Heroes: The Metaphor and Evolution in 911 Activism Part 1
“It’s our heroic journey. You don’t have to have superpowers to be a hero.”
The premise of the TV series Heroes is people who discover they have special powers hunted by those who want to control them before they do something radical—like save the world. Needless to say I found metaphors…
First a qualification: in a healthy, functional society—or political movement—heroes in the sense of radical intervention should not be needed. Heroic activism—like heroic medicine—is not a desirable, healthy model. Its also disrespectful to the actual process of social change. The civil rights movement was not started because Rosa Parks woke up one day and said to herself, “Gosh darn it, I’m not sitting in the back of the bus today!” Rosa Parks was involved in activism for years and was part of a wide network of committed hardworking people she knew she could trust to back her up. Her action was planned and deliberate, not a spur of the moment whim.
But this misrepresentation is useful to teach history—the kings and battles method—as a string of isolated events where isolated individuals stand out. Our understanding of social change is stunted, complex issues reduced to one or two “players”. Being taught this is “just the way it is” also sets us up for disappointment—why don’t people “just rise up” and throw off (insert oppression of choice)?
The answer is no one ever has without planning, thought and organization. Any effort that has lasting effects, good or ill, has always been done through the combined pressure of groups on enough of the same page they were a political force to be reckoned with. At that point heroic leadership becomes irrelevant.
So, no, we do not need to enable a system where heroes are looked to save us from problems we actually have the solutions to. But the hero as a metaphor for individual responsibility and action in political activism still has a place.
“With great power, comes great responsibility” has become a cliché, but it is still true. It also informs how we see and motivate ourselves. Most people get involved in political activism out of a sense of social responsibility; they have power, they have a responsibility. Most people in 911 truth fit this description. They are heroes in the personal archetypal sense: they will sacrifice their time and energy to reach out and try to make the world a better place. These same people will offer a hand to someone who falls, will call for help when needed, and will not ask or expect anything in return. They will do this in real life. This metaphor inspires something noble in many of us. But we are mistaken if we think it’s universal.
There are others among us. People who secretly enjoy seeing others at their worst. Who take a perverse delight in watching people struggle. Who would trip them if they could get away with it. And lie about it for laughs.
These people exist. Where most defend others in need, these people look for excuses to attack. When we do a little more to make it safer for people less aware, these people lay snares. Who knows how many lies they tell themselves to get through the day. Maybe they’ve fooled themselves into believing harassing people is for some “greater good”. But it doesn’t change the outcome. They’ve chosen to be “villains”. The truth is they enjoy causing pain. They’re not working for a “greater good” and they know it.
Thanks to their efforts, organized or freerange, the pool of active people in 911 truth is greatly reduced in some quarters. Alliances have been strained. Relationships have changed, for better and worse. But there is also an opportunity, even a responsibility, for those remaining: to take this chance to recommit to human decency in 911 activism. Without such a commitment, no other actions or evidence have a chance of success.
Thanks to years of disruption, it will require a heroic and focused effort. Heroic but not impossible. Lets take a look at the opposition.
“The moment you trust them with what you care about most, they'll have you. Don't forget whose side you're on.” ~ Noah
COINTELPRO, the FBI sponsored program to infiltrate and spy on politically active law abiding citizens, was officially disbanded in. But common sense and more than a few not so subtle clues tells us its still around. Whom ever thought it was a good idea to go to the effort of setting it up in the first place, wouldn’t let a little thing like negative PR stop them from doing it again. They learned their lesson: don’t get caught. And for ffs don’t be centralized and so obviously connected to the supposed democratic government.
Today many intelligence operations, to the chagrin of veteran intelligence officers, are outsourced. This is really just an expansion of the front company model. The front company existed to hide the connection to the intelligence op. Outsourcing goes one step further: it hides the connection and deflects responsibility. Previously, at least in theory, a court order/FOIA could reveal the front companies connections if owned and operated by the State. But by outsourcing another “hoop” has been added—first you have to prove this company, who has a contract with the State even has liability. To get to their records is a spendy legal hurdle. They have no responsibilities to the taxpayer.
The benefits of exploiting this model are limited only by imagination. It is flexible, shadowy and very hard to pin down. Following a few basic precautions, the people involved, at least at the senior levels could remain incognito indefinitely. But it has a weakness—even more than the traditional state funded centralized model, it relies on the untrained low level first contacts for both information and muscle. Being untrained, it’s a crap shoot on the individual competency of the people used. One can only assume success is expected from sheer numbers of ops for, at the very, least a subtle demoralizing effect.
So who are these people? The ones disrupting, collecting information about activists, spreading lies, screwing with people’s head? Who are they and why do they do it?
Because they like it? It makes them feel powerful? For the “greater good”?
At this time we have no confirmed operations in 911 activism that can, without doubt, be proven to be government sponsored. It is irresponsible to say “so and so” is an agent: that is what real provocateurs do. But, given history and the nature of 9/11 activism—exposing the Bush administration as accessories to the murder of 3,000 civilians on September 11, 2001—it would be naïve to assume there is no organized disruption. While we can’t prove beyond a shadow of a doubt the involvement of individuals, we can look at disruptive behavior and the usual clues that often accompany intelligence operations. From there we can make educated guesses about the motives of the people involved.
First lets get rid of a common misconception: the majority of these people are not paid. It is true there are hired “blog warriors” online
and they have their real life equivalents, but—especially with a decentralized operations, I will show why all these people can’t possibly be paid, certainly not to spy on your every move; basic economics.
Surveillance targeting an individual's residence will have the above layout: green is the target, red, watching, brown neutral. This model requires 24 hour observation. Even if you replace cameras, a live human being must review the footage. That is 96 paid man hours for a 24 hour period, minimum. No corporation will consider this a cost effective model to target every potential "trouble maker". If used, it will only be on special targets, for a limited period of time. The State will usually only go to these efforts if it has evidence of criminal activity, unless it's an outright fascist state that feels it can get away with anything. If you are unlucky to be the target of an operation in the diagram and you can prove it has been going on for weeks or months, then you have a strong case for a State sponsored intelligence agency. Only they have the resources to do this, for no good reason, for months on end. But most of us, if we are being "watched", and are not a criminals, and live in a Western Democracy, are being watched by volunteer “villains”, free of charge, for reasons we’ll explore later.
In The Mighty Wurlizer, one of the ways the CIA managed activist groups was to outright fund them. The catch was only a handful of people in these groups were “witting”, that is, knew their funding came from government sources. Today, the more likely source would be a front corporation with a feel good name, like “The Alliance for Social Justice and Stuff”. Its possible that the number of witting people could be increased in this altered model.
So even in your most infiltrated group, most members will not know it. But there will be clues. Witting and invested members( “made men” in the mafia) will always try to cover up problems instead of solving them. They will also be on the front lines to get rid of anyone who comes too close to the operation. They will set up “theater” where some members will fight others to convince the unwitting the group is a random collection of sincere activists. They can make their own internal disputes this way, and have the added advantage of being completely controlled. This sounds a bit abstract; here’s a fictitious scenario showing a possible operation starting in usenet and moving to real life and back to usnet:
Sally met Bob online at a forum for animal rights. Sally is strongly against vivisection and medical experimentation; but she’s not a vegetarian. Sally is a potentially accessible and valuable addition to any animals rights campaign.
Sally meets Bob in a usenet group in New York City and they hit it off. Bob shares her concerns and compliments Sally on her posts which are getting many kudos for their combination of compassion and common sense. People invite Sally to other forums and Sally starts to become someone noted in animal rights usenet circles.
Bob invites Sally to his local PETA group, though he warns her there maybe disputes. He has been part of this group for 5 years. Sally’s game and starts going. The group is run by Sandra, a long time fixture in the local GLBT community. Sandra is very welcoming and the group has many colorful members. Harriet lives on her own and hunts. Later Bob warns Sally about Harriet’s right wing religious connections, but Sally never sees this. Bob also warns that Sandra can be schizoid. During the time Sally attends Harriet seems very reasonable, in spite of Bob’s semi constant cautions. Sandra changes though. She becomes more militant about veganism as being an essential part of animals rights. Shes a vegan so can everyone else. Sally points out the fact is everyone will not be vegans. And, to push for animal rights, everyone doesn’t have to be. And it’s a good thing otherwise animal rights wouldn’t have a chance. We’re here to stop animal cruelty, says Sally, not tell people what to eat.
From this point Sandra has it out for Sally. Bob shrugs sympathetically. Renee, a friend of Bob’s from Italy, starts coming to meetings. She’s involved internationally in many groups. In fact Renee was once detained by the Italian government, working with the CIA, to hide state sponsored spying on activists. But Renee doesn’t get along with Richard, the group’s defacto attorney who is also involved in local politics. Meanwhile, the usenet group has been taken over by insane vegans calling anyone who eats meat a child molestor . One vegan in particular, Jen, posts repeatedly that meat is the source of all evil. And Sally, she says, is probably a cointelpro agent. Discussion about what to do about local animal rights has fallen by the way side.
Sally, Bob and Renee try to get the group back on track, Harriet accuses Renee of trying to undermine their efforts. Richard tells everyone he can that Renee has disrupted many groups, just search for it online. Sandy gets so out of control at meetings, new people get up and leave. Bob confides in Sally he once told Richard about Sandra’s craziness, and Richard was sympathetic. But Sally, searching the usenet, discovers Richard planning to start a group with Sandra at exactly the same time. Bob is shocked. Sally goes public. Richard acts confused. Sally lays out the order of events. OMG, Bob says, he didn’t realize! Harriet and others opine about the drama. Sally starts to wonder why Sandra has been in charge of anything for 5 years. Someone includes Jen in the usenet exchanges.
Sally, and Bob, along with Renee and her long time friend Matthew, decide to start another animal rights group. Renee has years of experience in activism. Sally wants the group to be allied, but Bob wants a split. At this time, someone posts on the usenet that Sally should take care of her hospitalized dad better. Maybe if he hadn’t eaten meat, he wouldn’t have cancer. Sally is shocked. How did this person find out about her dad? This was information she only shared with Bob and Renee. And why drag her dad into this in the first place?
Bob and Renee are mystified too. Sally finally is able to trace the leak to an email exchange between Richard, Bob, Sandra and Renee, where Jen had been ccd. Sally was adamant: this was an invasion her father’s privacy. When the hospital reports a couple visitors whose descriptions match Harriet and Jen, Sally has had it. She makes a police report for harassment and severs her ties to the group. At this time Sally’s email fills up with back and forth spam from the group, full of accusations, lies and half truths. Sally blocks the list.
Bob, Renee, Mathew and Sally start meeting to discuss possible actions. Renee is adamant that Sally not be concerned with what Sandra’s group is doing. Sally disagrees, especially after the hospital incident. They stop talking. Bob tries to get Sally to come back, claiming Sally doesn’t appreciate Renee. Since this contradicts what Sally has said in the past about Renee, who she had held in high esteem, Sally objects. She tells Bob he is out of line and they stop meeting.
Sally discovers through friends that Richard is managing the group now. Sandra seems okay with this. Harriet has brought friends from her church, a right wing mega church denomination. In spite of hunting and eating deer, she is a close friend of the radical vegan Jen. Much of the meetings time are spent insulting Renee and Bob, to the irritation of new members who don’t know them. Sally has told Richard, in no uncertain terms, that neither he nor his group have permission to use any personal information of herself or her dad. Richard apparently honors this in public, but there are rumors he runs a private email list where he and others freely share information about people they believe are agents.
Renee decides to write an article about Sally’s dad and the harassment by Sandra/ Richard’s group. Sally, declines permission, saying it is better to solve the problem quietly and legally. Renee isn’t interested in a legal solution and says she’s going to publish anyway for Sally’s own good. Sally cuts Renee off. Bob tries to defend Renee. Sally cuts Bob off.
A friend calls Sally telling her Bob emailed a series of nasty letters about Sally, how she cut him off, how she hates Renee, and that she’s mentally unbalanced. Fortunately this friend has been suspicious of Bob for a while and believes none of these lies. Sally is shocked. She knew they were done, but didn’t expect such vindictive behavior from Bob. Soon Bob is stalking Sally’s posts at the use net she returned to, trying to provoke her about her dad in the hospital. And while Richard is denouncing Renee, Sandra has resumed the role of charming hostess and Sally discovers Renee has been caught disrupting groups in the past. A stranger twist: Bob has started his own email list and “Meat is Evil” Jen is on it...
What the hell has just happened here?
It’s easy for an outside observer to dismiss this as dysfunctional drama. Those elements are certainly in play. But some players act their roles too well:
Richard: the attorney, polished educated, connected, competent when he wants to be—so why isn’t he always competent? Why does he make excuse for Sandra’s(and for that matter Jen’s) craziness? Why is he even involved with a group this disorganized? Lawyers can be activists but they are also busy people. It makes no sense that Richard was not demanding reasonable behavior sooner or leaving.
Harriet: turns out is a right wing religious—but that was never revealed while Sally went to the group. Harriet talked about her church, but nothing extreme. Harriet and Bob aren’t friends—so how did Bob know Harriet’s church was extremist? And why did Bob feel Sally had to know about Harriet, semi-constantly?
Sandra: is not the sort of person who could ever keep her “hostess” position all things being equal, not for five years. She’s friendly one minute, shrewish the next.
Renee: globetrotting activist, familiar with legal battles, but afraid to pursue legal actions. Repeated tries to deflect attention away from Sandra group, to the point of irrationality. Also, contrary to what Richard has said, searching for Renee online does not reveal “all the groups she disrupted”. So how did Richard know about Renee’s disruption or that there were even other groups?
Bob: has been a member of this group for years, and knows far too much about the people he “battles”. Any person who claims to have the experience he claimed, would have left after a couple of months. But the personality flip is the most telling. Bob was enraged that Sally cut him off.
Richard is a witting member of this animal rights group. The supposed mission is to push for animals right, stage protests, and raise awareness. And many people in the group believe this is what they’re trying to do, all the setback and financial frustrations just the “territory” of activism. But the truth is there is never a lack of money. If a project is approved and fundraising falls short, funds will be made available, either through Richard as “anonymous donations”, or laundered through friendly channels/companies. Richard is told, either by an officer, or a representative of a front company, what is needed to keep the operation funded. If Richard believes he’s working for “the greater good”, he may be told people like Sally are threats to their work. If Richard is more worldly or complicit, its just another job he doesn’t question. People are made witting as needed, though degree various. Richard’s job is to ensure animal rights activism remains mired in petty culinary squabbles, remains unappealing to the mainstream, and as many people are driven away from the group as possible. One such operation would be nothing. But if every major city with the political will to pursue animals rights has one, any actions—and threats to related industries that rely on torturing animals for a profit(factoring farming, unnecessary medical experimentation)—are neutralized.
Sandra is his first line of defense. This host role can be witting or unwitting. Whatever their awareness, their loyalty to the witting member is secured. Initially warm and pleasant, even flattering, once the word is given, the designated target is treated with passive aggressive distain. In 90% of cases its expected this will discourage the target from group activity. Others may work off Sandra’s lead, being cold and unresponsive. If this line of defense fails, they will move to the next stage.
Harriet, Jen, others: these others are a combination of the semi witting and the hapless. They will echo concerns artificially contrived by the witting. They can change in and out of roles. Pretend to be friendly, then turn nasty on a dime. Most of the remaining people who were not driven off by passive aggressive distain, will flee the combined toxicity of this second group.
The one or two people this fails to work on make the witting in the group work.
At this point the unwitting are tired of the drama. But the Harriets and Jens have to keep the “threat” of the Bob and Renee(or who ever is the hate of the day) alive to control the group. Another distraction from actual activism. And it will drive more people away. They will keep this up as long as it is viable. Because they have a real problem out there: Sally.
Sally was supposed to go away and be discouraged. Sally, being not easily put off, forced them to move to plan B: Bob and Renee. To earn Sally’s trust and secure their credentials as “experts”, Bob and Renee revealed things they knew about other group members they deemed to be untrustworthy. This was all to impress Sally: “Gosh you do know what you’re talking about”. If Sally stayed around longer it might have had that effect. But Sally learning these things were true after leaving the group and cutting off Bob and Renee only highlights the mystery: “ how did they know?” And why would they stay in a group for years knowing these things?
Bob’s job was to be Sally’s buddy. To do this, Bob needs to be witting to some degree. At the least, Bob knew he was intentionally deceiving Sally. Bob hoped his job was short—he’d bring Sally to the group, she’d be put off, she’d leave—next fresh meat. But Sally was work. When later Bob started spreading lies about Sally, there was an element of genuine anger, frustration and bitterness. Because Bob had failed. Not being put off, Sally was supposed to be shunted to this new group, where she would be frustrated by a new game, or at least controlled. And if she wasn’t involved with the group, at the very minimum Bob was to stay close and keep track of her. Bob probably learned to hate Sally, but had to pretend to be her friend. Then, when his last manipulation failed, she cut him off.
This made a problem for people like Richard. Sally was out of control. The entire point of the operation was to eliminate Sally, and others like her, as a threat. Now they had no idea what Sally would do. And to make matters worse Renee, a fully witting member of the operation, had gone ahead with the article against Richard’s advice.
Renee has no visible means of support. Renee has no job. Ironically, Renee is probably a direct government agent, exactly as Richard said, but Richard knew that all along. Renee is able to travel around the globe on a dime, but plays the role of humble pilgrim. She is supported not just by her “benefactors”, but by a real network of activists who are completely unwitting of Renee’s activities. The trouble with the Italian government is Renee’s greatest claim to credibility. No one seriously doubts Renee is a radical warrior. Until she’s caught disrespecting the privacy of a sick man, something no real radical activist would do.
And Matthew? He's just a guy--completely unwitting about the activities of Renee, Bob, etc.
Why did this even happen to Sally? What was the point? There is an element of chance. There was no guarantee Sally would agree to see Bob. But these operations are probably always in a “sleep”mod—that is, ready to go with the right catalyst. Sally catalyzed the processes by becoming a voice in animal rights. Had Bob failed to get her to the group, he may have waited patiently, or someone else might have been dispatched to be Sally’s “friend”. In any case Sally would be watched for as long as she was an uncontrolled voice in animal rights.
What happens to Sally now? Playing the odds, she is exhausted and disillusioned with animal rights activism. She will probably never join another real life group, though she may keep tabs through usenet. If she keeps her cool and talks to an attorney, she will be prepared if the group ever bothers her or her father again. If she’s fragile, she might rant on the boards about these nasty people unproductively and play into their hands by giving them more information and material to discredit or harass her. She may fade away and never be heard from again.
But if the people who run these operations are unlucky, Sally will discover new powers--and others like her-- through Evolution.