Thursday, June 22, 2017

Blowing up a symbol – act of defiance or desperation?


There are two articles about the destruction of the Al Nuri Mosque in Mosul. The NY Times calls it “Another Loss for Mosul” (see: http://nyti.ms/2sVnSL8, which is a photo source) and Task & Purpose, one of my favorite military sources, calls it “ISIS Just Rage – Quit The Siege of Mosul ….” (see: http://bit.ly/2rGIrI3, which is also a photo source.)

Both articles agree that the Mosque was a center of gravity the center of the purported Daesh Caliphate.The Times provides a lot of information about the history and influence of the Mosque over time.

Task & Purpose goes into more detail from a tactical perspective and addresses the ISIS claim that the mosque was destroyed by an allied airstrike.

From my perspective, Symbolism and PSYOP are not lost on ISIS. Time and again they have proven that they understand the influence game. By blowing up the Mosque they deny the probable victors endless influence opportunities.

The Mosque has been prominent in Mosul for centuries and it is a revered and recognizable symbol. While in ISIS hands it served them well as a showcase while it was in their hands.

The destruction of the Mosque is another example of how ISIS routinely ignores rules of any kind, whether religious or secular or humanity, to further their own cause. Their track record of destroying religious artifacts is well known with the Mosque being only the latest example.

Even when people see through the shallow ISIS claim that the Mosque was destroyed by an air strike is proven false; the victors will not be able to use the ancient Mosque as a platform to proclaim their victory and the righteousness of their cause.

While I’m an Influence Operations kind of guy, there is another perspective and that is “To Counter ISIS, You Must Embrace Violence” (see: http://bit.ly/2sZoAry, also a photo source.) I’ll save violence as a PSYAct for another day

Monday, June 12, 2017

Turning Propaganda Into News

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Recently I’ve focused on Twitter and how it can be used to ‘game’ the media. On June 8, 2007 the NY Times ran an article “How Russian Propaganda Spread From a Parrody Website to Fox News (see: http://nyti.ms/2sSkEFM, which is also the photo source). The block diagram below depicts the steps this fake news story followed from its inception to its legitimization by Fox News.

As a practical matter, there could have also been an another feeder stop along with the FaceBook box and that of course would be fake Twitter feeds as a means to jump start Tweets and re-tweets by legitimate and illegitimate sources. The combined velocity of social media ‘consciousness’ would add credence and value to the story. The article also references an earlier article from January 25, 2017, In Race Against Fake News, Google and FaceBook stroll to the starting line (see: http://nyti.ms/2taOwwA).

The deluge of criticism pushed FaceBook into increasing its efforts to block fake news. You can check out an earlier story from May 17, 2017 on this effort by USA Today, “Facebook takes a new crack at halting fake news and clickbait” (see: https://usat.ly/2rli0GI)

While one must applaud FaceBook for its efforts, the cynics among us (including me) believe that,  propaganda (fake news by another name) creators will employ other, more creative means to accomplish their tasks. The will be aided and abetted by a vast array of clueless people on social media as well as their own people and nefarious automated tools.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Twitter Is A Game With Real Consequences


I’m not much of games player, but I decided to play one today. I decided to follow @POTUS. I mean after all, how often is it that you can get statements right from the Horse’s Mouth.

The President has often been criticized for this Tweet from the Hip style. I dare say that it was that style that helped get him the White House in the first place. Does President Trump know how to play the Twitter game? It would seem so. (Photo Source: https://twitter.com/POTUS)

Others, like the media, perhaps, not nearly as good as understand the Twitter Game.

On May 23, 2017 the NY Times published an article entitled “How Twitter is Being Gamed to Feed Misinformation” (see: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/31/technology/how-twitter-is-being-gamed-to-feed-misinformation.html?_r=0; which is also a photo source). 

 
My own career has been intertwined with the media as well. I wrote articles for a variety of publications, published a couple of newsletters, and continue to write this Blog after almost 10 years.

I’ve also been someone who has worked with the international media in government, commercial and non-profit roles.

I’m learning that Twitter is not a purveyor of truth, but more of a conduit for thoughts emotions and messages. Tweeting is an accepted form of journalism and Tweets themselves are sources for journalists.

As the article notes the 140 character format is a godsend for journalists and others looking for short, pithy quotes that make their job easier. Unfortunately it doesn’t make the journalist more accurate, it just rewards laziness.

Twitter can also be the voice of the herd. Public interest and concern about national disasters can be gleaned from the type and velocity of Tweets about it. Traffic peaks and ebbs, reflecting the cumulative perspective of the herd.

Twitter is a notoriously unreliable source whose constituency includes  unreal people and groups and whose platform allows small groups to act and influence as big ones.

People and robotic re-Tweeting can add gasoline to the fire as noted in the article.

Given its importance perhaps those charged with implementing MISO should have a proficiency test as they do with their personal weapons.
Reader input invited.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Is it time to retire Loud Speakers in Favor of LRAD?


Frankly I didn’t know what a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) was until I saw an article in the June 1, 2017 printed edition of the NY Times which you can find on-line at: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/01/nyregion/sound-cannon-protest-lawsuit-long-range-acoustic-device.html?_r=0, (which is also a photo source).

The article addressed a law suit filed as a result of LRAD use on December 5, 2014 at a protest in Midtown Manhattan against a grand jury’s failure to indict a police officer whose choke hold killed Eric Garner. Among other capabilities, the LRAD can inflict permanent hearing damage although the article notes that the LRAD was designed to repel boarders after the attack on the USS Cole.

Compared to a noise flame thrower, the LRAD offers a number of other capabilities as explained on the vendor website: https://www.lradx.com/, which is another photo source.

The vendor shows variants of the LRAD that can provide Mass Notification or Public Address capabilities as well as integrate with existing communication systems. There is also the capability of employing the devices remotely.
 
If one burrows down a bit in LRAD Corp’s website, under the Investor tab, you will find a Corporate Presentation. Slide 12 which appears here gives the company’s position with in the defense industry. It would seem that the HA & DR application would be a MISO/PSYOP mission while Large Crowd Communications might be a Military Police or MISO/PSYOP mission.

As with many of today’s defense systems, the LRAD is complex, yet modular. Thus far the LRAD appears to be vehicle mounted and does not seem to be available in a Man Pack configuration at this time.

Given the range of capabilities, operators will need to undergo some very solid training on ROE and the legal aspects of LRAD use. While permanent hearing damage has been noted as a potential outcome, the lethality of this weapon has not been tested.

For example, if the LRAD is ‘fired’ at a moving vehicle disrupting the operation and causing a death – does his move LRAD into the lethal force domain or not.  

Reader input appreciated.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Your BFF is a Cossack!


Magazine via an article passed to me by a colleague, the Russians are employing electronic http://time.com/4783932/inside-russia-social-media-war-america/; which is also the photo source.

surrogates across Social Media as a means of waging war. (See:

One of the interesting aspects of the campaign described in the article is the combined use of people and automation to accelerate the pace of the social media battle. The deft use of algorithms to determine targets and key targeting hot buttons helps to add focus and impetus to the efforts.

Custom tailored messages can be sent by a combination of people and bots in a cleverly orchestrated campaign to alter behavior and opinions. The old saying ‘no none knows you’re a dog on the internet’ should be taken a step further. No one knows who you really are or who you can be on Social Media would be more accurate.

Just as an individual can take on fictional characteristics in a virtual reality game, it has become quite easy to develop a fake Social Media persona and exploit that persona as needed.

Each piece of propaganda in Social Media is a seed. The seeds are fed and nurtured until, much like Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors – they are not only out on their own, but possibly more powerful than those who helped create them in the first place (Photo source for Audrey 2: http://vignette2.wikia.nocookie.net/villains/images/d/de/Audrey2.jpg/revision/latest?cb=20091118000047)

Monday, May 22, 2017

SOCOM Deployments: A Predictor Of Future Combat


I spent more time than usual in front of my computer today and as a reward left my more enjoyable and interesting e-mail for the end of the day. I was struck by the juxtaposition of two articles. The first was from the May 17, 2017 Task & Purpose, “5 Maps that Show The Military Hotspots The US Military is Deployed Right Now” (see: http://bit.ly/2raCZjY; which is also a photo source. As an analyst I tend to look for things that are unusual.

Top of the ‘unusual’ list is the deployment of 300 Marines to Norway. The Army’s list showed a deployment of 3,500 in Poland. These two deployments are clearly meant to counter a perceived Russian threat and/or to make a statement about one. Given the headlines of actions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria – these two stood out.

On the Navy list I was somewhat surprised to see that the USS Carney Ross is deployed to South Sudan. I thought South Sudan was land locked which would make it a bit difficult to deploy an Arliegh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer inland.

As it turns out, this potential anomaly tied into the second article from Task & Purpose on May 18, 2017 “Report: SOCOM Has More Troops in Africa Than Anywhere Except the Middle East” (see: http://bit.ly/2qOKJaf; which is also a photo source.)

One could view the non-SOCOM Deployments as actions that are in play. Meaning that these conflict areas have enough going-on that it is necessary to station conventional forces. The Marines and the Navy, generally viewed as more mobile can be shifted to other locations more quickly.

However, the biggest takeaway is that SOCOM forces are a ‘preview to coming attractions’ and portend where the next major deployments can be expected to take place. BG Donald Bolduc, head of SOCAFRICA’s thoughts were summarized as ““Africa’s challenges could create a threat that surpasses the threat that the United States currently faces from conflict in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria,” Bolduc warned. He went on to cite a laundry list of challenges with which he and his personnel must contend: ever-expanding illicit networks, terrorist safe havens, attempts to subvert government authority, a steady stream of new recruits and resources.”

Reader comments, as always are encouraged and I’m especially curious as to feedback on the Carney Ross.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

On-Line Education For Terrorists & Wannabes


I have been an on-line instructor for American Military University since 2009. My students are not easy to categorize except they are mostly either serving or former military or individuals seeking to break into the intelligence community as a career.

AMU and its parent, APUS, offer asymmetrical courses. This means the students and the instructors are not on-line at the same time. The materials started out like traditional, brick and mortar schools meaning they were a combination of documents and books.

Video is generally considered a way to make the ‘classroom’ more inviting. I fact, when I developed a course for AMU entitled “Cyber & The Intelligence Cycle”, my supervising Faculty Director told me I had to provide 20 minutes of ‘entertainment’ for the students. If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll send you a like to one of the PPT lectures that I recorded with my voiceover.

Apparently the use of videos in on-line education is an international trend. While researching for this week’s Blog post I saw some information about Wilaya Ninwa, the propaganda arm of ISIS. In rummaging around the Internet I came across a new source (see: http://bit.ly/2qt4rIv, which is also the photo source).  The reference to the trigonometric formula that the tangent = the opposite/the adjacent was not lost on me and indicates a unique analytical perspective.

They featured a 35 minute video among others. The referenced link offers some analysis of the video as well as some clips.

I was struck, not by the fact that they were using videos, but the length. Given the probable target demographic I was quite surprised that the video is over 10 minutes long. Perhaps this because the video is meant to be a recruiting tool or a subliminal persuader and not a being a training vehicle.

As I learn more about video, it appears that 10 minutes is the sweet spot. I’d be very interested in learning what readers have to say on the subject.