RAND, Superstition and Psychological Warfare

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Offline Deca

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RAND, Superstition and Psychological Warfare
« on: November 19, 2013, 08:56:38 AM »
http://io9.com/5648472/how-ghosts-superstitions-and-vampires-have-been-used-for-psychological-warfare

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How ghosts, superstitions, and vampires have been used for psychological warfare

How ghosts, superstitions, and vampires have been used for psychological warfareExpand
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Military psy ops aren't limited to leaflets, propaganda broadcasts, and Korean pop music. In the past, the US military has played on their opponent superstitions of vampires, ghosts, and astrology. Here are some strange examples.

In World War II, US forces exploited the Nazi's predilection to put stock in superstitions and the occult. The Rand Corporation's 1950 memorandum "The Exploitation of Superstitions for Purposes of Psychological Warfare" details how pseudoscience connoisseur Joseph Goebbels counteracted Allied attempts to strike fear into the superstitious strata of the German population:

How ghosts, superstitions, and vampires have been used for psychological warfareExpand

Another curious incident noted in the Rand document occurs in Italy, where British military created a giant manikin to scare rural residents. A large, shambling creature was assembled to freak out superstitious locals:

How ghosts, superstitions, and vampires have been used for psychological warfareExpand

How ghosts, superstitions, and vampires have been used for psychological warfareExpand

It is worth noting that Jasper Maskelyne did have a penchant for embellishment. The US military however pulled a similar tactic in the 1950s, when Major General Edward G. Lansdale spearheaded the rumor that an asuwang was loose in the Philippines. In Filipino mythology, the asuwang is a winged, vampiric witch that has a hankering for unborn fetuses. The US military was battling Communist Huk rebels and concocted possibly the only covert operation in human history to stage a vampiric attack. Lansdale recalls:

    To the superstitious, the Huk battleground was a haunted place filled with ghosts and eerie creatures. A combat psy-war squad was brought in. It planted stories among town residents of an Asuang living on the hill where the Huks were based. Two nights later, after giving the stories time to make their way up to the hill camp, the psywar squad set up an ambush along the trail used by the Huks [...] When a Huk patrol came along the trail, the ambushers silently snatched the last man of the patrol, their move unseen in the dark night.
    How ghosts, superstitions, and vampires have been used for psychological warfareExpand They punctured his neck with two holes, vampire-fashion, held the body up by the heels, drained it of blood, and put the corpse back on the trail. When the Huks returned to look for the missing man and found their bloodless comrade, every member of the patrol believed that the Asuang had got him and that one of them would be next if they remained on that hill. When daylight came, the whole Huk squadron moved out of the vicinity.

Similarly, the US military imitated ghosts when fighting the Vietcong. Operation Wandering Soul was an attempt to rattle Vietcong by playing tapes of "ghost" soldiers who had fallen in battle. This propaganda campaign relied on the Vietnamese belief that if a body isn't interred near its corporeal home, the soul will wander the earth. US forces blasted eerie recordings of disembodied souls on the ground and air. A February 1970 account in The Tropic Lightning News described the recording as an effective means to shake up Vietcong forces:

    If you were a Wolfhound of the First Battalion, 27th Infantry, 25th Infantry Division, and were at Fire Support Base Chamberlain on the night of February 10 you might have sworn the place was being haunted by poltergeists, ghosts that is. The moans, groans and weird sounds began at eight that night, a likely time for the cloudlike forms to reveal themselves. Of course, ghosts are nonexistent, or are they? In this case the ghosts and weird sounds were furnished by the Sixth PSYOP Team and the S-5 Section of the 1/27th Wolfhounds who were conducting a night mission at Chamberlain. With the help of loud speakers and a tape of ‘The Wandering Soul,' a mythical tale of a Viet Cong gone to Buddha, the mission was a success.

    The Wandering Soul is a tape about the soul of a dead Viet Cong. It describes the wandering of this soul about the countryside. The dead VC tells his comrades to look at what has happened to his soul and that he will never be at rest, always wandering,' said Captain William Goodman of Philadelphia, the battalion S-5. ‘Buddhists believe very strongly that if they aren't properly buried and properly mourned, their soul will wander through eternity,' added First Lieutenant Peter Boni of Boston, the officer in charge of the Sixth PSYOP Team. ‘We play upon the psychological superstitions and fears of the enemy. The method is very effective," Boni said.

Those actually playing the tape were less sanguine about its efficacy. In fact, helicopter crews reported receiving heavier fire when playing the Wandering Soul tape and would even use it goad Vietcong ground troops on. One swiftboat reserve lieutenant even recalls how the Wandering Soul tape got their boat pelted with rockets, so they opted to blast Tina Turner instead — their boat didn't take fire when blaring The Queen of Rock 'n' Roll in the middle of the night. For a fascinating history of the Wandering Soul initiative, check out Sergeant Major Herbert A. Friedman's article on Psy Warrior.




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Offline Deca

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Re: RAND, Superstition and Psychological Warfare
« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2013, 08:59:41 AM »
http://miragemen.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/rand-superstition-and-psychological-warfare/

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‘What types of superstitious appeals will be best adapted to the various audiences to be propagandised?… A study of local supserstitions as relected in popular folk lore might be profitable in providing answers to these questions.’

When they weren’t designing rocket ships or calculating how long it would take to cook the world with nuclear warheads, the RAND Corporation kept themselves busy working out how best to scare the hell out of ‘peasants, old people and… ignorant workers’, particularly in the Soviet Union. That anyway, was the aim of this fascinating 1950 paper, The Exploitation of Superstitions for Purposes of Psychological Warfare (PDF here).

‘It seems likely that superststitions flourish in an atmosphere of tension and insecurity’, writes its author, Jean Hungerford, and her timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The paper was published for the US Air Force on 14 April 1950, just as Cold War tensions were first reaching levels of serious discomfort. In the previoust six months, the Soviets had detonated their first atom bomb, China and the USSR had signed a pact of allegiance and Los Alamos physicist Klaus Fuchs had confessed to passing atom bomb secrets to the Soviets. While, curiously, no mention of it is made in Hungerford’s paper, America’s enthusiasm for flying saucers was also ratcheting up to dizzy new heights, one sighting at a time.

The previous December had seen Donald Keyhoe’s electrifying ‘Flying Saucers are Real’ article appear in True Magazine,  just as the USAF, doing its best to keep the lid on a boiling pot of saucer stew, had published its own internal Project Grudge report, which recommended seriously downplaying flying saucer reports and keeping military sightings out of the public domain. The critical point, the Air Force realised, was to halt the spread of exactly the kinds of superstition and fear-mongering that Hungerford was writing about before things got out of hand.

Although Hungerford doesn’t mention flying saucers directly, her discussion of the use, or abuse, of superstitions in psychological warfare (or Pyschological Operations, PSYOPS, now MISO), is critical to understanding the role that PSYOPS played in the development of the UFO mythology, and recognising the phenomenon’s potential operational value to the military and intelligence agencies.

The paper discusses PSYOPS missions that successfully exploited local superstitions; for example in the 1920s on Afghanistan’s Northwest Frontier, the British planted loudspeakers in planes warning tribal peoples that God was angry with them for breaking the peace with India, while in World War II the Germans projected imagery (though it doesn’t say what) onto ‘drifting clouds’. Hungerford goes into some detail on the use of chain letters to clog up enemy communications networks (does this sound like the SERPO spam attack?), and the use of bogus fortune-tellers and false astrological data to dampen morale amongst both civilians and their leaders, a technique used extensively by both Allied and Axis powers during WWII.

Hungerford also references the activities of Captain Neville Maskelyne, the wartime illusionist most famous for his inflatable tanks and making the port of Alexandria ‘invisible’ to German bombers. In his 1949 book Magic Top Secret, Maskelyne gleefully describes other devilish antics that he and his team got up to:

“Our men…were able to use illusions of an amusing nature in the Italian mountains, especially when operating in small groups as advance patrols scouting out the way for our general moves forward. In one area, in particular, they used a device which was little more than a gigantic scarecrow, about twelve feet high, and able to stagger forward under its own power and emit frightful flashes and bangs. This thing scared several Italian Sicilian villages appearing in the dawn thumping its deafening way down their streets with great electric blue sparks jumping from it; and the inhabitants, who were mostly illiterate peasants, simply took to their heels for the next village, swearing that the Devil was marching ahead of the invading English. Like all tales spread among uneducated folk (and helped, no doubt, by our agents), this story assumed almost unimaginable proportions.”

Researcher Nick Redfern, who first drew my attention to the RAND paper, wonders whether Maskelyne’s scarecrow was an ancestor of the 1952 Flatwoods Monster. I would also suggest that famed cold warrior Air Force Colonel Edward Lansdale, a former advertising executive turned intelligence operative, read the RAND paper before being deployed in the Philippines to quash the Communist uprising there in the early 1950s. As well as broadcasting the ‘Voice of God’ from a plane (as the British had done in Afghanistan), his team exploited local superstitions about a vampire-like demon called the Aswang, a ploy that successfully drove the Commie guerrillas from their jungle stronghold.

Hungerford advises PSYOPS operatives to research the superstitions prevalent amongst their intended targets to learn how best to scare the crap out of them:

What superstitions are peculiar to Eastern Europeans, to Russians, to the various nationalities of the Soviet Union. What superstitions are prevalent amongst peasants, among combat troops or airmen, among civilians? What evidence is there that given members of the enemy elite are addicted to certain types of superstitions? What evidence is there that some types of superstitions lose their credibility after enjoying a brief vogue?

While the paper makes no explicit mention of flying saucers, it’s hard not to draw parallels to the craze that the USAF optimistically thought it had put a cap on. The saucer problem would soon flare up again in spectacular style, reaching its first climax with the July 1952 Washington DC ‘overflights’ that, I suggest, appear to have been a staged operation. Could Hungerford’s paper have played a role in changing the USAF’s mind about how best to deal with those unstoppable flying saucers?

Air Force attitudes towards UFOs changed dramatically between 1949′s Grudge report – which advised a strict lock down on media and internal military reports – and the famous LIFE magazine article of April 1952, in which the Air Force told America’s most popular magazine that UFOs could not ‘be explained by present science as natural phenomena — but solely as artificial devices, created and operated by a high intelligence.’

By the time that the CIA got involved with the UFO problem in 1952, they focused almost exclusively on the psychological warfare implications of the phenomenon. Surprisingly, given that UFOs were by now a top level concern for both the CIA and the Air Force, the CIA’s own 1953 summary makes no mention of Hungerford’s paper. Had her RAND report just not been read by the right people, or was it one of the secrets that the canny Air Force was keeping from the Agency for reasons of their own?

Whether the Air Force and the CIA were aware of it at the time or not, flying saucers proved to be the answer to two of Hungerford’s key concerns: they provided a superstitious framework that could be deployed to potent effect anywhere in the world and one that, 60 years later shows no signs of losing its credibility, despite the occasional dip in its profile. From a PSYOPS tactician’s perspective then UFOs were a gift from the gods as great as the fabled purse of Fortunatus – a gift that has never stopped giving.

However, before we crack open the PSYOPS champagne (or MISO soup?) we should remember that UFOs come bundled with their own unique set of problems. As I show in Mirage Men, the potential for ‘blowback’ from what we might call ‘lore operations’ gets stronger the more deeply and successfully the seeds of superstition are planted. And UFOs are in deep. Hungerford is fully aware of the issue:

It should be pointed out that democratic as well as totalitarian elites may be susceptible to superstition. Various American generals and admirals are noted for their stock of superstitious notions…

and ends her paper on a prescient note of caution:

What may be the boomerang effects of attempts to exploit popular folklore?

As the media is once again deluged with reports of UFO encounters from US military whistleblowers and intelligence insiders, some of them no doubt sincere, we would do well to consider this last question rather carefully.