Creating the enemy : the FBI and the Black Panther Party
December 13, 2019
Rhetoric, Writing and Public Discourse
This project confronts the history of the FBI’s efforts to silence the Black Panther Party during the 1960’s and 1970’s through an analysis of internal FBI memos compiled in The COINTELPRO Papers. In this essay, I perform a close reading of such memos in order to expose the FBI’s mobilization of war rhetoric, rhetorical exclusion, rhetorical counterinsurgency, and domestic enemy-creation against the Black Panther Party. I argue that the FBI mobilized war rhetoric to rhetorically transform the BPP activist organization into a foreign threat. Not only do I aim to expose the rhetorical strategies which the FBI employed, I also aim to illuminate how such rhetorical maneuvers were used to justify the US government taking materially violent action against a domestic activist organization. I argue that the FBI’s war rhetoric against the Black Panther Party created an environment in which the US government, with the moral permission -- if not support -- of the mainstream media and the American public, could openly harass, wrongfully detain and incarcerate, and even murder domestic activists. This essay examines the historical roots of governmental domestic enemy-creation and confronts the continuing legacy of anti-democratic governmental treatment of activists, especially activists of color.
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