back to article Pentagon gets green light for WAR ... of web propaganda against IS

The Pentagon has been given formal approval to start an online propaganda campaign against the Islamic State following a recent push by the US Department of Defense (DoD). Congress approved the National Defense Authorization Act for 2016 last week and included in it a whole section (1056) on "Information operations and …

  1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Money Wasted

    Somehow counter propaganda does not seem to a good investment. I doubt many in DOD and other 3 letter incompetents understand ISIS and what motivates people to join. Also, I suspect they are either too greedy, stupid, or generally unethical to admit they do not understand.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Money Wasted

      I think the US will be very effective in the propaganda war.

      They will block Al-Jazera and a few Muslim peace groups and aid agencies because they have 'Al" in the name. They will put lots of 3 year olds on the no-fly lists for the same reason.

      They will replace any youtube video containing Arabic script with videos of smart bombs hitting targets.

      That should motivate a lot of people to join ISIS

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Money Wasted

      Depends on if the propaganda is "you shouldn't join ISIS and here is why" or "join ISIS by doing X" where X has you showing up somewhere for convenient rendition to a black site.

    3. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Money Wasted

      Well.. it'll be pricey and ineffective to say the least. I guessing certain well-heeled and well-placed contractors are rubbing their hands together and licking their lips at the possibility of mega-dollars coming their way. And since the program will run for 7 years... multi-year profits.

      And for the skeptics... what makes anyone think that the "Pentagon" or DoD will actually do this themselves? Even the propaganda films, etc. from WWII were done by contractors (major Hollywood studios) for a nice profit.

      1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        Re: Money Wasted

        @Mark 85 - Sounds like Obamacare without public scrutiny. A nice way to repay certain incompetents/criminals who did not get all the money they wanted in the Obamacare rollout.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Money Wasted

      I wonder if they will follow the Israeli model - of state sponsored trolls?

      http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2014/08/trolls-whats-confusing-nature-game.html

      1. Swarthy

        Re: Money Wasted

        I'm a bit torn on this. The US knows how to do propaganda - I mean, look how long the US Gov't had everyone convinced they were the good guys.

        On the other hand, does the US Gov't actually want a peaceful resolution (by choking off recruitment)? And also given the US Gov't history of dealing with other cultures and minorities, will they just end up disenfranchising, marginalizing, and radicalizing moderate Muslims with "Islam is bad, MmmKay"?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Money Wasted

          On the other hand, does the US Gov't actually want a peaceful resolution

          No. That's why they want to wage a counter-productive propaganda war. The vast US military and their supply chain only have jobs on the basis of near continuous war, they're in no hurry to run out of "adversaries" deserving of a good bombing.

          Anybody with eyes can read and see that the same "bomb the beardoes" strategy failed in Afghanistan, failed even worse in Iraq, failed yet worse still in Libya. Does anybody spot a trend there? I wonder how Syria's going to turn out?

          I predict mucho televised bomb-porn in which $5,000 pick ups are destroyed by a $70,000 Hellfire missile, I further predict mucho collateral damage that's always blamed on the Russians, the continued disintegration of the Levant, further terrorist attacks against the West (that turd Cameron's doing his bit to put British necks on the line as I type), all followed by an eventual recognition that there are no "moderate Syrian rebels", requiring either an accommodation with armed thugs, or a repeat of the failed occupation of Iraq that gave birth to IS.

          Anyone looking to bet against me?

          1. Mark 85 Silver badge

            Re: Money Wasted

            Anyone looking to bet against me?

            Depends... there's the rumor the Russians are moving tac nukes about. For a long time in the past, that was their threat to terrorists, etc. The Daesh do want that "lake of fire" their holy book speaks of, and even identifies the location. So... maybe. Still long odds on betting against you.

          2. h4rm0ny

            Re: Money Wasted

            >>I predict mucho televised bomb-porn in which $5,000 pick ups are destroyed by a $70,000 Hellfire missile, I further predict mucho collateral damage that's always blamed on the Russians, the continued disintegration of the Levant, further terrorist attacks against the West (that turd Cameron's doing his bit to put British necks on the line as I type), all followed by an eventual recognition that there are no "moderate Syrian rebels", requiring either an accommodation with armed thugs, or a repeat of the failed occupation of Iraq that gave birth to IS.

            >>Anyone looking to bet against me?"

            Not even on the part I bolded. William Hague in his speech yesterday said: "we may find it necessary to break up Iraq and Syria". That's... quite a presumption on our part!

            Speech of the day had to be Gerald Kaufman who had the whole House in silence and said: "What it will undoubtedly do, despite the assurances of the Prime Minister, is it will kill innocent civilians. I am not going to be a party to killing innocent civilians for what will simply be a gesture. I’m not interested in gesture politics."

  2. Breen Whitman

    Wonder if its more because pretty much any newer Syria video posted on YouTube, liveleak etc has overwhelming comments agreeing that the US funds ISIS by proxy, via Turkey etc.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      It turns out that everyone is funding ISIS buy buying mid-East oil.. that's funneled through Turkey. Methinks the Turks are playing to both sides of the fence in this.

    2. veti Silver badge

      That would be testimony to the fact that Putin is taking online propaganda seriously, and has been for some time. The Russians support a substantial body of full-time nerds, to make sure all anti-western talking points get a good airing on YouTube and everywhere else they can reach.

      Seriously, if you're getting your information about current affairs from YouTube, you are going to get a very strange view of the world. It has all the disadvantages of old-fashioned journalism, but without the reputational bias and quality control.

      It's sad. We've successfully (and correctly) taught people to be sceptical of what they read in the press and "official" channels - but when those same people see YouTube comments, they take them as undisputed truth. There's a moral in that somewhere.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Seriously, if you're getting your information about current affairs from YouTube,

        Seriously, if you're getting your information about current affairs from YouTube,

        Some of us are not.

        1. Exactly who was in control of the petrol wells bombed by Russians (in order to have their jets taken out) two weeks ago is all over the news across half of Europe. The reports include actual names and, so far, indirect proof based on their wealth graphs over the time of the conflict. I have seen/heard it on two different stations in two different countries so far (sometimes having a 80cm SAT dish pointed somewhere else from BSkyB in the UK comes in handy).

        Considering the resources and the money a very pissed off Russia has put to bear on this one, it will be only a matter of time until the actual documents are leaked and there is little reason to expect that the names announced so far will be exonerated. Similarly, because of the names and Bns involved Obama and the French asking the Russians to calm down is like as pissing up-wind in a hurricane.

        2. It is not on the news in the UK because of UK libel law - the evidence so far is circumstantial - people getting ~Bn wealth in under 5 years. No comment on Faux news and other USA outlets. They just tow the line.

        3. As long as the names and numbers are not announced on the local news all we can do is order more popcorn. Once they are, there will be some questions to my MP to ask in the Parliament on exactly why we are offering military support and to whom. Again - no names, UK libel law, go and dig them out yourself from continental news sources.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Seriously, if you're getting your information about current affairs from YouTube,

          there will be some questions to my MP to ask in the Parliament on exactly why we are offering military support and to whom

          A pointless waste of your time. I did write to my MP, Karen Lumley, on the topics of the ill-advised desire to engage in the recreational bombing of Syria, and the great evil that is the Snoopers Charter, and got back a letter that indicated to me that she is a traditional lickspittle Tory, slavishly following the will of our shiney-faced, vacuous, over-fed turd of a prime minister.

          Having swallowed the excrement-coated dodgy dossier to go to war in Iraq, it seems parliament never learn, and will shortly vote to join the hobby war in Syria on the back of Lightweight Dave's claim of "70,000 moderate rebels". What a complete tit the man is.

        2. veti Silver badge

          Re: Seriously, if you're getting your information about current affairs from YouTube,

          You've got to be kidding. The "evidence" is, "these people got richer, therefore they must've been doing something dodgy, and simultaneously these dodgy things were going on, ergo they must've been doing it"? That's what passes for investigative journalism in your world?

          As for "not on the news in the UK because of UK libel law" - dangit, if only there were some way of finding out what foreign newspapers were saying! Wouldn't it be nice if they could put the information somewhere, where anyone who was interested could go and pick it up, complete with references to sources? Ah well, maybe our children's children will live to see such a marvel.

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Captain DaFt

    Big reason this'll fail:

    Using truth, facts, and honesty is the best propaganda.

    These traits have seemed a bit rare from 5 certain governments lately.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Big reason this'll fail:

      Truth never works. Telling people what they want to hear in a media feed-back loop does.

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: Big reason this'll fail:

        Truth can help, but it's not an automatic cure-all. There are rules you need to follow.

        Make it clear that everything you say is subjective. Everything. Don't just "tell us the truth is the truth because it's from Authority". Tell us how you know it. Tell us what you, personally, saw and were told, and who showed and told you it. By all means comment on the reliability or otherwise of your sources, but make it clear that this too is a subjective judgment on your part.

        That way, if it later turns out that the things you reported were not true, you personally haven't lied to us - you've merely relayed a lie told to you by someone else. And since you made it clear at the time that's what you were doing, your reputation is still intact.

        It's very tempting, as a journalist, to claim credit for Uncovering The Truth, getting "exclusives" and "exposes". But the sad fact is that approximately 90% of the "exclusives" and "exposes" you see in the press were hand-fed to them by someone who was being paid to promote a particular point of view, and then they suckered some journalist into putting their own name on it.

      2. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        Re: Big reason this'll fail:

        Truth never works. Telling people what they want to hear in a media feed-back loop does ... Anonymous Coward

        Truth never fails, AC. It is a folly that fools and tools follow whenever a false trail is laid to lead and the present is awash with them.

  5. Sokolik

    Back to the Future

    I'm reminded of the splendidly-successful "black propaganda" of Allied-military radio operators, perfectly-fluent in German, in the UK during the run-up to D-Day. Slightly-nuanced bogus messages on the Nazi operational bands. Effectively spread FUD.

    Also joined with a campaign of bogus Allied airwave chatter intended to encourage Nazi belief in the existence of Patton's non-existent Army. This helped reinforce the Nazi belief invasion would be at Calais, not Normandy. This latter campaign was crucial if not decisive in the success of D-Day.

    I see a huge opportunity here for the same kind of success and effectiveness.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Back to the Future

      I do not.

      The problem is that true disinformation against an adversary via public media sources is becoming extremely difficult. It has become too easy to find alternative news sources and cross-reference. It has become very easy to uncover and expose trolls, shills and people who have vested interest in a particular viewpoint.

      So disinformation nowdays works _ONLY_ against your own population. It no longer works against your adversaries. All you need is to watch Faux News for 5 minutes to see a glaring example of this.

  6. Robert Helpmann??
    Childcatcher

    Homeland

    Perhaps they would do well to hire Heba Amin, Caram Kapp and Stone (Don Karl). They definitely have a good understanding of the cultural issues involved and a sense of humor in the way they approach things.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Homeland

      But they are almost certain to hire Haliburton and Lockheed-martin, you have to consider where your next job is coming from when you leave office

  7. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Puppets on Strings Spinning Threads on WWWebs

    Who's playing the servant and acting as master of the Pentagon? ........ http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-12-01/look-inside-saudi-arabias-elaborate-us-propaganda-machine?

    And is the Movement, a Rising AI, and Great Game Changer of a Global Operating Device?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The propaganda will be aimed at YOU not ISIS

    What makes you think this will be targeted at ISIS?

    This will be used to keep the US fear level up and to make the case for surveillance and war.

    Much more money to be made in bombings and invasion and snooping than trying to stop nutjobs joining ISIS.

    1. Doctor_Wibble
      Facepalm

      Re: The propaganda will be aimed at YOU not ISIS

      Quite, I don't see how aiming propaganda at Daesh will do anything other than give them more material to declare what lies spoken (etc).

      And having an entire sub-department created and dedicated to the task of dissing them is effectively declaring it to be an enemy important enough to warrant such an approach - expect a surge in the number of recruits as a direct result of this official seal of approval.

      Pillocks.

  9. h4rm0ny
    Flame

    Fighting fire with fire

    Means more fire, in my experience. The counters to propaganda are facts and education, not more propaganda.

    The concerns with this are not limited to but include the following:

    • It is an open licence to lie to the public about both the situation and your own actions. A topical example would be Cameron's vote today on whether to start bombing Syria in earnest. A big part of it hinges on it having been said that there are 70,000 friendly ground troops available for follow-up. In fact, from the leaks we've had and other less partisan sources, that figure is both inflated and - more scarily - comprised in large part by Al Quaeda members! Suppose the government were legally entitled to put out misinformation about things to "win the image war" against Islamic State. What would that do to our ability to make informed decisions? There are no limits in this on who they can lie to or what they can make up to support their lies. By its very nature, propaganda needs to be public and not contradicted by the propagandist (government in this case).
    • It forever devalues trust in the government. Yes... I know - "trust in the government - ha! ha!" But being serious, explicit legal approval to lie to the public? This would drive it further down still. And with good reason. When a government cannot be trusted, you get all sorts of social problems. Ever worked in a company where the upper management do nothing useful and lie to the employees? See the knock on effect on how people work in that company? Britain has that on a national scale. So let's make it worse! :/
    • It violates basic democratic principles. This doesn't need explaining. Democracy not only requires freedom to choose representatives, but freedom of information and sources so that choices can be informed
    • It's not only limited to making statements. A large part of this will be building up fake accounts, voting up and disparaging opponents.What do you think the distorting effect of full time, paid and professional trolls would be, co-ordinated, working from the same mission statements and target lists would be? When the government gets to choose which views are popular and which get buried in ad hominems, minutiae, dismissal and argument by repetition? How long would YOU keep making your arguments in the face of a hostile audience of seeming hundreds (which could be three or four government employees). There is software out there to support mass sock-puppeting, to help co-ordinate identities across multiple sites and forums so that they appear as real people. It's moderately sophisticated and designed to allow small numbers of people to determine what views seem popular and which seem hated.
    • There are no limits to the remit. As with any other "war" on a nebulous concept, Terrorism is what the government says it is. Where is the hard line between supporting terrorism and "not fighting it enough" or between supporting terrorism and criticising the governments efforts against it? Alan Simpson was a Labour MP who stood up to Blair over Iraq, called out the lies that led to that war. Today, Cameron would call him a "Terrorist sympathizer" (which is down right offensive even if you don't agree with the MPs who question bombing Syria). Now imagine that accompanied by a social media campaign of whispers and sock-puppets to undermine him. THAT is what we're talking about with a propaganda licence like this. It's not just posting pro-government information from seemingly non-government sources, it's also burying rival view points. That, after all, is what propaganda is really about.

    It's like watching two farmers fighting over the chickens. Herding the chickens one way or another makes sense from the farmers' perspectives, but we're the chickens and propaganda (either direction) is about stopping people making their own choices by distorting what they see. If the government wants to post facts and argument in places where people also find Islamic State propaganda, fine by me - I'm no fan of Islamic State. But fighting fire with fire just leads to more fire. Truth is what I want. And who reading this doesn't think being able to make their own informed choice isn't the best thing for them?

    But in the Pentagon scenario, this post or my character would be buried in downvotes, ground-shifting criticisms, ad hominems or outwardly sympathetic but ultimately discrediting engagement. Whatever it took, really. In a situation where our Prime Minister calls those who don't want to bomb Syria "terrorist sympathizers" of the atrocities in Paris, criticism of the government is indistinguishable from support for its opponents.

    1. Dr_N Silver badge

      Re: Fighting fire with fire

      I'd like to agree with you, but when you see the amount FUD circulating on the internet concerning anti-vaccination "facts", miracle cures and other such Woo then you really have to ask whether fighting propaganda with actual facts can really work. Even with a supposedly educated population.

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: Fighting fire with fire

        >>"you really have to ask whether fighting propaganda with actual facts can really work"

        Well, if it doesn't, I'm not convinced that therefore lies and fake profiles will.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Internet propaganda is not going to have any impact on ISIS at all. They are going to carry on following their fanatical beliefs, brutally torturing and murdering people and blowing shit up until the good people of the world decide enough is enough and hunt them down and shoot them dead.

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Stupid IS is as Stupid IS Does.

      If they, and we can also include ISIS in that collective, were/are towards the smarter end of the intelligence led spectrum, can we expect them to specifically target opposing command and control centres and personnel, such as who and what may be in the Blighty field of operations, Cabinet members and Parliamentary colleagues, just as their opponents do. Hitting poor Joe Bloggs and blowing up innocent Jane Does is a real dumb action and gets one nowhere fast unless creating ever more powerful enemies is the desired result ........ and that is most surely a great madness well enough defined for anyone to understand.

      Can one bomb madness away or do war games spread the insanity over the air waves, just like a virulent viral plague?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Stupid IS is as Stupid IS Does.

        can we expect them to specifically target opposing command and control centres and personnel, such as who and what may be in the Blighty field of operations, Cabinet members and Parliamentary colleagues

        I'd like to see all of IS and their supporters (including various Gulf states) pushing up the daisies, but that's not going to happen. And if the choice is between cabinet members and MPs being blown up, or ordinary folk, then I'm thinking that those who voted for war should be the people to take the heat, rather than people like me.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can see the propaganda ads...

    "Want to kill people indiscriminately? Are you good at Lockheed Martin's Prepar3D or any other flight simulator? Then we need you!

    While the mobs pray several times a day, you can eat just as many times and achieve high scores from the comfort of an ergonomic arm-chair! Join the US Army to become a drone operator and root out ISIS mullahs in the latest installment of 'War on Terrror'.

    'War on Terror' brings a level of detail never seen before, powered by Real World Engine[tm]. We deliver frequent updates, an infinite number of levels and a variety of achievements. Single player and Co-Op missions available.

    Sign up now for Free-to-Play 'War on Terror' and start rooting out ISIS terrorists today!"

  12. Amorous Cowherder
    Facepalm

    Plain English please!

    "military information support operations "

    What's wrong with the word propaganda? It's a perfectly good word that describes exactly what it is, just as other words like "war" and "death", words are nothing to be frightened of. Just like that nonsense during the last little holiday the US Army hadm when they decided to "pacify Fallujah", rather than "bomb the **** out of a large town"!

    Seriously, you're trying to conquer hearts and minds of very impressionable and sometimes, slightly dim people who are fooled by the crap spewed by IS, and as such if wish to get everyone behind it let's try to speak clearly and concisely so everyone knows what's going on.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Plain English please!

      No different from the RAF's, "dehousing" = targeting civilian areas and "attacks on enemy moral" = indiscriminate carpet bombing because they couldn't hit anything they aimed at

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hey you guys!

    Quit being so bloody insightful, I've a bunch of munitions here getting unstable and I need to make space for new stock.

    Give a guy a break, we all need to make a living and us poor arms dealers are no different, also some of this shit is really toxic we don't want to have to bury that in our own back yards, weee on my parade that would.

    No we need to get some straw dogs painted and go for some good ol' retribution in public view. Once the FU* see we are posting more cool FCDAD** videos they can get chest thumping and keep up with the taxes.

    * Facebook Users

    ** Foreign combatant disassembly at distance

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wasted energy

    What is the point in gathering folk to come up with innovative, unusual, and outside-of-the-box thinking that will alter the perspective of the situation, when they always end up being reviewed by the dyed-in-the-wool adherents of the establishment who insist that everything conforms to conventions taught at war school and bury all those creative types who, after a prolonged period of being seen to have produced absolutely nothing, will be disbanded after being judged as an irrelevant and costly mistake.

  15. This post has been deleted by its author

  16. Tail Up

    Civils...

    Seems like a series of pin hits should low-level the threat, but the local regionals at the levers are just nominal units, and will be replaced as soon as let out of the game. Breaking the ties in fleabarrelling and diminishing the provision and ammo supply will disjoin the "united monolyth" and make the field bosses flee in fear from their bewildered unpaid, but contracted staff. Curtain, contracting the "rebels" on civil and military service... and let'em have another kind of field, an oil one, or two, or three, to keep their trousers on waist (-:

    I definitely think that some of the members of some families should take their respectable asse* and serve kindly as hostages of good will in the hell bottom of where they "do not want the bombs to fall". I will gladly volunteer the whole lot of on-air stand-ups.

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