This is another article in which I take a slight detour from our usual theme of highlighting the hidden agendas of the entertainment industry. LVB has already introduced the topic of psychological warfare, i.e. PSYWAR, in this blog. In this article I will analyze an example of this type of operation as conducted by the US government.
|The emblem of the US Army's Psychological Operations Regiment|
First let's review. Here is what LVB had to say about PSYWAR in his article titled, "Imma Bee the Future: Psychological Warfare in Mass Media".
What exactly is "Psychological Warfare"?LVB described in his article how these techniques are used in music videos to subliminally manipulate the viewer.
Psychological Warfare (PSYWAR) is defined by the U.S. Department of Defense as:
"The planned use of propaganda and other psychological actions having the primary purpose of influencing the opinions, emotions, attitudes, and behavior...of groups in such a way as to support the...objectives."
"Various techniques are used, by any set of groups, and aimed to influence a target audience's value systems, belief systems, emotions, motives, reasoning, or behavior."
This is often referred to as "winning hearts and minds", or similarly, "Capture their minds and their hearts and souls will follow."
CIA PSYWAR targets civilians on the "home front" too
Now let's take a look at a specific example of the use of these techniques by the CIA. Wikileaks recently released a document purported to be from the CIA, which discusses ways to increase public support in France and Germany for the Afghanistan War. It is posted up on Wikileaks in PDF form here: "CIA report into shoring up Afghan war support in Western Europe".
Here is the summary of this document provided by Wikileaks.
This classified CIA analysis from March, outlines possible PR-strategies to shore up public support in Germany and France for a continued war in Afghanistan. After the Dutch government fell on the issue of dutch troops in Afghanistan last month, the CIA became worried that similar events could happen in the countries that post the third and fourth largest troop contingents to the ISAF-mission. The proposed PR strategies focus on pressure points that have been identified within these countries. For France it is the sympathy of the public for Afghan refugees and women. For Germany it is the fear of the consequences of defeat (drugs, more refugees, terrorism) as well as for Germany’s standing in the NATO. The memo is an recipe for the targeted manipulation of public opinion in two NATO ally countries, written by the CIA. It is classified as Confidential / No Foreign Nationals.What's interesting from the point of view of this blog is the use of "public relations" techniques targeted at civilians to achieve the goals of the military. This is similar to the types of techniques used in some of the music videos that we have analyzed, which are designed to sway public opinion. These techniques are not new. In fact the whole operation could have been designed by the "father of public relations", Edward Bernays.
"The engineering of consent is the very essence of the democratic process, the freedom to persuade and suggest."1) The first step is to conduct a study of the population to be targeted with the goal of finding the reasons that they are opposed to the objectives of the PR campaign - in this case the deployment of French and German troops to Afghanistan.
– Edward L. Bernays, "The Engineering of Consent", 1947
2) Then the population is broken down into groups that have raised similar objections. The groups may be further broken down along cultural lines.
3) Each group's objections are studied. Strategies are formed for psychologically attacking specific objections within specific groups. Knowledge of the culture is used to determine biases that can be manipulated as part of the plan of attack. Guilt, fear and shame are typical psychological weapons used in these attacks.
4) These various attack strategies are tried out on small groups to test their effectiveness.
5) A report is produced outlining the proposed strategies and the rationale behind them. (This document is an example of such a report.)
6) If the plan is approved, then at this point resources must be identified which can be used to communicate the message to the targeted audiences. These resources could be ads placed in newspapers, magazines, TV or the intenet. Or they could be articles written by sympathetic journalists. Or talk show appearances by politicians and "experts". Or they could consist of statements by public officials.
7) The plan is put into effect. A PR campaign is launched utilizing all means of communications that are available that can reach the targeted audience. Varying degrees of deception are employed depending on the type of operation - white, grey, black.
Notice the similarities between a PR "campaign" and a military "campaign". Groups are "targeted", psychological "weapons" are employed, "strategies" are devised, a plan of "attack" is created, and finally the "campaign' is "launched".
CIA says "shame on you"
Looking at the CIA report we can see these techniques in action. In the following excerpt, I have capitalized some of the key words: "guilt", "indignation". You can see how these emotions are intentionally used as weapons in this psychological war.
Conversely, messaging that dramatizes the potential adverse consequences of an ISAF defeat for Afghan civilians could leverage French (and other European) GUILT for abandoning them. The prospect of the Taliban rolling back hard-won progress on girls’ education could provoke French INDIGNATION, become a rallying point for France’s largely secular public, and give voters a reason to support a good and necessary cause despite casualties.You can also see how this passage highlights the issue of "girls' education", which must have been identified in their studies as a key issue of interest for this target audience.
In the following excerpt we see the use of specific fears of Germans targeted by this campaign, such as increased drugs and refugees flowing in as a result of a NATO pullout from Afghanistan. And notice that the PR campaign intends to "dramatize" these issues in order to increase the targeting effectiveness of these emotionally charged issues. The victims are not targeted through the rational parts of the brain, instead they are targeted at a lower subliminal level. A level at which the intended victim is essentially defenseless against this attack.
Messages that DRAMATIZE THE CONSEQUENCES of a NATO defeat for specific German interests could counter the widely held perception that Afghanistan is not Germany’s problem. For example, messages that illustrate how a defeat in Afghanistan could heighten Germany’s exposure to terrorism, OPIUM, and refugees might help to make the war more salient to skeptics.And in this final excerpt, we see the use of the powerful technique of "association". This is another way to target the subliminal parts of the brain. Associating a good thing with a bad thing causes the bad thing seems less bad. In this case President Obama's positive appeal is used to give an aura of goodness to the Afghanistan War. Notice that it is the image (the symbol) of Obama that is being utilized here to sway public opinion more so than the actual person. This is sometimes referred to as "Brand Obama"in an obvious reference to the world of marketing and advertising.
The same poll also found that, when respondents were reminded that PRESIDENT OBAMA himself had asked for increased deployments to Afghanistan, their support for granting this request increased dramatically, from 4 to 15 percent among French respondents and from 7 to 13 percent among Germans. The total percentages may be small but they suggest significant sensitivity to DISAPPOINTING a president seen as broadly in sync with European concerns.This excerpt suggests using "shame" to target the victim as indicated by the word "disappointing". If you disappoint your parents, then you feel the powerful negative emotion of shame. In this case a respected authority figure (Obama) substitutes for the parent. Notice also the use of studies to test the suitability of these tactics, and how the results are broken down by target groups.
We won't get fooled again
We have seen the use of three powerful negative emotions: guilt, fear and shame. We have seen the use of the technique of "association". We have seen how populations are broken down into groups and specific plans of attacks are used against different targeted groups. It would be hard for the CIA to deny that what we have here is a plan for a PSYWAR operation.
What the document leaves out is the important question of how this plan would actually be implemented. Certainly it can be expected that public officials would do their part. But for this PSYWAR operation to be truly effective, it would require cooperation from major news outlets. At the very least there would need to be certain agents or operatives strategically placed in news organizations to deliver this message to the unsuspecting public. Hmmm.
But you know, they'll have a much harder time fooling us if we become aware of their tricks. Here's former President George W. Bush suffering a "freudian slip" with regards to how they try to fool us. But don't be fooled into thinking that the Obama administration is any different when it comes to employing these dirty tricks. If we are going to win this war, we are going to have to learn how to defend ourselves against these subliminal attacks. The simplest way is to become consciously aware of these techniques, which will allow you to at least diminish the effectiveness of their psychological weapons.