I know no one wants to, but it’s happening, and if the non-extremists in this country don’t start paying attention it’ll be too late.
Now I know most of us think of our own Civil War as the model for how civil wars are supposed to be conducted: 2 separate armies, and battles over territory. In this model civil war is just another variation of war, which is strictly a military operation, almost always on a large scale, where gains and losses can be marked on maps.
But it’s 2022. The entire world has changed. New technology gave us cyberwarfare, which can’t be plotted on a map. We have propaganda wars conducted via social media where users exist in code that we say is in the ether—invisible, unifying, and universal. I think civil war can—and does–look different in 2022.
Abraham Lincoln’s United States was a young nation still knitting its ties together. Joe Biden’s United States is a country in crisis, with trust crumbling in our institutional bulwarks, and fewer and fewer ties that bind across a (deliberately) fractured culture.
I want to think about civil war in a new context that doesn’t involve organized military maneuvering because we’ve expanded the ways to seize power. In the 19th century, with no mass media, no forms of electric or electronic communication, the only way to seize power was to go to physical war with other armed people. In the 21st century, masses can be mobilized via propaganda to seize power by using the very tools which are supposed to protect us.
The extremists in this nation have been at work preparing the ground for this civil war via FOX, Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, and now One America News. These outlets, and many others used simple propaganda approaches like tapping into emotion and repetition to convince a lot of people of an imaginary analysis.
Political extremists seized power by welcoming the efforts of an enemy nation to undermine our elections. I honestly fear we will never learn the full extent of what was done, who enabled it, and exactly what damage was done.
They also used untraceable and illegal—until they bought Citizens United via the Supreme Court—money to take over state legislatures to gerrymander districts. Those same political extremists also bought a Supreme Court that overthrew the Voting Rights Act, and then those same tainted state legislatures were free to attack the right to vote itself.
Before 1/6 the civil war was a cold war, with intermittent outbreaks for right wing extremist violence. The 1/6 insurrection flipped it to a hot war, and one fought with target harassment against multiple targets: teachers, local school board members, trans adults and kids, election officials, etc. In addition, 60% percent of Americans will have an election denier on their November ballot, setting up future opportunities to unseat legally-elected Democrats.
I worry about what happens if right wing extremists win in November, and not just at the national level. I worry about what happens when right wing extremists use their access to the levers of power against the people who oppose them, even in the mildest ways.
I’m worried about it because that happened Tuesday here in West Virginia. A woman who had protested in the galleries at the state capitol was arrested and charged for her behavior. There’s a specific detail in this story that shows what is really at work:
Lindsey Jacobs, a 38-year-old lawyer from Morgantown, was arrested Friday and charged with three misdemeanors: obstructing an officer, willful disruption of governmental processes and disorderly conduct against “the peace and dignity of the state,” according to a copy of the arrest warrant that she shared with The Associated Press. Misdemeanor offenses come with a penalty of up to $500 and/or up to a year in jail for each conviction.
Jacobs, who runs advocacy programs for a nonprofit legal services organization, was removed from the House chamber’s gallery on Sept. 13 while listening to lawmakers discuss legislation — signed into law Sept. 16 by Republican Gov. Jim Justice — that bans abortion at all stages of pregnancy, with few exceptions. The day the ban was signed into law, a warrant went out for Jacob’s arrest.
I’ll let Jacobs say it best:
"She said she worries the delay in arrest is more about people in government asserting their power over people who disagree with their actions, as opposed to public safety."
The further away from this I get, the more sickening it is to me. https://t.co/VH1iJO9zwl
— Lindsey is PRO ABORTION (she/her) (@lindsonhere) September 27, 2022
Stay safe, everyone. I thought of this song because our media continues to fail us in complicated, turbulent times: