Perception Management

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"It is not always about what you are. It is also about what others think you are..."

I was introduced to the term Perception Management when I read David Baldacci's novel, The Whole Truth. Wikipedia defines Perception Management (PM) as:

Actions to convey and/or deny selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning as well as to intelligence systems and leaders at all levels to influence official estimates, ultimately resulting in foreign behaviours and official actions favourable to the originator's objectives. In various ways, perception management combines truth projection, operations security, cover and deception, and psychological operations.
[Full Article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perception_management]

I started paying closer attention to the dynamics on social media to understand what Perception Management is after the recent Indian strike on the terror camps inside Pakistan and their retaliation. As we are aware, India retaliated to the Pulwama attack in which over 40 Indian CRPF soldiers were martyred by taking out terrorist basecamps inside Pakistani soil. Pakistan, under intense domestic pressure, retaliated by breaching Indian airspace with an F-16 aircraft to target an Indian military compound. The Indian Air Force shot down the jet. In the process, Pakistani soldiers were able to capture an Indian soldier.

While these are soldiers following orders, an intriguing battle ensued on social media in parallel.

The Pakistanis reported that Indian aircraft didn't destroy any terrorist camps. They claimed that they were able to rebuff the Indian jets before they could do any damage and in their hurry to fly out, the Indians dropped their bombs and flattened out a remote area in the forest, perhaps burning some vegetation. An average Pakistani's heart will fill with joy, for it makes the enemy Indians look like bumbling clowns. It makes the Pakistanis appear macho. Naturally, under domestic pressure to put the Indians in place, the Pakistani Air Force (which has been pusillanimous during the Kargil War and is outclassed by the more massive and modern Indian Air Force) attempted a misadventure for domestic consumption.

The Pakistani media and officials did not formally report that their F-16 was downed. However, they announced that they captured two or three Indian pilots. They also started a campaign where they circulated pictures and claimed to have destroyed two Indian jets. It achieved three objectives - Boosted Pakistani morale, impacted Indian spirit and most importantly, got picked up by the foreign media. I was surprised when I started running Google searches to see how the international news portals were reacting to the situation in the sub-continent. Every major news portal including BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera was carrying the Pakistani claim and had not even mentioned the Indian side of the story.

The Indian media was extremely quick in poking holes in the Pakistani claims. They proved that the jets in the pictures were from crashes from a few years ago. The images, they demonstrated, had nothing to do with the current conflict. One wreck was of a Suryakiran plane in Bangalore that happened in the recent Aeroshow India. One could hear people talking in Kannada. It happened thousands of kilometres away from the border. However, the international media did not report on the false claims by Pakistan.

The Pakistanis have developed an ingenious technique. Over time, they have created several handles with Hindu-sounding names. These monikers are used to sow seeds of discord. They use these names in all social media platforms starting with Facebook and Twitter, YouTube and also news portals like the Times of India. There are two types of handles. One that offensively talks against Indians and is rather blunt and crude. The second is a more sophisticated sounding type. The uncouth ones are easy to parry. They call Indians 'gau mutra drinkers' (Drinkers of cow urine), particularly target Hindus, insult vegetarians as weak, vilify Modi and pass vulgar comments. Generally, these are easy to respond to and get countered rather effectively.

The sophisticated sounding ones are dangerous, for they have a more insidious objective. They blend in with the crowd that is against the incumbent government. When ordinary citizens read these comments, they feel very disheartened. How can our brothers not stand united while the Pakistani brethren stand together hand-in-hand?

A prime example of this is the reaction to Imran Khan's grand gesture of repatriating the captured Indian pilot. The reality is that he did not have a choice and the Indian forces would have battered his country. He was also under intense international stress. The Pakistanis and these shadow accounts started cheering Imran Khan's benevolence. Liberals on the Indian side began to chant similar slogans. It was extremely distasteful to read such things. That is why I refer to these liberal lunatics as libtards.

Pakistan was somewhat successful in convincing that they were doing something right. Eventually, I started seeing tweets that seemed to paint India as the aggressor and Modi being vilified as the war-monger who did this to score brownie points for the upcoming elections. There were a few journalists, public figures and 'intellectuals' who called for peace. It was a pathetic charade.

Perception Management is very effective. Pakistan has made it clear that they don't want peace with India. They breed terrorists against us. They killed over 40 of our soldiers. They shelled and murdered innocent civilians. They lost an F-16 and two pilots. They lied about the number of aircraft downed, the soldiers captured and about even using an F-16. They brazenly lied. Yet, they managed perception on social media very well.

There are also chants from some Indians that seek evidence of the successful attack. Do you remember the United States showing evidence of Osama Bin Laden's elimination? We should treat this in the same manner. I understand that the citizens are going to link the success of terror elimination to Modi. While I believe that this attribution is right, because political will is also important, it is a bitter pill that the anti-Modi brigade should swallow instead of being idiotic.

I would like to make it very clear to the liberal morons in India and to other fools in general. Wars and battles are not fought only at the borders. They are not fought just with guns, bombs and missiles. It involves support to the armed forces. It involves us being one as a nation. It involves showing solidarity with the incumbent government and backing them when a foreign enemy is at our doorsteps. It involves us not questioning our government and forces and fighting the external enemy together, as one unit...

The reality is that I am less worried about Pakistan and China and more worried about the infighting that can result if our minds are as fragile as this. A few Pakistanis create fake social media accounts and AAP and Congress supporters start retweeting them resonating their words of bravado, war-mongering and jingoism. It is absolutely foolish.

I would also like to call out BS Yedyurappa whose words made it worse for the incumbent BJP government and lends credence to anti-establishment forces. The BJP leadership should shunt him out for giving an opening to opposition forces at a time when the country should stay united.

To summarise, Indian liberals are mostly morons. Perception management is a very powerful and effective tool and Indians should stay united if we have to come out as victors.


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Related Article:
On Peaceniks and War Mongers - The Pulwama Aftermath

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