Everyday Americans feel frustrated by the by extremist ideologies posed by both ends of the political spectrum: Are they fueling us to the brink of destruction?
“Right- wing extremists, Islamist extremists and Left-wing extremists all believe that they face genocide and therefore want to extinguish each other, and they all end up fueling each other,” says Ryan Mauro, Shillman Fellow and head of the Clarion Intelligence Network in his seminal video “War of the Extremes” (see below).
Yet now, with the hyper-speed loop that mainstream media, social media and communications technologies have facilitated within a relatively short period of time, we are seeing two things happening:
First, an acceleration of this “war of the extremes.”
And it’s not just happening organically.
“Accelerationism is a term white supremacists have assigned to their desire to hasten the collapse of society as we know it,” writes the ADL. Although the term is seeing widespread use by those on the fringes of the movement, it has manifest itself recently in real time – specifically by the Christchurch mosque shooter who killed 51 in New Zealand and by the Sri Lankan attackers who killed 258 in churches and hotels on Easter of this year.
The perpetrators in each of these attacks aimed to spark an all-out war through the outrageousness of their actions – attack big and get a big retaliatory response. Create chaos and hasten the collapse of society.
As the ADL notes, “The concept of acceleration has existed for years as a fringe philosophy. Some of the earliest examples are rooted in a Marxist notion that the intensification of an unhinged force, such as capitalism, for example, will inevitably result in that force’s own self-destruction.”
After the election of President Trump, Americans witnessed the rise of the Antifa movement, militant Leftists who earmarked themselves as a response to the democratic election of Trump. Antifa, with its anarchistic underpinnings, would like nothing more than “acceleration” to actualize their goal of societal collapse.
In 2017, Americans saw the beginning of the “war of extremes.” The August 12, 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville resurrected images of hate and race supremacy we thought we had laid to rest after defeating the Nazis and embracing the Civil Rights movement.
Just one year later, preventing violent extremism professionals pointed to the overlapping recruitment strategies shared by the Far Right, the Far Left and violent Islamists like ISIS.
Rules of engagement, democracy and civility seem to be the casualties in this war of extremes as competing ideological groups are not only seeking to defeat each other, but are also looking to become the dominant American narrative.
Secondly, through mass communication resources at our disposal and 24/7 connectivity, the war of extremes has bled into the discourse of Americans who don’t typically fall within any ideological group.
The nature of the war of extremes and its acceleration breaks down former avenues of dialogue for these Americans.
If we look at American life even just 10 years ago, the average person wasn’t pulled towards such polarized, competing agendas while at the same time being inundated with information.
The question worth asking and exploring is how these mutations to daily life, engagement and community will shape what it means to be American in the next generation.
Unless we can put the brakes on the ever-accelerating war of the extremes, it will look very different – and it won’t be positive.