Blog Post

News from us
07 July 2020

PSYOP and Information Operations in the Media

All of us are guilty of reading a news headline that comes across our social media feed and accepting it as the truth.  Many times, we voice our opinions without ever reading the story, or digging deeper to uncover the facts.  Whatever happened to “Question Authority”, or “Don’t believe everything you read as the truth?”

Technology and social media have made us lazy.

In this day and age, we simply cannot take everything we read as the truth.  We need to check the source and examine the facts before we form an educated opinion.

In the case of social media, the majority of it is just false propaganda, released to the masses, and designed to sway public opinion.

The media will take soundbites and edit them in such a way to misconstrue the truth so they can push their own narrative.  Once your emotions have been tapped, you either become elated, or enraged, depending on the story, or which side of the aisle you lean.

Welcome to the world of PSYOP; Psychological Operations, and IO; Information Operations.

The Military

The United States military has been using PSYOP and IO for years to infiltrate an enemy state, or sway public opinion in a foreign country.  Russia was accused of using it during the lead up to the 2016 Presidential election, peppering social media with false news articles and memes designed to sway your opinion.

PSYOP must keep abreast of the advances in academic and technological disciplines that are pertinent to this human dimension.  The social and behavioral sciences, and the field of mass communication, provide insight as to what PSYOP should consider when planning and conducting a Psychological Operation.

A PSYOP must be adept at employing a TTP (Technology Transition Plan) that reflects the latest advances in these and other emerging fields to ensure mission success and to keep MISO (Military Intelligence: Special Operations) on par with the commander’s other assets. (ST 33-01)

A PSYOP campaign, like any other campaign, starts with a planning phase.  When planning a PSYOP, there are multiple factors to consider; who is your target audience, what is the current situation, what is your desired end-state, and the behavior change you would like to see.  Once they confirm these factors, they begin developing messages that will have the desired effect they want to achieve.

The Media

Ironically, the media is using PSYOP and IO methods to strategically target people in order to sway their opinions and get them to believe the message, or narrative, they are trying to create. It is important to note that I am not stating that the media is using PSYOP or IO to influence Americans, I am pointing out some of the methods used in their media campaign. The following information is explaining the similar methods so you can have a better understanding of what you are being told by the major news outlets.

These are some methods the media uses.

Step one: Your Objective

The media uses current situations to develop objectives, and supporting objectives, that will provide them with an observable and measurable response that will reflect the desired behavior change.  This will determine how effective the messaging was on a certain target audience.

Objective Example:

Decrease the amount of new COVID 19 cases.

Support Example:

Target audience stays home, or target audience wears masks in public.

Step two: Target Audience

Once the objectives are identified, it is now time to identify a target audience.  Typically, there will be multiple target audiences, but they will be narrowed down to the one that is most likely to engage in the desired behavior.

This target audience will be the most susceptible to the overall campaign.

Wide Target Audience Example:

American populace

Narrowed Target Audience Example:

Males aged 45-65 living in populated cities on the east coast

Step three: Vulnerabilities

Now that a target audience has been identified, the next step is to identify the key vulnerabilities of the target audience to develop main arguments and supporting arguments.

Vulnerabilities are characteristics, motives, or conditions that can be used to influence the target audience.

Vulnerabilities Example:

What does the target audience fear, hate, and love?

Once vulnerabilities are identified, the main arguments and supporting arguments are then developed.  The main argument is written in one or two sentences, summarizing the conclusion that the target audience must reach to engage in the desired behavior.

Argument Example:

Wearing a mask will help fight against the spread of COVID 19.

Supporting arguments provide more factual evidence that supports the main argument.

Supporting Argument Example:

Recent studies have shown wearing a mask can decrease the spread of COVID by 90% in older men who are more susceptible to contracting the virus.

Some of these arguments can play on fear.

Fear Example:

Studies show that African American males are more likely to contract COVID than any other race.

Those are just some of the basic methods that the media uses to develop the stories and messages that you receive on a daily basis that are similar to PSYOP and IO methods. Again, in no way is our Military assisting the media in PSYOP messaging, this article is just pointing out some examples of how the media develops their messaging.

A common trend is for the media to release a detailed news headline on Social Media.  People read the headline and automatically assume it’s an unbiased news article.  Then they share it without even reading the full article.

Media outlets have also brought in celebrities, or influencers, instead of experts, who are well versed on the issues.  Why do they do this?  Because they know that the majority of people will listen to a famous person, rather than listen to a qualified professional who knows the facts.

Most people will only listen to one side of the story and will not fact check.  What is the end result?  People engage in behavioral changes that the media has designed to influence that change.   

I am writing this information to help explain what’s happening in today’s social media space and why there has been such a division in our country.  We have two political parties fighting to gain control of the Presidency, or retain the Presidency.  This has become a chase to influence the masses and discredit one another’s political parties, or agendas, which ultimately divides us.

We as Americans and the world as a whole have fallen into this trap of trusting everyone and everything, without raising questions, or demanding to see the facts.  And if you do raise questions, especially about an opposing side, you are dismissed, called racist, or accused of being a liar.

Many people would have you believe that here is no way your country would try and manipulate you.  Well, I promise you, they do and they have for a very long time.  This has been going on longer than you might think.

I blame it on naivetés, ignorance, and the lack of educating oneself.

After reading this article I hope you think twice before commenting on a news headline that comes across your social media feed.  Educate yourself, ask questions, read between the lines, and demand to see the facts.  Read articles from the opposite side of the spectrum, learn to identify persuasive clues, so you can form your own conclusions of the truth.

Wake up America…