Americans are too spoiled and neurotic to fight a civil war

“Tomorrow is war,” right-wing media star Steven Crowder said tweeted Monday night after it was revealed the FBI had searched former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.

Bright and early the next morning, Crowder was back – with details. “Today is war. That’s all you’ll get on tonight’s show.” he wroteconcluding with the time and hashtag for his political commentary show and a GIF of the late Conservative arsonist Andrew Breitbart that reads “War.”

Crowder’s first tweet was the first example cited on a Tuesday New York Times Report on the wave of violent language from the right following the Mar-a-Lago search. Other examples in the play (“This. Means. War.” and “We’re at war” and “Country on the border of BÜRGERKRIEG???”) are strikingly similar, and comments like these were widespread, a new round of speculation that a new civil war is imminent.

But the Crowder posts in particular are a perfect example of why I think we should be skeptical of this prediction.

For Crowder, “war” means harsh words in a podcast. “War” for Breitbart meant launching a website – the GIF Crowder used was from a 2012 documentary, hate broadbeard, about the launch of his eponymous Most shit about the need to “lock and load” is just that, and for all our negative partisanship and inflammatory use of social media, Americans have yet to show up to anything like a critical mass inclined to do so kill each other about politics.

I am not suggesting that an increase in political violence is unthinkable – far from it. Experts are increasingly warning of this, and they may well be right. Our norms against political violence have come under serious attack over the past three years. Much of our politics is undeniably malicious. Some people really see themselves as enemies rather than mere rivals, as evil rather than just plain wrong. And the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol, the destruction of a police station in Minneapolis, and the repeatedly attempted destruction of a federal courthouse in Portland show that there is a small subset of Americans — some political ideologues, some acceleration advocates, some the chaos of equal opportunity bon vivants – who are ready to physically attack the government and each other.

But I don’t think most people are. I don’t even think it’s most people who like to LARP extremist politics on the internet. There is crowd madness, yes, and mobs will do things their individual members won’t do. But there’s a yawning gap between ragebooking while you’re watching Fox News, or the hype about “MAGAts” on Twitter, and bludgeoning a real, live human for voting wrong. I don’t think most Americans are ready to close that gap.

The physical hardships of war must also be taken into account.

“Over the past two years, large parts of the country have said their lungs are too weak to breathe through a cotton towel, while others have insisted that going outside on the beach without one is life-threatening.”

Are we really going to fight each other as a people on the beaches, in the fields, and on the streets? Should we really fight in the mountains where there is no air conditioning? In the woods with no fridges? Do we hate each other enough to eat hardtack? Undergo battlefield operations? Who else knows about food? allowed to she start a fire with nothing but sticks? (And there’s no YouTube tutorial — they’d tear down the cellphone towers.) For the past two years, large swathes of the country have said their lungs are too weak to breathe through cotton, while others have insisted it’s deadly, one to take an open-air walk on the beach without the same towel.

Gun control advocates are fond of noting that because the US military is so well armed, fantasies about repelling tyranny with our private arsenals are unrealistic, to which gun rights activists respond by pointing to places like Afghanistan where insurgents can frustrate the same military 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 national discourse about toilet paper shortages that lasted several months.

If political violence becomes a regular part of American life, I think it will be less pitched battles and more The Troubles (where Protestants and Catholics fought for decades in Northern Ireland in what was typically a low-intensity civil war), crossed with Waco (where a religious separatist group fought federal law enforcement with tragic results), with Twitter hell about it. More likely than a second civil war similar to the first would be intermittent outbreaks of violence around which, as journalist Aris Roussinos put it, our “normal life” goes on[es] pretty much the same as always except all [is] more anxious and depressed,” and federal agencies use escalating violence to maintain control while the riotous expert class makes a steady trade.

On the afternoon of his “War” show, Crowder returned to Twitter with another post on the subject. “It’s time to fight for every square inch” he said, who shared a picture of himself in a happy raglan shirt with 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 “Use code ‘FIGHT’ for 15% off!”

Gathering the troops at Gettysburg is not. Americans are too spoiled and neurotic to fight a civil war


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