If the Black Bloc, or masked rioters in general, are agents of the State, why is this accusation so frequently spread by Hollywood and major media which are clearly working in the interests of the rich and powerful?
This 2007 Stuart Townsend movie with Woodie Harrelson and Charlize Theron, portrays the anarchists as a fringe group in the 1999 Seattle WTO protests that stole the show. They also suggest the police infiltrated the Black Bloc to incite rioting and property damage. It’s no surprise that Hollywood wants to rewrite the story of a successful, militant protest that shook capitalist confidence at the height of its triumph.
Even the Oakland Police Chief claimed that “anarchist and provocateurs” were to blame for clashes between occupiers and police at Occupy Oakland. It seems that everyone interested in not rocking the boat, from the media to NGOs to pacifists to the cops themselves can claim that anarchists are outside provocateurs.
The French “Ninja”
One of the biggest newspapers in France, Le Monde, spreads the accusation made by Stalinists that an anarchist who kicked a protestor trying to stop another anarchist from smashing a bank was in fact a police infiltrator. It turns out, the rioters were not “false anarchists” but real people angry at the banks. The supposed infiltrator in question was later identified by the police–turns out he was a real anarchist and not a police agent–and arrested. The French media did not correct their mistake.
Guy Ritchie’s 2011 film, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, includes one of Hollywood’s favorite tropes, the deluded revolutionaries. In this case, anarchists carrying out bombings in 1890s Europe are a tool of the evil Professor Moriarty, bent on driving the major powers to a world war so that he could profit through his newly acquired armament industries. Interestingly, the movie contains its own rebuttal. When Moriarty is foiled, he arrogantly boasts that the anarchist bombings would only have hastened the inevitable war. While the filmmakers are suggesting that Holmes is battling a bellicose human nature, we would argue that it is the nature of States, not of humans, to engage in fratricidal wars for the benefit of a few, and in fact the conspiracies and meddling of weapons c0nsortiums and industrialist was definitely a factor in the outbreak of World War I. The point is, States have no need of hidden conspiracies to start wars. They were designed to organize wars–and that includes organizing the excuses–from their inception. It is also important to note that historically, anarchist bombings in that period did not increase conflicts between states, they actually led to some of the first international police cooperation, as the tsarist and other secret police organizations began collaborating to try to arrest the anarchists. And anarchists were a major force–in many countries, such as the Netherlands and Spain, the major force–in the antimilitarist movement that attempted to put an end to all wars.
During an anti-austerity protest in Madrid on September 25, 2012, an undercover police officer dressed in black was tackled and beaten by fellow cops as he cried out, “I’m a colleague!” The youtube video of the event is hilarious, showing how stupid and brutal the cops are, but it was immediately seized on by pacifists to claim that the violent ones were police infiltrators. This is curious for a number of reasons. First of all, if you look carefully, you’ll notice that the undercover is wearing a black shirt and light jeans, no mask. Hardly a Black Bloc anarchist. Secondly, the protest itself, organized by a whole gamut of dissidents from liberals to anarchists, was planned to blockade the Spanish Congress. How the liberals imagined doing that without breaking the law or clashing with police is beyond understanding. The fact that they got all upset when clashes broke out only shows how they are living in a fantasy world in which people will link arms and sing, and the police will simply stand down. In any case, their accusations that “the violent ones” and “the masked ones” were really police infiltrators (and the clearly false allegation that the undercover cop was wearing a mask) was published in one of Spain’s largest newspapers.
In a testament to crowd psychology and how ready pacifists and conspiracy theorists are to manipulate it, by simply writing the claim that the police agent was wearing a mask made people think they were watching a masked cop being beaten by fellow cops, even as they saw a video showing an undercover without any mask.
Canada criminalizes masking
A new Canadian law will punish masking more harshly than rioting.
The government wants us to mask up? Really? After decades of combative liberation movements by indigenous people, anarchists, and others successfully using masks to protect their identities while fighting back against the wealthy and their guard dogs, the Canadian government has passed a new law punishing the wearing of a mask during a riot or even any unlawful assembly can be sent to prison for up to ten years. After the riots at the G20 protests in Toronto, conspiracy nuts claimed that the slow police response was proof that the Black Bloc was doing the cops work. However, hundreds of Toronto residents participated spontaneously in the riots, and the police got dragged through the mud for how they handled it. Win for the Black Bloc, fail for the cops and the government. It’s what anarchists have always been saying, networks are stronger than hierarchies. The cops had their orders to defend the summit site, and the stupid robots could not even move a block to arrest rioters until they got orders from someone in a distant control room with no idea of the situation on the ground. The rioters, on the other hand, could move quickly and attack wherever the police were weak, making decisions in a matter of seconds and executing multiple strategies simultaneously. Since the State can’t keep up, they bring out their heavy artillery and pass a new law.
Mexico City rioters are cops?
Offering no evidence other than that other “commentators” have made the accuasation, a US newspaper spreads the claim that rioters in Mexico City are police infiltrators. This accusation was originally made, also without evidence, by left-wing and NGO-paid activists who see the anarchists and the common people rioting in the streets as a pesky competitor who needs to be eliminated. On the one hand, they tell the media that the anarchists are cops, and on the other hand, they work with the cops to get those anarchists arrested. Is anyone really stupid enough to believe that the Mexican government (and the cops tend to favor the PRI) wants the inauguration of their new president to be marred by images of rioting and by attacks on the stores and property of their corporate backers? Don’t politicians want to prove to the wealthy that they can maintain stability?
When the provocation is real
It’s true that real provocateurs exist, and we need to protect ourselves from them.
While targeting Occupy Cleveland, the FBI sent an infiltrator to rope some kids into a plot to blow up a bridge. A few years earlier a paid FBI informant manipulated her lover into supporting her plot to blow up a dam (although he was arrested even before they had made a bomb). Agents of British intelligence were the organizers of some of the bloodiest bombings by the IRA. Police infiltrators in an anarchist march in Barcelona burned down a dance hall and killed several workers, at a critical moment when the fascist dictatorship was transitioning to democracy. FBI informants helped the cops kill Black Panther Fred Hampton. The CIA carried out atrocities in South Vietnam, designed to look like the Vietcong were to blame.
The difference between government encouragement of violence and the use of rioting, sabotage, or self-defense within a social movement is that the government only encourages violence when it controls the situation and can then immediately arrest their targets, or they encourage violence against civilians, like indiscriminate bombings, so that people will be afraid of the social movement.
In all other instances, the government encourages us to be peaceful. What it is most afraid of us that we stop being obedient and passive en masse.
Stealing from the rich, sabotaging corporations, fighting the government, and defending ourselves from cops is only a discredit to our movement if we are on the side of the rich, the corporations, the government, and the cops. But as we can see, those who spread the rumor that “violent anarchists” are working for the cops regularly work hand in hand with the cops. They are snitches, and that is why they are trying to discredit those who are fighting back.
The best way to protect ourselves from provocateurs is to not carry out risky activity with people we do not know and trust very well. The important question is not only, “am I sure they are not a cop?” but also “am I sure they will not betray me if they are threatened with prison time?” Even if someone is our good friend, if they panic in situations of danger or if they are addicted to drugs, it is best not to do risky things with them.
Secondly, it is important not to carry out actions that hurt innocent people. Even if the person who suggests we carry out such an action is not a cop, they are just stupid. We refuse to use the same logic of the government, which is always willing to sacrifice the innocent and label them “collateral damage”. The ends do not justify the means. In fact, ends and means are inseparable.
Finally, it is important not to throw out accusations that someone is a cop or an informant unless we know for sure. It is a common trick of the cops to make false accusations to divide a group and create distrust. If someone acts suspiciously, asking lots of questions, proposing dangerous actions in unsafe settings, and not behaving like someone committed to a movement for a better world, it is better to just ask them to leave and spread the word about them (after giving them a chance to improve their behavior), rather than making an uncertain accusation.