Agent Provocateurs and Sabotage


By Kirstin Beatty, with thanks to Sigrid Schmalzer for the sickle cell details

Updated 21 July 2021, 6 April 2022

Some people wrongly believe the Black Panthers were anti-white and violent (they promoted self defense), but setting that aside a moment, notice what can be learned from their experience.

One successful project was that the Black Panthers provided sickle cell testing and highlighted how the health of African-Americans had been neglected, using the issue to advocate for free and better health care and better treatment of African Americans and rallying support.

As the Black Panthers gained publicity and support by highlighting the health care issue, the government stepped in and began to offer sickle cell testing — suddenly grants of money were provided to professionals, to the wealthy and white, while bypassing the Black Panthers.

The sickle cell testing provided by the government was welcome, but the Black Panthers also needed thanks and continuing support for their work, including for the fair point of needing decent health care and payment for their work.

The loss of sickle cell organizing and testing events hit the Black Panthers hard, as fewer events with testing for African-Americans meant less opportunity to share the message. Government action on sickle cell testing appeared on its face to have solved the problem, but African-Americans still lacked access to decent health care.

Instead of the government offering sincere support, the FBI had also infiltrated the Black Panther movement at every level to destroy it with agent provocateurs.

J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI infiltrated many different groups: socialists, communists, peace activists, etc., as part of a counter intelligence program or COINTELPRO.

As far as the Black Panthers, the COINTELPRO sought to sow violence between the Black Panthers and others, disrupt scheduling, promote paranoia, fuel jealousy, accuse innocents of being ‘informants’, tap phones, employ the KKK, plant disinformation in the media, falsely define Black Panthers as white racists, and kill and imprison members – the same members who professed the right to self defense which, ironically, is today often a right-wing, white-faced mantra which the Black Panthers were not.

This concerted attack is what destroyed the Black Panthers, which originally had wide-spread support among the African American community but was destroyed from the inside. In this context, the decision of the government to support sickle cell testing seems to have been designed to undermine a major source of the Black Panther’s membership growth.

Despite being painted as white racists, the Black Panthers in fact sought to fight racism through solidarity with people of all backgrounds. The FBI went after the Black Panthers not just because of their strong unifying platform, but because the Black Panthers were anti-capitalist, because capitalism or profit motives had fostered slavery.

How could things have been different?

I think first we need to recognize how important working together can be, while simultaneously ignoring people who seek to create divisions. People who encourage you not to talk to XYZ may be saboteurs in the same vein as Herbert Hoover’s FBI. The FBI sought to create division among different groups to divide and conquer. Do not let other people control you, manipulate your emotions, and keep you from doing what you believe to be right.

I believe we need to support those who operate as a team rather than as a bullies. To do this, we need to recognize and stop when people  use drama and control to lead away from the goal. Those kinds of people need to be stopped and not heralded.

The Black Panthers were destroyed from the inside by paranoia generated by agents who had the intention of destroying trust, leadership and creating drama. This is so easy. The agent might play the victim, say the (perhaps rightfully) angry person has a bad temper, and undermine leadership, capability, and respect with a sneer and gossip.

Opposition does not have be sourced from the FBI or a big industry. Opposition can be local, sent by an opposing political party, local business, or just anyone. Opposition can be based on jealousy, or the private desire to control and rise to power or fame by using the ideas of others, by undercutting so-called ‘competitors’, and by using emotional blackmail.

Secondly, in relation to the sickle cell testing, we also need to be careful we do not lose sight of the bigger picture. When we ask for one piece of the puzzle to be fixed, we need to simultaneously ask for the larger picture to be fixed. Both need to be front and center so neither is lost. By focusing on sickle cells, the Black Panthers lost the bigger battle of fighting for overall better health care access.

Maybe a little appeasement of the rich and powerful is necessary to avoid being shot or maimed. Whether appeasement is possible is questionable. Still, maybe planning solutions that everyone can support, even greedy planet-destroying pigs, is wise.

Fourth, considering how the Black Panthers were never paid for their work to make sickle cell testing mainstream, we need to pay back and thank those who fight for us all, ideally the ones who are sincere and not the agent provocateurs.

To this day, the poor are left behind, and some ask why Americans don’t fight — some say because we accept competition over equity, and we fear our surveillance state. Others say the problem is we worship our jailers as ‘authorities’ who have the power and wealth we lack. Regardless, humanity requires that do what is humane, kind, and stop following nasty leaders.

All too often, the poor, the disabled, the marginalized bring up problems they experience and after they work long enough the government decides to pay a bunch of businesses to profit from the problem with half measures. Those who suffer deserve to be asked and helped to end their suffering, but never patronized as incompetent victims or left to create an industry that revolves around their suffering.

I once found a list online of tactics to infiltrate movements, prepared by our government — perhaps it was for anti terrorism. These tactics can be used by anyone, and so it is important to know those tactics so you can call them when you see them.

In addition to those tactics listed above, the following struck a cord with me:

    • use charismatic leaders to infiltrate and takeover grassroots initiatives, e.g. capturing control of all decisions
    • steer movements away from effective goals
    • develop community with cliques, drama, and infighting
    • gain loyalty and steal volunteers by offering lucrative opportunities
    • capturing and not sharing intelligence or connections
    • faking communications (deep fakes could be used)

Agent provocateurs need not be advocates but may also be represented by paid industry marketing groups, scientific ‘consultants’, or nonprofits. Note that nonprofits may be shams – look at the lack of policing of 501(c)4 tax-exempt groups and of 501(c)3 ALEC.

Industry’s work to shape public perception is quite an evil, so anything is possible with advocacy – US Right to Know has documented how ‘experts’ have been paid off, just as one example.

In any case, how can you tell who is sowing discord and division? On a personal level, sometimes you can tell by whether effective choices or bizarre wrong turns are being supported. Here are a few points to examine regarding advocates and advocacy organizations:

        • Openness or honesty regarding who runs the organization (online):
          • If concealed, is the concealment real, partial, and is there any reason? [note: such as some people may fear exposure or attacks based on their advocacy platform]
          • If someone admits to or says he/she is leading an organization, then why is it not listed on the website?
          • Is relevant background information shared of leaders?
          • If you are contributing leadership to the organization, then are you listed as doing so on the website or in materials?
        • For what does the group/ person advocate?
          • Is the thrust of advocacy primarily to advance an individual, like a cult leader?
          • Aside from education, what kinds of political changes are being moved forward?
          • Is advocacy for the status quo or minimal change?
          • Does leadership or a person undermine the work of ‘competitors’ even when that work is good?
          • Are there clear policy statements?
          • Is the direction of advocacy unclear?
          • Is the direction of advocacy at odds with membership (e.g. a teachers union where leadership contracts with big tech and advocates for computerized learning when membership has complained about tech in schools)?
          • Is advocacy hidden from view, i.e. occurring behind the scenes so that you don’t know what is said?
          • Are mistakes admitted?
          • If the group provides or funds research, is the research needed? Is the research conducted following best practices to allow for satisfactory peer review?
          • If the group provides education, is the education free or at cost?
          • Check advocacy materials:
            • Are these accurate?
            • Do these align with your beliefs?
            • Are any of these for sale, and if so is the price reasonable or fair?
            • Do advocacy materials elevate someone as a cult leader or for their sales?
          • Is the group mailing list used for marketing?
        • Where do donations or where does the money go?
            • How much money does the organization have or is this transparent?
            • Is the money going towards marketing that appears to benefit personal sales?
            • If marketing occurs, is it transparent? Are connections to family, etc., and the group made clear?
            • Are donations going towards a specific project?
            • If there is a list of supporting organizations, is it clear whether those organizations receive any part of the donations?
            • Are affiliated businesses or nonprofits reaping profits – and if so, how is the money used by affiliates?
            • Are salaries being paid to those who don’t need it while volunteers who do need support go without funds?
        • Sharing is caring – in public and online:

          • Do they share useful information only after someone else has told you, as if they knew?
          • Do they share information that is helpful to you?
          • Providing there is adequate staff, do they share relevant legislation, lawsuits or engage in writing legislation or lawsuits?
                • Did you double-check the efficacy of legislation or lawsuits promoted?
          • Do they share information on lobbying via other avenues, such as federal agencies?
          • Does the organization reasonably reference other outside, useful resources?
          • If not, is there a decent reason such as ability only to focus on a few things (which are?)?
        • Membership vs. Cult Leadership:
          • Do you know other members in the organization?
          • Do you have the sense that you are being kept from contact with other members or placed in silos?
          • Are members encouraged to talk with each other outside of leadership control?
        • What is the organizations privacy policy?
          • How does the organization collect or share email addresses and contacts – and is this ethical?
        • Testimony:
          • Are you given an opportunity to sign onto testimony or platforms in support or automatically added without explicit consent?
          • Are requests for support of testimony or platform straightforward?
          • Is there a trustworthy review of emails sent on behalf of the organization to insure consistency with mission and with member intentions?
          • Is there oversight of communications?
          • Are there private meetings with legislators behind the scenes? What is being said and can this be verified?
        • Exaggeration of personal accomplishments, taking ownership of other’s work, and omission of other’s accomplishments:
            • Do they use a name which is similar to a larger, better-known organization (to steal its reputation)?
            • Is work original or does it build, with fair credit, on the work of others?
            • Does work plagiarize or mimic the work of others – copying other websites, articles, theories . . . ?
            • Is name-dropping used to suggest ownership of an activity or person?
            • Note the scale of any marketing or self-promotion – is anyone over-promoted, such as being the first subject of every sentence?
            • Note omission of thanks;
            • Note whether thanks is public to give honor – note BCC: email may not be trustworthy as “public;”
            • Note when giving thanks or credit if major players are omitted, focusing on non-competitors only;
            • Accomplishments – are these accomplishments simply by virtue of knowing someone and being there, i.e. what did the person actually do?
            • Make a list of actual accomplishments – evaluate for originality, practicality, and effectiveness;
            • For legislation, do they admit the original source of the idea or any support?
            • For lawsuits, do they share information on the proceedings and who is involved?
            • Is the resume based on paying contractors to do work and on expensive services, rather than work by the group?
        • Who does the organization or personality dismiss, attack, or critique, and is this justified?
            • If an individual is described as “angry” or otherwise emotional – is the individual in the loop to explain or reply?
              • Why is the individual “angry” or emotional? Is there a good reason?
            • If targeting the competence or work of another – is there a well-explained basis or is this just a prejudicial statement?
            • How does the organization, personality, or industry benefit from the attack?
            • How does the targeting impact the cause?
            • Does the personality or organization effectively isolate or break apart community and collaboration?
            • Is there any benefit to this behavior and to whom or what?
        • Deflecting Criticism:
          • Has the group deflected criticism through money, such as via (a) sales agreements, (b) offering jobs or well-paid bonuses, or (c) by virtue of access to expensive material goods or services?
          • Has the group deflected criticism by virtue of having many connections, or at least saying so?
          • Does the resume show marketing rather than substance?
        • Check reputation:
          • If a nonprofit, use these resources to check:
            • CharityNavigator dot org
            • Guidestar dot org
            • Give dot org (Take reviews with a grain of salt)
            • CharityCheck101 dot org (Not every organization will be listed, such as Last Tree Laws which is politically organized and not a nonprofit)
          • For any group, check connections via:
            • SourceWatch dot org (Background information on organizations such as ties to industry)
            • Check history of board members,
            • Check history of administrative teams,
            • Check primary donors,
            • Check affiliations,
            • Check product sales and licensing agreements (the latter is possible in big organizations),
            • Check openness or direct honesty regarding sales and affiliations,
        • If the organization appears to be doing little, can you contact the organization for information, assistance or advice? Is the organization paid to do its work? Is the organization underfunded and understaffed?

Random thoughts:

In the UK, a user-led disability services group was out-competed by big charities for contracts, which then asked the user-led group to do the work for ‘small pots of money.’ In the USA, addiction treatment centers often fail since treatment is too short, yet failure doesn’t hurt business and so some see relapse as profit. Just as we ask for representation of all kinds of people in jobs and on committees deciding public policy, I believe we need to do more to get people with disabilities in leadership roles providing disability services and so forth — what happened in the UK is patronizing and enriches a few at the expense of the many.

Also, Bill Gates is profiting off his ‘nonprofit’ foundation. The Bill Gates Foundation has been critiqued for supporting his child’s school and his stocks in pharma, education, and GMOs. While I can understand someone lacking money might use a nonprofit to raise money for his or her child’s school, Bill Gates has more than enough to pay taxes.  For examples, see:

              • The Nation‘s “Bill Gates gives to the rich, including himself” March 17, 2020, by Tim Schwab
              • The book No Such Thing as a Free Gift: The Gates Foundation and the Price of Philanthropy by Linsey McGoey
              • Vox dot com “The Media loves the Gates Foundation. These experts are more skeptical” by Julia Belluz 2015 June 10
              • ChildrensHealthDefense dot org “The Brave New World of Bill Gates and Big Telecom” 8 May 2020 by Robert F. Kennedy and Dafna Tachover

Regulations on nonprofits are way too lax. The American Cancer Society pays its executives exorbitant amounts – 2 million plus for one executive alongside numerous six-figure salaries – while maintaining reliance on many volunteers. One letter to the editor, by Vernon Hill  in the Carteret News-Times on 3 December 2009, states his organization sent the ACS 900K over three years, covering 37K of costs and tightening expenses at ACS request, while the ACS spent 45% on salaries but wouldn’t even cover event T-shirts and, to top it off, culled 140 staff positions that year.

The Cancer Prevention Coalition has called for a boycott of the American Cancer Society (ACS) for taking big donations from Big Pharma, Big Telecommunications, and Big Chemical, and ignoring environmental pollution as a cause of cancer.  Yet, many people support the ACS offhand, without thinking twice because of name recognition.

In Massachusetts, Rep. Peter Durant has put forward bill H. 3708, “An Act Limiting the Compensation of Executives in Nonprofit Organizations.” He has the right idea but the limits proposed seem too low: he proposes for a nonprofit with a budget of $249,999 a maximum CEO salary of $49,719. If this were a part-time job, that would be more than adequate, but as a full-time job that is on the border of or not quite enough to support a family without a second income or government charity.

Last Tree Laws Massachusetts