You may have heard of the term PSYOP, but do you know what one is? Can you point a finger to it? Can you define it? Here I intend to give you a bit of understanding regarding this term, in addition to explaining the relation between our electoral process and military objectives. But first let us define for ourselves what a PSYOP is.
“FM 3-05.301 titled Psychological Operations Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures declares that the purpose of a psychological operation (PYSOP) is to ‘convey selected information and indicators to foreign target audiences…to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals.’1
More succinctly, PSYOP is all about manipulating the mind of your enemy with information. Now it is not known whether PSYOP are conducted on U.S. soil or directed at American civilians, but utilizing the official publications of military doctrine, one may develop some interesting arguments that resound implications for our very political process.
In that psychological operations often require a “tactical communicator”2 to influence targets in accordance with military objectives, and that “any player in the US government or overall body politic may become an important tactical element”3, it is in the interests of PSYOP commanders that the constitutionally empowered ‘spokesman’ of our nation (the president) be possessing of considerable aptitudes in speaking and other facets of human communications.
In this regard, the U.S. election this year may be viewed through the eyes of PSYOP commanders as an event of tactical importance, for they may come to depend on the communications capabilities of the president in effectively aiding the fulfillment of PSYOP objectives, whatever they might be. It is in their interest that candidates without strong communications skills be “shunned away from positions for which the nation’s fate requires skillful performance.”4
(As an aside, you tell me, in light of the above which of the presidential candidates would better aid PYSOP)
The interesting and unfortunate truth about PSYOP is one cannot readily ascertain the potential function of any given media these days (whether it serves to propagandize or not) without corroborating many sources and sifting through vast quantities of information to educe intrinsic contradictions. This day and age, with media platforms such as Facebook and Youtube, the average consumer of internet media probably doesn’t have the time nor the resources to do the work of identifying what is true and what is false. And given that the principles of PSYOP outlined in military texts hold true today, we find ourselves in a deeper quandary respecting the question of whether to trust official statements of governmental agencies and institutions upon which we often depend; because “it is crucial that military PSYOP be integrated with other national communications, since the audiences will accept military PSYOP messages as official positions.”5
What further complexes this problem is that the effectiveness of a PSYOP resides in its clandestine, obscure characteristics and implementation. In other words, we could demand that all PSYOP objectives be publicized for our own assurance that nothing corrupt or anti-democratic is afoot, but this would obviously make the very function of the PSYOP null and useless, hardly a bright motion. Therefore, citizens opt to trust their government, because they can’t always identify with certainty what is or isn’t propaganda. This means that we the citizens divest faith in the trustworthiness of our public officials.
But looking at the public record of many politicians of notable caliber, like past presidents and such, it quickly becomes clear that history contests the notion that our elected leaders are always worthy of our trust.
To recapitulate, we the citizens 1. Live in an information age 2. This information age makes assessment of truth difficult (anyone can promulgate information) 3. PSYOP may take advantage of this 4. We cannot always trust our government regarding official PSYOP policy.
To leave you with one solution to this problem is my public service. Here it is.
Learn to read. Read a lot.
Question what you read. Alot.
Question what you are told, what you see, and what you hear. Corroborate, corroborate, corroborate and watch the video below.
Above all, understand that information may conceal ulterior objectives of the propagator.
- Shaw, D. (2016). Ninjutsu: Tactics, Principles, and Philosophy. p.80
- Goldstein, F.L. & Findley, B.F. (1996). Psychological Operations: Principles and Case Studies. p.8
- Ibid. p.9