Covert propaganda refers to information, ideas, and symbolic actions whose sponsor remains unknown. The sponsor may judge that anonymous propaganda is more effective, or that at worst it can be disowned. Covert propaganda can be black (well hidden) or gray (disseminated with a thin veil of cover). The propaganda itself may be truthful or intentionally false.(Dirty Tricks or Trump Cards, p151)
Grey propaganda often involves a ‘fig leaf approach’ not necesarily apparent to the general public but detectable by informed observers.Because there is a high chance of such operations being blown, they need to be relatively defensible.
Conversely, an agent engaged in outright disinformation or black propaganda must be careful to conceal his role.
According to Godson, a key principle of black propaganda is that people believe what they want to believe. Tapping into such prejudices is more important than the actual quality of the information presented.
Methods of dissemination can include word-of-mouth rumors, planting stories in the media and forging documents.
In order to be effective, both types of propaganda need to be based on careful consideration of both the target audience and the strategic goal involved. Godson argues that propaganda is also more effective when there is a ‘two-step process’ whereby the orginal message is followed up and amplified by others.
He gives the example of the Salvadoran FMLN, which organised discussion groups around its radio broadcasts from Nicaragua. One can well imagine blogs fulfilling a similar function.
Are there any themes in the British media that could be the product of such covert operations? I’m open to other suggestions in the comments, but I suggest the following deserve closer scrutiny:
Attacks on government links to Muslim groups such as the Muslim Council of Britain
Attacks on links between the left and Muslims e.g. the Respect coalition, Ken Livingstone’s invitation to Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
This looks like grey propaganda in that the people who retail it are obviously close to US official circles, and its fairly clear that they reflect US Government views, yet US officials could not say the same things without making a public intervention into domestic British politics.
Corruption allegations against George Galloway
Some of the documents involved in claims that George Galloway benefitted from the Iraqi oil for food programme are now known to have been forgeries.