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Mitch Swenson, Mission Systems, and the Rise of the Mad Megacorp

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On dual monitors, one gray January day in Midtown Manhattan, Mitch Swenson pours over invite-only Substacks composed by ex-private military commandos. As a former conflict journalist, he’s used to combing for useful information. But this time he isn’t reporting on hard news, he’s trying to find levity in it.

Enter Mission Systems, the satirical aerospace defense contractor Instagram account that has seduced bi-partisan appeal through shrewd cultural commentary. Swenson calls the endeavor “a mad megacorp, whose CEO was born in a petri dish of Elon Musk and Deadpool DNA.”

What makes Mission Systems so incisive is its mirror to our absurd world. An image of a polar bear wearing a penguin mask sits among a waddle of the same flightless birds. The caption reads: “We just declassified Operation Bear Witness. This photo depicts an elaborate disinformation campaign by Northern Hemisphere operatives to infiltrate and dismantle Southern Hemisphere labor unions.” The post seemingly illuminates the kinds of psychological operations and mind-bending existence that we have grown accustomed to. After all, we now inhabit a realm where tech billionaires pump meme cryptocurrencies and promise haptic virtual realities better than our own. And Swenson, who now works in advertising, knows this, crafting humorous contexts to remind us that our day-to-day life is still quite daft.

Mission Systems theoretically makes everything, always needs more interns (they keep disappearing?), and moves markets and mayhem with the press of a big red button. “It’s no secret how much under-the-radar influence many of these military and tech companies have, I just wanted to irradiate that in a funny way,” says Swenson, leafing through a French spy novel from the 1990s. “Mission Systems is predicated on Gallows humor. The only thing left for us to do is laugh.”

Swenson conceived Mission Systems in 2018 with a friend from high school. The idea was originally to start a dancehall radio station where the DJs “had the nuke codes” and everything they touched “turned to fire.” But after Swenson started posting the nihilistic techno-memes on Instagram, the brand took on a life of its own, the voice solidified, and the name stuck. The term “Mission Systems” is sometimes used as a catch-all in the aerospace industry to talk about secure communications, but Swenson also saw the joke in it. “It sounds like the private military groups from the 1990s, like Executive Outcomes and Sandline International. It’s confident but also gives away nothing about what it does.”

Another post on the account shows a photoshopped young Barack Obama wearing a Mission Systems T-shirt. Swenson makes clear that he wants “the lore of the company to be fully-realized,” frequently weaving in historical figures to the Mission Systems origin story, driven by founders: Mission Montegue and Cyrus Systems. “The backstory actually really helps propel and inspire future posts.” Says Swenson. He also has plans to develop the account into an animated adult TV show, as well as a newsletter that delivers “High-level intel from fit checks to mad tech.”

With Elon Musk naming his son after a supersonic jet and Jeff Bezos wearing a cowboy hat into space, it’s understandable that tech companies invite parodies. Brands like High-Speed Internet, a skateboard fashion label, and Blackbird Spyplane, a hypebeast email blast, carry themselves with the same satirical seriousness of worldly self-importance. But no one has seemed to take it as far as Mission Systems. Nor, perhaps, do they have the conflict experience to make it as lawlessly spot on.

When asked about the end goal of his fake megacorp, Swenson had an equally sardonic retort. “I plan to take the Mission Systems IP intergalactic.” He says. “We’re actually too big to fail.”

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