Age of Disinformation

Member Group : Lincoln Institute

To trust or not to trust – isn’t that really the question?

The sheer volume of information and disinformation being fed to the American people daily makes it virtually impossible to sort through it to understand what is real and what is not.

Be it economic data, political information, government statistics, or academic studies and exercises, the public has become confused, enraged, and disengaged – until recently. Now the "silent majority" is silent no more.

The problem of information overload has probably plagued society since the dawn of the printing press. What is different this time is that the information and disinformation are spread rapidly due to the modern marvels of communications.

Information can be a powerful tool of psychological operations which has been used in the military for centuries if not millenniums.

PsyOps is defined as:

"Planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals. The purpose of psychological operations is to induce or reinforce foreign attitudes and behavior favorable to the originator’s objectives. (Source: U.S. Department of Defense)

Psychological Operations are a vital part of the broad range of U.S. political, military, economic, and ideological activities used by the U.S. government to secure national objectives. PSYOP is the dissemination of truthful information to foreign audiences in support of U.S. policy and national objectives."

Sun Tzu, in the Art of War, understood information warfare and provided numerous examples of the military application of psychological and information operations.

"Appear weak when you are strong, and strong when you are weak"

"All warfare is based on deception. Hence when you are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near."

And finally, "In the midst of chaos there is also opportunity"

It seems our government and the political parties have refined the art of war in their deceptions to the American people.

The disinformation campaign in the United States, although not formally declared on any people, is active and well and it is dividing us. Be it Facebook, snapchat, pinterest, or twitter, the sheer volume of information and disinformation is mind-boggling.

Truth becomes clouded, reality is unknown, illusion becomes real, what you see is not what you hear, what you hear is not what you see. Sensory perception is overloaded.

These seemingly incongruous comments reflect that the disinformation campaign is working. To quote Sun Tzu, "in the midst of chaos there is also opportunity", we find people thoroughly confused and paralyzed in inaction. The enemy, perhaps the establishment, appears to be winning.

"In the midst of chaos there is also opportunity"! That expression can work against a government as well as for it.

When trust is lost through disinformation campaigns particularly when it is been practiced by governments and those entities that we previously held in high regard, they have lost the greatest weapon they had – trust!

The practitioners today of psychological operations and the art of war have missed a major element that the military requires of all of us in psychological operations. It is essential that those using psychological operations operate from a perspective of truth and trust.

The military understands completely that with psychological operations you can lose trust quickly and while dishonest PsyOps may produce short-term gains the long-term impact of losing trust is fatal. Losing trust within our society will ultimately defeat the purveyors of disinformation and dishonesty with their own game.

Our government has lost trust in so many ways.

Many of our citizens do not believe that Social Security will be available to them.

President Obama’s assertion that you can keep your physician with the affordable care act is now known to be a lie and the system known as Obama care is collapsing in so many states.

The unemployment numbers and the recovery are questioned by most citizens as not being accurate.

The wealth effect of the stock market would have previously buoyed an economy but now it is seen is perhaps benefiting only a few.

Growing numbers of Americans now believe that their children will not have a better life than they did.

The value of going into debt for college education is now questionable.

What the government leaders and politicians have miscalculated is that the ultimate basis of psychological operations is trust and truth. Absent that, their psychological operations to create chaos to try to keep us distracted will fail because with an absence of trust there will not be an impact to the information disseminated.

A leader whose only claim to fame is credibility will emerge from all this chaos because people will want to have their confidence rebuilt after it is been shattered. Traditional institutions will suffer mightily because of their own psychological warfare and they will fail. But from that failure will arise a leader and institutions that would help the nation rebuild.

The message is clear we must choose a leader from this chaos that will help us rebuild forth we choose the wrong leader the destruction of our culture will continue.

Col. Frank Ryan, CPA, USMCR (Ret) and served in Iraq and briefly in Afghanistan and specializes in corporate restructuring and lectures on ethics for the state CPA societies. He has served on numerous boards of publicly traded and non-profit organizations. He can be reached at [email protected] and twitter at @fryan1951