Monday, October 17, 2016

Self-Help PSYOP Against North Korea

The NY Times, October 15, 2016 US print edition ran an article “Subverting North Korea, One Bundle of Leaflets at a Time”. The Asian version ran a day earlier and lead with “A ‘Balloon Warrior’ Subverts North Korea, Thousands of Leaflets at a Time" (US version at:, which is also the photo source.)

In the day and age of Tweets and FaceBook it’s somewhat refreshing to see old school operations. According to the Times, Lee Min-bok is a North Korean defector with a self-avowed mission to foster popular subversion against the North Korean government.

Mr. Kim’s efforts do not receive any government support. Rather he supports himself through lecture fees and receives donations from various groups. According to the article, A Japanese group because they want him to send leaflets to help find Japanese citizens in North Korea. Other donors include Christians who provide Bibles and food.

Kim summed up his efforts this way “My leaflets are a poison for Kim Jong-un’s regime, because they help North Koreans wake up to his lies”.

The leaflet bundles are high enough to avoid small arms fire. Kim has developed is own ‘timer’ that opens the bundles allowing the leaflets to drop down.

While Kim receives security support from the Republic of Korea, his efforts are chiefly his own and is only job.

While we can only assess Mr. Kim’s production and not his effectiveness, his story is an interesting one. On the launch end Mr. Kim choses to assume a low profile and not launch from villages or populated centers so as to avoid conflicts.

One wonders if this type of grassroots approach could be adopted in other areas, especially where a regime controls the information channels. Of course leaflet drops are wind dependent and the receiving terrain must be open enough to allow the leaflets to reach their targets.

Readers are invited to contribute any other examples of Self-Help PSYOP.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

ISIS Propaganda Drooping? Does it really matter?

On October 10, 2016 the NY Times ran an article “ISIS Media Output Drops as Military Pressure Rises, Report Says’ (see:      The article as based on a report prepared and released by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center at West Point which you can find at: and is the photo source.

My gut tells me this is perhaps another incident where we have confused Measure of Production (MOP) with Measures of Effectiveness (MOE).  The article cites the following statistic: “At the peak of the Islamic State’s media output, in August 2015, the group released more than 700 items from official outlets in Syria and several other countries. During the month of August 2016, after a year of airstrikes and other assaults, that number had declined to under 200, according to the study.”

It is interesting to note that ISS favors pictures (59%) and Twitter (Photo) (30%) over Video (10%) according to the reports’  analysis of type of state media release from January 15 through August 2016 (page 31 of the report).  

Military and Governance appear to be the two most favored themes as show in another diagram from the report and a subsequent diagram shows that the production of these two these were virtually the same since January 2016.

While this analysis is helpful, does it help the Commander assess how strong his opposition will be?

The report has no illusions of grandeur and notes in its conclusion “In addition, this paper has not given insight into a critical component of understanding the efficacy of the Islamic State’s media success.” Isn't this what we really need to know? While we can feel good if ISIS production declines, we can conjecture that this means they feel they don't have the 'products' to sell anymore, they are still pretty good at the influence business.

Media exposure, especially visual media is like tooth paste, once its out, it doesn’t go back into the tube. The ISIS propaganda campaign has been relentless. It is reasonable to believe that there has been a cumulative effect of this intense effort. Audiences, especially those that have a higher propensity to be influenced have been effected and will continue to be effected even if the production numbers continue to decline.

While I certainly commend the report and its authors for their extensive analysis, if I were called into the CG’s office and asked “what does this really mean?” I’d have to respond: “Sir, we really don’t know. Perhaps the pace of new recruiting will abate, but those who were influenced by the early high production numbers are not likely to change their minds because ISIS is producing less propaganda”.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

PSYOP History – Hanoi Hannah Passes Away

Tokyo Rose (see: was a footnote in history to we veterans of the Viet Nam Conflict. It’s probably fair to say that Hanoi Hannah is the same to Post 9/11 veterans. The NY Times featured an obituary of Trin Thi Ngo, better known as Hanoi Hannah in its 5 October edition (see:, which is also the photo source.)

John McCain was one of her regular listeners although not by choice because loudspeakers were prominent in the prison where he was a POW.

Personification is a great influence tool that I have written about on a number of occasions including last week’s posting on what local TV producers are looking for.

Female voices were generally used because it was felt that since service members were predominately male, they would be more favorably inclined to listen to a female voice.

Popular music was played but the goal of the content was to wear down their listeners. Hanoi Hannah used to read the names of recent American KIA as a part of her broadcasts in an effort to demoralize her listeners.

More recently there was Baghdad Betty. She was not very competent according to then LTC Jeff Jones, CDR of the 8th PSYOP Bn who said: “Her broadcasts proved the Iraqis didn’t understand us at all," Jones said. "Her ignorance was pervasive. She was never sure of her sources, and broadcast old information based on dated news." (See: Jones went on to be CDR of the 4th PSYOP Group and ultimately Defense Attaché to the French Embassy. It was my pleasure to nominate Jeff for the Gold McClure Award, which he received shortly before his death.

While the PSYOP Regiment is a relatively new entity in the US Army we owe it ourselves to be mindful of our history and to learn from it – both good and bad. While we don’t want to fall into the trap of being prepared to fight the last war, we don’t want to repeat the same mistakes either.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

TV Producer Insight is Solid MISO/PSYOP Advice

When a consensus is found among media professionals, it’s worth sharing. As a Red Cross Public Affairs Officer my boss often sends some useful media references. 

Here's one about local TV producers are looking for: ‘“Air” Conditioning: Human-Interest and Visual Angles are Keys to Pitching TV’ (at:, which is also the photo source.)

I’ve opined in the past that the word is becoming more visual and that media trends seem to be moving toward interactivity so that any media producer whether TV or Internet would be looking for pretty much the same things.

Here are the highlights:
1.     Highlight Visual Potential
2.     Aim for Broad Appeal
3.     Put a Human Face on The Story
4.     Research Your Targets ( the media you hope to employ)
5.     Exercise News Judgment

There are a couple of other tips, but these five are the key ones. You will also need to bear in mind some production tips as well.

Putting a Human Face, especially a face that the viewer can identify with, is critical to the credib ility and impact of the story. Consider that as a major element of your efforts.

If you are producing the video remember that  you can edit video, but you can’t edit audio. Any story that involves people talking should make sure that the speakers have their own microphones. Lavalier microphones are not expensive. See: for a reasonable selection.

If you are working with a particular media outlet make sure you understand their news rhythm so that you can help them schedule your story for maximum effect.

Be a helper – providing security, transportation and perhaps some water or a meal can mean the difference of whether your story gets covered or not.

Reader input encouraged.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Mobile Phones and Facebook Are Everywhere

Any normal person on a two week vacation in Europe would not take time out to do a PSYOP Blog – but then again perhaps a true PSYOPer is not quite normal.

It’s one thing to speculate about the media environment in a location and it’s quite another to visit that location and get a look on the ground. I had the opportunity to spend several days in Rome in early September 2016.

The addiction to mobile phones and to FaceBook in particular appears to be an international phenomenon. In wandering through Rome in shops and tourist spots alike, almost everyone was glued to their phone.

Entrepreneurs were selling mobile phone clamps attached to ‘selfie sticks’ and to tripods so that tourists could capture their latest adventures. Of greater interest was the fact that almost every phone I could take a look at was set to FaceBook.

It seemed like everyone - couples, individuals, taxi/limo drivers, etc. were all hooked on FB. While the preponderance of the people were in the 30s and 40s, the FB addiction was not limited to those under 40 as ‘even’ seniors were updating their status.

Moving afloat to our cruise ship, either the price of shipboard internet access is lower (at least in proportion to other costs) or the need for constant connection is stronger than it was in 2010 when we took our last cruise because almost everyone has their mobile phone with them – even at sea!

Not to be outdone the cruise line encourages people to update their FB status and share their photos on FB, Twitter, etc.

Of course, Rome is not a typical location, and probably not a place where we would engage in PSYOP or MISO, however, the addiction to mobile phones and Social Media is a critical factor in winning the cyber influence battles of the future.

While Social Media is a mostly benign way for people to communicate, let's not lose sight of the potential for harm or evil as well. We are all mindful of the fact that airplanes were not considered weapons until 15 years ago today.

Monday, August 29, 2016

At Least Russia Knows Influence Wins ‘Battles’

While the US Government continues to flop around like a fish on a pier trying to figure out what is influence warfare on the grand scale and to coordinate all operational levels and departments, Russia is already dominating the influence war with false information.

The NY Times of August 28, 2016 ran “A Powerful Russian Weapon: The Spread of False Stories”, see:, which is also the photo source.)

The Russians are no newcomer to the influence war having capitalized on misleading and accurate information to befuddle NATO, the EU and others. The Russians recognize that different mediums are complimentary and are well versed in employing complementary media such as Internet trolls to propaganda not to mention their own news bureaus.

There is no shortage of good examples. The Ukraine and the flight of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was one. A story about immigrant violence in Germany is another good example cited by the article.

The article concludes, appropriately enough with a quote from Dimitry Kiselyev, a popular Russian TV anchor, see: (Dimitry Kiselev is Redefining the Art of Russian Propaganda” at, the second photo source. “Today, it is much more costly to kill one enemy soldier than during World War II, World War I or in the Middle Ages,” he said in an interview (  -n Russian) on the state-run Rossiya 24 network. While the business of “persuasion” is more expensive now, too, he said, “if you can persuade a person, you don’t need to kill him.”

Perhaps the new administration, having waged multi-media; social media and traditional media campaigns will be more aware of the cost effectiveness of the influence weapon and will orchestrate the change needed for the US to not only counter other national efforts such as the Russian, but to take the influence high ground.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Counterintelligence & PSYOP

We often talk about the symbiotic relationship between PSYOP/MISO and intelligence. We know that we have to perform Intelligence Preparation of the Influence Battlefield (IPIB) and that this requires a combination of intelligence sources and work products.

General intelligence can yield information about the target area, demographics, terrain, weather, etc. Media specific intelligence can compare alternative media such as broadcast (tv/radio), print (newspapers/magazines) and social media to determine the audience composition of each and to suggest what combination of media would be the best for the mission at hand.

Not much thought seems to be given to the relationship between counterintelligence and PSYOP.

The August 20, 2016 edition of the Economist ran an article “Driving away the shadows” (see:, which is also the photo source.)

From a MISO perspective the relevant paragraph in the article states: “Other parts of the programme have grown, too. In 2015 social-media snoopers removed 55,000 pieces of propaganda, 22% more than in 2014. The government’s counter-propaganda was viewed 15m times, compared with 3m times in 2014. A typical example features interviews with the parents of British IS fighters, interspersed with scenes of Syrian devastation.”

 The term ‘social-media snoopers’ is interesting not just because of the catchy name, but because of the function. One could argue that these ‘snoopers’ are PSYOP analysts whose job it is to spot and remove enemy propaganda. Is that an intelligence or PSYOP function? Removal of enemy propaganda would logically reduce its effectiveness (as suggested by data in the article) and could also be seen as a way to bolster OPSEC as well.

In any event, it would appear that CI and PSYOP/MISO are closely related. This relationship is no doubt strengthened because of the use of Social Media for enemy propaganda and the real time interaction it generates.

The article also stands for the old saying that ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ meaning that good CI (and positive influence of course) can be part of a comprehensive program designed to thwart recruitment efforts.