This interview is conducted with Ramzi E. Khoury, CEO of Strategy Falcons Group, to clarify Perception Management and answer questions about the accusations against the science.
Q. There isn’t much information available on Perception Management out there. The result is that most people do not know about it and those who do are confused to a certain degree. Is this because Perception management is new?
A. Perception Management is not new but it has mostly been in the hands of politics used for the purpose of internal and external security. They have been treating it as a top-secret weapon despite leaks and sporadic statements that come out now and then.
At its highest levels it is usually a military activity conducted by intelligence agencies to influence public perceptions in a manner that would protect or achieve the interests of a certain state. Therefore it has been a weapon of the state that governments protect and do not allow to fall in the hands of the public or of course the hands of the enemy of the state.
This has created a negative aura around the science despite the fact that the private sector has been engaged in perception management to brand their products and achieve their interests; albeit at a lower level than that of government.
Q. In Wikepedia, they state that Public Diplomacy "does not, as a rule, involve falsehood and deception, whereas these are important ingredients of perception management; the purpose is to get the other side to believe what one wishes it to believe, whatever the truth may be."
A. Falsehood and deception are not a rule in Perception Management. If you had a knife you can use it to spread butter on a slice of bread and cut through a steak. Do you have to stab people with it as a rule?
One difference between Public Diplomacy and Perception Management is that the former is public and declared whilst the latter is undercover undeclared operations.
Another difference is that Public Diplomacy is all about what government is communicating. Perception Management utilizes all tools of communications and treats them collectively as a set of tools including Public Diplomacy, Journalism, Traditional and New Media, Public Relations, Advertising, Branding & Marketing, and else. These are all tools used by Perception Management to achieve its goals. Just like the knife is a tool, but what counts is eating a great steak which requires the knowledge and know-how of the butcher, and the chef who cooks it whose tools are not limited to the knife because he also needs the grill and condiments.
Perception Management experts create the events on the ground that would influence public perception and utilize a selection of the above tools to communicate the event, as needed.
Sometimes another party creates the events and perception management experts utilize them. But do these events have to be “false” or a “deception?” They could be but they don’t have to be. It has to do with who is in action and whether they are scrupulous or not. In politics the norm is that the end justifies the means, this is why it has the reputation of being “dirty.”
Q. What kinds of events are utilized in Perception Management?
A. These events could be anything from a tear of happiness in a mother’s eye to outright war between two nations.
An amicable event could be building a hospital in a poverty stricken area. The press covers the decision and all phases of the building are communicated to the public until the opening when the “philanthropists” are so proud and the public is so happy. Then we start seeing lower income people use the hospital and human-interest stories start popping up in the news all indirectly related to the good work of the good people without whom the good hospital wouldn’t exist today.
Such an event, which may be a leg of a perception management operation, could get a politician to win an election because the public now has the perception that he or she is a “good guy.” Of course a perception management operation has several legs walking in parallel to influence perception.
On the other hand Al Qaeda is dependent on loud bloody events to influence public perception.
They chop off the heads of people and communicate it on television and on the Internet. Why would they chop the head of an innocent anybody if there were no cameras there?
So the atrocious event is created especially for the goal of influencing perception and traditional and old media are the tools to communicate it.
Of course, in Saudi Arabia the events conducted by Al Qaeda were used against them to show the public how atrocious they are. Al Qaeda killed innocent Muslim families in attacks on compounds. They killed Saudi policemen in an attack on a police station. Al Qaeda did these attacks in the name of Islam, yet the murdered were innocent Muslims, many of whom the pious sons of Saudi families.
Therefore, Perception Management experts do not have to create events when the enemy is creating them on their behalf. At the end of the day the best Perception Management Machine will win.
Q. Can you give us example on how government may utilize perception management to achieve its goals, say the US government?
A. There are so many examples, both good and bad; depending on your perception of what is good or bad.
If you are anti-smoking an example of a good operation would be Bill Clinton’s war on tobacco. Perception Management operations were launched to force people out of the cigarette habit and continues to influence perceptions in the USA and the rest of the world today; several administrations after Clinton.
He used his clout as President not only to push new legislation, but to create a major popular drive that would adjust consumer behavior. It eventually changed the face of society. What was historically the social norm, in a few years of work, became social public enemy number one.
Today if you are a smoker in the USA you could be standing in the freezing cold two meters away from the nearest building rushing through your puffs! It is a humiliating experience, and in winter the unhealthiest part of smoking is got to be freezing to death rather than carbon and tar!
Who would have believed that a heavily smoking nation such as France, which is a nation allergic to US dictates, would ban smoking in public places? Is there any country out there that is not engaged in banning smoking in public places one way or another? This is the power of Perception Management: The French Public is not aware that this is an American dictate; otherwise they would have resisted it tooth and nail.
Q. And a bad example?
A. If you are a believer in honesty and transparency in government or don’t believe that US national interests should be at the expense of other nations, an example of “bad” Perception Management would be the operations conducted when George Bush Jr.’s administration decided to invade Iraq.
The decision was based on the USA’s geopolitical and economical interests in regards to Iraq; the second largest oil reserves in the world and a country of a strong army that won a long bloody war with its strong neighbor Iran.
Iraq had at one point fired long-range missiles at Israel, which had bombed its nuclear reactor and Saddam Hussein had become a hero in the eyes of the Pan-Arab Public. But non of these would be a good excuse to send American boys to war.
Before all, the Bush Administration pulled a major communications stunt by declaring war on terrorism as if terrorism was an enemy state with boundaries, army and a clear leadership. A majority of Americans had to believe that they are at war with a formidable enemy and they must win the war to protect their children, way of life and freedom.
By declaring war on an elastic, unclear action such as terrorism, the USA could conduct a variety of acts that would not have been popular with the American nation, and most important of all is the ability to declare any party, state or individual, as terrorist according to need. The ground was now set for action in all directions and as needed. Let us focus on action in Iraq.
Again, it wasn’t wise to declare that the goal of the Bush Administration was to invade Iraq. Saddam Hussein was a long-standing ally who referred back to the USA on every step he took including his invasion of Kuwait before which he had obtained the green light from the US Ambassador in Baghdad. Whether the Green Light was a trap or not, the invasion of Kuwait was part of the package crafted to demonize him.
So Saddam, yesterday’s ally, was now branded as the “ultimate evil dictator” and the American nation was lied to about his supposed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) that had to be destroyed a.s.a.p. and before he supplied them to Al Qaeda to conduct further attacks in the USA. The world later on learned that Saddam had no WMDs and he and Al Qaeda were enemies without a sign of any cooperation between them.
The USA invaded Iraq, removed Saddam “the dangerous villain,” divided the country based on a sectarian design under the banner of “legitimate national aspirations” and installed a new regime before slowly moving out.
This process produced over a million Iraqi casualties who are not highlighted in the communications of the USA or remembered by the new regime in Iraq. But the consequences of that process didn’t end with that. Iraq is suffering from instability today, many years after the toppling of Saddam. The war on terrorism did not end terrorism; there are more of the same “terrorists” today than there was when the war was declared.
Was Desert Storm or the war on terrorism in the interests of the USA? The state of the economy in the US says otherwise and one day much more information about that project will emerge.
Q. But the American people knew they were lied to, why was Bush re-elected?
A. Perception Management in its glory, again. Supposedly the design of White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove, in a quiet underground scheme of “through the grapevine;” utilizing on-the-ground networks to push rumors and innuendo, a perception was created that the Democrats were going to legalize gay marriage when they win. Eleven States went out to vote for God rather than the Republican or Democrat candidate.
So Bush won despite being a very unpopular candidate. A very tough challenge supposedly accredited to Mr. Rove, who supposedly is a Perception Management Guru; but then the USA has many gurus in its service and they are not public figures such as Rove nor do they look for credit every time they achieve “the impossible.”
Q. How did you get involved in Perception Management?
A. I was introduced to the science in the early eighties in the context of Israel/Palestine. At the time I was based in London, UK. The Palestinians had been utilizing all kinds of traditional communications in their effort to promote their just cause and were faced with major public resistance despite logic, history and international law being on their side.
At the same exact time, the South African ANC movement of Nelson Mandela had been able to achieve great strides in winning the minds and hearts of people worldwide.
In Britain, they had been able to convince the public to boycott their own British economy in South Africa. Margret Thatcher fought her public’s sentiments as much as she could then had to succumb.
It was through leaders of the ANC that I became aware of Perception Management versus Media, Public Relations and other forms of communications.
I realized then that Israel had a powerful weapon utilized worldwide and unless the Palestinians acquire that weapon, they have no chance to achieve their national aspirations.
Q. When did Israel start using perception management?
A. The Zionist movement utilized perception management way before the creation of the State of Israel, and without that weapon the state would never had been erected.
The operation to create the perception amongst Jews all over the world that they are not merely members of a religion, but a nation that was dispersed into the “Diaspora” and must be reunited, was conducted even before Theodor Herzl, who is described as the Father of Zionism.
The concept was being pushed in the 1100s based on biblical texts that the Jews are the chosen people of God and a few attempted to move Jews to the Chosen Land; a very limited and generally unsuccessful undertaking.
Herzl organized a movement in the 1800s to solidify the concept of Jews being a nation in the minds of Jews first and then non-Jews. The concept had faced major resistance from Jews worldwide and the movement was only able to make a breakthrough with Jews and non-Jews alike after the Holocaust by Nazi Germany. The movement then was able to create the perception that the only way to protect Jews from racial violence is in a militarily strong Jewish state, only for Jews, the nation. The movement then pushed the perception that Palestine is a land without a people for a people without a land. The rest is history.
To create a nation from unrelated people from dozens of countries on all continents and then move them to occupy a land and displace its inhabitants into a real “diaspora” rather than a perceived one, is the most prominent achievement of perception management in the history of mankind.
Perception Management is the most valuable weapon of mass destruction that has always been in the hands of Israel and which it utilizes nonstop with its own citizens, Jews worldwide, the Palestinians, other Arab nations, and of course with the rest of the world.
So the answer to your question is: Israel started using Perception Management way before it was born.