Operation: COINTELPRO — The Original Social Media

By Carlos “Carlito” Rovira

When Whistleblower Edward Snowden chose to defect from his professional allegiance to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) the rulers of this country went into crisis mode. We now know how advancements in computer technology, especially the Internet and its many social media outlets, are being used to gather intelligence and serve as a tool to stifle the creation of a new people’s movement.

Edward Snowden

For those with familiarity with the consequences of Operation: CONTELPRO, during the 1950’s, 60’s & 70’s, should never become naive to believe that these government projects aimed against progressive activists ever ended. On the contrary, it continues to this day with greater sophistication.

We have learned a lot about covert operations during that period and how it was used to diminish the strengths of the Black liberation, Puerto Rican independence, Chicano, and Indigenous movements. Operation COINTELPRO was also used against the movement opposed to the war in Vietnam. What we tend to overlook is that the government has also gained lessons from those experiences, to be used against the rise of a new movement.

Operation COINTELPRO employed the most shocking tactics imaginable. They used subtle and emotionally convincing methods to carry out their deceit. Cunning techniques were accompanied by open repressive force aimed to have a devastating psychological impact on the entire movement opposed to the status quo.

COINTELPRO was created in the 1950’s to spy on socialists and early Civil Rights movement, at a time when the notorious Senator Joseph McCarthy launched his anti-Communist, racist and anti-labor political campaign. It utilized information obtained from wiretaps, intercepting postal mail and informants. Today much of that has become obsolete thanks to the invention of non-other than the Internet, specifically social media.

The upgraded methods of surveilling and manipulating by the police state involves specialized units that monitor social media activity and whose purpose is also to stir up fights to foster disruptions within progressive circles.

The notorious J. Edgar Hoover

The notorious J. Edgar Hoover would have been quite content if Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram existed during his time as FBI Director. It is certain that Hoover’s use of that technology would have been for speeding up the persecution of the Black Panther Party – targeting the most outspoken members, like those who were murdered or imprisoned for life.

The New York Police Department (NYPD), the Chicago Police Department (CPD) in coordination with the FBI, used the same divide & conquer tactics against the Black Panther Party’s fraternal ally, the Young Lords.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X were both targets of COINTELPRO.

One of the many things that the racist J. Edgar Hoover openly bragged about was his disdain for leaders of the African American people and the Puerto Rican independence movement, specifically the Nationalist Party and the predecessor of the Puerto Rican Socialist Party – Movimiento Pro-Independencia (Movement Pro-Independence).

What did COINTELPRO rely on?

Professional covert operatives from the FBI, CIA, and police are trained to utilize gossip, false accusations and personal conflicts as one of their primary techniques, especially to manipulate the sentiments of the emotionally weak, narrow-minded, and self-serving individuals.

What this strategy mainly relies on to prevent the rise of a new progressive/revolutionary movement is the absence of critical thinking in a society that generally accepts cancel culture.

Moreover, to achieve this necessary part of spying government agencies maintain files containing psychological profiles of individuals, in order to pick and choose who they can manipulate and steer for precise moments to incite and aggravate internal disputes.

These are usually targeted individuals known to be gossipers and unstable elements who engage in whisper campaigns. In addition, these individuals are also known for their indifference if the movement achieves its political goals, or not.

The FBI and police placed primary focus on destroying the Black Panther Party.

The state uses these methods to accomplish its desired outcome of destroying reputations and paralyze progressive circles with divisions. The government’s ultimate strategy is to cause demoralization, diminish people’s energies and discredit the politics and ideological premise of a movement.

That is why we must always be vigilant of rumor mongers, gossipers, and promoters of petti discourse within our midst. In the end, they serve as the greatest assets of the state. They might as well be paid government operatives.

A close examination of what Edward Snowden revealed should easily tell us how COINTELPRO may have destroyed a movement in the past, but the government’s counterrevolutionary program continues to exist. Whatever name these covert operations have been given today the goal is still the same – to prevent oppressed and exploited people from building a new revolutionary movement.

We should never allow ourselves to be played and lured once again into that trap. We would be guilty of complicity in hindering the development of a new people’s movement for human emancipation.

The Young Lords were also targeted by Operation: COINTELPRO’s divide & conquer tactics.

History tells us that we should never underestimate the police state. They will utilize all situations and any issue to steer our focus away from challenges before us. A severe economic crisis is looming, accompanied by an intensity of racism and the possibility of war. The state will do anything to stifle our efforts to counter such possible scenarios.

For those who hold a contrary view, should ask themselves: Why is white supremacy showing its ugly face so blatantly at an increased pace as civil liberties are eroded? Events today serve as warning signs to alert us of an approaching crisis in this country, which we must all confront.

Regardless of what are our platforms, socialist, anarchist, nationalist, feminist, LGBTQ, and so on, we must not have complicity in what the rulers are attempting. The police state does not need our help to divide us further.

There is always a politically mature way of reaching resolution to any problem. We must always have the victory of the liberation struggle in mind.

Social media should be used as a tool for educating and organizing ourselves against the common enemy. If our oppressors use the Internet to keep us disoriented in order to preserve their power, we should strive to become better users of that technology to combat the system perpetuating oppression.

The police state is not invincible. Their strength relies on poisonous gossip, rumor mongering and petti divisive discourse. The state’s covert activities against progressives can be stifled and stopped. However, we must adapt a standard of using critical analysis of solidarity and respect, when issues or crisis arise among us. It is imperative to our growth that we not employ the reactionary use of cancel culture.

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