Divide & Co-Opt



Divide & Co-Opt: $hit

By Kirstin Beatty


On every issue, there are powerful forces united against change. The liability or potential financial collapse of any business sector means that there are both personal (investments, job) and corporate interests in continuing the status quo, and so both individuals and corporations have an interest in undermining regulations and legal action.

I believe it is worthwhile to examine strategies to divide and rule, which may include:

    • relying on deep pockets and media to drown out other voices
    • encouraging wasteful spending, leaving little for useful purchase
    • promoting legislation or actions that distract or accomplish nothing or, worse, cause harm
    • lobbying for ideas and bills which drown out better options
    • sowing distrust
    • generating propaganda, like spreading truths among lies for confusion and argument
    • preventing alliances that could challenge the propaganda
    • co-opting movements, promoting only those willing to cooperate with a false leader

The biggest threat is outsize influence through outsize wealth. There needn’t be any planning at all for a single wealthy person to co-opt or destroy a movement, since wealth easily drowns out other ideas.

A wealthy person can easily smear anyone, as Juan Cole suggests with his GoogleSmear article. Wealth can easily manipulate trending articles and social expression through fake accounts, identify theft, paid influencers, and online harassment as evidenced in 2018 by Mexican political parties. Corporations are also using deceptive practices – propaganda. Marketing campaigns, press, bots, and trolls are paid, not volunteers.

The influence of wealth may be hard to recognize. Bill Gates was the driving force for school computers and the major funding source behind the Common Core. Whether or not you like school computers or the Core, this outsize influence is fundamentally undemocratic and bypasses parents and teachers except under the artifice of details, rather than the larger picture. Gates’ foundation has come under criticism as well for promoting corporate globalization in health and agriculture.

Stories making the news today show that corporations are willing to pay to undermine the voice of the People, not only with bots. The following stories are factual and should be taken as a reminder to learn from history and the recent past.

Examples where industry was caught causing trouble include (1) faking emails from citizens to the government; (2) using actors to load town meetings; (3) spying on local groups, such as PG&E spying in California; (4) paying for fake science and testimony (5) paying for fake independent news, smear campaigns, and disinformation (wireless, climate, Covid19, pesticides, autism, benzene, etc.) – marketing campaigns undermine what is fair in democracy by favoring wealthy interests & astroturfing.

Soon well-funded, realistic telephone AI may fake being local voters speaking on behalf of business interests.

Troublesome nonprofits may also be fronts for wealthy contributor and have fake membership, like Massachusetts Parents United as identified by Maurice Cunningham. Cunningham critiques Boston papers for failing to vet claims and funders.

Media fails to call out industry sponsorship or public relations ‘news’ while allowing targeting and baseless, bizarre, one-sided attacks – such as a NY Times article insulting science on wireless dangers as a propaganda tool of the Russians, coincidentally when a major Times stockholder holds a major telecommunication company and is considered ruthless, a criminal. Billionaires rule.

Shaming of questions and criticism prevents building local community, shared goals, and political movements, and impairs advocacy and corporate regulation. Such insults foster lies and fake conspiracies, shielding corporations from deep investigations of real conspiracies.

Cultural ideas and institutions are suffering from promotion of divisive all-or-nothing attitudes over critical analysis, discussion, and reflection.

The mention of Agenda 21 is enough to trigger closed ears from the left, and useless anger from the right. Agenda 21, now Agenda 30, is influential and, as with treaties and trade agreements, transnational corporations were welcomed to help craft this vision. Promotion of plans to develop energy, education, health care, infrastructure, and technology in developing countries will likely help empower transnational corporations rather than local citizens, in part as these corporations can monopolize contracts. This is simply business as usual, as occurs with state and federal contracts except, hopefully, without the bribery rampant in many other countries. Not to say that business as usual is good, but rather to say I find ‘popular’ (or fabricated?) right-wing resistance to Agenda 30 strange when contracts close to home have more effect.

Agenda 30 has worthwhile goals, such as promoting small farmers which have been decimated by the false promise of a green revolution and industrial agriculture. Agenda 30 includes recommendations to limit corporate power and support environmental health for all, so is the criticism fabricated to prevent such limits? The American Policy Center, at the forefront of Agenda 21 and UN criticism, has long campaigned against corporate regulation, including pharmaceuticals, and environmentalism under the guise of private property rights. As a result of the Agenda 21 campaign, the United Nations, a forum for all nations to share concerns and network, is under attack. This, too, results in division, meant to lock out small, poor countries who likely managed to insure Agenda 30 protected small farmers.

The interweaving of the words communism and socialism are telling in the criticisms bandied, as these words are used as insults without reference to actual meaning. Communism occurs when the community provides funds to the government for equal redistribution, but usually big governments pocket the money. The ideal is nice, though, and deserves less hate even if many don’t want to share property. Communism is often used as an insult because of its association with authoritarian governments. At one time being accused of being a communist destroyed careers of people who were not even communist. To weaponize the word communist or any other is a dangerous path.

Associating Agenda 21 with communism is pushing it. The United Nations, full of capitalistic nations, is not going to become communist or, if so, not easily.

Socialism, in contrast, has been successful in Europe and in cooperatively-owned businesses. In socialism, the means of producing or distributing goods is owned collectively, such as cooperatives like Real Pickles. Socialism can also mean when the government owns the means of producing and distributing goods as exemplified in part by Medicare and Social Security. The military has been held up as a partly socialist system.

The use of communism and socialism as marketing campaign insult may have more to do with fears of taxes or wealth distribution by the very wealthy, and may be a marketing trick to create division and shut down discourse even though Denmark and Costa Rica have done well with high taxes and universal health care.

Listening to the other side compassionately and with critical analysis doesn’t seem to be a popular trend in the USA — but we need this instead of bots, propaganda, and language intent on destroying communication and community.

In closing, please see the MA legislation page for some recommended bills.