June 14th’s shooting of Rep. Steve Scalise has quickly faded into the past in the age of near-instant news cycles.
Yet, anyone concerned with the future of our state, our country, and our civilization should pay attention to the uptick of violence being used as a political tool.
The United States is no stranger to political violence.
Since our founding, we have seen rebellions, assassinations, riots, political insurrections, and even a war of secession.
Yet, in the 21st-century, recent technological developments have changed the nature of political violence:
Cell phones, the Internet, and the Personal Technology Revolution (PTR)
With nearly every American, from pre-teen to senior citizen, having a cellphone with them 24 hours a day, we have never been more connected.
The general trend of increasing access to information is having a tremendous impact on potential political activists.
As witnessed from the Wikileaks publications, government leaks and the now ever-present threat of computer hackers, previously restricted and private information is finding its way into the public domain.
Foreign Policy even went so far as to call the 2010 Tunisian Revolution, “The First Wikileaks Revolution.”
As Julian Assange, Anonymous and Edward Snowden become cult heroes to disaffected youth, we can only expect a growth in cyber-activism.
We can expect this cyber-activism to be more ideological based, as polarization increases and new extremes develop on both the Left and the Right.
PTR leading to increasing political polarization
Whether it is Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm or Google leading search results to specific “ideological agreeable” websites, our human tendency is to search out and promote what we agree with and avoid what we don’t agree with.
The social media experience for most Americans is being constantly bombarded with content that you “Like” and rarely if ever seeing anything you don’t like.
On my newsfeed, for example, I only see posts calling Democrats evil, warning of the soon-to-come Islamic invasion of America or highlighting the crimes of illegal aliens.
Of course, my newsfeed is tailored to my own preferences, interests, and friends, but, as technology and content continue to develop, a very narrow spectrum of political thought emerges for each of us.
This is true of those of us on the right and those on the left.
What this causes is a feedback loop that leads people to only experience a spectrum of political thought that reinforces previously held beliefs.
To put it simply, if someone only listens to “Alex Jones” type content, they will begin to see the world through the viewpoint of “Alex Jones.”
Over time, this may lead the social media user to believe that “their” narrow spectrum of political thought is shared by the majority, and that all others are in the minority.
This may also convince some that the use of violence is justified because they are constantly being exposed to information that reinforces that viewpoint.That’s why, as the PTR continues, I believe we will see increasing political violence.
That’s what happened to James Hodgkinson, Timothy McVeigh, and countless others.
That’s why, as the PTR continues, I believe we will see increasing political violence.
I hope I am wrong.