'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Monday, January 30, 2006

Henny Penny the sky is going to fall 

So in 2002 when the Office of Strategic Influence was discovered by the media and almost instantaneously closed up shop, the Secretary of Defense stated directly that the office had been shut down in name only. Anyway, he stated as much as directly as the Secretary ever states anything ... perhaps you recall this priceless bit of Rumsfeldese:

"And then there was the office of strategic influence. You may recall that. And 'oh my goodness gracious isn't that terrible, Henny Penny the sky is going to fall.' I went down that next day and said fine, if you want to savage this thing fine I'll give you the corpse. There's the name. You can have the name, but I'm gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done and I have.

That was intended to be done by that office is being done by that office, NOT by that office in other ways."

Apparently Rumsfeld was good to his word.

The AFP reported last week that misinformation crafted for foreign audiences has made its way into the US media. The report cites a recently declassified DoD document called the "Information Operations Roadmap" -- available for download at the National Security Archive's website -- which contains the following passage:

Impact of the global village. The increasing ability of people in most parts of the globe to access international information sources makes targeting particular audiences more difficult. Today the distinction between foreign and domestic audiences becomes more a question of USG intent rather than information dissemination.

- PSYOP is restricted by both DoD policy and executive order from targeting American audiences, our military personnel and news agencies or outlets.

o However, information intended for foreign audiences, including public diplomacy and PSYOP, increasingly is consumed by our domestic audience and vice-versa.

o PYSOP messages disseminated to any audience except individual decision-makers (and perhaps even then) will often be replayed by the news media for much larger audiences, including the American public.

Which leads to a big interesting question that I haven't seen anyone try to answer: Which recent news stories began life as propaganda meant for foreigners but were subsequently picked up by the US media? The information operations roadmap doesn't contain any specific examples of this phenomenon, or, if it does, they are redacted, but I have a few guesses:

o The Saddam Hussein in his underwear pictures: Maybe the photos were secretly leaked to the Arab media and meant to emasculate Hussein in the eyes of his supporters but wound up in the British tabloids, which, you know, would print pictures of squirrels screwing if they thought it would sell papers. Hell, the Hussein pictures always kind of looked photoshopped to me, but I guess faking them wouldn't have been necessary.

o The story a few months ago about the US's desecration of the bodies of two Taliban fighters: this thing had PSYOP written all over it. For instance, there's the fact that the guys in the videotape were ...ummm... PSYOP specialists:
"If true, the incident would fit a seeming pattern that has emerged of the U.S. military gaining enough knowledge of Islamic culture and sensitivities to devise ways of offending Muslims," said Khaled Abu el Fadl, a specialist in Islamic law at UCLA law school.

The latest scandal surfaced Wednesday when an Australian television network aired video showing members of a U.S. airborne unit purportedly setting fire to the Taliban bodies, followed by other soldiers, identified as specialists in psychological operations, using the event to taunt other enemy fighters and draw them out of nearby hills to retrieve the remains.

The State Department issued statements and the army launched an investigation but one gets the feeling that what they really wanted investigated is why the hell the Austalian camera man was allowed to go home without having the film he shot confiscated.

o The photographs from Abu Ghraib may have been taken originally as part of some PSYOP program that got out of control, but such speculation is a little bit off-topic.

That's all I can come up with -- but I'm really curious about this story. Please leave a comment if you have any other ideas.

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