Monday, March 28, 2016

Must Read Wired Article - Why ISIS is Winning the Social Media War - April 2016

Why ISIS is winning the Social Media War – Brendan I. Koerner
Wired Magazine, April 2016

Wired magazine ran a very interesting and must read article for PSYOP professionals addressing the why and how ISIS has turned itself into a media and branding machine.

I couldn’t find the article on line for some reason – it’s worth buy the magazine this month just for this article!

Here are some key points:

  • Daesh “has long taken pride in its flair for developing content that is innovative and repugnant in equal measure.” P 78
  • The shrewd use of digital media was integral to ISIS’ lightning-fast expansion in 2013 and 2014” p 80
  • The videos serve many purposes besides recruitment. Videos produced on ride alongs with death squads have “helped persuade police and soldiers in other cities to melt away rather than resist when they heard that ISIS forces were on the march.” P 81
  • “social media has lowered the bar of entry for recruits” p 81
The article concludes “ We must resist the distorting effects of the media “media halo” that the Islamic State has built for itself, while never forgetting the considerable power of our own.”

Photo Source: Wired Magazine pages 76 & 77, April 2016

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Can Irrational Leadership Help PSYOP Campaigns?

We all know that to be effective PSYOP must be based on truth.

In watching the pandemonium we call the Presidential election process, I’ve been wondering – would MISO/PSYOP be easier if the enemy believed your nation’s leader was irrational?

I recognize that this is a strange premise – not unlike the basis for the Broadway show “The Producers”. In the show Leo Bloom, an accountant convinces Max Bialystock a washed up producer that unscrupulous producers could make more money from a show that flopped than from a show that was successful. His theory was that if the show goes belly up the investors would not be looking for any of their money back so that the Producers could keep that money.

Returning to the case of irrational leaders – would a PSYOP campaign claiming that a potential catastrophic event will happen be more credible if the audience believed that the country’s leader would actually go through with it without regard to the rational consequences?

Turning to a very good example of irrational leadership, Kim Jong Un. Would we be more inclined  to believe that he would launch a nuke than we would one being luanched by a less ‘erratic leader’? I dare say that the media, at least ,pays attention to everything that the Supreme Leader says and scrutinizes it afterwards.

This is clearly not the case with Park Geun-hye, the President of the Republic of Korea to the South who is a more traditional head of state.

Consider this as our election season continues to unfold.

(Photo Source:

Friday, March 18, 2016

State Department to Lead New Global Counterterrorism Communications Office

The White House issued an Executive order on March 16, 2016 establishing the Global Engagement Center (GEC) “which shall lead the coordination, integration, and synchronization of Government-wide communications activities directed at foreign audiences abroad in order to counter the messaging and diminish the influence of international terrorist organizations, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), al Qa'ida, and other violent extremists abroad”

Here are a couple of highlights of GEC’s responsibilities taken from the Executive Order:

1.     coordinating, integrating, and synchronizing all public communications of the United States Government directed toward foreign audiences abroad in order to counter the messaging and diminish the influence of international terrorist organizations and other violent extremists abroad;
2.     identifying, engaging, employing, or acquiring the best available talent across the U.S. and from global private sectors, academia, and elsewhere to support the Center's mission;
3.     identifying shortfalls in any U.S. capabilities in any areas relevant to the Center's mission and implementing or recommending, as appropriate, necessary enhancements or changes; and
4.     (developing, supporting, and sustaining networks of governmental and non-governmental partners, to provide original content and disseminate messaging products to foreign audiences abroad and to create, develop, and sustain effective positive alternative narratives consistent with U.S. policy objectives.
The order also indicates that other departments are to cooperative in this venture.

What does this mean to the MISO Community?

For one thing it’s recognition of a worldwide communications challenge that needs to be globally managed. It also properly recognizes that communications outside the US is a diplomatic job and puts the onus where it belongs.

Conceptually at least this may mean an opportunity for members of the MISO community to be loaned out for TDY to help out. This may also mean that appropriate MIST teams may find themselves engaged with a fledgling entity.

In any event, it looks like a reasonable way to approach a growing challenge. 

Why the Gecko? Well GEC seemed to lend itself to the acronym and the linkage - after all, many people had quite a bit of fun with the swap of PSYOP for MISO. (Photo Source:

Friday, March 11, 2016

PSYOPing Convoys – Any Suggestions?

 Normally my postings are in ‘transmit mode, that is I’m sending information and/or opinion and analysis. Today’s posting is a bit different. I’m asking for some suggestions.

Recently I was working a CPX where the scenario called for non-kinetic measures to be applied against a convoy to encourage them to turn around before kinetic measures were taken. The scenario was written before I arrived on the scene so all I could realistically do is to work with what was given.

Small country wherein an Army officer had the loyalty of several brigades. One of those brigades was slated to move from its home location to the capital city as a part of an attack to dislodge the government.

The scenario I was given said “there were leaflets on the ground”, etc.

Other facts included that this particular army had no anti-aircraft capability other than small arms and RPGs. The convoy had only one route along the MSR.

My op was pretty simple. Rotary wing aircraft dropped leaflets on the convoy’s route with some of them actually falling over the vehicles (remember this is make believe).

Of course the convoy continued on until a couple of F18s took out the lead element.

I’ll be replaying this scenario in the near future and would appreciate any suggestions from the field.

Friday, March 4, 2016

To Lealet or Not To Leaflet – That is the question!

Leaflets and loudspeakers go together like “hearts and minds”. Are they as universally successful as some PSYOP/MISO experts would like us to believe or is their use over rated?

The MISO world is famous for, as I call them, “Surrender Now and Beat The Rush” campaigns. The classic campaigns in Iraq were touted as resounding successes and we have probably littered the landscape in almost every conflict we’ve been in. (see:,18570&hl=en)

The US is not the only country engaged in leaflet operations. The Koreas have traded leaflets over their borders for decades and even Israel has gotten into the act (see:

Are we caught confusing Measures of Performance (MOP) with Measures of Effectiveness (MOE)? MOP would be the number of leaflets dropped and MOE is what happened afterwards. How many enemy (or friendly) behaved in the manner prescribed by the leaflets.

In some conflicts such as Afghanistan the illiteracy rate is very high. Consequently leaflets cannot contain words. Given the culture abyss that exists between East and West – can effective leaflets be conceived that work on illiterate populations?

Sometimes leaflets without words are like jokes you don’t get. While the reference website for this week’s picture is not necessarily in the best of taste, the meme captures my feelings pretty well.

I’ve been involved in a number of exercises while serving and thereafter. Generally the faithful leaflet is called into service in just about all of them.

Are they useful in some situations – of course, are they the PSYOP silver bullet?

I think not.

(Photo source: