The Military Sees Grassroots Organizing in USA and Globally as a Threat

ACORN Community Organizing Organizing

20476673-isolated-computer-with-large-eye-spyingLittle Rock       We were just talking a couple of days ago about how Canada was now monitoring every grassroots protest through their vast country.  Being “Debbie Downer,” I speculated that you can bet that the USA is all over that, too.  Almost simultaneously, what do you know, the UK-based Guardian runs a story saying essentially, “oh, yeah!”  It’s almost just a matter of degree rather than a difference.  The USA goes worldwide, not just in-country, and doesn’t care about the bite-sized demos and fish fries, just those groups everywhere that involve 1000 or more members, you know like ACORN and all of its affiliates in Canada, Latin America, India, and elsewhere.

Here’s the rest of the story thanks to reporter, Nafeez Ahmen and his good work.

First, it’s not exactly spying, at least not yet, it’s “studying,” which I’m going to look up in a dictionary or Wikipedia when I finish this piece and see if that is now listed as a possible synonym for “spying.”  The Department of Defense has something called the Minerva Research Initiative which is giving out extensive grants to universities, and let’s pause immediately and say “shame, shame” on their money grubbing selves, like Cornell and the University of  Washington, to study the potential threats that they see in grassroots groups and social movements.

These studies funded by Defense are directly supervised by the military.  In the Cornell case:

Among the projects awarded for the period 2014-2017 is a Cornell University-led study managed by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research which aims to develop an empirical model “of the dynamics of social movement mobilisation and contagions…”


We’re not just organizers building organizations, we’re something close to carrying agents for infectious diseases.  God and the military know all of this turmoil in the streets doesn’t come from profound inequities and unresolved grievances, but from contagions.  The University of Washington project “…managed by the US Army Research Office, focuses on “large-scale movements involving more than 1,000 participants in enduring activity,” and will cover 58 countries in total.”

Ahmen quotes the frequent Social Policy journal contributor, James Petras tellingly:


…James Petras, Bartle Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University in New York, concurs with… concerns. Minerva-funded social scientists tied to Pentagon counterinsurgency operations are involved in the “study of emotions in stoking or quelling ideologically driven movements,” he said, including how “to counteract grassroots movements.”

So sure the military wants to get up to speed on terrorism and that’s an excuse these days for looking at everyone and everything they do, but there are clearly no boundary lines in any of these studies.   I can remember a book decades ago that discussed why the police are so dangerous in our communities because they are trained to always look everywhere for the “invisible assailant,” and they think anyone different represents that threat.  In fact, Ahmen finds evidence of the same thing in a Minerva funded study on who among us is a potential terrorist:

The piece concludes (and, in between, it explains how virtually all social activists–both violent and non-violent–are targeted in this effort) by noting that there are, “a raft of Pentagon planning documents which suggest that National Security Agency (NSA) mass surveillance is partially motivated to prepare for the destabilising impact of coming environmental, energy and economic shocks.”

I’ve always said we’re dangerous, because we enable the dispossessed and powerless to build power and create change, but it’s only becoming clear in modern times that we may not be worth funding to do the vital work that we do, but a lot of resources are being expended and a lot of outfits and institutions are getting funded to watch what we’re doing and pretend that they have a clue.

Big Brother is watching, so organize!

Ps.  Thanks to Jim Lynch from Little Rock, one of my faithful readers for making sure I didn’t miss this Guardian article – hey, CIA, we’re crowdsourcing now!