I know that sane Americans are all holding our breath until January 20th, when most of us are anticipating being able to breathe a sigh of relief. We foresee a return to normal concerns– policy debates based at least partially on logic and evidence, an actual national response to the COVID pandemic, and an end to waking up each day to news of the President’s latest lunacy and/or his administration’s latest, ever-more-blatant corruption.
Apparently, however, we won’t be clear of existential threats when Trump and his mobsters depart.
The Washington Post recently carried a column on the results of a study done by Jigsaw, the research arm of Google.The research looked into violent white-supremacist groups, and found that they had formed a connected global movement even before Trump’s presidency gave them oxygen here in the U.S., and that movement will almost certainly continue long after he leaves office.
These white-supremacist groups have used the Internet to recruit and train followers, much as Islamist extremists did a decade ago, argues a major new study by Jigsaw, a research arm of Google. The study, described here for the first time, is being published Tuesday by Jigsaw’s digital journal, the Current.
The study shatters the image that many analysts have of white supremacist attackers as “lone wolf” extremists. Jared Cohen, the chief executive of Jigsaw, argues that “this myth obscures the vast underlying infrastructure of white supremacist online communities around the world.”
These groups “move fluidly between mainstream and fringe platforms,” Cohen warns. They recruit followers on Facebook or YouTube, among other venues, and then direct them to protected “alt-tech” sites where they can privately share propaganda and boast about operations.
The report describes a movement that is much larger, much more violent and much better organized than most of us have realized. Information from the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database suggest the existence of a global network that has been steadily growing since 2010.
A chilling factoid: that network has expanded “in tandem with Islamist extremism, its twin in using online media to spread hate.”
Consider these comparisons: In 2009, white supremacists were responsible for six deaths in 19 incidents, while Islamist extremists were responsible for 14 deaths in 12 incidents. Those numbers kept climbing steadily through the decade. By 2019, white supremacists were linked to 165 deaths in 336 incidents, while Islamist extremists were tied to 193 deaths in 82 incidents.
In three “hot spots” for white supremacists — Germany, Britain and the United States — the number of incidents seemed to spike because of special factors: in Germany, the influx of Syrian migrants in 2015; in Britain, the angry debate over Brexit in 2016; in the United States, Trump’s presidency in 2017.
When we look at the evidence all around us–it is hard not to conclude that we live at a time when huge numbers of people are simply crazy. Not just wrong about this or that, not just uninformed or unpleasant (although most also fall into those categories), but off the charts deranged.
It isn’t just the “soldiers” of these horrifying, radicalized terrorist threats.
It’s also the huge numbers of Republicans who believe that Donald Trump was mentally and emotionally fit to occupy the Oval Office. It’s the millions who insist that an election that delivered victories to their party’s down-ballot candidates, was supervised in many states by their own party, and was lost by over seven million votes, was somehow “stolen.” It’s the huge numbers who believe in “QAnon” and its conspiratorial allegations that Democrats are trafficking and killing children and drinking their blood. It’s the inconceivable numbers who continue to dismiss the pandemic as a “hoax” while their friends and relatives die.
I know rational folks are supposed to “reach out” to those on “the other side”–but how do you reach out to people who are on the other side of sanity?