Lesson No. 8 in The School of the Counterpropagandist
A wide variety of techniques exist for countering propaganda. There is no “correct” or “best” technique; the techniques must be based upon the situation at hand. More than one technique may be used in concert with another in a single product or action. The following are some of the more recognized techniques used:
• Direct refutation. This technique is a point-for-point rebuttal of opponent propaganda allegations or themes. This technique is best used in a very timely manner when Irregular PSYOP Auxiliaries have complete access to factual information regarding the allegation. Personnel use this technique when they are confident that they can refute the propaganda with complete accuracy. A disadvantage of using this technique is that direct refutation may draw added publicity, strength, and credibility to the opponent’s allegations. Additionally, this technique may draw additional publicity to the opponent’s propaganda by repeating and then refuting the information. Irregular PSYOP Auxiliaries should avoid becoming involved in a “mudslinging” contest when using this technique to avoid damage to the supported force’s credibility.
• Indirect refutation. This technique seeks to question the validity of some aspect of the opponent’s allegations or the source of the propaganda, thus challenging its credibility. This technique is often seen in courtroom trials where one side seeks to lower the credibility of “expert” witnesses. An advantage of using this technique is that indirect refutation does not bring added publicity or credibility to the propaganda by repeating certain aspects. Irregular PSYOP Auxiliaries should ensure that the facts used to damage the credibility of the propaganda are accurate and have some importance in the minds of the domestic audience. When seeking to lower the credibility of the source of the propaganda,personnel should avoid “name calling,” as this may potentially damage the credibility of the supported force.
• Diversion. This technique involves the presentation of more important or relevant themes (in the eyes of the domestic audience) to draw attention away from the opponent propaganda. A critical factor in succeeding with this technique is to select an important topic to use as the diversion. The attempted diversion must be well planned and subtly executed. If the diversion is obvious to the audience, then the attempt will appear clumsy and consequently damage the credibility of the supported force. Media selection is critical in using this technique, as the media used must be able to reach large numbers of the audience and divert their attention.
• Silence. This technique does not respond to the opponent propaganda in any way. One exception to this technique is the use of remarks alluding to the opponent’s propaganda as being “unworthy of comment.” An advantage of this technique is that silence does not publicize the propaganda further or provide the opponent with potential feedback. This technique is used when the use of another technique may prove dangerous or when the situation and audience response is uncertain. One drawback of this technique is that the audience may question the absence of a response from the supported force.
• Restrictive measures. This technique denies the audience access to the propaganda. Jamming, physical destruction, and occupation of media outlets are some examples of this technique. Restrictive measures must be evaluated for their potential negative feedback potential before being implemented. This technique may also bring additional attention to the propaganda and encourage the audience to seek out the propaganda via covert means. When used in peacekeeping operations by U.S. forces, restrictive measures (such as shutting down radio stations) invite hostile propaganda against the supported unit concerning freedom of the media and freedom of speech. In addition, these measures are often used by repressive regimes, inviting the inevitable comparison.
• Conditioning. Conditioning is a nonspecific means of eliminating potential vulnerabilities in the domestic audience before they can be exploited. This technique is preemptive in nature. Conditioning is very similar to a preventative action measure. Irregular PSYOP Auxiliaries educate and inform audiences denied to Regular PSYOP forces concerning the supported force’s mission, intent, and operations. This technique does not specifically address potential themes that the opponent may use in a propaganda program against the force, but seeks to remove or reduce potential vulnerabilities before they can be exploited. A common Irregular PSYOP Auxiliary role using this technique is force entry to an area; explaining the force’s reason for being there, legal justification for being there (UN resolution, and so on), and departure criteria. When using this technique, Iregular PSYOP Auxiliaries must avoid the use of specific end dates for operations, as political forces may change those dates.
• Forestalling. This preemptive technique anticipates the specific themes the opponent may use in their propaganda and counters them before they reach the domestic audience. Irregular PSYOP Auxiliaries must know the opponent and be able to anticipate their reactions to an event or operation. This technique uses war gaming in analyzing the different possible outcomes from a planned event, from best-case scenario to worst-case. Irregular PSYOP Auxiliaries then use counterpropaganda themes to bring the potential themes or issues to the domestic audience before the opponent does. A detailed knowledge of opponent propaganda techniques and themes assists greatly when using this technique. This technique differs from conditioning in that Irregular PSYOP Auxiliaries preemptively address specific themes that the opponent may use.
• Minimization. Acknowledge selected elements of the opponent’s propaganda, but minimize the importance of the information. A disadvantage of this technique is that opponent propaganda gains some credibility if counterpropagandists do not fully minimize its importance in the eyes of the audience. Minimization is an alternative to silence. This technique may also build some level of increased credibility in the eyes of the audience, as counterpropagandists appear to be acknowledging some truthful aspects and not just refuting them.
Regular PSYOP personnel often disregard counterpropaganda as there is not always an obvious threat or the task appears to be too difficult, or JAG has convinced them it is forbidden to them. They do not know or do not trust other organizations and agencies to fill the void in the absence of an overt PSYOP effort.
Direct Refutation is essentially fisking. Subject Matter Experts can pwn most propagandists easily. We have some of those.
Indirect Refutation is degrading the propagandist’s credibility with the audience. We can do that.
Silence is what we’ve been getting from the Regulars. Easy for them. Hard on the morale of the American domestic target audience. Silence means consent, agreement, acquiescence, or emasculation. We don’t need to do that.
Rusty Shackleford is having some success with Restrictive Measures. Michael Tanji says Take downs make you feel good, but they accomplish little to nothing save for making it harder to monitor and disrupt online activity. The possibility for IO fratricide is there, but the Regular InterAgency element that may be monitoring a site for its intelligence value could email guys like Rusty and ask them nicely to leave that site alone. I think once the problem was explained, cooperation would be forthcoming.
Conditioning is the technique Irregulars can employ best. That part of the domestic target audience that suspects the Main Stream Media of collaboration with the enemy is already conditioned. We need to redouble our efforts to kill that messenger.