First Published March 5, 2018 Research Article
This article presents qualitative research examining adaptation to global asymmetric threats and a modern media environment of US Government propaganda systems by planners following 9-11, which proceeded largely unhindered by public debate. It draws on interviews with US elite sources including foreign policy, defense and intelligence personnel and documentary sources to explore how dissent was contained. A ‘merging’ of Psychological Operations and Public Affairs has been identified as a point of concern elsewhere and is argued to have facilitated the extension of US hegemony. It will present an account of the struggles between 2005 and 2009 when planners sought to alter ‘foreign’ and ‘domestic’ audience targeting norms that emerged in an old-media system of sovereign states with more stable populations. It focuses on a key example of transformation: the pressing through of internet policy changes for military Psychological Operations and Public Affairs, against resistance. Policies were brought in to coordinate and overcome discordance in foreign-domestic messaging by Psychological Operations and Information Operations personnel. Viewed as operational necessity for Psychological Operations, these resulted in a ‘terf war’ with Public Affairs who constructed a defense using discourses of legitimacy and credibility with domestic audiences. This article will show how concerns raised by Public Affairs were met by the reduction of their planning role, until a culture change and new orthodoxy emerged. Challenges raised by evolving media demand a reappraisal of propaganda governance and governments must allow greater transparency for public debate, legal judgement and independent academic enquiry to occur.