Psychological warfare, well by the term itself, you could sense war, don’t you. Yes, it has been an age-old technique used in wars. Let us be clear it is not a typical fighting scene that you should be expecting here. Rather it is a tactic to present propaganda, threatening opposition, or other ways of non-combat techniques.
It is also known as psywar. To be exact about the definition, it is propaganda used against the enemy to exhibit and publicize. This technique was largely backed by economic, military, or political measures. So how does it work against the enemy? It demoralizes the opposition, either instigating fighting or resisting and resolving the issue and resisting the overall fighting or war condition.
It is a well-known tactic used by all the countries and is crucial in the war for manipulation. The US central intelligence agency listed the aims of psychological warfare as follows,
- Manipulate or assist in hindering the enemy’s will to fight
- Maintain morale
- Alliancing the groups that are friendly in a country that enemies occupy
- Influencing people towards moral and friendly attitudes and feeling neutral towards the United States of America. ]
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Techniques Used in psychological warfare
Psychological warfare’s main objective is to influence the enemy’s spirit and psychological breakdown by verbal or tactical fear. Some of the techniques used in psychological war are:
Threats can be both empty or with a true intention. No matter what, a threat can help lessen the spirit or damage a person psychologically to some extent or over the period. It may sometimes seem that it did not affect, but in reality, everyone is psychologically unstable or disturbed when a threat is imposed upon them.
This is one of the vast media where you can present and spread a piece of information within minutes. One major thing about a news outlet is that it can print whatever they want. The government gives them full authority and rights. So yes, to create fear in enemies, simple news could make or break their psychological well-being.
Just like a newspaper, the media plays a crucial role too. Even entertainment media could be active here. For example, a message could be created through music, books, television, or films to implement psychological warfare and create trepidation among the opposition.
Leaflets in war? Sounds unusual, right! In war, leaflets from enemies are passed to the opposition by various means. The leaflets could both serve to invite others for support or show a threat to the opposition.
So what could objects do? Like leaflets or media, objects such as t-shirts, hats, coat pins, posters, etc., could carry messages to exhibit retaliation against enemies. When so many people start wearing them and supporting them, it may put the opposition under mental pressure.
The three shades of propaganda in psychological warfare
Daniel Lerner, In his 1949 book, Psychological Warfare Against Nazi Germany, illustrated the U.S. military’s WWII Skyewar campaign and groups psychological warfare propaganda into three major categories. They are as follows,
- White propaganda. It contains true information and is moderately biased. The source is also cited here.
- Grey propaganda. This information is also mostly truthful. Nevertheless, the sources here are not cited.
- Black propaganda. Implies to untruthful or fake news. This information is false and is mostly deceitful. The sources are again also false or vague.
Psychological warfare in the early ages
525 B.C. Battle of Peluseium. In this war, cats were held hostages against Egyptians. Since cats were thought to be a strong entity of Egyptians belief and religious system, it weakened them to see their beloved animal as a hostage.
13th century A.D. Mongolian Empire. Genghis khan devised a plan against the enemies by asking each soldier to carry three torches at night. This would make them look like more soldiers than they had.
British against American. British troops wore a red uniform during the American Revolution to make the American soldiers intimidated by their presence. Americans were dressed plainly as opposed to the British soldiers. However, this tactic failed as the American soldiers could easily find their target by that bright red color.
Psychological warfare in the modern era
World War I. With technological and printing media advancement, it was easy to spread the news through newspapers, leaflets, and postcards.
World War II. The speeches from Adolf Hitler were furious and always targeted discrediting the opposition. His speech convinced people to blame other nations for Germany’s economic problem, inflicted by Germany itself.
The famous “Tokyo Rose” broadcast music spread false information about Japan’s victory against their enemies in Japan.
Cold War. U.S. President Ronald Reagan released news of the launching of “star wars,” an anti-ballistic missile system that claimed to be strong enough to destroy the nuclear missiles from the Soviet Union. This happened or not, the then-president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, believed that it was possible.
Americans against Iraq. The US responded to the September 11, 2011 event by instigating the Iraq war with a “shock and awe” campaign. This was created to diminish the will to fight Iraq’s armies and protect Saddam Hussein.
ISIS. This terrorist organization searches for supporters worldwide through media, websites, and other sources. They are manipulating the belief and encouraging many people to join them as allies.
Books on psychological warfare you may enjoy reading
Now we will show you the most popular and top 10 books that will help you to know the art of psychological warfare and techniques:
- Psychological Warfare, by Cordwainer Smith
- The Ancient Art of Psychological Warfare, by Haha Lung
- Psychological Warfare in the Arab-Israeli Conflict, by Ron Schleifer
- Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare, by Michael A. Hoffman II
- How to Skillfully Influence People, by Michael T. Stevens
- Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare, by Tayacán
- Psywar: Psychological Warfare in Korea, 1950-1953, by Stephen E. Pease
- Propaganda and psychological warfare, by Terence H. Qualter
- US Army Special Warfare: Its Origins: Psychological and Unconventional Warfare, 1941-1952, by Alfred H. Paddock
- The Asian Art of the Ninja Masters, by Haha Lung
Psychological warfare is a great technique to weaken your enemies without involving any forms of actual fighting. It has been used in the past, and we can even see its presence in different political scenarios. You cannot claim it to be negative, as it is one of the techniques used in war.
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