Much how you’d expect, according to this CIA memo from March 2010: a ‘consistent and iterative strategic communication program’ that ‘taps into the key concerns of specific Western European audiences’ concerning Afghanistan.
What are these key levers of mass opinion? The ‘plight’ of Afghan women and refugees, the appeal of President Obama, fear of drugs and terrorism.
According to this document, the ‘Afghanistan mission’s low public salience has allowed French and German leaders to disregard popular opposition and steadily increase their troop contributions.’
For now, thank heavens, ‘public apathy enables leaders to ignore voters’. But recent events in the Netherlands have prompted Washington’s concern that ‘politicians elsewhere might cite a precedent for “listening to the voters”.’
So, to give these ‘politicians greater scope to support deployments’, the document recommends ‘tailoring messages’ that allow European constituencies to be ‘prepared to tolerate a spring and summer of greater military and civilian casualties’ without complaint.
What specifically would this involve?
- ‘Leverage French (and other European) guilt for abandoning’ women and refugees.
- Promote ‘a president seen as broadly in sync with European concerns’ and exploit popular ‘sensitivity to disappointing’ him.
- ‘Outreach initiatives that create media opportunities for Afghan women to share their stories’.
- ‘Media events that feature testimonials by Afghan women [which] would probably be most effective if broadcast on programs that have large and disproportionately female audiences.’
This strategy isn’t just notable for its vertical, anti-democratic aspect, i.e. the pursuit of elite objectives through secret, targeted manipulation of public opinion. (On that matter, though, we should note how ‘tailored messages’ are aimed at touchstones of progressive sensibility: Washington counts on the services of left-liberal, ‘radical’ and especially feminist circles).
Also relevant is the horizontal, intra-elite manipulation.
US state managers aim to prevent leaders of (potential) rival states from formulating or attaining distinct strategic goals (e.g. European military operations outside NATO). Instead, so it’s hoped, these states will be bound to a common imperial project under US tutelage.
Washington aims to achieve the latter by controlling the mass, public-opinion base of these rival polities.
A population is thus wielded as a tool against its own domestic elite by another (i.e. external) set of state leaders from another territorial jurisdiction.
Questions for Australian readers:
- What are the specific ‘key concerns’ (i.e symbolic weakpoints) of Australian mass opinion, which tailored messaging could possibly exploit?
- What would a ‘consistent and iterative strategic communication program’, aimed at these popular vulnerabilities, look like?
- Would you notice this if it were happening?