Part 3 of our three-part series on the techniques of trolls. The first two parts were concerned mostly with sabotage and disinformation on the Internet, but Part 3 goes back in time to the days when activists unwittingly came face-to-face with government infiltrators.
This is Part 3 of our three-part series on the techniques of trolls. The first two installments were concerned mostly with sabotage and disinformation on the Internet. They were posted anonymously some time ago. The first two appear to have been written by a professional troll for the “benefit” of less experienced trolls on how to prevent the sharing of inconvenient facts on political forums.
As we pointed out in Part 1, we would normally not publish such material because we cannot verify any of it. Yet, we feel we have actually witnessed these maneuvers on Internet forums.
Part 3 goes back in time to those days when activists unwittingly came face-to-face with infiltrators.
We cannot know for sure, but the anonymous author of Part 3 appears to have had first-hand experience with the FBI’s Counterintelligence Program — also known as “COINTELPRO” — that tormented the anti-war movements of the 1960s and 1970s.
We encourage you to add your own observations to this ongoing collection, in the Comments section below.
And, again, an obligatory if obvious disclaimer: Far from endorsing these attempts to hijack free and open discourse, we believe that exposing them can help blunt their power to confuse and control. Forewarned is forearmed.
Note to readers: The following is the text found on the Internet, as discussed above. The source and background are unknown.
The FBI establishes phony activist organizations, then penetrates them with its own agents, police informants and infiltrators. Their purpose is to prevent any real movement for justice or ecopeace from developing.
The way to neutralize potential activists is to get them into a group that does all the wrong things. This way, a lot of time is wasted, the activists become frustrated and discouraged, they accomplish nothing and, most important — their message doesn’t get out.
Legitimate activists do not subject people to hours of persuasive dialog. Their actions, beliefs, and goals speak for themselves. Groups that do recruit are missionaries, the military — and fake political parties or movements set up by agents.
Agents come in small, medium or large. They can be of any ethnic background. They can be male or female.
The actual size of the group or movement being infiltrated is irrelevant. It is the potential that the movement has for becoming large which brings on the spies and saboteurs.
Good agents will want to meet as often as possible. They will talk a lot and say little. One can expect an onslaught of long, unresolved discussions. It is the agent’s job to keep activists from quitting such a group, thus keeping them under control.
This report lists some of the tactics agents use to slow things down, foul things up, destroy the movement — and keep tabs on activists. If you are an activist, always assume that you are under surveillance.
This report in no way covers all the ways agents use to sabotage the lives of sincere and dedicated activists.
Agents begin relationships behind a well developed mask of “dedication to the cause.” They often declare this dedication, and engage in actions designed to prove it — or appear to prove it.
It’s amazing how far agents can go in manipulating an activist. As long as the agents regularly declare their dedication to the cause, activists will constantly make excuses for anything they do that may seem counterproductive, or even suspicious. And if they do occasionally suspect the agent, they will pull the wool over their own eyes by rationalizing: “They sincerely thought it would help to do that… I’m just slow to understand why that would be a good idea… there’s an innocent explanation for that… I’m just being paranoid.”
Control by Flattery
A favorite ploy of the agent is to privately tell an activist, “You’re a natural leader.” No matter how meek, the person will believe it. The fact is, the movement doesn’t need leaders, it needs movers.
Control By Guilt
In those situations where an activist doesn’t want to go along with a course of action being promoted by the agent, the agent will tell the activist: ”You’re dividing the movement.”
This invites guilty feelings. Those who are truly dedicated are easy to convince that, somehow, any problems are their fault. This is because many dedicated people are naive, and tend to believe that everyone has a conscience and that nobody would dissimulate and lie “on purpose.” So, they tell themselves “He [or she, the agent] must be right… I really am dividing the movement… I’d better go along.”
Control By “Malignant Pseudo-Identification”
This technique is designed to enhance and exploit the activist’s self-esteem. Their narcissistic admiration of their own altruistic intentions increases as they identify with apparently similar intentions of the agent — which are deliberately set up to mirror those of the activist. This is known as “malignant pseudo-identification.”
It is the process by which the agent consciously imitates or simulates a certain behavior to foster the activist’s identification with him/her, thus increasing the activist’s vulnerability to manipulation.
On a more subtle level, the agent will simulate the style, mannerisms, and outer manifestations of the activist’s philosophy. For example, wearing their hair long, or dressing like a “hippie.”
This promotes identification via mirroring and feelings of “twinship.”
Activists are most vulnerable to malignant pseudo-identification while working with the agent, when matters relating to their competency, autonomy, or knowledge are tested. The agent will compliment the activist for all of these qualities, and praise their value to the movement. This in turn will increase the activist’s general empathy for the agent. And they will project their own dedication to the movement onto the agent who is “mirroring” them.
Activists who deny their own narcissistic investments are exceedingly vulnerable to the affective (emotional) simulation of the accomplished agent.
Empathy is fostered in the activist through the expression of quite visible affects. [Ed.: Not to be confused with effects.] The presentation of tearfulness, sadness, longing, fear, remorse, and guilt, may induce in the helper-oriented activist a strong sense of compassion, while unconsciously enhancing the activist’s narcissistic investment in self as the embodiment of goodness.
It is not unheard of for activists — enamored by the perceived helpfulness and competence of a good agent — to find themselves considering ethical violations and perhaps, even illegal behavior, in the service of their agent/handler.
The agent’s expression of such simulated manifestations of emotion may be quite compelling to the observer and difficult to distinguish from deep emotion.
But this lack of sincerity is usually unmasked when the agent notices the activist is not responding as predicted, and reacts inappropriately. This can happen when activists have analyzed their own narcissistic roots and are aware of their own potential for being “emotionally hooked.” They remain cool and unaffected by such emotional outpourings by the agent.
As a result of this unaffected, cool attitude, the agent will compensate much too quickly, leaving the activist with the impression that “the play has ended, the curtain has fallen,” and the imposture, for the moment, has finished.
The agent will then move quickly to the next victim.
Some agents take on a pushy, arrogant, or intimidating manner. They will disrupt the agenda; sidetrack the discussion; interrupt repeatedly; make unfounded accusations, calling someone a racist, for example. This tactic is used to discredit a person in the eyes of all other group members.
Activities of the Saboteur
1. Writes encyclopedic flyers (in the present day, websites)
2. Prints flyers in English only.
3. Has demonstrations in places where no one cares.
4. Solicits funding from rich people instead of grass roots support
5. Displays poorly-worded, confusing banners
6. Compromises the goal.
7. Encourages endless discussions to waste everyone’s time. May accompany the discussions with drinking, pot smoking or other amusements to slow down the activist’s work.
8. Tries to persuade disaffected or minimally committed fellow activists to turn against the movement — and give false testimony against their compatriots.
9. Plants illegal substances on the activist and sets up an arrest.
10. Plants false information and sets up “exposure.”
11. Sends incriminating letters [emails] in the name of the activist.
Activities of the Provocateur
1. Establishes “leaders” to set them up for a fall.
2. Suggests doing foolish, illegal things to get the group in trouble.
3. Encourages militancy.
4. Encourages taunting of the authorities.
5. Tries to get activists to compromise their values.
6. Attempts to instigate violence.
7. Attempts to provoke revolt among people who are ill-prepared to deal with the reaction of the authorities to such violence.
Activities of the Informant
1. Gets everyone to sign up, sign in, sign all kinds of things.
2. Asks a lot of questions about a member’s personal, scholastic, and professional life.
3. Is always on the lookout for leverage for purposes of blackmail later.
4. Tries to determine what events the activist is planning to attend.
5. Attempts to make activists defend themselves in order to identify their beliefs, goals, and level of commitment.
COINTELPRO is still in operation today under a different code name. It is no longer placed on paper where it can be discovered through the Freedom of Information Act.
The FBI counterintelligence program’s stated purpose: To expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, and otherwise neutralize individuals who the FBI categorizes as opposed to the National Interests. “National Security” means the FBI’s security from the people ever finding out the vicious things it does in violation of people’s civil liberties.
Selective List of Related WhoWhatWhy stories:
Why We Should be Thankful for the Cold (Not related to Cointelpro, but listed because of the disinformation deposited in the Comments following the article.
Related front page panorama photo credit: Clip of documents from The FBI Vault COINTELPRO section.