By Seana Sperling
Throughout history different regimes have constructed programs to control dissent. During the Cultural Revolution in China, students were encouraged to denounce, harass and sometimes even stone the Intelligentsia, their Professors and Scholars. This was Chairman Mao’s way to silence his biggest critics. The pigtail, a sign of the Intelligentsia was stigmatized and many were publicly clipped off. Thousands of miles away, in the United States, the Intelligence Agencies began using Cointelpro to destroy Peace Activists and other critics in the “land of the free.” According to former FBI Agent, Mike German who is currently working with the ACLU, Cointelpro, which was supposed to have ended when the Church Committee Report exposed it in the 1970’s, is still alive, but has evolved.
Cointelpro One involved using rumor campaigns, gaslighting, set-ups and tracking of Peace Activists and other dissenters. In the 1960s the FBI, paired with local Law Enforcement agencies and even some corporations started using these tactics against demonstrators, writers and the nation’s critics.
Peace Activist Abbie Hoffman was gaslighted, defamed, tracked and harassed for years by the F. B. I. The film Steal This Movie reveals a part of his life that mainstream media would never cover. Hoffman was under constant threat of arrest, which drove him underground for years and this isolated him from his real support group. His crime: organizing very creative protests against the Vietnam War and criticism of the corruption in government. (There were accusations of cocaine possession, but Hoffman maintained that law Enforcement had planted this according to his biography on Wikipedia.) In the late 1980s Hoffman made a brief comeback and began organizing and teaching about civil disobedience with students at Amherst. (I saw him speak at my University in 1988.) Unfortunately, Hoffman took his life in 1989. He was only 52-years-old.
General Motors used Cointelpro tactics against Ralph Nader after he exposed GM’s faulty and even dangerous vehicles in the 1970s. In the documentary, Ralph Nader, an Unreasonable Man, Nader tells how complete strangers followed him around (Gaslighting) and he also speaks of set-ups. On Gaslighting: if you tell friends that strangers are tracking and harassing you, and they see no evidence of it, they will think you are paranoid.
Cointelpro Two includes all of the above, but similar to the Cultural Revolution in China, it involves recruiting certain members of the community with propaganda and even slander against the target. Then this group will engage in tracking, set-ups and gaslighting of the targeted Activist, Writer, Teacher, etc. The group feels flattered that they have been selected for such an important job and they do not see themselves as tyrants and Informants, but as protectors. One even said as much to me. It was late afternoon and I was walking from the grocery store. There was a 20-something, white, male standing near the store entrance looking at his cellphone then he looked directly at me and said, “I’m here to protect babies!” I thought, “From what?” At the time, I did not know about all the slander about me on sites like www.rottenneighbor.com.
Cointelpro Two is much nastier than it’s forerunner. Not only can they start a rumor campaign that the person is crazy and anti-American, but they throw in false accusations of sexual deviancy and criminal behavior. If you want an entire community to hate someone, just put out an accusation that the person is a pedophile. Then local Law Enforcement is able to Amber Alert a judgmental and punitive populace to track, harass, gaslight and even set-up the Activist. Some local Law Enforcement agencies use average citizens as Informants and empower them to go after the victim of the accusation. Welcome to the United States of Oceania.
With the expansion of Cointelpro, the Intelligence Agencies have a vast and more efficient communication system to gather and disseminate information called the Fusion Center. Corporate America has also created Intelligence gathering websites like www.123people.com, www.pipl.com, www.instantcheckmate.com, etc. that gather all sorts of correct, but also erroneous information on millions of people without their consent or even their knowledge. According to some of these sites I am three different ages and they offer my Social Security number, address, and phone number, etc. for a price. Of course I get none of the proceeds or even a say in their selling of my information. Also, some of these sites claim to have arrest records on me. I checked my name on www.instantcheckmate.com and a warning popped up: “Caution. This background report is very graphic… The content of this report may shock you, so please prepare yourself for the unexpected.” I actually paid the $19.86 fee to see if there was more slander there. There were no arrest records of course, but anyone looking at that warning would think that some serious crime had been committed. If you are seeking employment and that comes up in a Google search, well, good luck.
If you try to get your information removed, you are lead into the maze of links and original source research and nothing is really ever taken care of. This may be another way to harass and gaslight people. I even wrote to Washington State, Attorney General, Rob McKenna’s office, and sent in plenty of documentation, yet was told there was nothing they could do. These sites are allowed to slander me, violate my privacy and sell my private information, yet there is nothing the Attorney General can do? This is not a 1st Amendment issue, but Corporte America violating my rights. It’s a flagrant violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.
Another prop from the toolkit of Cointelpro Two is called Social Isolation. Social Isolation has been used in our prison system for decades and is called Solitary Confinement. The person is cut off from others and since humans like most animals are social animals this breaks the person down incrementally. The longer they are isolated, the more they adjust to it. When and if they are finally thrust back into a social environment, they must adapt again, which causes social awkwardness.
Social Isolation addresses all avenues of support that may be available to the activist/writer, etc. Cointelpro’s vicious rumor campaign takes care of the support group. Family and friends will shun the activist/writer, etc. because of slander or accusations of being “under investigation.” Who wants to be friends with someone that is under investigation for anything? Sometimes the support group merely tires of the victim’s complaints of constant harassment from strangers, neighbors, coworkers, etc. When the support group is gone, or at least very weary, Law Enforcement (and in my case many former Military) can surround the person with people that, under the guise of friendship, will continue to gaslight, set-up the victim and spread more rumors. These are called Handlers. They may even record everything the victim says on their cell phones and later put it up on You Tube or any other video, voice-over site.
Handlers and infiltration are tools of both Cointelpro One and Two. There have been assorted reports of former Military and off-duty Police officers infiltrating Peace groups since the 1960s. One segment of Michael Moore’s Documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11 shows how a Peace group found that one of their members was actually an off-duty deputy using an alias, after his photograph appeared in the local paper with his real name.
I know about Handlers personally. In my naiveté, I befriended some former military who only revealed their deeply conservative and militaristic side in 2006 after my life had become a shambles. I remember the look of satisfaction on one bully’s face when I was almost at my breaking point. I had lost real friends and was being bullied everywhere I went by complete strangers because of the rumor campaign. Thus I was gaunt, exhausted and hyper-vigilant. I also had multiple phone calls from around the country at all hours, Cyberbullying and E-personation. I would find my name linked to provocative items on the Internet, which of course provoked even more bullying. (The slander helps the bullies recruit.) Since 2006 I have had to turn the ringer off on my land line phone and screen calls with my answering machine. I do not own a cell phone for a variety of reasons.
Cointelpro, although rarely discussed in mainstream media, is known in many activist and scholarly circles. In fact even Microsoft Word recognizes the term and I did not have to add it to Word’s lexicon even though I have had to add many other regular words. Mainstream media needs to pay closer attention to this violation of our constitution. Unless the majority of people know how serious it is and how much it threatens democracy, the bad guys will win.