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Operation Mockingbird: A Case Study in Media Control

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VIDEO: Media Coverage of Congressional Hearings on the discovery of Operation Mockingbird in 1976.

Television reportage of the open hearings on Operation Mockingbird – revealing the admission of planted stories in newspapers, television and other media in order to sway public opinion. One can only imagine that the public airing of such hearings convinced the public that such events might never again occur.

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Since the late 1940s – directly upon the chartering of the CIA, Operation Mockingbird was hatched under a wing called the Office of Policy Coordination, whose role it was (as was later revealed – only in 1976) to ‘buy influence’ in the media by a number of tactics. Having reporters directly on the OPC payroll was one of these. CIA recruits Frank Wisner (Wall Street Lawyer), Allen Dulles (senior partner at the Wall Street firm of Sullivan and Cromwell), Richard Helms, and Philip Graham (publisher of The Washington Post). Wisner and Graham had directly thought up and initiated Operation Mockingbird and sought the first media recruits.

Media Assets

It is perhaps no secret that media corporations share members of their boards of directors with a plethora of other large corporations, including: banks, capital and investment coroporations, health care corporations, oil companies, pharmaceutical, and NASDAQ companies. Until the start of the 1980s, the media corporations were domestically owned and fully regulated. Under the care of Ronald Reagan, and pressure from the IMF, World Bank, and Federal Reserve, steps were taken to deregulate and privatize the mass media. This resulted in a global commercial media system dominated by a small number of super-powerful supernational companies (primarily US based), working to promote the cause of a handful of individuals, their cronies and employees.

The top level of this hierarchy (mass media branch only) is populated by the likes of Disney/ABC, General Electric/NBC, Time Warner/AOL, Bertelsmann, Viacom/CBS, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation/Fox, Sony, Universal/Seagrams, Tele-Communications, Inc. or TCI and AT&T. This is just the head of the medusa – which has its second and third tiers working in real or feigned cooperation as independent companies. These might include The New York Times/Weekly Standard, Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post/Newsweek, Tribune Co., US News, Gannett/USA Today, Washington Times, Knight-Ridder, etc.

Typical mass media tactics may include blackouts, misdirections, pundits parroting Establishment views, smear campaigns, defining popular opinions, entertainment distractions, and Hobson’s Choice (the presentation of a limted dialectic stemming from a single perspective). Watching Bill O’Reilly on FOX News provides fairly obvious demonstrations of these types of manoeuvre. However – such behavior seems all but universal and independent of a media outlet’s apparent position on the American political spectrum. A fairly critical listen to the seemingly ‘liberal’ NPR reveals shocking bias. In politically ‘hot’ news stories, the opinions of only one side of a debate may be sought, or only the opinions of pundits representing right-wing think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute, The Brookings Institute, The Council on Foreign Relations (perhaps surprising, considering their ‘liberal stance’).

Think Tanks: The Missing Link?

The US Department of Defense (DoD) directly funds a number of US based Think Tanks, whose research, in many cases, goes well beyond the scope of their purported programs. Foremost
among these is the Rand Corporation, whose research directs American Foreign and National policy in a very profound way. From a curatorial perspective – it is difficult to separate the intentions of the Rand Corporation from the US Government itself. The Council on Foreign Relations also exerts an outsized influence over the domestic policy of the government. Not unlike the way in which the US DoD has employed agencies like Blackwater to support activities outside of the Geneva Convention – is not unreasonable to assume that these third parties have a role in some of the more covert aspects of daily CIA operations– as they would be ideal places for concealed activities. Apart from being a great solution to the problems brought up by the 1976 congressional hearings, as well as enable a level of plausible deniability.


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VIDEO: Operation Mockingbird in Hollywood

This short documentary examines the quasi-symbiotic relationship between the movie industry and the military-industrial complex. That is – if the message being communicated in the film is to the benefit of the US Government Department of Defense. Experts comment on how this violates free speech rights and a limiting of ‘freedom’ by the Government. Arguments are also made for this training the population to be more aggressive and ‘pro-war’.

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Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, a media watchdog site.

Operation Mockingbird

Operation Mockingbird: CIA Media Manipulation

A Word From Our Sponsor, Nathan Glazer, The New York Times, 2008.

The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America

Operation Mockingbird Discussion on ‘the Education Forum’


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