"You cannot change their mind, even if you expose them to authentic information."
I began writing this article a year and a half ago, as I sat watching the snow fall on the mountains, warm cup of coffee in hands, and a pervasive thought gripped me.
I'm looking at different mountains, but there was another time in my life that I saw fringe groups fighting their way to their societies control room using radical ideology, dehumanization, and insult in place of reason set to a similar backdrop.
Not a day goes by that media - be it mass, for-profit media, or ground-level social media - doesn't hoist the flag of the outrage de jour, and hurl insults at their ideological rivals. Why? What purpose does this serve?
To the vast majority of Americans who remain unrepresented, both by political leadership as well as fringe ideologies, this is a stunning display of erratic and socially caustic behavior. It's the monkey dance writ large. The information age has given a bullhorn to any and every voice, and the more vulgar the shit-slinging, the more people tune in out of morbid curiosity. We'll return to this.
To answer the "why?": they do it because it causes outrage. It's the bully pulpit around which everyone is either a witch in need of a burning or an ally with pitchfork and torch. Outrage is easy and reason takes effort, and the vanguard of the internet armies are always at the ready to hoist the flag and charge into the onslaught of mean comments.
Our country has been at a rolling boil before. Hell, any keen student of history would be hard pressed to say it's ever been calm. If so, it's certainly a matter of perspective. Even while living peacefully on the reservation, the news media continually lied about Geranimo in an attempt to enrage the public.
So, why does it matter?
When minority communities groups struggle against governments in other countries, we call it 'ethnic tensions'. When terrorists detonate bombs, or mail poison to government officials overseas, it's 'sectarian violence'. We view the world from a one way lens in which we're all very keen to throw our opinions out, but rarely do we synthesize incoming criticism into actionable information. It's easy to forget the Braceros, Jim Crow, Watts riots, Rodney King riots, Waco, and the OKC Bombing.
In that same way, we watch these spectacles unfurl in our own society with a sort of naive amusement. The reactionary nature of humans... our 'all or nothing' forecasts for the future make every little flare up look like an impending war or another numbing drop in the bucket of 'whats the point?'
There's a process at play here that is hard to define, though. It's powerful, it's smug, and it passes dangerously easily between people.
It's the process of dehumanization. Of "othering"; a process that removes those who don't agree 'en extremis' and places them into a demihuman category. A process that is the companion for great tragedies throughout the ages. A process that has a vitality and allure so powerful that it can lead millions to unmarked, mass graves.
Looked at objectively, persecution is the human way... and there are predictable outcomes.
The Purpose of the Republic
First off, it's a common misconception that the United States is a "democracy", it's not. We have a Republican form of government, and our founding fathers were brutally critical of democracy, with James Madison saying in Federalist papers 10 and 51:
"There is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”
The Republic, in contrast, is one in which restraints are placed upon the government and inalienable rights are acknowledged for those who find themselves in minorities. The Representative Republic delegates authority to citizens who represent the interest of their constituents in Congress, the House, and the Senate, whereas the democracy draws power from a simple majority. The irony of populist movements using calls to democracy for minorities can't be overlooked.
So, What then is a Republic for, if not to atomize complex topics, pass them through the filters of history, culture, law, and reason, and restructure them for the betterment of society? Why have elected representatives or a congress if we cannot trust those machinations with great decisions?
More to the point, why can't we manage to do that anymore?
Yuri Bezmenov, the KGB defector once said that an objective of the Soviet intelligence services was to use ideological subversion to Demoralize, Destabilize (economy, foreign relations, defense systems), Crisis (violent change of structure) and 'Normalization'.
Whether or not Bezmenov was casting light on real methods of the KGB's efforts in the U.S. or not, it would be difficult to challenge his quote that:
"Despite abundance of information, no one is able to come to sensible conclusions... The facts tell nothing to him."
Anymore it seems that all intellectual roads lead to non-sequitur or ad hominem. No amount of reason, fact, or presentation can lead the demoralized person to accept that they're incorrect.
Why should it?
Truth means nothing in an age where the abundance of information means validation can be found for whatever position, no matter how irrational it may be. Indeed, the dystopian views of society from Huxley and Orwell have blended their way into everyday society; from 'Soma Holidays' to the destruction of language prevalent among societies self-appointed wardens of language. We've carved a rut so deep, so fraught with antipathy, that few have the mental resources to form logical conclusions, or the wherewithal to care if they encounter one.
What we have here is a recipe for an incredibly important point that, again, took more than 500 days to revisit due to the overwhelming gravity of the conclusion:
We're entering a period in which reason is ineffective. We've given ourselves over to the chaos, and no different than a bar fight, those who step in with reason and attempt to de-escalate more often than not end up the ones who get sucker punched or stabbed.
The bridge between what we need as a society and our governments ability to respond to those needs has been clouded by a toxic cocktail of poor education, plutocracy, historic grievances, and lack of cohesive culture.
On a national level, what does that mean for those of us who've seen nations rip themselves apart, slaughter their neighbors, savage their children, and wage a war among their homes with no clearly defined objective?
It means that the fate of our empire, is the same as the fate of all empires.
Othering, Antipathy, and Outcomes
As we've discussed in our series "Spheres of Violence" and "Realistic Conflict Theory", one of the most critical elements of violent division is creating a clear rift that separates groups into opposing camps. With this accomplished, animosity takes its toll, and culminates into distortion of facts, hard lines on acceptable values and behaviors, and an absolutist rejection of those who fail to meet your cultural expectations.
Those of mild or intelligent dispositions who aren't easily swayed are pushed to the middle, their views being neither radical or vitriolic enough to satisfy either fringe's appetite for othering. As the more intelligent people get pushed into the crossfire as soiboi libtards or fascist bigot neonazi supremacists, so does the ability to be a moderate. This is literal and figurative.
As we saw during the Siege of Sarajevo, the warring factions created a situation in which the regular citizen who didn't care all that much for politics was the one who was victimized the most. World Wars have caused a tragic number of civilian deaths. "The Troubles" in Ireland had a similar effect. The sectarian violence endemic in the Middle East and SW Asia, the deeply divided populations of Latin America, the Tribal and political upheaval in Africa... this is the way of othering, and it saves its worst atrocities for those caught in the middle: those soft targets with no real desire to fight. Those caught in the middle are afterthoughts in the blood-frenzy that occurs in the race to eliminate the 'other'.
This is important for one major reason:
Once the violence starts, it acts like a centrifuge. As more and more innocent people are killed, as more and more shootings and bombings take the lives of loved ones, the fewer people there are in the middle. They're flung to the extremes out of anger, hurt, sadness, and desperation. Over the last year, I've been watching, optimistically, for some sign that the othering would relent.
Instead, we have the equivalent of "Confidence Missions" occurring weekly; attacks becoming more and more brazen as the agitators work themselves up for greater violence.
This process of self-development is what we're looking as a barometer for the future... And as more angry survivors begin to blame the the perpetrator the centrifuge will fling more people to the far ideological corners for radicalization.
As people find themselves with less and less to lose, violence looks more and more like a viable solution.
If you have your finger on the pulse of social media, chance are you've been annoyed with the weirdly partisan comments of your friends and acquaintances. If you're tired of it, you may have just blocked or unfriended a large number of them so you don't have to hear it.
But that isn't stopping the nonsense. Even the FBI accidentally leaked information that it was using social media channels to incite violent acts that they could step in and stop to look like the heroes. What happens when they don't get there in time? Moreover, what of the people parroting violent rhetoric, be it "bash a fash", or "I'm your huckleberry" (a common response to the idea of a left wing revolution)?
The reality is that this is already a war. It's ideological, and low intensity, but it's already coming to blows, whether we want it to or not.
There are other commenters on this subject who've made the case for our de facto state of civil war. While we've not yet broached it in an article, we've held this to be the case for several years now, largely coinciding with Stephen Paddock's Mandalay Bay shooting, in which no official motive was discussed. Whether or not you believe Paddock had no political motivation, that doesn't really matter. It was the first trail of smoke in which high profile people expressed that it would be OK if he did.
When an Executive for one of the leading new agencies in a nation openly expresses that it's OK to feel nothing when over 50 people are murdered because you disagree with them ideologically, well, where there's smoke, there's fire.
How this Ends
Let's conclude this by making a few declarative statements:
- There's a very real war going on right now that's deeply rooted in unconventional tactics. It's a war of words, and the ground it attempts to take is political perception.
- The nature of this war is to influence people to behave in a certain way, and it's deeply rooted in Marxist revolutionary ideology. This is evidenced by the overwhelming number of reporting agencies biased strongly to one ideological side. This isn't to make this political, but rather to point out that it's occurring. Disecting the language and methods that indicate this is true is a matter for the history books. At this point, you either see the fingerprints, or you don't. We won't try and do any convincing.
- "Groupthink", or the propensity for humans to resist challenging norms of thought and behavior is fueling this process. Whether Trump or Biden are good or bad people is irrelevant. What IS relevant is that othering is occurring on a national level and VERY few people are stopping, auditing the noise for signal, and drawing their own conclusions.
- Meanwhile, the violence towards 'others' is slowly increasing.
- Those who are reluctant to join sides due to incompatibility of views are likely to be targeted, as was the case in war throughout history.
At this point, there's very likely no stopping the trifecta of problems that landed with COVID19 - economic depression, international conflict, and civil conflict.
What we're seeing right now is an inflection point in history at which all probably future paths lead to significant violence, across the spheres. We've maintained that the COVID debacle's primary concerns were the second and third order effects, and that it's a "Type III emergency"; indefinite timeline, low intensity with increased risk of embedded Type I and II problems.
We've discussed how to handle these things in the past. They require nothing short of an utter retooling of your role in society. They require dramatic shifts in how we live our lives. While we categorically try and resist the urge to make predictions, this situation has given all the necessary red flags to make it worthwhile to say this instability is unlikely to subside on its own.
The brinksmanship going on in the U.S. right now is the opening act, and the true salvo has yet to hit.
Things may yet relent, and we can hope for that, but as the saying goes "Pray for rain, but dig a well."
Use this time wisely.