A core belief of any dedicated participant of a grassroots movement is that masses hold power over leaders. The decisions that lead to listening, agreeing, then raising a voice in favor of ideas against any form of leadership are backed by a belief in truth prevailing over power.
A grassroots movement is powerful because it is difficult to change the course of one that is a success. Just as advocates of a social movement can’t guarantee the masses get on board, so can’t leaders when looking to prevent an uprising.
It is in any current leadership’s best interest to at least keep tabs on the intended end-goals of emerging grassroots movements. At the very least, current powers need to temporarily share the monopoly on influence they hold should a grassroots movement gain momentum. At the very most, a grassroots movement can strip leaders of their positions.
Below are principles which guide a response strategy whose goal is to limit effects of a bubbling grassroots movement. These are principles of distracting, silencing, and dispersing. They are implemented by those in power who judge a grassroots movement to be dangerous to their position.
Figureheads Are Targeted and Silenced
Organized movements tend to operate hierarchically. There may not be expressed leaders to a movement, but there will often be organizers, early publishers, and those who attract a crowd when they speak on issues at hand.
The acts of targeting and silencing individuals considered leaders of a grassroots movement vary. Reputational attacks are deployed through traditional media and online communities. The intended audience of reputational attacks are those who’ve not yet subscribed to supporting the movement in question.
The motives of those leading the grassroots movement are questioned to the point of alluding these leaders to be acting against their followers’ interests. The organizing individuals’ pasts are investigated for any publicly damaging or embarrassing events / transgressions. An overall goal of releasing propaganda against leaders of grassroots movements is to damage their reputation enough to be considered as unintelligent, disloyal, dishonest, and unworthy of one’s support.
These supposed leaders of grassroots movements are targeted online for subjective infractions of social media policies, if the social media company holds interest in suppressing their reach. Their motives are painted to be selfish, their plans painted to be poorly thought through, and their past is painted to be difficult to side with.
Leaders of grassroots movements are targeted by leaders of institutions, organizations, and companies who are threatened by the movement’s influence. The threat these institutional leaders feel doesn’t have to be existential. Financial, influential, and reputational reasons – among others – can all warrant an organized attack on grassroots leaders that is difficult to pinpoint in origin or reason. Seemingly unrelated enemies who are friends with the movement’s enemies tend to pop up in surprising places.
Influential Supporters Are Picked Off
The influence that popular proponents of a movement exert is capable of attracting masses to any cause. A movement’s ability to attain backing from popular individuals can be the difference between a movement that fizzles out and one which commands respect from leaders of a government or institution.
Figureheads of support are voices that stand out above others in their power to influence. Such figureheads are often involved in the entertainment industry in some manner; they can be social media stars, actors, athletes, etc.
The strategy of targeting the figureheads of support to any one rising movement is to draw connections between their behavior (current or past) and undesirable populations of greater society. Histories of prominent supporters of grassroots movements are scoured for weak links, mistakes, and regretful acts. Those pain points are publicized and villainized.
The figureheads of the movement itself find themselves needing to defend attracting problematic prominent supporters. A grassroots movement’s prominent supporters are sought to be used against the movement by way of reputational attacks in an effort to wedge a movement’s leaders apart from its influential supporters.
Fear of Expressing Support Is Established
A fear of alignment with the movement is developed in the general public as it sees prominent support figures attacked and villainized. Household names being targets of reputational attacks for backing certain movements breeds hesitancy in normally moderate populations – but this is only one method of establishing a fear of expressing alignment with a grassroots movement.
Fear of expressing alignment with any certain movement means creating a belief that only those a part of an undesirable minority support the movement. The establishment of an undesirable minority within any population involves making connections between what the general population dislikes, and what the supporters of a grassroots movement exhibit.
Supporters of grassroots movements deemed problematic will almost certainly be labeled as undesirable, unfulfilled, and as part of a fringe group of unsuccessful beings.
The undesirable labeling of a grassroots movement’s supporters is done by utilizing the communicative resources available to those opposing the movement in question. Social media allows for voices to grow large without necessarily having to grow funding. Any methods by which ideas are spread can be utilized to paint supporters of any grassroots movement as second-class, undesirable beings.
Organized Groups Are Splintered by Linking Its Members to Extremism
Strategic reputational mistruths and misrepresentation of facts can splinter any group. The leaders up against any movement gaining traction will look to divide the cohesion between its leaders and members in addition to its followers. Undesirable subgroups within the organizational structure of any movement divide it by distracting its members from the group’s overall goals. The successful division of an organized group behind any grassroots movement will cap that movement’s potential.
Organized and managed groups can be divided in multiple ways. Since organized groups behind grassroots movements tend to be in the public eye, public accusations and exaggerated summations of members’ characters are released or amplified. Financial transactions by the group’s leadership are studied, personal spending behavior can be assessed, and each member of an organized group is scoured for the stench of hypocrisy to publicize.
The acts of few are labeled as the intentions of many by opponents of a grassroots movement. Successfully attributing malicious members of any group to be the representation of everyone who comprises it makes it an easy target. Doing so discourages people from adopting that group’s views in fear of adopting the identity those views are smothered with. This is a natural process of any group dynamic that gets exploited by opponents with prominent voices.
The disavowal of one prominent member by another can be labeled as mission success for those looking to divide the group. There will be efforts from at-risk leadership to breed irreconcilable misalignment between members of any group responsible for establishing or facilitating a grassroots movement. The ways this is attempted will be dependent on the set and setting, with the overall goal being to create disagreement between members making up the movement’s foundation.
Giving It Attention Is Deemed Supporting It
Once a general distaste toward supporters of the grassroots movement is communicated and impregnated into the status quo, expanding the definition of what it means to be a supporter becomes a next step.
Opposing leaders seek to starve movements that publicize what they don’t want shown. Such a feat is done by labeling any attention provided to the movement to mean supporting that movement. The intention behind expanding the definition of supporter is to make people walk on eggshells when discussing the grassroots movement at hand.
It becomes a risky venture to even discuss current events when supporters of a movement are villainized and the definition of supporter consists simply of speaking about the movement. News about the grassroots movement is limited when members of the general population aren’t willing to risk discussing it in objective terms.
Momentum Is Downplayed and Limited
The methods mentioned above don’t guarantee a complete suppression of the movement. Some movements hit the nail on the head, they satisfy something greater than individual reasoning. Public support can spread fast. Notwithstanding whether protests break out or a mass of individuals change their profile pictures in support, the battle against momentum can outgrow the strategic realm. No leader should bank on sizing up momentum behind movements accurately.
Momentum becomes a target to fixate reticles on for leaders who understand its danger. A movement’s momentum is attacked through strategic downplaying. Available communication channels on the opposite side to a growing movement will begin downsizing their opponent. They will misrepresent facts to make the movement seem smaller than it is.
Any leader is careful to stay ideologically consistent with their support groups on the internet. Good talking points against the movement in question seen first online get repeated at the podium, and points raised at the podium reverberate online. The online medium has greased the cogs of traditional political transgressions. Channels of direct contact with supportive groups online are utilized by leaders to infuse mistruths about rising countermovements in any field. Their first target to downplay is always size and momentum.
Exponential Methods of Communication Are Restricted
Social media giants dominate exponential avenues of communication. Whoever still shouts atop big hills is foolish. When a handful have a hand in what’s seen and heard by many, a strategic strike upon any grassroots movement is certainly deployable. Silence from troublemakers can be achieved at photon speeds.
Managers of online tools will at least be tempted to utilize their tools in self-interest. A belief of that sort is reasonable knowing what we know about our flavor of Great Ape.
Believing those in control of exponential communication to act in good faith is belief based on speculation. Monopolistic control of communication is creative control of reality, not noble work per se. Even if trustworthy, the windows into objectively verifying their behavior are closing. These are the tools that they created; they deserve the power they’ve attained. The ability to silence is sweet poison though; once it’s tasted it consumes.
Oversteps to Silence Are Contextualized as Normal and Par for the Course
Authorities standing against a movement causing disruptions will implement tools available to them to defund, divide, and disperse any organized acts causing authorities discomfort.
Standing rules, laws, policies, and contracts which are defined objectively but subjectively implemented will be used as grounds for authoritarian action against a novel group causing disruptions.
For instance, a local government may implement an anti-terrorism effort against protesters by first successfully labeling that group as a terrorist group. The subjective labeling of a grassroots movement to be one comprising of terrorists will open doors for authorities to employ “anti-terrorist” measures. Such measures may include violent responses to protesters, arrests, and otherwise off-limits acts if the individuals at the receiving end were labeled average citizens.
These overstepping implementations of long-standing policies are difficult to challenge because the policies themselves are considered typical, normal, and par for the course. The strategic handbook regarding such methods of silencing includes diffusing protests against the implementation of such policies by labeling such authoritarian reactions as regular, normal, and par for the course.
What’s often brushed away however, are the subjective definitions of a grassroots movement (without any evidence or trial) to fall within the categories that are defined in such existing, forceful, reactionary policies.
Future Rumblings Are Permanently Tied to Villainized Past
As a grassroots movement is consistently tagged with a falsely villainous history and slowly starved of support, its future actions adopt an inherent sense of distrust. Future plans, transgressions, and actions by those looking to propagate a grassroots movement’s growth will be charged with a villainized past.
Akin to a credit history, the movement in question becomes more socially charged with every next move that’s made. It’s not allowed to improve this credit score however. The intentions of those up against any grassroots movement is to stick it in quicksand by marking its every action, supporter, and plan to be misaligned with a neutral observant’s point of view.
With every new development, the movement’s perhaps misrepresented past will be brought up and exploited. What were the malicious acts of few prior will become the supposed intention of the whole movement with every attempt at growth.