Some on the far right have been calling for civil war since an FBI raid on Trump’s Florida home. Some experts say the warning signs for civil war have been emerging in the US in recent years. They say that such a conflict would look very different from the Civil War of the 1860s.
A Business Insider report (The far right is calling for civil war after the FBI raid on Trump’s home. Experts say that fight wouldn’t look like the last one., August 14, 2022) said:
In the wake of an FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida home, some far-right figures have been spreading violent rhetoric online — including calls for war.
After the raid has seen GOP lawmakers like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene call for defunding the FBI.
Greene has also made references to “civil war” on social media as her Republican colleagues compare the FBI to the Gestapo and depict the raid as the sort of thing that only occurs in “third world” countries. A spokesperson for the Georgia Republican maintains that one of Greene’s tweets mentioning civil war was in reference to infighting or a “war of ideas” in the GOP. In another tweet, Greene referred to the FBI raid as the type of thing that happens “in countries during civil war.”
Meanwhile, pro-Trump internet channels have seen a spike in talk of civil war since the raid.
The report said:
The FBI raid of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home came at a historically divisive time for the U.S., one in which millions of voters continue to believe the false notion that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump.
Historians and experts on democracy warn that these lies continue to foster the potential for further violence. They also say that if the U.S. did see civil war, it wouldn’t look like the first one.
Fiona Hill, who served as the leading Russia expert on the National Security Council during the Trump administration, said in a conversation with Insider last month that the distrust in the electoral process and government institutions fomented by Trump and his GOP allies has created a “recipe for communal violence.” Hill warned the U.S. could ultimately “end up in a civil conflict.”
The country is at a point in which “trust in the different communities and authorities” has eroded “to such an extent that people just start fighting with each other,” Hill said.
But she also underscored that a civil conflict in the present day would be unlikely to look like the American Civil War, an extraordinarily bloody fight between the Union and Confederacy that left an estimated 618,000 to 750,000 Americans dead.
“I do not think we would end up in the kind of conflict that we had between the states — the Union and the Confederacy — back in the day,” Hill said. “But people’s sense of the civil and civic ways of resolving disputes are out the window.”
The report added:
Less than a week after the raid on Trump’s home, an armed man attempted to break into the FBI field office in Cincinnati. Authorities have not announced a motive but are reportedly investigating whether the man — who was ultimately killed by police — had ties to far right extremism.
The suspected gunman, Ricky Shiffer, appears to have posted calls for war and violence against the FBI on Trump’s social media network Truth Social.
“If you do not hear from me, it is true I tried attacking the F.B.I.,” one post read. The account with Shiffer’s name repeatedly parroted Trump’s election lies, per CNN, and multiple reports also suggest that the suspect may have been at the Capitol on January 6.
Warning Signs For Civil War Have Emerged
The report said:
Barbara F. Walter, a political science professor at the University of California at San Diego who specializes in political violence, warned in an April op-ed for the New Republic that over the past six years “all of the warning signs for civil war have emerged in the United States, and they have emerged at a surprisingly fast rate.”
Walter, who has done extensive research on civil wars, expanded on this in an interview with The Washington Post last month. Like other scholars looking at these issues, Walter said the U.S. is not heading toward a conflict akin to the fight between the North and South.
“When people think about civil war, they think about the first civil war. And in their mind, that is what a second one would look like. And, of course, that is not the case at all,” Walter told the Post. “What we are heading toward is an insurgency, which is a form of a civil war. That is the 21st-century version of a civil war, especially in countries with powerful governments and powerful militaries, which is what the United States is.”
Walter went on to say that an insurgency is “more decentralized” and tends to be a fight between multiple groups. “They use unconventional tactics. They target infrastructure. They target civilians. They use domestic terror and guerrilla warfare. Hit-and-run raids and bombs,” she said.
Right-wing extremists have been known to look to “The Turner Diaries,” a novel that has been referred to as the bible of the far right, for a blueprint on how to take down a powerful government like the U.S., Walter said. The book, which is revered by white nationalist groups, tells the fictional tale of a civil war against the U.S. government.
“One of the things it says is, Do not engage the U.S. military. You know, avoid it at all costs. Go directly to targets around the country that are difficult to defend and disperse yourselves so it is hard for the government to identify you and infiltrate you and eliminate you entirely,” Walter told the Post.
Research shows that terrorists like the Oklahoma City bomber have been inspired by “The Turner Diaries.”
During a recent meeting at the White House, a group of historians warned President Joe Biden that the U.S. is facing threats not unlike those the country saw in the pre-Civil War period, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.
U.S. Democracy In Existential Danger
The report said:
Historian Michael Beschloss, who has made the case that U.S. democracy is in existential danger, was reportedly among the academics who spoke to Biden. Though he is sounding the alarm about the threats America’s democracy is facing at present, Beschloss also says that a civil conflict in the U.S. would be unlikely to resemble the devastating war of the 1860s.
Beschloss said in a social media post on Thursday that “if any kind of civil war faces Americans (may God forbid), it is unlikely to be two armies fighting over one paramount issue (slavery), as in 1861-1865, but sporadic, mounting bursts of violence against our federal government as it tries to enforce rule of law.”
Real Threat Of Civil Conflict
The report added:
Nina Silber, a Boston University historian and expert on the U.S. Civil War, told Insider that discussions of civil war have been a right wing talking point “for some time now” and “it reflects a kind of extremist mentality that goes along with the idea of ‘taking back the country from radical, left wing Democrats.’”
Silber said that “the more this chatter gets normalized, the more it also makes violent behavior seem normal or even inevitable.”
“There is a real threat of civil conflict,” she said, “Not just because of the talk of violence but also because of the increasing numbers of people who are armed and ready to use weapons to advance certain political goals.”
But Silber explained that such a conflict “would not be a repeat of what happened in the U.S. in the 1860s given the stark geographic split the country faced in 1861 between states where slavery was legal and states where it was not.”
There are “some geographic divisions” in the U.S. at present but it is not a North versus South divide like it was in the 1860s, Silber said, adding that there are instead “plenty of divisions” within various states such as urban versus rural — particularly in the “purple” states. She said that this could “manifest itself as pockets of violence in parts of the country.”
FBI’s Search For Mar-a-Lago Reignites Conservative Calls For Civil War
Another Business Insider report said:
Bottom of Form
The FBI’s search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida is renewing calls among conservative groups and his supporters for a civil war in the US.
“An attack on Trump is an attack on True American Patriotism,” one Twitter user wrote on Tuesday. “Civil War will end up being Biden’s Government vs American Patriots.”
Another Trump supporter wrote on Tuesday, “Why would FBI Raif’s Trump’s home but Biden’s and Clinton’s they never touch. Civil war is coming folks, and it will not be pretty.”
Kari Lake, the Trump-endorsed Republican candidate for Arizona governor, threatened to invoke the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution over the FBI search if elected in November.
Political Scientists’ Warning
It is not the first time Trump supporters or extremist groups have threatened to ignite a civil war as the country remains bitterly divided by politics. Political scientists have warned the public for months that this could happen soon.
“It is possible that there will be other instances of violence like we saw on January 6,” Carole Emberton, a history professor at the University at Buffalo who specializes in the American Civil War, said in a previous interview with Insider. “When you have politicians who are riling everyone up and law enforcement that is sort of wishy-washy or weak in its response, then I think you have a really volatile mix that emboldens these kinds of groups to continue with what they are doing.”
Jay Ulfelder, a political scientist who studies civil wars and served as research director of the Political Instability Task Force, previously told Insider that a civil war could become a reality because Republicans have “normalized” extremist rhetoric.
“When that gets normalized, then it’s much easier to recruit people into those organizations … that would have been considered extreme or have radical views,” Ulfelder said.
Renewed calls for a civil war came after Trump announced on his social media platform Monday evening that the FBI had raided his Mar-a-Lago resort.
Other Republican lawmakers in several states have also embraced the idea of their state seceding from the U.S.
For instance, in New Hampshire, 13 Republicans voted last March to support a measure that would make the state independent from the U.S. Ultimately, the measure did not gain enough votes to pass the state House of Representatives.
Republican State Rep. Matthew Santonastaso previously told Insider it was just a matter of time before states began to secede.
“A national divorce is inevitable,” Santonastaso said. “The government is nothing but an illusion we all hold in our minds. If the people decide to reject their government, then there is little the federal government can do to stop it.”
Age Of Civil War
Barbara F. Walter, a professor of political science and Rohr Chair in Pacific International Relations at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California, San Diego, wrote in The New Republic (We Are Living in the Age of Civil War, April 14, 2022):
We are living in an age of civil war.
Countries we thought could never experience another civil war—such as the United States and the United Kingdom—are showing signs of unrest. We are, it turns out, living in the age of civil war.
This rise in civil wars comes at a time when all other types of interpersonal violence are declining.
The only type of violence that has not declined is civil war. Human beings may be less willing to kill each other over lots of different things. But they are more willing to kill each other over politics.
Barbara F. Walter, author of How Civil Wars Start (Crown Publishers, 2022, portions of this article have been adapted from that book) wrote:
People keep asking me if the United States could experience a second civil war. A few years ago, I would have said no. I have spent decades researching how and why civil wars start, and, until as late as 2016, the United States had none of the underlying conditions known to lead to war. I did not think American citizens would fight another war. But that has changed. Over the last six years, all of the warning signs for civil war have emerged in the United States, and they have emerged at a surprisingly fast rate.
We know the warning signs that a country is heading to civil war. The same patterns emerge whether you look at Bosnia, Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Northern Ireland, Israel, or the United States in the 1860s.
The January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol was a window into what has been brewing beneath the surface of the United States for years. Democracy in the United States has been weakening since at least 2016. The 2019 report on the Global State of Democracy by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) found that the United States was one of eight countries around the world that had experienced the greatest widespread democratic erosion in the previous five years. (The other countries were Brazil, Hungary, Kenya, Poland, Romania, Turkey, and India.) A recent report by Freedom House announced that America’s democracy was “in trouble,” declining significantly in the past decade. And in 2020, the Center for Systemic Peace, a nonprofit organization in Virginia, downgraded America’s democracy to an anocracy for the first time since 1800 because a sitting president refused to accept the results of the election and attempted to overturn the results. (By the end of 2021, the United States was upgraded to a democracy as a result of the peaceful transfer of power and a new administration that respected the rule of law.)
The United States now also has, in today’s Republican Party, its first modern ethnic and religious faction. In 2007—one year before Barack Obama was elected—whites were just as likely to call themselves Democrats as they were to call themselves Republicans. But working-class white Americans moved their support to the Republican Party after Barack Obama’s first term and stayed there. Today, the Republican Party is more than 80 percent white, with a large base of evangelical Christians. America’s political parties have never been divided by race or religion. But one of America’s two big parties is now a quintessential example of an ethnic faction.
Open, unregulated social media platforms have made it easier for demagogues to use disinformation and misinformation to help get themselves elected—something that has happened in the United States, Britain, India, Brazil, and the Philippines.
The United States will be the first Western democracy where white citizens lose their majority status as a result of immigration and low birth rates. This is projected to happen in 2045, but other countries will follow. Around 2050, white citizens will become a minority in Canada. This shift could happen in the United Kingdom and New Zealand in the second half of the century. Far-right, ethnically based parties in all of these countries have attracted membership by issuing ominous warnings about the end of white dominance, emphasizing the great costs — economic, social, moral — of such a transformation.
Until January 6, Americans did not realize how domestic extremism had grown in the United States, and how it was connected to larger patterns of violence. We have been distracted by lesser threats and crises and by elites who want to keep us distracted. While we have been fighting smaller battles over face masks and cancel culture, violent extremist groups on the radical right have grown. Since 2008, more than 70 percent of extremist-related fatalities in the United States were committed by members of far-right or white-supremacist movements. Every form of political violence has increased in the United States over the last 10 years. Mass shootings are up and affect every part of the country: San Bernardino, Colorado Springs, Charleston, Chattanooga, Santa Barbara, Fort Hood, Newtown, Orlando, Jeffersontown, Pittsburgh, and Thousand Oaks. Hate crimes are increasing, and far more are directed at people than property. And the number of militia groups (most of them white supremacist and anti-government) has more than doubled since 2008. These are exactly the types of groups that have emerged to fight in the new twenty-first–century civil wars.
How serious is the threat? If the task force were to study the United States (which it is not allowed to do), it would have put the United States on a “watch list” at the end of 2020.
The United States needs to reform its government to make it more transparent, more accountable to voters, and more equitable and inclusive of all citizens. Rather than manipulate institutions to serve a narrower and narrower group of citizens and corporate interests, the United States needs to reverse course, amplifying citizens’ voices, increasing government accountability, improving public services, and eradicating corruption. We need to make sure that all Americans are allowed to vote, that all votes count, and that, in turn, those votes influence which policies are enacted in Washington. Americans are going to regain trust in their government only when it becomes clear that it is serving them rather than lobbyists, billionaires, and a declining group of rural voters.
But we also need to address the problem of factionalism. Nothing abets and accelerates factionalism as much as social media. After January 6, people kept asking me: What should we do? Do we need better policing? Better domestic terror laws? Does the FBI need to aggressively infiltrate far-right militias? My first answer was always the same. Take away the social media bullhorn and you turn down the volume on bullies, conspiracy theorists, bots, trolls, disinformation machines, hate-mongers, and enemies of democracy. America’s collective anger would drop almost immediately, as it did when Donald Trump could no longer reach every American 20 times a day, every day. (As the journalist Matthew Yglesias noted on Twitter: “It is kinda weird that deplatforming Trump just like completely worked with no visible downside whatsoever.”)
The declining white majority can choose to further weaken our democracy in an attempt to institutionalize minority rule, and continue to stoke racial fears. They may think that this is an attractive strategy that ensures that power will remain in their hands for generations. What they do not realize is that this also leads them closer to civil war.