Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Train Them While They Are Small

 I had put away an article about the PRC’s control of textbooks in elementary schools, but somehow it disappeared. However, I did find this article that addresses education in the PRC: China battles foreign influence in education (see:, which is also the photo source).

The Chinese have always been long haul players. Unlike many other cultures, the Chinese understand that influence requires frequency of messaging and controlling messages.

One of the dilemmas faced by countries is how much influence they want to let in from the outside and who can access it. According to the article the last front in the influence war are international schools catering to Chinese citizens and migrants, non-Chinese citizens inside China. Attendance at these schools has, for the most part been restricted.

One of the more interesting approaches to insuring that the youngest students get only ‘approved’ messages is a new law that “bans for-profit private schools from teaching the first 9 years of compulsory education.”

Of course you must appreciate that most parents want their children to attend prestigious Chinese Universities. Entrance exams for these native schools ‘prize rote learning over critical or lateral thinking.”

As noted in the article “The Communist Party is instead seeking to inculcate young Chinese with its own ideological values: the new directive on for-profit schools calls on them to “strengthen Party-building”. After pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989, nationalistic “patriotic education” classes were stepped up in schools, a move that Xi Jinping, the president, has taken to new levels since 2012, seeking to infuse every possible field with “patriotic spirit”. “Morals, language, history, geography, sport and arts” are all part of the campaign now. Unusually, he also seeks to include students abroad in this “patriotic energy”.

The article concludes on a somewhat optimistic note: “Restricting for-profit schooling also risks hitting another growing educational market: urban private schools that cater to migrant children who cannot get places in regular state schools because they do not have the required residence permits. A law that undermines educational opportunities for the privileged and the underprivileged at once could prove far more incendiary than a little foreign influence.”

PSYOPers should be aware of the power of schools, even our own. If you have not taken part in your child’s career day you are missing an opportunity to share your experiences, but to also experience a bit of your child’s education. Clearly something every parent should do.

Monday, February 12, 2018

“Honey – are you home from the War?”


I have often said that the funniest stuff is never made up.

Of course, I come from a Western mentality and my household doesn’t run like they did in the 1950s where Dad worked and Mom stayed home to cook and clean and otherwise feather the nest. While I was aware that Al Qaeda groups didn’t think much of women and their role in warfare while others embraced them as warriors, it didn’t occur to me that these two views would play themselves out in terrorist media wars.

Imagine my surprise when I caught the article “How to please your holy warrior’ in the February 3, 2018 of the Economist. (see:, which is also the photo source).

The article addresses the al-Qaeda published magazine for women called Beituki (“Your Home”). Rather than grab your rifle and kill infidels, the magazine urges““Make your house a paradise on earth,” it advises. “Prepare the food your husband loves, prepare his bed after that and do what he wants.”

The Al Qaeda view is contrary to ISIS and the Taliban who believe that women should be out there creating mayhem, just like their male counterparts. Rather than showing women in action, Beituki shows neat designer homes and domestic bliss.

While trying to find the actual Beituki website, I came across another reference which prepared an ‘infographic’ of their concept of the Al Qaeda magazine which you can see here and at:

Unfortunately there is no data available to determine which of these competing views is more popular – go out there and shoot or stay home and cook.

There is a key message for PSYOPers though and that is you can’t take your own viewpoint as the most popular one or the perspective that will be embraced by your target audience.

Reader input invited.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Books – Key to Afghan PSYOP?

The 4 February 2018 NY Times ran a front page article “though Most Afghans Can’t Read, Their Book Trade is Booming” (see: which is also the photo source).

According to the article, there are only two things that Afghanistan does not import: opium and interestingly enough – books! While only 40% of Afghans are able to read, apparently that 40% reads quite a bit. One Afghan publisher describes the situation like this: “Publishers are all trying to find new books to publish, young people are trying to find new books to read, writers are looking for publishers. It’s a very dynamic atmosphere. And it’s something independent, with no foreign assistance.”

Kabul has 22 book publishers and 60 registered bookstores serving a population of over 5 million. Of course it’s not all blue sky. Translating a book from other languages can be problematic and, as to be expected in a country bereft with corruption, there is an increasing number of pirates who can sell 4 times as many copies as the legitimate publisher.

Given that the readers of books are exactly the kind of audience you would like to reach, does it make sense to foster publishing books that support the American messages?

As it turns out self-help books, especially those offering to help the reader get rich are popular. The article notes that Ivanka Trump’s “Women Who Work” is very popular, especially among female readers. That book was panned in a New Yorker Review in May 2017 (see:

Nevertheless it is refreshing to read something that is not focused on Social Media and perhaps, just perhaps helping get the message across with an old fashioned book is the key to influence in Afghanistan.