Thursday, May 21, 2015

Research: Vital to PSYOP Success

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released a listing of materials captured along with Osama Bin Laden (OBL) (see:, which is also the photo source)

It was apparent the OBL was intent on learning about his enemy. The Al Qaeda leader also recognized the need to appeal to emotions and to understand ‘how’ his enemy felt, which is not the same as knowing about the events and experience that influences the enemy.

I’ve taken a few of the titles and listed them below:

·      America’s Strategic Blunders by Willard Matthias
·      America’s “War on Terrorism” by Michel Chossudovsky
·      Al-Qaeda’s Online Media Strategies: From Abu Reuter to Irhabi 007 by Hanna Rogan
·      The Best Democracy Money Can Buy by Greg Palast
·      Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins
·      Military Intelligence Blunders by John Hughes-Wilson
·      New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions about the Bush Administration and 9/11 by David Ray Griffin
·      Obama’s Wars by Bob Woodward

Life long learning is part of the PSYOPers stock in trade. We need to keep abreast and perhaps a bit ahead of world events, social media trends, communications trends and of course cultural, economic and political issues.

Many CDR provide a reading list for their junior leaders. Now that summer is around the corner – it’s a good time to update yours.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Captive Audiences Are Good Targets

What’s a government to do? Let’s say your economy is in the crapper, your bank interest rates are around 22% and your air is so polluted that people spend most of their time on the road rubbing their eyes and stuck in traffic.

You takeover all of the City’s (Tehran, Iran) 1,500 billboards and whatever was on them – like advertisements for western products that most people cannot afford and replace them with art work.

Iraq has a long and proud culture so it’s no surprise that the splattering of art work all over the city has had it’s intended positive effects even though, according to “The Arts Get a Parton, and 1,500 Billboards” in the May 7, 2015 edition of the NY Times (see:, which is also the photo source) “more than 30% are foreign including works by John Singer Sargent”

While it’s fair to say that not every citizen of Tehran is an art critic or has even visited a museum, it’s clear that the classic visual imagery is taking their minds off most government challenges for the moment. But not everyone has forgotten and as Manijeh Makbari put it “but the city shouldn’t forget the sidewalks need to be cleaned as well.”

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Tradition: The Military Foundation

On 2 May 2015 I was pleased to attend the Change of Command for the Naval Operations Support Center San Jose (NOSC San Jose) and on 3 May 5, 2015 I attended the Relinquishment of Command Ceremony for the 7th POG.


In my opinion, the Navy is the most ceremonial of the services. (For more info, see: Perhaps it’s because of the adaption of Royal Navy traditions from centuries ago. This ceremony took place in the parking lot of the NOSC, a complex of military looking buildings that appears to have been dropped in the middle of an economically challenged neighborhood. The recently saved trees were festooned with flags and yellow ribbons.

In addition to the stage, a simulated quarterdeck was set up complete with “side boys”, a ships bell and a boatswain’s mate. Navy Commanders and Captains each rate 4 bells.

The Officers and sailors were decked out in the dress whites complete with white gloves. The formal change of command takes place after the outgoing and incoming unit commanders read their orders. They then exchange the history phrase -

The exchange of words between the incoming Commander, “I relieve you.” With the outgoing Command, “I stand relieved.” Have found their way into space because Starships are ‘ships’ and the Navy’s tradition and rank structure apply.


On Sunday it was my personal pleasure to attend the Relinquishment of Command Ceremony for the 7th POG, my former unit. For those of you who don’t know, “Relinquishment” occurs when the older Commander needs to leave and the new Commander is not able to take Command. The incoming 7th POG Commander is currently mobilized and unable to take command.

Any Army change of command is a big deal. The subordinate units are assembled on a parade field. The outgoing and incoming Commanders along with their mutual boss and the unit’s senior NCO move to the Center of the field. The senior NCO, typically the Command Sargent Major (CSM) brings the unit’s flag or guidon. He hands the guidon to the outgoing CDR who hands it back to his boss, who, in turn passes it to the new CDR who then returns it to the CSM.

There are of course other elements of the ceremony to include awards, review of the troops, etc.

These ceremonies are very reassuring for all concerned. It gives the leadership a chance to thank those responsible for the unit in the past and those about to lead the unit to set the tone for their Command.

While these ceremonies take an inordinate amount of time to plan and execute. It can effectively torpedo a drill weekend, nevertheless, the traditions are the foundation of service. All of us, whether serving, active, reserve or retired need to do what we can to support these and other appropriate traditions.

Photos: The Author

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Subtitles and PSYOP

I am an avid reader of the Economist for a number of reasons. First of all, as a British publication they can get away with saying things American Pubs simply cannot. Secondly they are generally, not always, but generally – pretty good journalists.

My addiction to the Economist was jump started in Bosnia when I got my issue a couple of weeks late. I used those past issues as sort of the “teacher’s edition” because it was the only way I could figure out what happened while I was there.

The April 25, 2015 edition of the Economist had an article entitled: “Literacy in India – A bolly good read”. (See, which is also the photo source.)

The essence of the article is that same language subtitles are employed as a tool to help people learn their own written language. Television has often been touted as a good way to learn a language.

Watch a movie you’re familiar with and you can actually match your English brain with the language being spoken by the characters on the screen.

The article quotes the research firm Nielsen whose work shows that by exposing children to 30 minutes of subtitled films/songs the percentage of exposed children that become good readers doubles from 25 to 50%.

What does this have to do with PSYOP?

In the Internet age many of us have watched broadcasts in a language not our own and we have relied on voice over translations. What would happen if these foreign language broadcasts – even English ones to other audiences – used subtitles?

What  is the potential to subvert the subtitles from an accurate or literal translation to one that favors your position or the actions you would like the audience to take?

Could this type of PSYOP be executed on smart phones as well?

I’ll leave it to you!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Is Gruesome Good Propaganda?

Gruesome and graphic are some of the words used to describe the recent leaflet drop on Daesh (see: which is also the photo source.)

The picture accompanying this post purports to convince young men that they will be put into a meat grinder if they acquiesce to the Daesh recruiting effort. The carton is clearly graphic and clearly shows young men of the target demographic age. Beyond that, there are some questions about its likely effectiveness.

The article has a couple of quotes which say that Daesh recruits are more or less immune to trivial influence efforts such as leaflets.

The true impact of such leaflets have to be judged in the context of the total effort. In another article Al Jazera interviewed Retired US MC General John Allen, the man charged with defeating Daesh. (see: He is quoted as saying that an enemy such as Daesh will require time and patience to defeat.

While it is probably true that one leaflet doesn’t convince anyone of anything, this is not the case with a cumulative effort as is under way against Daesh.

Images stick with us whether we like it or not. Some images we may have been exposed to just in passing such as in the case of a TV program or a movie. We may not remember the entire show or film, but certain scenes and quotes that stick with us in spite of our conscious efforts – much like that song that never leaves your head.

There is of course a second aspect of such a leaflet drop and that is the PSYACT of a Fighter Jet zooming over you – while leaflets are not necessarily troubling, the fact that US airpower knows where you are ought to be a little unsettling.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Crossing the Line – Non-Military References For PSYOP

The debate over whether or not marketing and sales techniques and academics relate to PSYOP/MISO rages on. I’d like to add another discipline for consideration – the use of IT/Social Media commentaries.

As a Reservist I am privileged to enjoy two careers: the USAR and the Commercial Sector. While in the Commercial Sector I’ve taken many paths, one of my mainstays has been information security (see.

I’ve made many posts about cyber influence. I’d argue that we in the PSYOP Community need to be as conversant with Social Media as we are with our personal weapon.

Over the years I’ve found a number of good, reliable technical sources. One of them can be found at: The author has been a long time journalist in the IT world. The March 27, 2014 Blog posting found at the end of the link is titled: “Faking internet comments and reviews”. Clearly is this a very relevant topic for the PSYOP community.

The Blogger’s piece is on product reviews and other similar topics. He talks about how organizations use fake reviews to inflate their own reputation or deflate their competition. As a reviewer for Trip Advisor, I’m compelled to sign a statement indicating that the review is my own personal experience. Of course in the PSYOP world that’s not the case.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Counter Cyber PSYOP – Military Mission?

 An old Internet adage is “no one knows you’re a dog on the Internet”. As it turns out in many cases, no one knows who you are at all – and that may be that is a good thing.

The New York Times of 25 Mar 15 ran an article “Behind a Veil of Anonymity, Online Vigilantes Battle Islamic State” (see:, which is also the photo source).

The essence of the article is that there is a group of anonymous ‘hackers’ who patrol Social Media in search of Daesh proponents and supporters. These individuals purportedly take the cyber battle to these accounts, particularly on Twitter and Facebook.

The article also emphasizes that a significant number of this cyber vigilantes are women.

This is a global battlefield and for the moment let’s make the assumption that the targets of these hackers are not in the US. Assuming this to be the case, one could argue that the mission of countering Daesh propaganda is a military one and should be undertaken by MISO personnel.

By way of precedent – I think it’s pretty safe to presume that the Chinese info warriors are heavily engaged on behalf of their government in such venues. Given the labor-intensive nature of social media, this would seem to give the Chinese, never at a loss for personnel, a significant advantage. Perhaps it is time for us to take a page out of their playbook for a change.

In addition, the high proportion of civilians and non-state actors engaged in social media on behalf of our enemies mitigates for significant resources, military and civilian to counter the influence threat.

Continuing with the argument does this mean that there needs to be a partnership between civilian and MISO social media counter Daesh personnel?

I’d argue that this is not the case. The leaderless counter-Daesh force should continue in is anonymity while the real question before the community is should MISO (heavily reserve based perhaps) be ‘deployed’ (actually working from home station) as a counter force to Daesh Social Media propaganda?

I’ll leave that answer to you.