Ten Times Empire Managers Showed Us That They Want To Control Our Thoughts

Caitlin Johnstone
10 min readMay 29, 2022


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The single most overlooked and under-appreciated aspect of our society is the fact that immensely powerful people are continuously working to manipulate the thoughts we think about the world. Whether you call it propaganda, psyops, perception management or public relations, it’s a real thing that happens constantly, and it happens to all of us.

And its consequences shape our entire world.

This should be at the forefront of our attention when examining news, trends and ideas, but it hardly ever gets mentioned. This is because the mass-scale psychological manipulation is succeeding. Propaganda only works if you don’t know it’s happening.

To be clear, I am not talking about some kind of wacky unsubstantiated conspiracy theory here. I am talking about a conspiracy fact. That we are propagandized by people with authority over us is not seriously in dispute by any well-informed good faith actor and has been extensively described and documented for many years.

More than this, the managers of the US-centralized empire which dominates the west and so much of the rest of the world have straightforwardly shown us that they propagandize us and want to propagandize us more. They have shown us with their actions, and they have at times come right out and told us with their words.

Here are just a few of those times.

1. Operation Mockingbird

Let’s start with maybe the best-known example. In 1977 Carl Bernstein published an article titled “The CIA and the Media” reporting that the CIA had covertly infiltrated America’s most influential news outlets and had over 400 reporters who it considered assets in a program known as Operation Mockingbird.

It was a major scandal, and rightly so. The news media are meant to report truthfully about what happens in the world, not manipulate public perception to suit the agendas of spooks and warmongers.

But it only got worse from there.

2. Intelligence operatives now just openly working in the media

Nowadays the CIA collaboration happens right out in the open, and people are too propagandized to even recognize this as scandalous. Immensely influential outlets like The New York Times uncritically pass on CIA disinfo which is then spun as fact by cable news pundits. The Washington Post has consistently refused to disclose the fact that its sole owner has been a CIA contractor when reporting on US intelligence agencies as per standard journalistic protocol. Mass media outlets now openly employ intelligence agency veterans like John Brennan, James Clapper, Chuck Rosenberg, Michael Hayden, Frank Figliuzzi, Fran Townsend, Stephen Hall, Samantha Vinograd, Andrew McCabe, Josh Campbell, Asha Rangappa, Phil Mudd, James Gagliano, Jeremy Bash, Susan Hennessey, Ned Price, Rick Francona, Michael Morell, John McLaughlin, John Sipher, Thomas Bossert, Clint Watts, James Baker, Mike Baker, Daniel Hoffman, David Preiss, Evelyn Farkas, Mike Rogers and Malcolm Nance, as are known CIA assets like NBC’s Ken Dilanian, as are CIA interns like Anderson Cooper and CIA applicants like Tucker Carlson.

Operation Mockingbird was the CIA doing something to the media. What we are seeing now is the CIA openly acting as the media. Any meaningful separation between the CIA and the news media, indeed even any pretence of separation, has been dropped.

3. Richard Stengel’s CFR remarks on propaganda

Former US State Department official and Time Magazine editor Richard Stengel expressed full-throated support for the use of propaganda on both foreign and domestic audiences during a 2018 event organized by the supremely influential think tank Council on Foreign Relations.

“Basically every country creates their own narrative story,” Stengel said. “My old job at the State Department was what people used to joke as the chief propagandist. I’m not against propaganda. Every country does it, and they have to do it to their own population. And I don’t necessarily think it’s that awful.”

Interestingly, years earlier during his time at the US State Department under the Obama administration Stengel actually provided his own definition of what precisely he means by the word “propaganda”, and it’s not nearly as innocuous as he made it sound for his CFR audience.

“Propaganda is the deliberate dissemination of information that you know to be false or misleading in order to influence an audience,” Stengel wrote in 2014.

Those are two mighty interesting positions for an empire manager to hold at the same time, especially one who just served on the presidential transition team of the current president.

4. US officials telling the press they’re circulating disinfo about Russia to win an information war against Putin

Last month NBC News released a report citing multiple anonymous US officials who said the Biden administration has been rapidly pushing out “intelligence” about Russia’s plans in Ukraine that is “low-confidence” or “based more on analysis than hard evidence”, or even just plain false, in order to fight an information war against Putin.

The report says that toward this end the US government has deliberately circulated false or poorly evidenced claims about impending chemical weapons attacks, about Russian plans to orchestrate a false flag attack in the Donbass to justify an invasion, about Putin’s advisors misinforming him, and about Russia seeking arms supplies from China.

So they lied. They may hold that they lied for a noble reason, but they lied. They knowingly circulated information they had no reason to believe was true, and that lie was amplified by all the most influential media outlets in the western world.

That this happened while the mass media is continually churning out reports warning the public about the dangers of “disinformation” is an irony that was lost on almost everybody.

5. Senators telling Silicon Valley representatives it’s their job to manipulate public thought to prevent dissent

In 2017 representatives from Google, Facebook and Twitter were called before the Senate Judiciary Committee and told they must “quell information rebellions” and were instructed to come up with a mission statement expressing their commitment to “prevent the fomenting of discord” on their platforms.

“We all must act now on the social media battlefield to quell information rebellions that can quickly lead to violent confrontations and easily transform us into the Divided States of America,” the tech giants were told by think tanker and former FBI agent Clint Watts, who added, “Stopping the false information artillery barrage landing on social media users comes only when those outlets distributing bogus stories are silenced — silence the guns and the barrage will end.”

When monopolistic billionaire corporations are faced with demands from a legislative body that could easily make their lives a lot harder and a lot less profitable by taking action, up to and including major antitrust cases, they are being made an offer they can’t refuse. This was made abundantly clear by Senator Dianne Feinstein during the 2017 hearings in her threat to intervene if those corporations failed to curtail the spread of unauthorized information online.

“You have to be the ones who do something about it — or we will,” Feinstein told the online platforms.

6. The Department of Homeland Security’s “Disinformation Governance Board”

The Department of Homeland Security’s hotly controversial Disinformation Governance Board, which critics have not-unfairly labeled a government-run Ministry of Truth, has “paused” its operations pending a review in light of public outcry. That review will be headed by corrupt imperial swamp monsters Michael Chertoff and Jamie Gorelick, of all people.

No government entity has any business appointing itself the authority to sort information from disinformation on behalf of the public, because government entities are not impartial and omniscient deities who can be entrusted to serve the public as objective arbiters of absolute reality. They would with absolute certainty wind up drawing distinctions between information, misinformation and disinformation in whatever way serves their interests, regardless of what’s true, exactly as any authoritarian regime would do.

Whatever happens with that review we may be sure that the board’s mission will continue, either under its current name or under some other more carefully disguised iteration. The empire is expressing far too much enthusiasm for greater and greater control over public thought to just let this one slip past.

7. The Smith–Mundt Modernization Act of 2012

In December of 2012 the US congress passed a revision of the Smith-Mundt Act as part of the 2013 NDAA which critics said ended restrictions that were put in place to prevent the government from propagandizing US citizens.

The legislation was first highlighted in a BuzzFeed News article by journalist Michael Hastings, who the following year would die in a rather suspicious car wreck while reportedly working on a major story.

“It removes the protection for Americans,” an unnamed Pentagon official told Hastings. “It removes oversight from the people who want to put out this information. There are no checks and balances. No one knows if the information is accurate, partially accurate, or entirely false.”

Hastings’ report sparked online controversy, with many agreeing with his analysis of what would become known as the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012 and others saying concerns were unfounded. Either way, with all that’s happened over the last ten years, it’s clear now that Americans were right to be worried about a dramatic escalation in domestic propaganda.

8. Reagan’s Psychological Operations

The late Robert Parry wrote numerous articles for Consortium News about the Reagan administration’s operations of mass-scale psychological manipulation, which related directly to Parry’s extensive work on the Iran-Contra affair during that time.

Parry described how Reagan and his neocon goons were obsessed with countering the public war-weariness and distrust of US interventionism which followed the Vietnam War in order to gain more consent for the depraved agendas the administration was working to roll out in Latin America. Central to this goal of consent-manufacturing, which the White House called “public diplomacy” in public and “perception management” in private, was a particularly odious-sounding spook named Walter Raymond Jr.

In an article titled “The Victory of ‘Perception Management’,” Parry wrote the following:

During his Iran-Contra deposition, Raymond explained the need for this propaganda structure, saying: “We were not configured effectively to deal with the war of ideas.”

One reason for this shortcoming was that federal law forbade taxpayers’ money from being spent on domestic propaganda or grassroots lobbying to pressure congressional representatives. Of course, every president and his team had vast resources to make their case in public, but by tradition and law, they were restricted to speeches, testimony and one-on-one persuasion of lawmakers.

But things were about to change. In a Jan. 13, 1983, memo, NSC Advisor Clark foresaw the need for non-governmental money to advance this cause. “We will develop a scenario for obtaining private funding,” Clark wrote. (Just five days later, President Reagan personally welcomed media magnate Rupert Murdoch into the Oval Office for a private meeting, according to records on file at the Reagan library.)

As administration officials reached out to wealthy supporters, lines against domestic propaganda soon were crossed as the operation took aim not only at foreign audiences but at U.S. public opinion, the press and congressional Democrats who opposed funding the Nicaraguan Contras.

9. Canadian military leaders using Covid regulations as an opportunity to test out psyop techniques on civilians

Last year Ottawa Citizen reported that the Canadian military used the Covid outbreak as an excuse to test actual military psyop techniques on its own civilian population under the pretense of assuring compliance with pandemic restrictions.

Some excerpts:

  • “Canadian military leaders saw the pandemic as a unique opportunity to test out propaganda techniques on an unsuspecting public, a newly released Canadian Forces report concludes.”
  • “The plan devised by the Canadian Joint Operations Command, also known as CJOC, relied on propaganda techniques similar to those employed during the Afghanistan war. The campaign called for ‘shaping’ and ‘exploiting’ information. CJOC claimed the information operations scheme was needed to head off civil disobedience by Canadians during the coronavirus pandemic and to bolster government messages about the pandemic.”
  • “A separate initiative, not linked to the CJOC plan, but overseen by Canadian Forces intelligence officers, culled information from public social media accounts in Ontario. Data was also compiled on peaceful Black Lives Matter gatherings and BLM leaders.”
  • “’This is really a learning opportunity for all of us and a chance to start getting information operations into our (CAF-DND) routine,’ the rear admiral stated.”
  • “Yet another review centred on the Canadian Forces public affairs branch and its activities. Last year, the branch launched a controversial plan that would have allowed military public affairs officers to use propaganda to change attitudes and behaviours of Canadians as well as to collect and analyze information from public social media accounts.”
  • “The plan would have seen staff move from traditional government methods of communicating with the public to a more aggressive strategy of using information warfare and influence tactics on Canadians.”

So empire managers are not just employing mass-scale psychological operations on the public, they’re testing them and learning from them.

10. The US government funding “independent” media in Ukraine

Lastly, there’s the fact that the infamous $40 billion proxy war package sent to Ukraine includes funds allocated to “Counter Russian disinformation and propaganda narratives, promote accountability for Russian human rights violation, and support activists, journalists, and independent media to defend freedom of expression.”

So information warfare. The US government is funding information warfare to manipulate public perception of this war and running cover for those manipulations by calling them activism, journalism, and independent media.

Given that the mainstream western press have been uncritically reporting even the most outlandish stories coming out of Ukraine without a shred of evidence, we can expect this government-funded propaganda to spread throughout the western world.


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