So why would we doubt the claims that are backed up by documents? Because of the legacy of COINTELPRO, a series of covert (and often illegal) actions taken by the government to disrupt the activities of groups they deemed subversive. Most of these actions targeted leftist organizing, like labor, civil rights, and women’s rights. While COINTELPRO is most often associated with J. Edgar Hoover, it was a program that spanned decades and relied on sowing seeds of doubt and engineering situations with false information.
Farai Chideya had a great piece on News and Notes that works as an overview to COINTELPRO. And it was such a defining force throughout the civil rights movement that Democracy Now has an entire category of shows that refer to or discuss COINTELPRO as it relates to activism in the United States.
One of the tactics was false information. Carlos A. Rivera writes a piece for Oakland Local’s community voices section, noting that “Snitch Jacketing” may still be in full effect:
“‘Snitch Jacketing’ is a classic counter-intelligence practice, in which people who are not informants are named as informants either via ‘leaks’ or via other actual informants, in order to de-stabilize the targetted individual or the targetted group. It is historically extremely effective, and hence has been used time and time again.’
But why wouldn’t this information been made more public at the height of Aoki’s activism, if snitch jacketing is in play? Rivera believes that the current political climate around the globe means that we should expect more undermining of civil rights leaders. He also makes an interesting point near the end of his piece:
“But what if it is true?
“This recalls the Malinovsky Affair from Bolshevik times. Roman Malinovsky was a leader of the Bolsheviks–a member of the Central Committee and leader of the Bolshevik group in the Duma, as well as a protege of V.I. Lenin. He was also an informant of the Czar’s secret service–and responsible for the exile and jailing, one by one, of all of the Bolshevik leadership between 1910-1914. Lenin, when confronted with this information, took it in stride: ‘If he is a provocateur, the police gained less from it than our Party did.’
“He finally met his demise at the orders of Zinoviev, when he tried to rejoin the victorious Petrograd Soviet in 1918.
“Aoki is dead. He can neither confirm nor deny this information–nor can we evaluate him as a living participant in the revolutionary movement, and much less provide some sort of justice.
“We can, however, at the very least, judge as Lenin did, if the movement or the State gained more in this situation. I offer that the balance lies with the movement. His contributions–in practice and as a symbol, are much more important and central than any snitching he might or might not have done. This is an extremely important point to raise in breaking the encirclement of the counter-intelligence effort.”
Can we believe these allegations? And if we do, how does it impact Aoki’s legacy?
- Latoya Peterson asks two rather provocative questions regarding the information alleging that former Black Panther Richard Aoki was an FBI informant. I’m still not sure what I think about it… (via racialicious)