23 January 2009

Perception Management 101

Purveyors of perception management (PM) create the "truth" and then sell it to the world. Perception management has been used quite effectively by several administrations, most notably in my life during the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

Evidently, the average US citizen did not like a "boots on the ground" approach to war after Viet Nam, so we needed to be re-educated. Instead of contra guerrillas and death squads, Americans were presented with "freedom fighters."

Read more in Media : Mourning in America (excerpt below).
President Reagan was in the habit of telling whoppers. His tales ranged far and wide: to deny environmental degradation, or blithely pretend that widespread human rights violations by U.S.-backed regimes didn’t exist, or denigrate low-income people in the United States.

If any administration has used PM more than Reagan, it was our last president. Using 9/11 as a battle cry, he invaded and decimated two sovereign nations, began a war that has yet to end, sold the the US economy to Chinese investors, trampled the rights of American citizens, put the interests of big industry before the environment, and ensured his cronies in oil & gas made mega-money. Meanwhile, he ignored genocide in many other (non-oil-rich) countries and all the weather-related disasters, including the one taking place in this country, Hurricane Rita.

From an article in Consortium News:
On a personal level, Bush appears to have found in his electoral victory a validation of his public-relations strategy of casting his foreign policy as a black-and-white war between good and evil. In this tough-talking approach, Bush has been helped immeasurably by the powerful conservative news media, ranging from AM talk radio to Fox News, from right-wing newspaper columnists to Internet bloggers.

However, to be fair, perception management began with the US military. On the US Military section of About.com, you will find the following definition of PM from the Department of Defense:
Actions to convey and/or deny selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning; and to intelligence systems and leaders at all levels to influence official estimates, ultimately resulting in foreign behaviors and official actions favorable to the originator's objectives. In various ways, perception management combines truth projection, operations security, cover and deception, and psychological operations.
Exploring further, I conducted a search on the Department of Defense website for "perception management" (including all military websites) and found 45 references to PM, including several statements of work (SOW) for contractors.

Probably the most disturbing document is the Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on The Creation and Dissemination of All Forms of Information in Support of Psychological Operations (PSYOP) in Time of Military Conflict (May 2000), presented to the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense For Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

From the report:
In the Information Age, there is an increasing reliance on sophisticated, near-real time media dissemination. Information, and its denial, is power. The state or entity most able to effectively control or manage information, especially managing the perceptions of particular target audiences, will be the most influential (p. 12).
Of particular interest to me was Chapter 3: Reaching the Target Audience, with subsections of
  • 3.1 Packaging the Product,
  • 3.2 Developing the Message,
  • 3.3 Brand Identity,
  • 3.4 Measures of Effectiveness.
Marketing war and public policy like a soft drink has never been easier. I guess The Who were wrong: we did get fooled again (and again). Pray God we have learned from it. This time . . .


SandyCarlson said...

Excellent post. PM is quite a topic. I remember a PM guy from Union Carbide talking about this after that company's debacle. The scary thing was he convinced himself his own propaganda was true. Scary!

CyberCelt said...

@sandy-Thanks for the comment. I knew this was happening, I just didn't have the name for it.

Related Posts with Thumbnails