Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Subtitles and PSYOP

I am an avid reader of the Economist for a number of reasons. First of all, as a British publication they can get away with saying things American Pubs simply cannot. Secondly they are generally, not always, but generally – pretty good journalists.

My addiction to the Economist was jump started in Bosnia when I got my issue a couple of weeks late. I used those past issues as sort of the “teacher’s edition” because it was the only way I could figure out what happened while I was there.

The April 25, 2015 edition of the Economist had an article entitled: “Literacy in India – A bolly good read”. (See, which is also the photo source.)

The essence of the article is that same language subtitles are employed as a tool to help people learn their own written language. Television has often been touted as a good way to learn a language.

Watch a movie you’re familiar with and you can actually match your English brain with the language being spoken by the characters on the screen.

The article quotes the research firm Nielsen whose work shows that by exposing children to 30 minutes of subtitled films/songs the percentage of exposed children that become good readers doubles from 25 to 50%.

What does this have to do with PSYOP?

In the Internet age many of us have watched broadcasts in a language not our own and we have relied on voice over translations. What would happen if these foreign language broadcasts – even English ones to other audiences – used subtitles?

What  is the potential to subvert the subtitles from an accurate or literal translation to one that favors your position or the actions you would like the audience to take?

Could this type of PSYOP be executed on smart phones as well?

I’ll leave it to you!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Is Gruesome Good Propaganda?

Gruesome and graphic are some of the words used to describe the recent leaflet drop on Daesh (see: which is also the photo source.)

The picture accompanying this post purports to convince young men that they will be put into a meat grinder if they acquiesce to the Daesh recruiting effort. The carton is clearly graphic and clearly shows young men of the target demographic age. Beyond that, there are some questions about its likely effectiveness.

The article has a couple of quotes which say that Daesh recruits are more or less immune to trivial influence efforts such as leaflets.

The true impact of such leaflets have to be judged in the context of the total effort. In another article Al Jazera interviewed Retired US MC General John Allen, the man charged with defeating Daesh. (see: He is quoted as saying that an enemy such as Daesh will require time and patience to defeat.

While it is probably true that one leaflet doesn’t convince anyone of anything, this is not the case with a cumulative effort as is under way against Daesh.

Images stick with us whether we like it or not. Some images we may have been exposed to just in passing such as in the case of a TV program or a movie. We may not remember the entire show or film, but certain scenes and quotes that stick with us in spite of our conscious efforts – much like that song that never leaves your head.

There is of course a second aspect of such a leaflet drop and that is the PSYACT of a Fighter Jet zooming over you – while leaflets are not necessarily troubling, the fact that US airpower knows where you are ought to be a little unsettling.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Crossing the Line – Non-Military References For PSYOP

The debate over whether or not marketing and sales techniques and academics relate to PSYOP/MISO rages on. I’d like to add another discipline for consideration – the use of IT/Social Media commentaries.

As a Reservist I am privileged to enjoy two careers: the USAR and the Commercial Sector. While in the Commercial Sector I’ve taken many paths, one of my mainstays has been information security (see.

I’ve made many posts about cyber influence. I’d argue that we in the PSYOP Community need to be as conversant with Social Media as we are with our personal weapon.

Over the years I’ve found a number of good, reliable technical sources. One of them can be found at: The author has been a long time journalist in the IT world. The March 27, 2014 Blog posting found at the end of the link is titled: “Faking internet comments and reviews”. Clearly is this a very relevant topic for the PSYOP community.

The Blogger’s piece is on product reviews and other similar topics. He talks about how organizations use fake reviews to inflate their own reputation or deflate their competition. As a reviewer for Trip Advisor, I’m compelled to sign a statement indicating that the review is my own personal experience. Of course in the PSYOP world that’s not the case.