Cognitive Engagement: The New Propaganda

Public Intelligence has released another informative military document on new approaches to “Military Information Support Operations” (formerly dubbed ‘Psychological Operations’). Titled “White Paper on Bio-Psycho-Social Applications to Cognitive Engagement” and sealed with the stamp significations of the U.S. Army, Department of Defense, and Joint Chiefs of Staff, the document boasts the dominance of the U.S. military as a “tool” to policy.

What is cognitive engagement?

Answer: The concept of cognitive engagement applies to the colloquially termed “Gray Zone” which has been described to mean the, “times when nations compete with each other in everything except direct state on state war.”

So cognitive engagement is about utilizing the means of 4th Generation warfare (known as DIME to mean Diplomatic, Information, Military, Economic modalities of warfare) in support of U.S. policy objectives; whatever they may be.

Simply said, ‘Cognitive engagement’ equates with the term ‘psychological operations’.

In the book Ninjutsu: A Commoner’s Guide, I briefly described a shift between modern intelligence warfare modalities from the antiquated but still considerably reliable methods of manual surveillance (such as directly observing enemy activity via camouflage of various types) to remote surveillance made possible through a multitude of scientific advancements in surveillance technologies (i.e. the camera, the drone, the computer, etc.). Where troops once relied on wit and behavioral deception to gain mission critical information, modern warfare depends on the electron and vast information-technology networks. Because of this shift in how wars are conducted, for defensive as well as offensive purposes, the concept of Activity-Based Intelligence and its umbrella concept ‘cognitive engagement’, though relatively incipient, is providing the basis for novel and pervasive methods of information warfare.

What do they bode for human freedom or anyone’s way of life?

To begin to answer that, retain to memory the following:

  1. Activity-Based Intelligence is a modality of ‘cognitive engagement’ which offers up information on any target that is in some way connected to the World-Wide-Web (WWW). Whether you purchase products online, throw memes back n’ forth on Facebook, or use a SMART phone, virtually every digital signature can be collected, analyzed, and integrated into ‘intelligent systems’ that may then compile an accurate profile of the enemy along with supplementary material that can allow one to discern the ‘gaps’ of the enemy which may be exploited via information warfare.
  2. As explicitly and implicitly stated by the document, “targeting the mind of the enemy commander is more important than the bodies of his troops.” And insomuch that this is true, Information Operations (IO) as they are called, are far more effective at assuaging a potentially serious military conflict (or perhaps a dissident uprising?) than bombs or bullets.
  3. In finding the above to be more or less true, it is not a matter of doubt as to whether these systems will be used. Of course they will. The question is on whom and why? Will the actions of our military be justified? Does anyone care?

The white paper asserts that bolstering the military’s ability to conduct operations “other than war” is a most necessary response to the increasing novelty in how foreign powers and factions manipulate or contend with one another:

“Greater connectivity will enable hostile entities to influence a wider audience and to co-opt members of disaffected populations for malign purposes.”

The justification to carry out operations ‘other than war’ may follow from witnessing how the,

 “level of complexity today, post-Cold War and September 11, has risen exponentially. States and groups used as proxies in the Cold War game are now vying for their own identity, power and authority and with them wealthy shadow governments and violent extremist have risen in many forms across the globe.”

(Can you say ISIS?)

But despite this seemingly reasonable justification for conducting operations ‘other than war’, one who has a good-natured trepidation for state-sponsored propaganda missions can’t help but ask what the term ‘operations other than war’ connotes. The paper answers those who have such a question with a staidly written definition of information operations as they apply to the ‘cognitive domain’:

“Information Operations (IO) doctrine defines the cognitive domain as the component of the information environment (IE) that encompasses the gray matter of those who transmit, receive, and act upon information. Cognitive operations such as information processing, perception, judgment, and decision-making are the most vital aspect of the IE.”

Did you get that?

Synoptically stated, the paper relates the necessity of propagandizing the f*** out of whatever target they deem a threat to U.S. policy. Their own words couldn’t be more clear.

“Cognition is influenced by individual and cultural beliefs, norms, vulnerabilities, motivations, emotions, experiences, morals, education, mental health, identities, and ideologies and thus requires research and analysis methods from the bio-psycho-social sciences to understand and manipulate.”

To be continued…




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