WORDS: 2,050 —  The world isn’t run by weapons anymore, or energy, or money.  It’s run by little ones and zeroes, little bits of data. It’s all just electrons.”  –   “There’s a war out there, old friend.  A world war.  And it’s not about who’s got the most bullets. It’s about who controls the information.  What we see and hear, how we work, what we think… it’s all about the information!”   –   Ben Kingsley as “Cosmo” in Sneakers (1992)


The true impetus and even some coordination of the January 6th insurrection attempt, and the Trump defiance of institutions while president, his relative success at holding on to a segment of the nation using lies, mistruths, misrepresentations, contrived accusations, lies, deceit.. has been achieved as a result of the Internet and social media.  Electrons.  Those little ones and zeros.  Facts are irrelevant; truth is irrelevant, our Constitution is irrelevant,  and subsequently American democracy is irrelevant… all made relevant by disinformation, and repeating it constantly, to disenchanted Americans yearning for a time in America where they felt more entitled.  MAGA.  Also, let’s not forget the same digital/cyber influence of disinformation from international players.. other countries… seeking to disrupt our election processes by taking advantage of our social media vulnerabilities .  

To reiterate…  “….it’s not about who’s got the most bullets. It’s about who controls the information.  What we see and hear, how we work, what we think… it’s all about the information!” 

No, This Isn’t About Some Morally Compromised Mainstream Media BS Either…

This isn’t about mainstream cable or broadcast TV media, or even print media, owners pushing Liberal agendas onto their (allegedly) unwilling and compliant employees or grand conspiracies to discredit Trump (he does that well on his own actually).  Professional journalism wouldn’t have survived to this point by telling lies.  For sure, the traditionally reliable mainstream media individually can and does shift context to create  interest for revenue generating purposes… the idea that all news represents the agendas of their owners is a bit extreme.  Libel laws help enforce staying within limits on truth and accusations.  This threat to American democracy is entirely about the ‘wild west’ of the Internet and social media being the unregulated nursery for giving birth, and a megaphone, for entirely unfiltered expression of human diversity,.. and to the point of weaponizing that confusion to affect real world political outcomes.  There are a lot of people who just have little competency, or devotion to the effort in time, to critical think the accuracy of what they are reading and watching.

This January 6th marks the one year since the Capitol Insurrection attempt.  The political mood of the nation is no better off, and in many ways has simmered away to an increasing threat.  Also feeding this mood has been pandemic fatigue, currently in an upswing in the Covid Omicron variant that imposes yet another round of hospital chaos, domestic public confusion over new CDC protection mandates, ongoing viability of vaccines, closings, openings, institutional mandates, and of course, the social impact in the wearing of masks.

But that’s not all.

The pandemic has thrown  the economy into a strange Neverland of unfamiliar economic indicators.. and … then there’s the growing China military belligerency, and that Russian bear, Putin, growling  and showing his teeth at NATO over the Ukraine.

Our ability to vote is being challenged by Right Wing-dominated state legislatures.  Then there’s the Republican Party of Lincoln that has been eviscerated into a Trumpian Right radicalism of a nationalist autocracy… disgruntled and disenchanted, and feeding off the carcass of a former willing-to-compromise GOP.  All for  Trump and Trump for all!

Then there’s a growing universal narrative.. a concern… a fear… some even having an anxious anticipation…. regarding a thought of political violence at election time… to…. some sort of civil war.

Yep… our nation is in a world of hurts and getting “hurter” with each day.  The following is a sobering report from CNN regarding a think tank assessment on the U.S. being susceptible to engaging in a civil war.

 

[The actual CNN report is at this link HERE.]

Then there’s that little op-ed in WaPo submitted by three Army generals as a warning to all regarding a potential for split factions of the military siding with the current Commander-in-Chief and the loser.  An article in Global Times (HERE) reports the following….. .

“On January 6, a disturbing number of veterans and active-duty members of the military took part in the attack on the Capitol,” they said. And they are suggesting history will repeat again, noting, “In a contested election, with loyalties split, some might follow orders from the rightful commander in chief,” while others might follow the loser.

The article goes on to explain the retired generals’ editorial…

They seem serious as if a tale of two Americas will come into being in 2024, with two groups of troops with different faiths, claiming loyalty to different US presidents. Political polarization is not only tearing US society apart, but also rocking the American military. 

IPSOS reports in an article revealing the results of a recent NPR/IPSOS poll that “Seven in ten Americans say the country is in crisis, on the risk of failing.”  The following is more of the results of their polling, and HERE it is in its entirety.

Detailed findings:

1. A strong majority of Americans are feeling pessimistic about the state of the country, feeling it is in crisis.

  • Overall, 64% agree that American democracy is in crisis and at risk of failing. Even more, 70%, feel the same about America itself.
  • A majority, regardless of their gender, racial/ethnic group, generation, or region of the country, feel that America is in crisis and at risk of failing. There is also broad consensus among Democrats (68%), Republicans (79%), and independents (67%) on this.
  • However, when you zoom in on political affiliation, Republicans feel this sentiment more acutely than Democrats: 47% of Republicans “strongly agree” with this sentiment, compared to 29% of Democrats.

2. Nearly a year after the Jan. 6th events at the U.S. Capitol, Americans hold mixed perceptions on the event. Moreover, nearly one in four agree there can be certain scenarios where political violence is justified.

  • Around one in three (32%) believe the January 6th assault on the U.S. Capitol building was an attempted coup or insurrection, while 28% say it was a riot that got out of control. However, 17% cite a conspiracy – that the events were actually carried out by opponents of Donald Trump, including Antifa and government agents.
  • Perceptions vary slightly by education level – those with college degrees are more likely to call it an attempted coup than those without – but the bigger cleavages emerge by partisan affiliation and related factors (such as who you voted for, where you consume news, and the frequency of consuming political news).
  • For example, there is a more than 50 percentage point difference between Democrats who consume political news at least weekly and Republicans who do the same, when it comes to beliefs that the event was an attempted coup (65% of Democrats who fall into this category feel this way vs. 11% of Republicans).
  • On the other hand, nearly one in three Republicans who are regular political news consumers (30%) say the events were carried out by Antifa/government agents, compared to 7% of Democrats who follow political news closely.
  • More than one in five Americans say sometimes it is okay to engage in violence to protect American democracy (24%) or American culture and values (22%). There is no significant difference between all partisans on this; however, there is a difference between Biden voters and Trump voters, specifically, with the latter more inclined to agree with engaging in violence.

3. Around two-thirds of Americans accept the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. However, around a third believe there was fraudulent voting in the election, and another fifth say they are unsure – meaning under half of respondents unequivocally state there was no, or very little, fraudulent voting in the election.

  • Sixty-five percent of Americans agree with the statement, “I accept the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.” However, this number falls to fewer than half among Republicans, Trump voters, and those who get their news from Fox News or conservative news media.
  • Just under half, 48%, say there was either no fraudulent voting (29%), or very little but it had no impact on the results (19%).
  • Twenty-two percent say there was major fraudulent voting, and it changed the results of the election. This number jumps to a 54% majority among those whose primary news source is Fox News or conservative news media, 52% of Trump voters, and 45% of all Republicans.

Here is what The Atlantic reports… (HERE)

Americans are bitterly divided over the events that led to Jan. 6, as well.

“I think the Democrats rigged the election,” said Stephen Weber, a Republican from Woonsocket, R.I. “And who the hell would vote for Biden?”  

But more than 1 in 5 poll respondents say violence is sometimes justified — either to protect democracy or American culture and values.

Republicans were slightly more likely than Democrats to agree that “it is OK to engage in violence to protect American democracy”; 32% of Trump voters agreed, compared with 22% of Biden voters.

While the apparent polling data and national stresses and political divide all seem to point to a rather bleak future of American democracy, there are those who might include a warning in not succumbing to the temptation of emotional despair on our political and economic future.  In spite of my leanings in expressing doom & gloom warnings of a demise in democracy.. or in the least, posting cautionary tales about how a civil war would mean far more than just the end of the American republic, I am a basic optimist in America and that cooler minds will prevail as time goes on… and how outside events (which almost always can occur) might change the matrix of what seems impending right now.

The following is from author Fintan O’Tool at The Atlantic, who compares the current stage of events with what he witnessed in Northern Ireland.

Beware Prophecies of Civil War:  The idea that such a catastrophe is unavoidable in America is inflammatory and corrosive.

Admittedly, if there were to be another American civil war, and if future historians were to look back on its origins, they would find them quite easily in recent events. It is news to no one that the United States is deeply polarized, that its divisions are not just political but social and cultural, that even its response to a global pandemic became a tribal combat zone, that its system of federal governance gives a minority the power to frustrate and repress the majority, that much of its media discourse is toxic, that one half of a two-party system has entered a post-democratic phase, and that, uniquely among developed states, it tolerates the existence of several hundred private armies equipped with battle-grade weaponry.

O’Tool goes on…

It is also true that the American system of government is extraordinarily difficult to change by peaceful means. Most successful democracies have mechanisms that allow them to respond to new conditions and challenges by amending their constitutions and reforming their institutions. But the U.S. Constitution has inertia built into it. What realistic prospect is there of changing the composition of the Senate, even as it becomes more and more unrepresentative of the population? It is not hard to imagine those future historians defining American democracy as a political life form that could not adapt to its environment and therefore did not survive.

I rather like that perception.. our Constitution has inertia built into it.  It’s the proverbial rolling stone that gathers no moss and achieves a life of its own.  While O’Tool suggests that the inertia is a reason we have no desire to change it to avoid violence, or a civil war, as other nations have done throughout history, I see it as a positive strength.   But that “life of its own” it has is the confidence and determination of Americans handed down from generation to generation of Americans.  I’ll also include in that a “faith” in the Constitution to retain our status quo… which is a free market society.  But I also suggest it’s that faith that is being lost, especially by those Americans who have lost faith in government and our institutions.

Part Two of this short series will be for next week as we “digest” the various media reflections of January 6th a year later.


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