Sunday, March 23, 2008

PSYOP and the Intelligentsia

The Merriam Webster dictionary defines intelligentsia as “intellectuals who form an artistic, social, or political vanguard or elite” (see It is generally conceded that the intelligentsia of any society exerts a disproportional influence on the population. They are generally regarded as thought leaders and are held in high regard by the rank and file population. If PSYOP campaigns are to be successful, they must be supported by the intelligentsia within the audience. These groups might be religious leaders, professionals such as academics, doctors or lawyers or they may be leaders who have emerged from their respective populations due to their leadership, charisma, military prowess or other accomplishments.

Intelligentsia groups have rigorous standards and norms. They are the opposite of the classic comment attributed to Groucho Marx: “I wouldn’t join any group that would have me as a member”. Membership in n these groups requires careful vetting and undoubtedly has a pre-requisite of credentials including academic degrees and perhaps licenses to practice. Anyone who has not cleared the bar of these qualifications is likely not to be admitted. The group tends to put the greatest credibility in their members, outsiders are generally regarded with disdain and have little influence on members.

Exceptions in some groups can be made where the outsider has obtained comparable credentials or recognition in an allied or parallel field or is vouched for by a group insider. Just as giraffes have giraffe babies and elephants have baby elephants, physicians tend to respect physicians, and lawyers respect most other lawyers (and judges of course), etc. Occasionally a professional in one field may be accepted in another, but this is not a given.

Consequently effective PSYOP in these environments requires significant planning and may require a longer time approach than that employed with other audiences. For example many professionals rely on their specialty journals as a source of reliable information. Even in the day and age of the Internet the paper magazine retains a lofty perch in some circles. This is especially true for older professionals who have not adapted well to the digital age, regardless of their setting. Journals might require several months lead time for articles so that a 90 day window from time of creation to publication would not be uncommon. Furthermore, authors of journal articles need to be subject matter experts (SME) as many of the articles are subject to peer review prior to acceptance for publication.

Should the PSYOP campaign were able to work with a credible member of the community, there is no guarantee that a particular publication would be accepted for publication and if it was published that it would have any influence at all. In addition the problem of attribution or collaboration may serve to negate any positive influence if the audience perceives that the PSYOP campaign influence itself pollutes the publication.

A way to success with this audience is an inside out approach. Leaders of the group or alternatively respected outsiders must be the lynchpin of any PSYOP effort. There must also be recognition that achievement of PSYOP goals may require a significant amount of time and patience and that care must be taken to deal appropriately with egos and emotions because these elements are often the real key to effectiveness is this kind of rarified environment.

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