Operation Mockingbird Gets a Big Tech Makeover

CommentaryIn the late 1940s, as geopolitical tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union began to heat up, the CIA launched Operation Mockingbird, a large-scale program that used news media for one purpose only: to disseminate as much propaganda as possible. According to award-winning author Deborah Davis, Operation Mockingbird “owned” highly respected journalists at outlets like Newsweek, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, to name just three “communications vehicles.” Fast forward almost 80 years, and the game has rapidly evolved. Today, intelligence officials use the most popular social media platforms to manipulate us and mold our minds. This brings us to TikTok, an app that I have written about extensively (see here and here). To call the app problematic is akin to calling its country of origin, China, problematic. In other words, an understatement of epic proportions. Antonio García Martínez, a New York Times best-selling author and tech entrepreneur, recently called TikTok “the fentanyl of social media.” “Same country of origin,” he wrote, before adding that “should probably be banned,” because “if you dabble in it,” you’re going to find yourself “utterly wrecked.” He’s right. Sadly, most users don’t dabble in it. Six percent of users spend at least 1.5 hours per day on the platform. TikTok has 1 billion users worldwide. It’s popular. Insanely popular. China knows this. And as the author Alan MacLeod, who has written extensively on the use of propaganda, recently noted, NATO knows this. In a truly methodical manner, MacLeod, much to his credit, manages to shed considerable light on what he calls the “NATO to TikTok pipeline.” A 3D printed Tik Tok logo is seen in front of U.S. flag in this illustration taken Oct. 6, 2020. (Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Reuters) Two years ago, according to the investigative journalist, TikTok started employing “a wave of former spooks, spies and mandarins,” all of whom were “appointed to influential positions” within the company. Many of those appointed are actively involved in “content and policy.” MacLeod begins the exploration of the “pipeline” by discussing Alexander Corbeil, vice president of the NATO Association of Canada. At the same time, Corbeil is a content policy analyst for TikTok Canada. Then, there’s Ayse Koçak. As MacLeod highlights, before joining TikTok in 2021, Ms. Kocak spent three years working for NATO. Another interesting figure is Foard Copeland. An ex-NATO employee, Copeland works on TikTok’s trust and safety policy. Not only did he previously work for NATO (as a desk officer), he was also an employee of the Department of Defense. The cherry on the unappetizing cake comes in the form of Greg Andersen, an individual who once played a key role in running “psychological operations” for NATO. Shortly after MacLeod’s analysis made headlines, Revolver News published a rather outstanding piece, discussing a NATO-funded NGO. The Institute for Statecraft Integrity Initiative was supposedly established to defend democracy against disinformation. However, as the Revolver piece highlighted, the initiative was “caught red-handed conducting a secretive influence operation to meddle in the internal politics of Spain, a democratic NATO member.” Interestingly, the piece highlighted “how crucial—indeed, indispensable—the social media platform Twitter was to the influence operations in question.” Twitter, you see, has become “a theater for U.S., U.K., and NATO backed psychological influence operations.” This, according to analysts at Revolver, explains why there was such panic over Elon Musk’s attempt to purchase the social media platform. Elon Musk’s Twitter profile is seen on a smartphone placed on printed Twitter logos in this picture illustration taken April 28, 2022. (Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Reuters) Elon’s “threat to allow free speech and transparency on Twitter,” according to Revolver, was seen as a “declaration of war” against the Truth czars. The Revolver piece goes on to discuss Nina Jankowicz, a woman who was chosen by the Biden administration to run the Disinformation Governance Board (currently on pause). Considering she called the release of Hunter Biden’s emails a “Russian influence op,” perhaps she wasn’t the best pick for the position. On May 18, Jankowicz officially resigned from her position with the Department of Homeland Security. Prior to working with the federal executive department, Jankowicz appears to have been heavily involved with the Integrity Initiative. The “pipeline” runs deep, very deep indeed. Censorship has evolved significantly. Politics, we’re told, is downstream from culture. But, we must ask, is it? After all, what is culture but ideas and beliefs of a particular group. Now, ask yourself, what is censorship? The suppression of very specific ideas and beliefs. As the Revolver piece warns, contrary to popular belief, censorship is much more than a few “woke employees at Big Tech companies dec

Operation Mockingbird Gets a Big Tech Makeover

Commentary

In the late 1940s, as geopolitical tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union began to heat up, the CIA launched Operation Mockingbird, a large-scale program that used news media for one purpose only: to disseminate as much propaganda as possible.

According to award-winning author Deborah Davis, Operation Mockingbird “owned” highly respected journalists at outlets like Newsweek, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, to name just three “communications vehicles.”

Fast forward almost 80 years, and the game has rapidly evolved.

Today, intelligence officials use the most popular social media platforms to manipulate us and mold our minds. This brings us to TikTok, an app that I have written about extensively (see here and here). To call the app problematic is akin to calling its country of origin, China, problematic. In other words, an understatement of epic proportions.

Antonio García Martínez, a New York Times best-selling author and tech entrepreneur, recently called TikTok “the fentanyl of social media.” “Same country of origin,” he wrote, before adding that “should probably be banned,” because “if you dabble in it,” you’re going to find yourself “utterly wrecked.” He’s right.

Sadly, most users don’t dabble in it. Six percent of users spend at least 1.5 hours per day on the platform. TikTok has 1 billion users worldwide. It’s popular. Insanely popular. China knows this. And as the author Alan MacLeod, who has written extensively on the use of propaganda, recently noted, NATO knows this.

In a truly methodical manner, MacLeod, much to his credit, manages to shed considerable light on what he calls the “NATO to TikTok pipeline.”

TIKTOK
A 3D printed Tik Tok logo is seen in front of U.S. flag in this illustration taken Oct. 6, 2020. (Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Reuters)

Two years ago, according to the investigative journalist, TikTok started employing “a wave of former spooks, spies and mandarins,” all of whom were “appointed to influential positions” within the company. Many of those appointed are actively involved in “content and policy.”

MacLeod begins the exploration of the “pipeline” by discussing Alexander Corbeil, vice president of the NATO Association of Canada. At the same time, Corbeil is a content policy analyst for TikTok Canada. Then, there’s Ayse Koçak. As MacLeod highlights, before joining TikTok in 2021, Ms. Kocak spent three years working for NATO. Another interesting figure is Foard Copeland. An ex-NATO employee, Copeland works on TikTok’s trust and safety policy. Not only did he previously work for NATO (as a desk officer), he was also an employee of the Department of Defense. The cherry on the unappetizing cake comes in the form of Greg Andersen, an individual who once played a key role in running “psychological operations” for NATO.

Shortly after MacLeod’s analysis made headlines, Revolver News published a rather outstanding piece, discussing a NATO-funded NGO. The Institute for Statecraft Integrity Initiative was supposedly established to defend democracy against disinformation.

However, as the Revolver piece highlighted, the initiative was “caught red-handed conducting a secretive influence operation to meddle in the internal politics of Spain, a democratic NATO member.”

Interestingly, the piece highlighted “how crucial—indeed, indispensable—the social media platform Twitter was to the influence operations in question.”

Twitter, you see, has become “a theater for U.S., U.K., and NATO backed psychological influence operations.” This, according to analysts at Revolver, explains why there was such panic over Elon Musk’s attempt to purchase the social media platform.

Illustration shows Elon Musk's Twitter profile on smartphone and printed Twitter logos
Elon Musk’s Twitter profile is seen on a smartphone placed on printed Twitter logos in this picture illustration taken April 28, 2022. (Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Reuters)

Elon’s “threat to allow free speech and transparency on Twitter,” according to Revolver, was seen as a “declaration of war” against the Truth czars.

The Revolver piece goes on to discuss Nina Jankowicz, a woman who was chosen by the Biden administration to run the Disinformation Governance Board (currently on pause). Considering she called the release of Hunter Biden’s emails a “Russian influence op,” perhaps she wasn’t the best pick for the position.

On May 18, Jankowicz officially resigned from her position with the Department of Homeland Security. Prior to working with the federal executive department, Jankowicz appears to have been heavily involved with the Integrity Initiative. The “pipeline” runs deep, very deep indeed.

Censorship has evolved significantly. Politics, we’re told, is downstream from culture. But, we must ask, is it? After all, what is culture but ideas and beliefs of a particular group. Now, ask yourself, what is censorship? The suppression of very specific ideas and beliefs.

As the Revolver piece warns, contrary to popular belief, censorship is much more than a few “woke employees at Big Tech companies deciding whom to ban and which topics become trending.” The overarching narrative of censorship and control begins at the state level, before trickling down to civil society groups and NGOs, as well as “networks that control domestic information.” All of this is done “under the pretext of preserving national security” and, of course, fighting “disinformation.”

One is reminded of “Fahrenheit 451,” Ray Bradbury’s magnum opus, a dystopian novel in which firemen are in fact arsonists. Are the arbiters of truth actually purveyors of misinformation? I’ll let you answer this question yourself.

However, as is clear to see, the self-appointed arbiters are far from credible, and far from clean. Operation Mockingbird has morphed into Operation Mainstream.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. His work has been published by the New York Post, The Sydney Morning Herald, Newsweek, National Review, and The Spectator US, among others. He covers psychology and social relations, and has a keen interest in social dysfunction and media manipulation.