I was camped out in front of the TV last night (21 Feb 12) watching NCIS, one of CBS’ top Dramas when I was quite amazed to find out that there was a “Top Secret PSYCH OPS” unit at the Pentagon headed up by none other than Jamie Lee Curtis. Now for a man in my age bracket the latter was OK, but the former wasn’t quite right.
According to CBS: “When a high-level security Navy reservist is found dead, Gibbs (Mark Harmon, left) goes face-to-face with Dr. Samantha Ryan (Jamie Lee Curtis, right) of the PsyOps Division to uncover the truth behind the potential suicide on NCIS” (quote and photo source: http://www.cbs.com/shows/ncis/photos/83520/season-9-episode-16/83500)
Overall, they got most of it wrong – at least to my knowledge. The Army, not the Navy is the lead MISO element and if f they were looking for psychologists they should have checked out the Air Force which is more into the behavioral aspects of MISO then the Army which is focused on influence operations.
The most egregious misconception is that MISO uses drugs and magnetic radiation to induce people to commit suicide. Also in the ‘wrong’ department is that they certainly don’t have leadership that looks anything like Jamie Lee Curtis.
Beyond MISO there was a healthy dose of Counter Intelligence (CI) in the form of the lead suspect. Of course the notion of spies catching spies is a well honed tradition and this particular setting to include the DEA struck me as sort of right although this is not my area of expertise.
The most accurate part of the episode in my opinion was the revealed by coquettish, yet gothic Abby “Pauley Perrette”. Abby’s data forensics analysis unearthed a systematic scheme of altering of the information presented to the victim through his computer. Fake Google search data, bogus sports scores and other misinformation colored his perception of the world around him. No doubt reinforcing the confused state he was under.
Of course I know that NCIS is entertainment, but alas, most people who watch TV don’t. A large chunk of American viewers believe if they see it on TV it must be the truth and it would appear that Congress is part this group.
I’ve sometimes posited the theory that Internet notwithstanding, television is the most powerful influence weapon. Cleary a series like NCIS which aired its 200th episode on February 8 is more influential than most.
The question becomes how can the MISO/PSYOP Community inform the public and especially Congress about our true missions and high value add to the war fighter? Perhaps this is the opportune time for e-mailing your elected officials to do so.