victories

You cannot win little victories like Evey Hammond or John McCain’s cell mate without privacy.  Privacy is freedom. Fortunately, there are many practical and effective ways to legally protect our privacy. Tools like encryption are available, usually for free, to encrypt everything from the files on your computer to your phone conversations and emails. A basic tool like encryption is relatively simple to learn and can be an extremely effective tool for protecting privacy. But encryption isn't the only tool that average people have at their disposal to win private battles while living in captivity. There are lot of other tools and tactics at HowToVanish.com that are essential to helping you maintain privacy in case you might find yourself as an unfortunate captive.

Winnable Victories

Even minor victories won by protecting your privacy are helpful. If you encrypt a birthday message to your grandma, just so someone else can’t read it, you have won a small victory.  If you encrypt your grocery list, you have won a small victory.  If you shop anonymously with cash and don’t use an identifying shopper card to buy your groceries, you have won a small victory.  If you watch the latest episode of the Office over an encrypted VPN, you have won a small victory.  Privately buying a gold or silver coin is a small victory.  These small victories will help you survive captivity both physically and mentally.


Stay alive and win small victories.  Use the legal tools and techniques from How to Vanish to do that.  If you haven’t already gotten your copy of the book How To Vanish, check it out so you have a whole arsenal of ways to win little victories.