Teen Vogue’s CIA writer and the anti-communist left

a teen vogue article published september 11 2017 opens with the following line: “In this op-ed, former CIA analyst Cindy L. Otis considers how safety in America has changed after 16 years at war in Afghanistan.”

teen vogue bills itself as “the young person’s guide to conquering (and saving) the world”. it’s rather accurate: the magazine promotes imperialism (conquering the world) in pop culture by publishing left-liberal and progressive (“saving” the world) articles that gain it legitimacy among social groups that believe themselves to be opposed to oppressive practices. this has long, well-documented precedents in the u.s. intelligence community’s funding of an “anti-communist left” to build broad opposition to socialist revolutions around the world; in fact, for over a year, teen vogue regularly published articles from a writer, cindy l. otis, who publicly advertises her decade-long career with the cia.

screenshots in this tweet from the account ‘counterpropaganda re Korea’ indicate that cindy l. otis resigned from the cia in the summer of 2017 and began publishing articles with teen vogue at the same time.

not only is otis a “former” cia analyst who conducted “Military and political analysis with regional expertise in Europe and the Middle East”, she bills herself on linkedin as a “Cybersecurity professional and disinformation expert.” she claims to have “Built and lead [an] industry-leading counter disinformation program, leveraging technical expertise and innovative methodologies to identify and attribute complex campaigns conducted primarily by foreign nationstate threat actors and commercial services” for the security consulting firm nisos, and her book TRUE OR FALSE: A CIA Analyst’s Guide to Spotting Fake News is due to be released in july 2020. cindy even maintains membership on usa today’s board of contributors with, among others, three current or former professors at the u.s. military academies; a longtime member of the white house press corps; a former federal prosecutor with expertise in wiretapping investigations; numerous harvard university affiliates; and a onetime president of the pentagon’s credit union. keep in mind that these are only the affiliations she advertises openly on the internet.

otis has published at least two dozen articles with teen vogue while the magazine was gaining social capital with audiences who continued to celebrate it as a “marxist” and “anti-capitalist” publication.

more investigation should be done into how a condé nast property owned by the billionaire newhouse family could be considered a leading voice of left-wing thought, and this is far from the only example of cia veterans openly influencing the left with little pushback or criticism. but when the ties to counterrevolution are as direct and open as those of cindy otis, it’s reasonable to ask: just what kind of politics do teen vogue’s cheerleaders really uphold?

cindy otis shows off a cia teddy bear on her twitter account.
a cia christmas ornament — another one of cindy otis’s keepsakes.

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