Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Not All Good News Stories Are Good PSYOP

The Washington Times ran an article about Afghani girls flourishing in school. The Jan 6, 2010 article touts how the Marines have helped build the school and that the students are looking forward to bright futures (

Photo: Washington Times

This ‘feel good’ story concludes with “According to a report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, an estimated 63 percent of rural Afghan men and 90 percent of rural Afghan women are illiterate. In Now Zad, those illiterates are sending their children to school in defiance of threats from Taliban operatives.”

The story would have a positive influence on many audiences, especially Western minded audiences who hold the principle of gender equality in high esteem. However, this doesn’t mean that the story, pictures or excerpts would be appropriate for all audiences.

There is no question that education especially in the context of gender equality is a key American value. The issue is this the kind of value held by the target audience? If the target audience is male dominated and historically prone to control all aspects of female life in their society, then the story and its images and messages are not appropriate.

Having said that the story is not appropriate PSYOP, is it appropriate for the Public Affairs Officer (PAO) of the unit? That answer would have to be clearly “yes it is”. Marine support of core American values with happy smiling faces as testimonials is the kind of story that is likely to help bolster support for US forces and instill local pride in the deployed unit.

Perhaps a take away here is that PSYOP personnel need to be on the lookout for stories and images that, while they don’t necessarily apply to PSYOP, can be effectively used by our PAO colleagues.

Best to all of you for the New Year!

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