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: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6192733/CIA-declassifies-cache-Soviet-jokes-agents-compiled-Cold-War.html, which is a photo source).
You can find the two pages of the original, which was approved for release on 16 September 2013 at: https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP89G00720R000800040003-6.pdf
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!