Not A Social Media Phenomenon: The Roots of Disinformation As An Anti-Black Weapon

Disinformation is not new to social media—it's a historic weapon of white supremacy, impacting Black communities since slavery. This piece explores its evolution and the vital role of community vigilance in response. The post Not A Social Media Phenomenon: The Roots of Disinformation As An Anti-Black Weapon appeared first on Kansas City Defender.

Not A Social Media Phenomenon: The Roots of Disinformation As An Anti-Black Weapon

In an age where the term ‘disinformation’ often conjures images of social media trolls and foreign interference, a critical truth is frequently overshadowed: disinformation is not a modern invention, nor is it a phenomenon confined to the digital realm.

This deceptive tactic, deeply intertwined with the fabric of white supremacy, has been a relentless weapon against Black and minority communities for centuries. Its roots run far deeper and its impact much wider than the confines of our current social media landscape.

The history of disinformation as a tool of oppression against Black Americans is a silent, yet insidious narrative. From the falsified police reports that twist the truth to serve a biased agenda, to the systemic manipulation of media narratives, the use of disinformation has long been a calculated strategy employed by those in power to maintain control and suppress Black voices.

This article aims to unearth the long-standing history of disinformation, shedding light on its role as a cornerstone in the architecture of systemic racism.

What Is Disinformation?

At its core, disinformation is the deliberate spread of false or misleading details on a broad scale, typically to gain social or political power. This tactic, historically, was aggressively used against both enslaved and free Black Americans, painting them as threatening and unreliable. Rooted deeply in anti-Blackness, this strategy has evolved with the advent of the digital era.

In modern times, disinformation can manifest as undermining the importance of someone’s vote, sharing half-truth headlines, or twisting media clips to misrepresent a person’s true stance. The Black community continues to face the enduring effects of these deceptive practices.

To label disinformation as a new tactic would itself be disinformation.

Newspaper excerpt from the 1970s revealing the FBI’s COINTELPRO campaign against the Black Panther Party, highlighting disinformation tactics aimed at undermining the group’s credibility and efforts.

State-Sanctioned Disinformation & Attacks on Radical Black Movements

The Black Panther Party, established in 1966, was deliberately targeted and attacked through a sophisticated disinformation campaign by the FBI and the U.S. government.

This was a calculated move, falsely branding them as a “terrorist organization” in a strategic effort to destabilize Black leaders and movements.

This aggressive use of disinformation as a weapon of war against the Black community did not start here; it can be traced back to earlier instances, such as the aftermath of Nat Turner’s 1831 rebellion.

In that period, a flood of fabricated stories surged against the Black community, systematically depicting Black individuals as looming threats.

With this knowledge, we can see why it is problematic to suggest that disinformation is a novel phenomenon, as that minimizes its historic damage and lessens the accountability of legacy media outlets.

To be clear, “media” as I am employing it, means any platform sharing information or facilitating social interactions.

Legacy media refers to those forms popular before the digital age began in the 1970s—think newspapers, books, ads, music, and films. These traditional media outlets were (and continue to be) controlled by a powerful few, and they perpetuated the negative narratives about Black individuals.

“Grand Jury Blames Negroes for Inciting Race Rioting; Whites Clearly Exonerated,” Tulsa World, June 26, 1921, Final Edition, Section A.

Legacy media, along with police and state authorities, have long used disinformation as a weapon against the Black community. Its power lies in its ability to shape societal views and redefine interactions with Black individuals.

This impact remains visible today. Escalating mistrust in media sources has alienated the community from crucial information regarding health, finance, and legal and educational reforms. Such misinformation not only sows distrust in beneficial initiatives but also distracts attention from opportunities that could elevate quality of life.

For instance, when family members doubt the efficacy of a vaccine or are uninformed about debt relief programs, it’s often a result of strategically deployed misinformation.

“Counterintelligence Program: Black Nationalist – Hate Groups” reads an Image from, the official FBI site housing released vault documents for the general public.

Programs like COINTELPRO leveraged disinformation to sow confusion and thwart community organizing efforts. Unity was what first drew the spotlight of disinformation onto the Black community. There’s so much power in solidarity and radical organizing—yet, such organized movements governments frequently perceive as a threat.

Identifying the true origins and intentions behind our information is key in the battle for justice. As society deems certain institutions trustworthy—such as educational systems, police, media, and politicians—it’s imperative to continuously scrutinize them. Control over narratives equates to control over society.

Disinformation is a lasting tool of white supremacy and remains firmly embedded in all of our social structures. It’s essential to amplify the voices from Black communities when they call out the systemic injustices that persist.

Unity has always been vital. It forged the path to freedom for enslaved people and fueled legislative advancements during the Civil Rights movement. The power of community keeps the spirit of liberation alive in the Black community.

As we confront and discuss disinformation, holding media outlets accountable is crucial. True empowerment lies in taking control of our narrative. The time is now for Black communities to assert our autonomy, take action, and reclaim our stories.

The post Not A Social Media Phenomenon: The Roots of Disinformation As An Anti-Black Weapon appeared first on Kansas City Defender.