The US Government's Secret Plan To Control The Media Explained

The CIA has a tried and true method for getting away with just about anything it wants: leave as few loose ends as possible, deny those that make their way into the public eye, and finally admit the wrongdoing decades later when no one cares anymore. Author Deborah Davis exposed one such operation in detail in her 1979 book "Katharine the Great: Katharine Graham and Her Washington Post Empire."

The CIA's infiltration into the news media began after World War II, as the spread of Communism became a major concern for the political, military, and business leaders of the United States. Established in 1948 under the name Office of Special Projects, the department was soon rechristened the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), a euphemism for "Official Propaganda Department." This is not exaggeration. According to Spartacus Educational, the word "propaganda" was explicitly mentioned in the office's mission statement, among other surreptitious activities like "economic warfare; preventive direct action, including sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance groups, and support of indigenous anti-Communist elements in threatened countries of the free world."

In addition to the Post, Davis accused several other media outlets of collaborating with OPC director Frank Wisner. "By the early 1950s, Wisner 'owned' respected members of The New York Times, Newsweek, CBS and other communications vehicles." But were her claims true, or was Davis just another Communist operative aiming to degrade trust in U.S. institutions?

Operation Mockingbird is consistent with documented CIA tactics

In the age of fake news and widespread distrust, it can be hard to separate what really happened from birdbrained conspiracy theories. (Ironically, this societal problem may actually have its roots in the CIA's meddling with the media in the first place.) Operation Mockingbird was actually part of a broader effort by the U.S government to convince the American people that Communism was at their doorsteps and the country was about to turn into one long bread line. For example, as a pretext for combating what they perceived as a Communist threat from Cuba, U.S. military leaders proposed a jaw-dropping secret plan to terrorize American citizens. They suggested several treasonous acts, such as "false flag" attacks on U.S. ships docked in Cuba, or even on the streets of American cities. The idea was to lay the blame on Cuba, thus manifesting the threat they wanted to create. Luckily, Operation Mockingbird worked well enough, and no such terroristic tactics were needed to spark the Red Scare.

In fact, in a 2013 obituary for a spy in the program, The New York Times admitted to its role in Operation Mockingbird, and pointed the finger at other media organizations, including CBS News and Newsweek, Life, and Time magazines. So appears that the CIA really did manipulate the American public and stoke overblown fears of a war against Communism. One can only hope the agency has cleaned up its act in the decades since.