A gentler name

Sep 3 2010 - 11:28am

When running from the law, one common maneuver that criminals make is to change their names.

Adopting an alias has also been tried as a public relations strategy by corporations that find themselves struck with an image problem. Most recently, this deception has been employed by Blackwater, the infamous government contractor involved in so many nefarious deeds that it now disguises itself with an inscrutable new moniker: Xe. Fittingly, Xe is the abbreviation for xenon, a chemical defined as a colorless gaseous element.

Seeing name changes work for criminals and corporations, the Pentagon has decided to give it a try. Since Vietnam days, the military's covert program of psychic warfare and espionage has had the ominous name of "psy ops," short for psychological operations.

However, the brass now sees this term as a PR negative that spooks and even terrorizes people around the world. Stating the obvious, a former head of psy ops says, "Somehow it gives a nefarious connotation." Today's modern Army has decided that the name complicates its mission of getting into the heads of soldiers and civilians behind enemy lines, so, psy ops is no more.

Oh, the program continues, with soldiers trained by the 4th Psychological Operations Group at Fort Bragg in California, "to influence the behavior of foreign target audiences." But, by a June Pentagon decree, it has been rebranded with the gentler, even-boring name of Military Information Support Operations -- MISO.

Hmmmm, MISO. Isn't that a salty, soy-based seasoning used in Japanese cooking? Worse, "miso" is a common prefix taken from the Greek word for hatred, giving us such negative terms as misogyny (hatred of women) and misology (hatred of reasoning).

Maybe it's the mission that needs fixing, not the name.

Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He's also editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown.

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