Friday, July 29, 2016

Sarcasm Is Not A Good Approach To Tackle ISIS

As many of you know, as a native Brooklynite, I have been often accused of being sarcastic. Over the years I’ve learned that sarcasm can be a sharp weapon of humor, but not a general-purpose approach.

I believe successful sarcasm is steeped in nuance and must be tailored to a particular situation. It came as somewhat of a surprise to me that the State Department was employing sarcasm in their influence campaign as detailed in a NY Times article of Friday, July 29, 2016 (see: U.S. Drops Snark in Favor of Emotion to Undercut Extremists at:; which is also the photo source.) which is also the photo source.)

The article goes on to describe the approach to influence those who might leave their native countries to fight on behalf of ISIS. Media include: Facebook Instagram and Twitter. The article notes that there is also a need to distance the message from the source. That it is very likely that any message which appeared to come from the US government would be discarded out of hand.

The viewer or reader was more often ‘annoyed at its smug sarcasm rather than appalled at the horrific images on the screen’ according to the article. This comment resonates with me because the target audience has a mental picture of their personal assessment of ISIS where even horrific images purportedly portraying them would not move the influence needle.

Perhaps another error in judgment with the sarcastic approach is that one size or in this case, one message does not fit all. Research cited in the article and a dose of common sense would seem to indicate, that while there are common threads of motivating factors, the mix influencing each individual would differ significantly.

The influence missions is a difficult one and the disparity of the audience in terms of geography may very well be just as varied as the reasons that influence them.

One thing though is for sure -  the sarcastic approach is not working here.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Fighting ISIS With Humor!

It must be ISIS day today. Even though I just posted the Twofer entry, I couldn’t resist passing along this article from the Economist.

In my earlier posting I noted that there were a number of forces at play:

1.     The use of offensive cyber weapons against a non-traditional enemy.

2.     The employment of cyber influence along with traditional Military Information Support Operations (MISO).

3.     The execution of a coordinated set of operations involving both.

4.     Injection of other resources be they COTS, contract, mercenary or volunteers.”

According to a July 14th article from the Economist “Fighting Islamic State with laughter and a listening ear “ (see:, which is also the photo source) The administrator of the effort, who wished to remain anonymous for obvious reasons claimed that the effort is run by “claims that it is run by a group of volunteer activist lawyers, journalists and graphic designers from across the Arab world (including some in IS-held territories).”, or #4 on my list above.

The article states: “The Bighdaddy show, a collection of short videos satirising IS, is named after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, IS’s leader.”

According to the article it’s a regional effort on Social Media. Of course, there are no Nielsen ratings for Social Media.  I’m not an Arabic speaker, so I can’t comment on whether or not nuances of the language are appropriate, but I am of the opinion that these kinds of efforts are likely to be more effective than those that are produced beyond the area.

An ISIS Twofer As Today’s Posting

There is no doubt that ISIS is one of our primary threats today. Part of the challenge is that they are an international, non-traditional threat and unlike nation states – do not play by any rules.

It’s no secret that ISIS has become adept at employing technology to achieve their nefarious goals. At the moment it appears that our rule book isn’t working and that we are playing catch-up on two fronts: propaganda and cyber.

An excellent background article, “Inside the surreal world of the Islamic State’s propaganda machine.” appeared in November of last year. The article gives the reader an inside view of the ISIS propaganda machine. “(see:, which is also a photo source). “

Fast forward to 7/15/16 and we come across the article “U.S. military has launched a new digital war against the Islamic State” (see: which describes the efforts of Cyber Command to engage the enemy digitally.

Juxtaposing the two articles seems to give the edge to our adversary. The two articles leave you with the impression that the enemy has maintained the high ground in propaganda while the US is playing catch-up in dealing with the cyber battlefield and the digital influence war.

Of course, there is the on-going cat and mouse game where each party doesn’t really want to reveal how successful they may have been or if and how their enemy has negatively impacted their efforts. Yet it makes logical sense to step back for a moment.

I have always believed that ‘you train as you fight’. Unless you have trained and exercised to accomplish a task you are not likely to be very good at it.

There are several parallel efforts at work here:

1.     The use of offensive cyber weapons against a non-traditional enemy.

2.     The employment of cyber influence along with traditional Military Information Support Operations (MISO).

3.     The execution of a coordinated set of operations involving both.

4.     Injection of other resources be they COTS, contract, mercenary or volunteers.

One wonders how training is preparing our force to engage and dominate these battles.


Friday, July 15, 2016

Can International Law be a theme for MISO?

The Economist published an on-line article from their 16 July 16 Print edition, “The South China Sea – Courting Trouble” (see:; which is also the photo source.)

The upshot of the article  is that “the Permanent Court of Arbitration, an international tribunal in The Hague, has declared China’s “historic claims” in the South China Sea invalid”. The details of the case are not necessarily important here, and you can read about them in the article or elsewhere.

From a MISO perspective, let’s say you’re in a conflict where a case has gone to this venue or another respected international jurisdiction and the verdict came down on your side. Does this make it a great theme for MISO?

You might be tempted to jump to the conclusion that a respected international venue would certainly be a great justification and MISO theme. However, like many things legal related – it depends.

If your audience is one that respects international law and that court in particular and/or the audience is more or less in favor of your argument, then it just might work.

Unfortunately if your audience doesn’t believe that the court is fair or if the audience is  blatantly and perhaps irrationally opposed to your point of view , then your “international law argument” is not likely to be very effective.

If you run the campaign anyway, you might convince some people, but more likely you will provide fodder for the adversary.

Reader input encouraged!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Internet of Things – A MISO Tool Whose Time Is Near

Given all the recent terrorist attacks by Daesh and their brethren, I was looking for an angle for MISO that had some legs. In my ‘day’ job at TAL Global Corporation in addition as serving as General Counsel, I’m the technology guy. This means that I manage data forensics investigations and integrate technology into investigations (e.g. covert video) when it makes sense under the circumstances.

I’m also the proud owner of a new vehicle that sends me more e-mail than my younger son. Consequently, he Internet of Things (IoT) seemed like a logical topic.

For those of you who are not familiar with the concept, the IoT is connecting of formerly independent devices such as your car, TV, refrigerator, home thermostat, etc to the Internet.  You can find out more at:

The article and the video show a proof of concept of how it is possible to take over a target’s car remotely. While the temptation might be to turn that opportunity into a more lethal operation, combining the control of an automobile with a video message would seem to be a pretty good way to get someone’s attention.

Of course, this is probably a tactic you could only use once on a target because they would be pretty stupid if they did not increase the physical security of their vehicle after such an incident, but perhaps once is enough.

Reader input encouraged!