Secret Intelligence Service

Seminar Discussion

The Role of Imagination in Psychological Operations





Secret Intelligence Service

(C-I) (C-III) (C-V)


update 20 08 2018

The Owl is acutely aware in both hostile and friendly environments, can understand everything, has coordination skills second to none, is determined and in clandestine manner engages all requisite offensive action skills. The Owl is the most beautiful, and the exemplary foe.

Very basically, a psychological operation is a planned, ‘culturally sensitive’ activity directed at a target audience so to influence behaviour and attitude. Psychological operations will normally be truthful and attributable in order to achieve political and military objectives.

Deception involves incorporating deliberate measures so to manipulate the perceptions, emotions and so (ideally) to condition the behavior of an opponent, in order to achieve and exploit an advantage. The aim of deception is to persuade an opponent to adopt a course of action that disadvantages her/him.


Imagination is creative ability, resourcefulness, the ingredient of creative visualization, positive thinking and affirmation. Imagination is the act or power of forming mental (often idealized) images not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality.

Imagination sustains human society in forward motion. Thereby, imagination is priceless.



So let’s work around this and say something different. We can fill in the blanks later.

The fundamental question is; to what extent do we understand who we are directing at (target/under scrutiny)? Given what is assumed, what exactly is the core constituent of that assuming?

Simply because what is defined as being the most favorable outcome from our point of view is going to be understood from a very unique set of constructs that we own and in whatever approximation to reason, the target does not.

You can imagine favorable outcomes as a mere blanket, unless incorporating much more.

This is obvious really and too general, but it leads in to a question I have no answer to, which is; (a group of questions, actually):

As I said, the delineation/simplification of a prospective task (whatever the task is), produces an envisaged outcome based upon the initial view/s formed. I mean, we begin with and end with our core constructs.

The initial goals are based upon the makeup of our own world view as I also said; but neither is it a collective world view. I refer not only to the multifaceted national character as it is perceived by us to be, but to practically all who, close and involved in operations, though they engage in a search for a consensus view (the understanding of a target audience), they never reach that stage.

There are implications for this, because often people go along with what they do not agree with.

Therefore a consensus process should root out the uncommitted.

Given that a target/s is rightly to be regarded as infinitely complex, infinitely deep, and thus, often altogether different than are we, in their (and our) entirety.

This is not to suggest that what is a desired outcome depends wholly on an understanding of the target’s deeper hidden meaning, but the question; what can be employed as a psychological weapon, can be approached via initial creative and sensitive tactics and the effects of these being noted, ** because the effects will, in all likelihood necessitate modifications (equally sensitive) in approach.

**Remember how important is being in control, being aware of responses and equally, to resistance. How this is managed is a further consideration for discussion. What tells us basically, that there is an element of success and indicates the nature of that success?

Too simple, yes. To put it another way, the tentative touching of another when the other is not aware is a good strategy, the manipulative ploy becoming more pronounced (modified) as perceived effects emerge. This is different than is dumping something on a target’s lap and because of the bold assumption we got it right to begin with.

Just a few ideas to discuss. But what I wanted to talk about really, is imagination and its subduing capacity for perceptions being molded.

Much of what is produced in this respect is for commercial gain, certain of the tactics are obnoxious, I think, but it doesn’t matter to the perpetrators because the bottom line is profit.

In psyop and as I want to introduce here, because I want this to be a trifle different, har, har, there are enduring characteristics which we can , if we understand what they are, their nature and importantly their content, meld targets to us.

I’m not referring to how strategies are developed and so on from a theoretical point of view and documented. These documents essential as they be, remain where they are, because they are not the actual operation. The actual operation is not the directive, the theoretical perspective and so on.

The creating of an essentially emotional trauma and our holding this trauma, nurturing it, watching for indicators which are counter to where we want to take them.


I was wondering if ‘nurturing’ was an expression only you would use and why? It is not a military term.

In addition, stated geopolitical positions are often better deemed inappropriate because certain whom are informed they are ‘enemies’ (and our targets) at the outset, consequently and remarkably understand and accept that position because we’ve told them, this makes the task fraught with problems. I can go further and suggest that publicizing the details of the whole thing, even to the extent of showing photographs of the rooms that one is to be operating from, telling (bragging) of numbers of personnel, that more are to be recruited and the whole thing run in tandem with the rest of the military machinery – this could only serve to foster other outcomes and which it suggested is the reason anyway.

An ‘enemy’ is so defined, also influences those whose task it is to construct useful strategies. The concept of enemy is not always a useful one.

I mean, that holding the hand of someone is better than spitting in their face, because what comes after will be colored by this. We should be a sufficiently potent force in a sensitively constructed frame, thus we should be able to begin and continue the process of influencing perceptions more easily, the chances of success much greater.

There is much more to this obviously. It is not so easy to act in a manner deemed ‘inappropriate’, for reasoning well entrenched. This is because the going against the social order can be construed by the social order as ‘selling out’ and will attract a response in kind from them. Though they are unaware of the reasoning. You know the kind of thing, jumping to conclusions, throwing out accusations and the whole thing becomes disarray.

Who we are referring to has much significance in this respect and certain, would (and do) respond with cynicism and hostility at attempts made to influence them, whereas others are more susceptible, for the socioeconomic reasons we know.

This is what prompted me to suggest that (theoretically) imagination can play a vital role in enabling others, the most powerful opponents as defined, in this respect. Imagination is not structural, is not process, is not of the routine and expected, while combined within the ‘activity set’.

What is it that very effectively cuts across issues of class, gender, culture, religion, nationhood? We should consider this question in the context of using what is viewed as threat (conventional), because such a hard approach can be met with more of same (because they have more) and leading nowhere but increased conflict. Then and again, depending on who the target actually is.

It is not unusual to see cultural values finding their own way across boundaries many of which one would assume were impervious.

So let’s discuss imagination.


Creativity is intelligence having fun. Then it depends what is fun to us.”

Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955)


“One’s outer life passes in a solitude heated by the masks of others.

One’s inner life passes in a solitude heated by the masks of oneself.

Those who cannot see beyond their masks ensure their own self-annihilation.”

Eugene O’Neill (1888 – 1953)


There are lots and lots of things. First is a realisation that with us is the fabulous and the fantastic potential, the product of creative genius, but so by virtue of the protection we almost take for granted. To put it another way, might the protection be caused to adjust itself? Of course, as has been the case through necessity, so to keep watch more and more. This is not the intrusion spelt, that seized by the few who would seize anything to make their abusive shout heard. It is all part of the emergence of the collective bound with conflict, bound in this, our new poetic.
(C-I) London. I left it in a packet with *** ******, the owl.






Extract (C-I)

…….It picks up hoot hoot hoot hoot hoot the owl is on one foot, obvious… Yes. There are issues and I acknowledge your statement. In stepping away from the.@ There is recourse to the philosophy that takes this into account and a word ‘verstehen’. I tend to think much that is actually considered primary source could do well to be thought of as containing much of the observer/writer/interpreter’s personality, inclination and era.@ Here is a broader definition I like, so will include it:@ ‘Verstehen; is entering into the shoes of the other, and adopting this research stance requires treating the actor as a subject, rather than an object of.

@the owl has returned not obvious it was a delightful hotel and Even despite the geographical/cultural/linguistic constraints, as you did point out, I think in our data constructions we can be aware that there might still be something more and it be worthy of the att…. Again….Happy life be these; The quiet mind. The equal friend. No grudge, nor strife. Wisdom joined with simplicity. The night discharged of all care… Sir Henry Howard (1517-1547) ‘Means to Attain a Happy Life.‘ (a denied contemporary of Elizabeth Tudor.) 6frdddes22323232THE OWL IS WATCHING


(C-V) I know some would respond by pointing to the fact that fostering curiosity and desire is one thing – once the prerequisites are in place, so to do – like you said, but there are those who react to what they perceive as being assaults upon their culture, core beliefs, social norms (which is what they are) – by strengthening what it is we are focusing on. However you dress it, it would only be a provocation and the response negative, as for as the intention was concerned.

But I know what you are getting at. By employing certain highly seductive and meaningful – neutral- forms, then the function as pertains to us, does same to them. We should discuss what these forms consist of, what is value – more or less universally accepted as such.

But still bearing in mind with regard to some, there is little to nothing we have that would penetrate, let alone they be seduced by its ‘magic’ if that’s the right word.

(C-III) She said it depends on who the target group is. Maybe we should name a few for who we deem a positive outcome? It might help.

(C-V) I liked what you said about displaying the whole thing up front in intricate detail and stating who it’s intended for and why – the enemy. In a global stage where in this respect psychological characteristics are the issue, a response in kind is envisaged, simply because of their capacity so to do.

(C-I) Imagination is creative ability, resourcefulness, the ingredient of creative visualization, positive thinking and affirmation. Imagination is the act or power of forming mental (often idealised) images not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality.

(C-III) Are you confusing imagination with creativity? The power of one’s creativity to be universally seductive, to endure?

(C-I) You are just talking semantics, the issue is that we are creative, yes, but also understanding of its nature in the task at hand and further, that often an empathetic merging of cultural facets (ours and whoever else’s) – tentative at first – can effect an outcome that is positive.

Creativity is the compulsion to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities which may be useful in solving problems and communicating with others.

Generally speaking, in being creative, we are able to perceive in new ways or from different perspectives. We are able to generate new possibilities or new alternatives. A measure of creativity indicates the number of alternatives we can generate and also their uniqueness. Creativity is bound with qualities of thinking, such as flexibility, tolerance of ambiguity or unpredictability, and not to forget the enjoyment of things previously unknown.

(C-III) I’m not sure I agree with your premise that what we create, can work in the way you say – re;  “…an empathetic merging of facets”. This differs somewhat from what you’ve said before while talking about generating instability, insecurity, and this status acting as the beginning point. Unless by clever ploy you can build in the means to overpower, once in motion. The objective is to make/enable other parties to think and behave as we desire, not to get married.


(C-V) She’s referring to augmenting portions of reality and wherein because of the allure, because of the immersing capacity, other actors are influenced via the control we own.

(C-I) Was I? Gee whiz. You know, the most effective psychological operations, currently, contain elements of what you just said and they are called CGTN and RT, as you are aware. How on earth are we supposed to compete? We do not have the resources to cast across such a global spectrum of intellectual, creative insight and endeavour. No one does. No one can compete. They, by virtue of being the Leonardo da Vinci of IT (psyop), can expose, very easily submerge and turn back on us, what are much more narrow, though determined efforts – ours. My suggestion that we examine imagination (creativity) was, because what we are adept at, even though made within much narrower confines, can incorporate what captivates and seduces.

(C-V) Because defence and national security issues are the same thing, or have a place within same.

(C-I) Yes. Being all of one mind-set or thereabouts is the perfect base to project from, a place where the population inherently and collectively characterise the culture, values, history and desires. Do we?



“There, as threescore and ten years later he told the tale, rose in his mind a scheme which, through all the turns of his eventful career, was never abandoned. He would recover the estate which had belonged to his fathers. He would be Hastings of Daylesford. This purpose, formed in infancy and poverty, grew stronger as his intellect expanded and as his fortune rose. He pursued his plan with that calm but indomitable force of will which was the most striking peculiarity of his character. When, under a tropical sun, he ruled fifty millions of Asiatics, his hopes, amidst all the cares of war, finance, and legislation, still pointed to Daylesford. And when his long public life, so singularly chequered with good and evil, with glory and obloquy, had at length closed for ever, it was to Daylesford that he retired to die.”

Memoirs of the Life of Warren Hastings (Dec. 6th 1732 – Aug. 22nd 1818). First Governor-General of Bengal. Compiled from Original Papers. London: 1841




In order to be creative, we need to be able to view established things in new ways or from a different perspective. We need to be able to generate new possibilities or new alternatives based on what we know already. Tests of creativity measure not only the number of alternatives that people can generate, but the uniqueness of those alternatives. In addition, the ability to generate alternatives or to see things uniquely does not occur by change; it is linked to other, more fundamental qualities of our thinking, such as flexibility, tolerance of ambiguity or unpredictability, and the enjoyment of things heretofore known and unknown.



The yonder war upon the Arts. Society pays for this war and the cost is devastating.

>> A society that loses the capacity for introspective thought ultimately extinguishes itself. <<

>> A corporate war upon our history –  a war which includes the impoverishment and marginalization of the artist, the imaginative genius, the creative thinker, severs from the forces that hold up a mirror to the very essence of our self-hood.<<

>> That these creative forces delineate in a way that any society entranced by fantasy fails to understand the difference between reality and illusion, between who and what the society really is, always has been, and who and what the society is caused to think it is. <<

>> We have to understand the failure to grasp the reality of what it means with regard those myriad whom are trapped in illusions which should be to us, empty and ugly. <<

We must recognize, consider and act accordingly.




If You Want My Freedom, Fight Me For It  (C-I)

The Owl is in Harrogate – Covert Hybrid War


time out


(C-IV) It is the case that humans devote 30 – 40 per cent of speech output solely on informing others of their own subjective experiences. This is a relevant factor to commandeer because of the interactive – expressively encouraging mediums provided so to do. So, do we understand what fires this propensity for disclosure? One can test recent theories that individuals place high subjective value on opportunities to communicate their thoughts and feelings to others and that doing so engages neural and cognitive mechanisms associated with reward. Five recent studies did provide support for this hypothesis. Self-disclosure was strongly associated with increased activation in brain regions that form the meso-limbic dopamine system, including the nucleus accumbens and ventral tegmental area. Moreover, individuals were willing to sacrifice all payment to disclose about themselves. Two additional studies demonstrated that these effects stemmed from the independent value that individuals place on self-referential thought, and on simply sharing information with others. Together, these findings appear to suggest that the human tendency to convey information regarding personal experience may arise from the intrinsic value associated with self-disclosure.


Self Referential Thought


The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”

Bertrand Arthur William Russell. OM. FRS  (1872 – 1970)


Diary Extract (C-I). ‘Useful Considerations of an Interpersonal Nature’


Note :

To be a credible PSYOP challenge it is imperative that we evaluate rationally and then propose a rational alternative which is conceptually and demonstrably superior. To respond only with an indignant denunciation of something else is merely to indulge ourselves in the equivalent of emotional name-calling, which may be satisfying and reassuring too, but does not necessarily adjust matters towards the solution of an international/intercultural problem.

‘Psychological Operations’ (PSYOP) includes psychological warfare and, in addition, encompasses those political, military, economic, and ideological actions planned and conducted to create in neutral or friendly foreign groups the emotions, attitudes, or behaviour to support the achievement of national objectives.

‘Psychological Warfare’ is the planned use of propaganda and other psychological actions to influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes, and behaviour of hostile foreign groups in such a way as to support the achievement of national objectives.


“Knowledge is easy, becoming quickly of little to no value, whereas imagination remains priceless.”



To be immersed in information constructed from bias by the sender – constituting knowledge content in 3D form which cannot be held up to reality for evaluation because in the receiver’s mind it is reality.

The extent of the receiver’s ability to question at all is an issue because why need there be the ability?

When ‘something’ enters and consequently provokes a reevaluation process via necessity, might there be as a result what can be described as ‘authentic thought’, or just the same old thing dressed differently? Can stepping beyond this ever happen and if so because of what condition, to what extent, and for who?

To ask, for example, why is everyone not an astronomer if not in mere cursory fashion, is unhelpful in the observation of global collective state, simply because the global collective state exists in the propensity for limitation, a shared expectation of ‘things’ being understood in the ways they are, that ‘things’ are the only way they can ever become, are enlightened in the ways that are ‘perpetual’, and so on.

This presupposes that understanding and knowledge is valid, what it makes in shared mind is meaningful in ways beyond construct, that it is a priori. Whereas in truth and simply, it is not, it is made to appear so – a posteriori.

What significance is there tending this observation, while people go about their daily lives in the made sameness which endures?

What extent is the construction one made on behalf of the global collective NOT indicative of a morphing, not a developmental / emerging sequence via application of shifting trends, but is rather > a biased / rehashed nonsense frame useful only because it can, for the majority to whom it applies, maintain order / predictability / ignorance / stupidity / perpetual infancy – this, the dictate wherein almost all dwell. <

There is no meaning or point to the marking of time, and to assume there is any significance, or point to what is essentially invention attired otherwise, is the prevailing condition. Moving from what, into what? A further display, a new ritual attired with information relevant only in that it secures certainty, because uncertainty is intolerable. To have no certainty is not an opportunity, but a cause to fight against, for fear of losing precious identity, to sever ‘connection’, thereby being defenders of a reality which is in effect, nothing. How can reality be nothing when we have all of this? The question is; all of what? A human comedy mostly, only amusing for the duration it lasts.



Perhaps what you say above, though being true, is a trifle academic? I think the appeal to such questioning is, not surprisingly, altogether absent, in the face of where within most live – what is a taken for granted state. But what else can it be? When the sun sets and darkness fills the void, who actually wonders why? Human beings are sacrosanct upon a planet they know little to nothing about, yet is owned, fought over for constructs which are human in their entirety.

Rather than wonder, there is the rush to perform in the context of threat, which as you say, in the context of meaning and time, is pointless. One can therefore look at pointlessness as it is attired, for example; we have a global society normalized to war, we have the suggested innocence of the protagonists of atrocity, we have the masses of civilians who consequently are not killed (murdered), but ‘died’, we have those who orchestrate strife and in so doing attribute virtue to themselves, thereby there is justification, suggested innocence, we have the nefarious cover up, and so on….These are what characterize the marking of time and to posit the pointless and the stupid which it is would be an attack upon the already programmed state of the human collective.

In any useful Mind War, therefore, I think one has to be conscious of what the underlying intention must be, and which is; to keep people from wanting to and succeeding in killing both us and each other (ideally, though impossible), replacing the latter with ‘something else,’ and to foster an awareness of the consequences of an all out conflict, which is thermonuclear war. Regarding the latter, it is useful to consider that time, as is taken for granted, the lights come on at six and the store is open 24/7, the route there obvious – as is bound in predictable ignorant state, would become altogether different – a wiping clean of the slate and replacing it with no meaning at all. The predicating circumstances, though they took place, would not exist, nor would those who caused them.

As you say, this is not the modus-operandi, it is something else, instinct (inclination /predisposition) running amok, one might suggest? And further, what power over the collective psyche is a Mind War likely to have in this respect (regarding asymmetry / bi lateral relations as preferable to ‘conventional’ war, as is planned / hypothesised / suggested /desired?)

The warrior mentality is endemic in much more powerfully felt ways. For example, the computer games in which the user becomes a drone pilot and kills in the same way that any military operative is trained to do. I have a problem envisaging a strategy to over ride this mind set / life world once set in motion, once entrenched / the hurt for the real thing. What is the difference within the human psyche of committing atrocity on a computer and doing it for real? The same gratification is being fed, either way.


Extract from Mental Diary (II) – ‘Affect’ (C-I)

Shame is central to identity development and the reflexivity of the self. Psychoanalyst Francis Broucek wrote that; ‘‘Shame is to self psychology what anxiety is to ego psychology – the keystone of affect’’. Shame is the sense of disturbance and defeat activated and felt within the self. Tomkins (1963) states;

>> If distress is the affect of suffering, shame is the affect of indignity, of defeat, of transgression and of alienation. Though terror speaks to life and death and distress makes of the world a vale of tears, yet shame strikes deepest into the heart of man and woman.<<

While terror and distress hurt, they are wounds inflicted from outside which penetrate the smooth surface of the ego; but shame is felt as an inner torment, a sickness of the soul. It does not matter whether the humiliated . . . (*deleted)

Restarting from shameful place

>>> One has been shamed by derisive laughter or whether she mocks herself. In either event she feels herself naked, defeated, alienated, lacking in dignity or worth. <<<

Therefore the question of human suffering often points the problem outward to locate the objects of pain and distress, as if we feel distressed because the objects we encounter have an essential property of distress, and our body merely reacts to that. Here, Tomkins’ emphasis on the experience of shame offers a humanistic lens, which draws attention to the necessity of dignity in the capacity to experience suffering at all. Indeed, Tomkins’ affect theory makes a provocative argument that  >> affect, rather than biological drive, is the ‘primary motivational system’. <<

Imagination therefore, is central in psychological operations because affect can be teased by appeal to creative ways, and affect is the primary motivational system


Without memory of our past in its entirety, there is no limit to the presence and form of the machines that will, if we allow them, run rampant throughout the present time. Without memory of our past in its entirety, we are in danger of becoming little more than automata, nothing more than creatures devoid of creative capacity, incapable of introspection, less, to know beauty and thus, to project it.”

S. Wyndham – Lewis


Secret Intelligence Service
(C-I) UNIT. London
21 07 2018

From our discussion : ON THE LIMITATIONS OF MIND WAR (I). (Harrogate)

As aforestated, psychological operations convey selected information to foreign audiences. A key mission is; serving as the voice of supported senior officers, political decision makers, other officers, forces, and civilian populations, as well as sources of external support – so to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning, convey intent, and affect behaviour.

It is axiomatic therefore, that every theme and every objective reflect and support UK national policy, and thus informational programmes must be and are integrated into all international information programmes so to ensure consistent, complementary messages.

There is renewed fascination for employing coordinated information programmes (including military psychological operations), for three convincing reasons, and which are :

(I) There is a politically motivated effort to prevent escalation by a potential adversary toward violent / physical resolution of differences.

(II) Because of the internet and other communications technologies, it is almost impossible for governments to regulate the flow of information across borders, thus making target audiences more accessible to psyop messages.

(III) The growing world trend toward urbanisation, particularly in the third world, makes the use of overwhelmingly effective weapons on battlefields brimming with non-combatants far less than satisfactory. Besides, all these lessons have been learned and applied by potential enemies.

Secret Intelligence Service
(C-I) UNIT. London
21 07 2018

From our discussion : ON THE LIMITATIONS OF MIND WAR (I). (Harrogate)


Secret Intelligence Service

This is for discussion at the next seminar. I mean, this is the ideal situation mapped, but is it adhered to, or even plausible? If not plausible, what parts is it not, and why?
22 07 2018. Harrogate


Because of new technology and global media, there is an ever increasing overlap of information between public affairs and psychological operations.

The public affairs mission has shifted from delivering specific products (newspapers and radio / TV) to the processing of themes and complex manipulative messages. This refocus has made it crucial that public affairs, psychological operations, and public diplomacy, as well as other elements of information operations, be fully integrated and coordinated.

Public information, both domestic and international, has to be consistent on all levels so to preserve the credibility of each instrument. Although psychological operations, public affairs, and public diplomacy messages may intrinsically differ, >> it is very important that they do not contradict one another. <<

Secret Intelligence Service

This is for discussion at the next seminar. I mean, this is the ideal situation mapped, but is it adhered to, or even plausible? If not plausible, what parts is it not, and why?
22 07 2018. Harrogate



A discussion of the above statement by Wyndham-Lewis


Above and below photographs : The Owl is in Harrogate. (C-I)


(C-I) Unit

Seminar. Harrogate 15 08 2018

On Self Delusion and Moral Bankruptcy

Let’s examine a few ideas; ideas that reflect the three-dimensional morass of meanings inherent within western society, though not confined to the west. By so doing, we can glean, or better stated, walk through this and while our imagination is being provoked, and consider what it means for us. >>What it means for us is important and this point needs to be born in mind. In other words; we are not merely reacting, but constructing a road upon the nature there within, and thus, providing ourselves with the means to do our job better, or part of our remit, which is, as I said; covert psychological war. << We are neither agreeing nor disagreeing with the following, we are using its reality :

The self destructive ideology of culture? Can authentic culture provide a way for people to think critically? How can we deconstruct culture? The cult of the self dominates our culture – arguably the cult shares within it the classic cult of psychopaths; superficial charm, grandiosity, self-importance, the need for constant stimulation, a penchant for lying, the accepted manipulation and incapacity for remorse or guilt. It is a misguided belief that wealth, fame, personal style and personal advancement reign supreme – this, mistaken for individualism. It is the celebration of image over substance, fame and wealth are their own justification. Fame and wealth are their own justification, their own morality. The fusion of material things with identity.

People are controlled, manipulated and distracted by a society awash in electronic hallucinations and social media, a consumer culture – the cult of the self, not designed simply to entertain, more designed to drain the person emotionally, confuse about one’s identity, make one blame oneself for one’s own predicament and conditions one to choose the illusions of unachievable happiness, and keep from fighting back.

Given that this is an accurate perception, what does it mean for our developing strategies in covert information war?

(C-I) Unit


Secret Intelligence Service
(C-I) Unit
Seminar 15 08 2018. Harrogate

Topic : PROPAGANDA and differing schools of what it is, what it seeks to achieve and by what methods. In certain respects the schools are opposing, so to discuss in what ways they are. What is of use to us, specifically?


The greatest attraction of propaganda, for those using it is to achieve total victory in the war on terror (though not confined to), that on the surface it may appear to pose no intellectual problems about what it is and what it does. Drop leaflets on enemy territory; place pro-whomever. articles in newspapers abroad; broadcast radio programmess that attack the enemy and praise ‘others’ values — and hearts and minds in hostile lands will be won over, like a salivating Pavlov dog reacting to food-related stimuli. But propaganda is not as simple as that. Not at all. In fact, with its long history, it is a complicated topic that has been the subject of intense debate since antiquity.

Allow me to touch the tip of the propaganda iceberg and suggest two basic ways of looking at propaganda, which are :



The moralist school proposes that propaganda is intrinsically misleading and therefore morally reprehensible. This point of view, popular among philosophers and pedagogues, harks back to Plato. True, Plato did not use the word propaganda, a term coined by the Catholic Church in the 16th century , during the Counter-Reformation, to describe the propagation of the faith. Rather, Plato spoke about rhetoric, the art of persuasion, which he contrasted to philosophy, the love of truth. In Gorgias Plato leaves little doubt that rhetoric aims at domination, not instruction, and is therefore intellectually and morally unacceptable. Encouraged by Socrates, the rhetorician Gorgias, stating that rhetoric has the ‘power … to persuade the multitude,’ is left no choice but to admit that it is an art that does not give knowledge, but  > ‘belief without knowledge. <

In the Republic, Plato proposes that myth-making is essential to the existence of the state. But his condemnation in Gorgias of rhetoric as in itself immoral and domineering lives on in Western thought. It is reflected in the modern era in a classic of propaganda studies, Jacques Ellul’s Propaganda : The Formation Of Men’s Attitudes (U.S. edition, 1965), where the French philosopher writes that; “the force of propaganda is a direct attack against man … a menace which threatens the total personality.” A similar line of thinking was more recently expressed in Stanley B. Cunningham’s The Idea of Propaganda : A Reconstruction (2002) :
Because of propaganda’s systematic mistreatment of truth and information and their procedural safeguards, its virtually imperceptible erosion of individual capability and social freedom, and its unnerving magnitude – because of all these, it is simply myopic to regard all this as an ethically neutral state of affairs.
In his attack on the ‘myopic’ view that propaganda is an ‘ethically neutral state of affairs’ Cunningham is challenging a second way of looking at propaganda that can be traced back to Aristotle, who is far more tolerant and accepting of rhetoric than is Plato in Gorgias. Arguably, the best known twentieth-century representative of this neutralist school is the social scientist Harold Lasswell, whose widely read work, ‘Propaganda Technique in the World War (1927)’, sought to look at propaganda objectively and scientifically in the aftermath of World War I, when the public in former combatant countries expressed moral outrage at the lies and atrocity stories that had been perpetuated by governments in that altogether bloody conflict, giving propaganda a negative connotation that is it still carries today.

The no-nonsense view of Lasswell that propaganda; ‘as a mere tool is no more moral or immoral than a pump handle’ (Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, 1937, vol. 11) was shared  with certain variations – by a large number propaganda scholars with a social-science or historical bent, among them (to cite the best among many) Daniel Lerner, Leonard W. Doob, Lindley Fraser, and Terence Qualter. (The father of American PR, Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, was a supporter of this approach, but for reasons that had far more to do with business success than the expansion of knowledge). Today the neutralist view is alive and well in propaganda studies, and is reflected in the works of the historian Philip M. Taylor, who has written that; ‘propaganda is a practical process of persuasion and, as a practical process, it is an inherently neutral concept.’ (Propaganda from Thucydides to Thatcher: Some Problems, Perspectives & Pitfalls 1992).

Both views of propaganda can be defended as ways of trying to understand it. The first reminds us that it might be an illusion to make what could be artificial distinctions between man/woman and the mind-tools that are created and used; that these very tools themselves, because they are made by humans, remain a ‘part’ of him/her even after they are made, and that they can be an expression, or a continuation, of the self, in some cases of hubris if not madness. Certainly Hitler’s propaganda suggests this. It was not, one could argue, simply a ‘tool,’ or pump of Nazi rule; it had a symbiotic relationship with the Führer; it was another dimension of his living self, the incarnation of his nightmarish view of the world (just as, for Ellul, propaganda is an intrinsic part of all-controlling technological society that cannot be separated from, or understood without  it).

Finally, an important fact stressed by Plato and other moralists cannot be overlooked, which is :

> when propagandists use falsehoods, it is, after all, falsehoods they are using, and that is hard to justify morally. <

The neutralist view, in contrast to the cri de coeur that on occasion marks the approach of its opposing school (although Plato uses dialectic to dismiss rhetoric), leads scholars to analyse propaganda in a clear-headed, stay with the facts way that avoids metaphysical or ethical anguish and seeks to provide concrete knowledge on how it developed historically and how it functions, ie., what, in Lasswell’s words, is its ‘technique.’ True, the contention of the neutralist school that propaganda is a process of persuasion that is part of human nature (the school’s way of demonstrating that propaganda is not a ghoulish deviation from normal human behaviour like Hitler’s) seems to conflict with the view held by some among that school that propaganda is also a planned activity with a clear intention (changing the behaviour of target audiences to the propagandist’s benefit). But this logical conundrum, that a process can be both natural and planned at the same time is not significant enough to prevent the neutralists from carrying out detailed research about the nuts and bolts of propaganda, despite their creation in some cases of sociological / psychological categories that can go far beyond the empirical and the understanding of the layman.

As for the results of propaganda, the schools also differ. The first, which stresses the hypnotic, diabolical power of propaganda, tends to argue that it can control behaviour and manipulate entire populations without their being aware of it, as is the case in Orwell’s 1984; the second school, with its stress on the concrete and definable (and emphasis on the limitations of propaganda as a tool of policy), as a rule is more skeptical about what propaganda can actually achieve and how its influence can be accurately measured.

The tensions between the two schools,and of course I am simplifying by calling them so, as every scholarly view is unique, are unlikely to be resolved, in part because propaganda, like pornography, is so difficult to define. But such disagreements can be instructive, for they remind us that propaganda is a complex issue the use of which raises more questions than provides answers.

Two kinds of propaganda? :

Rational propaganda in favour of action that is consonant with the enlightened self-interest of those who make it and those to whom it is addressed,


Non-rational propaganda that is not consonant with anybody’s enlightened self-interest, but is dictated by, and appeals to, passion. Were the actions of individuals are concerned there are motives more exalted than enlightened self-interest, but where collective action has to be taken in the fields of politics and economics, enlightened self-interest is probably the highest of effective motives. If politicians and their constituents always acted to promote their own or their country’s long-range self-interest, this world would be an earthly paradise. As it is, they often act against their own interests, merely to gratify their least credible passions; the world, in consequence, is a place of misery. Propaganda in favour of action that is consonant with enlightened self-interest appeals to reason by means of logical arguments based upon the best available evidence fully and honestly set forth. Propaganda in favour of action dictated by the impulses that are below self-interest some argue (note, though not myself included) offers false, garbled or incomplete evidence, avoids logical argument and seeks to influence its victims by the mere repetition of catchwords, by the furious denunciation of foreign or domestic scapegoats, and by cunningly associating the lowest passions with the highest ideals, so that atrocities come to be perpetrated in the name of God and the most cynical kind of Realpolitic is treated as a matter of religious principle and patriotic duty.

In their propaganda today’s dictators rely for the most part on repetition, suppression and rationalisation ie., the repetition of catchwords which they wish to be accepted as true, the suppression of facts which they wish to be ignored, the arousal and rationalisation of passions which may be used in the interests of the Party or the State.

As the art and science of manipulation will, by dictators of the future,come to be better understood and applied……


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Seminars : Counterinsurgency (forthwith)




thinking >> decision making >> action >> experience >>

Rich pictures

Multiple-cause diagrams

Systems maps

Control-model diagrams

The definition of a SYSTEM: an assembly of components interconnected as if they have a purpose. PURPOSE is a way of structuring the complexity.

The idea of INTERCONNECTEDNESS is another way of structuring complexity. In the case of INFLUENCE DIAGRAMS >> one can search for interconnection in the form of influence to hold together a structure that resolves some of the complexity.

There are at least two ways of looking for influence connections from the myriad of possibilities a complex situation presents. The first is to start from a SYSTEMS MAP, modifying it and adapting to identify the principal interconnections. The second is to start by identifying a COMPONENT in the complexity that appears to be influential and building the influence diagram from there. (There are advantages and disadvantages to both).

CONTROL MODELS are a useful way of investigating purpose and the means in place to achieve it. They address issues such as ‘What is X trying to achieve?’ ‘How are they trying to do it?’ and ‘How will they know when they have done it?’ CONTROL MODEL DIAGRAMS thus provide a structure for exploring these questions. The drawing of the model allows one to decide whether the elements are in place to support the achievement of the purpose – and whether they are the right elements.

One can use one of the purposes identified and by expressing it in terms of a simple transformation, work through the formal elements of the diagram seeing if the elements are there and linked together in appropriate ways. Using the control-model form as a diagnostic tool often means one does not get a diagram that conforms to the rules. This is precisely the point. If the diagram does not work, it is because the system is not connected together in a way that would allow it to work, or because some of the elements are mismatched or missing.

The output from one’s diagnosis can then take the form of a precise description of the reasons for its failure to effect the transformation, or achieve the purpose it was meant to achieve. It can also suggest means of improving the performance of the system in achieving its purpose – by adding missing components, by connecting components of the system together in other ways, by changing components so that they better match the intention, or by, for example, using alternative measures of performance.

Awareness of the constraints and possibilities by virtue of being the observer :

The essence of a systems approach is that of seeing the world in a special way. This immediately prompts the question of what is meant by the phrase ‘seeing the world’. Because we live so intimately with the world of objects, categories and people and phenomena, we tend to think our own way of seeing the world is the only way, or even of thinking, ‘Well that is my view because the world is like that’. Actually, one’s view is special in several separate ways, which are :

(I) If one’s vision is not impaired, one sees the surroundings using only light of wavelengths between 380 nm and 780 nm (nanometers or 1 × 10−9m). Bees, for example, see flowers using wavelengths less than 380 nm. We all have quite a small visual window on the world.

(II) Research on colour perception carried out during the 1960s showed that colour was not something that is fixed in the world, but is a property of one’s own unique history. This led one of the researchers involved to change the question concerned with from ‘how does one see colour’? to ‘what happens when one sees such a colour?’

(III) With normal hearing one hears frequencies of sound between 20 Hz and 20 000 Hz (Hertz). Bats use sound waves of higher frequency than 20 kHz, which we cannot hear.

(IV) One’s ability to detect odours is vastly inferior to a dog’s. A dog’s ‘smell world’ is vastly richer than its visual world.

(V) The language one has learned steers one into categorising one’s world in ways one is largely unaware of, just as a fish is unaware of the water it is immersed in throughout its life. Sometimes it is possible to become aware of this when speaking another language – when immersed in the other language the experience is sometimes akin to being a different person.

(VI) One’s physiological state and the dynamic relationship of this with one’s emotional state also affect how one experiences the world. This ranges from aspects of the functioning of one’s nervous system and its role in cognition, to hormonal events such as menstruation, and the release of natural endorphins during exercise.

(VII) The culture of the society in which one has developed has determined what one sees as well as how one can respond during any flow of relationships. One’s culture determines what is implicit in one’s perceptions and emotions. So the ways one sees manners, relationships and behaviours is dependent in turn on how people around one see and act.

(VIII) Regarding the particular explanations one accepts for things one experiences. The ‘theoretical windows’ through which one interprets and act are always there regardless of whether one is aware of them or not. The theory or explanation one accepts determines what one sees and thus the meaning one will give to an experience. Consider for example, of the fundamentally different cosmology, the set of explanations for the origin and evolution of the universe, developed by the Mayan civilisation in South America that was entirely coherent but so different to Western cosmology. This is sometimes described as the theory dependency of facts.

How one engages with a situation is not just a property of the situation. It is primarily a property of the background, experiences and prejudices of being the operative / spy / observer / researcher / practitioner, and so on. 

The attributes of the observer :

AWARENESS – awareness of self in relation to what is happening and the context.. The nature of this awareness and what it means to be an aware observer it is necessary to explore.

ENGAGEMENT –  engaging with a real world situation. It is an engagement that can be experienced as messy and complex, or experienced as a situation where there has been a failure or some other unintended consequence. In the case of the Futre City Project it is as an intended consequence, experienced as both simple, and complex. Because one is primarily concerned with situations that are experienced as complex, this engaging with complexity; Note; complexity should be examined more.

CONTEXT – concerned with how one puts particular systems approaches into context (i.e. contextualising) for taking action in the real world. One of the main skills is to learn, through experience, to manage the relationship between a particular systems approach and the real world situation one is using it in. Adopting an approach is more than just choosing one of the methods that already exists. This is ‘putting into context’, to indicate a process of contextualisation involved in the choice of approach.

MANAGING – concerned with overall performance and often used to describe the process by which one engages with a real world situation. This is a special form of engagement, it also introduces the idea of change over time, in both the situation and oneself – Important

Consider the notion that one exists in language and co-construct meaning in human communication, much as dancers co-construct the tango or samba on the dance floor – this suggests the need to consider on what basis one might accept that understanding has occurred. Asking this question is like opening a Pandora’s box. It raises all sorts of questions that one takes for granted, such as; What is learning? What is understanding? How does one know what one knows?

The complexity one is trying to understand as residing in the relationship between the observer (oneself), one’s appreciation of systems practice, and the context :

To be effective, one has to continuously think about, and act to maintain, four elements :

the processes of being the observer

one’s appreciation of the situation engaged with

putting the approach taken into context

managing in the situation

The four verbs, the activities are, > being, engaging, contextualising, and managing. <


The information-processing model of the mind (Rosch, 1992)

One’s interactions consist of non-specific triggers, which one interprets strictly according to one’s own internal structural dynamics. This has profound implications for how human communication is understood – it is not signal or information transfer but a process of meaning construction. Within this line of reasoning it can be argued that one  exists and are realised as such, during conversations. It is not that one uses conversations; one is a flow of conversations. It is not that language is the home of one’s being but that the human being is a dynamic manner of being in language, not a body, not an entity that has an existence independent of language, and which can then use language as an instrument for communication.

For example when the word nature is used in modern Western discourse it is often used in such a way that leads to living as though outside nature. The concept ‘nature’ thus structures who one is and what one does. In some indigenous, non-western languages the term or concept does not exist. Obviously, this view has implications for what is meant by communication within systems practice.

Appreciating the basis for understanding

The explanation that we each construct our own version of reality and therefore cannot be an objective observer; which in turn means we have to take responsibility for our observations and explanations is challenging for many people. It can be disturbing to have the basis for one’s understanding of the world challenged. It seems important to do it, however, because it gives access to new and practical explanations.


Summary of the characteristics that distinguish systemic thinking and action and systematic thinking and action

Systemic thinking

Systematic thinking

Properties of the whole differ, they are said to emerge from their parts; e.g. the wetness of water cannot be understood in terms of hydrogen and oxygen. The whole can be understood by considering just the parts through linear cause-effect mechanisms.
Boundaries of systems are determined by the perspectives of those who participate in formulating them. The result is a system of interest. Systems exist as concrete entities; there is a correspondence between the description and the described phenomenon.
Individuals hold partial perspectives of the whole; when combined, these provide multiple partial perspectives. Perspective is not important.
Systems are characterised by feedback; may be negative, i.e. compensatory or balancing; or positive, i.e. exaggerating or reinforcing. Analysis is linear.
Systems cannot be understood by analysis of the component parts. The properties of the parts are not intrinsic properties, but can be understood only within the context of the larger whole through studying the interconnections. A situation can be understood by step-by-step analysis followed by evaluation and repetition of the original analysis.
Concentrates on basic principles of organisation. Concentrates on basic building blocks.
Systems are nested within other systems – they are multi-layered and interconnect to form networks. There is a foundation on which the parts can be understood.
Contextual. Analytical.
Concerned with process. Concerned with entities and properties.
The properties of the whole system are destroyed when the system is dissected, either physically or theoretically, into isolated elements. The system can be reconstructed after studying the components.
Systemic action Systematic action
The espoused role and the action of the decision-maker is very much part of an interacting ecology of systems. How the researcher perceives the situation is critical to the system being studied. The role is that of participant-conceptualiser. The espoused role of the decision-maker is that of participant‑observer. In practice, however, the decision maker claims to be objective and thus remains ‘outside’ the system being studied.
Ethics are perceived as being multi-levelled as are the levels of systems themselves. What might be good at one level might be bad at another. Responsibility replaces objectivity in whole‑systems ethics. Ethics and values are not addressed as a central theme. They are not integrated into the change process; the researcher takes an objective stance.
It is the interaction of the practitioner and a system of interest with its context (its environment) that is the main focus of exploration and change. The system being studied is seen as distinct from its environment. It may be spoken of in open‑system terms but intervention is performed as though it were a closed system.
Perception and action are based on experience of the world, especially on the experience of patterns that connect entities and the meaning generated by viewing events in their contexts. Perception and action are based on a belief in a ‘real world’; a world of discrete entities that have meaning in and of themselves.
There is an attempt to stand back and explore the traditions of understanding in which the practitioner is immersed. Traditions of understanding may not be questioned although the method of analysis may be evaluated.


Donald Schön, Educating the Reflective ‘Practitioner’ (1987) :

All professional observers experience a version of the dilemma of rigour and relevance and they respond to it in one of several ways. Some of them choose the swampy lowland, deliberately immersing themselves in confusing but critically important situations. When they are asked to describe their methods of inquiry they speak of experience, trial and error, intuition or muddling through. When teachers, social workers, or planners operate in this vein, they tend to be afflicted with a nagging sense of inferiority in relation to those who present themselves as models of technical rigor. When physicists or engineers do so, they tend to be troubled by the discrepancy between the technical rigor of the ‘hard’ zones of their practice and apparent sloppiness of the ‘soft’ ones. People tend to feel the dilemma of rigor or relevance with particular intensity when they reach the age of about 45. At this point they ask themselves: Am I going to continue to do the thing I was trained for, on which I base my claims to technical rigor and academic respectability? Or am I going to work on the problems – ill formed, vague, and messy – that I have discovered to be real around here? And depending on how people make this choice, their lives unfold differently (1995, p. 28).


Education for sustainability is the continual refinement of the knowledge and skills that lead to informed citizenry that is committed to responsible individuals and collaborative actions that will result in an ecologically sound, economically prosperous, and equitable society for present and future generations. The principles underlying education for sustainability include, but are not limited to, strong core academics, understanding the relationships between disciplines, systems thinking, lifelong learning, hands-on experiential learning, community-based learning, technology, partnerships, family involvement, and personal responsibility.


There are in fact many explanations provided for what complexity is or is not. Someone who went to the trouble of counting in the early 1990s claimed to have found 31 different definitions. Five pages, many more than for any other concept, are devoted to aspects of complexity in the International Encyclopaedia of Systems and Cybernetics. This situation has arisen partly because in the 1990s the field of complexity science has emerged, made popular by the activities of the Santa Fe Institute in the USA; partly because of a series of popular books; and the association of complexity with chaos research (Gleick, 1987). Horgan (1996), a sceptic and critic, describes the academic field as ‘chaoplexity’.

Assessments change through history. A major blindness we often observe in people is the almost exclusive attention they pay to learning particular skills as a way to become effective and successful in the future. However, they do not pay much attention to the fact that the standards to assess effectiveness in the future may be very different from the ones used today. Actions by themselves never generate effectiveness. Only actions that comply with existing social standards can produce it. A good example is the importance granted today to ecological concerns. Based on historical changes in standards of effectiveness, procedures that were considered extremely effective in the past are now discarded because they do not meet ecological standards.


Important definition

This approach is potentially able to encompass all of the complexity in the situation. It is also able to bring forth the multiple perspectives through the engagement of all the actors in the situation. They used conversations, interviews and even drama to achieve this. This allows outcomes to emerge from the process rather than being defined in the form of a plan with outcomes specified in advance. Sometimes highly specific plans that are not renegotiated iteratively as the environment changes are called blueprints, and the process called blueprint planning. Shaw and her colleague approached their task as an unfolding process of ‘engaging’ in which all parties were learning or co-constructing new meanings in the situation (Shaw, 2002). Systemic approaches to managing complexity, of which this is an example, are designed to achieve emergent outcomes because they orchestrate a process of learning.


in process – continued

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