Last month I wrote about being the hero for which you’ve been waiting. Today, I’d like to talk about fighting dissolution in the face of overwhelming opposition. Now more than ever, that has become imperative. I’m watching with pride as people come together to protest the wrongs being wrought across the globe. With them, my knowledge of being a better activist is growing. Part of that is accepting hard truths. Intersectional Feminism, for example, isn’t easy for a white woman to walk into and completely understand. Our empathy for the plight of women of color is present, but it comes with our baggage, and more often than not we step on toes—well meaning or not. Accepting that truth is necessary to our growth and the success of the movement. It ceases to be about ourselves and becomes about the goals we as a group set. Yet, personal feelings intervene and throw a wrench into the works.
With that in mind, I want to step back to being the hero, instead of waiting on one. In the last post, I talked about truth and discovery. Political issues were discussed that increasingly matter. Groups are still holding onto misinformation, while they forge ahead, and though they are attempting to be the heroes, they are still relying on others and the false information those people gave them. It is not going to go well for those people, and it will affect the outcomes for other movements. Instead of taking it on the chin for their feelings and accepting fact, they side with easing their own discomfort. They fold back in to the lie.
For instance, social media groups (SMG) are being infiltrated by groups of individuals focused on spreading misinformation that supports the dissolution of the SMGs purpose. In other words, they troll the groups and create discord, tweaking the emotions of its members. Within each SMG is a vulnerable section of individuals who will fall easy prey to these trolls. This subset is usually suspicious and, though intelligent, may lack the skills of discerning fake news. They mean well, but function more on emotion than reason. It is their strength and their weakness.
Not every citizen experiences coursework that teaches them how to determine the value of the information they’ve come across. It was discussed extensively in my Masters Program during a course focused on teaching the students how to research and vet information discovered. This was a graduate level course. Not every college student experiences that level and not every student will go on to college. Frankly, I think our education system fails our young people by not covering this much earlier. It should be covered in Junior High School, Senior High School at the latest. Why? Because those students will be doing book reports and research papers in those years, and before they do, they should be taught expressly how to do so. It will benefit them in all areas later and is a life decisions necessity. It will inform their future studies and improve engagement, not just in their studies.
So when the trolls have come into a group and pecked apart the most vulnerable, they’ve started root-rot in the group. That poison spreads upwards, from seeming trusted members. Misinformation becomes fact. The spread of fake news has done it’s job, effectively undermining the movement to which it was aimed as a bullet. Consider that trolls do this through all similar groups, with some of the same individuals involved. Consider that they’ve probably taken some time to forge a few connections by which they make their intention appear benign, if not honest. Take, for example, the presence of bigoted individuals in the Jill Stein groups, who claim to be liberal. They are there. Not all are the trolls. Many are those using the strength of their emotional knowledge over their reason, because the people who told them something were connected to them and thus trusted.
This is the modis operandi of political trolls. We watched it happen to the Occupy movement, but it has happened to every historical movement from the first wave of feminists, civil rights, and climate change. It happened to the Bernie Sanders 2016 candidacy, the Jill Stein candidacies, and the progressive response following. It is happening now to the Justice Democrats. And, despite all these examples, and witnesses to it, it will continue to happen.
Let me restate: the effort is perpetuated by seeming members of the group (either SMG or Activist Groups). How can you recognize these individuals? It takes practice. In the beginning, it is best to be cynical of anything that is presented to you online or at meetings. Stop believing that connection equals trustworthiness or that it also exempts it. Ask, is there a bias in this information presented? What is the end goal of this information? Who does it serve when I believe it? And, conversely, who does it serve when I don’t believe it? Where is this information coming from: a mainstream media source, a known fake news outlet (see this list), an individual with an objective, etc? Keep in mind, that just because your objectives may match those of the individual delivering the information doesn’t mean that information is factual. Trolls and other dissidents bank on you falling for that in what eventually becomes a bait and switch. They will also try to point out others as betraying the group, such as they’ve done with Bernie Sanders in the wake of the primary debacle. It does two things: it removes a potential figurehead or leader and provides false proof of the groups failure, creating disillusionment. Let me assure you that Bernie Sanders is the same worthy fellow we met in 2015, working his ass off to fix this mess, just as Hillary is the same person, but the truth of who has become increasingly visible despite best efforts by her teams over the years.
I cannot say for certain that these people are paid, but they clearly serve a master, who is easily discerned by where they then try to push the main group to. If you’re paying attention, they almost always tip their hands. Keep an eye and you will see it. The more you see it happen, the more you’ll become aware of their formulaic play. And it is formulaic. Thus, you are armed to face them.
So, arm yourselves, citizens. There are villains in many places, waiting to tear you down before you achieve your goals. When you encounter them, block them, and stop their access to you and the group, so that you can do the work for which the group has set.
If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do. – Ghandi