Thursday, August 21, 2014

Shock Imagery: Good Or Bad For PSYOP?

We were all appalled by the beheading of James Foley and the images posted by his murderers. Journalists are defending the publication of the images (see: and academics are pondering whether the shocking images are an effective means of drawing the American Public’s attention to the event (see:

For a moment, let’s consider the use of shocking images in PSYOP.

Certainly we could point to the image as tangible proof of the brutality of the enemy.

On the one hand, this would show that the enemy could impose the same brutality on the audience and doesn’t this lead to the conclusion that the audience should support the good guys and not the enemy?

Is reposting the brutality something we really want to do? If the enemy’s goal is to terrorize and emotionally bully the target audience, wouldn’t we be promoting their cause for them?

What if the society in which the actions have taken place has a culture of violence and respects direct, brutal action as a fundamental of their culture?

Is another approach to soften the brutality image with an aftermath image? Pictures of the bereaved family of the victim as a means of generating sympathy for them and outrage against the enemy?

Or should the approach be to talk about the incident without imagery? In today’s modern society is it reasonable to assume that anyone who wanted to see the image has seen it and that many of those who did not, were subjected to it anyway?

Photo Source: USA Today

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