‘Ghosts in the Machine’ – Eerie US Army Video Asks ‘Who’s Pulling the Strings?’

Screenshot via YouTube

In one of the most interesting military recruitment videos ever produced, the Army’s 4th Psychological Operations Group-Airborne launched a new video with little explanation. Titled “Ghosts in the Machine,” the video simply states: “All the world’s a stage. Join us.”

While not saying much, the video, which feels more like a movie trailer for some new dark Sci-Fi flick or video game, provides “unsettling” music and imagery intended more to elicit emotion and thought than provide clarity.

Just as psychological warfare should.

As one social media user stated: “Everything is a weapon. Even this video.”

The Charlotte Observer, which reports on goings on at Ft Bragg, where the Army Special Forces and psychological warfare (PSYOP) units are headquartered, describes the YouTube video:

The video, posted May 2, starts innocently, with benign clips of cartoons and images of empty city streets and subways. But the vibe grows increasingly disturbing, with footage of a shadowy man, anxious stares at dark skies, violent riot scenes and soldiers being deployed.

“Have you ever wondered who’s pulling the strings?” the video asks. “You’ll find us in the shadows at the tip of the spear. … Anything we touch is a weapon. We can deceive, persuade, change, influence, inspire. We come in many forms. We are everywhere.”

While the Observer goes on to delve into possible occult links to the video, and conspiracy theories, the Army PSYOP unit responsible for the video describes itself more simply on its website:

PSYOP Forces are Masters of Influence – the core of information warfare. We conduct influence activities to target psychological vulnerabilities and create or intensify fissures, confusion, and doubt in adversary organizations. We use all available means of dissemination – from sensitive and high tech, to low-tech, to no-tech, and methods from overt, to clandestine, to deception.

A different video on their website titled a ‘Day in the Life of PSYOP’ provides a more traditional, if still stylish, rendition of what PSYOP troops (which in the Army, reportedly number no more than 1,000) actually do.

Task and Purpose, which describes the ‘ghost’ video as a “Master Class in Psychological Warfare,’ adds that Col. Chris Stangle, commander of 4th PSYOP Group, told them:

…the video was created in-house, both as a recruitment effort but also to literally show people what they can do — part of psychological operations is creating persuasive media. Stangle said that the artist behind the video tailored it a bit after iconic horror film JAWS, where the filmmakers showed restraint in actually showing the shark. Instead, viewers knew it was lurking just below the surface. 

Stangle added that psychological operations are occurring “literally everywhere, every day, in every component of our lives,” noting that we are seeing it right now where Ukraine is proving much more successful in the information war than the Russians.

As of May 16, the video has gotten more than 333,000 views and provoked spirited debate. Mission accomplished. ADN

Paul Crespo is the Managing Editor of American Defense News. A defense and national security expert, he served as a Marine Corps officer and as a military attaché with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) at US embassies worldwide. Paul holds degrees from Georgetown, London, and Cambridge Universities. He is also CEO of SPECTRE Global Risk, a security advisory firm, and President of the Center for American Defense Studies, a national security think tank. - paulcrespo.substack.com - PAULCRESPO.COM


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