Psychological Warfare by Paul M.A. Linebarger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Let's set the stage for this one.
This 1948 publication was first and foremost designed to be a manual. It was not a rigorous academic study. It was designed to teach intelligence operatives the basics and intermediates of psychological warfare.
He even makes no bones about intersecting and sometimes outright conflating Public Relations with the field of Psychological Warfare. Indeed, their purposes are often the same, in many cases written by the same people.
Similar things have been going on since there were people gathering to make cities. The examples in this particular book draw from many WWI and WWII real examples from America, Russia, and China.
Now, I'm pretty certain everyone has seen something of this in our modern life. You may even make a huge hobby of pointing out gaslighting in politics, obvious falsehoods told by ideological enemies internationally or right in your own country.
If you do, then you know that this book is old news. There is no difference between Psychological Warfare and Public Relations. We lie to our own side to maintain morale and we lie to the other side to reduce theirs.
We tell the truth mixed with little lies to get the other side to READ our propaganda, but subtly twist it to know when and where enemy combatants are using your information. Like a footprint.
We promise the world. Peace, happiness, prosperity -- to our own AND to our enemies... if they only come over to our side.
What we don't do is make things unspecific. Generalities are laughable. Details and compelling.
We don't tell our enemies that we will crush them. Such tactics only entrench the other side. Rather, the point is to soften their resolve. Show them how well you're doing. How strong you are. How capable.
The point is to be effective. Most of the time it's a hit-or-miss game, but when information is EVERYTHING (whether in peace or in war) every gambit counts.
Now, for anyone who ISN'T already aware that we are utterly surrounded by psychological warfare RIGHT THIS VERY INSTANT, you might want to check your assumptions.
It never stopped. The whole Cold War should be proof of that. The whole American lifestyle, all of Western Thought, any political faction in any country, all corporations, and all media brands down to YouTubers and your local church gathering is an example of it.
Whether you are consciously aware of what you're doing or not is another matter.
You position yourself and your group to be seen in the best light, do you not?
First, make yourself appear like them, either literally or ideologically. Make them trust you by being a part of their in-group.
Then make them trust you by being a reliable source of news.
Then, start poisoning the well.
It's pretty simple, after all. Anyone can do it, right, Twitter? And best of all, ANYONE can do it!
There's a great book called Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media that spells out many of the best time-tested methods.
Repeat your message over and over. It won't matter whether it is true or not. As long as you have total saturation, enough people will pick up on it and repeat it. It worked back in WWII. It works WONDERFULLY in America.
Give people a horrible setup, then offer them a way out.
If the media won't play along with you, then call them all liars and set up your own media outlets.
If the other side calls you on your bluff, make a smokescreen.
At all times, muddy the water. A tried and true method is to accuse all your enemies of what you've been doing yourself. Usually, because you've been doing it first. (Some people are MASTERS of this kind of deflection. It's not a psychological pathology. It's an outright wartime tactic. Tried and true.)
But above all, be sure to use the six Moral Foundations if you want to get the most bang for your buck:
Care: cherishing and protecting others; opposite of harm
Fairness or proportionality: rendering justice according to shared rules; opposite of cheating
Loyalty or ingroup: standing with your group, family, nation; opposite of betrayal
Authority or respect: submitting to tradition and legitimate authority; opposite of subversion
Sanctity or purity: abhorrence for disgusting things, foods, actions; opposite of degradation
Liberty: opposite of oppression.
If you see your in-group pumping up all six of the positives while attributing all the negatives to the other side, you know they're doing a FANTASTIC job with their propaganda.
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