Thursday, December 24, 2015

Happy Holidays And A New Approach to Veteran's Unemployment


I don't generally promote causes of any type, but helping our fellow unemployed Veterans succeed in life is a cause we can all agree on. Most of us have been unemployed at one point or another and learned the hard way that there are no easy solutions.

A very trusted colleague of mine is one of the founders of V.E.T.S., a new approach to matching veterans with teams where they can thrive.

Here's their pitch:

We did it!
V.E.T.S. created its promised year-end, tax-deductible donation campaign to automate our culture measurement and employment process.
Yes, it’s an amazing capability you’ve never heard of. Please, take a look at You'll see our work's details on
Gifts should be about improving lives. Nothing's more important (after family) than helping people join teams where they fit in for rewarding work! Get that part right and the rest of life goes much better. We can make those matches with solid analysis rather than guessing or stereotypes. This is especially important for young veterans (our cause) but works for everybody.
Now, it's time for your help as you also help yourself. Please, please strongly consider including us among your holiday donations and also spread the word by using all of the options below to enlist your family and friends. — Our Reward Levels give you this job culture matching service, for life! You also have choices to bring family and friends with you. Please look for those choices on the GoFundMe page.
For those of us with nothing left to donate after staying afloat, we get it because we've been there. So here's what you do: go to your friends, parents and older relatives with the truth that the V.E.T.S. process will revolutionize the way people find rewarding jobs and student bodies. Look at the short GoFundMe video for details. Support now could lead to your dream job later, especially if you're just starting out. Really! So consider the messages below and mention us over the holidays.
You can also help by following us on Twitter (  and liking us on Facebook (  to stay current as we pursue this dream!
Thank you for taking time to support this very important mission. We look forward to helping our veterans across the country find places on great teams where they'll fit in after serving us so well.
Merry Christmas,
A-10 Warthog callsign, 'Jefe' 

And here's the link and the photo source:


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

That Old Time Religion – A Daesh Antidote?

The NY Times of 21 December 15 ran an OpEd piece entitled “A Medieval Antidote to ISIS” (see:, which is also the picture source.)

The article was written by Mustafa Akyol, who is a self-described lenient Muslim. While many of us are familiar with our own religions and many others, I suspect that not many of us are familiar with “Murjia” or irja. Adherents to this variety of the Islamic religion are simply called “postponers” because they believe in a pluralistic, tolerant form of Islam.

Many religions are not uniform. They run from the strict, conservative approach to the laws espoused by the religion to the more reform or lassiez faire who adopt more of a buffet approach where they take what they want in terms of religious guidelines.

Many in the PSYOP/MISO Community regard the war on Daesh as one of competing philosophies and ideals.

Is it reasonable to assume that an approach based on lesser-known aspects of a religion can be used to persuade zealots and jihadists to become more moderate?

While I don’t think either a historical or a logical argument will win over these extremists, I do believe that it may be possible to show existing moderates or undecided followers that there are historical and less violent ways to follow their religion.

Here, as with other campaigns, it would be necessary to employ credible spokes people to employ and inside out approach so that people within the community are trying to influence their co-religionists rather than outsiders promulgating this philosophy.

The last paragraph of the article sums up its perspective nicely:
Aware that irja is its theological antidote, the Islamic State presents it as a lack of religious piety. It is, however, true piety combined with humility — the humility that comes from honoring God as the only judge of men. On the other hand, the Islamic State’s zeal to dictate, which it presents as piety, seems to be driven by arrogance — the arrogance of judging all other men, and claiming power over them, in the name of God.”

Thursday, December 17, 2015

EPA: New Propaganda Machine?

On December 14, 2015 the NY Times claimed that the EPA engaged in “covert propaganda” in its social media efforts to support the President’s rule to better protect waterways. (See:,.)

The EPA was aggressively employing social media to support its mission. The agency mobilized efforts o Twitter, Facebook, and You Tube as a means of countering opposition (Republican of course) to its water rule. As the article notes, this campaign was one of many employed by the Obama administration as a way to go directly to the American public and bypassing traditional media.

Just as US military forces are legally barred from influencing US audiences, federal agencies are barred from using federal resources for lobbying – inducing citizens to contact Congress in support or opposition to pending legislation.

The nub of the issue seems to be whether or not an individual could easily determine if the message was written by a government entity. The classic argument put forward by the agency was that it was not hiding its role in the campaign.

A more recent piece appeared on December 17, 2015 (see:, which is also the photo source) Said “EPA ‘propaganda isn’t quite as dramatic as advertised”

MSNBC pointed out the ‘paid pundit ploy’ during Bush administration as a counter weight to the current imbroglio.

The lesson learned for PSYOPers is that if you’re going to engage in “Gray” propaganda (meaning it’s not quite obvious who the source is), you had better be prepared for your informational adversaries to jump on it and cry “Propaganda!”.

You may inadvertently trigger this reaction even unintentionally if it is not abundantly clear as to who the source really is. Perhaps the real lesson here is that it is not what you say, but whether someone can tell you said it!

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Academic Research and PSYOP – Can It Help?

There is no doubt that the terrorist is today’s enemy. The global violence stretching from Paris to San Bernadino, CA is proof positive of this. Modern day PSYOP has proven generally ineffective in dealing with this amorphous and ruthless enemy.

We all quote the adage “We’re always ready to fight the last war.” How can we approach PSYOP for Counter-Terrorism?

Consider the following:
Measuring the effectiveness of counterterrorism efforts requires detailed problem analysis to quantify the specific behavioral problem sets and to identify the enablers (i.e., conditions, who is doing what, etc.) The goal is to gain a better understanding of the problem, so precise solutions (both preventions and interventions) can be developed for implementation. Program goals that are measurable end-states help assess the impact the program is intended to have, while supporting PSYOP objectives focus on the measurable means to attain them. Series objectives provide the comprehensive strategies necessary to achieve the goals and objectives by focusing on the knowledge, belief and intermediate behaviors required from each of the identified target audiences”

The author is a rare combination: PSYOPer and Scholar. MAJ Seese’s work, like that of COL (R) Al Paddock, COL, (R) Bob Schoenhaus and others can provide food for thought as we move through the 21st century.

There is a crying need for independent research and analysis in the PSYOP community. It would be appropriate for the “Schoolhouse” (JFK Special Warfare Center and School) to act as a catalyst, sponsor and repository for this needed research.

Reader input on ways we can expand our intellectual horizons in these challenging times is very much appreciated.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Lessons From the ISIS Propaganda War

I am a big fan of the Economist Magazine. I like it mostly because it’s not an American view, but a remnant of more objective journalism. Towards the end of my tour in Sarajevo I was able to buy the Economist at a local newsstand. I called it ‘the answer key’ because I learned what actually happened in Bosnia the week before. Something I couldn’t really do even though I was there.

I take a pile of magazines on trips. I call it “One Way Reading” because the magazines only go one way and are discarded before I return home. I clip articles and tuck them away in my briefcase for later reading.

On my latest trip last week I cam across an Economist article from August 15, 2015 entitled “The Propaganda War” (see :, which is also the photo source).

The article provides some analysis that is relevant and appropriate for the PSYOP/MISO Community.

First of all the article notes that many of the ISIS messages are loathsome to Western audiences. Beheadings, drownings, and other macabre methods of torture and execution are repugnant to Western audiences.

However, they are not designed to attract those audiences, but rather mainstream media attention so that the images gain exposure and perhaps even credibility far in excess of the original.

The article also notes that ISIS has excelled in their video production skills and in their ability to reach wide audiences through Social Media and leveraging traditional media coverage.

Their production is also impressive. The article noted a week’s worth of production included 123 media releases in six languages with almost 20% of them video (as reported by Aaron Zelin of the Washington Institute for Near East Studies.

Another key point was that a major line of emphasis was positive. Portraying the utopian Caliphate lifestyle and the ‘good’ things they were doing with smiling children, new schools, hospitals, etc. In other words – Civil Affairs projects (or at least the impression of the projects).

Brookings was quoted as saying that the positive images were what kept them in power.

The bottom line for PSYOP/MISO is that we need to understand why the enemy is successful and adopt some of their lessons as our own. I should point out that defeating the enemy propaganda machine is not a simple feat.

A combination of military success against them combined with removing the underlying attraction to recruits is the only way to defeat them and clearly not a short time nor single nation mission.

Unraveling the Gordian Knot of issues in the Middle East and facing Muslims around the world appears to be a multi-generational effort. However, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. “Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu. Chinese philosopher (604 BC - 531 BC)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Culture Clash: Silicon Valley Versus Veterans

Normally I keep my postings to the PSYOP world, but as we know, these are not ‘normal times’. As a volunteer for the DOD ESGR I get to visit units and employers. Sometimes ESGR is on the agenda as a major speaker and other times we’re a ‘vendor’ like other organizations whose mission it is to serve veterans.

Last week I had the occasion to attend a “Veteran’s Resource” event hosted by a major Silicon Valley firm. They might it quite clear that this was not a job fair, but a place where veterans could learn skills needed to help land them a job in today’s job market.

Services included resume review, mock interviewing and more.

Before I address LinkedIn and Facebook – I’d like to share two areas where the military culture sharply diverted from the culture of Silicon Valley. One of the more recent 20ish veterans shared the following:

Teamwork – in the military we are used to working together to accomplish a mission and take care of our ‘buddy’.  In Silicon Valley I couldn’t believe it when someone else took credit for my project right in front of me.

Promptness – the military teaches us that timing is critical and you needed to be counted on to be where you are supposed to be on time. This individual typically arrived a meeting 15 minutes early only to find that many colleagues didn’t arrive until 15 minutes AFTER the scheduled start time.

Let me save you a day’s worth of your time: most jobs today are still based on networking and prospective employers will be checking your bona fides on LinkedIn while checking your good judgment on Facebook.

LinkedIn is a recruiter’s best friend and you need to be sure that your LinkedIn profile is optimized. Here are some tips offered by information security vendor FireEye:

1.     Pick a professional and engaging photo. No cuteness – no dog.
2.     Make sure your 120 character headline is accurate and describes what you do in a creative way.
3.     Be certain your e-mail address is correct and is the one you check the most frequently.
4.     Use the summary to provide some additional details about yourself, your goals and accomplishments.
5.     Have a credible but not lengthy work history. Make sure it is in synch with your resume. Don’t go beyond 10 or 12 years.
6.     Get recommendations – they support your reputation and build credibility.
7.     Join Groups as a way to keep up with your profession and build credibility.
8.     Be complete to include your education and your volunteer work.

LinkedIn is for business and FaceBook is a social site. Your integrity and professionalism are on display – so be sensitive as to what you post and others post on your page.

Before closing, let’s take a moment and think about our French colleagues. We and our history owe them a debt.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Can Sarcasm or Satire be effective PSYOP?

Some people say I have sarcasm in my genes. Others like my wife buy me T-shirts exclaiming my prowess. Unfortunately sarcasm and its cousin - satire are not universal and what may be intended as good-natured fun may not be received that way.

Simple geographic differences such as New York ‘humor’ can fall flat in places outside the Big City. We have seen the violent consequences of satire with the Charlie Hebdo shooting.

Perhaps the best use of satire and sarcasm is to help us take a step back and look at ourselves. A positive outcome here is some tension reduction and the ability to realize what is important and what simply is not.

Of course I suspect that if articles from DuffleBlog were taken out of context there would be some people who felt they were true just as ‘commercials’ from Saturday Night Live get a following.

While laughter may not be good PSYOP, it is good for the soul.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Music: Under Employed PSYOP Weapon?

We all know that music can influence our moods. We react differently to Willie Nelson than to Beethoven. 

On October 23, 2015 the New York Times ran article that started on Page 1: “Palestinians Set Their Rage to Violent Beat”. The article ran in a number of other places as well. (see:, which is also the photo source).

The article talks about Palestinian protest music. Music has been a part of the Middle East throughout its history. Today’s Palestinian teenagers are spending their shekels to get the 21st century version with such catch lyrics as “Stab, stab”.

According to one store owner quoted in the article, “The music is made as a way to make the Palestinian people get up and resist…The words of these songs and the music involved with these songs is a lot more powerful.”

Social media and the Internet complement CD distribution to widen the circulation. The going price is about 10 shekels a CD or $2.60 which is about 2/3 of a day’s income. (author’s math based on:

In some places, perhaps Africa, music might be an important element of any influence campaign. In others, the situation becomes more problematic. For example while Afghanistan has had a long history of music, the Taliban and others have suppressed music.

In any event, it’s always important to consider any form of influence that combines senses, especially media that invoke emotion as music clearly does.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Combatting Radicalization Through Government Influence: Good, Bad or Ugly?

The NY Times on October 19, 2015 published an article “Britain Unveils Plans to Fight Extremism in Young Muslims” (see:

While this proposed program is only in it’s formative stages, the article has some key points that are worthy of consideration by the influence community writ large.

Here are a couple of key points:

1.     How aggressively can a government confront extremism without alienating their opposing moderates?
2.     Will promoting a nation’s values (British, American, German, etc.) raise strong concerns of moderates in the target audience?
3.     Is it really possible to ‘clamp down on the dissemination of extremist messages… by involving the “industry government and the public”’?

The article itself is concerned with influence efforts inside Britain, yet the three points above are applicable to many current and potential influence battlefields. The notion of domestic influence is one that has not been widely considered.

Recent incidents conducted by non-affiliated terrorists (e.g. Boston Bombing) or by domestic terrorists (Oklahoma City) confirm that the threat exists in the US as well as Britain. The implication is that anyone inside a country may be radicalized.

Does the government have a duty to try and prevent the radicalization by employing its resources to disrupt the radicalizer and minimize the effectiveness of their messages and if so, how likely is it that they will succeed?

Taking each point in turn.

Any influence effort needs to strike a balance. This implies careful research and perhaps pre-testing, focus groups and enlisting moderates to help craft the campaign and its messages.

Secondly, promoting one’s values to another is IMHO not a good strategy. Others outside your sphere really don’t want your values – they have grown up with theirs and only multi-generational evolutions can alter that path.

Lastly, given the porous and borderless nature of social media, this would seem like the digital equivalent of cleaning out the Augean Stables. Even so, is it worth the attempt?

Reader input invited.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Afghanistan: Deja Doo Doo

On October 15, 2015 President Obama made an extensive statement explaining is ‘new and improved’ policy WRT to US troops in Afghanistan. (See:, which is also the photo source). The President noted that 9,800 troops would remain to train Afghan forces and to support the counter terrorism mission against Al Qaeda.

While I don’t generally use the Blog to comment on matters outside the PSYOP/MISO community, however, as one of my SF colleagues used to say “Deja Doo Doo” which means I’ve seen this sh*t before.

I have never been to Afghanistan or Iraq, but I see several major problems with what was said:
1.     Hello!!!! What about the Taliban that seem to have bided their time and are now making gains in Afghanistan, perhaps due to the vacuum created by the departure of US troops and the inability of the Afghan government to actually govern.

2.     If we are to thwart the advance of the Taliban and really degrade Afghanistan as a resource for terrorists, it seems to me that this feeble approach is not going to yield positive results.

3.     My take is that Afghanistan is, for the most part, a collection of microcosms. The foundation of the country is the family, the village, and the tribe in that order.

In 2010 The Rand Organization issued a report on Information Operations (IO) in Afghanistan. (see:

Some of their findings five years ago were:
·      If the overall IO mission in Afghanistan is defined as U.S. Military Information Operations in Afghanistan Afghan government and its foreign allies against the Taliban insurgency, this has not been achieved.
·      The biggest PSYOP successes have been in the area of face-to-face communication and the new emphasis on meetings with jirgas (local councils of elders), key-leader engagements, and establishing individual relationships with members of the Afghan media. Also, the concept of every infantryman being a PSYOP officer, as carried out by the 1st Battalion (Bn) 5th Marines and other units, is also very effective. In this respect, the success of civic action and development projects in promoting\ a positive image of the U.S. military and the Afghan government should be pointed out, although this varies greatly among localities.
·      On the negative side of the ledger, the most-notable shortcoming has been the inability to effectively counter the Taliban propaganda campaign against U.S. and NATO forces on the theme of civilian casualties, both domestically and internationally.

While the President stated that he has talked extensively with his National Security Advisors, perhaps he should talk to others who see the Emperor’s New Clothes for what they really are – a piecemeal attempt to achieve an audacious goal.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Are we ready for an anti-Daesh Influence Campaign Task Force?

The UK based Quilliam organization (www. recently published an exhaustive report entitled: “Documenting the Virtual ‘Caliphate’” which can be downloaded from their website. The 50 page + report provides a month long  snapshot of Daesh propaganda between 17 July and 15 August 2005. Which consists of 1,146 “separate propaganda events”.

It is generally believed that Daesh is winning the propaganda and influence war. This report was developed because Quilliam believed before there is any hope of countering this influence onslaught, much less overcoming it, it is critical to understand the deeper nature of their propaganda efforts.

The report offers 10 key conclusions. The essence of some of these is quoted below:

1.     “This is an exceptionally sophisticated information operation campaign, the success of which lies in the twin pillars of quantity and quality. Given this scale and dedication, negative measures like censorship are bound to fail.”

2.     While consistent overall, the Daesh brand shifts according to events.

3.     Over half of the effort is aimed a depicting the utopia existence under the ‘caliphate’.

4.     “Economic activity, social events, abundant wildlife, unwavering law and order, and pro-active, pristine ‘religious’ fervour form the foundations of Islamic State’s civilian appeal. In this way, the group attracts supporters based on ideological and political appeal.“

5.     The military is generally shown during offensives or in stasis.

6.     Military attacks with mortars and rockets are shown even though they are not part of any actual offensives. Rather the intent is to show a perpetual offensive.

7.     Control of the population in their current AO – discouraging rebellion and dissent seems to be a major theme.

8.     “The quantity, quality and variation of Islamic State propaganda in just one month far outweighs the quantity, quality and variation of any attempts, state or non-state, to challenge the group. All current efforts must be scaled up to achieve meaningful progress in this war.’

9.     The global desire to find a panacea counter-narrative to undermine the Islamic State brand is misplaced. Categorically, there is no such thing. Those engaged in the information war on the ‘caliphate’ must take a leaf out of the group’s own media strategy book and prioritise quantity, quality, variation, adaptability and differentiation. Most importantly, though, it must be based upon an alternative, not counter, narrative.

It seems to me that a multinational effort is required that can cut across national boundaries, employs commercial, military and diplomatic expertise. This task force should be part of an international organization, which, along with its members could provide personnel and funding for the long haul that will be required to deal with this challenge.

It appears to me that a NATO lead makes the most sense mainly because it is an existing multi-national organization that has appropriate membership and expertise. Set along the lines of a Combined Joint Influence Task Force, this new organization would of necessity focus on cyber media, but would also be able to employ more traditional media such as television, radio and print whenever it made sense to do so.

Diplomatic (Public Diplomacy) participation at the highest level and liaison across embassies in the region and elsewhere would be another key element needed for successful execution.

This is a ‘stalking horse’ in the sense that my purpose is to stimulate input from Blog readers. Comments eagerly awaited.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Is Media “Support” A MISO Mission?

On September 22, 2105 the Altlanticist ran an article “Western Media Must Fight Russia’s Letha Propaganda More Aggressively” (see: which is also the photo source.)

The thesis of the article is that Russia controls its media in a way that puts a pro-Russia spin on events that amounts to a “major global propaganda effort”.  Muzzling media is often a two edged sword. On one hand you can try to silence critics, but on the other you risk alienating freedom of the press advocates and incur their wrath on the global stage.

A key point made by the article is: “It is possible that democratic tools and the standard requirements for balanced journalism are simply incapable of dealing with virulent state-generated propaganda.”

Does it make sense for the US to harness its influence assets (meaning State Department Public Diplomacy and MISO) as a means to try and counter balance Russian efforts?

One could argue that since most media is now digital, resources in the form of content or funding could be channeled to key digital media outlets that support US policy and goals and which could help in a counter  Russian propaganda campaign.

Of course since this type of resourcing is not military in nature, but more in the diplomatic realm, State would have to be in the lead and MISO could be tasked on a project basis to help generate needed content and/or to provide monitoring and analysis of Russian propaganda as well as content recommendations.

This would appear to be a win-win situation because:
1.     MISO personnel could bring needed language skills.
2.     The work would be valuable training for MISO personnel.
3.     MISO personnel would be subcontractors to the Department of State who remains in the lead.

Such media support could be extended to other areas as well such as ISIS. The name of the game being to counter negative propaganda, because unanswered propaganda becomes more believable over time without regard to its lack of truth.

Reader input invited.