The CIA Should Delete its Account

By Erick-Woods Erickson

The CIA has decided to join social media so that we know they’re woke, hip, and just like us. Here’s our problem. You know what I always say. People are stupid. I don’t think it helps the Central Intelligence Agency to run a campaign to show they’re just like everyone else when everyone else is stupid and you want better from the CIA. They focused on diversity. In fact, let me read you some of this from Politico.

The team has harnessed social media tropes and hashtags including Girl Boss-y posts touting “Women Crush Wednesday,” #KnowYourValue, pumpkin spice lattes, dog photos, #TuesdayTrivia, and a recurring “Humans of CIA” series modeled on the popular “Humans of New York” photography project that went viral just over a decade ago.

They’re supposed to be the intelligence agency. They’re supposed to be spies. They’re supposed to work in clandestine operations. Do we really need them on social media highlighting their wokeness? They put up a commemorative Bay of Pigs victory coin that was made and never issued. This is bad. This is not a good thing. The job of the Central Intelligence Agency is to gather intelligence for the United States. And while they’re out there showing how hyper-woke and diverse they are, how many women work there, how many minorities work there, and that they’re just like you and me, they botched Afghanistan. They either got the data wrong about Afghanistan or the government lied and the CIA is having people leak that no, it was the government who lied. But the more we learn, it looks like yes, the government lied, but also they screwed stuff up as well.

This is stupidity. We live in a vain era, where people want to be seen, where people want to be heard, where people want to engage, where even organizations, bureaucratic organizations within the federal government, feel the need to be on social media to be relevant. You know what? I don’t want the CIA to be relevant. I want the CIA to be accurate in the data that it collects and transmits and interprets. There is no reason for a lot of people to be on social media. There sure as hell is no reason for the Central Intelligence Agency to be on social media. And if it’s employees feel that they have value by being seen on social media, they’re actually undermining the whole purpose of spies. “Hey, Joe. Didn’t we see that guy on Twitter? I think we’ve got a spy in our midst.”

Boom. Yeah, this is nonsensical stuff, but this goes to a larger issue. And let’s jump away from the CIA to the larger issue. More and more people are finding their relevance online. If they’re not online, they don’t know they’re relevant. And confession time. I have moved, thank God, beyond this point in my life. Given what I do for a living, there was a time when I would tweet provocatively. Now I still tweet provocatively for some, but not for this reason. I used to throw out provocative tweets just to see if I get a rise out of people, just to see if I was relevant. I ran for a decade and at the end of 2015, I had already decided I was ready to be done. I had been there for a decade. I had turned 40 years old. I was ready to move on. I’d been at RedState for a decade. It was the longest job I had had until this one. I had done everything I wanted to do. It was the most highly sought after, regarded, center-right blog on Capitol Hill. The Atlantic did a profile of me in 2015 that I was the most influential conservative you probably had never heard of. I had done everything I wanted to do and I was ready to move on. I started The Resurgent and was already on radio.

One of the big incentives for me to leave RedState was that RedState had been bought by Salem Media. It was clearly becoming a conflict over time how to integrate my radio show that was owned by Cox Media Group then and integrated into RedState where I was the brand, so to speak. And I wrote at The Resurgent and for a long time. Philosophically, I thought I should have a brand that transcends me. So I went from RedState to The Resurgent, to heck with the Erick Erickson brand. And occasionally, I would put a tweet out there just to see if I could get a reaction. Am I still relevant? And that’s not a healthy way to live. It just dawned on me by the product of growing up and being mature.

You don’t need to ask if you are relevant, particularly when you have a highly listened to radio show that’s now in syndication nationwide. You’re relevant. People can tell you, “Nobody listens to you.” Oh, I know the ratings. Yes they do. But a lot of people go on social media because they try to find relevance there. And I found this when I was at RedState. We had people who would write on the front page of RedState, who were mal-contented souls, shall we say, whose entire world was wrapped up in their online persona. People who really were nothing offline. And I see this now on social media, the number of people who play someone on social media. They’re not really themselves. They’re a character.

I was talking a while back to someone who used to work for a guy who’s in nationally syndicated radio. Y’all would know who he is, but I want to leave him out of it. But he’s got a striking radio persona, and someone told me that the guy used to not be like that, but he has become his radio persona.

He used to perform online or on radio, and now he is that performance at all times. He can’t turn it off. And I know people like that on social media. They can’t turn off how they behave on social media. They never were, but they become defined by that. Social media is deeply consuming. It’s very narcissistic to a degree, and people become who they are online.

Not only that, they see the reaction they get online on Twitter, in particular, and they decide the whole world is like this. “I need to behave like this in every way, shape, or form.” To a degree, you see this with a lot of talk radio. A lot of talk radio is performance for people on Twitter. You’ve got a following on Twitter. You become relevant on Twitter. So now on radio or on television, you’re going to act like you act on social media, because that’s where you find relevance. That’s where people interact with you. Never mind that Twitter is not the real world. You’ve suddenly taken your behavior and your relevance on Twitter, and you’ve transposed it into radio or on television, and you become that. And that’s really not who you are. It’s not very authentic, but it’s where you find your relevance.

So you don’t find your relevance in your wife or your husband. You don’t find your relevance in your kid. You don’t find your relevance to your church. You don’t find your relevance in your community. What we’ve done is we, as a society, are now fostering people through online culture to offline, where they are actually deeply disconnected from the offline world around them. They’re always performing, even offline, because that’s what they do online. And it hurts their relationships. It hurts their ability to relate. It hurts their ability to tell a story. It hurts their ability to connect to their local community. It hurts their ability to build a community because they’re either on or they’re off. There’s no normal range.

When you have an organization like the Central Intelligence Agency that has decided it’s going to do that too, you can’t help but see longterm the ramifications of that, that the CIA feels like it’s got to perform online. The job of the Central Intelligence Agency is not to perform online. It’s not to promote itself. It’s not to tell its stories. It’s not to reveal who it is. Its job is to get intelligence for the United States of America to keep the United States safe. And when it’s playing the fool on social media, clowning on itself and on others, it’s not doing its job.

When you’re clowning on social media, you’re not doing your job either. In fact, what I found is the people who are anonymous on social media tend to behave the worst. There’s no accountability for them. They’ve become the anonymous caricature. They can let their worst impulses take over. And then that draws people who aren’t anonymous, who are themselves on Twitter, it leads them to their worst impulses. I’m living proof of that. Y’all, I’ve done things I’m not proud of on social media. Thankfully, I’ve grown up. I still make people mad on social media, but it’s for daring to tell people what I truly believe.

Occasionally, I’ve engaged in wilful trolling, just to get a rise out of people. Not really to see if I’m relevant anymore, just because some people need to be given a rise out of them. Some people need to be aggravated. Some people need to be needled. That’s not what the CIA’s doing. And I’ve got to tell you, I think if there’s one thing that probably could help us as a nation, help us as a world, would be to get rid of Twitter.

You can choose not to use it and there are days I think I shouldn’t use it. But for me and my career, where I am right now, I really can’t afford not to, because you would be shocked at the number of times a book publisher wants to know how many Twitter followers or radio stations have. You want to be on a radio station, they’re like, “Well, what’s your social media presence? Can I get on Twitter and see clips of you?” For this career, I kind of have to have it. A lot of people don’t. And it’s great to be destroyed or great to destroy your social media presence before you are destroyed by woke culture, being on social media.

It might be time for a lot of us to get offline. But even if you stay online, even if you stay online, you shouldn’t be defining yourself by your online persona. And the CIA should not be defining itself. Frankly, I don’t want the CIA to be just like me. I want the CIA to be the best of the best, who are out there trying to keep us safe, working in the shadows to make sure that the bad guys in the shadows don’t come get us. When they’re performing and clowning on social media, it makes you wonder if maybe we need a new intelligence agency and should shut this one down. None of us need to perform on social media. None of us need to be defined by our presence on social media. And sure as heck, the Central Intelligence Agency does not need to be woke on social media, discrediting itself with half the population and being made fun of by the other half for being woke.

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