Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
U.S. Funds “Terror Studies” to Dissect and Neutralize Social Movements

U.S. Funds “Terror Studies” to Dissect and Neutralize Social Movements

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

In the language of ‘terrorism studies,’ the human beings involved in these social movements are 'contagions,' as in vectors of disease.”

The U.S. Department of Defense is immersed in studies about...people like you. The Pentagon wants to know why folks who don’t themselves engage in violence to overthrow the prevailing order become, what the military calls, “supporters of political violence.” And by that they mean, everyone who opposes U.S military policy in the world, or the repressive policies of U.S. allies and proxies, or who opposes the racially repressive U.S. criminal justice system, or who wants to push the One Percent off their economic and political pedestals so they can’t lord it over the rest of us. (I’m sure you recognize yourself somewhere in that list.)

The Pentagon calls this new field of research “terrorism studies,” which is designed to augment and inform their so-called War on Terror. Through their Minerva Research Initiative, the military has commissioned U.S. universities to help it figure out how to deal with dissatisfied and, therefore, dangerous populations all around the world, including the United States.

The Minerva Initiative was the subject of an article in The Guardian newspaper by Dr. Nafeez Ahmed, an academic who studies international security issues. The Initiative seeks to sharpen the U.S. military’s “warfighter-relevant insights” into what makes people tick, and get ticked off at power structures, in regions “of strategic importance to the U.S.” Since the U.S. is an empire seeking global hegemony, and sees the whole world as strategic, the Minerva program’s areas of interest involve – everybody on the planet.

Total War Against the Planet

The Minerva project paid Cornel University researchers to find out when social movements reach a “critical mass” of people – a “tipping point” at which they become a threat to the powers-that-be. In the language of “terrorism studies,” the human beings involved in these social movements are “contagions,” as in vectors of disease. Neutralizing them becomes a job for “warfighters.”

The University of Washington is studying “large scale movements involving more than 1,000 participants” in 58 countries, to see how these folks kept their movements going.

So, now you know why U.S. intelligence agencies are tapping the telephones and Internet communications of virtually the entire population of the planet. They are mapping every conceivable human network, sifting through the myriad patterns of human association to find possible vectors of resistance, which are to be identified and eradicated, like a disease. American military and intelligence enlisted academics to study the dynamics of "the 2011 Egyptian revolution, the 2011 Russian elections, the 2012 Nigerian fuel subsidy crisis and the 2013 Gazi park protests in Turkey" – all with the aim of preventing similar “contagions” from spreading.

The United States military sees itself as engaged in a total war against the entirety of planet Earth: all of its people, its social movements and dynamics, are enemy territory, including the people of the United States.

When American rulers say they are defending U.S. national security interests against all potential enemies, what they really mean is they are defending the prevailing capitalist order against any social movement that might oppose it, anywhere on Earth. They want to put the hole planet on lockdown, and have enlisted U.S. universities in their global fascist project.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20140618_gf_TerrorStudies.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:09pm EDT

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Blackwashing, the Reparations Brand, and a Last Refuge For Scoundrels

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Blackwashing, the Reparations Brand, and a Last Refuge For Scoundrels

A Black Agenda Radio Commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

Why is Ta Nehisi Coates suddenly a public reparista, and what does this say about the reparations movement?

Back in the day when black politicians used to fall out of favor, their friends ratting each other out before grand juries and prosecutors combing their personal records for evidence of wrongdoing, the standard thing for the political figure to do was to get very publicly right with Jesus. The church, after all, seems to never turn anybody down.

Nowadays a disgraced black politician is as likely to blacken herself up with a public embrace of reparations in addition to the old confession of religious faith. Like the church, all one has to do to join the reparations movement is to make that confession of faith, a kind of secular Shahada.

Nobody here at Black Agenda Report disagrees with the fundamental justice of the case for reparations. But it's a just cause with a huge problem. Reparations for the descendants of slaves, the victims of historic Jim Crow and the current prison state is an immense political problem. But apart from a single piece of legislation and a few lawsuits over the last 30 years, reparistas seem to take no responsibility for proposing, discussing or advancing even the sketchiest of political roadmaps to bring us to reparations.

I'm a lifelong socialist, somebody who believes political mountains can and must be moved. But when proponents of reparations don't even try to discuss what the needed political coalitions might look like, what sectors of society we need to win over to make reparations happen, or how many years or decades all this might take, are they acting like a political movement, or like something else? What kind of political movement advances no measures, discusses no plans, takes no responsibility for advancing its own just cause? The answer is that movements don't behave like that at all. But brands do.

Brands neither say what they mean, nor mean what they say. Brands are stories, brands are narratives contrived to get specific emotional reactions, to pull real or imagined memories, sights, smells or feelings from a target audience. To do this brands operate outside of and independent from fact and/or logic. Reparations is not a movement, it's a brand.

A centerpiece of the reparations brand is the study bill that Rep. John Conyers has introduced in every one of the last dozen Congresses except the 110th and 11th. In those two Congresses, Conyers, with four decades of seniority finally chaired the powerful House Judiciary Committee with the ability to move the study bill, or at least the discussion of reparations. If reparations was a movement instead of a brand, he would have done just that. But Conyers put the reparations study bill in his desk drawer until Republicans re-took the House and he no longer had that power. Safely back in the minority again in early 2011, he re-introduced the reparations study bill once more.

After five and a half years of the Obama presidency, during which the problems of black America were ignored and in some cases made worse, some of his black enablers and apologists feel the need to get their ghetto passes re-stamped. Wrapping themselves in the reparations brand is their way of asserting fictive allegiance to African Americans along with some imaginary distance from the president. If Wal-Mart and BP pretending to be environmentally responsible is greenwashing, this is blackwashing.

Polls indicate that a majority of African Americans do favor reparations. But in the absence of a reparations movement with discussions of plans and strategies, reparations is only a brand, available for scoundrels to hide behind whenever their ghetto passes need re-stamping. Today it's Mr. Coates. Tomorrow? Well...

For Black Agenda Radio I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com, and subscribe to our free weekly email updates at www.blackagendareport.com/subscribe. That's www.blackagendareport.com/subscribe.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a state committee member of the Georgia Green Party. He can be reached via this site's contact page, or emailed directly at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20140617_bd_brand_reparations.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:06am EDT