Americans are too pampered and neurotic to fight a civil war

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“Tomorrow is war”, Steven Crowder, right-wing media personality tweeted Monday evening, after the announcement of the FBI’s search of the Mar-a-Lago property of former President Donald Trump.

Clear and early the next morning, Crowder was back – with details. “Today is war. That’s all you’ll get on today’s show,” he wroteending with the time and hashtag of his political commentary show and a gif of the late conservative brandon Andrew Breitbart saying “war”.

Crowder’s initial tweet was the first example cited in a Tuesday New York Times account of the wave of violent right-wing language following the Mar-a-Lago raid. Other examples in the article (“This. Means. War.” and “We’re at war” and “Country on the CIVIL WAR ???”) follow strikingly similar lines, and comments like these have been widely featured in a new round of speculation that a new civil war is near.

But Crowder’s posts, in particular, perfectly illustrate why I think we should be skeptical of this forecast.

“War,” to Crowder, means sharp words on a podcast. “War”, for Breitbart, meant creating a website – the gif used by Crowder was from a 2012 documentary, I hate Breitbart, about the launch of his eponymous site Breitbart.com. Most of the shitty messages about needing to “lock and load” are just that, and for all of our negative partisanship and incendiary use of social media, Americans have yet to show up to anything like a critical mass inclined to kill each other on politics.

I’m not saying that a rise in political violence is inconceivable, far from it. Experts are increasingly warning that this is happening, and they may well be right. Our standards against political violence have been seriously undermined over the past three years. Much of our politics is undeniably malicious. Some people really see themselves as enemies rather than mere rivals, as villains instead of just as wrongs. And the storming of the Capitol on January 6, the destruction of a Minneapolis police station and the repeated attempts to destroy a federal courthouse in Portland show that there is a small subset of Americans – political ideologues, accelerationists, equal opportunity chaos profiteers – who are ready to physically attack the government and each other.

But I don’t think that’s most people. I don’t even think that’s most people who like LARP’s extremist politics on the internet. There is a mob madness, yes, and mobs will do things that their individual members will not. But there’s a gaping gap between ragebooking while you watch Fox News or hype about “MAGAts” on Twitter and bludgeoning a real, living human being for voting the wrong way. It’s a gap that I don’t think most Americans are willing to cross.

We must also take into account the physical difficulties of war.

“Over the past two years, large swaths of the country have said their lungs are too weak to breathe through cotton cloth, while others have insisted it is deadly dangerous to walk around in the open. air on a beach without that same fabric.”

Are we, as a people, really going to fight on the beaches, in the fields and in the streets? Are we really going to fight in the hills, where there is no air conditioning? In the forests, without refrigerators? Do we hate each other enough to eat hardtack? To undergo surgeries on the battlefield? Who knows more about foraging? Box you start a fire with nothing but sticks? (And there’s no YouTube tutorial – they’d knock down cell towers.) Over the past two years, vast swaths of the country have said their lungs are too weak to breathe through cotton cloth, while that others insisted that it was lethally dangerous to take an outdoor walk on a beach without that same fabric.

Gun control advocates like to note that fantasies of fending off tyranny with our private arsenals are unrealistic because the US military is so well armed, to which gun rights activists respond by pointing fingers. places like Afghanistan, where insurgents can frustrate that same army for decades. with small arms and guerrilla tactics. And that’s true, but how many of us can do what these insurgents are doing? We don’t have traditional farming and survival skills. We cannot live in caves. We had a months-long national discourse on toilet paper shortages.

If political violence becomes a regular feature of American life, then I suspect it will be less pitched battles and more The Troubles (where Protestants and Catholics fought in typically low-intensity urban warfare in Northern Ireland during decades), crossed with Waco (where a religious separatist group fought federal law enforcement, with tragic results), with Twitter hell overlaid. More likely than a second civil war like the first, they would be intermittent spasms of violence around which, as journalist Aris Roussinos puts it, our “‘normal life’ continues[es] pretty much as usual, except everyone [is] more fearful and depressed,” and the authorities use escalating violence to maintain control, while the incendiary pundit class does steady business.

On the afternoon of his “war” show, Crowder returned to Twitter with another post on the topic. “It’s time to fight for every square inch” he said, sharing a photo of himself in a cheerful raglan shirt displaying his show name and a tagline: “Fight like hell!” How could you, dear reader, join the fight? Well, the tweet continued with a link to CrowderShop.com, “Use code ‘FIGHT’ for 15% off!”

Rallying the troops at Gettysburg, it’s not.

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