Soldiers & New Media

#1
Sensible article from a US general regarding soldiers and new media here:

http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2008/01/changing-the-organizational-cu-1/

which seems almost precisely the opposite of the MOD's attitude.

First, we need to Encourage Soldiers to “tell/share their story”. Across America, there is a widely held perception that media coverage of the War in Iraq is overwhelmingly negative. We need to be careful to NOT blame the news media for this. The public has a voracious appetite for the sensational, the graphic and the shocking. We all have a difficult time taking our eyes off the train wreck in progress - it is human nature. Walter Cronkite once said “If it's extraordinary, and it affects us deeply, it's news." Knowing this, we, as a military, owe it to the public to actively seek out and engage the media with our stories in order to provide them with a fuller perspective of the situation. When Soldiers do this, the media is very open and receptive. The public may have an appetite for the sensational, but when it comes to their men and women in uniform, they also have a very strong desire to hear their personal stories. They want to know what it is like, what the Soldiers are experiencing, and how the Soldiers feel about their mission. That is why we must encourage our Soldiers to interact with the media, to get onto blogs and to send their YouTube videos to their friends and family. When our Soldiers tell/share their stories, it has an overwhelmingly positive effect.

Just playing lip service to encouraging Soldiers is not enough. Leaders need to not only encourage but also Empower subordinates. A critical component of empowering is underwriting honest mistakes and failure. Soldiers are encouraged to take the initiative and calculated risk in the operational battlefield because we understand the importance of maintaining the offensive. However, once we move into the informational domain, we have a tendency to be zero defect and risk averse. Leaders have to understand and accept that not all media interactions are going to go well. Leaders need to assume risk in the information domain and allow subordinates the leeway to make mistakes. Unfortunately, the culture is such that the first time a subordinate makes a mistake in dealing with the media and gets punished for it, it will be the last time ANYONE in that organization takes a risk and engages with the media.
 
#2
Soldiers are encouraged to take the initiative and calculated risk in the operational battlefield because we understand the importance of maintaining the offensive. However, once we move into the informational domain, we have a tendency to be zero defect and risk averse. Leaders have to understand and accept that not all media interactions are going to go well. Leaders need to assume risk in the information domain and allow subordinates the leeway to make mistakes.
Now, that bit hits the nail right on the head. Our current MO shows we really haven't got out of the habit of thinking about the kinetic side of war-fighting in isolation from its context. We haven't 'got it' institutionally yet that it isn't just the effects produced at a specific point in time that count, it's what people think about them well beyond the immediate theatre. At its crudest, we emphasise winning the war but we don't give much thought to telling anyone it's been won. Information is now part of 'war' and you can no more guarantee success in this part than you can in the physical part.

One surprising realisation that crossed my mind reading this was that I'd always been trained to think of the media and civpop as entirely separate entities. Looking back on it, this seems a touch bizarre.
 
#3
smartascarrots said:
Soldiers are encouraged to take the initiative and calculated risk in the operational battlefield because we understand the importance of maintaining the offensive. However, once we move into the informational domain, we have a tendency to be zero defect and risk averse. Leaders have to understand and accept that not all media interactions are going to go well. Leaders need to assume risk in the information domain and allow subordinates the leeway to make mistakes.
Now, that bit hits the nail right on the head. Our current MO shows we really haven't got out of the habit of thinking about the kinetic side of war-fighting in isolation from its context. We haven't 'got it' institutionally yet that it isn't just the effects produced at a specific point in time that count, it's what people think about them well beyond the immediate theatre. At its crudest, we emphasise winning the war but we don't give much thought to telling anyone it's been won. Information is now part of 'war' and you can no more guarantee success in this part than you can in the physical part.

One surprising realisation that crossed my mind reading this was that I'd always been trained to think of the media and civpop as entirely separate entities. Looking back on it, this seems a touch bizarre.
Go back to 1994/5, in HQ ARRC, at JHQ, I led exactly this debate for over a year, prior to the IFOR deployment, against significant opposition from various quarters, principally the US PSYOP community. The background, of course, was that UNPROFOR had consistently been outperformed in the information arena, principally by the Bosniacs, whose soel aim was'Get America involved on our side'.

We managed to get something in place that tried to ensure that all the 'soft' info ops were on the same hymn sheet, and it seems to have worked pretty well until the op was handed over to a Boxhead a year so down the pipe (when it no longer really mattered much). He dismantled it in favour of something more conventional: rather your point about kinetics, I think.

As to audiences, even back then, stuff published for Bosnian audiences was finding its way into other nation's media outlets: nowadays I can dip into 'newpaper' and 'TV' reports from hundreds of other countries, and thousands of individuals: that makes it all the more important to understand the avenues by which information impacts the consciousness of the international public and their governments, and to think intelligently and imaginatively about what goes out, how it goes out, and who puts it out.

One of the underpinning principles was that you must not say things that were patently out of step with what journos were seeing on the ground. Another (which stemmed from this) was that journos had to learn to trust what the military told them: plain facts beat spin hands down. That in turn meant the military had to be prepared to call a spade a spade, and not attempt to bluff their way.

I am disappointed that folk think this is somehow 'new': it is so fundamental that it should have been locked into UK doctrine ever since then.

I can find you a link to an independent academic review of NATO/Bosnia info ops, if you are interested.
 

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