Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The joys of Mindf^ck

Thanks to A.Nonymous for posting a comment that made reference to Sefton Delmer, one of the Godfathers of Modern Psywar and Cointelpro.

Quoting from Wikipedia…

COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program) is a program of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation aimed at investigating and disrupting dissident political organizations within the United States. Although covert operations have been employed throughout FBI history, the formal COINTELPRO operations of 1956-1971 were broadly targeted against organizations that were (at the time) considered to have politically radical elements, ranging from those whose stated goal was the violent overthrow of the US government (such as the Weathermen) to non-violent civil rights groups such as Martin Luther King Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference to violent racist and segregationist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party. The founding document of COINTELPRO directed FBI agents to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize" the activities of these dissident movements and their leaders.

Bear in mind that Wikipedia is, of course, suspected by some people of itself being a COINTELPRO operation and this definition may therefore be a fiendishly subtle deception.

…as may the story in the Guardian/ Observer that MI6 is infilitrating British Muslim activist groups as part of a ‘black propaganda’ operation.

After all, our security services wouldn’t get up to stuff like that would they? And even if they did, they would only be working for the Greater Good anyway.

Of course, not all psychological warfare is practiced by Caucasian ex paratroopers, Nazi Satanists and Daily Express journalists who have apparently become fervent converts to Islam. Sometimes, particularly in war zones, you can deliver 500lb of mindfuck in one go like this…

Being literally dive-bombed with propaganda may be stressful but it certainly saves on having to buy a newspaper every day.

Inspired by the comment about Sefton Delmer, I’ve just spent a happy and amusing half hour surfing around psywar.org – a website that claims to be…

the premiere website for the study of psychological warfare, psychological operations (PSYOPS), aerial propaganda leaflets and black propaganda!!!

Hmmm, sounds good. I particularly enjoyed its collection of information leaflets from the current conflict in Iraq.

My favourite caption in their leaflet collection was ‘The patriotism of one Iraqi man won him 30 million US dollars!!!’ but the leaflet itself is lacking in visceral impact.

And, at first sight, a couple of the leaflets appeared to be offering a confusing or counter-intuitive message until I remembered I was supposed to be reading them right to left, not left to right…

der, silly me

Anyway, a couple more favourites, such as this one which explains to Iraqi children the correct way to greet a passing Humvee…

Text translation - Throwing rocks at coalition forces may seem like fun but it is also dangerous

...as is shining laser pointers at them

One thought that did strike my mind whilst browsing the leaflets was 'If Muslims are so keen on the idea of dying in a glorious jihad waged against the infidel doesn't a leaflet like this look more like a training manual than a warning...'

Er, that’s enough psywar and 'important safety information' for now - until the six o’clock news anyway


Sinclair said...

For further (leaked) info on the UK security services responses to the Observer Sep 05 article on M16 'infiltration', see Cryptome here

24_frames said...

Stef, do you want to see my original Gulf war Propaganda flyers? They were dropped over Iraqi forces during the war in 1991. I've also got the American rules of engagement, which are well funny in a warped way (It is illegal to shot or maime a dead body...huh?).


zee said...

hi there, just caught a link from the antagonists blog.

its a real eye opener to see what techniques are being used in the propaganda war

Take Care

Sophia said...

Hi Stef,

This is an excellent and funny post. Well, American propaganda leaflets in Iraq show that the American are really out of touch. Last month, the French journal Le Monde reproted that Americans and Lebanese producers, 900 Frames and EFXFilms, are shooting a one minute TV ad to be aired on Iraqi TVs and destined to dissuade suicide bombers from conducting suicide missions by trying to have viewers empathise with the victims.
Well, I think it is not only stupidity but also business. If people cannot profit from the construction of Iraq and after all money aid for reconstruction is gone in theft there are still some possiblities left to make money out of this war !
Enjoyed reading your post !

Anonymous said...

The best (best = most transparent and amusing) parts of the propaganda campaign are the 'grainy videos'. Of course, here in the UK we are a few steps ahead of the rest of the world at seeing through this sort of thing. Some would take the smug view that we've been ahead of the field ever since Ponsonby's WW1 propaganda expose book (Falsehood in Wartime) but leaving that aside, there's another reason. A current branch of UK comedy consists of running 'grainy films' (those that are made by CCTV cameras etc) with a poor quality sound track that purport to be well known people saying and doing strange things. The last one I can recall was of two people who looked like Sven and Rooney: Sven was massaging and kissing Rooney's foot as well as wittering nonsense in a broken English-Swedish accent. The whole comedy series undermines the similarly made Tim Osman, Zarquari (spelling? - not that it's important) propaganda campaign.

Not all of it is amusing, though. For instance, how would you undermine the largest peace time demonstration (anti-war or otherwise) in the UK?


At least when the French did a similar thing in order to bring in their crappy non-religous icon wearing law, they released the journalists afterwards.

Stef said...


if it's not too much trouble ... yes, thanks