Monday, July 18, 2016

Fighting ISIS With Humor!



It must be ISIS day today. Even though I just posted the Twofer entry, I couldn’t resist passing along this article from the Economist.

In my earlier posting I noted that there were a number of forces at play:

1.     The use of offensive cyber weapons against a non-traditional enemy.

2.     The employment of cyber influence along with traditional Military Information Support Operations (MISO).

3.     The execution of a coordinated set of operations involving both.

4.     Injection of other resources be they COTS, contract, mercenary or volunteers.”

According to a July 14th article from the Economist “Fighting Islamic State with laughter and a listening ear “ (see: http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2016/07/teasing-terrorists, which is also the photo source) The administrator of the effort, who wished to remain anonymous for obvious reasons claimed that the effort is run by “claims that it is run by a group of volunteer activist lawyers, journalists and graphic designers from across the Arab world (including some in IS-held territories).”, or #4 on my list above.


The article states: “The Bighdaddy show, a collection of short videos satirising IS, is named after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, IS’s leader.”

According to the article it’s a regional effort on Social Media. Of course, there are no Nielsen ratings for Social Media.  I’m not an Arabic speaker, so I can’t comment on whether or not nuances of the language are appropriate, but I am of the opinion that these kinds of efforts are likely to be more effective than those that are produced beyond the area.

An ISIS Twofer As Today’s Posting


There is no doubt that ISIS is one of our primary threats today. Part of the challenge is that they are an international, non-traditional threat and unlike nation states – do not play by any rules.

It’s no secret that ISIS has become adept at employing technology to achieve their nefarious goals. At the moment it appears that our rule book isn’t working and that we are playing catch-up on two fronts: propaganda and cyber.

An excellent background article, “Inside the surreal world of the Islamic State’s propaganda machine.” appeared in November of last year. The article gives the reader an inside view of the ISIS propaganda machine. “(see: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/inside-the-islamic-states-propaganda-machine/2015/11/20/051e997a-8ce6-11e5-acff-673ae92ddd2b_story.html?tid=a_inl, which is also a photo source). “

Fast forward to 7/15/16 and we come across the article “U.S. military has launched a new digital war against the Islamic State” (see: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-militarys-digital-war-against-the-islamic-state-is-off-to-a-slow-start/2016/07/15/76a3fe82-3da3-11e6-a66f-aa6c1883b6b1_story.html) which describes the efforts of Cyber Command to engage the enemy digitally.

Juxtaposing the two articles seems to give the edge to our adversary. The two articles leave you with the impression that the enemy has maintained the high ground in propaganda while the US is playing catch-up in dealing with the cyber battlefield and the digital influence war.

Of course, there is the on-going cat and mouse game where each party doesn’t really want to reveal how successful they may have been or if and how their enemy has negatively impacted their efforts. Yet it makes logical sense to step back for a moment.

I have always believed that ‘you train as you fight’. Unless you have trained and exercised to accomplish a task you are not likely to be very good at it.

There are several parallel efforts at work here:

1.     The use of offensive cyber weapons against a non-traditional enemy.

2.     The employment of cyber influence along with traditional Military Information Support Operations (MISO).

3.     The execution of a coordinated set of operations involving both.

4.     Injection of other resources be they COTS, contract, mercenary or volunteers.

One wonders how training is preparing our force to engage and dominate these battles.

 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Can International Law be a theme for MISO?



The Economist published an on-line article from their 16 July 16 Print edition, “The South China Sea – Courting Trouble” (see: http://www.economist.com/news/china/21702069-region-and-america-will-now-anxiously-await-chinas-response-un-appointed-tribunal?cid1=cust/ednew/n/bl/n/20160714n/owned/n/n/nwl/n/n/NA/n; which is also the photo source.)

The upshot of the article  is that “the Permanent Court of Arbitration, an international tribunal in The Hague, has declared China’s “historic claims” in the South China Sea invalid”. The details of the case are not necessarily important here, and you can read about them in the article or elsewhere.

From a MISO perspective, let’s say you’re in a conflict where a case has gone to this venue or another respected international jurisdiction and the verdict came down on your side. Does this make it a great theme for MISO?

You might be tempted to jump to the conclusion that a respected international venue would certainly be a great justification and MISO theme. However, like many things legal related – it depends.

If your audience is one that respects international law and that court in particular and/or the audience is more or less in favor of your argument, then it just might work.

Unfortunately if your audience doesn’t believe that the court is fair or if the audience is  blatantly and perhaps irrationally opposed to your point of view , then your “international law argument” is not likely to be very effective.

If you run the campaign anyway, you might convince some people, but more likely you will provide fodder for the adversary.

Reader input encouraged!




Friday, July 8, 2016

Internet of Things – A MISO Tool Whose Time Is Near




Given all the recent terrorist attacks by Daesh and their brethren, I was looking for an angle for MISO that had some legs. In my ‘day’ job at TAL Global Corporation in addition as serving as General Counsel, I’m the technology guy. This means that I manage data forensics investigations and integrate technology into investigations (e.g. covert video) when it makes sense under the circumstances.

I’m also the proud owner of a new vehicle that sends me more e-mail than my younger son. Consequently, he Internet of Things (IoT) seemed like a logical topic.

For those of you who are not familiar with the concept, the IoT is connecting of formerly independent devices such as your car, TV, refrigerator, home thermostat, etc to the Internet.  You can find out more at: https://www.wired.com/2015/12/2015-the-year-the-internet-of-things-got-hacked/


The article and the video show a proof of concept of how it is possible to take over a target’s car remotely. While the temptation might be to turn that opportunity into a more lethal operation, combining the control of an automobile with a video message would seem to be a pretty good way to get someone’s attention.

Of course, this is probably a tactic you could only use once on a target because they would be pretty stupid if they did not increase the physical security of their vehicle after such an incident, but perhaps once is enough.

Reader input encouraged!


Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Varsity of Propaganda: The Publicity Department of the CCCP - 中共中央宣传部 [zhōnɡ ɡònɡ zhōnɡ yānɡ xuān chuán bù]


While we often go to great lengths to disassociate PSYOP from Propaganda, we recognize that it is important to study the efforts of others to influence their target audiences. The Economist of June 25, 2016 featured an article “Who draws the party line?” (see: http://www.economist.com/news/china/21701169-xi-jinping-sends-his-spin-doctors-spinning-who-draws-party-line, which is also the photo source.

The article describes the Publicity Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. It’s influence on the kind of massive scale you would associate with the People’s Republic of China (PRC). According to the article the Department “around $10 billion a year trying to get the Chinese government’s opinions into foreign media outlets.”

The Department directly or indirectly ‘supervises 3,300-odd television stations, almost 2,000 newspapers and nearly 10,000 periodicals.” And churns out almost 500,000 pro-government tweets a year!

The article goes on to describe some of the political machinations associated with the Department. They talk about how the Department has to “keep pace with the chancing political requirements of its boss”.

From a MISO community perspective, I wonder how much overlap and exchange there is between the Department and those charged with MISO in the People’s Liberation Army. One could argue that since the PLA and the Department both serve the Party and of course, Xi Jinping, China’s president, shouldn’t these entities be able to move people between them to broaden each other’s horizons?

The article concludes: “Like media organizations everywhere, the Publicity Department is struggling to keep pace with changing consumer demands. Unlike most such organizations, it is also having to keep pace with the changing political requirements of its boss, Mr. Xi. As an institution, these have made it more important than it was.”

It’s nice to know that consumerism is befuddling to even the largest influence organizations.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

A Perspective on Media: Today and Tomorrow



 
During the week of June 7, 2016 I had the pleasure attending a conference along with other Public Affairs Officers from a major non-profit organization. We had a number of highly experienced and insightful speakers. I’ve tried to capture the highlights of their comments here for you.

Media Today
·      Audiences are disloyal and disaggregated.
·      Competition


Current Best Practice Tips and Interesting Facts
·      Videos are a growing part of the media landscape. Keep them under 2 ½ minutes with 60 seconds a reasonable general target.
·      Defend, but don’t extend negative stories. Don’t give negative stories any exposure than necessary/minimal direct rebuttal.
o   Insure that all defenders are on the same messages.
·      National US media now target the 8th grade reading level.
·      Making the call to the media is better than getting the call from them.
o   Note however:
o   Be George Clooney not a Kardashian.
§  George Clooney picks his media spots, a Kardashian or one of their body parts seems to be everywhere all the time.
·      Saturday radio from 7 AM through 1 PM is the equivalent to midday/weekdays in terms of rating.
·      Stories are essentially about Characters (People) who overcome obstacles to achieve a worthy outcome.
·      Key angles for attractive stories:
o   Conflict
o   Authenticity
o   Perspective – become a resource
·      Characteristics of desirable stories:
o   You can’t Google them.
o   They put the selected medium ahead of their competition.
o   It’s new, not the same as previous items.
o   Bears in mind that each approver (Exec Producer, News Director, etc.) has their own agenda and biases.
·      Stories resonate when:
o   They have an emotional connection – compelling personal stories.
o   Impact the audience
o   Viewer Benefit
o   Empower the viewer
o   Don’t waste the viewer’s time.
o   Put a face on the data
·      Use digital platforms for videos – e.g. FaceBook
·      Types of Today’s Media
o   P          Paid Media
o   E          Earned Media
o   S          Shared Media
o   O         Owned Media


The Future of Media
·      The future of media is immersive and visual. The NY Times cardboard viewer is a preview of what is to come. People want to engage more of their senses to be a part of the action rather than just a viewer.

Photo Source: http://www.toublanc.info/newsboy/newsboy-clip-art-public-domain



Thursday, June 2, 2016

A PSYOPerator Has to Been More Than PSYOP Qualified



One of the reasons I like working exercises is that they are a way to see what you can do and what you can’t do. A couple of weeks ago I served as the IO Role Player in an exercise simulating assisting a country with some disaffected military and political issues. This required me to act as the Staff IO Officer, but more importantly I’m in the weeds of the MISO support to the operation. While the scenario and MESL are both pre-written, sometimes the Exercise Director throws a curve ball.

During the last exercise I had to plan a MISO from scratch. Of course I had to figure out the MISO part – but there were other things I had to do and know before I could even approach the MISO component.

First I had to think like the CDR. No matter how detailed the CONOP, or how many briefings are given and received, there is always something that is left out and you need to understand the hidden or implicit elements of the big operation and your piece of it.

You need to be comfortable with mapping the main operation and your piece. In our world this may also mean understanding the nuances of the terrain and the weather as they might effect leaflet drops or radio wave propagation.

We also need to understand the information and digital battlefields. This means knowing  your traditional high payoff media, and how you might integrate social media and mobile phones. Consider how the country would be informed of a natural disaster across a large area and be sure you understand the legal and regulatory landscape as well.

Once you have crafted your MISO, you’ll need to develop MOE. Lastly you need to develop alternative MISO COA so that you can quickly adjust your influence fires depending on the outcome of your MISO and the ‘big’ operation.

As always, reader input is encouraged!