Monday, December 17, 2018

Don’t Overlook The Obvious

We all spend a lot of time in cars, but we might be overlooking an under employed PSYOP medium right outside our windshields: Billboards. The December 17, 2018, NY Times ran an article “Digital Data Gives Billboard Owners More Reason to ‘Love a Good Traffic Jam’ (see:, which is also the photo source.)

According to the NY Times the average commuter’s one-way trip in the US was not quite a half hour. While some people are indeed illegally looking at their phones, most are looking out the windshield and can help but see the billboards in front of them.

We used billboards and posters on trolleys in Bosnia during my tour there in 1997 -1998 and there are some other good spots up for grabs around the world. Different locations have different perspectives on billboards.

If you’re interested in buying a good spot in Moscow, check out: (another photo source). Muscovites also spend quite a bit of time in their cars, perhaps a little turnabout would be fair play. Of course, I’m sure that Mr. Putin, being a former spy has a seasoned network of media watchers on the lookout for anomalies in media messaging that deviate from the party line.

Cuba, on the other hand recognizes the importance of billboards as a way to constantly convey messages about the revolution and proselytize for the Communist way of life. (see:, another photo source.) 

Then again, recognizing the potential of billboards is not always a good thing. Beijing has a different approach, they hate them and have been systematically destroying them. (see:, another photo source.)

And the award for best use of billboards for PSYOP goes to Israel for pictures of Israeli soldiers on a billboard in Tehran, Iran commemorating a war memorial. (see:, another picture source). How they got there no one (except perhaps the Mosad) seems to know.

Billboards can also be an effective medium because they are visible. Imagery can potentially convey what words cannot as demonstrated by the Israeli soldiers who were identified because of their US made M16 rifles. Target populations with low literacy rates in densely populated cities can also be reached via this medium.

Consider this week’s posting a break from your typical digital overload. At the moment, I’m planning on this being the last posting of 2018 as I will be deploying as a Public Affairs Manager to support the Red Cross recovery efforts in conjunction with the Camp Fire in Northern California.

May 2019 be the very best of years for you and yours.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

No Wonder the USG Can’t Do Cyber Influence - It Can’t Even Do Radio!

The NY Times National December 13, 2018 print edition ran a below the fold, page 1 article “Troubled Vessel for US Ideals Faces New Tilt”, the same article on line was titled: Troubled by Lapses, Government’s Voice to the World Braces for New Trump Management” (see:, which is also a photo source).

The Voice of America (VOA) mission is “Since its creation in 1942, Voice of America has been committed to providing comprehensive coverage of the news and telling audiences the truth.”

It self describes itself as “Voice of America (VOA) is the largest U.S. international broadcaster, providing news and information in more than 40 languages to an estimated weekly audience of more than 275 million people. VOA produces content for digital, television, and radio platforms. It is easily accessed via your mobile phone and on social media. It is also distributed by satellite, cable, FM and MW, and is carried on a network of approximately 2,200 affiliate stations.”

The VOA prides itself as having a firewall that “prohibits interference by U.S. government”.

The Times report not only illustrates some cracks in the all, but a bevy of misconduct that has severely tarnished the VOA’s reputation. In 2013, none other than Hillary Clinton declared that the Board of Governors of the VOA “practically defunct in terms of its capacity to be able to tell a message around the world”. You can hear it for yourself at:, which is also a photo source)

Clearly the task of blending journalism with political messaging is fraught with challenges. The success of journalistic message ultimately rests with their reputation for truth. While there is not doubt that message selection, wording, tone and visuals shape that message, influence efforts are based on truth.

The NY Times and others are more than a little concerned that as the political appointees of President Trump assume their roles, the definition of ‘truth’ will slip far to the right. Michael Pack, the nominee for VOA Board of Governors CEO ‘runs a conservative film making business in his home. You can check out his company and spouse/VP at:

It’s hard enough developing content that appeals to foreign audiences. Content that is liberally (pardon me) laced with clearly self-serving government interest as expressed by Mr. Trump’s desire for “our own Worldwide Network to show the World the way we really are, GREAT” is doomed to failure before it starts (see:, also a photo source.)

VOA is a proof of concept, albeit a bad one, that the US government (USG) is unable to perform even rudimentary, country focused, radio based influence operations. It’s no wonder that cyber influence remains even more elusive.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

If NATO cyberspace policy violates many of the principles of war – What hope is there for cyber influence?

The November 16, 2018 on-line edition of Breaking Defense ran an article “NATO To ‘Integrate’ Offensive Cyber By Members (see:, which is also the photo source).

NATO established a Cyber Operations Center (CYOC) on August 31, 2019 to serve as a focal point for the Alliance’s cyber efforts and to insure that the Alliance had situational awareness concerning the cyber efforts of its members. According German MG Wolfgang Renner, head of the CYOC, “NATO is clear that we will not perform offensive cyberspace operations ….. However, we will integrate sovereign cyberspace effects from the allies who are willing to volunteer.”

To say that such a cyber policy is nascent would be kind. The policy is far from official even though NATO members engage in cyberspace operations everyday. It’s a military, legal and technical quagmire that appears to be in danger of violating many of the longstanding principles of warfare.

Serving on a NATO staff requires not only the skill and knowledge required of your rank and your specialty, but a certain kind of finesse that allows you to work well with international colleagues who will often out rank you. You also will need to know when your country’s national influence needs to be in play and when to work for the good of the alliance.

We know that cyberspace operations are fast moving and we also know that they don’t respect borders. If several of the 29 member states’ interests are attacked simultaneously it is only natural to assume that the military of that country will give the highest priority to their own self-defense.
This sort of ad hoc approach would seem to violate the principle of Unity Command right off the top.

Given that each member state will have different priorities, this would also seem to violate the principles of Objective and Mass. Each member state will pursue different objectives and the total mass of the cyber force (and its resources) will be diluted.

Which leads me to yet another principle that appears to be in jeopardy – Simplicity. The “Fog of War” is nothing compared to the fog of cyberspace operations. The variables at play and the speed of the interaction is unlike the traditional domains.

Knowing that even the best plan often doesn’t survive contact, it would seem that MG Renner and his staff have their work cut out for them. Of course, the focus on cyberspace operations here are things like Distributed Denial of Service, Malware, etc., I’m willing to be they haven’t considered or are woefully understaffed to address the impact of Cyberspace operations as a PSYACT or optimizing the diverse influence of the Alliance members while minimizing second and third order effects.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Main Street USA: Latest Chinese Propaganda Target

On October 20, 2018 Yahoo Finance ran an on-line article “China broadens its propaganda drive to heartland America” (see:, which is also a photo source).  The article noted how the Chinese publication ChinaWatch (which you can see on line at: ran a series of articles targeted at US soybean farmers.

I did a search today (15 Nov 18) on that site and two articles came up dated a couple of days ago. See photo. According to the article, the Chinese were using their publication to try and drive a wedge between President Trump and his Midwest Farmer supporters.

An interesting element of the article was the conclusion that Chinese publications are offered advertising space in US publications, especially newspapers, because the revenue from those accounts help to stem the overall decline of newspaper revenue.

Perhaps the Chinese have succumbed to the use of Measure of Production (we ran all these ads) rather than Measures of Effectiveness (the defection of the President’s supporters to the PRC’s perspective of the Trade war.

The Chinese claim that they didn’t violate any laws nor does the Chinese government interfere in other countries’ affairs or elections. You can read more about the statement and the context at:, which is also a photo source.

From an effectiveness standpoint, I don’t think there are many in the PSYOP community, especially those from farming areas that believe that the Chinese Publications had any influence at all.

Perhaps the political motivation to show off ‘production’ to the masters in Beijing was the real goal and not successful influence operations. 

In my view, this initial effort is an influence camel’s nose coming under the US tent. It may take a while for the camel to get in, if at all, but that nose is doing more than just nosing around.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Chinese Long Haul in the African Media Market

The October 20, 2018 print edition of the Economist ran a story: “Chinese media in Africa: Soft power and censorship”. You can see at (, which is a the photo source).

The bulk of the article details how, in spite of major investments; the Chinese are not making much of a dent in the Chinese Media market. The Chinese Global TV Network (see: opened a bureau in Africa in 2012. They also launched a newspaper, China Daily Africa and ChinAfrica a magazine while half the journalists may be African, it’s clear that Beijing pulls the strings.

The article noted that there are always two editorial meetings at GCTN stations. The first for the general staff and the other is where the Chinese editors seek story approval from their Beijing masters.

While ‘old fashioned propaganda’ may have stalled, the article continues, the Chinese have embarked on a three-pronged approach to expand their interest.

1.     A mass training program for African journalists.
2.     Chinese investment in private companies such as the South Africa based Independent Media where the Chinese no have a 20% interest.
3.     Expansion of StarTimes, (see photo from website) a pay TV network now in 25 countries and claiming 24 million subscribers, a figure doubted by many experts.

What is interesting about StarTimes is its wide range of content which according to the article includes: “Chinese Super League football, kung-fu movies and soap operas. StarTimes even hosts competitions for African actors to dub dramas into languages such as Hausa and Swahili, a move few Western broadcasters have bothered with.”

It is the last activity that should pique the curiosity of the PSYOP community. By writing their own dramas the Chinese are subtlety deciding what people see and by making that ‘entertainment’ available in native languages while others do not, it’s clear to see how a long haul strategy will give the Chinese dominance in small market segments.

Of course small segments can serve as jump off points to bigger ones on the road to systematic domination of the larger market.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Social Media Makes Perception Reality

I have written several posts on the impact of Social Media. The 10/2/18 Foreign Policy Magazine ran an article “The Future of War Will Be ‘Liked’ (see:; which is also a photo source) which echoed my thoughts in a very authoritative way.
As noted in the article, many state and non-state actors use social media “to ridicule their foes and expand their influence, in a world where online sway can drive real-world power. Yet beneath it all, a more serious side of conflict also takes place, its ammunition the bevy of images taken from actual battles. Today, nearly all our moves are tracked, including those in anything from election campaigns to military ones.”

My Blog entry of 9/7/18 Facebook Emerges As Major Weapons System in Libya I discussed how FaceBook served as an intelligence source, the article nicely observes the same – “to ridicule their foes and expand their influence, in a world where online sway can drive real-world power. Yet beneath it all, a more serious side of conflict also takes place, its ammunition the bevy of images taken from actual battles. Today, nearly all our moves are tracked, including those in anything from election campaigns to military ones.”

The article continues “Some of it is intentional: selfies taken in the midst of battle, observers watching events, smartphone in hand. Others are captured in the background: be it images that lay in the distance or even information in the digital background, from the geolocation of CIA black sites revealed by guards’ use of exercise apps to the metadata that accompanies every online post. The result is that the smallest of firefights is observed by a global audience, while terrorist attacks are even shared out live by the killers themselves. ….. It works for both good and bad: Terrorists use this information to win new recruits; human rights activists use it to highlight the plight of civilians caught in harm’s way and even steer rescues their way. During the 2016-2017 Battle of Mosul—the most livestreamed and hashtagged siege in history—thousands of virtual observers waited for each new snippet of content, spinning it to all of these ends at once.

Social media is becoming as important as kinetic operations because, according to none other than GEN Stanley McChrystal, as he explained, is that battles are now being waged over truth itself. In these fights, “the line between reality and perception will be blurred,” he said. “Separating fact from fiction will be tough for governments but almost impossible for populations.”

It is this later fact that needs emphasis. The truth is what the population believes and all too often they believe the cesspool of information on Social Media.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Jokes As PSYOP?

In my youth in Brooklyn I was pretty good at ‘ranking out’ or belittling an opponent verbally. In fact, that skill put me on the math team in high school. I didn’t solve many problems. My job was to ‘psych out’ the other team. Many people say that my skills have improved with age.

Last week I heard how the Australian Olympic sailing team worked on their British opponents by congratulating them on the win of the Silver Medal – of course the Aussies wanted the gold!

Turns out monitoring jokes is good entertainment, a source of counter-intelligence and potentially OPSEC vulnerabilities as well. The British Daily Mail of Wednesday, Sep 26th 2018 featured an article    (see: The CIA joke-book: US declassifies cache of Soviet jokes its agents compiled during the Cold War to gauge public mood in the USSR” (see:, which is a photo source).

You can find the two pages of the original, which was approved for release on 16 September 2013 at:

In PSYOP we can employ humor in a subtle way to influence the target’s behavior. The Soviet intelligence agents were checking the morale and potential vulnerability of their population to subversion by monitoring their jokes.

One sample from the article goes like this: “'An American tells a Russia that the United States is so free that he can stand outside the White House and yell "to hell with Ronald Reagan."
The Russian replies: 'That's nothing, I can stand outside the Kremlin and yell "to hell with Ronald Reagan too!"
Here’s another one: “'A Russian man reappears in Moscow after an absence of 15 years and explains he was in prison for calling Josef Stalin a fathead.
"That's a long sentence for criticizing the leader," his friend says.
"Oh, only got a year for that" he replies. "I got 14 years for revealing a state secret."
Given the state of today’s news – I felt we all needed a break!

Friday, September 7, 2018

Facebook Emerges As Major Weapons System in Libya

The NY Times article in the September 4, 2018 print version was “Libyan Fighters Wilde   Screens” (see:, which is also a photo source).
Facebook Like a Weapon”. The online version headline was: “A Face book War: Libyans Battle on the Streets and on

Facebook has become not only a bully pulpit for “boasts, taunts and chilling threats”, and a source of ‘fake news’ and hate. In addition to its role in cyber influence, Facebook is also an intelligence source wherein enemy forces provide detail information on how to locate and destroy potential targets.

Pages attributed to terrorist leaders can be found at:

While Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg defended her company’s efforts to the Senate Intelligence Committee (see for example: Facebook continued to serve as an information conduit for arms dealers (here’s what Facebook considers a firearm: and misinformation. The company’s efforts to remove content that violates its principles such as organizations or people who are involved in organized violence are noteworthy they are the 21st century equivalent of cleaning the Augean stables. (Get the book on iTunes at:

There have been many analyses of the conflicts in Libya. You can read one of them at: Libya remains a fertile ground for conflict and crime. This is yet another proof point for the power and versatility of social media.

Social Media is clearly a battlefield multiplier and ‘we’ need to insure that our cyber

influence force is the most capable in the world and that we can also apply Counter Intelligence and Counter Propaganda tools to help advance our goals and objectives.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Microsoft Discovery of Russian Republican Hacking: Revealing or Marketing?

The NY Times and other publications ran a story “New Russian Hacking Targeted Republic Groups, Microsoft Says” (see:, which is also a photo source.) Digging a bit I found an original source from Microsoft see:, another photo source).

The lead for that story is “We are taking new steps against broadening threats to democracy” which is an entry in Microsoft on the Issues, The Official Microsoft Blog. That entry replete with informative hotlinks, addresses how the US general election in 2016 and the May 2018 French presidential elections were tampered with.

Microsoft goes on to describe that “Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) successfully executed a court order to disrupt and transfer control of six internet domains created by a group widely associated with the Russian government and known as Strontium, or alternatively Fancy Bear or APT28.”

As a software superhero, Microsoft is using its powers only for good and will provide Microsoft AccountGuard, “state-of-the-art cybersecurity protection at no extra cost to all candidates and campaign offices at the federal, state and local level, as well as think tanks and political organizations we now believe are under attack. The technology is free of charge to candidates, campaigns and related political institutions using Office 365.” (Emphasis added by the Blog Writer)

Interestingly enough, a search of the Microsoft website for “AccountGuard” ( pulls up only two results, neither of which relates to the product noted above. Check out the screenshot.

What does this all mean? There are two key takeaways:

1.     Stronger security can be a marketing advantage if properly used to buoy a product’s perceived level of security. Microsoft is facing increasing competition from Google’s G-Suite as large organizations, especially government organizations and schools move away from Office.
2.     The Russians have clear guidance on the purpose of cyber influence. They understand how to blend and bend technology to alter the information people see and to influence their votes.

As to the second point, it appears to me that the US has adopted a version of Henry Stimson’s “Gentlemen don’t read each other’s mail” which effectively killed SIGINT by hobbling our Cyber Influence efforts because “Nations don’t interfere with the politics of other nations to support their own goals and objectives”.

Monday, August 13, 2018

PSYOP Support to California Wildfires

I was deployed as a Red Cross Public Affairs Officer as a part of the relief efforts at the Mendocinco California Complex Fires. This was the largest wildfire in California history. As of 7 AM today, 12 August 18, the fire burned 344,890 acres, destroyed 147 residences, damaged 13 more and still threatens 1,025 structures (see:
Here’s the bottom line up front: local media, especially FM radio is the most trusted source of information and Social Media is a cesspool.

In walking through the Red Cross shelters I learned that the most popular source of information was KPFZ radio from Lakeport, CA (see: One evening I called in as the Red Cross Public Information Officer. I was on the air for 15 minutes of live call radio. At the time the fire was still quite active and we had 6 shelters running which accommodated over 500 people on the evening of 4 August.

Listeners were candid and overall were somewhat surprised to have information straight from the source. The next day I went to the station and spent 45 minutes live fielding questions and I called in a couple of times since.

I was interviewed by three different TV crews from two different San Francisco’s TV channels and did a number of phone interviews, including the NY Times. You can see my quote in the article at:

While I was working with the ‘traditional’ media, my colleagues were dealing with Social Media, primarily FaceBook. Unfortunately my experience last week confirmed what we already know. Anyone can say anything, and perhaps more importantly, they will be believed by more people than you would expect without any regard to the truth or even the plausibility of what’s said.

One of the Red Cross Shelters was at the Twin Pine Casino, a facility run by the Pomo Indians in Middletown, CA (see: This meant that not only were the Federal, State and County governments involved, but tribal government as well.

While I won’t speculate on why government officials visit, but you can get a feel for their popularity in this picture of Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA).

This posting represents the essence of my week – if you have specific questions, or topics you would like me to explore, let me know. For those of you who are interested, you can read the DoD doctrine in JP 3-28 Defense Support of Civil Authorities, 31 July 2013 (see:


Thursday, August 2, 2018

POVA Reunion/POA Rendezvous - What Did You Miss?

My wife and I had the pleasure of spending July 19 – 22 in Cleveland along with our brothers and sisters across the PSYOP Community. I thought it appropriate to write this week’s Blog posting on the event for the benefit of those of you who couldn‘t make it.

First of all we learned that the PSYOP Regiment has a Commandant. In ‘the olden days’, we always thought of the Commandant as the Commanding Officer of the training center or school we were attending. Colonel Robert Curris, former 4th POG CDR is our current Commandant residing at SWC or more properly the US Army Special Operations Center of Excellence.

His role as lead of our Regiment is to shepherd the branch in such a way as to provide the optimal force to support the national defense mission. This includes the critical areas of training and doctrine among others.

It was more than enlightening to learn what was going on in PSYOP today from someone who is making it happen. Make no mistake there are ongoing challenges across the force particularly in recruiting and fighting the cyber influence battle, however, the Regiment continues to move forward.

I was also able to rekindle some old friendships with colleagues from the 2nd PSYOP Group who I haven’t seen in 20 years (to be kind). As is the case with most military friendships, connections were renewed instantly and it was good to catch up.

We expanded our horizons by learning about PSYOP from the Australian perspective from Derrill de Heer, a life member of POVA. (who you can learn more about at:

POVA’s progress is nothing short of remarkable. We have over 400 active members with almost 150 life members across the US active, reserve and veteran force along with a growing number of international members.

The PSYOP Association (POA) hosted an educational half day program and launched their new Mobile App which you can get at: and checkout their website at:

POA also extended an invitation to Cleveland’s Vietnamese community who were very well represented at the event as well.

We also took advantage of seeing some of the sights in Cleveland such as the world famous Rock and Roll Hall of Fame including a tour of Johnny Cash’s bus and a lunch cruise on Lake Erie on the Nautica Queen.

See you at Fort Bragg in 2020!

Friday, July 13, 2018

PSYOP Paper That Talks!

Defense One ran article in June 2018 about a new procurement by USSOCOM. According to the which described a high tech ‘paper’ that played a 30 second message.

article (which you can see at:

The prototype demonstrated at the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference ( had a writable area between 4 and 6 square inches. SOCOM is looking for suppliers who can provide paper that can “be printable “in the field [to be] deployed or scattered across designated areas to broadcast information as well as provide feedback to assist in MISO planning and analysis.” The technology behind the talking paper is impressive and you can learn more at:

Way back in December 2014 none other than the New Yorker magazine thought: “Graphene may be the most remarkable substance ever discovered. But what’s it for? (see:, which is also a photo source) If you are thinking of investing in graphene stocks, check out this May 2017 article:, which of course may be out of date and is another photo source.

While advancing the technology behind the trusty leaflet should be applauded, I wonder just how useful this technology would be. In a previous posting I believe I mentioned the notion of using the same technology as today’s greeting cards – a cheaper, COTS alternative which would appear to accomplish the same objective – that is delivering sound to those who can presumably not read.

For the sake of argument, let’s assume the technology works and that you can create a 30 second message on a paper that’s the thickness of 4 pages – so what!

1.     How much effort is required?
2.     Will the ‘field’ really be able to make use of the technology as easily as the classic Rizzo leaflet?
3.     Will it work?
a.     Will the target actually listen to it?
b.     Will it be credible?
c.      Can a one shot deal have any impact at all?
4.     How much will it cost?
5.     Would the money be better spent elsewhere – say on harnessing COTS or Printerest like social media?

I’ll leave the answers to your summer thinking. Have fun at the beach.

If you are going to the POVA Reunion next week in Cleveland – introduce yourself!

If you’re not and your PSYOP professional, you’re missing quite the opportunity.

Check out: