by Bruce Thornton, FrontpageMag
The latest take on the recent riots and protests is that our political “cold” civil war is turning hot. The political polarization of recent years is now turning increasingly violent, with each side hunkering in its hardened silos and elevating the threat-level to DEFCON 1. The coronavirus and its attendant hysteria have increased this sense of dread and apocalyptic angst. That’s why, the pundits tell us, we the people are “yearning for normal,” a longing that will help determine the outcome of the presidential election.
This fear is overblown. We’re mistaking an availability error — the fallacy of coming to conclusions based on what is most recent and first comes to mind — for a more probable reality. But that doesn’t mean that we are not facing serious political danger in the coming months.
There are several reasons why a civil war is unlikely. First, we live in a world saturated with news and images 24/7, skewing our sense of reality. Moreover, information is refreshed in seconds and accompanied by dramatic visuals. Way back in 1962 Daniel Boorstin was decrying how the image became the reality, or what he called “pseudo-events,” a “thicket of unreality which stands between us and the facts of life.” That world of images has become the world, crowding out all the other real data and events that define our daily existence. In such a world it’s easy to jump to improbable conclusions.
And images love the drama of conflict and violence. “If it bleeds, it leads,” as the television newsroom cliché puts it. Additionally, these images typically lack a larger context. They are framed, often intentionally, to heighten the emotional drama at the expense of accurate understanding. Such events are perfect for creating the “propaganda of the deed,” as the old anarchists put it, the promotion of political ideology through emotionally charged, usually violent images. So powerful are these images that they can create a seeming reality.
Consider how the disturbing images of George Floyd’s brutal treatment by a callous cop — the latest in a series of such encounters that are actually rare between policemen and unarmed black males — has created a pseudo-reality in which white cops systematically murder unarmed black men. This is one of those manufactured “crises” that the left is not letting go to waste, but exploiting in order to leverage tragedy into political power — in this case, replacing the president and taking back the senate.
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