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These days, it would seem that the public affairs branch of the Canadian Armed Forces is its own worst enemy. First, it was the revelation in the media that as part of its new policy of weaponizing public affairs, DND has spent more than $1 million on behavioural modification training.
This may sound harmless but this dynamics methodology promises to help military clients to analyze and profile groups in order to find the best strategy to effectively influence a target audience's behaviour.
People questioning just how and why the Canadian military would attempt to manipulate the public did not have to wait long. Almost coincidental with the story about DND'S behaviour modification training program came the bizarre news story about the military's attempted wolf scare in Nova Scotia.
Apparently some keen reservists with the Halifax Rifles wanted to put their propaganda skills to the test, with the unlucky targets being members of the Canadian public. The reservists carefully forged letters complete with the letterhead of the Nova Scotia provincial wildlife division, warning residents of the Annapolis Valley that wolves had recently been released back into the wild.
To torque the local public's fear even higher, these military schemers planned to broadcast wolf noises from a loudspeaker.
When news of the letters was made public, DND had no choice but to shamefacedly admit to the plot. To date, no one has been able to explain just what the hell these jokers were thinking.
In a similar vein, it was also recently reported that as part of the CAF'S COVID-19 response, the public affairs branch planned to use vehicle-mounted loudspeakers to control and advise the public. One has to suspect that this particular plan was drafted back during the Second World War before people had cellphones and computers.
Perhaps more ominous was the fact that the military also established a Precision Information Team (PIT) to collect data from the social media accounts of Canadian civilians.
The findings of the PIT allowed the Canadian Armed Forces to report to Ontario Premier Doug Ford that the public did not think he had done a good enough job in protecting senior residences from COVID-19.
One would have thought the staggering death toll from those facilities would have made that abundantly clear to Ford without having a military team sift through Facebook postings of ordinary citizens.
Then came word that in their effort to manage the issue of white supremacists within the ranks of the CAF, the good old public affairs branch created dossiers on those journalists who would be likely to report on such incidents. That list included Lee Berthiaume of Canadian Press, Gloria Galloway of the Globe and Mail and Murray Brewster of the CBC.
Of those three, it was Brewster's dossier that got the majority of DND'S attention. “He's familiar with the defence system, and his reporting, while factual, often emphasizes the mistakes and shortcomings of DND and the CAF.” Since these dossiers were specifically regarding the issue of racism and white supremacists in the military, and they admit Brewster's stories are factual, how in the hell could such revelations not be seen as negative. There is no good side to neo-nazis in uniform.
In the end, the plan to use friendly academics and retired military commanders to try to spin future media coverage of white supremacists in the ranks was overtaken by events. Namely, a constant stream of news stories revealing — you guessed it — white supremacists in the ranks.
That is, however, a separate issue and it is not a problem with communications.
What is an equally troubling issue is a military public affairs branch that has weaponized itself into self-destruction.
The Canadian public does not want their military to modify their behaviour, fabricate phony wolf threats, spy on the public's social media or keep files on individual journalists. By doing so, the public affairs branch has only undermined the trust that the public has in the Canadian Armed Forces.
- SCOTT TAYLOR: Wolf warning episode reveals extent of military's psychological warfare strategy
- DND planned PR campaign to counter concerns about racists in the ranks but scuttled plan after high-profile incidents
- Forged letter warning about wolves on the loose part of Canadian Forces propaganda campaign that went awry
- Canadian Forces push-back against Proud Boys and far right needs action, not tweets, critics say
- Canadian Forces 'information operations' pandemic campaign squashed after details revealed to top general