Pig eating popcorn - don't beef on social media!

Movement Disagreements on Social Media Openly Serve the Police

Social media presents a number of very clear advantages in helping us spread the word about the need to fight for a better world.  These platforms, although certainly owned by capitalist entities, still offer some degree of autonomy to communicate information to a wide variety of people.  And, you can do so at minimal cost.  In fact, it is even now possible to organize successful events spreading the word exclusively through electronic means.  Although that last thing is a benefit, its also a gateway into the issues surrounding social media usage in the movements for justice work.  I say this because no one can convince me that the most important work we need to take our struggles to the next level is not organizing work e.g. work designed to build consciousness and commitment to engage in a sustained struggle to achieve power for the masses of people.  This type of organizing work is completely different than the type of great mobilizing work that most people are acclimated to doing.  Mobilizing work can be done through social media because its possible to put an event together this way since the objective is to get people to show up.  The problem is showing up is really only the first level that needs to be achieved.  The real work is getting people to keep showing up.  To keep being engaged.  And, to take ownership of the work and to learn how to do it without you telling them.  This is where mobilization moves to organization because now you are talking about mass work to create greater capacity to fight.  And, you cannot do this work electronically.  It must be done by working with people.  Directly with people.  And, doing so on a consistent and sustained basis.

The other major shortcoming of social media is that it provides an easier, and I’d argue, lazier way to do work.  People can say anything on social media because unlike real life, we are all the same on the internet.  This has become a significant issue because people with virtually little to no organizing experience can suddenly accelerate to “leadership” through a social media presence.  Someone who has done nothing except type from a computer screen from their house has suddenly taken on the same credibility as someone who has extensive organizing experience.  This is a very dangerous reality for what should be obvious reasons.  People who read one or two articles about something actually believe they are well versed on the issue and this is creating dangerous conditions for us to do our work and the evidence is overwhelming and all around us.

On a daily basis, you can see very inexperienced people carrying out attacks against other people on social media.  Accusations are openly made, arguments encouraged, and any and everyone who has a keyboard is able to chime in.  Most of these people are not even dedicated enough to these movements to join organizations that would hold them accountable to the ideas they say they believe in, but this apparently isn’t a great concern to most of the people who engage in this behavior because you’ll keep doing it.  And, the most concerning part is you are doing this with an apparent disregard and/or complete ignorance to the forces you are putting in motion against us.  These online attacks provide police agencies with all of the information they need to identify where the antagonisms exist.  They can even figure out who many of the players are.  And since much of the time, these social media activists have no qualms about mentioning whomever and whatever comes to mind, the police receive information about people and organizations that aren’t even directly involved in the social media dispute taking place.  Since the police have this information, that many of you willingly provide to them, they can use it to research who the serious activist/organizers are from the keyboard warriors.  From there, they can devise campaigns to attack the weak points that you are alerting them to in ways that can divert the energy of organizations away from productive work. 

Do you ever wonder why seemingly absurd issues in our activist communities never seem to die?  Well, genius, part of that is because there are probably people hard at work making sure it doesn’t die.  In the end, you spend so much time on this never ending issue that saps all of our energies, burns people out, and does very little to nothing to advance our important work.  You can actually read some of these ridiculous threads and easily pick out where the destructive influences come into play.  You think because you can identify certain trolls that you are on top of this, but when you take a step back and look at it, once you factor in the amount of time you and others have spent engaging in these “battles”, and you consider the mental wear and tear it takes on people, not to mention the lack of concrete advances you receive from it, then maybe you can begin to understand how counter productive this approach is to our work.

The other element is this cowardly form of struggle makes it much easier for the police to turn us against one another.  We haven’t reached the level facing the type of internecine violence that happened from police instigation in the 60s/70s, but we are alarmingly on our way back to those days.  Malcolm X is dead because of police inspired manipulation of his relationship with Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad.  Malcolm made a serious error when he publicly called out Muhammad for fathering four children out of wedlock.  Of course, when he did that, the police agencies celebrated in glee because they knew they had the ammo they needed to pour oil on the fire and their now public records verify that.  If you look at that instance and compare it to much of what’s happening today, the similarities are undeniable.  You may (naively) believe the work you are doing is on a much different level than what Malcolm was doing, but again, you aren’t considering that the police are using what you are doing to get to the people who are really putting in work.  If you are around real revolutionaries who are putting in work and you are engaging in this social media foolishness, than you are putting all of the real work at risk because the police will use what you are doing to create manipulative campaigns against the real work (and people) taking place. 

Numerous people who had the same level of naivete as many of you are dead or in prison today because of their ignorance and arrogance around what they were doing.  Alex Rackley, Samuel Napier, and Anna Mae Aquash or just a few examples of organizers/activists in the African and Indigenous movements who were killed, not by police, but by well meaning people who were spurned on by clandestine police actions.  Actions none of the people involved had a clue were taking place.  And, I’m sure all of those people thought there was no way in hell that the police had any interest in anything they were doing, just like you.

Most if not all of the people who suffered through the worse of police sabotage in the 60s/70s who lived to talk about it have warned us.  Assata Shakur speaks to it directly in her book “Assata.”  Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), one of the biggest targets of police sabotage, lectured about it actively until his death.  Dennis Banks and Russell Means have written about it.  Huey P. Newton wrote his doctorate project on it.  Still, I know most of the people reading this aren’t listening because you keep feeding social media e.g. the police with plenty of information.  I’d like to think you keep doing it because you just don’t understand (I actually know that’s the reason), although you think you do understand.  You think you do know about the FBI’s counter intelligence program, but if you did, you wouldn’t feed them as you do.  So, here are a few suggestions as to how you can stop helping them make our lives harder:

Don’t post, publish, or tweet out anything about any organization or individual that is attacking anything besides their ideas.  Challenging ideas is always OK in any forum, but if you have feedback for them, criticism, concerns, etc., that must be done in person.  And, it must be done in a direct and principled way e.g. no passive aggressiveness.  Just honest articulation of the problem and a discussion about how to address it.  Then, once that is done, it shouldn’t be discussed with anyone else because doing so does nothing to help alleviate the issue.  If people started approaching these problems in this way, we could develop an atmosphere, culture if you will, that encourages honest and principled struggle.  This will wilt away the dominantly cowardly atmosphere that currently exists that feeds the subjective, incomplete, and destructive approach to addressing problems that people are using when these attacks are waged on social media. 

Another benefit is doing the above helps create an environment where we are all accountable to each other.  This is essential because it erodes the current environment where individuals who are only accountable to their egos are permitted to have such free reign that they are actually treated as if they have as much credibility as people who dedicate their lives to this work and to humanity.

Also, take a strong look at these so-called accountability processes.  The track record is not good and if you are serious about creating stronger communities you need to look at that.  I don’t believe people’s behavior can be legislated.  If people don’t have the consciousness to accept an idea, they won’t implement it.  They will act a certain way when they think people are looking, but they won’t honestly live by the true principles.  In other words, if people are not ready to be held accountable, no process in the world is going to accomplish that.  Instead, this is a sign to us that the ideological work to build political consciousness is needed to create that atmosphere I mentioned above.  Until then, your process is not going to work so don’t publish anything about anyone because doing so will only ignite other struggles that end up draining the energy of those who could be doing productive work.  If you don’t believe that think about all the time spent on counter productive scenarios compared to the time spent on actual work in our communities?

Finally, its time for some much needed humility within our organizations and communities.  The truth is most people don’t have a clue how to successfully organize institutions that are needed to combat this backward system.  Isn’t it time for you to recognize that and start doing the things to gain those skills?  The real work?  Maybe we can direct 2017 into focusing in on that work and everyone can resolve to stay off the internet unless you are announcing events, sharing conscious material, or just letting the world know that this abusive system hasn’t taken you out of the fight yet.

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Ahjamu Umi is revolutionary organizer with the All African People's Revolutionary Party, adviser, and liberation literature author.