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, like myself, with the consequences of Operation: CONTELPRO, during the 1950’s, 60’s & 70’s, should never become complaisant and naïve to think that such activities against progressive activists ended. On the contrary, it continued with greater sophistication.

We have learned a lot about covert operations during that period and how it was aimed to destroy the Black liberation, Puerto Rican independence, Chicano, Indigenous and the movement against the war in Vietnam. But what we tend to underestimate is that the rulers themselves have also gained lessons from that experience.

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 liberation movement.

COINTELPRO was created in the 1950’s to spy on socialists and the early Civil Rights movement, at a time when 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 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 within progressive entities


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 to speed up the process of persecuting the Black Panther Party – the most politically skilled and outspoken members who were murdered or imprisoned.

The New York Police Department (NYPD), the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and others, in coordination with the FBI, also used the same divide & conquer tactics against the Black Panther Party’s fraternal ally, the Puerto Rican youth organization 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 Puerto Rican Socialist Party (PSP).

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

Moreover, to achieve this necessary part of spying on progressive groups, both in the pass and present, is maintaining files with psychological profiles on individuals, as they search for potential weak links, to utilize them for inciting internal disputes and cause further divisions.

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

A necessary tactic the state uses to assure their desired outcome is destroying reputations, in order to discredit what the targeted individual(s) politically represent. In so doing they divert energy away from people either engaged or aspiring to involve themselves in political activity.

A close examination of what Edward Snowden revealed should easily allow us to conclude that while Operation: COINTELPRO destroyed a significant growing revolutionary mass movement, whatever it may be called today surely aims to prevent one from rising up again.

We should never allow ourselves to be played and lured repeatedly into that trap; We would become guilty of complicity in hindering the re-emergence of a people’s movement.

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

There is always a politically mature way of reaching resolution to any problem. We must have the struggle for human emancipation at the heart of our convictions.

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 the challenges before us. A severe economic crisis is looming, accompanied by an intensity of racism and fascist legislation.

For those who doubt this assessment as accurate 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 with such rapidity?

The horrible murder of George Floyd by police and the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, are also warning signs that serve to alert us of an approaching crisis in this country, which we must all confront.

Regardless 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 in what they’ve been doing to us.

Social media should be used as a tool for educating ourselves about the revolutionary history of our people’s struggle and for building a movement of resistance to the powers.

The police state is not invincible. Their strength relies on our infighting over pettiness. The state’s covert activities against progressives can be stifled and stopped, provided that we begin the process of closing ranks to have a politically mature disposition in a steeled culture of solidarity and self-respect.

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