How to stop terrorist TV from trumping military information ops
While the Israel Defense Forces released its video quickly about the armed jihadist mobs who attacked Israeli commandos aboard the blockade-breaking Hamas ship, its speed was good in bureaucratic terms but still too slow for the infosphere.
Allied militaries still must act faster, with the speed of commercial news organizations, and, like journalists, in anticipation of dramatic events as tense situations develop.
We can learn a good lesson from this tragedy. First, the flotilla was designed as a Hamas propaganda operation specifically to provoke an Israeli response and generate media coverage to turn the Hamas operatives and activists into martyrs. Al Jazeera assigned a three-person crew to cover the story since the vessels loaded up in Turkey.
The Israelis monitor Al Jazeera of course, but doesn’t seem to have a strategy for how to deal with it and other pro-terrorist propaganda outlets. One of my colleagues in an information operations discussion group suggests, “The office that monitors Al Jazeera for the IDF should have alerted the EW [electronic warfare] folks on the scene to jam” the pro-Hamas TV transmissions before Israeli commandos boarded the Turkish ship. This did not occur, and the last live dispatch shows a bloody stretcher, talk about a white flag not being honored, etc., and became ‘must use’ footage to any news channel looking for b-roll in order to tell the story.”
News outlets around the world used the dramatic footage, including American television. The illustration at top is from an Agence France Presse report circulated globally via Yahoo, falsely reporting that “scores” of people were killed as a result of the Israeli action. (The actual number was 9, after the militants attacked the Israelis.)
The IDF video (shown in the post below), being black-and-white infrared with no sound, was useful in showing how the Israelis boarded without full combat gear and did not use force until attacked by pipe-wielding assailants, was not released for several hours.
In bureaucratic terms, several hours is hypersonic speed. However, in media terms, several hours allows the enemy to gain the propaganda initiative.
This experience shows how the IDF, like the US military, must configure itself with an information operations capability every bit as anticipatory, dramatic, and immediate as any news organization. No need to fabricate or twist facts – just present the military’s side of the story straight, but immediately.