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In Iraq the US military used psychological tactics like teaching the macarena to children to pacify Iraqis. These are part of a wider array of so -called counterinsurgent (COIN) tactics that seems to now be used on protesters in the US.
The attempt to “win over” protesters is similar to the COIN strategy of “winning hearts and minds” which the US commonly practiced in the wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. This military strategy aims to deprive rebels of the popular support they enjoy by trying to gain legitimacy and pacify local communities.
As explained in the US Field Manual 3-24 on counterinsurgency:
‘Hearts’ means persuading people that their best interests are served by COIN success.
‘Minds’ means convincing them that the force can protect them and that resisting it is pointless.
Another way of capturing a community’s allegiance is by attempting to co-opt its members through “tapping into an existing narrative that excludes insurgents.”
One could argue that this is precisely the intent behind taking the knee and hugging protesters— infiltrating the narrative of police brutality and subverting its anti-establishment message.
By portraying the police force as allies and protectors of Black people whose interests are aligned with the protesters, the problem becomes one of a few “bad apples,” rather than a historical legacy of injustice.
Like the stick and the carrot, intimidation and coercive tactics go hand in hand with co-optation strategies designed to neutralize dissent and suppress resistance.