Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Are "Moose & Squirell" in TV Business?


Everyone knows that Rocky and Bullwinkle were the good guys and that Boris and Natasha were Russian spies, but did you know they also battle for global TV ratings? (Photo Source: http://beliefmakers.blogspot.com/2013/02/say-moose-and-squirrel.html)

The June 17, 2017 Economist ran a small article “Current Time” (see: http://econ.st/2tdxf6t; which is also the photo source.) The article profiles what they term “America’s answer to Russian propaganda”. In the olden days of the first Cold War the cross border propaganda battles were the stuff of legends.

America’s government sponsored broadcasters of Voice of America, Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty were the US’ way of providing the truth to citizens of the former Soviet Union and Eastern Block to counter the powerful effect of Communist propaganda.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) (see: https://www.bbg.gov/) is hoping to counter recent Russian propaganda momentum with a 24-hour Russian-language TV channel called Current Time.

You can find out about Current Time at their rather drab website: https://www.currenttime.tv/p/6018.html.

It was reported that Current Time videos were viewed 40M times on line during May 2017. Current Time like its sister networks, as government sponsored entities are governed by US law which says they must “provide objective journalistic coverage, on topics consistent with American polices and values”.

In general I am not a proponent of government run communications. For one thing viewers (or listeners) realize the station’s source and regard it with a grain of salt. In addition it seems pretty clear to me that the kind of programming fare offered by government run organizations cannot compete with entertainment from the private sector.

Yet millions of dollars are budgeted for these efforts. If any of my readers have any feedback on their effectiveness, I’d appreciate a comment or two.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Blog Entry 500: The Rumors of the Demise of the “Caliphate” May Be Greatly Exaggerated



This entry marks the 500th entry into the PSYOP Regimental Blog. In December 2007 I took electrons in hand in a way that I hoped would help to advance the state of Psychological Operations (PSYOP). As the then Honorary Colonel of the PSYOP Regiment of the US Army I thought it was my duty to use my writing talents to highlight develops in PSYOP now referred to in US doctrine as Military Information Support Operations (MISO).

At first I thought this auspicious 500th post should wax eloquently about the last ten years and offer some Gandalf like insight into the future as expressed by the past. Then I realized that while I write the Blog party because I like to, I write what I want because, someone has to.

One of my favorite authoritative publications is the Economist. On July 7 they published an article “the Islamic State nears its end” (see: http://econ.st/2ufdHlZ, which is also a photo source). The article addresses Mosul, Iraq of today and how the failure to heed lessons learned from previous failures in Iraq (and elsewhere) may lead to yet other variations of jihadist or radicalism. The Economist has no illusions that a military victory is not an end, rather it is a beginning. Just because an enemy force does not have a of ground to call its own, doesn’t mean that it is defeated.

Task and Purpose, another one of my favorite sources, printed an article covering the interview that SecDef Mattis had with an enterprising High School student (see: http://taskandpurpose.com/high-school-interview-james-mattis/; another photo source). One of the key points he made during that interview was “I don’t care for ideological people. It’s like those people just want to stop thinking,” Mattis said. “I think ideologies can be countered by showing people a better education and hope for the future by learning how to get along with one another. And for all of our problems in our country, we’re probably still the best example of that in the world.”

The SecDef knows that ideologies are not defeated with guns, rather these evil ideas only fall by the wayside when they are no longer relevant and abandoned by their former believers.

Helping audiences recognize that democracy and the freedoms of speech and religion that come with it provide a lifestyle in which individuals, families and communities can thrive is a major step forward to eliminating terrorism. Helping convince people is what we in the PSYOP community do. I hope that the Regimental Blog, in it’s almost 10 year and 500 posting history has had a small part in furthering that goal.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Lego Propaganda: Children Are The Target of Long Term Influence Efforts




Over the years  I have made a number of posts dealing with long term influence campaigns aimed at children. Most of these have been centered on the Middle East and feature cartoons and other TV programs designed to picture ‘an enemy’ in such a way as to condition children to hate at any early age.

Thanks to several sources, I was turned on to an effort to provide counterfeit Legos as a way to picture ISIS as the good guys. (see: http://bit.ly/2sGeMDn; which is also the photo source). This three-dimensional propaganda is being sold in Malaysia and Australia.

Let’s look at some the targeting for a moment. Malaysia is a country of   over 30 million people (see: http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/malaysia-population/) , over 60% of whom are Moslem.

Australia’s Moslem population is quite small. The country has a population of slightly less than 25 million (same source as Malaysia), but the Moslem population is estimated at about 600,000 (2.4%) However, this reflects a 77% jump over the past ten years according to http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4641728/Number-Muslims-Australia-soars-Census-2016.html.

My younger grand daughter and one of her cousins were Lego enthusiasts prior to their High School days. The phase started about 9 and continued through middle school. While I’m not an expert, this would seem to be the perfect target age to start planting the seeds of Homegrown Violent Extremism (HVE). If you want more info on HVE, check out interviews and materials by my esteemed colleague Dr. Erroll Southers (http://talglobal.com/erroll-southers/)

Unfortunately Western Thought and Doctrine does not favor long term investments, perhaps helping children around the world understand more about freedom and democracy should be an exception to this rule.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Blowing up a symbol – act of defiance or desperation?


There are two articles about the destruction of the Al Nuri Mosque in Mosul. The NY Times calls it “Another Loss for Mosul” (see: http://nyti.ms/2sVnSL8, which is a photo source) and Task & Purpose, one of my favorite military sources, calls it “ISIS Just Rage – Quit The Siege of Mosul ….” (see: http://bit.ly/2rGIrI3, which is also a photo source.)

Both articles agree that the Mosque was a center of gravity the center of the purported Daesh Caliphate.The Times provides a lot of information about the history and influence of the Mosque over time.

Task & Purpose goes into more detail from a tactical perspective and addresses the ISIS claim that the mosque was destroyed by an allied airstrike.

From my perspective, Symbolism and PSYOP are not lost on ISIS. Time and again they have proven that they understand the influence game. By blowing up the Mosque they deny the probable victors endless influence opportunities.

The Mosque has been prominent in Mosul for centuries and it is a revered and recognizable symbol. While in ISIS hands it served them well as a showcase while it was in their hands.

The destruction of the Mosque is another example of how ISIS routinely ignores rules of any kind, whether religious or secular or humanity, to further their own cause. Their track record of destroying religious artifacts is well known with the Mosque being only the latest example.

Even when people see through the shallow ISIS claim that the Mosque was destroyed by an air strike is proven false; the victors will not be able to use the ancient Mosque as a platform to proclaim their victory and the righteousness of their cause.

While I’m an Influence Operations kind of guy, there is another perspective and that is “To Counter ISIS, You Must Embrace Violence” (see: http://bit.ly/2sZoAry, also a photo source.) I’ll save violence as a PSYAct for another day

Monday, June 12, 2017

Turning Propaganda Into News

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Recently I’ve focused on Twitter and how it can be used to ‘game’ the media. On June 8, 2007 the NY Times ran an article “How Russian Propaganda Spread From a Parrody Website to Fox News (see: http://nyti.ms/2sSkEFM, which is also the photo source). The block diagram below depicts the steps this fake news story followed from its inception to its legitimization by Fox News.

As a practical matter, there could have also been an another feeder stop along with the FaceBook box and that of course would be fake Twitter feeds as a means to jump start Tweets and re-tweets by legitimate and illegitimate sources. The combined velocity of social media ‘consciousness’ would add credence and value to the story. The article also references an earlier article from January 25, 2017, In Race Against Fake News, Google and FaceBook stroll to the starting line (see: http://nyti.ms/2taOwwA).

The deluge of criticism pushed FaceBook into increasing its efforts to block fake news. You can check out an earlier story from May 17, 2017 on this effort by USA Today, “Facebook takes a new crack at halting fake news and clickbait” (see: https://usat.ly/2rli0GI)

While one must applaud FaceBook for its efforts, the cynics among us (including me) believe that,  propaganda (fake news by another name) creators will employ other, more creative means to accomplish their tasks. The will be aided and abetted by a vast array of clueless people on social media as well as their own people and nefarious automated tools.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Twitter Is A Game With Real Consequences


I’m not much of games player, but I decided to play one today. I decided to follow @POTUS. I mean after all, how often is it that you can get statements right from the Horse’s Mouth.

The President has often been criticized for this Tweet from the Hip style. I dare say that it was that style that helped get him the White House in the first place. Does President Trump know how to play the Twitter game? It would seem so. (Photo Source: https://twitter.com/POTUS)

Others, like the media, perhaps, not nearly as good as understand the Twitter Game.

On May 23, 2017 the NY Times published an article entitled “How Twitter is Being Gamed to Feed Misinformation” (see: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/31/technology/how-twitter-is-being-gamed-to-feed-misinformation.html?_r=0; which is also a photo source). 

 
My own career has been intertwined with the media as well. I wrote articles for a variety of publications, published a couple of newsletters, and continue to write this Blog after almost 10 years.

I’ve also been someone who has worked with the international media in government, commercial and non-profit roles.

I’m learning that Twitter is not a purveyor of truth, but more of a conduit for thoughts emotions and messages. Tweeting is an accepted form of journalism and Tweets themselves are sources for journalists.

As the article notes the 140 character format is a godsend for journalists and others looking for short, pithy quotes that make their job easier. Unfortunately it doesn’t make the journalist more accurate, it just rewards laziness.

Twitter can also be the voice of the herd. Public interest and concern about national disasters can be gleaned from the type and velocity of Tweets about it. Traffic peaks and ebbs, reflecting the cumulative perspective of the herd.

Twitter is a notoriously unreliable source whose constituency includes  unreal people and groups and whose platform allows small groups to act and influence as big ones.

People and robotic re-Tweeting can add gasoline to the fire as noted in the article.

Given its importance perhaps those charged with implementing MISO should have a proficiency test as they do with their personal weapons.
Reader input invited.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Is it time to retire Loud Speakers in Favor of LRAD?


Frankly I didn’t know what a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) was until I saw an article in the June 1, 2017 printed edition of the NY Times which you can find on-line at: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/01/nyregion/sound-cannon-protest-lawsuit-long-range-acoustic-device.html?_r=0, (which is also a photo source).

The article addressed a law suit filed as a result of LRAD use on December 5, 2014 at a protest in Midtown Manhattan against a grand jury’s failure to indict a police officer whose choke hold killed Eric Garner. Among other capabilities, the LRAD can inflict permanent hearing damage although the article notes that the LRAD was designed to repel boarders after the attack on the USS Cole.

Compared to a noise flame thrower, the LRAD offers a number of other capabilities as explained on the vendor website: https://www.lradx.com/, which is another photo source.

The vendor shows variants of the LRAD that can provide Mass Notification or Public Address capabilities as well as integrate with existing communication systems. There is also the capability of employing the devices remotely.
 
If one burrows down a bit in LRAD Corp’s website, under the Investor tab, you will find a Corporate Presentation. Slide 12 which appears here gives the company’s position with in the defense industry. It would seem that the HA & DR application would be a MISO/PSYOP mission while Large Crowd Communications might be a Military Police or MISO/PSYOP mission.

As with many of today’s defense systems, the LRAD is complex, yet modular. Thus far the LRAD appears to be vehicle mounted and does not seem to be available in a Man Pack configuration at this time.

Given the range of capabilities, operators will need to undergo some very solid training on ROE and the legal aspects of LRAD use. While permanent hearing damage has been noted as a potential outcome, the lethality of this weapon has not been tested.

For example, if the LRAD is ‘fired’ at a moving vehicle disrupting the operation and causing a death – does his move LRAD into the lethal force domain or not.  

Reader input appreciated.