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Behind the Shadows
The Art of Influence and Manipulation Across White, Black, and Grey Operations
In the shadowy world of psychological operations, every message is a calculated move.
Psychological operations, otherwise known as psyops, are actions that are taken to influence the attitudes and behaviors of a target individual or group to achieve a specific objective.
Psyops can be classified into one of three general types: white, grey and black. The three classifications are based on where the information is disseminated from. Each of these three types serves a different purpose and utilizes a different method to deliver a message.
A white psyop poses as an authoritative beacon, a black psyop conceals its venom under falsehoods, and a grey psyop skillfully pulls the strings from behind a screen of neutrality.
Understanding their unique mechanisms can be the difference between being a puppet and seeing the strings.
White psyops deliver a message that is communicated through a correctly identified and acknowledged source. The target audience is aware of who is sending the message, and the message is usually delivered in a manner consistent with high credibility and authority.
An example of a white psyop from the US military takes us back to the Iraq war. In early November of 2004, US planes dropped leaflets urging women and children to leave the city of Fallujah before the second battle of Fallujah - Operation Phantom Fury. The dropping of these leaflets were sent from a highly credible and authoritarian source - the US military, and were truthful in their messaging and wording that the city would soon be under attack.
Black psyops involve deliberately misidentifying or hiding the true source of a message intended to persuade a target. This type of psyop relies heavily on a deliberate campaign of misdirection, deception, and manipulation. By obscuring the actual source of the message, the message may be perceived as more credible or bring about a sense of alarm in the target. Black psyops can be used to create confusion, instigate conflicts, or undermine trust in a specific group or individual.
An example of a black psyop is the deliberate dissemination of fake news through an imposter social media account. The target of the psyop might believe they are receiving the information from a trusted source, but in fact they were intentionally misled by an imposter.
Grey psyops involve the transmission of a message through a third party which conceals or masks the actual source of the message. The goal of a grey psyop is to create the illusion of independence or neutrality in order to enhance the credibility or appeal of the message. The target audience of a grey psyop is not immediately aware of the true origin of the message.
Achieved through the clever use of intermediaries, such as news outlets, influencers, or non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the true source of the message is hidden or indirectly implied.
A political example of a grey psyop would be the intentional leaking of data or information from a government employee to a journalist so as to help facilitate the release of expert analysis with an intent to sway public opinion. Leaks of information related to high-profile court cases are often used to sway juries or convince the public that a defendant may be guilty. By utilizing a grey psyop to introduce evidence to the public that otherwise would not be allowed in a court room, a prosecutor might be able to convince the jury that the defendant is guilty without going through the proper channels of the court room.
In summary, white, black and grey psyops represent different levels of source identification in psychological operations. White psyops openly acknowledge the source, black psyops deliberately misattribute the source, and grey psyops mask the origin of the source by using an intermediary. Understanding the differences and distinctions of each type of psyop is crucial to analyzing the intent behind various messages and deliberating the credibility of information being disseminated.
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