According to Ancient Greek sources, there are four distinct versions of human knowledge. Philosophy, and indeed the Greeks themselves, has since discussed the value of each of them in revealing truths. I will not engage in such an endevour at this point, but simply explain how this model translates to understanding in the art of psychological manipulation.
The four categories are, and one can of course discuss their names forever, Episteme, Techne, Phronesis and Doxa.
I could have called this “empirical”. Episteme in this regard is what you can show using scientific methodology. Experiments. The testing of a hypothesis. Pure scientific knowledge is very hard to find, as any empirical reseach will be quasi-objective. This serves to prove that even though the four categories are treated as completely separate (se below), they are indeed spectra.
Never the less, if presented with two explanations for why you are not reading this while floating weightless in your livingroom, the model we call gravitation, will turn out alot more probable through experimentation and observation, than a model claiming your body is seeking earth because thats where it came from.
Your faith in gravity, if based on studies of physics, will be a rather pure version of knowledge based on episteme.
The word is the basis for Technology. In this context it is knowledge as can be found by watching a blacksmith. Even an excellent blacksmith will be unable to completely describe the process of making a sword in such a manner that the skill can be transferred to you. Scientific methodology will also have a hard time proving a blacksmith in that the knowledge behind smithing is not to be found physically. Yet watching the excellent blacksmith at work, you will in the end agree that he is a blacksmith. Techne, to qoute 007, is “all in the wrist”. You can read all available literature on boxing. You will still get your ass handed to you if the first time you try on the gloves is at the championships.
Phronesis means, directly translated, “mindness”. It describes the phenomenon of “practical wisdom”. The ability to reason, to apply logic, to understand context. It is phronesis that lets you know that stepping out of your car at 55 mph is a bad idea. You have experience falling when running, and put that into the correct context. You need no further evidence.
Doxa, meaning faith, as in Ortho-doxia (correct-faith). Doxa was originally treated by the Greeks as wisdom given directly from the Gods and later morphed into something best traslated as “popular opinion”. We don’t really have to take a stand regarding the devine. it is sufficient to acknowledge that many of the things human beings think they know, they know due to holding a belief that can’t be explained through phronesis, techne or episteme. The believes held among western youth that they one happy day will become famous singers or moviestars, soccer heros in England, football players in the US, can all be classified as Doxa. The same goes for the belief in the metaphysical enteties of freedom and human equality. Scientism, the belief in popular science held by people lacking a scientific education, must be classified as Doxa. The belief in Bing Bang as more than a mathematical model, represents a belief-system comparable to the faith in a creative God.
How do you apply these principles in propaganda?
What is now important to understand for the psychological warrior, is that these four categories are distinct and seperate. Just as perception based on Techne can’t be countered by the means of episteme, you can’t persuade the blacksmith that he is indeed not a blacksmith by the application of science, so you can’t change a Doxa-perception thorugh the use of Phronesis. Logical arguments will not change a persons faith in their God.
This means that any opinion-changing operation will have to start with mapping out in which of the four categories the “center of gravity” of the opinion you want to change, is situated.
This can be done through interviewing, through analysis of the individual and the population.
In this case, alot of observations point to that those who are certain this gas attack was preformed by the Syrian air force, group 1, belive so because any other reality would threaten their belief in core values that can only be classified as Doxa. Thus no evidence (episteme), no logic (phronesis) and no expert (Techne) will change their minds.
In the other end of the spectrum, those who are certain the gas attack was conducted by a party interested in triggering a hostility towards the Syrian government, group 2, will belive so because it supports their own perception of the geopolitical situation and the role of their goverments in it.
If we restrict our studies to the western world, and found that while members of group 1) in general to be loyal to their nations and/or governments, while those who belong to group 2) to be suspicious of their own government, perhaps even openly hostile, this would be in support of our model.
Furthermore, as a logical consequence, one could suspect member of group 1) to have a higher probablility of being up the food chain, and thus more to gain by being loyal to their system, than members of group 2).
If so, this could explain why the newspaper editors all belong to group 1), while youtube is flowing over with people spending their time presenting models coherent with their membership in group 2).
So how would this work from a Russian position?
“American backed rebels were behind this” will never work. No matter what you present you will only end up catering to those who are sympathetic in the first place. An argument made to influence inside the framework of a beliefsystem has to respect those frames, unless it be discarded. If I was asked to conduct an operation on behalf of Kremlin, I would phrase myself quite differently.
“It is unamerican to avoid the tough questions.”
It will be interesting to see if the Russian ministry of propaganda is pliable enough to evolve into the future.