A Scratch of PSYOPS
I have been meaning to write a brief on psychological warfare since last year. And I am finally getting around to it. This topic has especially interested me for the last two years. Psychological warfare or psychological operations (PSYOPS) is a term that I came across momentarily during my stint as a military officer with the Singapore Armed Forces.
Then, I understood it to be part of our total defence strategies. Psychological defence was one of the five pillars of defence when it was first introduced. The pillars of military, civil, social, economic and psychological defence have been revised to include digital defence. Every area of defence is established against any ‘war’ that might be inflicted upon the nation.
Singapore’s Ministry of Defence explains psychological defence as"The will and resolve to defend our way of life and interests, and the fighting spirit to overcome challenges together."
In my own words, it is the mobilisation of like-minded people into a resilient, ready, dynamic defence unit which resolves to stay united through any crisis, with plans to return to ‘normal’ as soon as possible. This aspect of a total defence system helps the people to be less anxious, more accepting and caring, apparently more humble, possibly more repressive of emotions and reactions. There are at least 31 coping mechanisms to ‘protect’ self from the pain and anxiety experienced in both pre- and post-crisis situations. You can read more about this here.
Psychological Warfare or Operations (PSYOPS)
Every aspect of a total defence system is the answer to an expectation of a ‘war’ waiting to happen. Logically, why create a defence system unless one anticipates or is aware of a possible threat or threats? So, what does PSYOPS look like? Can you recognize this in your lifetime? Are you able to discern the methods being used in the 21st century? Do you know the goal of PSYOPS?
Have you heard of the English proverb, “An idle mind is the devil’s playground”? The mind is where both positive and / or negative thoughts brew prior to manifesting as actions. As Christians, we do have strong solutions to counter every negative thought or influence that comes our way. Let me get to this later after taking some time to introduce PSYOPS to you.
First, PSYOPS has one goal: to win the minds and hearts of the people. Remember this. If applied in business, it would be equivalent to marketing your product in such a way in order to influence the sales. You are responsible for your choice, or so it seems.
The term “psychological operations” has been deemed to be daunting. It is a term naturally used in the military circle. PSYOPS is now encouragingly known as “information support”, albeit it, “intelligent information support”. These days, we keep hearing of words such as “misinformation”, “disinformation” – words that we have never heard before until afew years ago. These words are meant to effectively cancel any counter-information in order to maintain a given narrative. The individual or group with an opposing view is cancelled and sometimes, their livelihood is affected.
Interestingly, we hear the news media gather to use similar words, story-lines to create similar narratives that will take shape and form in the minds of the people. This coordinated effort is part of a militaristic strategy to have whole populations form a similar thought; there will be less fight or stress when the mind is controlled. Maj Robert Coomb in his paper “The Principles of PSYOPS” referred to Charles Smith, the author of “Psychological Warfare” :
Therefore, military strategy must not only deal with overcoming the physical ability of the enemy to resist, it must also deal with the minds – to destroy the morale – of the whole population in order that military victory is made with the least cost to us in men, money and materials.
The above quote, I assume, was made with ‘the enemy’ in mind. Can ‘the enemy’ be from within too? And if this is the case, then would there also be a case for internal PSYOPS?
In this century, we are residents in the information technological age or the digital age where most ‘warfare’ would likely be in cyberspace. If we understand the above quote well, we would also understand that our minds can be influenced through social media platforms, news media, group think and individual communication. There are many keyboard warriors who are willing to spend time spewing harsh, unfiltered arguments laced with some colorful vulgarity.
There is a rapid deterioration of critical thinking and a quick adaptation or adoption of narratives without due research and / or consideration. Our 21st century society has become more susceptible to falsities promoted by others. It has been effective as morals are breaking down daily, untruths are quietly accepted and made the norm, emotions are negative enough to drive one to despair and suicide, break long-lasting friendships and cancel each other out. Generally, there is no control over cyber-bullying and no chastisement over it. Selectively, key global leaders or causes are barraged with an artillery of media ‘cancel’ armament that we can literally see the formation of opinions against such leaders or causes. Consumers of such narratives take sides without a thorough study of possible reasons, historical backgrounds, personalities. This is a sad non-usage of our God-given mind and analytical abilities.
The power of the pen or the keyboard has been drastically abused and has caused painful rifts among individuals, groups and nations. Behaviour and attitudes are changed by influence and harassment – this is PSYOPS. When we begin to hear the word “propaganda” as we are hearing in these days, our internal ‘alert antenna’ needs to be raised. Propaganda is just another way of addressing psychological warfare.
Some good questions to ask as we ponder if PSYOPS has been launched in our current world, both militarily or non-militarily are:
1. Is your will to fight or argue intelligently being targeted?
2. Is your obedience or the lack of it being questioned?
3. Are you being influenced or harassed into obedience and compliance to accept a certain view?
4. Is your level of support of an idea or a person being checked and questioned?
5. Do you find a behavioural change as you become influenced to accept or adopt a certain idea or view of a person or institution?
Remember that the ‘attack’ is from another party and not from within self. If you have answered “yes” to any or all of the above questions, then consider that elements of PSYOPS have been used.
The Christian Response to a Worldly Win of the Mind and Heart
As promised, I return to followers of Christ. We cannot allow for our minds to be captured by the elements of PSYOPS, not now and not ever. The Bible is very clear that our minds are to be like the minds of Christ.
But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16b)
Therefore, every information that we might receive must be sieved through the Scriptural truths and seen through the lens of Christ. We are responsible for truthful communication to others and must refuse to be sucked into PSYOPS that has been used since decades ago. As Christians, our responsibility to research, pray, think, pray, communicate and pray becomes a serious reality as we begin to witness the push for a new global direction. And if we have communicated inaccurately, then, thank God! there is space for us to correct ourselves. We must continue to embody the love of Christ and be truth-bearers at all cost as this glorifies our Heavenly Father.
Every day is one day closer to the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible informs us that there will be progress in darkness – people will become lovers of self and their comfort will mean much more than staying alert and on course with godly truths. The Christ-centered remnant will continue to uphold the heavenly commands in a spirit of alertness. If anyone can undo PSYOPS which contributes to ungodly agendas, it can only be God. We the people are called to tap into God’s wisdom through various spiritual disciplines so that we would not fall into deception, be swayed by lies or half-truths and act or react in a way that grieves the heart of God. Our intimacy with Christ will allow for our minds and hearts to NOT accept the mediocre commonness of worldly agendas. Instead, we will joyfully receive the excellent, holy and blessed plans of God.
It is a war out there – for your mind and heart. Be alert.
Blessings of abundant grace,
 Smith, Charles H. “Psychological Warfare” Naval War College Review, February, 1953, vol. 5, no. 6 (February, 1953): 40.