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Russia’s Pan-Africanist Black Belt: How New Intelligence Has the #ADOS ‘Bot’ Narrative Malfunctioning

In late May it was revealed that U.S. intelligence agencies had acquired confidential documents circulated among well-known Kremlin operative Yevgeny Prigozhin and his associates, the content of which primarily dealt with possible Russian influence operations to be conducted within America. Of special interest to Prigozhin and his co-conspirators—one of whom managed the Internet Research Agency (the St. Petersburg-based ‘troll farm’ that was responsible for the propagation of social media misinformation in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election)—was how race in America could be maximally exploited to further the interests of Russia. And contrary to what certain intelligence ‘experts’ and ‘leading’ cyber analysts have been insisting in the mainstream media over the past six months—that it is the #ADOS movement which is the obvious ideological vehicle to help Russia engender the kind of discord it needs to advance its geopolitical agenda—the Prigozhin papers in fact argue that Russia’s best hope for expanding its influence lies in the promoting and fostering of an explicitly Pan-Africanist mentality among black Americans.

Titled “Development Strategy of a Pan-African State on U.S. Territory,” Russia’s disruption playbook recommends seeking out impressionable African Americans who would reportedly be transported to facilities in Africa “for combat prep and training in sabotage.” Thereafter they would be sent back to the U.S. south to foment strife and champion the cause of establishing a Pan-African state in what is now the nation’s Black Belt region. As reported last month in The Guardian, Russia has recently evinced renewed interest and zeal in expanding its clout on the African continent. And so such a cynical course of action being pursued by Russia toward black people here in the U.S. would indeed seem to conform to a larger political objective.

The point in noting this is obviously not merely to indict or vilify Pan-Africanism, or to even suggest that Russian interest in Africa is a novel development. Rather, the insight this information provides into the nature of U.S. race-focused Kremlin machinations during our present moment just really begs some basic questions, particularly as these revelations manifest in relation to the ‘official’ narrative being cast wherein #ADOS is aiding and abetting (unwittingly or not) Russian motives. Why, for example, would Russia prop up a movement like #ADOS, which has—for years—been extremely critical if not expressly opposed to black Americans adopting a political approach that is grounded in Pan-African thought? Why, when our intelligence agencies now have evidence that identifies Pan-Africanism as a basis of action that Russia might utilize for its own ends, are apparent ‘spokespeople’ for those same agencies going to such observably deceptive lengths to try and implicate a political movement that explicitly rejects Pan-African precepts? A movement that, furthermore, encourages the embrace of a politically-actionable identity that understands itself as wholly distinct and separate from one derived from the African continent? A movement that clearly states its aim in promoting a closer identification of black America with America. Has anyone who has appeared on national television to authoritatively declare that #ADOS is essentially a threat to national security offered anything like a persuasive account of why there is this obvious and glaring inconsistency between that which they purport to know and what the actual intelligence is telling us?

Probably not. In fact, one of the most troubling aspects concerning that groundless narrative of #ADOS being a front movement made up primarily of Russian bots is that—as baseless as that allegation always was—it was never a fringe idea, at least not in the minds of those people for whom it absolutely should be regarded as such absent any definitive proof; people whose supposed professional integrity by definition ought to entail a great deal of circumspection about exactly the sort of spurious and defamatory claims that have been levied at the movement from its very first appearance in the U.S. media landscape.

Those false assertions have, if anything, been amplified.

Indeed, despite there being something unspeakably abusive about the sort of breezy deployment of the term ‘bot’ when discussing the #ADOS movement—being so totally ignorant of and oblivious to the sheer loadedness of that particular characterization of the group in the context of their advocating for justice due precisely because of the history of the basic denial of their humanity and what that has meant for their experience in America—those same accusations of foreign-puppeteering are now finding expression in the public communications of our elected officials. The irony, however—the sheer madness of how one of the most salient dimensions of the movement somehow seems to escape the awareness of these people—is that #ADOS sets out to instill the exact opposite attitude toward citizenship and one’s relation to his or her country that a Kremlin plot would hope to inspire in black America. While the latter would naturally want to do everything in its power to undermine and contribute to the rot of confidence in American democracy, #ADOS by all indication aims to fundamentally cultivate that ideal, to legitimize it by forcing the country to repair the damages stemming from the legacy of injustice and exclusion that, taken together, have engineered into black life in America a gruesome immobility. And in making the group whole, it ought to be apparent that there would thus result a more just and inclusive participation in the exchange of national politics, moving us closer to a more authentic democratic process. It seems that, far from precipitating the collapse of American democracy, #ADOS is in fact an integral part of its salvation.

Contrary to what Russia’s flirtation with Pan-Africanism actually reveals about its preference for movements—that those which are inherently separatist are far more suitable to their supranational aspirations—#ADOS wants in, not out of America. And they want in because they, more than any other group, are owed in. To not meet with and engage that basic fact of American history in good faith when discussing the #ADOS movement, and to instead reactionarily brand it with Russian intrigue, or label it as some kind of conduit of electoral sabotage—is to all but lay completely bare the sort of private biases that for so long now have tacitly and shamefully opposed the action required to make meaningful restitution for the group’s victimhood. And in advocating for a black agenda that intends to remedy that, the only thing that #ADOS could be accused of trying to suppress with respect to the black vote is the potential for further self-harm and the continuation of that tragic and obscene situation, one in which the group whose ancestors built this country have been de facto omitted from having any sort of meaningful say in their outcome in it.

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