Monday, April 30, 2018

China’s Military: A Very Successful Movie Producer

China News Magazine (May 2018) and their website (see:; which is also the photo source) ran a story entitled: “War Movies – Patriot Gains”, the subhead is “The success of china’s latest war movie, Operation Red Sea, is part of a new chapter in Chinese patriotic cinema, and reveals how China’s various military branches finance film.”

Movies are big business in China too the tune of $15.8 Billion in February – a record breaking performance even ahead off the best US monthly which the magazine reported as $13.95 Billion in 2011.

The PLA has been a big and successful backer of war movies having sponsored the current hit, Operation Red Sea (which also features the Chinese Navy), Wolf Warrior 2 (at left) last year which was SF themed and of course a PRC Top Gun – Sky Hunter.

Military produced films have ‘covered’ a number of conflicts (in Chinese terminology) such as the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45), China’s Civil War (1945-59) and the Korean War (1950-53).

The settings have evolved along with the PRC’s needs and messages moving into more modern conflicts and showcasing the PRC’s military prowess.

Operation Red Sea is being lauded as the first of a new generation of Chinese War movies. Like their Western Counterparts, Chinese war movies did not appeal to the younger generation of moviegoers. This resulted in transferring responsibility to a new segment of the PRC government. A key element is to stimulate pride in the PRC military and China’s newly elevated international status.

Alas these things don’t happen in America. Hollywood is after box office, and while some moviemakers will tout their social progress philosophy or protest purposes ultimately the free film market is about box office and maybe a bit about “Oscar”.

What are the lessons to be learned for the PSYOP Community?

Actually those lessons would be more DOD focused to include working with filmmakers to insure realism and to do what can be done to influence a balanced perspective.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Creating Disinformation Is Easier Than You Think

Fake news is perhaps more common these days than ‘real news’. On April 24, 2018 Bloomberg Politics reported “G-7 Says Tech Firms Like FaceBook and Twitter Will be ‘Held to Account’. (see:; which is also the photo source. I wondered just how hard it would be for two people to create their own disinformation (fake news).

As many of you know, I regularly participate in joint exercises as the IO SME and Role Player. In my most recent exercise I worked with a colleague to create two streams of disinformation.

At first I thought the idea of planning and executing a disinformation campaign would be pretty daunting. Frankly – it’s not.

Our targeting mission was pretty simple. It would be our job to confuse the friendly Public Affairs Team and Media Operations Center (MOC).

1. Pick The Media
Our first step was to pick our media. We decided to concentrate on a single media so that we could concentrate our efforts. Fortunately the exercise takes place in a closed, off the net, isolated system so we were not unduly concerned with leakage.

2. Adopt A Role
Next we adopted a fictional persona. Just as if we were in a play we did a mini-character analysis of our new identity and developed what we believed would be the key messages they would want to transmit.

3. Build A Couple of Story Lines
Once we knew who we were portraying and what we wanted to say we created a couple of story lines and drafted messages.

4. MESL Injection
Our finally step was to create a time to inject each message. Our chosen medium was a Tweeter Take Off - this meant we had to limit what we could say to remain inside the character limit.

The end result was that the students spotted one of our characters and crafted some very responsive counter-propaganda messages. The other character slipped through the cracks and was never picked up.

The key to success was a combination of creativity and sensitivity to the situation so that your disinformation campaign is credible and blends in with the rest of the journalistic landscape.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Photo Shop Badge With Twitter Cluster – New PSYOP Award

While many argue that Social Media is very noisy, no one would argue that it is not influential, nor that imagery is the most potent way to influence someone. An April 1, 2018 article in the NY Times (see:, Photo at Right) addressed how Israel and the Palestinians are both battling in the court of world opinion using dueling videos.

According to the article, Israel produced a video which you can see for your self at: This video claims to show Hamas fighters. Still below.

Not to be out done, Hamas purports show unarmed protesters being shot. You can see the female protester carrying her flag at: Still below.

I will leave it to personal judgment to determine the validity of these as well as others you may find.

This particular influence skirmish shows how high impact video can be merged with Twitter as a distribution medium to sway global opinion.

On a side note, I recently took part in an exercise where part of my role was to develop a Twitter Disinformation Campaign. One of my colleagues and I assumed two different adversarial roles and generated a number of “Tweets” (they weren’t really on Twitter, but on an internal closed system) ranting against the Americans and their allies in the host nation. I was pleased to see that the good guys picked one of the up and provided some very creative counter-PSYOP.

I’ll be hosting a Peer to Peer Session and giving a presentation on the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the European Union at the RSA Conference in San Francisco during the week of 16 April. If you’re attending comment on the post!


Fake News Beats Real News: Implications For PSYOP


The NY Times among others ran analysis of an MIT study comparing false news to real news. (see:, which is also the photo source below or  which is the photo source at right). Here are some of the highlights from my perspective:

1.     False news travels faster, farther and deeper through social media than true news.
2.     False claims were 70% more likely than the truth to be shared on Twitter.
3.     Software robots can accelerate the spread of false stories.
4.     When applying standard text-analysis tools, false claims were significant more ‘novel’ (meaning unusual/different) than true news.
5.     From a response perspective:
·      False claims elicited greater surprise and disgust.
·      True news inspired more anticipation, sadness/joy depending on the nature of the story.
6.     There is little certainty about the impact of false news on people’s beliefs and actions.

Clearly these key points are important for counter propaganda analysis. They can also provide some tips and pointers on the PSYOP transmit side as well.

1.     Make your message delivery vehicle different and inviting. Shy away from the listless and the bland.
2.     When developing counter propaganda, build from the emotions that were likely to be stimulated by the false news, especially when that propaganda elicited disgust.
3.     When analyzing propaganda consider Twitter to be among the least reliable of sources. Noting that ‘bots’ can generate significant volume. But also consider that volume of Tweets can be an intelligence indicator in and of themselves.
·      For example in disasters the volume of Tweets can reflect the public’s concerns. Initial high volume at the start of the disaster levels off and tapers off as the impact of the disaster fades.

The ubiquity and volume of social media are worthy of study and should be integrated into our PSYOP curriculum and exercises as a way of helping to create a real world environment.