Nothing says ‘secret psychological warfare’ like Instagram’s desperate search for rookies with pictures of cupcakes and the ocean
The success of a psychological operation, one might think, would largely depend on the fact that the manipulated people are unaware that such an operation exists. In fact, it would seem logical that the entity leading the operation would deny having ever implemented such programs. For their own good, it would be far better to portray psyops as rumors or myths, relegating them to the closed corners of high-level, top-secret government agencies.
The US military, however, adopted a different tactic. Instead of keeping things for mom, they just promote their psyop divisions on Instagram.
In recent years, the term “psyop” – short for psychological operation – has become something of a meme. On Twitter, people jokingly tag anything scooby-doo at Dungeons & Dragons as being psyops to convince children don’t believe in ghosts and turn people into assholes. But there’s a lot of reality to these rumors – in fact, the US has used psyops as a military strategy since at least World War I. Since then, psyops have been involved in almost every conflict, either in the form of distributing propaganda or by infiltrating various groups for political gain. Online, people use the term in a more literal sense, blaming things like porn as being a psyop designed to weaken men and their inherent masculinity.
Whatever the true nature of psyops, there are sections of the US military dedicated to them, and according to their social media accounts, they want you to join them too. On the Army’s 8th Airborne Psyop Division’s verified Instagram account, there are myriad milquetoast posts like pictures of the ocean that say, “You only fail when you stop trying” or “Happy 4th of July “. Also among those posts are vacation schedules for Fort Bragg facilities and memorial photos of soldiers as they rise through the ranks. For better or worse, this Instagram account and several others for similar divisions don’t reveal the exact nature of what they do. Instead, they just broadly encourage enlistment.
In May, the military even released a bizarre ad encouraging people to join its psychological operations task force. Titled ‘Ghosts in the Machine’, the disturbing video says the military can ‘deceive, persuade, change and influence’ and asks you to consider who is ‘pulling the strings’ in the world order. The answer, the three-and-a-half-minute video reveals, is the US military – and you, too, can be one of the ghosts of the puppet-playing machine.
The ad almost sounds like a psyop itself, so obvious in its intentions that there must be something else at play here. And maybe, with the weirdly mundane Instagram accounts of these psyop divisions, this is all just a cover for a bigger operation. Maybe it’s us who are psyop-ed after all.
Or, more likely, as they’ve proven on other occasions by getting kicked off Twitch, trying to lure influencers to Washington DC, or using a hentai waifu to lure young recruits, the military really is very bad on social media.