Know the Enemy
Y2K: Repression 2000
Revolutionary Worker #1035, December 19, 1999
When the clock strikes midnight on December 31, computer clocks around the world will advance one tick, moving them into the next millennium. For some systems this will be a routine matter. For others it will be a problem called the Y2K bug.
The Y2K (year 2000), or millennium, bug is simple enough. Until recent years, computer programmers coded dates for computers by using a two-digit number--for example 98 for 1998. The problem is that in the year 2000, a two-digit date will make the year 00. For some computer systems, this could be interpreted as 1900. In the world of computer language this is not good. Anything that is time-driven could potentially fail. If not fixed, paychecks could go un-mailed, power could go off, medical equipment could shut down. In short, any computers that keep vital things working could stop. What fails and what doesn't is an open question. What the impact of such failures will be and how people react to them is something that makes the government nervous.
On the technical front, the government has made all kinds of preparations. But what is less public, is how the ruling class is preparing for a potential Y2K repressive clampdown.
Quietly, the National Guard, the FBI, local police and other government agencies have been making Y2K plans. From Seattle to Buffalo agencies are outfitting their police with crowd control equipment, staging drills, and playing out disaster scenarios.
Take a scenario played out in Washington, D.C. The Washington Post reported in March that "A contingent from the Marine Corps Barracks at 8th and I streets in Southeast Washington traveled to Quantico Marine Corps Base recently to train for handling civil unrest. The scenario that was played out at a mock training city at Quantico involved government workers who were miffed that computer problems associated with the millennium bug prevented paychecks from being issued."
In Georgia a Y2K drill played out various scenarios, including a prison riot in Reidsville and a drunken riot in Buckhead. At the same time, it imagined that roads were closed across northern Georgia and a bridge was closed in another county. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution said the drill also included a scenario where "a fiery collision between a gasoline tanker truck and a tour bus kills at least 30 people. At least 60,000 chickens are dying and no one knows why."
Along with the disaster drills, even smaller police departments are being outfitted with riot and crowd control equipment. An article in the Seattle Times outlining plans for Y2K disruptions in one of the suburbs described how "five of the department's officers are practicing crowd control tactics with a team of 15 Snohomish County police agencies, dubbed the Allied Law Enforcement Response Team (ALERT). The officers are outfitted with military-style black uniforms, 15 side-handle batons, 37 shin guards and 69 padded vests."
Then there's the National Guard. It is being put on alert throughout the country. For example, in California 1,700 National Guard troops will be on duty between December 30 and January 2 statewide. In Washington state, half the state's Guard troops will be on duty New Year's weekend. In New Mexico all 28 state armories will be open New Year's weekend. In New Jersey, in addition to the state troopers tripling their regular force for New Year's, National Guard troops will be on duty in each of the state's 35 armories--ready to call entire units to active duty.
In New York City, which is something of a national model for police-state operations, the NYPD will be out in force. They will have 37,000 cops on duty New Year's Eve with 7,000 stationed in Times Square alone. According to a "Public Safety FAQ" (Frequently Asked Questions) posted on the city's website, "All Precinct and specialized units have modified their Unusual Disorder Control Plans to respond to all potential Y2K emergencies." It then continues, "The Police Department Emergency Mobilization and Disorder Plans have been modified to deploy sufficient manpower to the scene of any blackouts within the five boroughs. Emergency generators are in place at each local precinct" (and at police headquarters). All this will be coordinated through the mayor's emergency management "bunker" in the World Trade Center.
The Washington Post has reported that on New Year's Eve, a special White House coordination center "will start round-the-clock operations to gather massive amounts of information about the Year 2000 computer problem here and abroad."
Meanwhile, the FBI has tried to up the level of surveillance by local law enforcement around Y2K. It has prepared and distributed a report to law enforcement agencies nationwide titled Project Megiddo (named for an ancient battleground in Israel associated with Armageddon). The report includes a warning about groups the FBI feels could be a problem around the New Year.
In its overview the FBI says, "The Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem has stated that some state and local governments could be unprepared, including the inability to provide benefits payments. This could have a significant impact in major urban areas, resulting in the possibility for civil unrest. Violent white supremacists are likely to view such unrest as an affirmation of a racist, hate-filled world view. Likewise, militia members who predict the implementation of martial law in response to a Y2K computer failure would become all the more fearful."
The report goes on to characterize the groups it feels potentially pose a threat around Y2K. The groups are an assortment of white supremacists; including Christian Identity and certain militias, but also includes apocalyptic cults and "radical fringe members" of the Black Hebrew Israelites. The report, which is full of generalizations and speculations, seems to have been written to get local law enforcement to start poking around even more aggressively than they normally do. According to USA Today the report was to "be the centerpiece of an FBI seminar this month before the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Charlotte, N.C."
The FBI sees this as an occasion to strengthen a program of working with some of the militias. According to an FBI press release, "For several years, the FBI has had a program of reaching out to militias and their members to explain the FBI's role in investigating violations of law and to stress open lines of communication with militia groups." They go on to say that "The contact with militia members has proven effective, in that the more mainstream militia groups have been helpful in identifying the more extremist elements of the militia who may resort to acts of violence."
The FBI has a whole history, especially during the 1960s, of infiltrating groups like the KKK and other right-wing organizations--and actually participating in reactionary attacks on the masses. And nobody should think that Y2K conversations today, between right wing militia groups and the FBI, are good for the masses of people.
It should tell us something that the rulers of this country are preparing for the new millennium with even more repressive measures aimed at the masses of people. This is a system uncertain about the future--worried about disorder, unrest and rebellion.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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