For some time now we have watched as our police departments become militarized and our government has increased its surveillance on Americans all in an effort to combat “domestic terrorism.” A recent report has shown that everything we have been seeing is for a distinct purpose, to prepare for a massive breakdown in society caused by a catastrophic event.
The Department of Defense has funded a highly compartmentalized research program amongst many universities in America that’s overseen by several military agencies to study the dynamics, risks, and tipping points of civil unrest across the world. The intent of the program is to develop immediate “warfighter-relevant insights” for military officials in the event of civil unrest here in America.
The “Minerva Research Initiative” was launched in 2008 after the banking crisis and seeks to “improve DoD’s basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the US.” This is done through partnerships with several universities with federal funding.
One of the projects that was awarded to Cornell University aims to develop a model “of the dynamics of social movement mobilization and contagions.” It studies social media conversations from around the world in times leading up to civil unrest “to identify individuals mobilized in a social contagion and when they become mobilized.”
A separate project that was awarded to the University of Washington “seeks to uncover the conditions under which political movements aimed at large-scale political and economic change originate.” This project focuses on “large-scale movements involving more than 1,000 participants in enduring activity.”
Then last year the Minerva Initiative funded a project that would determine “Who does not become a terrorist and why?” This particular study was conducted on peaceful activists who didn’t engage in “armed militancy,” and conflated them with “supporters of political violence.” The 14 case studies each “involve extensive interviews with ten or more activists and militants in parties and NGOs who, though sympathetic to radical causes, have chosen a path of non-violence.”
In 2013 the DoD set out to study the chances of civil unrest due to climate change. The three year research project developed models for what may happen under different circumstances resulting from the Earth’s changing climate.
What’s troubling about these different studies is that when asked about the purpose and intent of them, officials within the DoD refused comment and gave a bland, blanket statement about them.
“The Department of Defense takes seriously its role in the security of the United States, its citizens, and US allies and partners. While every security challenge does not cause conflict, and every conflict does not involve the US military, Minerva helps fund basic social science research that helps increase the Department of Defense’s understanding of what causes instability and insecurity around the world. By better understanding these conflicts and their causes beforehand, the Department of Defense can better prepare for the dynamic future security environment.”
There’s also many independent scholars who are highly critical of the program and see the Minerva Initiative as the government militarizing social science.
Professor David Price, who’s a cultural anthropologist and auther of the book “Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State” said that when you looked at the individual bits of many of these projects they sort of looked like normal social science, textual analysis, historical research, and so on, but when you added these bits up they all shared themes of legibility with all the distortions of over-simplification. Minerva is farming out the piece-work of empire in ways that can allow individuals to disassociate their individual contributions from the larger project.”
Price had previously exposed how the Human Terrain System (HTS) from the Pentagon, which embedded social scientists in military field operations, conducted the majority of their training scenarios set in regions “within the United States.” He also reported that the HTS scenarios “adapted COIN [counterinsurgency] for Afghanistan/Iraq” domestically “in the USA where the local population was seen from the military perspective as threatening the established balance of power and influence, and challenging law and order.”
One of the war games that Price reported on involved American activists who were protesting near Missouri. Those who participated were tasked to “identify those who were ‘problem-solvers’ and those who were ‘problem-causers,’ and the rest of the population whom would be the target of the information operations to move their Center of Gravity toward that set of viewpoints and values which was the ‘desired end-state’ of the military’s strategy.”
This is consistent with the many leaked Pentagon documents that suggest the NSA mass surveillance is actually intended to prepare for the destabilization that would occur after a catastrophic event.
Bartle Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, James Petras, agrees with what Price as to say. He believes the Minerva Initiative is tied to the Pentagon’s domestic counterinsurgency operations that are involved in the “study of emotions in stoking or quelling ideologically driven movements,” he said, including how “to counteract grassroots movements.”
Dr. Nafeez Ahmed summed it up perfectly, “Minerva is a prime example of the deeply narrow-minded and self-defeating nature of military ideology. Worse still, the unwillingness of DoD officials to answer the most basic questions is symptomatic of a simple fact – in their unswerving mission to defend an increasingly unpopular global system serving the interests of a tiny minority, security agencies have no qualms about painting the rest of us as potential terrorists.”