Operation: COINTELPRO — The Original Social Media

By 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 of resistance.

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 that experience, to be used against the rising 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 the early Civil Rights movement, at a time when the notorious Senator Joseph McCarthy launched his anti-Communist, racist and anti-labor 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 of trolls whose sole purpose is stirring up fights to foster disruptions among progressive circles.

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).

Professional covert operatives from the FBI, CIA, and police are trained to utilize gossip and false accusations as one of their primary techniques, especially to manipulate the sentiments of the emotionally weak.

Moreover, to achieve this necessary part of spying on progressive groups, government agencies maintain files containing psychological profiles of individuals, in order to search for potential weak links to utilize them for inciting internal disputes.

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

The state uses these methods to achieve their desired outcome of destroying reputations and stir divisions. The final strategy is to cause demoralization, diminish people’s energies and ultimately discredit the politics of a movement.

A close examination of what Edward Snowden revealed should easily tell us how Operation: COINTELPRO destroyed an existing revolutionary movement, but whatever name it’s been given today the goal is still the same – to prevent a movement from rising up.

We should never allow ourselves to be played and lured repeatedly into that trap; We would become guilty of complicity in hindering the people’s struggle for emancipation from oppression.

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.

For those who doubt this assessment and 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 our platforms may be, socialist, anarchist, nationalist, feminist, LGBTQ rights, 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 and preserve their power, we should strive to become better users of that technology in the name of our liberation struggles.

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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