By Kayla Moon
Infiltration can take many forms by a multitude of different entities. Informants follow commands of a government, state, local and corporate interests. In this article, we look specifically at activists and social movements over the past 10 years to highlight the techniques of how infiltration tactics are utilized and achieved.
First is media, broadcasting and televised infiltration. Broadcasting infiltration has the ability to seize the narrative controlling what is televised to sway public opinion. It also can silence revolutionary noise on a grand scale.
In the case of Occupy Wall Street, the media minimized on-the-ground efforts and peaceful actions, smeared individuals and swayed conversations through third-party narrations. The media also likes to amplify violent actions by highlighting aggression toward police and militarized tactics utilized by police.
When Occupy Wall Street began to trickle into the hearts and minds of activists, the movement was at first entirely ignored. The media then painted the movement as stoners, hippies and college kids who had no idea what they were talking about.
Occupy Wall Street was a historic clash between the 1% and the 99% that successfully reignited activism into the hearts and culture of American society as we know it today, yet was allotted only 30-second soundbites and narrations of spectators rather than its participants. A takeaway is that, with any social movement, on-the-ground, grassroots, independent journalism is necessary to have a distinct and authentic voice and ensure proper non-biased coverage.
Next is online infiltration, having characteristics of agitation and disruption. There is also online surveillance, smear campaigns, fake Web sites, and blocking or disabling information and personal accounts.
These techniques can leach onto unsuspecting activists, organizations and social movements in a matter of seconds. Fake Web sites have the ability to sabotage an organization’s message or sabotage a person’s identity (i.e., character assassination). Many activists and change makers have been blocked or banned from platforms such Patron, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.
Infiltrators troll, hack, confuse or sway narratives and public opinions. Finally, the most dangerous of online vulnerabilities is online surveillance and mass data collection. The legality of it is still unknown, but it is undoubtedly intrusive.
A social movement that fell victim to these techniques is Black Lives Matter. Local police departments and private tech companies were found to be testing pilot programs even in Fresno.
The ACLU was contacted by concerned citizens and did an investigation of the program. The ACLU states that the “Fresno police have been using a specially offensive piece of software called MediaSonar, which encourages police to identify ‘threats to public safety’ by tacking #BlackLivesMatter related hashtags.”
The ACLU further stated that “while the way in which our society expresses itself is shifting, the principles of the First Amendment remain unchanged. Advances in technology are not an excuse for new forms of unaccountable surveillance.”
One of the co-founders of Black Lives Matter, Alicia Garza, highlights the traumatic effects of organizations such as the FBI, the CIA and ICE. She also highlights the importance of learning how to identify state intervention and that it is imperative for people to take these tactics seriously. Her organization has been spied on by local police departments across the nation.
In addition, Black Lives Matter has been deemed a domestic terrorist group and categorized as “Black identity extremists.” To combat these techniques, there are many creative ways to protect one’s self but one must be aware in order to be prepared.
Standing Rock, also known as NODAPL, experienced on-the-ground infiltration and among the most severe forms of militarized occupation that America has seen in the past decade. The peaceful protest stated a clear intention to bear witness to peaceful and prayerful collective action, but unknown infiltrators had another agenda.
Derrick Broze, an independent journalist, captured footage of unknown individuals approaching two militarized vehicles that appeared to be abandoned on a nearby bridge. The individuals began to set fire to the vehicles, which had been conveniently left near the campgrounds where activists and peaceful protestors were staying.
In the footage captured by Broze, an argument can be overheard where an elder is speaking to the individuals stating that such tactics were not in alignment with the intentions of the movement.
The majority of the Standing Rock population was Native Americans who have had their communities and environments devastated by the oil industry. The people of Standing Rock made it clear to all involved that their motives were to keep the protest peaceful and prayerful.
Yet unknown outsiders had come with their own agendas. Shortly after these events, there was an occupation of militarized force that could only be described as a domestic war zone.
Native and Black communities historically have experienced ongoing tactics of infiltration. Infiltration and decimation of social movements built to empower these communities have occurred since our country’s founding.
It is necessary to combat these cancerous forms of infiltration and suppression of revolutionary individuals and social movements. The growth and success of a movement depends on its ability to combat infiltration techniques for its own survival.
It is concerning that no universal tactic has surfaced to protect oneself against these widely documented methods. It is as if the topic of infiltration is taboo, or somehow cannot be proven therefore it is out of mind.
For those involved with change making and revolutionary action, no matter how small the cause, sharing ideas and becoming educated in this subject matter is crucial. Your group might already be at risk of the worst kinds of infiltration.
Kayla Moon is a freelance journalist who focuses on women’s rights, youth advocacy, and environmental and social issues in the Central Valley. Find her work at futureofminds.com, We Are Change, the Conscious Resistance, the Fresno Flyer and Instagram (@futureofminds).