Why misogynists make great informants

How gender violence on the left enables state violence in radical movements

This thoughtful piece by Courtney Desiree Morris (no relation) makes the case that male supremacists on the left, given their loud-mouthed, obnoxious, manipulative personality type, are precisely the types who are or could become informants. She backs this up with concrete examples for left groups, and concludes;

The state has already understood a fact that the Left has struggled to accept: misogynists make great informants. Before or regardless of whether they are ever recruited by the state to disrupt a movement or destabilize an organization, they’ve likely become well versed in practices of disruptive behavior. They require almost no training and can start the work immediately. What’s more paralyzing to our work than when women and/or queer folks leave our movements because they have been repeatedly lied to, humiliated, physically/verbally/emotionally/sexually abused? Or when you have to postpone conversations about the work so that you can devote group meetings to addressing an individual member’s most recent offense? Or when that person spreads misinformation, creating confusion and friction among radical groups? Nothing slows down movement building like a misogynist.

While I don’t dispute her thesis, I wonder if it could lead, at least sometimes, to looking in the wrong places. The most dangerous informant is the always helpful volunteer who doesn’t make waves and who soon makes himself indispensable, not the loudmouth.

  • EnCee

    Like I said, this article is great. It’s hard to believe this type of issue is so pervasive that it practically has its own literature to address the issue. It’s even more scary how much this relates to things I saw in ANSWER and the PSL. Especially with the candidate they are running for CA governor. In looking into this I found out it’s an issue people are already having to deal with like here:

    Reading about inspiring activists like Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Margaret Randall, Elaine Brown, and Gloria Anzaldúa and knowing they had to go though these types of things just make me wonder what the hell type of movement people are trying to build nowadays. It’s like people have learned nothing from the past.

    Maybe that’s why some people in the PSL and ANSWER, especially the leadership, were always so dismissive of feminism and its critical theory. Under the guise of criticizing bourgeois tendencies they were probably trying to shy away from criticism of the way they run things. It’s easier to dismiss manifestations of chauvinism, patriarchy, hierarchy, machismo and all sorts of related “privilege” when you don’t have a critical theory to analyze it. Then your concerns can just be dismissed or marginalized as not following the proper political line or proletarian/working class mindset.

    I also don’t think this should be taken as the end all and be all of “how to spot an informant.” I think one of her main points was that these pathological, manipulative personality types serve the same role whether they are getting paid or not. As she says:
    “Most of those guys probably weren’t informants. Which is a pity because it means they are not getting paid a dime for all the destructive work they do. We might think of these misogynists as inadvertent agents of the state. Regardless of whether they are actually informants or not, the work that they do supports the state’s ongoing campaign of terror against social movements and the people who create them.”

    I swear I could quote the whole thing, but I’ll just drop this tidbit:
    “What the FBI gets is that when there are people in activist spaces who are committed to taking power and who understand power as domination, our movements will never realize their potential to remake this world. If our energies are absorbed recuperating from the messes that informants (and people who just act like them) create, we will never be able to focus on the real work of getting free and building the kinds of life-affirming, people-centered communities that we want to live in. To paraphrase bell hooks, where there is a will to dominate there can be no justice, because we will inevitably continue reproducing the same kinds of injustice we claim to be struggling against. It is time for our movements to undergo a radical change from the inside out.”

    • I think some informants are so whacked out that trying to figure out why they do it would just make your brain hurt.

      However, I suspect many (most?) informants probably get started that way because they got arrested and avoided prosecution by becoming an informant.

      I remember reading that sometimes 50% of those at Communist Party meetings in the 50’s were FBI informants or agents, and they didn’t know of the existence of the others. It seems probably that such infiltration still exists, greatly aided by being able to monitor cell phone calls, email, social networking websites, listservs, etc.

      And, obviously, some groups from all over the political spectrum do need to be watched. Like those who want to blow stuff up, etc.

  • DJ

    “where there is a will to dominate there can be no justice”

    Amen! And this applies not only to Left Wing movements, but everywhere. Our two-party system (or is it one party, I forget) runs on the premise that if you elect “us,” we will impose our solution on “them” and prevent “them” from imposing their solution on you. Both GOP and Dems carry this message of domination, and we wonder why we’re not getting anywhere.

    So long as power accumulates at the top, so long as top-down solutions are considered the norm, we will see abuse of power, exclusion of the electorate from the process, and looting of the public treasury by anyone powerful enough to do it.

    Democracy begins in the community.

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