Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Even North Korea is Socializing Its Brand


The NY Times ran a story “North Korean Propaganda Gets a YouTube Makeover” on 12 Sep 20 online and in their Sunday, 13 September 20 print edition. (see: https://nyti.m

s/35RHLXl, which is the photo source).


Ironically enough, the Propaganda and Agitation Department of North Korea is responsible of creating and distributing propaganda. (See Wikipedia: https://bit.ly/3c0Nvil)


The new government sponsored campaigns and media are a far cry from prior generations of propaganda. According to a research at the Sejong Institute social media is a “low-cost and effective means” to disseminate its propaganda.


As you can see from the accompanying photos, the strategy is more modern and more personal. Rather than focus on the military parades of days of yore, the new strategy recognizes the importance of showing ‘normal’ people and personifying the regime’s messages.


Part of the motivation for the change has been competition from outside news and entertainment that have penetrated the North Korean efforts to isolate the country and restrict access to anything other than official positions and messages.


One of the classic sales techniques is to have the audience feel like they are involved. These four pictures of the Taesong Department Store in Pyongyang are meant to counter any rumors that the North is short of food or creature comforts. Shoppers are looking for kimchi instant noodles and soju, the popular Korean liquor.


Previously the North Koreans relied on a single medium – the Korean Central News Agency. Now they are able to create a variety of channels on YouTube that are each able to garner subscribers. For example, the Echo of Truth channel was created in 2017 and boasts almost 25,000 subscribers.


Of course, even this new and improved methodology is not perfect. The physical locations are all in the capital, Pyongang and sometimes the pictures tell a different story without intending to do so.


Take this picture of the commuters. Look at the size of the station and the small number of people. Of course, I’m a native New Yorker, so my perception of crowded commuter stations might be different than most.


Shim Jin-sup, A retired South Korean Army PSYOP Officer summed the performance by one of the commentators “She is another parrot repeating the message form the Worker’s Party.


Thursday, September 3, 2020

Alpha Human PodCast on PSYOP, IO and Cyberspace Operations


I just finished recording a podcast with Lawrence Rosenberg on PSYOP, Information Operations (IO) and cyberspace operations. You can find the video version at: https://bit.ly/31WpPIx

 And the audio version at: https://bit.ly/3gSe1Lv


It runs about an hour and 20 minutes.




Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Fake News As a Tactical Multiplier


It’s no secret that the US Army is moving troops from Germany to Poland. Besides the Germans who will take a major economic hit because of the move, there are others who do not want the Poles and the US to get chummy.


In June 2020 there were a number of articles addressing “Poland hit by wave of fake news’ ahead of major military exercise with US” One such article was posted on 1 June 2020 by Kafkadesk (see: https://bit.ly/2YupScD, which is a photo source). According to the article:


“According to the U.S. military newspaper Stars and Stripes, hackers used “cyberattack tools” to post fake content on various news websites, including prominent Polish media groups.

“The attack coincided with the beginning of the next phase of the Defender Europe-20 military exercise hosted by Poland,” Polish government spokesman Stanislaw Zaryn allegedly said in a lengthy statement Thursday, in which he blamed Moscow.

Fake news and disinformation campaign

Among the fake news reports was a fabricated interview with U.S. Army Europe commander Lt. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, which was published by Gazeta Polska, one of Poland’s popular conservative newspapers, notorious for spreading disinformation, and then picked up by other sites, including Poland Daily.”



A more recent and focused article appeared on “InMilitary.com”, an online publication of American University. (see: https://bit.ly/2FC8E6p) this article focused on a meticulously crafted fake story about an soldier indicating that the soldier had killed a Polish soldier, stole a car and was at large. What made the story so interesting was the research behind it. The enemy had found a real soldier with a real unit in a deployed situation.

The article from InMilitary goes on to describe the information operations actions taken by the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force to counter this new battlefield threat.

It would appear that the threat is consider a cyber one so that a growing cadre of digital warriors is being assembled to counter the threat. One interesting approach is being taken by the Marine Corps who established the II MEF Information Group. Within that group is a COMMSTRAT company whose mission is:

II MIG COMMSTRAT supports the MAGTF commander through informing domestic and international audiences, conducting information environment battlespace awareness, providing task-organized COMMSTRAT capabilities in order to enhance the MAGTF’s ability to maneuver in a complex and contested operating environment. (See: https://bit.ly/316dWiJ)


To the casual observer it would appear that the ability to influence is being absorbed into the greater information world and be subsumed by its cyber cousins, much like a python eating a rat.


Am I missing something? You tell me.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Deepfakes and Artificial Intelligence: PSYOP’s Now Frontier

We are still caught in the grip of the Covid-19 Pandemic and many of us are tethered to our computers. Whether its remote working or online education, Netflix or FaceBook – we’re checking out all sorts of material. Naturally much of it is video based.

I have posted about the attraction of video and how smartphones are a key international delivery vehicle for video on Social Media and elsewhere.

If you ever tried to produce your own video like I have for my online training courses, you know it is a labor and time intensive process. If you are trying to produce a commercial grade product, this can be time consuming, expensive and daunting.
Enter artificial intelligence and the concept of deepfakes. CNBC defined deepfakes as “Deepfakes refer to manipulated videos, or other digital representations produced by sophisticated artificial intelligence, that yield fabricated images and sounds that appear to be real.” (see: https://cnb.cx/3eTzDGE which is a photo source).
Wired magazine July 7, 202 ran an article “Deepfakes Are Becoming the Hot New Corporate Training Tool” (see: https://bit.ly/2WDP0wh, which is also a photo source). The rationale is that it is cheaper to produce ‘synthetic’ videos than ‘real ones’.

Just as you can buy click art or images for reuse, you can acquire AI content and tools. The article talks about one company, Rosebud AI (another photo source) will provide you with virtual models. I hope some of you at least appreciate the Orson Welle’s reference here, if not then checkout: https://bit.ly/32GYACu.

Of course, creative types, like PSYOPers could integrate real and synthetic material. With the recent unrest across the country, police body camera footage could provide a great source of material for our adversaries. Wondering about how to get police bodycams – check out: Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (see: https://bit.ly/2WDJHgi, another photo source).

Bodycams could provide the kind of shocking footage that adversaries love to use to show what America is really about. A simple Google search will yield quite a few samples like this one: https://bit.ly/32CegXA.

Of course, if the bodycam footage isn’t dramatic enough – you can always make your own deepfake.

As always reader comments encouraged.

Take good care out there!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Low Tech PSYOP Works Too!

The June 12, 2020 print edition of the NY Times ran an article “Floating Propaganda Irks North Korea. The South is Not Pleased Either” (See: https://nyti.ms/3hBH0oD, which is also a photo source)


I have had many postings about high tech PSYOP. Cyber Influence, Social media, etc. Isn’t it great to see those ‘oldies but goodies’. The recent tension between North and South Korea has reached unprecedented high levels with North Korea destroying the office where joint talks used to take place. (see: https://bit.ly/30OD0v3.)

Over the years tens of millions of leaflets have been used by both sides to try and influence the other. The humble leaflet has quite a history on the Korean peninsula and even has its own Remembrances Museum (see: https://nyti.ms/37FWnI3, also a photo source). 

How can such old technology be effective you ask? According to the article, Mr. Kim of North Korea regarded the leaflets as a “provocation graver than gun and artillery fire”.

What makes the recent incident even more interesting is the fact that the Republic of Korea (R

OK) is also unhappy about these ‘attacks’ and will introduce legislation to ban the launches as a way of trying to appease the North.

As often happens with leaflets, the property in their path is often inundated with offending leaflets resulting in a nuisance of trash. This particular batch which was dropped on May 31 amounted to about 500,000 leaflets alone.  

Clearly the leaflet is still chugging along, doing its influence job and going where even the latest technology cannot.

As always, reader comments are invited.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

The PSYOP of Riots

Mission High School, San Francisco, CA

 PSYOP is a powerful weapon and can be very effective on both sides of the riot equation: offense and defense.

We have all seen the pictures and videos of demonstrations protesting the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN. This picture is from the San Jose (California) Mercury News at: https://bayareane.ws/3eQqfE4. The use of PSYOP on the offensive side of rioting is quite a bit easier than on the defensive side.


First of all, you have a vulnerable target audience. In this case, almost two months of draconian Shelter at Home orders have fueled a caged in mentality. Add to that the frustration of years of perceived injustice and touch it off with a shocking incident and you have a proven receipt for violence.

Messaging is designed to inflame the beliefs of the target audience and push them over the edge. Messaging repeats and reinforces what they already believe. Messaging is simple: you are right to be angry and justified in your actions because you have been badly wronged.

San Francisco, CA 2 June 2020

Riots can also be influenced indirectly through proxies. Media reports such as CNN reported on May 31, 2020: “What we do and don’t know about the extremists taking part in riots across the US” (see: https://cnn.it/3gRPDeg) Foreign actors and domestic agitators are taking advantage of the current situation to accomplish their own goals directly by taking part or indirectly by providing funding and other resources.

Indirect incitement through social media is another PSYOP tactic. The Havok Journal, one of my favorite military sources ran an article on June 2, 2020, “We are the Useful Idiots” How Our Nation Divided is Playing Straight into the Hands of Our Greatest Enemies” (see: https://bit.ly/2AC1psz) This quote from the article pretty much sums it up:

There are foreign intelligence agencies that are seeking to divide and conquer our country from within by turning us against each other and then fanning the flames. Russia, North Korea, Iran, China…None of this is theory or hearsay. It is concrete fact, it happens every day, it is exacerbated by the internet, and we are fueling it.”

Redwood City, CA Police Officer Takes a Knee

Playing PSYOP defense in riots is harder, but it can be done. Giving credit where credit is due, a Redwood City (CA) Police Officer took a knee then hugged a protestor successfully defusing a situation that threated to escalate on to Route 101, one of the area’s busiest freeways.

As a force, military PSYOP (Military Information Support Operations/MISO) can be used in support of Civil Military Affairs. Joint Publication 3-57 Civil Military Affairs, Figure II-1 lists MISO as an Enabler. Of course,  deployment of US Military domestically is fraught with complex political and legal complications. The key point is that military PSYOP/MISO can be an effectiveness multiplier in times of nature disaster or domestic turmoil.

Note another photo source: https://bit.ly/3dxPsmt

Monday, April 27, 2020

China's Disinformation is not as important as Economic Blackmail as an Influence Weapon

It is often said that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” China has been in the forefront of the Covad-19 pandemic. The press has widely covered allegations of Chinese efforts to disinform the American public by providing false information about the virus and by trying to foment panic.

Two articles chronicling the disinformation campaigns are: Chinese Agents Helped Spread Messages That Sowed Virus Panic in U.S., Officials Say, NY Times, April 22, 2020 (see: https://nyti.ms/2Y555gb, which is a photo source and China’s Disinformation Addiction: Spreading Disinformation on COVID-19, April 25, 2020 ClearanceJobs (see: https://bit.ly/3bFwCJd, also a photo source).

According to the NY Times, “American officials were alarmed by fake text messages and social media posts that said President Trump was locking down the country. Experts see a convergence with Russian tactics.” The Times added “The messages became so widespread over 48 hours that the White House’s National Security Council issued an announcement via Twitter that they were “FAKE.”.

The Clearance Job article concluded by saying “None of this is really a surprise as China struggles to save face as the world looks to the country for answers to very hard questions. China would much rather have the world think the United States was about to impose martial law than to have their own actions dissected.” That article also quotes a March 2019 report from the Department of State Weapons of Mass Distraction Foreign State Sponsored Disinformation in the Digital Age (pdf)” the portion on China minces no words. They assert that China’s efforts are designed to influence economic, political and foster personal relationships.”

While these offensive efforts are certainly concerning, perhaps we should pay more attention to the way China burnishes their brand in other ways. China, more than any other country seems to have grasped the concept of offensive and defensive influence operations. This is demonstrated by way that they pressure economic partners to give their image a break and on the other, they strive to disorient their adversaries.

The movie character Jerry McGuire said it best “Show me the money!” (see: https://bit.ly/2yRWrqA (You Tube clip and photo source)

The NY Times, April 24, 2020: ran an article “Pressured by China, E.U. Softens Report on Covid-19 Disinformation” (see: https://nyti.ms/2KzFvrI and a photo source.) In what is clearly a measure of effectiveness, according to the Times, “Bowing to heavy pressure from Beijing, European Union officials softened their criticism of China this week in a report documenting how governments push disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic, according to documents, emails and interviews.”

The Chinese recognize the importance of brand management and economic leverage. They employ a whole of government approach to move their country’s agenda forward.

Can we say the same?