Monday, September 11, 2017

MISO Malpractice: The Latest Leaflet Debacle



Apparently it was amateur hour in the leaflet production campaign in Afghanistan. The http://bit.ly/2gYdTkw) was dropped in Afghanistan in early September 2017 broke some of the most basic rules by quoting the Quran. (see: http://nyti.ms/2eSdknQ, which is also a photo source). 
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IN addition to the suicide bomber noted above, additional reaction is shown in the picture at left (photo source: http://nyti.ms/2eSdknQ). At issue was the use of words from the Quran in a leaflet. Frankly, you would have to be living in a cave for the last 16 years if you didn’t realize that the Islamic faith takes their Holy Book and their Prophet far more seriously than other religions.

The Charlie Hebdo killings in 2015 (see for example: http://nbcnews.to/2xgTmxG) and the 2012 incident where US troops burned the Koran (see: http://bit.ly/2wlsGb4) are only two of the incidents that serve as very good bad examples and should have put everyone on notice of what to expect.

Know your audience is the first rule of PSYOP/MISO and of course any influence operation. The blatant ignorance displayed by the leaflet creators and those in the approval chain should be considered MISO malpractice.

The FindLaw Legal dictionary defines malpractice as: “negligence, misconduct, lack of ordinary skill, or a breach of duty in the performance of a professional service (as in medicine) resulting in injury or loss” (See: http://dictionary.findlaw.com/definition/malpractice.html)

If these leaflets were created by an outside contractor, this type of malpractice should be considered a material breach of their contract.  The contract should be terminated immediately and consideration should be given to litigation for damages to the Coalition campaign and reputation.

As for the notion of yet more cultural training – it strikes me as playing training whack a mole. When military personnel deploy they go through a pre-deployment training and certification. Current deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan must have training on Islamic traditions and protocol to include role-playing situations designed to illustrate the right and wrong ways to work in theater.

There is simply no excuse for this type of ineptitude, especially in our longest running AO!


Thursday, September 7, 2017

FaceBook – the Not So Secret Influence Tool

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I admit I’m somewhat of a FB junkie. I’m on the site at least a couple of times a day.

And, like most of us, I have read about how the Russians purportedly influenced the US election by amplifying the views of  the ‘right’. An example I read today was a September 6, 2017 article in the NY Times “Fake Russian Facebook Accounts Bought $100,000 in Political Ads” (see: http://nyti.ms/2eJpGyw) addresses one facet of the Russian campaign.

I frankly didn’t get the importance of FB as an influence medium until August 30, 2017 when I was asked to be the Red Cross spokes person (I’ve been a Red Cross Public Affairs Volunteer for years) at the San Francisco ABC Affiliate’s Day of Giving in support of people effected by Hurricane Harvey.

In addition to taking donations and pledges over the phone, my job would be to be a Red Cross voice if needed on camera. Since the last time I had been in a TV studio was in 1997 in Pale, Bosnia, I was rather looking forward to it.

The actual ‘shooting’ schedule for the news was somewhat of a moving target, but I was told that we would be doing a segment on FaceBook Live.

Imagine my surprise when I was escorted to the FaceBook Live control room at the station. During the telethon I was fortunate enough and delighted to be on FBLive with Spencer Christian, one of the station’s key weather people.  (Photo source this week: FaceBook shots take by the Author)

Unlike ‘real’ TV interviews that require heavy cameras, FB Live needs only a phone. Of course, having a quality microphone dramatically improves the overall quality of the experience by raising the caliber of the sound.

For those of us in the PSYOP/MISO world, this underscores the importance of the Internet as an influence medium. It also means that we need to always be on the lookout for people that can be effective and credible spokespeople.

An unfortunate downside is that tactical CDR at all levels may assume that they are PSYOP experts and take to the airwaves themselves. History has shown that this is generally not a good idea, but as we have discussed on the POVA page on FaceBook and elsewhere, there is not too much you can do other than damage control.

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Now, more than ever, we need to pay more attention to Social Media and its role in our respective influence campaigns. As always, reader input invited!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

PSYOP is Sensory – Ask Iran!


I have been teaching on-line for American Military University since 2008. During that time I have had to take many professional development courses about how people learn.

There are those who learn by sight (visual learners), some by touch (kinesthetic) and those who learn by sound (audio). The best way to impart education is by a combination of senses to appeal to the widest group of learners and reinforce the message.

Apparently this concept is not lost on Iran as noted in a NY Times article from August 27, 2017, “Iran Retools Its Propaganda With Rap Videos”(See: http://nyti.ms/2iHiBDF; which is also the photo source).

Iran now also seems to believe that chanting is not nearly as powerful as rapping and the You Tube is mightier than the sword seem to be corollaries as well.

The article notes that the raps don’t appeal to everyone, but there doesn’t seem to be any question that they are effective for the target group. Terrorists typically target young people between 18 and 26. (see Huffington Post at: http://bit.ly/2wT5xkP).

Appealing to multiple senses and personifying the message are proven techniques for education and marketing. Our adversaries are very capable of adapting. As technology advances, removing yet more barriers to mass communication, MISO/PSYOP will have to continue to adapt as well.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Cuban Sonic Weapon Aimed at US Embassy?


On Monday, June 5, 2017 I posted “Is it time to retire Loud Speakers in Favor of LRAD?” More recently there have been a number of articles concerning hearing and other medical problems being experienced by employees of the US Embassy in Cuba. You can find one such article from Task & Purpose at: http://bit.ly/2ivTmEh.

I am in no way saying that a Long Range Acoustical Device (LRAD) was or could have been used to create these medical issues. One expert quoted in the article was quoted as saying that there are no devices that could possibly create the systems of hearing loss, mild traumatic brain injury, nausea, etc. from an acoustic device. The expert felt that since there are no such devices that can cause acoustical damage without being herd, this was a non-story.

Another article in the UK based Guardian says “16 people were affected by unexplained problems at Havana embassy” (See: http://bit.ly/2gcQwDy, which is also the photo source)

Sources say that the ‘incidents’ started in September 2016 and ended this April.

Thus far there is no firm resolve as to what caused the medical issues or even if there was a common cause. However, wouldn’t be interesting to ‘infect’ foreign citizens in your country as a means of discouraging their presence? Could you also employ stories about such incidents as propaganda encouraging foreign citizens to stay home?

All of this would be great fodder for Social Media whether true or not and of course from a PSYOP or counter propaganda perspective, we don’t care if it’s true, only the impact.

Monday, August 14, 2017

We Need MISO For Every Line Unit – Including The Nation Guard

I had the honor and pleasure of spending time with the members of the 40th Infantry Division of the California National Guard and their employers while serving as an Outreach Advocate for the DOD Employer Support of the Guard & Reserve program.

The Division will be sending a contingent to Kandahar province in Afghanistan to bolster Operation Resolute Support and the training mission there. (see: http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_52060.htm?selectedLocale=en; which is a photo source).

The Divisions G3 who will function as the CJ3 once deployed gave an unclassified briefing about the Division’s mission. Essentially they are supporting the training efforts for the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP).

Of necessity division personnel will be going ‘out of the wire’ to help facilitate and conduct training. I have no personal knowledge of the Force make-up over there, however, I do know that there is no organic MISO in the National Guard and I’m pretty sure that USAR and active MISO do not train with them on a regular basis.

This is a mistake. MISO Tactical Teams are specially trained to work with the local population and help form positive opinions in support of deployed forces. They are also able to work with local media (if there are any) to help them understand the nature of the local population.

While MISO and Civil Affairs personnel are not intelligence collectors, they are knowledgeable observers who can provide meaningful and insightful information to intelligence and operations personnel.

As the OpTempo continues to ramp up, consideration should be given to augmenting units who go out of the wire with MISO personnel. Perhaps the best way to start is by joint training opportunities in CONUS and overseas.

(Other photos are from the author.)

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Counterespionage – An Indicator of Effective Influence?


The July 19, 2007 edition of the UK publication Telegraph (see: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/07/19/eu-employing-counter-espionage-tools-brexit-talks-amid-fears/, which is also the photo source) ran an article “EU employees espionage tools at Brexit talks amid fears of British spying”. The article talks about the security concerns of the EU BREXIT negotiating team.

The implication is that the EU is concerned that Britain would employ unfair means to learn about the plans and intentions of the EU team. Is it possible to interpret this in another way?

Increased security efforts reflect a fear that the ‘enemy’ is gaining an advantage in the ‘battle’. In this case the battle is over the terms of the British exit from the EU.

In other situations, Venezuela for instance, increased actions against opponents are often cloaked in security terms when the real motivation is that the enemy force is winning the influence battle in the mind of public opinion.

Reader comments invited.

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.