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Rachel Marsden: CIA’s woke recruitment ad obscures a more important diversity issue

Tribune Content Agency logoTribune Content Agency 5/4/2021 Rachel Marsden, Tribune Content Agency
A CIA seal on the floor of CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. © TNS A CIA seal on the floor of CIA headquarters in Langley, Va.

PARIS — Just wondering: Do these new, woke, intersectional, cisgendered, millennial CIA officers have to support Iranian regime change, too?

It seems like a good time to ask, since the CIA released a new video last week aimed at increasing workforce diversity. The over-the-top ad has been roundly mocked, with some commentators saying that America’s foes are probably laughing. Ironically, the exaggerated notion of diversity conveyed by the ad risks keeping the CIA about as ideologically diverse as a 1950s country club. Has anyone considered that perhaps that was the intent all along?

First, a few words about the ad and its sledgehammer subtlety. It looks as if someone said, “We need a new recruitment campaign that’s grotesquely over the top and jams in as many politically correct buzzwords as possible in order to trigger debate over identity politics.”

The ad shows a Latina woman casually walking around CIA headquarters as she describes herself: “I can change a diaper with one hand and console a crying toddler with the other. ... I am a cisgender millennial who has been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder. I am intersectional, but my existence is not a box-checking exercise. ... 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.”

The CIA operators of the future will apparently be asking, “Is this target I’m supposed to vaporize a he, she, or ze?”

The video is about as subtle as anything else the CIA puts out in order to galvanize political opinion, usually against foreign targets. It’s difficult to imagine that this latest piece of propaganda could merely be a recruiting tool that went out over its skis. The CIA’s Canadian counterpart, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, released a series of recruitment ads in 2012 depicting officers strolling around Canadian cities while following suspects. The underlying message seemed to be: “Watch this Canadian spy never leave Canada.” But the CIA’s new video is more than merely ineffective.

Rachel Marsden wearing a dress shirt and tie: Rachel Marsden. © Provided by Tribune Content Agency Rachel Marsden.

One has to wonder whether the CIA’s over the top recruitment drive was meant to distract or deceive. This wouldn’t be the first time that the CIA co-opted radical cultural elements within American society. American feminist icon Gloria Steinem, by her own admission, received backing from a CIA-subsidized front group, the Independent Research Service, to recruit students to attend the Soviet-controlled World Youth Festivals in Vienna (1959) and Helsinki (1962). The aim appeared to be to create a parallel democratic counterrevolution in the U.S. to undercut any attempt to infuse Western society with Soviet ideological influence at the height of the Cold War.

Steinem would later say: “In my experience, the agency was completely different from its image; it was liberal, nonviolent and honorable.”

Would anyone have guessed at the time that the face of progressive feminism in 1960s America had connections to the stuffed shirts in the American intelligence establishment? Not likely. Nor would it have been obvious what motives the CIA might have for establishing an alliance with Steinem.

Fast-forward to 2021, and we’re once again seeing the CIA co-opt and promote woke leftist social engineering — this time under the guise of recruitment. The question shouldn’t be why the CIA would want to hire woke leftists, but why a spy organization that’s supposed to be secretive is openly countering the notion that it would want to be.

It’s difficult to imagine that the CIA wasn’t fully aware of the kind of reaction the ad would provoke. As experts in targeted propaganda and its impact, CIA leaders had to know that it would spark a debate about whether the agency is becoming too wrapped up in identity politics.

It’s also hard to ignore that while everyone is busy debating these frivolities, no one is discussing whether the CIA faces a more serious problem: a lack of ideological diversity with regard to the worldview of its officers.

Who really cares whether CIA officers are woke? What we should really want to know is how many of them have a multipolar worldview vs. a supremacist one. How many CIA officers believe the agency’s role is to protect the U.S. from actual threats rather than promoting global expansionism and mercantilism under the pretext of national security? How many view Russia, China and Iran as sworn enemies that should be targeted for regime change rather than countries with interests of their own that happen to diverge from the U.S. agenda?

While we’re wrapped up in the identity-politics debate sparked by the CIA, we’re neglecting the real debate about political and ideological diversity within the agency as it relates to spy work and America’s place in the world.

(Rachel Marsden is a columnist, political strategist and host of an independently produced French-language program that airs on Sputnik France. Her website can be found at http://www.rachelmarsden.com.)

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