Document:The Weaponisation of Information
- 1 Spin, Disinformation, The Weaponisation of Information and The Double Game.
- 2 Disinformation and the Weaponisation of Information (Psyops)
- 3 The Double Game
- 4 Conclusion
Spin, Disinformation, The Weaponisation of Information and The Double Game.
Most of us are aware that many of the things told to us by our leaders, whilst seldom being outright lies are seldom the outright truth either. If our political representatives engage in a political slight of hand, if they play ‘Find the Lady’ with the truth, then what form might this misdirection take? Let us take a look at some of the main types of deception which can be employed singly or in combination in such a way that it is often difficult to say what is going on.
This has been defined succinctly as the practice of manipulating the facts to profit the politician and allay public concern. In fact the White House has a posse of spin savvy doctors whose function is to perform damage control on a whole range of subjects from financial misjudgments to romantic involvements. The White House has ways of effecting reprisals on reporters who attempt to circumvent the Department of Communication, for instance by not confirming the validity of a particular story until after the reporter’s deadline has passed. Those who go to press with the story anyway risk being shunned and effectively having their career ended. Also, in order to stay in the loop some objective reporters have had to compromise their objectivity.
Some Spin Techniques
Cherry Picking and Omissions
Cherry picking is the selective use of data to present your own case in a better light than it really is. For instance, throughout 2007 the White House has claimed that the US is doing better than Europe in greenhouse gas emissions. This seems to be a curious statement since if the USA intended to out perform other countries that are party to the Kyoto Agreement then there should have been no reason to prevent them from joining in the first place. An organisation called The Pacific Institute has analysed the data and found that the US administration has both cherry picked the specific data to analyse and a specific snapshot in time as a reference point. Kyoto monitors six different greenhouse gasses and produces a weighted average. If we take 1990 as a starting point and call the gasses that existed at that point 100, then between 1990 – 2004 Europe’s weighted average varied between 97 – 100, whereas USA emissions rose steadily over the same period and between 2000 – 2004 and varied between 112 – 115. What the White House appears to be claiming is that during the year 2000 their carbon dioxide emissions were marginally better than those from Europe.
Omissions are both easier and more sinister and technically are not spin at all but a special case of negotiating by doing nothing. These are the result of having a compliant media who just do not let disadvantageous news ever see the light of day. Any brave editor who makes a stand, risks having their journalistic career stopped dead in its tracks. Examples are legion and could include the following short selection:
- 51% of Americans including 29% Republicans wish to see both the President Bush and Vice President Cheney impeached (Newsweek Magazine) but the general media, who have never met a poll they won’t publish will not now even ask the question leaving most people with the feeling they are isolated in their views.
- Dennis Kucinich has filed a bill in the HOR calling for the impeachment of VP Cheney. Have you heard about it?
- Judge Anna Diggs Taylor has ruled President Bush to be a Class A felon for violating the first and fourth amendments with his illegal spying on Americans but your President decided the law didn’t apply to him and the media didn’t report it.
- US war casualties are misrepresented and Iraqi casualties are not represented at all. The routine use of depleted uranium is never mentioned as are the casualties returning home with burning sperm syndrome. These are not treated by the administration so that statistics are never compiled.
- Al Gore is reported to have a $1600/month electricity bill.
- When was the last time you saw a list of the coalition of the willing since the rest of the willing took their ball home?
- Ever heard of Camp Iguana? It is a special section of Guantanamo Bay for pre-pubescent enemy combatants.
Not Saying What You Mean
The perpetrator appears to say something reasonable but there is a hidden undercurrent in the message. Tony Blair used this technique masterfully in his statement “Weakness is not the way to defeat terrorism”. On the face of it, it is hard to pick the bones out of this one but it was actually a dig at the Tory opposition party who were perceived to be weak on terrorism thus under their control weakening the country and making the UK a soft target.
British police say that in their experience, hardened criminals start off as minor criminals. Therefore the way to combat future major crime is to build a DNA and fingerprint database of people caught in the act of such serious misdemeanours as throwing their cigarette ends in the street or allowing their dogs to foul the footpath. These clearly are going to be the rapists and mass murderers of the future. What a super method of paving the way for police state control but of course this only is the ravings of leftist malcontents and we all know that if you never do anything wrong then you have nothing to fear.
The Non-denial Denial
Forms of this are rubbishing a statement as ridiculous or absurd or not dignifying it with a response without addressing the question in hand. Impugning a source without addressing the allegation or denying a more specific version of events than that alleged. Finally there is good old amnesia.
Certain US politicians could hold their hand on their heart and say they never received monetary inducements from Tom Delay without mentioning any cost free fact finding jaunts around Austral Asia and the Far East. The American Home Mortgage Investment Corporation for example could have denied plans to lay off 5,000 workers when they actually planned to lay off 6,250.
Bill Clinton managed a double whammy in nine words when he said “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”. Apart from the issue of whether fellatio constitutes ‘sexual relations’, what woman was he referring to? It could have been Hilary. When Condi Rice gave evidence before the 9/11 Commission her job was one of damage control without implicating either herself or the government. She responded to a question “I don’t remember the al Qaeda cells being something we were told we needed to do something about. To the best of my knowledge this kind of analysis... actually was never briefed to us”. “I don’t remember” and “To the best of my knowledge” are crawl out from under statements to prevent being caught in a lie.
This next one just about sums it up. Charles Haughey the former premier of Ireland said that “Coalition governments are against every fibre of my being”. When he formed a coalition government after his election a spokesman said “Charlie never said he would not lead his party into a coalition just that he was uncomfortable with the idea in theory. Listen to what he actually said, not what you thought he was implying”.
Euphemisms are a technique of softening the language to make unpalatable things sound more acceptable. This again is a large subject so here are a few brief examples to give the flavour. It is also interesting that the replacement for euphemisms can themselves become euphemisms.
- Concentration camps, originally an innocuous term coined during the Boer War took on a different meaning after the discovery of Hitler’s death camps. This became internment camps which itself has been replaced by detention camps.
- Over the years lame became crippled which then became handicapped and finally disabled.
- Shell shock became battle fatigue, which became operational exhaustion and ended up as post traumatic stress disorder.
- More recently, frisking became a body search which has now been replaced by a pat down. Doesn’t it almost sound as if they are giving someone a pat on the back?
- Finally, my particular favourite, ‘friendly fire’, which is not so friendly for the poor bugger who is having bullets ripping through his chest.
The Thought Train of Spin
There was a woman in UK administration who e-mailed department heads on 9/11 whilst the towers were still burning, with the message “If you have any news at all which is going to be in any way unpopular, today is the day to get it out”. Unfortunately for her the message was in written form and after two witch-hunts she was eventually forced to resign. Hiding bad news whilst peoples’ attention is distracted is one of the techniques of spin.
President Bush has told us “I deeply care about the environment” and to prove it we have seen 30 second video bites of him dressed in neutral tones helping forest rangers in Colorado. Most Americans know however that he really, really wants to break up the environment and take it for a big business ride with his big business buddies. In a leaked White House memo, Environment Protection Agency Administrator Christie Whitman offered her advice to President Bush on global warming, asserting “We need to appear engaged”. What a brilliant tactic; spin it like we care about the environment (instead of poll numbers) and leave the earth to the pillagers.
Disinformation and the Weaponisation of Information (Psyops)
Back in the days of the Crimea War, for instance, it took a week or more for news of events to reach back home. Modern technology allows the public to sit with their TV dinner on their knee and watch a battle in action. Whilst this brings many advantages, the West and American people in particular have become the unwitting victims of their own information warriors. US propaganda directed at the US’s enemies has instantaneously rebounded and formed a bridgehead in the American psyche. Often, the cheapest way to buy technology is to get it two generations old and Mr Rumsfeld did like to get things on the cheap. Here was a man who used his authority to show contempt for people and their often, sound advice without the foresight or intellect to see where all of this was taking him. And where it took him was to the destruction of the moral authority of the United States. Now it is too late, the damage to America’s standing in the world has been done. Rummy was not alone in this however; it is one facet of the Bush / Cheney / Neoconservative ethos which pervades this administration.
The Excluded Middle
During the months following 9/11 and whilst the public was being brought around to accepting an invasion of Iraq, army Brigadier General Vincent Brooks in Qatar told the press of ongoing operations to eliminate terrorist death squads. Something began to feel not quite right here, the military do not refer to irregulars as ‘death squads’, so what was going on? It turns out to be a classic propaganda technique known as ‘the excluded middle’, designed to make people provided with incomplete but suggestive information draw a false conclusion, in this case that Saddam Hussein had ties to terrorism and hence Al Qaeda.
The Speed of Communications Deceives the Audience
Flushed with the success of one false flag operation, Rumsfeld tried his hand at another by asserting that:
- Iraqi military planned to don exact replicas of UK and US military uniforms in order to commit atrocities against Iraqis and stigmatise the coalition. It makes you wonder if he learned his military training from Garrison’s Guerrilla’s
- Iraqis had executed prisoners of war.
- The Fifty-first Division of the Iraqi army had mass surrendered.
“I am with my men. We continue to defend the people and riches of this city”.
Although almost laughable in retrospect, item (3) may have been a legitimate tactic of war. If other parts of the Iraqi army had believed a major division of 8,000 men had been so quickly overwhelmed then it could have influenced them to also give up and reduce bloodshed on both sides. This is an example (not successful in this case), of how information can be used as a weapon of war. Since the time of the Chinese strategist Sun Tzu over 2,500 years ago, deception has been used as a legitimate military weapon. What has altered now is its scale of operation. It has expanded from the ‘insurgents’ and the Taliban to advisories of US policy in general and now to the world at large. With the modern speed of communications and almost instant internet critique, propaganda is finding targets which were never intended. The boundaries between truthful press briefing and military propaganda have become so blurred it is extremely difficult to navigate a correct path through and this has brought the credibility of both the military and the press into question. In other words, available information is based on the political objectives of the state, rather than the truth. Nowadays, the tide of public opinion is regarded as more important than the tide of conflict on the battlefield and deceptions are channeled through the mainstream media.
When Rumsfeld’s propaganda machine ‘the ‘Office of Strategic Influence’ was exposed (by opponents within the Pentagon) it brought the Pentagon into disrepute. It was broken up and driven underground. Some fragments had distinctly Orwellian names such as the Office of Counter-misinformation, a unit designed to protect the government from charges of malfeasance, dereliction and deceit.
Military Opponents are Quick Learners
One thing about intelligent enemies is that they are quick learners. Now Zaqawi’s group and three others, host internet sites, publish magazines and routinely hold press conferences which often mirror Americas own publicity. Web sites announce new policy positions, alliances or strategic shifts, react to breaking news and address how the Western media is addressing the struggle.
SAIC and Rendon
Increasingly, the US is turning its information war over to mercenary corporate executives dedicated to manipulating the perception of political events for their own personal profit. Scientific Applications International Corporation (SAIC), a Fortune 500 company, of whom Robert Gates, Rumsfeld's successor, was a board member, prides itself on “Information dominance”. It has experts in fields as diverse as Islamic studies; the Middle East and psychological warfare. With the credibility of the US Government sinking at an alarming rate the American taxpayer might consider they are being seriously short changed.
Another propaganda outlet, the Rendon Group headed by John Rendon, a latter day Joseph Goebbels, took 100 million dollars profit for the contract of demonising Saddam Hussein. His operation consisted of setting up the Iraqi National Congress (INC) with Ahmad Chalabi as its head; hiring a posse of anti Saddam dissidents and serving as the PR medium for the operation.
SAIC and the Rendon Group design information warfare on a grand scale and also know how to charge a grand price. Meanwhile the American citizenry remain completely unaware they are paying highly with their tax dollars to be so scurrilously disinformed. Falling press circulation tells these gurus that their war of perceptions is failing as people increasingly obtain their news with their mouse finger. Sadly armies of cyber warriors are now employed to redress the balance in favour of their neoconservative sponsors. The words ‘Trusted Site’ could take on a new connotation as the battle for your hearts and minds continues in its seemingly never-ending spiral.
The Double Game
The double game is essentially a situation of double dealing or double crossing, usually played out in the international arena and can take a variety of forms. Typically this can be covertly supporting both sides in a conflict so that the double gamer will always finish up on the winning side. Agreeing to support one side whilst covertly assisting the other. Taking a position which is at odds with your own previous stance or covertly undermining the laws of your own country. Let us have a look at a few double games that have been played out in recent times to see how it goes.
The Iran Contra Affair
Probably the one which sticks in most peoples’ minds is the IRAN CONTRA AFFAIR because of the unseemly way it all fell apart. This affair linked two quite unconnected issues. A Marxist government, the Sandinistas was installed in the Central American country of Nicaragua, which was unsympathetic to the aims of USA. The USA supported the efforts of a rival guerrilla force called the Contras but was prevented by Congress from funding them. At the same time in 1983, some members of Al-Dowa, an exiled militant Iraqi faction, were imprisoned for a series of truck bombings in Kuwait. In response, Hezbollah captured 30 hostages six of whom were American and demanded the release of the Al-Dowa prisoners in exchange. Iran was in the middle of the Iran Iraq war and could find very few Western nations willing to supply it. The Reagan administration believed that by supplying arms (illegally) to, Iran would use its influence with Hezbollah to release the hostages. This was first done using Israel as a staging post and then later directly. The money from these sales was used to illegally fund the Contras in Nicaragua. The whole scandal was exposed after only three American hostages had been released.
The affair of IRAN'S 15 BRITISH NAVAL HOSTAGES was a dog in the manger exercise whereby the Bush administration cried foul when Iran played the game by American rules. The international boundary line between Iraq and Iran running through the Persian Gulf is a tad open to interpretation so when Iran apprehended the 15 British sailors for invading their waters, there was much US consternation. Bush was suddenly an indignant defender of international law, huffing and puffing about the axis of evil capturing British personnel who would sooner die than do a wrong thing, quite forgetting the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 that put the British there in the first place. Bush suddenly found the UN Charter and its ban on aggressive war, which he had previously regarded as some goofy exercise in multilateralism. In order to maintain consistency, he also needed to forget such things as the British colonial domination of both Iraq and Iran in 1953 and the CIA’s role in reinstalling the brutal Shah of Iran as a puppet of the West. This may have resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths but so far as the 15 sailors were concerned the British and US Governments were innocent victims. This was in marked contrast to the previously US ordered raids on Iranian offices inside Iraq and the capture of five Iranian military officials when International law was something that didn’t need to be bothered with. If the 15 sailor incident was a retaliatory exercise then the Iranians clearly didn’t understand the rules of the game where you need a stacked deck, a forked tongue and a US passport to win. The British took umbrage against the sailors being video interviewed, eating and being generally well treated in marked contrast to US detainees in Abu Garaib; or even scenes of kneeling and bound Iraqis over the title Operation Iraqi Freedom. This however did not prevent President Bush lifting the Geneva Convention from the gutter, dusting it off and placing it on a pedestal. What did Iran get out of all this? They got the kudos of magnanimous détente when they handed the sailors back in first class condition. They got some good PR for those who understood it and managed to mark the US and UK’s cards. They said “Take us on if you like; we are not afraid of you”.
Iran’s Non-Purchase of Russian Fighters
There is a belief that you shouldn’t give credulity to any rumour until it has been officially denied but when IRAN SAYS IT HAS NOT BOUGHT 250 STATE OF THE ART SOKHO 30 RUSSIAN FIGHTERS because it doesn’t need them I would tend to go along with it. So where did the rumour come from? It turns out to be Mossad diverting attention away from recent Israeli massive arms shipments from the USA.
It was once considered an honour and a privilege to be chosen to represent your fellow men but there now exists a pervading government ethos of ‘if you don’t cheat, you can’t compete’. This deceit can be directed at the citizenry (largely spin); advisories (largely disinformation and psyops) and other nations (largely double game). It is certain that if our leaders felt it was unnecessary to do these things, they would not go to the trouble of doing them. So what makes them do it? Who are they afraid of? Could it really be us?