This is something I've been thinking about off and on since I wrote up my little breakdown on MKUltra: why that? Our government has done so much evil to us in the name of good and has crossed the lines of civil liberties more times than I can count. It's doing it right now in Guantanamo, arguably with Echelon, likely with other forms of wiretapping and data-mining. So if something this bad is still going on, why do fringe groups — especially right-wing ones — get so upset about things like MKUltra instead of something like Cointelpro?
Wikipedia actually has a pretty decent write-up about it, but here are the five things you need to know about Cointelpro:
1. It lasted for roughly the same period as MKUltra, from the mid fifties to early seventies, was conducted by the FBI, and it was meant to keep the existing socio-political order intact by pretty much any means necessary.
2. FBI agents were permitted to conduct raids and beatings, destroy property and act like Vikings in black suits.
3. FBI agents planted fake news stories and flyers, wrote up fake subversive literature, all to scare Mom and Pop to death. They used the media to demonize even peaceful groups.
4. Agents infiltrated protest groups. Sometimes they did so to push the groups over the edge into doing something wrong, so they could be prosecuted. Sometimes they were just there to obviously BE plants, so other members would get scared off, refuse to do anything or distrust everyone else.
5. Massive civil rights violations and perversions of the legal system were carried out to bankrupt, jail and terrorize protest groups.
But for the last 20 years or so, the big parts of anti-government fringe groups have been right-wing, and in that time people seem to have gotten lots more worried about MKUltra than Cointelpro, despite the second one having a ton more effect. It's been bugging me, but I think I know why.
Independent Instead of Collectivist
A lot of right-wing fringe puts a premium on individuality. It's why so many are libertarian. There's this attitude that you might want to do the same things, but mainly you go home to Fortress Your House. The biggest thing you worry about is Martial Law from the government, and you don't need to be best buddies with other people to fight back. But a lot of leftist organizations in the 60s, even if they weren't Marxist, were collectivist. Collective action, collective effort. It's a lot easier to poison a group than a bunch of individuals. You get members turning on each other. If you're all sharing together and sacrificing together, all it takes is one fake bank account slip showing that a guy in the group is sitting on tons of cash, and you've just torn the whole thing apart. So I think rightist groups don't care, because they don't think it's their problem. Even though it is.
Personal Subversion Instead of Violence and Intimidation
I think MKUltra spooks rightists more because it's about subverting the individual by using invisible forces. Ultra-Low-Frequency, LSD, something else in the water, hypnosis. If you're an individualist, you only have to rely on yourself. But what if the government can get to you and get YOU to betray YOU? MKUltra's the unseen enemy, making an enemy of you. Compare that to violence and intimidation. Those? Big deal. If the government comes for us, we'll shoot the bastards. The seen enemy you can arm against is less scary.
Cointelpro Targeted the Left
Mainly though, I think it's politics. Cointelpro spent over 80% of its effort on leftist organizations. Socialist, communist, pro-black, pro-hispanic, pro-women and pro-gay groups. Let's be honest, a lot of right-wing anti-government types hate socialism, communism, blacks, hispanics, homosexuals and women's liberation. It doesn't mean they're wrong about the government, but they're wrong about all that other stuff (except communism). Even if these groups had the same distrust they did, those on the right said, "Fuck 'em!" and were happy to see the feds do their work for them. It was against their self-interest, but on the surface it looked like it served their interests. They bought the FBI propaganda: these are all violent blacks and man-raping queers who want to be just like RUSSIA.
MKUlta must have just been scarier. It came for individuals, turned them against themselves. It came after anybody, not just the queers and the darkies and the commies. For an individual who needs a clear enemy, it must still be really spooky. And it is! It still is!
That's the thing I think that bugs me the most. Both of these programs were inexcusable. Horrible. Exactly the opposite of what I want my country to be. But elements of the right have demonized the left so much that they almost seem to compliment Cointelpro. In the meantime, their crazy conspiracies about continuing MKUltra and GOVERNMENT MIND CONTROL (which goes against the basic science) have made MKUltra kind of a joke. They also make you sound like a joke if you condemn it or even really talk about it. You also make people think you're like one of those righist groups.
Now that I think about it, I'm pissed off. I'm pissed off to get lumped in with that crowd just because I think history proves I should distrust my government. And I'm pissed off that these same people seem to just write off one of the most important reasons FOR that distrust.
I don't know where I was going with this. Sorry.