The U.S. Department of Defence defines psychological warfare as:
“The planned use of propaganda and other psychological actions having the primary purpose of influencing the opinions, emotions, attitudes, and behaviour of hostile foreign groups in such a way as to support the achievement of national objectives.”
Most of the events throughout history involving psychological warfare utilised tactics that instilled fear or a sense of awe towards the enemy. Making the enemy afraid of you can make it a lot easier for you to get what you want. It is critical to know how not to become afraid of an adversary, while at the same time making them afraid of you.
Just as in real life, Propaganda is also an important part of playing Risk. Propaganda works so well sometimes that it makes you wonder if the game is only controlled by this.
In the context of Risk, propaganda is an ability to give a mix of true and false statements, so that you can effectively mislead others and hide the true intention of your activities within the game. The idea is then to influence other players’ opinions and aim to modify their understanding of the game so that their actions will benefit you. In short:
“It is the art of convincing others of something, whether it is true or not. What matters is not the truth, it is the achievement in convincing others.”
At any stage of the game, if there are any issues that need to be resolved, you have to act rapidly in spreading your propaganda to change popular opinion in your favour. Let us consider an example. Suppose your enemy wants to invade another player that you have a treaty with and that you do not want this to happen. Spread your propaganda by stating that “The enemy is the strongest player in the game since he can afford to invade. Who knows who is next on his list? He should be contained”, and so on. By this, the world opinion may start to shift against him and as it has been iterated several times, you cannot fight the whole world. The response to propaganda is anti-propaganda. In this case, your enemy will seek to convince others that you are lying and trying to avoid attention yourself and are trying to confuse others. To be effective in a propaganda war, you need to have the ability to convince people. This is a talent that can be improved with practice. A comprehensive analysis of the Art of Debate is given in the book.
What makes propaganda different from other methods is that the propagandist is willing to change people's understanding through deception and confusion rather than persuasion and understanding.
An interesting feature of propaganda is reinforcement. The idea is that if people believe in something that is actually false, they will be continuously in doubt if the concept is true. They would like to resolve the concept and get to the bottom of it. As a result, they are very receptive to reassurances that may reinforce the concept and assure them that all is right. This method takes advantage of the human behaviour were one prefers to accept data from those sources that provide an ‘agreeable’ piece of information.
In practice this means that if you see a player that is already contemplating on a certain idea (perhaps even initiated by you), you may keep reinforcing it until all doubts are removed.
For example, if a player is suspicious that his neighbour is about to concentrate his armies on his border, you can use propaganda to reinforce this. This is achieved by providing information to support his suspicion (irrespective of whether the information is true or false). This can suit your needs, since the player would then focus on that particular border instead. He may move his armies away from your border which can make life easier for you. You can use your armies elsewhere.