The hybrid warfare includes information warfare which revolves around narrative building and debunking the propaganda. Over the years the role of media and information is getting more complex but crucial at the same time. Information warfare is the key element in this new emerging Warfare.
Propaganda a Negative Term
The connotations of the term “propaganda” varied over time. In today’s world, it is considered as a negative term, but it is a Latin gerundive meaning “things that must be disseminated”. It is not just the time that defines the nature of a term but also the cultures and context in which the term is used.
At the start, it was considered as mere propagation of message you spread your vision or ideas or as a tool to achieve a social, political, religious cause. But over the years with advancement in communication, the term acquired a negative connotation. Especially with the Emergence of Public Relations. The line which separates PR from Propaganda is very thin. But having said that both PR and propaganda are about narrative building and educating the masses as this is an important challenge different societies and countries across the globe are facing.
Public Relations is a necessary tool to awaken and mobilize the nation and direct them into a streamline focused strategy to achieve a common cause which is in the best interests of a country.
Picture Worth a Thousand Words
There is a famous saying that “A Picture is worth a thousand words” meaning a single picture can convey a series of messages or Ideas more effectively than a verbal description.
In the era of the digital world, the means of propagation of messages have also evolved and now it has many new spectrums. In recent times it has been proven many times that social media campaigns are far more successful and have a far-reaching effect than mainstream media outlets including electronic and Print Media. Many new techniques, approaches, and methods have evolved to spread a message across the globe using social media platforms.
From Propaganda to Public Relations
Following are a few examples of successful usage of Propaganda methods in history and how the term received negative connotation:
The best example to show the effectiveness of propaganda and why it is a must tool to have in a war is “Nazi Germany”, The German was defeated in WWl, the humiliation brought down the morale of the nation but after few years a new regime took over and the master behind the rise of that new regime was the “Propaganda Minister Paul Joseph Goebbels” (1933 to 1945). He single-handedly helped his leader Adolf Hitler reach the highest post in the country, He built his propaganda machine in such an efficient manner that whole nation was petrified by the magic and larger than life image building of Nazi party, The whole nation was so Motivated, determined and united that they conquered most of Europe. Paul Joseph Goebbels was not a General he was not a soldier he was a media public relations person, He never fought in the war nor killed the enemy with his weapon instead he used all the tools like radio, arts, theaters, drama and newspapers at his disposal to propagate the message of his party his country’s narrative to defeat his enemies.
The whole idea of communism is based upon propaganda, almost all the communist countries have red color in their flags because it attracts the human eye. Communist countries and regimes pay a greater significance to propaganda because they know the true value of mobilizing their people through the propagation of their ideals. Soviet Union is a prime example of that they were losing their fight against the Nazis, but they kept fighting and the political officers were behind motivating the nation they were none other than the “Propaganda officers”. They used songs poems and stories of their heroes like Private Vasily to make an image of invincible soviet Army which could not be defeated, and it worked. Later, many people still doubt the existence of Private Vasily. It is not just about the mediation of message but censorship of hostile propaganda.
When it comes to the USA well no one can match their level of sophistication, USA takes propaganda to a new height, they even gave it a name and face and called it “UNCLE SAM” everyone knows about Uncle Sam this clearly shows how successful their propaganda worked. The propaganda which started with Uncle SAM reached new heights during the World Wars. During WWII the army’s Bureau of Public Relations not only censored the footage from the battlegrounds but Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall commissioned Hollywood director Frank Capra to explain the war to millions of soldiers in a series of seven hour‐length orientation films entitled “Why We Fight”. Even in today’s era of information, the United states biggest Propaganda Machine is known as “HOLLYWOOD” with all sorts of propaganda movies from America Sniper to 13 hours. Similarly, Mainstream Global News channels like Fox News and C constantly portray the American version of reality.
Turk Nation also has a unique history they have a Land force that is more than 2000 years old. They also had an effective PR mechanism. They have different uniforms for soldiers and Military bands. The most famous Military band was “MEHTER” it is as old as the Ottoman Empire. Many famous poems and songs were written to motivate the Turk nation in their fight for independence in WW l. One such song that inspired the nation in their struggle was “IZMIR MARSI”. The struggle is continued with the effective use of both English News channel TRT and the great drama industry which is not only portraying a good image of Turkey but is also helping Turkey sharing its culture with the rest of the world.
Just like the United States, India is also famous for using its entertainment and media industry for propaganda revolving around Indian foreign policy. “Bollywood” and a wide range of its English language news channels and print media help India in successfully managing its narrative through propaganda within and outside of India as well. This is one of the reasons why Indian narrative is widely accepted in the western world. Indian media and especially the Indian film industry constantly propagate their narrative and glorify their Armed forces to build war hysteria, on which her whole foreign policy is dependent.
Pakistan and Hybrid Warfare
Pakistan is under attack by serious propaganda machines either homegrown or funded by the hostile countries. Anti-State elements are often not covered by the country mainstream media but as we talked about the era of information it is impossible to stop the flow of information. This is the reason such elements doing propaganda with the help of social media and foreign-funded State-owned news channels.
Such elements get a good amount of coverage from these media outlets like BBC Urdu, VOA (voice of America), and German DW. PTM is a great example of how these propaganda machines exploit such elements. In this 5th generation hybrid with information warfare at its core; the narrative is the main idea behind driving polarization and political instability in any society. PTM an ultra-nationalist organization, which started as a rights movement, needs to things to do politics- one is Blood, and the other is hate based on political and ethnic grounds.
These Foreign-funded news channels give coverage to leaders of such organizations and make them a folklore hero and eventually set the narratives aligned with respective foreign policies of their countries. This information warfare was identified by Ex-DG ISPR and since then ISPR is working on countering such threats to Pakistan.
Recent ISPR Efforts of Narrative Building on Kashmir
With 5th august approaching which marks the first anniversary of the Abrogation of Article 370 by Indian state which took the rights of Kashmiri people, the State of Pakistan and ISPR took some steps to mark the day and show solidarity with the Kashmiri people. In this regard, many state-level events were organized, the main highway in Islamabad was renamed after Srinagar (city in Indian occupied Kashmir) along with that ISPR released a song, showing the Indian oppression in Kashmir and also to show sympathy with the victims of Indian oppression in Kashmir.
Soon after the release, a trend started on social media platforms criticizing this release of the song by ISPR. The criticism was not constructive but was rather sarcastic and destructive. As usual many PTM like elements riding the bandwagon started selling own narrative in the name of solidarity with Kashmir. Most of the criticism was as follows “Will Kashmir be free after this song?” “Is this the BEST our military could do?” “Our military only makes songs and take no action”. This indicates two serious failures; one is the failure of the state to build the narrative and the second is the nonserious behavior of the society. Both have serious consequences for society.
Such people have no understanding of the term Public relations these steps are just symbolic are meant to build the narrative. In today’s world battles are not just fought on the battlegrounds but are fought on the “hearts and minds” of the people. ISPR stands for Inter services public relations, ISPR is not just an official media agency of Army it has a wide spectrum of Responsibilities. Its job is to update the public on any news regarding the national security of Pakistan and most importantly to build and propagate Pakistani narrative and to counter any anti-Pakistan propaganda. ISPR has been making songs about different national issues since its inception and these efforts have been very successful in moral boasting and motivating the nation.
Pakistan Army has many departments and organizations which are tasked with a specific job, Army Medical Corp is dealing with health and hospitals, engineering services are dealing with their respective tasks, and the fighting arm of the Army is busy guarding the eastern and western borders. Songs are being made by ISPR and this doesn’t mean that the whole Pakistan army has stopped fighting and picked up musical instruments instead of weapons, fighting arm of the army is fighting its war on frontlines, and media war is being fought by the ISPR it’s that simple. There should be no doubt about the capabilities of Pakistan and Pakistan army and Pakistan commitment to Kashmir. People will not just hear music but when the times comes, they will hear their weapons as well just like 27th February 2019.
What Difference Poetry or Speeches Make?
Anyone who is criticizing the song made by ISPR must know that in many countries a song or a poem became a motivational force for their fight to achieve their goals and objective one such example is the “Bella Ciao” song used by the Italian villagers to fight against the oppression. The whole French revolution was fueled by songs and poems. Every country has songs associated with their freedom struggles and wars and Pakistan or Kashmir is no different.
Nations are born in the hearts of the poets stands true for Pakistan as well, Alama Iqbal dreamt about Pakistan and ignited the fire for freedom with his words and poetry, his ideas and his words were turned into speeches by Quaid e Azam which gained momentum and whole Pakistan movement took shape and later on Pakistan was created.
PSF always supports healthy constructive criticism which is good for society. One can talk about the effectiveness of this PR campaign by ISPR, but it must be judged based on its objectives. “What difference poetry or speeches make”, These are pillars on which any narrative stands, this narrative building helps in changing the public perception about issues and eventually folding the Government foreign policy.
Disclaimer: The examples given above are only for information purposes and to signify the fact that how different countries, regimes, or nations use both PR and Propaganda to achieve their objectives. “Team PSF” does not support any of the ideologies mentioned above.