Statement Against Snitch-Jacketing

An anonymous blog post recently emerged accusing someone we have organized with in the past of being a snitch; the post provided no evidence to back up this accusation. We have decided not to validate the accusations in this post by engaging with it. Instead we choose to emphasize the following points:

There is no place in radical movements for anonymous and/or unsubstantiated allegations. Such allegations, whether from well-intentioned but misguided individuals or from state agents, have the effect of sowing distrust and division within our movements. They put the accused people in the impossible situation of responding to no one and nothing in particular, or risk seeming to admit guilt by refusing to reply. And they put the rest of us in an uncomfortable position by seeming to demand a verdict of guilt or innocence, without providing any basis for judgment. Such tactics can divide and even destroy movements, as the FBI proved most decisively with its Counter-Intelligence Program, COINTELPRO, against the liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s. We must learn the lessons of the past and refuse to engage in snitch-jacketing.

It is equally dangerous, and for precisely the same reasons, to speculate about who is responsible for such allegations and why. That sort of speculation merely worsens the problem that it pretends to solve. It increases the speculation; where once it was focused on a single person suspected as a snitch, it expands to envelope everyone as a potential snitch-jacketer. Division widens as we look to each other with suspicion and paranoia.

If people feel sure enough of their facts to launch public accusations against fellow activists, they should be willing to take personal and/or collective responsibility for such accusations and provide supporting evidence. Otherwise, if we fall into the habit of making accusations unaccountably, and accepting them without question, we have to assume that our enemies will observe the resulting divisions and exploit our weaknesses.

If you agree with these principles, we encourage you to sign onto this statement by leaving a comment below.



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19 Responses to Statement Against Snitch-Jacketing

  1. peter says:

    The right seeks converts, the left seeks traitors

  2. J. Dozer says:

    Totz this,
    J. Dozer

  3. AF says:

    I agree with the statement,

    But, we have more important work to be done than to run around with a magnifying glass and handcuffs as snitch police. Also, substantiated is subjective. For me, that means being on a payroll, and/or actively working with the police to undermine the movement. For others, that could be as simple as the slip of the tongue and saying ANYTHING at all to the cops.

    Considering how much of the movement is amateur and unprepared to deal with serious police repression, it should only be expected that some activists are unprepared to confront the state alone and isolated. In fact, we should only hope that we have the courage and ability to do so ourselves.

    I want to build an independent class movement of the proletariat. Some activists apparently want to act hard and LARP fantasy Sopranos, putting their life’s energy pissing against the wind. We need to be better than that. We need to move past this paranoid obsession with secrecy and insulation! We need to work to build a movement that is real.

  4. Dean Tuckerman says:

    I support this

  5. AlexB - Common Cause Toronto says:

    I agree with your statement, with the caveat that sometimes releasing information about police informants or undercover agents can expose people to criminal charges… and in that case it can make tactical sense to release an anonymous statement – albeit one backed up with solid evidence. A recent example in Canada was the Joint Intelligence Group (JIG) infiltration operation that preceded the Olympics and G20 summit in Canada in 2010. In that case, the identity of the infiltrators was protected by a court ordered publication ban, despite being widely known, and one individual writing a blog about the identity of one of the infiltrators was charged with criminal contempt of a court order. But yeah… just snitch-jacketing people based on hearsay or rumour is a serious problem.

    • Michael says:

      A serious problem, and a tactic used by the state to repress movements. Anna Mae Aquash died behind a false anonymous snitch accusation, planted by an infiltrator. Black panther comrades died after state agents who had infiltrated the movement labled them as snitches.

  6. jordan says:

    Are we to wallow in a feel good solidarity that leaves us open to undetected snitches? What is the strategy for dealing with undercover surveillance since it is a fact and it is there even if it can’t be proven. Rumors and gossip are not helpful but being aware of the reality is, so what is the strategy for how to protect ourselves against all the snitches we don’t know about?

  7. jamesrtracy says:

    Needed to be said.

  8. Ben Seattle says:

    I thought the BOC’s statement against snitch-jacketing was quite well-reasoned, and I agree with it.

    And I also like the idea of asking activists to support the statement with a comment.

    I will also offer what I consider one (small) correction to the statement:

    > Such tactics can divide and even destroy movements, as the FBI proved
    > most decisively with its Counter-Intelligence Program, COINTELPRO,
    > against the liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

    The cointelpro program certainly hurt the movement. Progressive people and activists died as a result of it. But this level of repression was at a low level in comparison to what was used to crush popular social movements in many other countries–where tens of thousands, or more, were murdered.

    We should be clear that external repression was not what caused the decline of the movement. Powerful social movements rise and fall on the basis of both external and internal factors. The external factors tend to be the most well known. The internal factors are often more important.

    The movements of the 1960’s and 1970’s went into decline when the raw material of the movements began to dry up. The draft was ended. And many of the worst forms of racial discrimination and violent repression were defeated. Those were some of the main external factors. And these factors were a result of the success of the movement. Basically, the bourgeoisie made concessions in order to dry up the fuel for the movement.

    But we should not overlook the internal factor also. The movements of the 1960’s and 70’s were never able to successfully resolve some of the biggest and most important questions, such as: (1) what kind of society do we need to create? (2) how will we get from here to there? (3) what kinds of organizations do we need? and (4) how can we successfully fight the influence of both the reformist and sectarian diseases (which divide and weaken the movement on a far more massive scale than cointelpro)?

    When these questions are resolved in a decisive way (and I believe this will happen in the decades ahead) we will witness the development of a movement that achieves critical mass. And this will represent, so to speak, the ignition of a fire which cannot be extinguished.

    Ben Seattle

  9. Kate Yikes says:

    Thanks for being so clear and righteous. ❤

  10. Kristian Williams says:

    Black Orchid Collective,

    Thank you for taking a clear stand against anonymous allegations, snitch-jacketing, and the like. These practices are incalculably destructive.

    in solidarity,
    Kristian Williams

  11. Scott Nappalos says:

    support it

  12. Adam W. says:

    Great to see this!

  13. Crystal C. says:

    Agreed. And sorry for the latest victim. Anonymous, unsubstantiated accusations are dangerous.

  14. Dustin Hawks says:

    Thank you Black Orchid Collective for writing and circulating this statement. I am in full support.

    Dustin Hawks

  15. Hella 503 Collective in Portland, OR supports this statement.

  16. Chip Berlet says:

    Agent-Baiting and Snitch-Jacketing within a movement are so reprehensible and disruptive that the person or persons responsible should be publicly shamed and shunned by other movement activists until they seek counseling for their aggressive and irresponsible behavior. I say this as a paralegal investigator who has worked on legal teams where we fully-documented our exposure of government, corporate, and right-wing informers. This is the advice of the folks who created the Public Eye Network in the 1970s to help unravel the COINTLEPRO program. See Common Sense Security by Sheila O’Donnell, co-founder of the Public Eye Network. It’s linked at the bottom of this resource page:

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