Public Affairs and Information Operations

Virtual War Lord John of Argghhh! made a post based on comments Jack Holt, Chief, New Media Operations, DoD New Media, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs and I made on a previous post which included a press release from CJTF-101 that starts out like this:

16 Afghans dead, 58 Afghans wounded in Khowst province suicide attack Sunday

KABUL, Afghanistan – One of Public Affairs’ primary responsibilities is to ensure factual reporting of events to the public and to counter enemy propaganda.

which caused my ears to perk up and motivated me to ask in John’s comment section

if counterpropaganda is a pa primary responsibilty, do we get to bust on pa when we see it uncountered in our own media? a big stink was made recently over colocating pa with io at isaf so they backed off of that. who does counterprop for the domestic ta?

So go on over to The Castle and enter the melee. [As you were. Comments closed. You snooze, you loose.  Try SWJ, or comment here.]

Love this:

PA, while jealously guarding their virginity, are in danger of becoming pinch-faced old maids with little legacy other than a good name and societal irrelevancy – vice figuring out how to be, for lack of a better analogy, a Mother Theresa of Information – chaste, but willing to go out and get things done.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I have expended a fair amount of key strokes on this topic over the last couple years:

Which side is the national media on?

PSYOPS are being run on the American domestic target audience. Hostile media are IO operators for the enemy. DoD IO and PAO are not allowed to target domestic audiences. So who does domestic counter-PSYOPS?

Who can do it, legally?

The Civilian Irregular Information Defense Group volunteer cyber militia can do it. Think Minutemen.

The PAO Conversation

Who does domestic counter-PSYOPS? Hostile media are the enemy’s psywar operator’s, but the PA side won’t engage them as such. The center of gravity of this war is the will of the American people, half of whom are ready to quit right now.

The terrorist goal of winning through the media has worked

. . . an unconscionable amount of what we in the press have been feeding the American public regarding the war in Iraq is fashioned by the propaganda arms of our enemies.

Never Again

The MSM and the Jihadis are in it together.  One needs bleeding and leading, the other needs publicity.  This mutualism makes the American MSM a willing purveyor of Jihadi propaganda and Democrat defeatism.  They are protected from prosecution because the Bush Administration and the Gonzales Justice Department chooses not to expend the political capital and endure the pain to fight that battle.  But they are not protected from us.

Getting Past the Propaganda Barrier

The usual suspects won’t let us use it and they don’t want us to counter it.  But they don’t mind disseminating the enemy’s.

“Blitzkrieg of the Mind”

The Propaganda Advantage: Why the Terrorists Still Have It

The word itself has become a perjorative and negatively blocks our thinking on what is is, how to use it, and how to defend against it. The word “propaganda” stimulates a Pavlovian response in Americans to disbelieve and distrust any overt use of it, particularly by the American government or military. That’s a psychological warfare coup the Nazis and Soviets bequeathed to the Islamicists.

School of the Counterpropagandist — What Is Propaganda?

What’s in a Name?

Why do Americans Hate the Word Propaganda?

Reuters Perception Management Anonymously-Sourced Hit Piece

PA Won’t Play


Filed under PSYOP

12 responses to “Public Affairs and Information Operations

  1. Are not the 101st Fighting Keyboardists a volunteer militia geek battalion? Could concerned citizens with computers not disrupt domestic anti-war, anti-military, defeatist, seditionist, fifth column message boards and websites that are protected from DoD response? Could a volunteer Army of Davids, unconstrained by the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, the Hatch Act, or fear of being passed over for promotion, in coordination with but not under the control of the DoD PA/IO apparatus, actually be useful auxiliaries in the infowar? 2006/05/01


    The will of the American people to prosecute the Jihadi War is under constant attack by a media-savvy enemy who tailors their kinetic operations to maximize negative coverage in the MSM. What he doesn’t come right out and say is that he and his people are very restricted in what they can do domestically. Targeting domestic audience for psychological operations is a no-no, thus hobbling DoD in the struggle over the will of the people. This is where the cyber Minutemen come in. The milbloggers and the 101st Fighting Keyboardists are our last line of defense against enemy psychological warfare.

    If you can write, start your own blog. If you can comment, comment. If you have money, hit the Paypal button (not here, I do this for free). Communicate. Spread the word. Help us win the war. 2006/05/10


    Decentralization. Distributed Public Affairs/Information Operations from the company-level. You and I can help push this. We can join this effort as auxiliaries. We can tell the people we interact with about this. We can blog about it. We can call in to talk radio shows and mention it. We can write letters to the editor in our hometown fish wrappers. We can enable the good guys by aiding and abetting their efforts until a tipping point is reached and the bureaucrats are presented with a fait accompli and they decide they like decentralized, distributed IO after all.

    The military has no monopoly on information, and you don’t have to wear a uniform to be an information operator. All you need is some very basic literacy and an internet connection and you, too can be a force multiplier for the good guys. You can be a civilian irregular information group IO auxiliary.

    Now doesn’t that give you more warm and fuzzies than watching Dances With the Stars? 2006/11/19


    Counter propaganda is a legitimate task for Psychological Operations, unfortunately strategic counter-propaganda to mitigate the effects of the enemy’s propaganda on the American domestic target audience is beyond the capabilities of regular US Government military or intelligence psychological operators, because they are prohibited by law from targeting the domestic audience. We are the only country in the world that has voluntarily hamstrung itself in that way. We are losing the infowar to Lawfare. Our PSYOPS people are afraid to conduct robust counter propaganda because it would it would get back to the domestic audience in the States and offend the usual suspects. The Smith-Mundt Act of 1948 never envisioned the internet, but the partial regime change in America has given us a majority party that WANTS our operator’s hands tied.

    Some people might think changing the law to enable our operators to fight back would solve that problem, but the political facts on the ground are that the current majority party in Congress is never going to repeal Smith-Mundt. But only government operators are subject to Smith-Mundt. Civilian irregular volunteers can do counter propaganda for the domestic target audience.

    Either we grab our ankles and just take the steady stream of unchallenged enemy propaganda, or We The People exercise our rights under the First Amendment to refute it, condition our fellow citizens to resist it, minimize its effects and mitigate the damage it does to our morale and will.

    What the regulars are not allowed to do must be accomplished by irregulars. 2007/04/08


    For about three years I have been carrying this idea of volunteer civilian infowarriors around in the back of my mind, then they changed INFOWAR to INFORMATION OPERATIONS and I had to educate myself on the component of IO where we were getting creamed by the Bad Guys, Psychological Operations. I wondered why we were doing so poorly, and found out that the Good Guys aren’t allowed to conduct PSYOP that might encourage the domestic target audience to support the war, while the Bad Guys and their auxiliaries in the Main Stream Media have unlimited and unchallenged access to our eyes and ears and hearts and minds. PSYOP scares a lot of people, especially “civil libertarians,” and there are several laws that govern public diplomacy which, because many PSYOP products and their dissemination constitute a form of public diplomacy, also govern military PSYOP. Our military PSYOP people are forbidden by law from producing programs and actions designed to nullify propaganda or mitigate its effects on the American domestic target audience. They pretend that Other Government Agencies counter propaganda outside the AO, knowing full well that strategic counter propaganda is too hot a potato to mess with.

    So what to do? At last year’s Milblog Conference Public Affairs took a lot of heat for failure to conduct counter propaganda, but counter propaganda has never been PA’s mission, and they are under the same restraints as PSYOP. These legal restraints are not going to be repealed in time to win the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If the enemy propaganda which caused partial regime change in America last November, which persuades the majority of Americans that it is not treason for the third in line of Presidential succession to travel to enemy countries and negotiate with their dictators, which prevents mobs of peasants with pitchforks and torches from gathering to burn down the Senate Majority Leader’s castle,

    is not going to be nullified or mitigated by military PSYOP or OGA, then we can either remove all sharp objects from our pockets, place our heads between our legs, and kiss our asses goodbye


    WE can do it.

    Who is “we,” Kemosabe?

    If you are still reading this and you’re not a troll and you haven’t accepted defeat, you can be one of the “we.” 2007/04/21


    Half of our countrymen have been convinced that the war is lost. The kinetic war in Iraq is making progress, but the battle for men’s minds back on the home front is not going well at all. The tools and trained personnel who could mitigate some of the damage unlimited and unopposed enemy psychological operations do to our national will, national unity, and national resolve are against the law. The American domestic target audience is denied battle space for friendly Information Operators. If they work for the government and are subject to the Smith-Mundt Act.

    I think the military arc of the blogosphere has the potential to become an insurgency, by resisting the enemy propaganda disseminated by our own Main Stream Media and conducting counter propaganda for the domestic target audience. The leaders (yellow) are the bloggers with the largest readership. The TTLB Ecosystem tells us who the leaders are. Some could be IO Warlords, with a readership of contributors (red G’s), commenters (red or blue Auxiliaries), linkers and lurkers (blue or green Sympathizers) with varying degrees of committment and investment in the concept of Distributed IO by PSYOP Auxiliaries and Volunteer Counter Propagandists.

    Much of the blogosphere is in revolt against the Main Stream Media. It could be considered an insurgency in opposition to the traditional dead tree info monopoly. And like a real insurgency, it would benefit from the discrete advice and instruction of trained operators.

    We need more blue nodes. We need counter propagandists. We need people’s time. We need people’s mental energy and communication skills. 2007/04/29


    The Generals of this war were commissioned during Jimmy Carter’s administration. Regardless of what their political views were at the beginning of their careers, they have sucked it up and drove on and continued the mission regardless of which assclowns are running things in Washington. The Army is politically aware, but they have to serve whatever masters the voters see fit to saddle them with. And they can’t say a lot of things out loud that they know to be true.

    Somebody needs to say it for them.

    They have polite fictions they must maintain. Public Affairs has to build rapport with journalists. Building rapport with unpleasant people is difficult, but necessary. Letting them know how you really feel about them is not conducive to mission accomplishment. “All enemies, foreign and domestic”, cannot really be treated as enemies, no matter how hostile they are. Some enemies are off limits altogether, some have to be treated as potential allies that just haven’t come on board yet, and some just have to be ignored so as not to advertise the inability to deal with them.

    “Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.” Harry Reid, John Murtha , Nancy Pelosi, get a pass.

    PA aren’t the people whose job it is to counter enemy propaganda, either. Counter propaganda is a PSYOP mission, but PSYOP maintains the polite fiction that Other Government Agencies perform counter propaganda to mitigate the effects of enemy propaganda directed 24/7/365 by ostensibly “American” media at the American domestic target audience.

    There are a lot of reasons and excuses, but the bottom line is that the regulars have left the home front undefended in the battle space that counts the most in this war, the area between the ears of the American voter. Nobody in the government is going to do much to oppose the enemy’s strategic communications campaign. Half of their political masters profit from the enemy’s unchallenged, unopposed, unmitigated 24/7/365 barrage.

    We’re going to have to counter the propaganda ourselves. 2007/08/01


    Just plain folks can have more influence than was ever possible before. With sufficient motivation, imagination, and effort, just plain folks can become Strategic Citizens and come to the defense of the Strategic Corporals dissed by Democrats. 2007/09/06


    Morale Operations are being conducted against the American domestic target audience and our leaders don’t want to talk about that because doing anything about it would cost them precious political capital squabbling with domestic enemies who profit from it.

    All enemies can’t really be effectively opposed when their freedom of speech and civil rights are paramount. Some of my fellow citizens think unlawful combatants disarmed on the battlefield and transported to Gitmo not only deserve, they are owed all the rights of citizens. Other fellow citizens agree with me that summary execution is the proper disposition of such cases. This disagreement over what to do with prisoners is just one of many deep and fundamental fissures in the American body politic that our domestic enemies partner with our foreign enemies to widen. Our enemies understand our weaknesses perfectly and exploit them very well. Our leaders downplay our divisions to avoid bringing too much attention to their weakness and ours, thus nobody goes on trial for treason or sedition, everybody gets to say whatever they want without personal consequences no matter how damaging, and the opposing camps within America grow ever more disgusted with each other.

    We who would attempt to neutralize and mitigate the damage done by the enemy’s propaganda must understand that the enemy in this war owes much of his success in spreading cynicism, pessimism, distrust and division to the information operations preparation of the battlefield achieved by the enemy in the last war. And that enemy’s sympathizers use positions of power to carp, criticize, oppose, obstruct, cast aspersions on and otherwise retard progress towards victory. Violent radical Islamicists aren’t our only enemies in this war, they are just the enemies our military can deal with kinetically. 2007/09/30


    The lack of any reason to trust that the professionals are doing much counterpropaganda, added to the failure of the leadership to mobilize the people towards a structured, controlled, useful contribution to the war effort, has resulted in the self-mobilization of private individuals, groups, nongovernmental organizations, and businesses to do for the government and the people what the government appears to be unable to do for itself, and us. Much of this self-mobilization is being done online, in the domain of cyberspace. 2007/10/19


  2. Ken White, at the SWJ thread :

    No, you didn’t tell us how to fix the problem, you told us what we already knew; while you said some other things that make some sense, you mostly said in a different way much the same thing I said:

    “we are constrained in IO by a large crowds of media, academic and other nay sayers who are quite prone to condemn anything approaching ‘propaganda.’ Most of them have no idea what that is but presume anything done by DoD falls in that bucket…”

    You told us what you would do and I’m sure you realize many will not agree with you. To correct the problem, you’ll have to persuade or dissuade those disgreeable people and you don’t seem to have a way to do that.

    You ranted about it in numerous posts at your linked site, most but not all of which I read, you gave your opinions on how dumb, evil, misguided, ill informed or whatever some people are — much of which may be correct — but it does not provide a realistic solution to fixing the problem I cited. In fact, I suspect it might deter some who don’t agree with you from ever doing so.

    Yes, Ken, I do realize many will not agree with me. So many that it hardly seems a profitable use of limited time to reconcile the irreconcilable. I don’t have to persuade or dissuade those disgreeable people. I just need to find those who are already inclined to agree with me and encourage them to fight through the interference by, with, or through Civilian Irregular Information Operators. Do I have a way to do that? Of course not. No way at all. I’d get discouraged and quit if I wasn’t such a fanatical wingnut.

    I don’t have a Final Solution to the large crowds of media, academic and other nay sayers who are quite prone to condemn anything approaching ‘propaganda.’ Problem, but I do know the answer to speech I don’t agree with is more free speech, from people who have that unencumbered right.

  3. I’m big on this problem, these ideas, and a few more. IMO, the problem is FUNDING. People already do fill the web w milblogs, media watchdogs, personal blogs, conservative blogs, whatever…all of which spend a great deal (if not all) of their time countering the misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda that is out there.

    …But most of the people who do this have jobs (I don’t, but hey). Even more of the commenters have jobs. Not everyone can be a Michael Yon. Not everyone can make a living countering the political spin, and/or the enemy propaganda.

    I do believe there are ways to fund a volunteer force though.


  4. Hey, Scott.

    Real grass-roots efforts are always underfunded. They don’t have any shadowy Hungarian sugar daddies lurking behind the scenes picking up the tab. Funding = control.

    A whole bunch of people doing it for free, in their spare time, as a hobby or as their idea of a non-monetary contribution to the war effort, don’t require a lot of funding. Most of the effort is funded by the individual participants. Distributed funding from distributed information operators. How do the Boy Scouts fund their operations? Out of Daddy’s back pocket, mostly, supplemented by sponsoring organizations and businesses, and charities, and their own fund-raising projects.

    Funding a professional cadre of counterpropagandists who do it for a living presupposes that the few professionals can do a better job than the many amateurs, and such a much better job as to make the professional’s wages worth their cost to the employer. Applying historical analogies, what I call the Counter Insurgent Supportive blogosphere are the militia pikemen. Pikers, on an individual basis, are no match for highly trained, well armed, expensively armored mercenaries. But pikers took pains to never face such foes one on one. Pikers in a formation, with arquebusiers supporting them and being supported by them, were a much tougher nut for mercenaries to crack. Perhaps some of the more influential high traffic Counter insurgent Supportive blogs could be thought of as arquebusiers in this analogy.

  5. Ever heard of the Amazon Associates program? I think that could be a model for counter-funding that would offset the influence of said Hungarian sugar-daddy

  6. No I hadn’t. Amazon will have to buy a lot of advertising on a lot of blogs to offset all those tranzie sugar daddies. And then Amazon has the power to destroy any who rely upon them.

    Who owns Amazon? What are their biases?

  7. For grassroots organization you need a social networking. Blogs do some of that automatically but they don’t automatically realize the strategic potential of that network. The Left seems to get this intuitively. Meaning, they often quote each other and use each other as a sort of psychological buffer to convince everybody else that only the “wing nuts” disagree.

    The big blogs like Michelle Malkin and so forth actually do get it, if only because they have fought the Left for so long they needed that experience in ops. But even so, they don’t have any real central organization because there is no standard operating procedure. Most times, that isn’t required, but whenever there is a disagreement on how to tackle a subject, like say defending Coulter or torture or whatever, the disagreements and frissions in our side of the blogosphere starts creating interference rather than useful propaganda ops. That is because the primary motivations of bloggers is to blog, not to make certain American policies look better or worse.

    But given how the Left plays their little game, I don’t think we can afford to ignore that factor. Not if people want to keep blogging, anyways.

    Like Nancy Pelosi just demonstrated, they will get a lock on power if you give them the opportunity. This is as true for broadcasting, the internet, and power politics in Congress as it is for our particular little niche.

    As for funding, blogs don’t automatically need funding and is a pretty good example of what C4 is talking about in terms of unfunded amateurs doing their thing.

    A lot of the Iraq war analysis was done by blogs, not paid for organizations. The CIA has a lot more funding, but the public only knwos about their goods through “leaks”. Which means that information flow is controlled by either agents in the CIA, the President, or the MSM. It is not controlled by us. By putting more onus on the grassroots organizations, you start flowing power down and distributing it to people who need it to make their decisions.

    So long as the President doesn’t decide to unclassify a lot of information to inform and educate the American republic, then the American public will always be kept ignorant as sheep and just as well manipulated. This is a long term strategic problem, as seen in the last election.

  8. Link

    Also, when CAIR and other orgs like them start ramping up their operations, it would be useful to have actual people in contact with the operators of CAIR and what not. Actual contact in terms of whistleblowing status or just plain espionage access.

    Grassroots doesn’t just mean people sitting at their computers typing away in my opinion.

    The government cannot put a surveillance or lock or infiltration of CAIR without them hamstring the gov, assuming the gov even has the balls to do it. But ordinary citizens… well we have more freedom on this matter because we also have less resources than the government. Less potential for abuse, but there are a shat load of us. And somebody, somewhere, knows the people in CAIR personally who also might have an axe to grind against them.

    • Grassroots doesn’t just mean people sitting at their computers typing away in my opinion.

      Very true, ymar, but P2P contact in meatspace carries with it risks that people sitting at their computers typing away do not face, and in most cases are not prepared to face. Virtual vigilantes in cyber space are one thing. Real vigilantes in meatspace are something else entirely, and would have as much to fear from law enforcement and shysters as from CAIR and like organizations.

      Vigilantism is a vote of no confidence in The Powers That Be to catch and adequately punish wrong-doers. They don’t like that, and tend to go after the vigilantes with more enthusiasm than the wrong-doers, who have rights, don’t ya know.

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