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Revealing the Dark History of CIA Propaganda: Operation Mockingbird

Updated: Feb 10, 2023

Operation Mockingbird was a CIA program in the 1950s and 1960s in which the agency recruited major American journalists to spread propaganda and influence public opinion. The program was started in order to counter Soviet propaganda during the Cold War. It was intended to influence the public's perception of events by using the media to shape opinion and to provide the CIA with more control over the media. Journalists recruited by the CIA were given money and other incentives to write stories favorable to the agency.


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As an example, the CIA planted false stories in the Zambia Times and distributed them to a European journalist, pretending they had originated in Zambia. These stories included false claims of Cuban atrocities accompanied by fake photos. The goal of this false propaganda was to create an illusion of communists being dangerous.

The program was eventually exposed in in 1976 when a number of journalists revealed that they had been recruited by the CIA to spread propaganda. In response to the revelations, Congress passed the Hughes-Ryan Act, which prohibited the CIA from engaging in domestic activities.


The Church Committee Senate hearing on Operation Mockingbird in 1975 was a major turning point in the history of the program. The hearing revealed the extent of the CIA's influence over the media and the extent to which the CIA had infiltrated the media, including newspapers, magazines, television networks, and book publishers.

The revelations of the hearing led to a deep-seated wariness and a renewed focus on the importance of media ethics. The legacy of Operation Mockingbird can still be felt today, as the revelations of the hearing led to the rise of fake news and misinformation.

"As a college student, I had a number of summer jobs and internships, including working at the CIA." –Anderson Cooper

The effects of Operation Mockingbird on the public were far-reaching and long-lasting. By using the media to spread propaganda and manipulate public opinion, the CIA was able to control and shape the narrative on a wide range of topics. This resulted in a widespread mistrust of the media, as people began to question whether the stories they were reading were accurate or simply propaganda. In addition, the CIA’s influence over the media led to a general decline in media literacy, as people stopped critically analyzing the information they were presented with. The effects of Operation Mockingbird are still felt today, as the public continues to struggle with the issue of fake news and misinformation.


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