By LE Brown
#BlackLivesMatter has become one of the most notorious phrases and hashtags of the past decade, much like how its namesake, the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation (BLMGNF), a decentralized activist collective and political organization, has become one of the most targeted groups since the Black Panther Party (BPP) of the late 1960s.
It is no secret that BLMGNF has endured a rash of negative press lately over their former Executive Director, Patrisse Cullors, and her financial records. There has also been increased scrutiny surrounding organizational receipts of grants and fundraising, and direct organizing tactics and actions displayed by network members and supporters.
While the BLM leaders we spoke with insist that close scrutiny doesn’t bother them – “Bring it on!” said Melina Abdullah, Professor and former Chair of Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles – organized, well-financed disinformation attacks are a different story. These disinformation attacks have become a cause for serious concern in the wake of the worldwide protests last year which transformed the group from an American grassroots anti-police brutality cause into the largest sociopolitical movement and racial justice organization in history.
“Disinformation is the intentional telling of untruths. Disinformation is an attempt to discredit a movement, discredit people, discredit individuals. Disinformation also has the secondary effect of leading to the criminalization and violence meted out against individuals and organizations,” Dr. Abdullah said.
In fact, the long-time Crenshaw resident had a harrowing experience of her own to share about the time she was doxxed and swatted while in her house with her three children and how she worried that she may not survive the encounter as she stepped out of the house to face the dozens of guns trained on her. And this occurred after she became a known figure throughout Los Angeles as the co-founder of their BLM Chapter.
That is why, she insists, we would be “naïve” to believe everything being said about BLM nowadays, and understand that some of the talk we hear is “part of this long history that has been meant to take down black freedom struggles.” Then, as professors do, she gave a mini-lecture relaying how disinformation attacks have fueled anti-Black movements from post-Civil War “slave fugitives” to Jim Crow to birtherism.
Another speaker was Jorden Giger, Co-leader, BLM-South Bend, Indiana and Director of Outreach, BLM Grassroots, who proceeded to explain the difference between misinformation and disinformation, after which he outlined some of the disinformation campaigns BLM has had to contend with, and how 2020 brought on an uptick in attacks, many of which were initiated by foreign actors in numerous countries. Finally, he outlined the various concerted attempts to misrepresent BLM’s mission as anti-police, anti-family, anti-father, anti-black male, etc. – unfounded claims that are popular in right-wing media circles, which is why they need the rest of the media to do more than merely repeat disinformation.
These attempts to discredit BLM and spread disinformation will not be the last faced by Black groups so long as foreign (and domestic) actors keep bankrolling disinformation campaigns. Thus, BLMGNF is asking for the support of members and the general public to report suspicious sites, stories, ads, social accounts, and posts about BLM on their website.
#BlackLivesMatter was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, Inc. is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives. Black Lives Matter Grassroots is the collective of chapters across the United States and around the world which organizes and builds for Black Power and freedom under the BLM banner.