The CIA and its puppet organizations exert a powerful influence on what we see, hear, and believe in the global public sphere. Perhaps we should start to question our ‘reality.’
During a recent interview with Lex Fridman, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. called the CIA “the biggest funder of journalism around the world.” Rather surprisingly, the Democratic presidential candidate’s claim carries a great deal of truth.
In 1948, Frank Wisner was appointed director of the Office of Special Projects, which was quickly renamed the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC). Known as the CIA’s espionage branch, the OPC focused on the promotion of propaganda and economic warfare, as well as subversion against hostile states and providing aid to underground resistance groups.
With the CIA’s blessing, Wisner established Operation Mockingbird, a program that sought to shape domestic American media. According to the author Deborah Davis, Operation Mockingbird recruited a number of prominent American journalists to spread very specific messages. The operation, extensive in nature, included some of the country’s most influential journalists, including Joseph Alsop, whose writing appeared in hundreds of different newspapers. Other journalists recruited to promote CIA-friendly narratives included Stewart Alsop, Ben Bradlee, and James Reston of the New York Times.
Fast forward to 2023, and the nefarious influence of the CIA appears to be as strong as ever, if not even stronger. In recent times, the CIA has been linked with a number of major U.S. outlets, including The Daily Beast and Rolling Stone. In the aforementioned interview with Fridman, Kennedy also linked Salon, a liberal new website, to the intelligence agency.
Whether or not these outlets are working with the CIA is, of course, up for debate. What isn’t up for debate, however, is the CIA’s ability to shape narratives and mold minds, both in the U.S. and beyond.
A decade ago, President Barack Obama signed a dangerous bill into effect: the National Defense Authorization Act. As the journalist Leah Anaya noted, the bill allowed the CIA to run “legalized psychological war ops” on the American people.
The CIA’s influence over the people goes way beyond left-leaning news websites and traditional media corporations. Last year, a comprehensive investigation carried out by MintPress clearly showed that Facebook has close ties to the CIA. This makes complete sense. After all, Facebook has 2.95 billion monthly active users, and many of these users regularly access the site for news stories. The MintPress team found that Meta “recruited dozens of individuals from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), as well as many more from other agencies like the FBI and Department of Defense (DoD).” Those hired deal with “highly politically sensitive sectors such as trust, security and content moderation.”
The CIA also has close ties to Google, the American multinational tech company with a penchant for spying on individuals, both at home and abroad. Google is the most popular search engine in the world, by far. Why wouldn’t the CIA look to influence search results? It could be argued—and it has—that Silicon Valley and the CIA have a seemingly unbreakable bond.
It doesn’t even end there. The CIA’s influence also extends through a network of organizations funded by another powerful institution, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Established in 1983, the NED is, according to its website, a non-profit corporation whose primary goal is “to advance democracy in other countries by promoting political and economic institutions.” The NED, we’re assured, is “dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world.”
However, as the New York Times reported in 1997, The NED was created “to do in the open what the Central Intelligence Agency has done surreptitiously for decades.” As Allen Weinstein, a man who played a pivotal role in the creation of the NED, said back in 1991, “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.”
In other words, the NED appears to be a CIA-driven vehicle. Each year, the NED gives out thousands of grants to individuals and groups in more than 100 countries. Many of these grants, worth tens of thousands of dollars, are given to media establishments and journalists.
In the UK, for example, as the investigative journalists Matt Kenard and Mark Cutis have shown, the NED has pumped millions of dollars into a number of British independent media groups. The aim, they write, is to “support things like political parties, labor unions, dissident movements and the news media.”
Although the NED has channeled much of its energy and resources towards Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Asia, Kenard and Curtis show that it has recently pivoted towards the UK, and the funding of various media outlets and at least four press freedom groups. Not surprisingly, as the duo note, all recipients “are seen as on the progressive end of the political spectrum.”
Moreover, the NED has also funded a number of foreign media groups including Internews, PEN and Reporters Without Borders. NED’’s influence can be seen right across Europe, in countries like Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and France. This should concern us all. The CIA has, for decades, operated well above the law. At the same time, it has actively resisted accountability. It has a history of carrying out illegal spying programs and subverting democracies.
All of this brings us back to Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s statement. As is clear to see, the presidential hopeful is not wrong. If anything, he is underestimating the CIA’s powerful reach. The CIA and its puppet organizations exert a powerful influence on what we see, hear, and believe in the global public sphere. Perhaps we should start to question our reality.