BLUF: Knowing who’s pulling the strings on the news you’re being fed is critical. Recognize disinformation and propaganda by determining the Source, message Content, Audience reached, Medium of dissemination, and the Effects on a Target Audience (TA). This 5 part analysis is known as the SCAME Technique.
America is the active battlespace of a hybrid information operation (IO) war fought in a grayzone. It’s vital to differentiate which data is part of an agenda/operation and what is simply news and information.
We know Russia, China, and others have long used both traditional media outlets and social media to influence behaviors and public opinion.
U.S. Psychological Operations specialists have conducted such operations on foreign adversaries. The concept of sowing discord through PSYOP actions is common practice. The success of such attacks on the U.S. populace is just as common, but we often don’t realize it due to lack of attributable sources. By source, we mean the entity that originated the IO.
Political, economic, racial, societal, and religious unrest in America is in part due to seeds planted by foreign actors. In almost all cases these are instances of Low Intensity Conflict (LIC) put into motion by “gray” or unknown actors. In some cases “black” activity is at play. Gray IO is unattributed while black IO is falsely attributed.
Consider the effects of laying out months of “black” online chatter about a high-profile assault on a government building with the intent to paint a certain group as violent and traitorous. Or efforts to discredit legitimate scientific research and studies as false and part of a political agenda.
Recognizing false news is an obvious purpose for conducting a SCAME report. We can more actively counter propaganda or at the very least, not fall prey to it, by completing our SCAME Analysis of the information battlespace.
Here’s how to complete a SCAME analysis of Source, Content, Audience, Media, and Effects.
》The “Source” is the individual, organization, or government that sponsors and disseminates the propaganda. Source analysis should consider all of the various players involved in the design, development, and dissemination of the propaganda or information. Correct identification of the various sources behind a particular item of propaganda can assist in providing a clearer picture of the opponent’s capabilities and intent. The source may also be classified as White (attributed), Gray (unattributed), or Black (falsely attributed).
》”Content” analysis reveals what the propaganda message says and what is trying to be achieved regarding the TA. This analysis can also reveal the source’s intent, motives, and goals. Content analysis reveals the meaning of the message, the reason the message was disseminated, the intended purpose or objective, and the manner in which the message was presented to the TA. Look for the use of adjectives and contextual opinions such as, “There were a large number of agitators who violently attacked officers and broke into windows leading in a riot that led to mass fatalities.” Instead, look for raw data such as a report reading, “6 agitators threw water bottles at officers, another entered an open window and was shot dead by police, separately, 3 others died in the days to follow from unrelated causes according to the medical examiner.”
》In the “Audience” aspect of propaganda analysis, we attempt to determine which TAs are being reached by the propaganda and which TAs were specifically selected by the opponent. By viewing the TA via opponent propaganda, we may become more aware of themes and symbols that are more effective; these themes and symbols can later be used in the development of counter-propaganda. Audience analysis must be conducted in concert with content analysis, as content analysis will discover what behavior or attitude the opponent seeks in the TA. In LIC the typical intended behavior is civil unrest and distrust among authorities.
》We have to determine what particular “Medium” was selected to deliver IO, what media capabilities the opponent has, and how consistent the message was across a variety of media. Propaganda can be disseminated via visual, audio, and audiovisual means. Propaganda transmission modes may also be overt or covert. Typically we’ll see IO delivered directly to the TA via social media private messages, post engagements, message threads, etc.
》Determining the IO’s “Effectiveness” on the TA is vital to countering the messages. The ultimate measure of opponent propaganda effectiveness is the changes in behavior or attitude of the TAs involved. Both direct and indirect impact indicators are significant indicators of effectiveness. An effective IO influences a society over time and allows the real damage to be inflicted from within.
Debrief: After completing a SCAME, you’ll find yourself more skeptical of every message you see. Don’t delve into conspiracy theories in response to this new analysis. Just be aware that hostile actors may be at work and not every message should be accepted at face value.
This article was originally written by the Grayman Briefing. Stay in the know, sign up for Intel and Situational Awareness alerts pushed to your phone on emerging threats and preparedness warnings. Click HERE to subscribe to the Grayman Briefing.