Friday, February 22, 2008

Can Disinformation be Credible PSYOP?

Today’s Asian Times on line is featuring an article: “Disinformation flies as US raises Iran bar” ( The article talks about the informational tug of war between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the US efforts to insure that Iran is the target of a new round of UN Sanctions. According to the author of the article: “a source close to the IAEA has called the US media reports "misleading". The source said: "Without going into the intelligence we may or may not have received, I can say that in my view, these news reports were misleading.”

At issue in today’s post is to offer a bit of analysis methodology to assess effect this ‘exposure’ of the alleged misleading nature of information provided will impact the battle for mindshare over the issue.

I’ve been often been accused of being a funny person, one who if life’s path were different, might have been a professional comedian. As a result, over time I have told people that “the best stuff is never made up”. This principle holds just as true in PSYOP as in comedy because the most effective PSYOP is the truth.

Another truth is that people believe what they want to believe. They tend to give more credibility to statements that prove their position than to efforts to discredit their position or change their mind. Consequently when information comes out that has in tainted in a credible way, that information is more likely to be disbelieved than it is to be considered by people holding opinions contra to that position.

The article author’s position is that Iran is within its rights to engage in nuclear ‘research’ and that the “IAEA must insulate itself from the disinformation campaign against Iran that has by all indications gone into a higher gear as we draw closer to the upcoming meeting of the IAEA’s board of governors, and it must ignore the intensifying American lobbying efforts and those of its junior partners such as France (at a recent meeting of France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy and the IAEA chief, Mohammad ElBaradei, the IAEA was urged to "stay firm" on Iran).”

Let’s look at the PSYOP/IO problem here. The article quotes an alleged source within the IAEA. The source is never named. The main thrust of the article is to reinforce the pro-Iranian position of the author. The messages are:
1. The US and its allies are trying to improperly influence the IAEA.
2. They are employing bad data (intelligence purportedly obtained from an unreliable source – stolen laptop) to do so.
3. The IAEA must remain above this sort of chicanery.
4. Iran is within its rights.

Some questions arise:
1. How credible/important is the Asia Times on-line in the information picture?
2. Who reads the Asia Times?
a. Direct Audience
b. Media that would parrot their position
c. Infuencers
3. What efforts (if any) should be made to counter this article?
I’m not going to offer responses here, but will strongly suggest that analysis like this is an important mission and that a “corporate” repository of the analysis, along with the responses and a tracking of their effects needs to be as much a part of the PSYOP arsenal as the loudspeaker.

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