Every day in my article comments and social media I get people warning me that this or that journalist, activist or politician is “controlled opposition”, meaning someone who pretends to oppose the establishment while covertly serving it. These warnings usually come after I’ve shared or written about something a dissident figure has said or done, and are usually accompanied by an admonishment not to ever do so again lest I spread their malign influence. If you’ve been involved in any kind of anti-establishment activism for any length of time, you’ve probably encountered this yourself.
Paranoia pervades dissident circles of all sorts, and it’s not entirely without merit, since establishment infiltration of political movements is the norm, not the exception. This article by Truthout documents multiple instances in which movements like the 1968 Chicago DNC protest and Peter Camejo’s 1976 anti-establishment presidential campaign were so heavily infiltrated by opaque government agencies that one out of every six people involved in them were secretly working for the feds. This trend of infiltration is known to have continued into the current day with movements like Occupy and Black Lives Matter, and we’d be ignorant not to assume that this has been at least as rampant in online circles where people organize and disseminate ideas and information.
So it’s understandable that people are extremely vigilant about prominent figures in dissident circles, and it’s understandable that people feel paranoid. Over and over again we see shining anti-establishment movements fizzle or rendered impotent, often seemingly with the help of people we once trusted, and it’s hard not to get frustrated and become suspicious of anyone who starts shining bright in antiwar, leftist, or other dissident circles.
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