Simple Predictions

About five days ago, I wrote an article stating that kicking conservative individuals and groups off of social media would result in militant extremists moving to encrypted channels of communication on the dark web to launch attacks against the nation.

Now, five days later, militant extremists have moved to encrypted channels of communication on the dark web to launch attacks against the nation. [Source: Washington Post, 15 Jan 2021]

How did we get to this point?

To understand the present, we need to look at the context that put us here.

Claims of Media Bias

In June 2016, I wrote an article warning that news agencies should be especially careful to be accurate in their reporting because any mistakes could be used to foment a public perception that the media is biased, dishonest, or ‘fake news’ and even an ‘enemy of the people.’ We all know how things have turned out since then.

Some responsible publishers have offered apologies and retractions later when mistakes were made. Here’s an example from the Washington Post referring to a story that claimed Trump kicked a baby out of a campaign rally:

“Trump has been unfairly maligned here. We can see why some reporters ran with this tale, based only on the videotape, but it’s good example of why everything must be checked out.”

Source: “Trump is right: He didn’t kick a baby out of a campaign rally,” Washington Post, 6 Aug 2016 [View]

There were about a dozen stories like that, where something was reported incorrectly. Perhaps there were another million examples of honest, balanced, accurate reporting, but that fact wasn’t disclosed by those trying to stir up their base. It’s the dozen mistakes that would be used to shape public opinion.

So, over the past four years, a segment of our society has grown to mistrust the mainstream media. This phenomenon isn’t new. It’s been an undercurrent for decades.

I recall one story in the New York Times from twenty years ago, where a photo showed a Palestinian youth being attacked by Israeli police. The story fit a one-sided narrative that some like to promote which vilifies Jews and Israelis. It also offered a negative portrayal of police.

Here’s the apology from the New York Times.

A picture caption on Page A6 last Saturday about fighting in Jerusalem gave an erroneous identification from The Associated Press for a wounded man shown with an Israeli policeman. He was Tuvia Grossman of Chicago, an American studying at a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem, not an unidentified Palestinian. In some copies the caption also included the news agency’s erroneous reference to the site. The incident occurred in an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem, not on the Temple Mount or elsewhere in the Old City.

Source: New York Times, 7 Oct 2020 [View]

So, the real story was that police will sometimes take heroic self-sacrificing actions to help people, and it’s not always Jews who are harming others. Conservatives who are pro-Israel and supportive of law enforcement would see that story as an example of media bias.

There will always be genuine mistakes, but occasionally inexperienced reporters are tempted to use their power to push their own agenda. These examples accumulate over many years.

Those who want to spin a lie and convince people that they can’t trust the media will have enough examples to make that point. Even if the media is 99% accurate, the one story out of every hundred is all that’s needed to skew public opinion.

It’s the same method used to vilify police. There are about 800,000 police in the United States. Let’s say 1% are going to make a mistake each year. That’s 8,000 stories per year to make all the other police look bad.

We’ve now reached the point where people are willing to take up arms and risk their lives to attack ‘the media’ because they believe the media is the enemy of the people. That believe is now firmly entrenched.

We’re now facing a similar problem with what is perceived to be rampant censorship of conservatives by big tech firms. So, big tech is next to be vilified and portrayed as the enemy of the people.

Mistrust of Experts

For decades there has been an undercurrent of mistrust when it comes to mainstream healthcare providers. This is usually fueled by alternative medicine gurus to grow their base of support and trying to sell more products. Many multi-level marketing companies selling nutrition products will use marketing materials that reinforce this mistrust of mainstream medicine. Examples are given of regular people who have been healed and made millions while selling wellness products. It’s enough to convince people.

Financial gurus will instill mistrust in typical bankers and brokers, promising that their wisdom is better than the experts. Examples are given of people making six figure incomes with the implication that you can do it too.

In this way, large numbers of people have had their brains reprogrammed to not trust experts, not trust science, not trust government agencies, not trust the media, etc. They flock to the charismatic and smooth talking gurus who are the only fount of wisdom for finances, health, politics, and more. This makes people susceptible to cults and consumer fraud.

Note: There are many innovative healthcare providers guiding people to wellness and trustworthy financial advisors. The examples above reflect the problem of those who might take advantage of those who mistrust the world around them.

Not All Conspiracies are Fake

Do you remember back in 2012 how conservatives were claiming that the IRS was targeting them? It was such a wild claim, and almost hard to believe… until the IRS formally apologized for targeting hundreds of conservative groups and lost a legal battle with them. [Sources: Washington Post | NPR]

Because some conspiracies turn out to be true, people begin to believe that all the conspiracies are true. This is why conspiracy theories are so easily fabricated and disseminated. Some people thrive on scandals and having insider news that gives them a sense of having the ‘truth’ while the ‘sheeple’ just consume whatever the mainstream media feeds them. One begins to believe they are part of an elite special group of people who have access to the truth, and the rest of the world is deceived.

Holding on to a mix of truth and falsehoods is a problem. One might console themselves with thinking “at least some of what I believe is true.” But that’s like mixing clean drinking water with pond scum and drinking it, and then saying, “at least some of the water was clean.”

Holding on to fake stories impedes one’s cognitive process and rational fact-based thinking.

Considering Outcomes

I’ve written at length on the topic of counterproductive activism — these are observations and concerns shared by many. The list of examples just keeps growing. We hear about conservative leaders inciting violence and insurrection. That may be true, but the greater force stirring violence and insurrection are the incendiary words and actions of anti-conservatives. Think not? Read on.

The conservative movement in America could survive, and grow, and thrive solely from the mistakes made by liberals trying to attack it.

Here are some recent examples.

Putting Children of Trump Supporters in Re-Education Camps

Michael Beller, a mid-level attorney working with PBS, was recently on a video featured by Project Vertias. In the video (below), Beller talks about using Homeland Security to round up Trump supporters, and then put their children in re-education camps. In the video he also talks about setting the White House on fire. Yesterday, in about two hours of the video going public, Beller was fired by PBS.

I think most people would agree that statements like those in the video above reinforce existing fears, and would be sufficient to incite masses of armed people to go into self-defense mode, attacking the Capitol and engaging in other acts of violent defiance.

Plans to Censor Conservatives

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was secretly recorded delivering a strategy message in which he described taking broad long-term actions to shut down conservatives. The video was released yesterday and has about 500,000 views. Twitter recently deactivated over 70,000 accounts perceived to be promoting conspiracy theories.

Dorsey was probably responding to ongoing pressure from people complaining about the prevalence of bots and fake accounts on their platform, and people using the platform to manipulate and deceive large numbers of people. But that wasn’t made clear in the video.

Pete Brownell – Censored

Yesterday it was reported that Pete Brownell of Iowa had one of his websites shut down by the hosting company, GoDaddy, for violating some content rules. The specific content in in violation, and the specific rules broken, did not seem to be identified.

Here’s some information about Pete Brownell:

Brownell is well known in his community as a philanthropist. He has supported numerous causes such as renovating a public library, arts programs, building a skate park, planting a community garden, a robotics program at a local high school, a community education program at Grinnell College, and a new emergency center at the Grinnell Regional Medical Center. … As of 2015, Brownell served on the board of Iowa Economic Development Authority.

Source: Wikipedia [View]

Brownell has thousands of supporters and loyal customers through his Brownells sporting goods business. The website that was shut down is one dedicated to a specific firearm. Brownell and his followers could mostly be described as falling into the category of responsible gun owners. So, targeting him for censorship, an entire website, will no doubt fuel the concerns that conservatives are being arbitrarily targeted.

Insulting Veterans

A well-known news anchor, Jake Tapper, insulted a Republican legislator and veteran yesterday saying that although he fought for freedom elsewhere in the world he doesn’t seem to be fighting for freedom in the United States. This is another example of how news media spokespeople seem to be biased against Republicans and conservatives.

Conclusion

When we hear stories of conservatives joining militias and being radicalized, we need to acknowledge that much of what is making conservatives fearful, and angry, and seemingly violent, are stories like those above. And that’s just the news from yesterday. Imagine hearing stories like these every day. For years.

So, I would argue that the counterproductive actions of Democrats and liberals are the primary driving force behind the growth of the conservative movement in the United States, and the root cause of alt-right militant extremism.

During the 2016 election, I stated that Democrats could win by a landslide if they would just sit at home and do nothing until election day. But they didn’t sit at home. Then, yada, yada, yada… the FBI got involved and launched an investigation into certain Democrats who may have broken a lot of laws and lied about a lot of stuff and then not cooperated with investigators. [Source] Those most likely to win in the general election (according to polls) were eliminated in an unfair manner — and those responsible lost their jobs. [Source] Then Republicans were referred to as a basket of deplorables. People looked on with disbelief. If you cared about the Democratic Party and the Democratic process you spent much of the year with your palm on your face and a gut ache.

What the Democratic Party leadership did was a complete inventory of everything I would have advised them to avoid. Instead of winning by a landslide, the outcome was narrow and sloppy, with a campaign strategy that seemed to forget that we have an Electoral College.

If Democratic Party members, liberals, and progressives would like to have a greater impact, they should avoid doing the things that repeatedly result in outcomes opposed to their stated goals. Stop arbitrarily censoring people. Stop talking about putting the children of Trump supporters in re-education camps. Stop insulting veterans.

Years ago, I was consulting with someone regarding SEO strategies and marketing their business online. This person paid an agency $50 per month to promote their website. Soon, their website fell completely out of search engine results. That’s when they reached out to me for help. I explained that the agency probably did something to flag the site as appearing to cheat the search engine rankings. A person can actually get fairly good search rankings by doing nothing special or elaborate. Just stay focused on doing what you do. Create genuine content. Make a positive impact in the world. To demonstrate this principle, I created multiple $18 per year websites that gained #1 position rankings. While everyone else was cheating to get to the top of the search results, my sites rose to the top because no fraudulent deceptive practices were identified.

So, in the same way, if people can be decent to others, and focus on solutions to problems rather than complaining about and attacking others, they can better achieve their goals, and the world can be a better place with tensions on the left and right lowered.

If the above observations and advice from me and others goes ignored, we’ll be dealing with greater problems than we face today.

Further Reading

The following is an excerpt from the article “In calling out Trump, Nikki Haley warns of a more sinister threat,” The Hill, 16 Jan 2021 at 11:00 AM. [View]

On Jan. 7, one day after a horde of Donald Trump’s supporters brazenly, disgracefully and illegally broke into the U.S. Capitol Building, Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and former United Nations ambassador under Trump, rightfully called out the president for his unchecked, poisonous rhetoric during her remarks before the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting.

Said Haley, in part, “President Trump has not always chosen the right words. He was wrong with his words in Charlottesville, and I told him so at the time. He was badly wrong with his words yesterday. And it wasn’t just his words. His actions since Election Day will be judged harshly by history.”

Haley is correct. Trump should — and will — be judged very harshly by history. The more one learns, the worse it looks for the president for a few more days.

But on the heels of that necessary denunciation of Trump, Haley also warned of what might turn out to be a much more corrosive threat to the already unravelling fabric of our republic: the rise of censorship and “cancel culture.”

“They’ve demonstrated that they’ll ‘cancel’ anyone who gets in their way,” Haley said. “They want to shout down and shut up anyone who disagrees with them…” [More…]