Introduction to Psychological Operations

Introduction to Psychological Operations

The 20th century was marked by technological developments such as radio, television, and the internet that would have profound impacts on the world’s consciousness as well as behavior. It will forever shift the course of history and human evolution.

It was a completely new era punctuated by two World Wars and countless other international conflicts as well as the economic crisis that brought about a general public discontent between their expectations and the reality they lived in.

The development of such technologies made it easier to learn and experience other people’s sufferings in ways that until then were not possible. These advancements in telecommunications meant the propagation of new ideas. Public opinion began to change, influenced by the horrors of war, famine, and sickness. The result was hundreds of non-violent resistance movements across the globe that played a critical role in more than fifty transitions from authoritarianism

CIA Operation Against Antiwar Forces - Newspaper Clipping
CIA Operation Against Antiwar Forces – Newspaper Clipping

Which showed just how much power The People could truly have when they came together for a cause. The general public wanted to find happiness by coexisting rather than killing one another.

The Duty of the youth is to challenge corruption.

Kurt Cobain

This new wave of ideas posed a threat to the established Status Quo. If these heretical ideas were allowed to propagate and spread it would mean an incredible loss of revenue to those financing wars. Trillions would be lost alongside the hegemony governments have been quietly enjoying over their citizens.

Many different ‘research’ programs were created with the aim to influence objective reasoning. Some well-known mind control programs of the time were MK-Ultra, MK-SearchProject Bluebird, and Project Artichoke, but by no means were those the only ones. These programs never stopped, they simply rebranded and carried on with their operations.

To counteract this problem, hundreds of government agents were deployed to infiltrate said peaceful movements. The results were riots and violence that would have never occurred if not for these instigators. Furthermore, the new ideas developed by psychiatrists, neurologists, physiologists, linguists, and behavioral experts were put to the test and financed by both the military and private corporations who sought to put an end to it all by manipulating behavior and consciousness.

Meanwhile, various agencies were created to study and weaponise human behaviour. The United States saw the birth of the O.S.S (Office of Strategic Services), a forerunner of the current C.I.A. Britain created the Tavistock Clinic which played a key role in British Army psychiatry. The Tavistock Clinic currently includes many umbrella institutions and is now known as the Tavistock Institute.

While OSS and CIA programs worked alongside the U.S military, the Tavistock Clinic worked with the British Army and MI5 and MI6 to perform an array of psychological warfare operations on unsuspecting civilians. Nevertheless, there is a long history of close cooperation between agencies in the United States and the United Kingdom’s intelligence services. Not only between the CIA and its MI6 counterpart, but also between the FBI and MI5, and the NSA and the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). Some of these joint operations can be found in the CIA’s Electronic Reading Room under the Codename IRONBARK.

This cooperation between allied agencies would eventually lead to the birth of Five Eyes (FVEY). An international alliance originally comprising The United States, The United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand; though since then has expanded to include many NATO-allied countries such as Spain, Germany, Norway, and Denmark among others. In 2013, Edward Snowden copied and leaked a lot of NSA documents involving the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance and other global surveillance programs and made them available to the public.


Psychological Warfare Manipulation Operations

These agencies developed dozens of mind control programs with the help of the top psychiatrists, neurologists, and behavioural experts of the century such as Sigmund Freud, Melanie Klein and C. Jung among many others.

In military terms, mind control is known as Psychological Warfare (PSYWAR) or psychological operations (PSYOPS). In 1952, Fort Bragg became a centre for unconventional warfare, with the creation of the Psychological Warfare Center.

PsyOps, or the basic aspects of modern psychological operations, have been known by many other names or terms, including Psychological Warfare, Political Warfare, “Hearts and Minds,” and even Propaganda.

Canadian Military Journal
Statue of Sigmund Freud, in front of the Tavistock Centre, London. Photograph Mike Peel
Statue of Sigmund Freud, in front of the Tavistock Centre, London. Photograph: Mike Peel

Well-known psychological operations have been documented during World War I, World War II, Post World War II, and the Vietnam War, as evidenced by many of the links above.

In both peace and conflict, supporting conventional and unconventional forces, PSYOP Soldiers have operated in Panama, Somalia, Haiti, Rwanda, Bosnia and Kosovo. PSYOP forces are currently operating in support of the Global War on Terror in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Philippines.

PSYOP Soldiers are deployed around the world, supporting combatant commanders, U.S. embassies, and foreign governments. Their efforts and those of their predecessors have proven PSYOP to be an indispensable component of the national security.

The study of information transfer and its influence on the consumer was also effectively used in radio, television, newspapers, and other print outlets. Currently, propaganda is widely used on the Internet. 

The use of propaganda translates into real-world effects, such as political radicalization and far-fetched beliefs from manipulating the stock market to bankrupting businesses, and perhaps most dramatic of all, driving people to commit suicide.

The use of propaganda has and has had everlasting effects on the physical and psychological well-being of the public for many decades now. For instance, the relationship between lung cancer and smoking cigarettes was well understood since the mid-1950s. Yet these companies were allowed to lie for-profit and to this day, are some of the biggest congressional lobbyists.

Pharmaceutical companies are also money-making machines that can easily and without consequence lie to the public and rename or make up new diseases in order to rebrand and re-sell old products.

Diamond engagement rings are worthless crystallised pieces of carbon that simply form under conditions of intense heat and high pressure. And yet, they have become ingrained into popular culture thanks to advertising campaigns.

The examples are many and varied and can be applied to nearly every aspect of life. Especially one that can be monetized

The Biggest Psy-Op of the Century

It is worth mentioning what was perhaps the biggest psychological operation of the century. This came about in 1990. The Bush administration needed a way to back Kuwait against its long-term allied Iraq. To appeal to emotion and change public perception, a little 15-year-old girl by the Name of Nayirah al-Sabah gave testimony before the United States Congressional Human Rights CaucusNayirah claimed to have witnessed Iraqi soldiers take babies out of incubators in hospitals and left them to die.

Her testimony was initially corroborated by Amnesty International (a British NGO) and later via other news outlets such as the Washington Post. It was widely publicized via NBC and ABC news outlets. It became an overnight instant worldwide phenomenon that impacted millions across the world.

 Nayirah al-Sabah gave false testimony  before the United States Congressional Human Rights Caucus on October 10, 1990

Nayirah was not under oath and she lied.

She turned out to be the daughter of Kuwait’s Ambassador to the United States and Canada.

The CIA entered Iraq in 2002 and an all-out allied war started in 2003 under the codename “Operation Iraqi Freedom“.

If I wanted to lie, or if we wanted to lie, if we wanted to exaggerate, I wouldn’t use my daughter to do so. I could easily buy other people to do it.

Saud Nasir al-Sabah, Kuwait’s Ambassador to the United States and Canada

Modern-day Psychological Operations

Concerns over the Military engaging in illegal psychological operations against its citizens are nothing new. Yet said concerns are always swept under the carpet and nothing gets done about it. Psyops do not only target enemy combatants in foreign countries or civilians domestically. They have been used against Politicians and world leaders to coerce them to keep sending troops into pointless wars.

In 1990 the company SCL Group was born. SCL’s main research focus was the study of mass behaviour and how to shift mass opinionSCL has helped to organize coups and has influenced elections in at least 25 countries since 1994. Heavily funded by the Pentagon and private interests such as those of the multi-billionaire Mercer family, SCL and its child companies such as Cambridge Analytica, were influential and at the centre of the 2016 US election manipulation. They have also played a key role in spreading disinformation as well as online conspiracy theories such as Qanon.

SCL and Cambridge Analytica, by Wendy Siegelman
SCL and Cambridge Analytica, by Wendy Siegelman
Social Media and Influence Companies Related to the Trump-Russia Story. By Wendy Siegelman
Social Media and Influence Companies Related to the Trump-Russia Story. By Wendy Siegelman

The Pentagon has quietly dropped the nefarious-sounding moniker PSYOPS in favour of the more neutral MILDEC – short for Military Deception. In reality, PSYOPS and MILDEC are just aspects of well-defined intelligence-gathering disciplines. The joint operations of said disciplines are collectively known as Information Operations, and sometimes as “MISO” – short for Military Information Support Operations. They can be classified as and are defined by NATO, the US Code, and the US Department of Defense as:

  • OSINT: Open Source Intelligence based on information collected from sources open to the public, such as radio, television, newspapers, state propaganda, learned journals, technical documents and manuals, books, and others based on information collected from sources open to the public, such as radio, television, newspapers, state propaganda, learned journals, technical documents and manuals, books and others. (NATO)
  • SIGINTSignals intelligence (SIGINT) is intelligence-gathering by interception of signals, whether communications between people (communications intelligence—abbreviated to COMINT) or from electronic signals not directly used in communication (electronic intelligence—abbreviated to ELINT).
  • TECHINT: Technical Intelligence (TECHINT) is intelligence about weapons and equipment used by the armed forces of foreign nations. The related term, scientific and technical intelligence, addresses information collected or analyzed about the broad range of foreign science, technology, and weapon systems. (Dept. of Defense)
  • CYBINT/DNINT: Cyber or digital network intelligence (CYBINT or DNINT) is gathered from cyberspace.
  • FINNT: the gathering of information about the financial affairs of entities of interest, to understand their nature and capabilities, and predict their intentions.

In conclusion, psychological operations do happen and have been happening for more than a century. They are still in use today by several Military agencies, universities, private corporations, and other entities closely related to one another.

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