Breaking: The CIA Doesn't Know Where Tupac Is
One of the strangest little corners of the Internet is the CIA's official Twitter feed, which went live a month ago with a hilarious message: "We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first Tweet."
What ensued was a bizarre month of cheeky little joke Tweets and public-relations stuff, which would not seem out of place for a coffee shop or small retail chain, but seems really weird coming from the CIA. They don't Tweet very often - only 71 messages logged on their one-month "Twitterversary" - but when they do it's things like: "Remember the reports of unusual activity in the skies in the 50s? That was us." This capped off a week-long celebration of the U2 spy plane, which probably enraged UFO conspiracy buffs.
After this paltry handful of messages, the CIA inexplicably decided to mark its one-month "Twitterversary" by answering what it claimed were five of the top questions asked by the agency's Twitter fans. They didn't bother to restate the questions before tossing out the answers, which is either an annoying breach of Twitter etiquette, or an effort to juice up the fun factor of the Twitterversary by making everyone guess what the five questions were. Personally, I'm disappointed that one of the answers they dropped without explanation was not simply the number 42.
Here are the five answers to enigmatic questions given by the CIA:
Really, CIA? One of the top five questions asked by your ostensible 657,000 followers was "Why haven't you followed Ellen DeGeneres yet?" (I say "ostensible" having written at length about the phenomenon of fake Twitter followers, but a lot of people did think that first CIA Tweet was very funny, and promptly signed up to see what other weirdness would emerge from their social-media team.)
And a lot of people were asking if you knew where the late Tupac Shakur was hanging out these days? Is there some big Elvis-style conspiracy movement among Tupac fans that he merely faked his death, and is now doing black-bag work for the Central Intelligence Agency?
Whatever the CIA is trying to do with these weird messages, it's evidently working, because they have thousands of favorites and Retweets for each one of them - 35,000 people gave a "favorite" star to the Tupac Tweet, for example. Maybe some of these folks think the CIA is sending coded messages, in the manner of a "numbers" radio station, and they're trying to decode them.
The bulk of their Twitter traffic is public-relations work, talking about the Agency's history and mission; the stuff they pumped out during "U2 week" was pretty neat. But the dorky little jests, sprinkled through a feed that isn't exactly a fire hose of communications, are what make the CIA such a strange online presence. On the one hand, you might think it's refreshing to see the formidable intelligence agency has a sense of humor, and wants to use the latest social media tools to polish up its image. On the other hand, you wonder, "Is this the best a state-of-the-art intelligence service with scores of analysts and psy-war specialists can do?"
And then you wonder... what if this is what the army of analysts and head-gamers decided to use Twitter for? Is there more to this than meets the eye? Are we being manipulated? Are you being manipulated right now by reading this?