I just watched a Twitter video of a BLM protest in the little town of Bethel, Ohio. It seems the town cops herded the protesters, about 100 in total, to get them away from armed and angry counter-protesters said to number perhaps 700.
Other clips show the protesters confronted by a swarm of counter-protesters besetting them with racist smears, even threats. Some of the protesters left out of fear.
The video clip shows one of the protesters as he gets off the road and onto a sidewalk. A policeman is standing in front of him, clear line of sight, not more than six feet away. A counter-protester comes up behind the man and sucker punches him in the back of the head. The cop does nothing even when the protester complains about being punched in the head.
What's going on? I know that press reports lack perspective and are provoking, sometimes deliberately inflammatory. That's been the bread and butter of FOX News since it was founded. I know that a lot of Americans find this repulsive and want nothing to do with this thuggery but even the cops aren't stopping it.
Abraham Lincoln, confronting a deeply riven America, cited scripture when he said that a house divided against itself cannot stand. America could now be almost as divided as it was during Lincoln's time. It is so deeply split and, worse yet, across so many fault lines.
Is this akin to the calving of a glacier? Is America fracturing? How does this end?
Could this be a buildup to a crescendo on November 3rd when Americans, some of them anyway, choose to keep or reject Donald Trump? Will Donald Trump be the match to America's fuse? He has certainly built a legion of radicalized followers and the radical right has a lock on domestic terrorism in the United States.
Back in 2017, Foreign Policy had a "Civil War II" on their minds. What, they asked, might a new US civil war look like?
For starters, it won't be a neat, north versus south conflict. That stuff went out in the latter part of the 20th century.
For the United States, the shape of future homeland conflicts will be asymmetrical, distributed, and heterogeneous. A contemporary homeland conflict would likely self-compose with numerous dynamic factions organized by digital tools around ideological and affinity networks. It would likely be a patchwork of affiliated insurgency groups and their counterparts engaging in light skirmishes along the overlapping edges of their networks, mixed with occasional high-value terror attacks against soft and hard targets. Such groups are much smaller than conventional militaries and where they lack in firepower, they wield transgression. As in Charlottesville and Berkeley, the fronts are less territorial than ideological.
Furthermore, digital networks erode the boundaries of the state. Like the Islamic State and al Qaeda, any cell can browse the literature, claim allegiance in some far-flung burb, and start whipping up violence against their targets. Antifa and the Alt-Right are a hodge-podge of varying affinities loosely coupled under their respective brand names with local chapters coordinated across global networks. These are not top-down hierarchies. They’re agile and shapeless with the capacity to grow quickly then disappear.
“One simply cannot explain the speed and scale at which the Islamic State formed without that network effect,” Emile Simpson commented in another Foreign Policy article trying to augur the tremors of a new world war.
Just as we risk missing the signs of networked violence, thinking in terms of a classic civil war can blind us to the many actors working to disrupt the U.S. from within and beyond our borders.
Behind the extremists are often additional layers of benefactors and provocateurs: oligarchs, plutocrats, transnational criminal networks, and foreign powers wielding them on both sides towards their strategic goals. We’ve seen this with Russian-backed Facebook groups organizing right wing protests in the U.S., and in the increasing regularity of information warfare originating from Macedonian server farms, reclusive billionaires, and adversarial governments.Not only has the state lost its monopoly on organized violence, powerful weapons of mass destruction have fallen within the reach of insurgencies. They don't need nukes to inflict mass mayhem. Several years ago there was a report on 60 Minutes about how vulnerable America's cities were to hit and run terrorist attacks on chemical storage yards often located just upwind of major urban centres. They simulated an attack by a few terrorists in a minivan who pulled over to the shoulder of an overpass, opened the door and quickly fired RPGs into the storage tanks just below them before hopping back in and driving off to safety.
Most of those sites are still not secured, the handiwork of lobbyists who successfully defeated efforts to pass legislation adverse to the chemical companies. Just a handful of malcontents with a few Soviet-vintage rocket launchers could easily kill millions in a city such as New York. And if your goal was to destabilize a powerful government that would definitely do it.