"Your culture is important to you, and to us. We wish for a better life for
you, for the children of Afghanistan to live independently, free of
foreign domination and oppression imposed by the Taliban's ways." These
lines come from a flyer that the US armed forces dropped over Afghanistan.
It's part of a program known as Psyops, short for Psychological Operations,
and it's one of the most important ways in which radio, something so
many of us listen to every day and can even take for granted, can actually
help to change the world.
Psychological operations have been around for centuries, though they were not always
known as such. Usually psychological operations took the form of leaflets
that one army would spread among the enemy soldiers or among the enemy
civilians. In US history, such leaflets even date back to the War of
Independence, when soldiers for the Crown would be showered with leaflets
describing the virtues of living in the New World - particularly freedom
to own land. Since then, psychological operations have been used in
WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam, as well as non-military operations where
information needed to be spread in less than optimal conditions - such
as helping victims of Hurricane Andrew in Florida, and aiding refugees
from Cuba and Haiti.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Pysops can be summed up in their
own terms: "Persuading rather than compelling physically, they
rely on logic, fear, desire or other mental factors to promote specific
emotions, attitudes or behaviors." Currently, the US military
is working toward these ends by air-dropping Freeplay wind-up radios
made among the Afghan people. Unlike the
Freeplay Plus Radio we offer, which has the AM, FM and most of the
short wave spectrum, these specially designed Freeplay radios are locked
on a frequency that automatically tunes in US military broadcasts.
With these radios, Afghans will know about aid facilities in their
area as well as food drops. They'll also hear messages like the one
above, assuring them of the US intentions in Afghanistan, and that
we're there to help them.
Using wind-up radios in Afghanistan really makes a lot of sense. From reports
published in newspapers in the US and abroad, it's pretty clear that
the Afghans don't have easy access to things like batteries and electricity.
And now, by just winding up a radio, they can regain at least a glimpse
of the outside world - a world that they'd been closed off from for
over half a decade - I think that's pretty amazing.
In December 2001, the US Congress also approved funding for Radio Free
Afghanistan - which means soon people there will be hearing even more
news and information in their own local dialects. I found it moving
that one of the first signs of a return to freedom in Afghanistan was
the playing of music in the streets. People tuned in shortwave from
Pakistan, and they danced.
Here are some useful Web sites for more information:
US Army Special Operations Command
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
useful information about shortwave radio in Afghanistan
Psychological Operations Veterans Association
On-line Afghan Radio
US Messages Broadcast in Afghanistan - source for the first
quotation in the article (18-page PRF file)
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article suggestions you might have.
If you are interested in using C. Crane's articles on your own Web site, please let me know.
I'd be happy to take a look at your Web site and see what we can do. Good-bye for now, Carlos.
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