By Cynthia Chung
“Hell is empty and all the devils are here”
– William Shakespeare (The Tempest Act 1 Scene 2)
War has always depended on a reliable system to spread its propaganda. The Arthashastra written by Chankya (350-283 BCE) who was chief advisor to the Emperor Chandragupta (the first ruler of the Mauryan Empire) discusses propaganda and how to disperse and apply it in warfare. It is one of the oldest accounts of the essentialism of propaganda in warfare.
Propaganda is vital in times of war because it is absolutely imperative that the people, who often need to make the greatest sacrifices and suffer the most, believe that such a war is justified and that such a war will provide them security. To the degree that they believe this to be true, the greater the degree of sacrifice and suffering they are willing to submit themselves for said “promised security”.
It is crucial that when the people look at the “enemy” they see something sub-human, for if they recognise that said “enemy” has in fact humanity, the jig is up so to speak.
And thus we are bombarded day after day, hour after hour of reminders as to why the “enemy” is not human like us, not compassionate like us, not patient, just and wise like us.
No doubt, war has been a necessary response when tyranny has formed an army to fight for its cause, but I would put forth that most wars have been rather unnecessary and downright manipulated for the design of a small group of people.
During WWI, on Dec 25th 1914, something rather unexpected occurred and a series of widespread unofficial ceasefires along the Western Front took place between the French/British soldiers and the German soldiers. Some even ventured into “no man’s land”, given its name since none left it alive, to mingle with the “enemy” and exchange food and souvenirs. There were joint burial ceremonies and prisoner swaps. A game of football took place as well. It is said that these truces were not unique to the Christmas period but that they were much more widespread during the holiday season.
These fraternisations would understandably make it quite difficult to return to combat against one another…for no apparently good reason. Some units needed to be relocated since they had developed friendships with the opposing side and now refused to fight them.
The lesson was quickly learned and propaganda was heavily pumped down the throats of the Allied countries, and by the course of just a few years, they no longer viewed the Germans as human.
The CIA’s Family Jewels and Operation Mockingbird
For us to understand the implications of modern propaganda and how it is used in warfare today, our story starts post-WWII with Churchill’s announcement of the “Iron Curtain” which launched the Cold War and has kept the East and West divided to this day.
Quickly after the Cold War was announced by Churchill, it was necessary to create a fervor of fear and paranoia amongst the American people in order to have them quickly forget the fact that the Russians were their greatest allies during both WWI and WWII, and to replace it with the image of a ghoulish race of boogeymen.
If Americans were to remember that the Russians had fought valiantly during WWII and had paid by far the largest sacrifice to the cause, that they had in fact been their comrades in arms against the brutality of fascism, if this were remembered then the Cold War division could never occur, and that was something that could not be tolerated by Churchill and the Empire. Thus terror was unleashed on the American people and McCarthyism was given precedence over the people’s right to question and form conclusions for themselves. That sort of thing could not be tolerated when the “enemy” could be anywhere; they could be your neighbour, your child’s teacher, your co-worker…your partner.
In order to combat the “threat” of Soviet “propaganda” entering the U.S. and seducing Americans, Operation Mockingbird was created as a form of “control” over information dissemination during the period of McCarthyism. Operation Mockingbird was an “alleged” CIA program that was started in the early 1950s in order to control the narrative of the news. Though this role has never been confirmed entirely, in the CIA Family Jewels report compiled in the mid-1970s, it is confirmed that Project Mockingbird did exist as a CIA operation and that it was guilty of wire-tapping journalists in Washington.
At the helm of this project was none other than CIA Director Allen Dulles, an enemy of JFK, who by the early 1950s “allegedly” oversaw the media network and had major influence over 25 newspapers and wire agencies. Its function was to have the CIA write reports that would be used by a network of cooperating “credible” reporters. By these “credible” reporters spreading the CIA dictated narrative, it would be parroted by unwitting reporters (mockingbirds) and a successful echo chamber would be created across the world.
The Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), originally named Office of Special Projects but that was thought to conspicuous, was a covert operation wing of the CIA and was created by the United States National Security Council (NSC). For those who are unfamiliar with the origins of the NSC and its close relationship with the CIA, who was born on the same day, refer to my paper on the subject.
According to Deborah Davis’ biography of Katherine Graham (the owner of Washington Post), the OPC created Operation Mockingbird in response to addressing Soviet propaganda and included as part of its CIA contingency respected members from Washington Post, The New York Times, Newsweek, CBS and others.
The Family Jewels report was an investigation made by the CIA to investigate…the CIA, spurred in response to the Watergate Scandal and the CIA’s unconstitutional role in the whole affair. The investigation of the CIA would include any other actions that were deemed illegal or inappropriate spanning from the 1950s-mid 1970s.
We are told “most” of the report was declassified on June 25, 2007 (30 years later) hoping that people would have lost interest in the whole brouhaha. Along with the release of the redacted report was included a six-page summary with the following introduction:
“The Central Intelligence Agency violated its charter for 25 years until revelations of illegal wiretapping, domestic surveillance, assassination plots, and human experimentation led to official investigations and reforms in the 1970s.”
The most extensive investigation of the CIA relations with news media was conducted by the Church Committee, a U.S. Senate select committee in 1975 that investigated the abuses committed by the CIA, NSA, FBI, and IRS. The Church Committee report confirmed abundant CIA ties in both foreign and domestic news media.
It is very useful that there exists an official recognition that false news was not only being encouraged by the CIA under the overseeing of the NSC during the Cold War period, but that the CIA was complicit in actually detailing the specific narrative that they wanted disseminated, and often going so far as to write the narrative and have a “credible” reporter’s name stamped on it.
But the question begs, “Did the Cold War ever end?” and if not, why should we believe that the CIA’s involvement in such activities is buried in its past and that it has “reformed” its old ways?
Western Journalists for Hire: How the CIA Buys News
In order to answer this question, let us visit the sad case of Udo Ulfkotte. Udo Ulfkotte is a well-known German journalist and author of numerous books. He worked for 25 years as a journalist, 17 of which were for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), including his role as editor. In his 2014 book “Journalists for Hire: How the CIA Buys News” Ulfkotte goes over how the CIA along with German Intelligence (BND) were guilty of bribing journalists to write articles that either spun the truth or were completely fictitious in order to promote a pro-western, pro-NATO bent, and that he was one of those bought journalists.
In an interview, Ulfkotte describes how he finally built up the nerve to publish the book, after years of it collecting dust, in response to the erupting crisis in Ukraine stating
“I felt that the right time had come to finish it and publish it, because I am deeply worried about the Ukrainian crisis and the possible devastating consequences for all of Europe and all of us…I am not at all pro-Russia, but it is clear that many journalists blindly follow and publish whatever the NATO press office provides. And this type of information and reports are completely one-sided”.
In another interview Ulfkotte stated:
“It is clear as daylight that the agents of various Services were in the central offices of the FAZ, the place where I worked for 17 years. The articles appeared under my name several times, but they were not my intellectual product. I was once approached by someone from German Intelligence and the CIA, who told me that I should write about Gaddafi and report how he was trying to secretly build a chemical weapons factory in Libya. I had no information on any of this, but they showed me various documents, I just had to put my name on the article. Do you think this can be called journalism? I don’t think so.”
Ulfkotte has publicly stated:
“I am ashamed of it. The people I worked for knew from the get-go everything I did. And the truth must come out. It’s not just about FAZ, this is the whole system that’s corrupt all the way.”
Udo Ulfkotte has since passed away. He died January 2017, found dead in his home, it is said by a hear t attack. His body was quickly after cremated and thus prevented any possibility of an autopsy occurring.
You Can’t Teach An Old Dog New Tricks
(Note: This article was published March 14, 2020) The Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act is a bipartisan bill that was passed into law in December 2016, it was initially called Countering Information Warfare Act. It was included together with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This bill was brought into effect just weeks before Trump was to enter office….hmmm, foreshadowing much?
Soon after the 2016 U.S. election, the Washington Post led the charge asserting that it was due to Russian propaganda that the U.S. elections turned out the way it did, that is, that Hillary had somehow, inconceivably, lost to Donald Trump and that the American people had been turned against her like a child caught in the middle of a messy divorce case. But there is no need here to set the record straight on Hillary, when Hillary herself has done suffice damage to any illusion of credibility she once had. That ultimately not even Hillary could hide the fact that her closet full of skeletons turned out to be the size of a catacomb.
But we are told that citizens do not know what is best for one’s self. That they cannot be trusted with “sensitive” information and in accordance act in a “responsible” manner, that is, to have a strong enough stomach to do what is “best” for their country.
And therefore, fear not subjects of the land, for the Global Engagement Center (GEC) is here to make those hard decisions for you. Don’t know what to think about a complicated subject? GEC will tell you the right way!
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) would allow for the Secretary of State to collaborate with the Secretary of Defense, and other Federal agencies in the year 2017 to create the Global Engagement Center (GEC). The GEC’s purpose in life is to fight propaganda from foreign governments and publicize the nature of ongoing foreign propaganda and disinformation operations against the U.S. and other countries.
Let us all take a moment to thank the GEC for such a massive task in the cause for justice all around the world.
The GEC had a very slow start in its first year, however, it has been gaining momentum in the last year under Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who seems especially excited over the hiring of Lea Gabrielle as special envoy and coordinator of GEC.
Mike Pompeo was the CIA Director from 2017-2018. On April 15, 2019, Pompeo participated in a discussion at the Texas A&M University where he voluntarily offered the admission that though West Points’ cadet motto is “You will not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do.”, his training under the CIA was the very opposite, stating “I was the CIA Director. We lied, we cheated, we stole. It was like we had entire training courses. (long pause) It reminds you of the glory of the American experiment”.
This is apparently the man for the job of dealing with matters of “truth” and “justice”.
Lea Gabrielle was approved for her position by Mike Pompeo, what are her “qualifications”? Well, Gabrielle is also CIA trained, and while assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), she “directed and conducted global clandestine strategic intelligence collection operations.” Gabrielle also “deployed in tactical anti-terrorist operations in hostile environments”. After 12 years of active duty service, Lea Gabrielle became a television news journalist, who worked at NBC and FOX News.
Noticing a pattern?
The CIA really does not have the best track record for their role in “managing” foreign wars and counter-insurgency activities. In fact, they have been caught rather red handed in fueling such crisis situations. And these are the people who are deciding what information is fit for the American public, and western public in general, and what is not fit for their ears.
Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, See No Evil
On March 5, 2020, Lea Gabrielle testified on the role of GEC in countering state-sponsored and non-state propaganda and disinformation. Gabrielle states: “We have the full support of Secretary Pompeo who is committed to deploying a broad suite of tools to stop America’s adversaries from using disinformation, malign propaganda, and other tools to undermine free societies.” She goes on to acknowledge that the hearing is focused on countering Russian government and CCP disinformation and propaganda. She then goes on to outline her criticisms of both governments with no factual detail or evidence but rather generalised accusations and criticisms, obviously pulling from her experience as a news journalist for NBC.
Following this, Gabrielle proceeds to outline her “rules of engagement” in countering this offensive with what seems to be the beginnings of McCarthyism 2.0, amounting to a threat to anyone who dares not take a hard stance against Russia and China, that such a person will be considered complicit in essentially committing treason.
Gabrielle concludes, “Both the Russian government and the CCP view censorship, media manipulation, and propaganda as appropriate tools to control public opinion. Both exploit open, democratic societies to further their own ends while tightening controls around their own countries.”
Don’t worry, the CIA will eventually admit that they are elbow deep in all of the above, it just won’t be released until 30 years from now…In the meantime, I wouldn’t believe everything you read in the newspaper to stoke the fires for another war.
Cynthia Chung is the President of the Rising Tide Foundation and a writer at Strategic Culture Foundation, consider supporting her work by making a donation and subscribing to her substack page Through A Glass Darkly. This article was originally published by Strategic Culture Foundation.