In a mind-blowing marketing video first published on March 25, but which had escaped widespread notice until recent days, the CIA enthusiastically endorsed several key tenets of what has now indisputably become a hegemonic left/liberal ideological and rhetorical construct:
“I am a woman of color,” the video’s protagonist, an unnamed CIA officer, triumphantly proclaims. “I am a cisgender millennial who’s been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. I am intersectional, but my existence is not a box-checking exercise.”
She continues, “I used to struggle with imposter syndrome. But at 36, I refuse to internalize misguided patriarchal ideas of what a woman can or should be. I am tired of feeling like I’m supposed to apologize for the space I occupy.”
The video is a quick tour de force of the tropes and quirks most closely associated with contemporary “Woke Ideology,” such as:
A direct reference to “intersectionality” doctrine — arguably the ideology’s core operating premise, taken to mean that a broad range of identity-based oppressions “intersect” and must be overturned
Invocation of the term “cisgender,” which is intended to signify the CIA’s inclusiveness of non-gender normative people, i.e. Trans
A denunciation of “patriarchy,” one of the most abhorred identity-based systems of oppression
Weird pride in one’s self-reported diagnosis of mental illness, as though it’s just another identity trait to be advertised and embraced, rather than a debilitating ailment to be cured
The now-ubiquitous use of the noun “space” in reference not to any physical location, but rather to the vague metaphysical force one purportedly brings to bear in life... or something like that. (“Know your worth. Command your space,” the woman further adds)
“Woke Ideology” is an imprecise, amorphous term for a wide-ranging set of beliefs and practices; adherents to the ideology will often deny that such a thing even exists. And yet, everyone who hasn’t been living under a rock knows approximately what the term means, recognizes the rhetorical style by which it is expressed, and immediately understands that this video is an instantiation of it. Sort of like how one can identify instantiations of “communism” or “libertarianism” notwithstanding the perpetual debates about the precise definition of those ideological designations.
While the video was produced by the CIA, it could’ve just as easily been produced by any Fortune 500 company or foundation-funded activist organization, all of which are now reading from more-or-less the same script.
The CIA video is actually just one installment in a running series called “Humans of the CIA,” a title possibly intended to be reminiscent of the Humans of New York social media craze, wherein ordinary citizens are “humanized” with schmaltzy and touchingly relatable stories. Just as the CIA has at least attempted to do with this series.
Another “Humans of the CIA” video features a man narrating his Journey™ with the following quote: “Growing up gay in a small Southern town, I was lucky to have a wonderful and accepting family. I always struggled with the idea that I might not be able to discuss my personal life at work. Imagine my surprise when I was taking my oath at CIA, and I noticed a rainbow on then-director Brennan’s lanyard.”
“Inclusion is a core value here,” the man who Grew Up Gay continues. “Officers from the top down work hard to ensure that every single person — whatever their gender, gender identity, race, disability, or sexual orientation — can bring their entire self to work every day.”
John Brennan, the former CIA Director under Barack Obama (and a main character in the CIA-generated Trump/Russia saga) happens to feature in both of these videos as a man who seeks to ensure that CIA agents can “bring their entire self to work every day,” as opposed to only part of their selves, like just a few limbs. There he is, smiling alongside the Latina Woman as a symbol of CIA leadership’s commitment to equity and inclusion. Also making a cameo appearance is one of Brennan’s successors, Gina Haspel, whose appointment was heralded by the Trump Administration as a victory for “women’s empowerment.” Clearly, there’s nothing partisan about the Agency’s newfound passionate devotion to these identity-related values!
Though it’s possible that the CIA marketing department’s zeal to adopt this lingo intensified with the onset of a new Democratic administration, the PR scheme appears to have predated the inauguration of Joe Biden. On January 4, 2021, a video was posted in which another unnamed agent touts his experience as a “chief of corporate strategy and education for diversity and inclusion” as wonderful preparation for a career in the CIA.
One struggles to imagine Donald Trump personally authorizing such a marketing campaign (although, who knows). Either way, the CIA’s role in left/liberal political activism reached a certain crescendo under the presidency of Trump. Brennan was personally integral in launching the narrative that Trump had “colluded” with the Russian government in order to subvert American democracy, and this narrative became an object of furious fixation on the liberal/left — in part due to Brennan’s constant agitation on Twitter and his perch in corporate media:
(For anyone who denies that segments of “the left” were invested in the Trump/Russia narrative, please take a look at the organizations which sponsored rallies in defense of Special Counsel Robert Mueller throughout 2017 and 2018. They include the Working Families Party, Progressive Democrats of America, People for the American Way, Indivisible, and others. It wasn’t just wishy-washy “liberals” or “centrists” doing this.)
So, the CIA’s latest rhetorical overture could be understood as a continuation of the trend whereby the CIA’s prerogatives increasingly align with the prerogatives of the foundation-funded left/liberal nonprofit complex and activist class. Perhaps not coincidentally, former (or “former”) CIA agents comprised a significant share of Democrats’ incoming freshmen when the Party won control of the House of Representatives in 2018.
Whenever they are confronted with the reality that their rhetorical stylings are being aped across the entire country’s power centers, now including the Intelligence Community, left-wing activists and journalists tend to angrily disclaim any culpability. The CIA’s decision to institutionally pronounce itself a wellspring of “intersectionality,” they’ll insist, is all fake and cynical co-optation.
However, this isn’t so much a “co-optation” as it is a natural evolution of Woke Ideology’s imperatives. The CIA can easily adopt something approximating an “intersectional” attitude toward racial, gender, gender identity-related oppressions and continue on with its ordinary mission. In fact, the adoption of this rhetoric could enhance its mission by strengthening its domestic cultural cachet. Say John Brennan is a true believer in intersectionality doctrine — which definitely is not out of the question — and truly believes the CIA can help carry out its goals. What then?
Asserting some discontinuity between these concepts’ newfound universal popularity and left-wing activism makes no sense. Is there any more potent left-wing belief in circulation at the moment than that of “intersectional” oppressions, and their all-pervasive, defining influence on American life? All the CIA is doing is signaling its eagerness to partake in the ideological project of dismantling these alleged oppressions. In a way, this is a true victory for the Activist Left — the potency of whose beliefs are gaining purchase at a spellbinding pace, probably never more rapidly than in the past year.
But instead of interrogating why it is that the rhetorical and ideological paradigm they’ve relentlessly promoted fits so easily within the country’s most powerful institutions, from Wall Street banks to the Big Tech monopolies to the CIA, left-wing activists and journalists will often petulantly change the subject. After I commented on the “Woke CIA” video yesterday via Twitter, hardcore radical Rage Against the Machine frontman Tom Morello came out of nowhere to accuse me of denying the “evils” of past CIA actions — such as assassinations and coups — and acting like the “real problem” with the CIA is their sudden practice of distributing so-called “woke pamphlets.”
I’m reading a very illuminating book right now (not a pamphlet) that details numerous largely-forgotten brutal CIA transgressions, such as a covert 1958 mission which resulted in the bombing of a market and a church on Ambon Island, Indonesia, obliterating civilians. Anyone unfamiliar with this and other chapters in CIA history should “educate” themselves, and perhaps that will help them understand what the boldly subversive left-wing guitar player evidently doesn’t — which is that “Woke Ideology” is perfectly compatible with the CIA’s institutional prerogative to further entrench its own power.
That history makes it doubly absurd for liberals (and, albeit more tacitly, leftists) to have been so tolerant of CIA interventions into domestic political affairs because their short-term political objectives (disabling and ousting Trump) happened to align. Now, they seem angrier with those who point out the self-evident absurdity of this CIA marketing tactic than with the tactic itself. Maybe that’s because they’ve been prime movers in creating the political conditions under which adopting such tactics is considered shrewd.
(Last summer Morello professed himself a huge fan of Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility, one of the worst books ever written and a main source of the insane “anti-racist” precepts being adopted across corporate America. So that gives some insight into where he’s coming from.)
Liberals and leftists have to constantly run around disclaiming that their beliefs, aesthetics, and speech codes have become hegemonic because posturing as beleaguered, noble outsiders is fundamental to their self-conception. As one Twitter commenter put it to me, “My view is that the CIA has looked at the beliefs of those coming out of elite schools and decided this is how they have to pitch to them.” Well... yeah.
Many don’t find it interesting or worthy of comment that ideological prescriptions and rhetorical formulations once largely relegated to Tumblr and obscure academic circles have migrated to the highest levels of the US intelligence apparatus within a matter of years. They should feel free to keep screeching into the void online, while others attempt to critically evaluate this culture-upheaving phenomenon.