Thursday, November 15, 2018

Main Street USA: Latest Chinese Propaganda Target


On October 20, 2018 Yahoo Finance ran an on-line article “China broadens its propaganda drive to heartland America” (see: https://yhoo.it/2qNJ8jP, which is also a photo source).  The article noted how the Chinese publication ChinaWatch (which you can see on line at: www.chinadaily.com.cn/) ran a series of articles targeted at US soybean farmers.

I did a search today (15 Nov 18) on that site and two articles came up dated a couple of days ago. See photo. According to the article, the Chinese were using their publication to try and drive a wedge between President Trump and his Midwest Farmer supporters.

An interesting element of the article was the conclusion that Chinese publications are offered advertising space in US publications, especially newspapers, because the revenue from those accounts help to stem the overall decline of newspaper revenue.

Perhaps the Chinese have succumbed to the use of Measure of Production (we ran all these ads) rather than Measures of Effectiveness (the defection of the President’s supporters to the PRC’s perspective of the Trade war.

The Chinese claim that they didn’t violate any laws nor does the Chinese government interfere in other countries’ affairs or elections. You can read more about the statement and the context at: https://yhoo.it/2qNJ8jP, which is also a photo source.

From an effectiveness standpoint, I don’t think there are many in the PSYOP community, especially those from farming areas that believe that the Chinese Publications had any influence at all.

Perhaps the political motivation to show off ‘production’ to the masters in Beijing was the real goal and not successful influence operations. 

In my view, this initial effort is an influence camel’s nose coming under the US tent. It may take a while for the camel to get in, if at all, but that nose is doing more than just nosing around.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Chinese Long Haul in the African Media Market



The October 20, 2018 print edition of the Economist ran a story: “Chinese media in Africa: Soft power and censorship”. You can see at (https://econ.st/2EHFIJ5, which is a the photo source).

The bulk of the article details how, in spite of major investments; the Chinese are not making much of a dent in the Chinese Media market. The Chinese Global TV Network (see: https://www.cgtn.com/) opened a bureau in Africa in 2012. They also launched a newspaper, China Daily Africa and ChinAfrica a magazine while half the journalists may be African, it’s clear that Beijing pulls the strings.

The article noted that there are always two editorial meetings at GCTN stations. The first for the general staff and the other is where the Chinese editors seek story approval from their Beijing masters.

While ‘old fashioned propaganda’ may have stalled, the article continues, the Chinese have embarked on a three-pronged approach to expand their interest.

1.     A mass training program for African journalists.
2.     Chinese investment in private companies such as the South Africa based Independent Media where the Chinese no have a 20% interest.
3.     Expansion of StarTimes, (see photo from website) a pay TV network now in 25 countries and claiming 24 million subscribers, a figure doubted by many experts.

What is interesting about StarTimes is its wide range of content which according to the article includes: “Chinese Super League football, kung-fu movies and soap operas. StarTimes even hosts competitions for African actors to dub dramas into languages such as Hausa and Swahili, a move few Western broadcasters have bothered with.”

It is the last activity that should pique the curiosity of the PSYOP community. By writing their own dramas the Chinese are subtlety deciding what people see and by making that ‘entertainment’ available in native languages while others do not, it’s clear to see how a long haul strategy will give the Chinese dominance in small market segments.

Of course small segments can serve as jump off points to bigger ones on the road to systematic domination of the larger market.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Social Media Makes Perception Reality


I have written several posts on the impact of Social Media. The 10/2/18 Foreign Policy Magazine ran an article “The Future of War Will Be ‘Liked’ (see: https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/10/02/future-of-war-memes/?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits; which is also a photo source) which echoed my thoughts in a very authoritative way.
As noted in the article, many state and non-state actors use social media “to ridicule their foes and expand their influence, in a world where online sway can drive real-world power. Yet beneath it all, a more serious side of conflict also takes place, its ammunition the bevy of images taken from actual battles. Today, nearly all our moves are tracked, including those in anything from election campaigns to military ones.”

My Blog entry of 9/7/18 Facebook Emerges As Major Weapons System in Libya I discussed how FaceBook served as an intelligence source, the article nicely observes the same – “to ridicule their foes and expand their influence, in a world where online sway can drive real-world power. Yet beneath it all, a more serious side of conflict also takes place, its ammunition the bevy of images taken from actual battles. Today, nearly all our moves are tracked, including those in anything from election campaigns to military ones.”

The article continues “Some of it is intentional: selfies taken in the midst of battle, observers watching events, smartphone in hand. Others are captured in the background: be it images that lay in the distance or even information in the digital background, from the geolocation of CIA black sites revealed by guards’ use of exercise apps to the metadata that accompanies every online post. The result is that the smallest of firefights is observed by a global audience, while terrorist attacks are even shared out live by the killers themselves. ….. It works for both good and bad: Terrorists use this information to win new recruits; human rights activists use it to highlight the plight of civilians caught in harm’s way and even steer rescues their way. During the 2016-2017 Battle of Mosul—the most livestreamed and hashtagged siege in history—thousands of virtual observers waited for each new snippet of content, spinning it to all of these ends at once.

Social media is becoming as important as kinetic operations because, according to none other than GEN Stanley McChrystal, as he explained, is that battles are now being waged over truth itself. In these fights, “the line between reality and perception will be blurred,” he said. “Separating fact from fiction will be tough for governments but almost impossible for populations.”

It is this later fact that needs emphasis. The truth is what the population believes and all too often they believe the cesspool of information on Social Media.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Jokes As PSYOP?





In my youth in Brooklyn I was pretty good at ‘ranking out’ or belittling an opponent verbally. In fact, that skill put me on the math team in high school. I didn’t solve many problems. My job was to ‘psych out’ the other team. Many people say that my skills have improved with age.

Last week I heard how the Australian Olympic sailing team worked on their British opponents by congratulating them on the win of the Silver Medal – of course the Aussies wanted the gold!

Turns out monitoring jokes is good entertainment, a source of counter-intelligence and potentially OPSEC vulnerabilities as well. The British Daily Mail of Wednesday, Sep 26th 2018 featured an article    (see: The CIA joke-book: US declassifies cache of Soviet jokes its agents compiled during the Cold War to gauge public mood in the USSR” (see: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6192733/CIA-declassifies-cache-Soviet-jokes-agents-compiled-Cold-War.html, which is a photo source).

You can find the two pages of the original, which was approved for release on 16 September 2013 at: https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP89G00720R000800040003-6.pdf

In PSYOP we can employ humor in a subtle way to influence the target’s behavior. The Soviet intelligence agents were checking the morale and potential vulnerability of their population to subversion by monitoring their jokes.

One sample from the article goes like this: “'An American tells a Russia that the United States is so free that he can stand outside the White House and yell "to hell with Ronald Reagan."
The Russian replies: 'That's nothing, I can stand outside the Kremlin and yell "to hell with Ronald Reagan too!"
Here’s another one: “'A Russian man reappears in Moscow after an absence of 15 years and explains he was in prison for calling Josef Stalin a fathead.
"That's a long sentence for criticizing the leader," his friend says.
"Oh, only got a year for that" he replies. "I got 14 years for revealing a state secret."
Given the state of today’s news – I felt we all needed a break!

Friday, September 7, 2018

Facebook Emerges As Major Weapons System in Libya


The NY Times article in the September 4, 2018 print version was “Libyan Fighters Wilde   Screens” (see: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/04/world/middleeast/libya-facebook.html, which is also a photo source).
Facebook Like a Weapon”. The online version headline was: “A Face book War: Libyans Battle on the Streets and on

Facebook has become not only a bully pulpit for “boasts, taunts and chilling threats”, and a source of ‘fake news’ and hate. In addition to its role in cyber influence, Facebook is also an intelligence source wherein enemy forces provide detail information on how to locate and destroy potential targets.






Pages attributed to terrorist leaders can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100021143453079.

While Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg defended her company’s efforts to the Senate Intelligence Committee (see for example: https://techcrunch.com/2018/09/05/highlights-from-the-senate-intelligence-hearing-with-facebook-and-twitter/) Facebook continued to serve as an information conduit for arms dealers (here’s what Facebook considers a firearm: https://www.facebook.com/help/1225342300814365?helpref=faq_content) and misinformation. The company’s efforts to remove content that violates its principles such as organizations or people who are involved in organized violence are noteworthy they are the 21st century equivalent of cleaning the Augean stables. (Get the book on iTunes at: http://www.freeappalliance.com/app/298860/the-augean-stables-by-sona-and-jacob-books)

There have been many analyses of the conflicts in Libya. You can read one of them at: http://bit.ly/2wWNV5o. Libya remains a fertile ground for conflict and crime. This is yet another proof point for the power and versatility of social media.

Social Media is clearly a battlefield multiplier and ‘we’ need to insure that our cyber


influence force is the most capable in the world and that we can also apply Counter Intelligence and Counter Propaganda tools to help advance our goals and objectives.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Microsoft Discovery of Russian Republican Hacking: Revealing or Marketing?


The NY Times and other publications ran a story “New Russian Hacking Targeted Republic Groups, Microsoft Says” (see: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/21/us/politics/russia-cyber-hack.html, which is also a photo source.) Digging a bit I found an original source from Microsoft see: http://bit.ly/2Mp5wgT, another photo source).

The lead for that story is “We are taking new steps against broadening threats to democracy” which is an entry in Microsoft on the Issues, The Official Microsoft Blog. That entry replete with informative hotlinks, addresses how the US general election in 2016 and the May 2018 French presidential elections were tampered with.

Microsoft goes on to describe that “Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) successfully executed a court order to disrupt and transfer control of six internet domains created by a group widely associated with the Russian government and known as Strontium, or alternatively Fancy Bear or APT28.”

As a software superhero, Microsoft is using its powers only for good and will provide Microsoft AccountGuard, “state-of-the-art cybersecurity protection at no extra cost to all candidates and campaign offices at the federal, state and local level, as well as think tanks and political organizations we now believe are under attack. The technology is free of charge to candidates, campaigns and related political institutions using Office 365.” (Emphasis added by the Blog Writer)

Interestingly enough, a search of the Microsoft website for “AccountGuard” (https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/search/result.aspx?q=AccountGuard) pulls up only two results, neither of which relates to the product noted above. Check out the screenshot.

What does this all mean? There are two key takeaways:

1.     Stronger security can be a marketing advantage if properly used to buoy a product’s perceived level of security. Microsoft is facing increasing competition from Google’s G-Suite as large organizations, especially government organizations and schools move away from Office.
2.     The Russians have clear guidance on the purpose of cyber influence. They understand how to blend and bend technology to alter the information people see and to influence their votes.

As to the second point, it appears to me that the US has adopted a version of Henry Stimson’s “Gentlemen don’t read each other’s mail” which effectively killed SIGINT by hobbling our Cyber Influence efforts because “Nations don’t interfere with the politics of other nations to support their own goals and objectives”.




Monday, August 13, 2018

PSYOP Support to California Wildfires


I was deployed as a Red Cross Public Affairs Officer as a part of the relief efforts at the Mendocinco California Complex Fires. This was the largest wildfire in California history. As of 7 AM today, 12 August 18, the fire burned 344,890 acres, destroyed 147 residences, damaged 13 more and still threatens 1,025 structures (see: http://www.fire.ca.gov/current_incidents/incidentdetails/Index/2175).
 
Here’s the bottom line up front: local media, especially FM radio is the most trusted source of information and Social Media is a cesspool.

In walking through the Red Cross shelters I learned that the most popular source of information was KPFZ radio from Lakeport, CA (see: http://kpfz.org/). One evening I called in as the Red Cross Public Information Officer. I was on the air for 15 minutes of live call radio. At the time the fire was still quite active and we had 6 shelters running which accommodated over 500 people on the evening of 4 August.

Listeners were candid and overall were somewhat surprised to have information straight from the source. The next day I went to the station and spent 45 minutes live fielding questions and I called in a couple of times since.

I was interviewed by three different TV crews from two different San Francisco’s TV channels and did a number of phone interviews, including the NY Times. You can see my quote in the article at: https://nyti.ms/2Mikvs5.

While I was working with the ‘traditional’ media, my colleagues were dealing with Social Media, primarily FaceBook. Unfortunately my experience last week confirmed what we already know. Anyone can say anything, and perhaps more importantly, they will be believed by more people than you would expect without any regard to the truth or even the plausibility of what’s said.

One of the Red Cross Shelters was at the Twin Pine Casino, a facility run by the Pomo Indians in Middletown, CA (see: www.twinpine.org). This meant that not only were the Federal, State and County governments involved, but tribal government as well.

While I won’t speculate on why government officials visit, but you can get a feel for their popularity in this picture of Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA).

This posting represents the essence of my week – if you have specific questions, or topics you would like me to explore, let me know. For those of you who are interested, you can read the DoD doctrine in JP 3-28 Defense Support of Civil Authorities, 31 July 2013 (see: http://bit.ly/2P2vaFT)


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