It’s not the very first time Government has utilized every means needed to stifle activism as well as resistance.
The latest revelations with the Intercept, exposing how the US government will be dealing with environmental activism at Standing Rock as a possible “insurgency”, should not be a surprise.
The Intercept’s investigation unveils that security company TigerSwan has been working tightly with at least five states to target the demonstrators from the Standing Rock camp as “jihadists”, aiming to destroy as well as delegitimise the whole movement and those standing in unity with it.
But this is not the first-time in which governments as well as corporations used any kind of means necessary to keep the status quo constantly in place. And it won’t be the last.
A long reputation of criminalizing activism
On March 8, 1971, a small grouping of activists known as the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the Federal bureau of investigation broke straight into the FBI business office in Media, Pennsylvania, stole a huge stash of documents and handed them on to the press. The most important aspect in the stolen materials was a file mentioning the word “COINTELPRO“.
This break-in exposed one of the most secretive programmes created by the FBI at that time.
Originally created in 1956 to “increase factionalism, cause disruptions as well as win defections” within the Communist Party in america, the COunterINTELligencePROgram slowly diverted the majority of it’s resources to focus on various other groups and individuals that the FBI considered subversive.
These included the Black Panthers, the Civil Rights Movements, your feminist movement, the anti-war movement, the anti-colonialist movement, activists from your American Indian Movement and many others.
The programme utilized methods such as infiltration, psychological warfare, unlawful force as well as harassment to destroy, often from the inside, any form of ability to resist the status quo.
The actual killing of Fred Hampton, one of the leaders from the Black Panther Party, on Dec 4, 1969, was a part of a COINTELPRO operation.
While the incognito programme formally ended in April 1971, recent history indicates the Federal bureau of investigation along with other government departments haven’t stopped using the tactics which formed the core of the programme.
The truth is, quite the opposite has happened and the methods used by governments, institutions as well as corporations to “pacify” the masses have grown to be increasingly more sophisticated with time.
A couple of years ago, journalist Will Potter exposed the truth that environmental and animal rights activists had been now regarded as the number-one domestic threat in the US and are frequently prosecuted as criminals.
He pointed out that this had happened thanks to the concerted lobby efforts by corporations that have promoted the notion of “eco-terrorism”.
But the US government is in no way not the only real perpetrator of such crimes. Many other countries, frequently including western “democracies”, tend to be treating concerned individuals in the same manner.
A revealing example is the way the UK government and law enforcement officials infiltrated environmentally friendly movements to pre-empt environmental actions as well as protests.
Governments have upped their repressive game criminalising whole movements, like the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movements (BDS) plus solidarity with refugees’ movements within Europe.
Security forces have increased the brutality by which they put down protests, as has transpired within France, when a police crackdown on peaceful demonstrations towards labour law modifications led to dozens of protesters getting seriously injured. And overall, there has been broad tries to delegitimise any kind of radical resistance to power around the globe.
These are all clear memory joggers to activists that challenge hegemony will come at a extremely high price.
It is crucial to comprehend and deal with these types of actions not quite as random acts but as part of a broader framework of repression as well as pacification of civil society.
There’s a world-wide pushback in opposition to activism or what a few have called “shrinking space”, and this procedure has taken different forms The techniques employed can be pure repression (physical violence against human rights defenders, assaults on freedom of assembly, movement, speech …) or even include a lot more subtle approaches, for example philanthropic protectionism in addition to exclusion of organisations and charities with the banking system.
‘We are not losing’
Yet everything is significantly less bleak as it seems. The reality that governments have to make use of contractors and private organizations to accomplish their dirty and often unlawful work has to be understood for what it is.
While they had the ability, even if secretly, to do this themselves a few decades ago, the actions of many, or sometimes of some (whistle-blowers, for example), have gotten an impact.