Monday, August 01, 2005

A field guide to provocateurs and their ilk

[keep scrolling down for all the latest EZLN translations]

La vida has been of her own mind of late, in a number of fashions.

Four days ago I actually wrote a breezy little manual on the outing of provocateurs and such. Honed it, completed it, went to publish it, when…it disappeared. As sometimes happens. No amount of hitting the “recover post” button was of any use. And, since I’m neither superstitious nor paranoid, I was once again forced to my usual impotent raging at the Furies.

Thus, an apology, for having promised and not fulfilled in a timely manner.

Exculpatory errata

Please note that everything I have to say on the subject is drawn simply from my own experience, nothing else. Experience, however, which spans several decades, various movements and more than one continent.

And, not to disappoint, but I have no intention whatsoever of outing anyone. That is precisely what they seek – to distort, deceive and disrupt. To change the focus from the struggle to something, anything, else. Even and often to themselves.

My purpose, therefore, is to provide some information which might be useful in identifying them. Clues, as it were. Patterns of behavior, habitats, tactics, that you can observe, note and deal with as you choose.

And another note. It is next to impossible to ever be absolutely certain in these matters. Therefore, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like mad, lead it gently back into the pond from whence it came.

An arbitrary typology…or poseurs, provocateurs, castrati and such

As in so many arenas, what matters are consequences, not intent. Thus one will find many a self-serving poseur. These are the individuals who can be noted by their absence from the scene when their “cause” is no longer in the headlines or on the news. But they are faster than a speeding bullet when something is “happening.” Dropping names, acting as if they’ve been there forever. And, one way or another, always, making some cash out of the deal.

Another clue to their game is that they almost invariably fail to do enough homework, being too busy arranging the lights or firing off apocalyptic bulletins to stir their fans/consumers. And that lack of homework and media spotlight can be both diversionary and dangerous. I remember once when a US government document was “misread,” mistaking the ELN for the EZLN and leading to a flurry of rumour and damage that had to be mopped up by anyone with access to a scullery.

Image is all for them. They may come as rugged cowboy, rumpled media heavyweight, tarnished saint, but come they do. And then they leave. Always off to the latest, hottest, most profitable New Thing.

Now we come to the ever annoying provocateur. Their role historically has been to infiltrate a group, behave like a lunatic and disrupt. Nowadays, however, given the virtual nature of so much of our work, they tend to do their business online.

Flooding lists with off-topic, and off-putting, posts. Veering as far as they can into the caricature of sociopathy. Diverting, disrupting and horrifying. Their first hope is to marginalize the site, their second is to shut it down.

For those of you who have been around for a while, you might remember a certain Chiapas list. A particularly prolific character [or characters, since he was addicted to transparent shape-shifting] appeared, always ready to post endless words on provocative [of course] issues and stir rabid, off center discussion. And this was at an especially difficult time in Chiapas, when loss of focus could have led to serious consequences.

And, when that was not enough, he turned to another favorite tactic. Slander.

Slander is also a tool in the arsenal of another species which I call castrati, for what I would like to think are quite obvious reasons. You know this sort. Often, though not always, male. Driven by hysterical [and I use that adjective with full intent of referencing its historical origins] rage, bonded to his computer with superglue, always on the lookout for a new target for his sublimated wrath.

In other times they were tying limbs to a rack, flogging disbelievers, burning the dangerous one at a stake. Tedious stereotype at its worst – displacing, projecting, purifying, pogrom making. These repressed zealots are the easiest to spot. Their hysteria gives them away, they despise anything female [unless she be virginal or martyred or, preferably, both] and, like the poseur, they never do enough homework.

As, for example, a recent wanker of no note, who - if he had indeed been involved and Irish as he avers - would have been present at a marvelously riotous May Day celebration one weekend a few years back at a certain pub in Dublin. A charmingly licentious evening was had by all, and he would have been left with no doubt, for example, as to the proper suffix of my name. Thus sparing himself the humiliation of his recent public self-outing.

And, speaking of Dublin, that brings us to counterinsurgents.

They often wish to meet you – in person. Or to get your phone number so they can chat. Or, if they think you’re wired, to get an introduction to someone inside. They are smart enough, usually, to pretend they have something to offer. A project, a skill, something of value.

These are the dangerous ones who can arrange to have your phone line cut in the basement of your building and, simultaneously, at the switching station. Who can outsource their work to such a degree that the junkie street person who’s being paid to watch you and follow you day and night might indeed be a whacked out junkie and not just someone who’s been dressed up to look like one. Not a pleasant circumstance.

They tap your phones, hack your computer, have you followed. Except for the one attack in Dublin, my experience has been benign. I have been lucky, unlike many others. In Chiapas they outsource to paramilitaries and thugs and anyone else who needs the price of a cup of coffee.

And how does one recognize them? Very easily. They’re the ones who are trying to do you serious harm. And, unlike the poseurs and castrati, they do their homework very very well.

A game for the parlour

Yes, a bonus.

I suspect that one of the above types – someone I know from my above referenced past – has posted comments here a couple of times. If it is he, I must admit that he’s mellowed a bit, for now at least. Or perhaps he’s just investing in higher quality chronic. Time will most likely tell.

Have some fun. But I absolutely insist – no naming of names. Think of this as a private, practical exercise, designed to sharpen your observational skills.

After all, being right is never enough. You also have to be swift and smart and endlessly intrepid.


Spark said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Spark said...

er, i guess that would be me then?! paranoia - oh dear the human mind is such a fertile and slippery customer! well,at the risk of stealing someone else's glory as potential mole - of the three types you have mentioned, "poser" definitely fits the bill best, as i just LOVE dressing up. definitely i am not a counterinsurgent as i am far too fragile and i am hopeless at subterfuge.more of a wear my heart on sleeve, interesting question: what makes for a real insurgent? Jesus said it well "ye shall know them by their fruits". And "worship in spirit and in truth." if: if the struggle of the ages makes you cry, all the ocean of suffering endured by man woman and child throughout time, all in the quest for a just world order, then probably you are the real know, some people say their glass is half empty, and some say it's half full. but do you know what the problem is? the glass is too big. it's called the law of the overflowing cup. looking forward to the next wishes, Mark

TripleJ said...

Spark! You did not follow the rules!!! Irl said "No name!" and immediately you say "It's me!". Don't you know that when you say it's me it gives the name away? (well at least the nick) :^)

Besides, it's probably not you anyway :^)

And aside from this, you're also wrong where the glass is concerned. The glass is not too big, it's the bottle that was too small.

I do remember a disruptive influence a few years back on the chiapas list running at ucsd. I was faintly suspicious of him on a few odd occasions, but I have to admit his outrageous behaviour also made me laugh a lot at the time. Maybe a redeeming feature of the 'counterinsurgent'? To be successful, he must also be appealing and entertaining, then even though he may appear suspect to the well initiated, he is however tolerated by the bystanders.

This list no longer exists, but the reason I ended up abandoning it was not because of this character, but by the incompetent way it was managed by the anarchist group running it. Near the end, I could barely post to it (5 posts in 6 would bounce), and I could only read through the web interface.

miguel said...

I was under the impression it was the chicken man's list :-) I must have my wires crossed

irlandesa said...

Darling spark,
I love that you love dressing up! I've been thinking of having a masque here, since we know I love all things romantic and mysterious, especially when they involve fancy dress, cocktails and flirting. And, as for your thought that you might be the person in hiding - please note that I did note that the person I suspected does have some history with me. Thus, as far as he's concerned, there's no guessing about it - he knows. [off to plan our masque...]