Thursday, December 15, 2016

Does FaceBook Read The PSYOP Regiment Blog?

I posted on Fake news yesterday, 14 December 16. Today I received a summary from Wired Magazine which featured: Facebook Finally Gets Real About Fighting Fake News (see:; which is also the photo source).

Highlights of the article are:
·      A Flood of Fact Checking
·      Eyeballs and Ad Dollars (they are re-evaluating which publishers may violate their Audience Network ad policies and (along with Google) punish fake news sites.

While I’m pretty sure FB is not one of my loyal readers, I did find the timing a bit more than coincidental. I guess this comes with being long time military, competitive and legal analyst.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Does The Fake News Phenomenon Ruin PSYOP/MISO?

There has been a barrage of media efforts to explain and analyze the Fake News Phenomenon.  One such article was “How to report fake news to social media” (see: ) which is also the photo source. Another is “The Cynical Gambit to Make ‘Fake News’ Meaningless (see:

Social Media such as FaceBook is considered the major home for fake news. Perhaps the most recent notorious example of fake news was the stories claiming that a pizzeria was a child slavery hideout (see:

What does this all mean?

Well, first of all, anyone that takes on the Internet at face value is probably in for a rude awakening sooner or later. The ubiquitous availability of social media makes anyone into a journalist. While some ersatz reporters are earnest in their efforts, others are not so scrupulous nor do they consider the unintended impact of their work.

PSYOP has been classified as white, gray and black depending on its source. (You can see Appendix A in FM-3-05.30, 15 April 2005:; which is an older, Army Field Manual, but necessarily the latest one). While it may not be the latest manual the definitions are still relevant.
·      A-2 White products are over products. DOD forces use overt products in support of their operations.
·      A-6 Products that conceal and/or do not identify a source are known as gray products. Gray products are best used to support operational plans.
·      A-9 Products that purport to emanate from a source other than the true one are known as black products. Black products are best used to support strategic plans.

One can argue that these definitions don’t apply to Fake News or that it is impossible to neatly classify social media postings in 2016. As the definitions imply, each of the classes have their advantages and uses.

Fake news on the other hand, cannot be used to inform, because it’s fake! Fake news can be employed in MISO to influence or to cast doubts on the credibility of other news and/or other sources.

In any event, today’s PSYOP/MISO practitioner needs to add an understand and appreciation of fake news to their skill set.

Let me take this opportunity to wish my readers the Best for the Holidays.

I have good intentions of trying to take two weeks off from Blogging. So, don’t be disappointed if you don’t see any new postings until the New Year. Of course, with the approaching inauguration of the Tweeter-n-Chief, this could change.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Can hacking be the ultimate Cyber-PSYOP?

The latest outcry about hackers comes from a country long suspected of using cyber means for a variety of nefarious reasons – Russia. On December 2, 2016 CNN published a story: Russia: “Foreign hackers are trying to take down our banks” (see: In October 2016 Sputnik news proclaimed “Russian Foreign Ministry Confirms site Hacked, US ‘Jester Claims Responsibility” (see:; which is also the photo source).

Whether or not either or both of these articles are correct may not be as important as the possibilities the two articles raise.

On one hand, these alleged acts could be the work of US or allied hackers seeking to give Russia a taste of its own cyber medicine. It could also mean that yesterday’s loudspeaker is today’s internet hack so that tactical PSYOP/MISO organizations need to be able to perform some level of cyber PSYOP through Computer Network Attack (CNA).

This would also seem to signal that new forms of Special Operations training for UW should include giving insurgents some cyber capabilities just as SOF trainers have taught UW techniques in the past.

While this is certainly feasible since the nature of internet based attacks is to lower the skill level of the attacker, is it a good idea to spread cyber attack knowledge around? The unintended consequences of sharing knowledge and broadening the skill set of insurgents should be obvious. There is no guarantee that the new cyber warrior wouldn’t turn his or her newly acquired cyber ‘gun’ at you.

We’ve seen how SIGINT made its way out from behind the ‘green door’ and into the planning of tactical units. It’s only a matter of time until some variation of this evolutionary path is taken by cyber as well.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Shifting PSYOP Emphasis from Asymmetric Threats to Peers

 While the threat from terrorists and other asymmetric enemies remains real and potent – there is great concern about historic and new peer-sized threats. The maturation of the cyber domain as a battlefield has brought with it a resurgence of nation-state enemies and adversaries.

Chief among them is Russia. On November 1, 2016 Reuters reported “UK spy chief sees growing threats from Russian cyber- attacks, espionage” (see:

In the days of the Cold War it was relatively easy to stereotype the Russians as illustrated by my friends to the right: Boris Badenov, Natasha Fatale and Fearless Leader; characters in the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon series.

The Russians have always understood the need to control information that has also become a strategic imperative that they have passed along to other countries within their political umbrella. The article notes that cyber attacks and espionage are increasingly being used to advance Russian foreign policy goals.

There were a number of media reports indicating that the Russians had the capability to hack voting systems and thereby impact the US Presidential election.

The PRC has also been reportedly active in cyber attacks, while perhaps not as subtle as their Russian counterparts, PRC hackers also represent a state sponsored well-resourced and sophisticated threat.

The implications for US political and military strategies are profound and the election of an avid Tweeter as President may actually be a positive sign for PSYOP. President-elect Trump, for all is other characteristics, is far more aware of the power of mass media and the importance of Social Media.

Perhaps his new cabinet will be directed to formulate an influence strategy that will meld all of government’s influence resources – military and otherwise – as well as dedicate the cyber resources necessary to support such a strategy.

Photo source:

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

PSYOP Comes To The Presidency

It is pretty clear that the President Elect understands the principles of PSYOP and marketing. Simple, direct messages targeted at a clearly defined audience combined with concentrating your efforts where they will do the most good appear to have been keys to his unexpected success.

Task and Purpose a military oriented site published an article (see:; which is also the photo source) which, in my view sums up how the President Elect defeated the ‘establishment’.

The article and the campaign contain great lessons for PSYOP, but the end results and the new Administration’s ability to craft a cohesive and workable political strategy and the military strategy behind it remain to be seen.

The article summed up Mr. Trump’s success in one sentence: ““He benefited from a very easy to understand and appreciate message: ‘Make America great again,’ ... That’s not about Donald Trump; that’s about the American worker who used to be punching in at the textile plant.”

Voters, especially those whose manufacturing jobs, and the economy surrounding them understood the Message, agreed with it and voted for the Messenger.

We also learned that celebrity is perhaps more important in the U.S. than any sort of qualifications or experience. To be fair, Mr. Trump is a showman, and he may stand for the proposition that there are limits to political correctness.

Mr. Trump also knew his target. While the media proclaimed that his sweet spot was “non-college-educated white voters”, anecdotally I know quite a few ardent Trump supporters who are indeed college educated and the numbers are far too big to include only this group.

Trump targeted the voters who make up the majority of the electorate and according to the article, Secretary Clinton was not able to garner the kind of support that President Obama did either in the black or Latino community.

Mr. Trump also did very well in the ‘up for grabs’ states. I’ve often posted about needing to concentrate on those on the fence rather than trying to move those on either end of your message’s spectrum.

The Clinton campaign also had some PSYOP examples, unfortunately, not many of them are good ones. Her campaign seemed to appeal to educate elites and was more often focused on Secretary Clinton herself. The “I’m with her.” didn’t resonate because, only a few wanted to be and they were concentrated in the liberal blue states.

The next test for Mr. Trump will be to appoint competent and experienced people to help him guide the nation and to control his mercurial nature. He may surprise us all, or in 2020 the US will tell him “You’re fired!”

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The PSYOP of Elections

With the 2016 US Presidential election only 5 days away and media of all sorts bombarding us with exhortations to vote their way, I thought it appropriate to make a few comments about PSYOP in the context of political influence.

Rather than descend into the cesspool like depths of the media barrage in the Presidential race, I felt it more instructive to look at a particular piece. There are 17 Propositions on the California ballot this year – not counting local ones. They range from repealing the death penalty to deciding whether starts in porn flicks should wear condoms.

Behind every proposition there are people with an agenda. While some propositions are clearly worded, others are not. Wording can obfuscate the true purpose of the proposition or can be a legislative hodgepodge of sentences thrown together.

To the right is a typical direct mail piece. The focus is on personalizing the proposition in a way
that the voter identifies the picture with the proposition. In this case we have a likeable enough looking family. Since there is no Dad in the picture we could also jump to the conclusion that this is a single Mom raising three young children. The child on the right is missing her front teeth possibly indicating that she is a second grader or in need of some dental help.

Proposition E is a San Jose Measure that would require businesses with over 35 employees to offer extra hours to part-time workers before hiring new ones.  While the motivation behind the measure might be to give a break to those part time workers who work multiple jobs and don’t have benefits, this is not the case according to the major local newspaper, the San Jose Mercury News which said “Voters are likely to approve this feel-good measure, but it would be a mistake. It adds record-keeping burdens and lawsuit risks no other city in this county places on industry — at a time when San Jose is already is struggling to attract business and build its tax base. Vote no.”  (See:

In addition to personifying the message, the direct mail piece offers some general innuendos at the top right. By agreeing with these oversimplified statements the reader/voter might very well want to ‘help out’ by voting yes, which, according to the facts (or the newspaper) would be a mistake.

Hopefully the election will be over soon to clean up the airwaves.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

How do you influence the PAO?

The October 17, 2016 Defense News ran an article “DoD is Losing the Online  Fight to Win Hearts & Minds” (see:; which is also the photo source).

I was attracted to the article because of the title and expected to see yet one more treatise on how the overpaid contractors charged with executing the DOD on-line influence war  were not doing their job. Interestingly, the article makes the case that a major problem with the US on-line influence programs is the resistance from Public Affairs.

The article describes how NATO is trying to recognize the significance of the influence issue by forming a strategic communications directorate and that the US is the only holdout. The article’s author, Robert T. Hastings should know about Public Affairs because among other assignments he served as acting secretary of defense for public affairs from 2008 to 2009.

PAO has generally taken the view that they must remain and chaste and pure, avoiding any taint of ‘influence’. Having had the opportunity to work Joint Exercises at DINFOS, the DOD school that trains Public Affairs Officers, I’m of the opinion that the ‘new generation’ of PAOs has a much more profound appreciation for social media and the on-line world than their top brass.

The inability to integrate PAO efforts into the influence fight dilutes our influence efforts and has to stop, the sooner the better. While I’m generally not one to editorialize, the DOD is a pretty simple organization; it works from the top down. SECDEF needs to bring MG Malcolm B. Frost, Chief of Public Affairs (see:  into his office along with General Raymond A. Thomas III, CDR, USSOCOM (see: and have an open discussion about DOD’s need for unity of effort with regard to Public Affairs.

The buck has to stop somewhere, and it looks like it needs to be at the top or we will continue to lose influence ground to our enemies and adversaries.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Self-Help PSYOP Against North Korea

The NY Times, October 15, 2016 US print edition ran an article “Subverting North Korea, One Bundle of Leaflets at a Time”. The Asian version ran a day earlier and lead with “A ‘Balloon Warrior’ Subverts North Korea, Thousands of Leaflets at a Time" (US version at:, which is also the photo source.)

In the day and age of Tweets and FaceBook it’s somewhat refreshing to see old school operations. According to the Times, Lee Min-bok is a North Korean defector with a self-avowed mission to foster popular subversion against the North Korean government.

Mr. Kim’s efforts do not receive any government support. Rather he supports himself through lecture fees and receives donations from various groups. According to the article, A Japanese group because they want him to send leaflets to help find Japanese citizens in North Korea. Other donors include Christians who provide Bibles and food.

Kim summed up his efforts this way “My leaflets are a poison for Kim Jong-un’s regime, because they help North Koreans wake up to his lies”.

The leaflet bundles are high enough to avoid small arms fire. Kim has developed is own ‘timer’ that opens the bundles allowing the leaflets to drop down.

While Kim receives security support from the Republic of Korea, his efforts are chiefly his own and is only job.

While we can only assess Mr. Kim’s production and not his effectiveness, his story is an interesting one. On the launch end Mr. Kim choses to assume a low profile and not launch from villages or populated centers so as to avoid conflicts.

One wonders if this type of grassroots approach could be adopted in other areas, especially where a regime controls the information channels. Of course leaflet drops are wind dependent and the receiving terrain must be open enough to allow the leaflets to reach their targets.

Readers are invited to contribute any other examples of Self-Help PSYOP.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

ISIS Propaganda Drooping? Does it really matter?

On October 10, 2016 the NY Times ran an article “ISIS Media Output Drops as Military Pressure Rises, Report Says’ (see:      The article as based on a report prepared and released by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center at West Point which you can find at: and is the photo source.

My gut tells me this is perhaps another incident where we have confused Measure of Production (MOP) with Measures of Effectiveness (MOE).  The article cites the following statistic: “At the peak of the Islamic State’s media output, in August 2015, the group released more than 700 items from official outlets in Syria and several other countries. During the month of August 2016, after a year of airstrikes and other assaults, that number had declined to under 200, according to the study.”

It is interesting to note that ISS favors pictures (59%) and Twitter (Photo) (30%) over Video (10%) according to the reports’  analysis of type of state media release from January 15 through August 2016 (page 31 of the report).  

Military and Governance appear to be the two most favored themes as show in another diagram from the report and a subsequent diagram shows that the production of these two these were virtually the same since January 2016.

While this analysis is helpful, does it help the Commander assess how strong his opposition will be?

The report has no illusions of grandeur and notes in its conclusion “In addition, this paper has not given insight into a critical component of understanding the efficacy of the Islamic State’s media success.” Isn't this what we really need to know? While we can feel good if ISIS production declines, we can conjecture that this means they feel they don't have the 'products' to sell anymore, they are still pretty good at the influence business.

Media exposure, especially visual media is like tooth paste, once its out, it doesn’t go back into the tube. The ISIS propaganda campaign has been relentless. It is reasonable to believe that there has been a cumulative effect of this intense effort. Audiences, especially those that have a higher propensity to be influenced have been effected and will continue to be effected even if the production numbers continue to decline.

While I certainly commend the report and its authors for their extensive analysis, if I were called into the CG’s office and asked “what does this really mean?” I’d have to respond: “Sir, we really don’t know. Perhaps the pace of new recruiting will abate, but those who were influenced by the early high production numbers are not likely to change their minds because ISIS is producing less propaganda”.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

PSYOP History – Hanoi Hannah Passes Away

Tokyo Rose (see: was a footnote in history to we veterans of the Viet Nam Conflict. It’s probably fair to say that Hanoi Hannah is the same to Post 9/11 veterans. The NY Times featured an obituary of Trin Thi Ngo, better known as Hanoi Hannah in its 5 October edition (see:, which is also the photo source.)

John McCain was one of her regular listeners although not by choice because loudspeakers were prominent in the prison where he was a POW.

Personification is a great influence tool that I have written about on a number of occasions including last week’s posting on what local TV producers are looking for.

Female voices were generally used because it was felt that since service members were predominately male, they would be more favorably inclined to listen to a female voice.

Popular music was played but the goal of the content was to wear down their listeners. Hanoi Hannah used to read the names of recent American KIA as a part of her broadcasts in an effort to demoralize her listeners.

More recently there was Baghdad Betty. She was not very competent according to then LTC Jeff Jones, CDR of the 8th PSYOP Bn who said: “Her broadcasts proved the Iraqis didn’t understand us at all," Jones said. "Her ignorance was pervasive. She was never sure of her sources, and broadcast old information based on dated news." (See: Jones went on to be CDR of the 4th PSYOP Group and ultimately Defense Attaché to the French Embassy. It was my pleasure to nominate Jeff for the Gold McClure Award, which he received shortly before his death.

While the PSYOP Regiment is a relatively new entity in the US Army we owe it ourselves to be mindful of our history and to learn from it – both good and bad. While we don’t want to fall into the trap of being prepared to fight the last war, we don’t want to repeat the same mistakes either.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

TV Producer Insight is Solid MISO/PSYOP Advice

When a consensus is found among media professionals, it’s worth sharing. As a Red Cross Public Affairs Officer my boss often sends some useful media references. 

Here's one about local TV producers are looking for: ‘“Air” Conditioning: Human-Interest and Visual Angles are Keys to Pitching TV’ (at:, which is also the photo source.)

I’ve opined in the past that the word is becoming more visual and that media trends seem to be moving toward interactivity so that any media producer whether TV or Internet would be looking for pretty much the same things.

Here are the highlights:
1.     Highlight Visual Potential
2.     Aim for Broad Appeal
3.     Put a Human Face on The Story
4.     Research Your Targets ( the media you hope to employ)
5.     Exercise News Judgment

There are a couple of other tips, but these five are the key ones. You will also need to bear in mind some production tips as well.

Putting a Human Face, especially a face that the viewer can identify with, is critical to the credib ility and impact of the story. Consider that as a major element of your efforts.

If you are producing the video remember that  you can edit video, but you can’t edit audio. Any story that involves people talking should make sure that the speakers have their own microphones. Lavalier microphones are not expensive. See: for a reasonable selection.

If you are working with a particular media outlet make sure you understand their news rhythm so that you can help them schedule your story for maximum effect.

Be a helper – providing security, transportation and perhaps some water or a meal can mean the difference of whether your story gets covered or not.

Reader input encouraged.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Mobile Phones and Facebook Are Everywhere

Any normal person on a two week vacation in Europe would not take time out to do a PSYOP Blog – but then again perhaps a true PSYOPer is not quite normal.

It’s one thing to speculate about the media environment in a location and it’s quite another to visit that location and get a look on the ground. I had the opportunity to spend several days in Rome in early September 2016.

The addiction to mobile phones and to FaceBook in particular appears to be an international phenomenon. In wandering through Rome in shops and tourist spots alike, almost everyone was glued to their phone.

Entrepreneurs were selling mobile phone clamps attached to ‘selfie sticks’ and to tripods so that tourists could capture their latest adventures. Of greater interest was the fact that almost every phone I could take a look at was set to FaceBook.

It seemed like everyone - couples, individuals, taxi/limo drivers, etc. were all hooked on FB. While the preponderance of the people were in the 30s and 40s, the FB addiction was not limited to those under 40 as ‘even’ seniors were updating their status.

Moving afloat to our cruise ship, either the price of shipboard internet access is lower (at least in proportion to other costs) or the need for constant connection is stronger than it was in 2010 when we took our last cruise because almost everyone has their mobile phone with them – even at sea!

Not to be outdone the cruise line encourages people to update their FB status and share their photos on FB, Twitter, etc.

Of course, Rome is not a typical location, and probably not a place where we would engage in PSYOP or MISO, however, the addiction to mobile phones and Social Media is a critical factor in winning the cyber influence battles of the future.

While Social Media is a mostly benign way for people to communicate, let's not lose sight of the potential for harm or evil as well. We are all mindful of the fact that airplanes were not considered weapons until 15 years ago today.

Monday, August 29, 2016

At Least Russia Knows Influence Wins ‘Battles’

While the US Government continues to flop around like a fish on a pier trying to figure out what is influence warfare on the grand scale and to coordinate all operational levels and departments, Russia is already dominating the influence war with false information.

The NY Times of August 28, 2016 ran “A Powerful Russian Weapon: The Spread of False Stories”, see:, which is also the photo source.)

The Russians are no newcomer to the influence war having capitalized on misleading and accurate information to befuddle NATO, the EU and others. The Russians recognize that different mediums are complimentary and are well versed in employing complementary media such as Internet trolls to propaganda not to mention their own news bureaus.

There is no shortage of good examples. The Ukraine and the flight of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was one. A story about immigrant violence in Germany is another good example cited by the article.

The article concludes, appropriately enough with a quote from Dimitry Kiselyev, a popular Russian TV anchor, see: (Dimitry Kiselev is Redefining the Art of Russian Propaganda” at, the second photo source. “Today, it is much more costly to kill one enemy soldier than during World War II, World War I or in the Middle Ages,” he said in an interview (  -n Russian) on the state-run Rossiya 24 network. While the business of “persuasion” is more expensive now, too, he said, “if you can persuade a person, you don’t need to kill him.”

Perhaps the new administration, having waged multi-media; social media and traditional media campaigns will be more aware of the cost effectiveness of the influence weapon and will orchestrate the change needed for the US to not only counter other national efforts such as the Russian, but to take the influence high ground.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Counterintelligence & PSYOP

We often talk about the symbiotic relationship between PSYOP/MISO and intelligence. We know that we have to perform Intelligence Preparation of the Influence Battlefield (IPIB) and that this requires a combination of intelligence sources and work products.

General intelligence can yield information about the target area, demographics, terrain, weather, etc. Media specific intelligence can compare alternative media such as broadcast (tv/radio), print (newspapers/magazines) and social media to determine the audience composition of each and to suggest what combination of media would be the best for the mission at hand.

Not much thought seems to be given to the relationship between counterintelligence and PSYOP.

The August 20, 2016 edition of the Economist ran an article “Driving away the shadows” (see:, which is also the photo source.)

From a MISO perspective the relevant paragraph in the article states: “Other parts of the programme have grown, too. In 2015 social-media snoopers removed 55,000 pieces of propaganda, 22% more than in 2014. The government’s counter-propaganda was viewed 15m times, compared with 3m times in 2014. A typical example features interviews with the parents of British IS fighters, interspersed with scenes of Syrian devastation.”

 The term ‘social-media snoopers’ is interesting not just because of the catchy name, but because of the function. One could argue that these ‘snoopers’ are PSYOP analysts whose job it is to spot and remove enemy propaganda. Is that an intelligence or PSYOP function? Removal of enemy propaganda would logically reduce its effectiveness (as suggested by data in the article) and could also be seen as a way to bolster OPSEC as well.

In any event, it would appear that CI and PSYOP/MISO are closely related. This relationship is no doubt strengthened because of the use of Social Media for enemy propaganda and the real time interaction it generates.

The article also stands for the old saying that ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ meaning that good CI (and positive influence of course) can be part of a comprehensive program designed to thwart recruitment efforts.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Forget the Internet – You Need People To Stop ISIS Recruitment

Lawfare, an on-line site publication had an article on August 16, 2016, “To Stop ISIS Recruitment, Focus Offline” (see: The article seems counter to the popular believe that the Internet is the major recruiting source for ISIS.

There is no doubt that the Internet can provide information, act as a communications medium, and serve as a refuge for some. It can also be a communications medium where views and information are exchanged. The article states “A review by the Program on Extremism of the 100 ISIS-related legal cases in the United States shows that, with rare exceptions, friends, families, and romantic partners tangibly influenced the radicalization process.”

The level of influence from person to person contacts is probably higher than that in the virtual world. The article and others point to live social interaction as a starting point for relationships that grow into support and recruiting efforts.

The Islamic community in Minneapolis, the subject of the article, has been profiled in other articles such as the CBS Evening News, November 19, 2015 (, which is also the photo source).

A key tread is the isolating felt by youth in the community. Isolation can be assuaged through friendships made over basketball or other social activities. Once the individual’s trust is earned, then the recruiting can begin in earnest perhaps starting with propaganda videos and Internet activities.

The impact of the Internet should not be doubted. Here’s another piece first published by CNNMoney on September 30, 2014 (see: which does a nice job addressing the Internet side.

Reader comments encouraged.

I’m also looking for any feedback on the use of MISO Companies to support BCTs rather than MISO Companies supporting divisions.