I have a good friend, Katherine, who I do not think of as disabled, but she is blind in one eye. To me she is highly intelligent, personable and engaging. She is a graduate student at the Institute of World Politics in Washington DC and also teaches at one of the local universities in Maryland. She is the editor of Active Measures, an academic journal owned by the school. She was a student in a political warfare course when I met her and we’ve been acquaintances and friends since. The things we’ve chatted about have run the gamut from Mac computers to how to wage an information operation.
I would have never guessed that Katherine is blind if she hadn’t told me. She has a prosthetic eye which so resembles her other, that I could not tell it was not the genuine article. Perhaps that’s a reflection of how my skills of observation are deteriorating or perhaps this shows how well she has adapted. But somehow I can’t call her condition a handicap, she doesn’t appear even slightly disabled.
So what in the heck does this have to do with Information Operations?
Today Katherine posted an article about a “One-Eyed Teen with Cancer”, here. I read the article with amazement how, with a very similar case to Katherine, Emily Monroe, a 17-year-old senior, has not only held her own, she has also succeeded. Their cases make me think of Information Operations and attitude versus behavior.
This young woman’s public attitude and Katherine’s are very similar – positive and upbeat. I can’t speak for Katherine’s situation but in Emily’s case, people in her school said cruel things to her, about the cancer that caused her blindness. Both Katherine and Emily’s behavior and achievements do not appear to be adversely affected by the attitudes of those around them, they are both succeeding academically, excelling in their studies.
The argument in Target Audience Analysis has often been what should be targeted, attitude or behavior? When I spoke with Dr. Lee Rowland and CDR Steve Tatham in the UK, they both advocate for behavior. American IO targets attitude. I gave an example in a briefing this Saturday about ‘Ahmed and his family’, which highlights that attitude does not have an exact correlation with behavior.
In this case, despite external stimuli exerting negatively on both Katherine and Emily, their attitudes and, more importantly, their behavior – have not been impacted negatively.
No, this is not a good case resolving the behavior versus attitude argument, but it sure made me think. I think very highly of Katherine and what she is doing and, more importantly, her potential. With her one eye, she often sees more than I do. She’s got potential, very good potential!