Sunday, September 28, 2008

PSYOP of TV Commercials

Most people don’t regard TV as a real educational medium. Of course there is Sesame Street, Electric Company, Zoom and the Discovery Channel mabe are exceptions. But, by and large, TV is entertainment pure and simple.

PSYOP professionals, however, can learn quite a bit by watching television as I did this past week in London. We stayed in a luxury hotel that had TV from: Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman, China and Japan not to mention Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya.

I spent a fair bit of time flipping through any station that had Arabic commercials. Each station had its own unique flair and appeal. I suspect if I were a bit more analytical I would have tracked the nature of the goods, the models, the music, etc.

Some commercials were quite gaudy. Others were for top of the line fashion jewelry, a common denominator about the cars – mileage was not an issue.

These commercials were all geared for general audiences. If a new advertiser decided to avail themselves of the station they would need to focus their images and messages in the same general ways as the others to appeal to the target audience.

Today’s environment has made it clear that while the USG may have strict lines separating public diplomacy, strategic communications and PSYOP – the world does not. It is more than very likely that tomorrow’s PSYOPers will have to be part entertainer, part news journalist and media savvy across the spectrum of new media from international or regional TV to highly micro-focused web/pod costs and the ubiquitous mobile phone.

There is always a danger when you think you know more about a language that is not your own – a good example is probably I think the author was trying to invoke the famous fairy tail where the protagonist felt the sky was falling – something lost in the translation here serves as a really good example.

Next time you can, watch TV in a foreign language, especially the commercials. You’ll be surprised at what you learn.

Monday, September 15, 2008

YouTube Purge – Like Whack A Mole, But Less Fun

The San Jose Mercury News ran an Associated Press story “YouTube to purge terrorist and other videos inciting violence” ( The article essentially explained that Google will “rely on users to report objectionable videos”.

The use of video via the Internet is an explosive and viral phenomenon. It is an incredibly cost effective graphic media requiring little or not capital equipment. Furthermore given the rate of video additions to YouTube (13 hours every couple of minutes according to the article or about 400 hours of videos every clock hour) it would be impossible to find, much less eliminate the objectionable videos.

The Internet will remain a key means for Al Qaeda and others to recruit and share information. Over time, I believe that mobile phones will supplant PC and laptop access as the main vehicle for sharing information and recruitment. Mobile phones have a great rate of acceptance in developing countries and are far more available and less visible than Internet access via cafes, etc.

The key challenge for PSYOP today is to ‘skate to the puck’ a sports metaphor (which I usually avoid) meaning to go to where the target will be, not where it is now. We in the PSYOP community need to be on top of the latest techniques of mobile phone habits and be prepared to pounce on this media based on its importance in target analysis.

This will require a level of technical competence and international perspective heretofore unparalleled in PSYOP efforts and will likely require the concerted efforts of a younger generation to bring to fruition.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Fusion Cells – Is PSYOP ready?

The September 6 Washington Post featured an article “U.S. Teams Weaken Insurgency In Iraq” ( The article addressed the successes gained through use of specialized teams composed of intelligence and Special Forces personnel. According to the article: “U.S. intelligence and defense officials credit the operation and its unusual tactics -- involving small, hybrid teams of Special Forces and intelligence officers -- with the capture of hundreds of suspected terrorists and their supporters in recent months.”

The article concedes that not much is known about Fusion teams, and goes on to describe their HQ: “The headquarters bustles like the New York Stock Exchange, with long-haired computer experts working alongside wizened intelligence agents and crisply clad military officers, say officials who have worked there or visited.”

Given that PSYOP will target many of the same individuals and groups, perhaps it makes sense to field special PSYOP fusion teams or to incorporate PSYOP and IO efforts within the existing teams?

Since I have no experience or knowledge concerning these teams, I felt it useful to consider the concept for PSYOP. It’s implied that the teams have a significant, multi-agency support and Reachback capability. It is also implied that the targets are destined to be destroyed or otherwise eliminated as a part of an overall plan against targeted organizations.

A PSYOP fusion team would have similar attributes. It should have specialized and timely if not real time intelligence as well as specialized media intelligence that I’ve described in previous postings. It should also have the latest in IO capabilities such as those for CNA and mobile phone PSYOP. The team should also include native speakers who can be employed in real time and that are deployable should it be necessary to execute PSYOP from forward locations.

The teams would be joint teams in order to capitalize on the unique strengths of each service PSYOP component. For the sake of unity of command it makes logical sense for these teams to be under the SOCOM chain, but to include RC PSYOP as needed even though they fall outside this chain of command.

A caveat to the employment of PSYOP fusion teams is that PSYOP in general are continuous operations over a period of time. Furthermore their intent is to influence behaviors, a goal not often realized in a short time frame. Unlike operations against individuals, PSYOP are generally executed towards a group audience with a much less well defined end goal then that of the teams described here.

Nevertheless, the fusion concept for PSYOP is worth considering.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Area Information Mapping: PSYOP IPB

The Intelligence Corps has long touted Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB) as a cornerstone of military success. The time has come for PSYOP, IO and PA to emphasize Area Information Mapping (AIM) with the same degree of zeal. AIM would be a compilation of doctrine and best practices used to determine how information flows through an AO.

A key ingredient in AIM would be traditional media mapping where the range and popularity of radio, TV and print media are plotted along with any population demographics. A second set of overlays to the AO would cover word of mouth and highlight key physical locations where large amounts of people are exposed to information. When combined these two sets of graphic information would yield a comprehensive picture of the influence battlefield.

Ideally these graphics could be color coded by key demographics – religion, political affiliation – along with some sort of ranking of importance and credibility. This kind of three dimensional video would allow PSYOP and other IO planners to readily grasp how to harness credible and reinforcing media to achieve the most favorable impact.

Novel graphic representations can be a powerful tool, especially in combined and joint environments and in coalitions. The diagram accompanying today’s post can be found at:

It would be most appropriate for this doctrine to flow top down from Joint Doctrine as all service PSYOP organizations need this same information. Furthermore, it would make logical sense for the SOCOM based research resources to compile these graphics for current AOs and working in conjunction with service PSYOP arms and the intelligence community to develop similar packages for areas ‘likely’ to have PSYOP conducted.

It would also be appropriate to employ these AIM packages in humanitarian efforts since getting information to the proper sources in a credible fashion is critical to the success of both PSYOP and humanitarian efforts.

A parallel effort should be employed to research advanced search engines that present patterns graphically – but that will be the topic of another post.