Auxiliary Taskings: MISO Soup for the Survivalist Soul
We live in a world where information is everything, at least in the minds of most people. Between local, cable, and satellite television providers offering information access to the most remote corners of the globe, to the Internet, we are often overwhelmed with a plethora of complex, rapidly changing—and often intentionally wrong—information being thrown at us.
METT-T considerations have changed drastically from the days when I was a young private, in many ways. When we consider the amount of information available to even the most remote peoples on the planet, the OCOKA terrain feature of Key Terrain has undergone a fundamental shift from focusing solely on the geographic to include human terrain factors of relevant affected populations. Additionally, the addition of Civilian Considerations, changing METT-T into METT-TC additionally emphasizes the critical nature of the perceptions of affected populations on the impact of planning and operations.
In Unconventional Warfare (UW) of course, we’ve long recognized the criticality of both the physical presence of the local populace, such as when Mao referred to the “sea of the people,” and their perceptions of what is occurring around them. For the survivalist/prepper tribe, whether comprised of a dozen individuals, or a dozen families, recognizing that you are—regardless of any other mitigating factors—a very small group, surrounded by vastly superior numbers, for better or worse, makes the importance of possessing a well-developed set of capabilities and plans to engage local and regional audiences with messages that support your goals and desires, self-evident to all but the most dense. To borrow a quote from the Department of Defense, “The informational, cultural, social, moral, political, and physical aspects of the operational environment are as critical to operational success as the traditional orientation on adversary military capabilities has been in the past.”
The methods used for leveraging these human terrain factors in our favor are referred to currently as Military Information Support Operations (MISO). This is the term du jour within the DoD for what have previously been referred to as Psychological Operations, or PSYOP. In previous articles on this blog, we’ve spent varying amounts of time and bandwidth discussing PSYOP/MISO, at the tactical planning level. Today, we’re going to try and think a little larger. This is in an effort to demonstrate some of the shortcomings in the current preparedness culture efforts (or lack thereof) towards MISO, and potential ways to remedy these.
According to the DoD, MISO are “used to establish and reinforce foreign perceptions of US military, political, and economic power and resolve. In conflict, it is a force multiplier that can degrade the enemy’s relative combat power, reduce civilian interference, minimize collateral damage, and maximize the local populace’s support for operations.”
If we are capable of practicing basic sound thinking, we can adapt that statement to fit our specific needs quite readily. We may or may not be interested in foreign perceptions, but we certainly need to make certain that we are conveying a coherent, congruent message to the unaligned portions of the American populace. It’s entertaining and self-aggrandizing to sit and stew and spew epithets about the “brainless sheep” of American society. There’s obviously even some truth in the defamation. In my experience however, there are far more people in America who are pissed off, but feel powerless to facilitate effective changes to the status quo than there are people who “just don’t give a shit.”
On of the tenets of UW has long been that there will be a small number of active supporters, a small number of active opponents, and the vast mass of the populace who just don’t give a shit, because they’re focused on making a living and keeping their families alive. The goal of MISO in UW is to convince that vast mass to either a) actively support your efforts, or at least b) not actively oppose your efforts. The failing of the preparedness culture is in achieving either of these two goals. This failure is typically instigated as a result of the arrogance and hubris of the “movers and shakers” of the preparedness movement. I’ll let you in on a secret. Let’s call it “Mosby’s MISO Maxim Number One.”
“When you insult people, you lose the ability to convince them.”
Calling people “brainless sheep” is, regardless of what you might think otherwise, pretty insulting. So, as soon as you do so, you’ve just lost the ability to positively influence their thinking and actions. The same applies, in large part, to trying to intimidate them. Very few people consider themselves cowards. An overt attempt to scare people into compliance is generally not successful, outside of cultural norms. Sure, the government can intimidate people…they’ve been culturally conditioned to fear the government’s power. Yes, the Mafia can intimidate people….they’ve been culturally conditioned by the media and history, to fear the power of the Mob.
The only thing that people have been conditioned to feel towards the preparedness and Patriot community is ridicule, often times by our own efforts. Trying to intimidate people, through an amateur-hour MISO effort, is no different than the little chess club geek in high school deciding he’s going to buffalo the star quarterback into not picking on him anymore. If he tries to intimidate him, physically, he’s going to fail, dismally. He has to leverage his intelligence to communicate the message in a more effective manner. Trying to physically bully the quarterback is going to get him laughed at, mocked, and probably stomped on.
If we intend to survive the decline of empire; that period when the empire is most ready to stomp on the necks of dissidents, in a futile attempt to retain power, we have to learn to leverage everything within our grasp, to our benefit. MISO is one of the most cost-effective methods of doing so, if we can do it intelligently. Through it, we really can degrade the empire’s relative combat power. We can reduce civilian interference and maximize the local populace’s support for our efforts, but we have to do so by NOT BEING A DICK.
The fact is, most of what passes for MISO efforts in the community today achieve the exact opposite effects. Too many people prattle nonsensically about “martial law,” without ever bothering to do the basic arithmetic that illustrates the impossibility thereof. Too many influential voices in the community blather about “fighting off SWAT teams,” in the same article that they’re telling people they should “fear the rise of the police state.” Messages like this are incongruent, AND they actually strengthen the government’s relative combat power, by creating an aura of invincibility.
Further, they degrade local populace support for your efforts, and increase the likelihood of civilian interference, by demeaning a group of people—police officers and the military—that most people actually support, at least in their own minds, even if they get pissed off when they get a speeding ticket. We can spend all the time we want talking about how “the police don’t do nothing for me. I got my own guns to stop criminals.” The simple fact is, however, that most people not only have zero interest in shooting motherfuckers in the face, they appreciate paying taxes to support those who they believe will do it for them.
If your goal is overthrow of the “tyrannical, socialist” government of the United States, well…you’re probably an idiot…no. Belay that. You ARE an idiot, and your MISO efforts are wasted. The vast, vast majority of Americans, regardless of political affiliation, love their country, and the ideals they believe it represents. See, that’s the catch in nation-state political efforts….Truth may be universal (I’m not so sure, myself), but reality is a matter of perception. The flag-burning, Occupy Wall Street protester believes that the ideals he holds dear are just as “American” as you believe your ideals are. The middle-age suburban housewife who believes the government is always doing things in the best interest of “the American people” is just as sincere in her beliefs as you are. Trying to convince her otherwise is certainly worth the effort, but convincing her to make the leap to “Hey, let’s jumpstart the revolution, and overthrow the government!” is a pretty big leap to make.
On the other hand, if your MISO message is, “Hey. We’re different. We’ve got different goals and different dreams, but that’s the beauty of America. If we can all let each other do our own thing, within the realm of getting along, we’ll be just fine. That’s all I want…to be left alone,” then your message is a lot more palatable to the vast mass of the body politic than “If you don’t do what I want, I’m gonna string you up with a hemp rope.” See, that’s an attempt to gain political concessions through fear. That’s the textbook government definition of “terrorism,” and “everyone” knows terrorists are evil jihadists.
The MISO end-game for preparedness has to be the development of a theme that will be palatable to the masses, while still achieving the goal of “degrading the enemy’s relative combat power,” while “minimizing civilian interference, and maximizing the local populace’s support.”
The Role of MISO in Local Security
Doctrinally speaking, MISO are used in Foreign Internal Defense (FID) and Security Force Assistance Support operations to “prepare key audiences for US FID and Security Force Assistance operations, and to directly assist the host nation in establishing an environment that promotes internal stability and security through democratic systems (I’m not sure if I read it in an older manual, or if it’s just something someone once told me, but I recall “democratic systems” being “traditional local value systems” in the past. I believe it’s also a better fit in the real world.)”
In our context, the relation should be obvious. The purpose of our MISO efforts is to directly target the thought processes of key audiences that will assist in establishing an environment that promotes internal stability and security within the community. This means identifying those key audiences and developing a MISO product that will a) reach them, and b) convince them.
Each target audience will have to be the target of a specific message, delivered in a manner, and through a means, that is likely to be effective, specific to that target audience.
MISO Planning Considerations
1) The first step in developing a MISO program is understanding that the messages have to be congruent. This requires planning, because all messages have to be integrated into the overall vision and intent of the general concept of operations. If your goal is to establish local security and stability, then telling people they should go out and kill XYZ group of people is incongruent. Even if XYZ is a violent outlaw gang, and they do need killing, telling people to kill them is NOT congruent with the message of “stability.” On the other hand, convincing them to provide intelligence information about XYZ so that the recognized authorities—within the “traditional local value system”—can deal with them, WOULD be congruent with the overall message and concept of the operation.
This is where the importance of planning and tying all elements of the planning together becomes self-evident: everything has to reinforce a planned narrative. For those who have studied, or are studying, the efforts of the political Left Wing of the modern American political system, will recognize this as a key element within their successful advances against Western Culture. The fact is, the preparedness culture sucks at this.
2) The next aspect of MISO planning is Target Audience Analysis (TAA). TAA has been previously discussed, in some detail, on this blog. The importance of this cannot be overstated. Sending out a message developed to convince a group of 50-something Baptist housewives is NOT going to have a good effect on a group of 50-something outlaw bikers, let alone a group of 30-something outlaw bikers. The goal of TAA is to determine who your specific audiences should be—with as much specificity as possible—as well as the best methods to persuade that target audience to change its behaviors to one that is more favorable to your interests.
3) Series Development is the third step in MISO planning. This involves designing a series of products and/or actions that are specific to the task of altering or impacting the behavior of each SPECIFIC target audience. Part of series development is determining the suitability and potential to affect the intended audience, in the manner intended. As well as the accuracy of persuasive arguments or techniques to influence behavioral change, and the availability of the resources necessary to effect the series.
The “accuracy of persuasive arguments or techniques” is a critical issue to consider in an Internet-connected world. Traditionally, we’ve made ample use of blatantly false information, knowing that fact-checking, and/or sourcing the background information, would be prohibitively difficult, leading people to simply accept it at face value. While that still works, as evidenced by the ongoing alarmist calls about “Russian invaders!” and “Martial Law Imminent!” in the preparedness community, and how quickly they get passed around social media, it is actually a significant risk for the product developers.
An example of this can be seen in the photo recently circulated across social media, of a younger (still ugly as sin) Hillary Clinton, with the Southern Cross battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia sitting on a shelf in the background. Initially, this seems like a great MISO scoop. I mean, we’ve got one of the Left’s leading voices apparently using the flag as a moral support. Here’s the problem: within a day, it was outed as a fake, created with photo modifying software like PhotoShop. There are too many people, with entirely too much time on their hands, who WILL discover technological enhancements to MISO product like that. Additionally, once they discover a glitch or anomaly, they will track down the original source material, and make that public as well. That instantly discredits your entire message in the minds of most of the vast mass of the unaligned. “Damn, they lied about this. What else are they lying about?”
Of course, this works both ways. If the altered document had originally been created by Hillary’s own people, then the information “leaked” that it was a fake, created by her opposition, that is a MISO success for her campaign efforts. If a story is a lie, but enough people WANT to believe it, they will.
This leads us back to the importance of coherence and congruity in our own MISO effort messages. The biggest reason the pro-Western Culture movement has been so readily ridiculed and demeaned is this total lack of coherence. While this is often obvious between groups or factions within this movement, it is just as commonplace within single groups or factions.
4) Following the conceptual development of a series of MISO product, you have to actually put it into production. This requires an objective understanding of what resources you have available to you. This is more than, “well, this, this, and this are available.” Broadcast radio is “available.” That doesn’t mean you’re going to get access to it. You might even be able to get a selected spokesperson interviewed by the media, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Utilizing resources that allow you to control the message actually conveyed to the target audience is crucial.
The Internet is an obvious solution, but may not be the panacea that it appears. The signal-to-noise ratio of the Internet is so high that, outside of some way to make your efforts more noticeable to your specific target audience, it may simply disappear. Additionally, you may find your efforts discredited—even by apparent political allies. On the same hand however, a well-developed MISO effort, coordinated between a few different people, and built specifically for the target audience of the given forum, can be a spectacularly good MISO effort.
A further detriment to Internet-based MISO is the fact that some of your target audiences may—almost invariably will—be underrepresented on the Internet. This means that, at some level, you still have to be able to perform face-to-face MISO efforts. Those may range from hanging out and being a good conversationalist, to handing out leaflets. The last still requires basic conversational skills to answer specific questions that may arise.
5) The fifth step in the DoD MISO planning cycle is gaining approval from higher for the developed product. While the preparedness/patriot community lacks any sort of formal hierarchical organization that provides a “higher” to get approval from, there are still methods that can be used to determine if a given product can/should be disseminated. The product developer should NOT be the person who determines if a MISO product is disseminated. Whether that individual passes off the completed product to a group within his own tribe for review, or the tribe itself hands it off to several affiliated groups for review, someone outside of the development process SHOULD review the near-final product. This review should focus on the coherence and congruity of the message, it’s validity in regards to the target audience, and the accuracy of the message. If the message is intended to be disinformation, how easily can it be refuted? If any of these subjects is weak, the product should be pushed back to the development team with specific guidance on the shortcomings, in order to be fixed/changed.
6) Production, distribution, and dissemination is the sixth step of the MISO planning cycle. This may not be as self-evident as it initially seems. As a big, scary, tattooed and bearded dude in my early 40s, if my group has produced MISO product targeted at teenage girls or elderly women, I’m probably not the best vessel for dissemination of the product to the target audiences. The teenage girls will either be scared shitless, or their dads will assume I’m going to molest their daughters. The elderly women—especially in my neighborhood—are as likely to call their minister, thinking I’m the Devil hisself, as the police. In either case, allowing my wife to disseminate the product to those target audiences might be more effective.
On the other hand, at least in the second case, I might be an okay means of dissemination. Shave, wear a suit, or at least a shirt and tie, and I can blend in pretty well, in some sort of role that they would be more accepting of. On the same hand, cleaning up would allow me to talk to LEO to distribute a product more effectively, while keeping my image, but throwing on a service-related t-shirt or ballcap, and leveraging my background, makes presenting product to servicemembers or other veterans, extremely viable.
7) The final step in the MISO planning cycle is arguably the single most important step. That is evaluation of the effectiveness of the specific product. This requires some means of determining who the product reached, as well as a metric for determining the specific effectiveness thereof. This should be determined BEFORE the distribution and dissemination stage. We need a method of determining how effective our product is in altering the behavior of the specific target audience. Producing something that we want to use as MISO, with no way determine its effectiveness, is nothing but ego gratification. “Hey, look at me! I make pretty pictures! I write funny memes.” Well, good for you Princess, but if you lack a specific metric, then you are just as likely to be fucking yourself as helping yourself.
There are a few things that are absolutely necessary to produce effective MISO products. We call these “enablers,” because they, well…enable the production of effective MISO products. The first of these is a solid, effective intelligence collection and analysis effort. We need to know what human terrain factors are present, as well as identify them for targeting. If you don’t know who the different groups that are potential target audiences in your geographic area, you have no idea how to start producing effective MISO product.
Additionally, your intelligence operations have to ACCURATELY identify threat groups. I’ll let you in on a secret….it’s probably not the Chinese or Russians, as an honest, valid intelligence operation would make self-evident. The obvious source for Intelligence Operations Information for the preparedness community should be Sam Culper’s efforts. An introductory course in tactical intelligence, as a springboard into higher order intelligence efforts, is covered in The Reluctant Partisan Volume Two: The Underground, as well.
In addition to intelligence operations, effective MISO is predicated on effective communications. In addition to the ability to properly identify potential target audiences, there needs to be an ability to communicate the effectiveness of the product.
This is more than amateur radio, semaphore, and dead drop message boxes, although each of those might be elements of the communications issue. What we’re referring to here, specifically, is the ability to openly and accurately communicate ideas and concepts in a manner that all parties understand. Conversation after all, is not as simple as “I said this. You understood this.” Often times, even amongst people that speak the same language, it turns out “I said this. You understood that.” Any married person has probably experienced this in their own lives. We need to develop the ability to communicate, within our own groups and tribes, in a manner that we all understand one another.
We also need the ability to communicate our MISO product in a manner that the target audience can understand. This is one of the biggest shortcomings I see in the MISO efforts of the preparedness culture. The disdain for contemporary culture manifests itself as a complete ignorance regarding that culture. Which is fine. I despise much of contemporary culture. If this disdain reaches the point of completely ignoring contemporary culture however, you lose the ability to communicate with target audiences in terms they can understand. We’ve been indoctrinated to believe the current dogma that “cultural sensitivity” requires us to “like” or “approve” of the customs and traditions of the foreign culture. That’s simply not the case. What we DO have to do however, is be sensitive to what the members of that culture believe, and why they believe it—regardless of how misguided they may be—in order to communicate with them in a manner and verbiage that they understand.
The final critical enabler to discuss is logistics. Whatever MISO product you decide to use to most effectively reach a specific target audience, you have to have the material goods necessary to develop that product. If you want to print leaflets, but you lack access to a printer…..you’re going to fail. If you want to transmit radio messages, but you lack radios…..
Putting MISO In Context
We are constantly surrounded by MISO efforts, for better or worse. These efforts are so common that often, we no longer recognize them for what they are. Below, we will discuss some of the recent and current MISO efforts ongoing in America, and my personal approach to dealing with them.
1) Television. There is a show on the television channel FX called “The Americans.” It is about 1980s Soviet deep cover spies living and operating in the US. This show is a postcard example of MISO. It portrays the very people who were dedicated to overthrowing our country as the heroes and likable protagonists of a story line that was well-received enough to survive multiple seasons.
When my wife bought the first season on DVD, I watched it, thinking, “Huh, this should be interesting.” Then, about two minutes in, I realized what was going on and discovered I had to continue watching it, just to see such a masterful display of MISO.
2) The Gay Marriage Issue. The political right is getting hammered on the gay marriage issue, and has been for a long, long time. I’ll take the risk of offending a large segment of the readership by saying, I believe the Supreme Court made the right call (keeping in mind that this doesn’t mean I agree with it).
The standard argument is that “marriage is between a man and a woman.” That’s absolutely correct, when we’re discussing “holy matrimony.” That is a religious institution, and as such, is subject to religious definitions. On the other hand, as long as the State is involved in marriage, through the issuance of marriage licenses, giving its blessing or withholding its blessing on specific unions, there is a difference between “holy matrimony” and “marriage.”
The catch of course is, the State is not supposed to be allowed, under our system, to bias against any religious group (Don’t get your knickers in a twist, I get that they’re perceived to be biased against Christians). That includes non-religious people. As long as the State is in the marriage business, the Court was obligated to recognize the legal validity of gay marriage.
If you don’t like it, you need to be working on either a) getting the State out of the marriage business, or b) changing the Constitution to implicitly recognize the Christian faith as the “State Religion.”
So, that’s the route I take in my MISO efforts. “Look, I’m not pro-gay marriage. I’m anti-State issued marriage licenses. If you get the State out of the marriage business, then you don’t have to recognize gay marriages if you don’t want to.”
Further, the argument that courts are infringing on the religious liberties of small business owners by fining them for not producing wedding cakes for gay couples is flawed as well. It’s been long established in this country that businesses are not allowed to discriminate on religious grounds. Period. That’s a factor that comes into play as soon as you apply for a business license from the State. If you ask permission, you’re allowing the controlling entity to place limits on that permission.
The important caveat to the entire discussion, within the context of this blog, is that I’m neither for or against the gay community, as a whole. I just don’t care. I’m not gay. My wife is not gay. If my children end up being gay, they’re still going to be my children, so regardless of whether I approve or disapprove of their lifestyles, I will still love them. If being gay IS a choice, and the actions of the gay community “turn” my kid gay, that’s a failure on my part in parenting. I’m not convinced it is a choice, personally. In fact, I sometimes wonder if those most vocal about the “choice” are just afraid they’ll like the taste of dick. Ultimately though, the whole subject is irrelevant to me…except that I genuinely believe in the “right of free conscience.” Oh, and I will fight to my last breath, the imposition of any sort of theocratic government. If someone believes that being gay is okay, and they are gay, as long as they’re not infringing on someone else’s rights, by like, ass raping them, it’s NONE OF MY BUSINESS. “Liberty for Thee is Liberty for Me.”
3) The Southern Cross. I was raised in the South. I love most of the traditions and cultural values of the South. I find it humorous though, that so many “rugged individualists” have allowed their opposition to so completely control the dialogue regarding the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. The reality is, if you want to fly that flag, then fly it. You don’t need to justify it. You don’t need to explain it. If people ask, then you can take the time to educate them. Most people however, don’t actually give two shits, and arguing with a True Believer is not doing anything but wasting your efforts.
In point of fact, arguing with True Believers, publicly, is doing more than wasting your efforts. It’s countering your efforts. The general public didn’t give a shit about the flag prior to the Charleston shooting. The Left saw a way to get people riled up, and they jumped on it, KNOWING their opposition would rise to the bait (to use a Southern, redneck fishing term). If the “MISO” efforts of the Right (I’m looking at you, pretty much the entire Conservative news and social media establishment!), had replied with “huh. Dumbass had a Southern Cross flag. Okay.” and then ignored all of the efforts of the Left to get them riled up, it would never have been an issue (the fact that I’m even typing this section is an anomaly, since this is the first thing I’ve said—anywhere outside of conversations with my own family—on the subject).
The MISO lesson in this is that cultural icons are MISO products. Discrediting those icons discredits the culture they represent. That would seem to make it necessary to jump to the defense of those icons, and rightfully so….sometimes however, ignoring the attempted attacks on those icons is the best defense. Responding to ignorant attacks simply lends credence to those attacks and the attackers’ messages.
The importance and effectiveness of MISO efforts have long been recognized. The fact is, as a community, those of us who value traditional, liberal (in the classical sense of the word) Western Culture, pretty much suck at MISO for a variety of reasons, and we’re losing the culture wars as a result. Far more effort needs to be made in this area if we are not to find ourselves drowned in a flood of oppositional values.
While fitness, gunfighting, and SUT are all critical skills for surviving the decline of empire, an understanding of how MISO works—both for us and against us—and learning how to develop and produce effective MISO products, is as critical, if not more so, than the hard skills.