What responsibility should government authorities and Big Tech take in policing the spread of sedition-oriented content?
- It can be hard to believe that comical images online are enough to rile people up enough that they'll actually attack.
- Originating in the darker corners of the internet, Bugaloo is now prominent on mainstream online platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
- The Network Contagion Research Institute's recent series of Contagion and Ideology Reports uses machine learning to examine how memes spread.
There has been talk lately about fringe hate groups using memes to incite real world violence, but many prefer to casually dismiss this narrative as hysteria. It can be hard to believe that comical images online are enough to rile people up enough that they'll actually attack, and for most of us, this is thankfully true.
If you spend your time scrolling through pumpkin spice recipes and cat videos, you're probably not the target of a systematic hate campaign. But that doesn't mean these campaigns don't exist. Not every Facebook user is susceptible to radicalization, but memetic warfare is increasingly being recognized as an important element of counter-governmental sedition and racist propaganda.
Studies have long shown that exposure to hate makes it easier for people to hate – and to act on their hate. If there is an organized effort by hate groups to manipulate people with memes, then these visuals can actually be influencing people to perpetrate violent attacks.
What kind of memes were used on the Facebook Event listing that the Kenosha Guard used to mobilize Kyle Rittenhouse?
Many netizens appreciate the dangers and want social media platforms to do much more to curb the spread of hate across their networks. From Snapchat to Gab, TikTok to WhatsApp, memes are fueling hatred and inciting violence, and more Americans are asking what responsibility these companies should take in policing the spread of harmful content.
What’s in a meme?
The Network Contagion Research Institute's recent series of Contagion and Ideology Reports leverages machine learning to examine how memes spread. The idea is to unearth a better understanding of the role memes play in encouraging real-world violence.
So what exactly is a meme, and how did it become a tool for weaponizing the web? Originally coined by Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book "The Selfish Gene," the term is defined there as "a unit of cultural transmission" that spreads like a virus from host to host and conveys an idea which changes the host's worldview.
Dawkins echoes "Naked Lunch" author William Burroughs's concept of written language as a virus that infects the reader and consequently builds realities that are brought to fruition through the act of speech. In this sense, a meme is an idea that spreads by iterative, collaborative imitation from person to person within a culture and carries symbolic meaning.
The militant alt-right's use of internet memes follows this pattern. They are carefully designed on underground social media using codes, before attaining approval by like-minded users that disseminate these messages on mainstream platforms like Twitter or Facebook.
Sometimes these messages are lifted from innocuous sources and altered to convey hate. Take for example Pepe the Frog. Initially created by cartoonist Matt Furie as a mascot for slackers, Pepe was appropriated and altered by racists and homophobes until the Anti-Defamation League branded the frog as a hate symbol in 2016. This, of course, hasn't stopped public figures from sharing variations of Pepe's likeness in subversive social posts.
The dissemination of hateful memes is often coordinated by an underground movement, so even its uptake by mainstream internet users and media outlets is claimed as a victory by a subculture that prides itself on its trolling.
Slenderman and the Boogaloo Bois
Indeed, these types of memes have a tricky way of moving from the shadows of the internet to the mainstream, picking up supporters along the way – including those who are willing to commit horrific crimes.
This phenomenon extends well beyond politics. Take, for example, the Slenderman. Created as a shadowy figure for online horror stories, Slenderman achieved mainstream popularity and a cult-like following. When two girls tried to stab their friend to death to prove that Slenderman was real in 2014, the power of the meme to prompt violence became a national conversation.
Slenderman creator Victor Surge told Know Your Meme that he never thought the character would spread beyond the fringe Something Awful forums. "An urban legend requires an audience ignorant of the origin of the legend. It needs unverifiable third and forth [sic] hand (or more) accounts to perpetuate the myth," he explained. "On the Internet, anyone is privy to its origins as evidenced by the very public Somethingawful thread. But what is funny is that despite this, it still spread. Internet memes are finicky things and by making something at the right place and time it can swell into an 'Internet Urban Legend.'"
While Slenderman is obviously a fiction, political memes walk many of the same fine lines – and have galvanized similarly obsessed followers to commit attacks in the real world.
Take, for example, the Boogaloo movement. This extremist militia has strong online roots and uses memes to incite violent insurrection and terror against the government and law enforcement. Originating in the darker corners of the internet, Bugaloo is now prominent on mainstream online platforms like Facebook and Instagram. Boogaloo followers share how to build explosives and 3D-printed firearms, spread encrypted messages and distribute violent propaganda.
Boogaloo's intentions seem to be twofold: recruit new followers and communicate tactical information to incumbent members. While finding more people to adopt their ideology is one thing, there is a strong possibility that Boogaloo memes and messaging can be used to trigger sleeper cells to violent action.
Boogaloo isn't alone. The use of memes by groups like the Proud Boys, which operate on an ideology consisting of both symbolic and physical violence, is spreading across America – especially since the start of the pandemic.
Understanding digital indoctrination
The Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI) uses advanced data analysis to expose hate on social media. The institute's scientists work with experts at the ADL's Center on Extremism (COE) to track hateful propaganda online and offer strategies to combat this phenomenon. By better understanding how memes spread hateful propaganda, the NCRI is helping law enforcement, social media companies and citizens get better at preventing online chatter about violence from becoming real action.
Founded by Princeton's Dr. Joel Finkelstein, the NCRI is finding that the spread of hate online can be examined using epidemiological models of how viruses spread, only applied to language and ideas, much as Burroughs imagined decades ago.
Now that the internet has obviated the need for people to meet in person or communicate directly, recruiting and deploying members of violent groups is easier than ever before.
Before social media, as Finkelstein reminds us, organizing underground hate groups was harder. "You would have to have an interpersonal organization to train and cultivate those people," he said. "With the advance of the internet, those people can find each other; what it lacks in depth it makes up in reach. The entire phenomenon can happen by itself without a trace of anyone being groomed."
Can anything be done?
Memes generate hysteria in part by being outrageous enough for people to share – even the mainstream media. This is a concrete strategy called amplification. The extreme alt-right manages to reach mainstream audiences with racialist and supremacist memes, even as these messages are being denounced.
Content spreads virally whether those spreading it support the embedded ideology or not, making it difficult to intervene and prevent meme-incited violence.
Some people may unwittingly amplify messaging designed to spread violence, mistaking memes like ACAB (all cops are bastards) for harmless if somewhat dark humor.
So what can be done about the meme wars, and what onus is on law enforcement and Big Tech?
Finkelstein recommends a three-pronged approach to combating the violent outcome of subversive memes.
- Push for more stringent boundaries defining civility online using technology.
- Educate courts, lawmakers and civil institutions about how extreme online communities operate and create better industry standards to regulate these groups.
- Bring the federal government, including the FBI and Homeland Security, up to speed on the new reality so they can intervene as necessary.
But not everyone thinks Big Tech or the law have much ground to stand on in combating viral hate. Tech companies haven't gone the mile in truly enforcing stricter standards for online content, but some companies are closing down accounts associated with extremist leaders' websites and their movements.
But this is largely tilting at windmills. The proliferation of memes online spreading ideology virally might be too big to combat without dramatically limiting freedom of speech online. Facebook and YouTube have banned thousands of profiles, but there's no way of knowing how many remain – or are being added every day. This leaves the danger of meme radicalization and weaponization lurking beneath the surface even as we head into elections.
What we stand to lose
Boogaloo and other seditious groups have been empowered by recent crises, including the pandemic and the anti-racist protests sweeping the country. Greater numbers of these community members are showing up at anti-quarantine protests and are disrupting other gatherings, and the press they're getting – this article included – is only bringing more attention to their violent messages.
Extremist memes continue to circulate, as America heads to the polls amidst a global pandemic and widespread civil unrest. It stands to reason that more blood will be spilled. Getting a handle on Twitter handles that spread hate and shutting down groups whose sole purpose is sowing the seeds of brutality is vital – the only question that remains is how.
What speech is harmful, how do we know, and what do we do if we find out?
- Modern debates over free speech rage on the internet, but what do experts say?
- Some think it is easy to go too far in limiting public debate by offending parties, others argue limits are part of normal discourse.
- While the debate isn't settled, these thinkers can give you some starting points for your next discussion.
If you've been online in the past few weeks, you've probably come across at least one person discussing free speech. The debate over if it is threatened, who has it, who needs it, what it is, and what form it should take goes back long before the days of social media and the 24-hour news cycle.
Recently, the debate over what limits are being put on public discourse is the center of attention, with a great deal of focus placed on the question of what conversations are worth having. Some, including the signers of the famous Harper's Letter, fear that free speech is threatened. Their detractors fear this is a front to keep the traditionally marginalized from expressing their concerns. Previous controversies have centered around who gets to speak at what institutions and if the withdraw of an invitation to speak, or the denial of it to begin with, is a kind of censorship.
But, are any of these concerns valid? What do experts on argumentation have to say about these issues? Today, we'll consider three experts' stances on when speech can be harmful, when people shouldn't be given a platform, and when we should grit our teeth and suffer their opinion.
Stance #1: Meta- argumentative allegations are a tool that should be used sparingly.
Dr. Hugh Breakey of Griffith University lays out his case in the essay "'That's Unhelpful, Harmful and Offensive!' Epistemic and Ethical Concerns with Meta-argument Allegations."
Breakey argues that "meta-arguments," statements that focus on external features of an argument rather than an argument's soundness, can be used to critique arguments by pointing out the harm that an argument might cause.
As an example, imagine that somebody tells an armed mob without evidence that grocers are the cause of a crippling food shortage. Pointing out that this argument might cause harm provides an ethical good (the speaker might not make the argument now that they know harm may come of it) and an epistemic good (the argument might be improved or abandoned if the weakness of it is pointed out). While meta-arguments aren't good or bad by themselves, this example shows how they can be used positively.
However, other times critiques that seem clear to one party in an argument can seem groundless to others. In these cases, meta-arguments can derail discussion rather than clarify it. Worse, it can be impossible to get back on track after these allegations are made.
Big Think reached out to Dr. Breakey, who offered this elaboration on his position:
"When we call out what someone says in an argument as offensive, harmful or unhelpful, it can feel like we are applying an impartial standard. We're setting down sensible, objective rules within which constructive civil debate can occur. But the reality is that our judgments about such matters are likely to be as controversial and contestable—and, unfortunately, influenced by emotional and cognitive biases—as our views on the original topic of the debate. Reasonable people can disagree on the risks of harm created by speech, the ethical weight that should be given to those harms, where the moral responsibility for those harms properly lies, and how these factors relate to the importance of freely discussing the original topic of the debate. These are all complicated and difficult questions, and will be answered differently by people with different political views and life experiences. As a result, we need to exercise great caution in leveling allegations of harm and offence during an argument. Otherwise, the very differences that led to the original debate—and that make that debate worthwhile—will be used to foreclose it."
Given these concerns, the essay ends with a call for "argumentational tolerance" that is weary of using meta-argumentative allegations in general, but is open to using them when the speech in question is obviously harmful, such as instances of hate speech or calls to violence.
Stance #2: Platforms lend credence, and some people shouldn't be given that.
Another stance is taken by Professor Neil Levy of The Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, in their essay "Why no-platforming is sometimes a justifiable position."
They agree with many others that free speech is valuable and that good-faith arguments are generally good. However, they find the idea of deplatforming for meta-argumentative reasons more compelling than others might.
In Dr. Levy's essay, they ask you to imagine that a university has invited a speaker who rejects climate change's existence to speak on that topic. While that position is bunk, the very act of being invited to speak by a prestigious university grants credence to what the speaker has to say, which cannot easily be refuted by other, better arguments.
Things like being invited to speak by a prestigious school or having seemingly valid credentials can be "higher-order" evidence in favor of their position. Higher-order evidence, Dr. Levy explains, influences how we evaluate arguments. Higher-order evidence in favor of our position can make us more confident in it, while opposing evidence can lead us to moderate our stances.
However, Dr. Levy points out the difficulty of countering higher-order evidence, or the legitimacy it confers, by rational argument alone. They further out the usefulness of attacking the credibility of the speaker's bunk arguments by focusing not on the argument but on the higher-order evidence's validity. Here, ad-hominem attacks and meta- argumentative critiques of their speaking at all can remove the higher-order evidence. Deplatforming, often critiqued as the suppression of speech, can also be useful, as it prevents a person from being granted the legitimacy that a speaking invitation can bring.
There is a difference between this position and that of Dr. Breakey. Dr. Levy is more concerned with matters of fact rather than debates over what constitutes acceptable discourse. However, this stance is clearly more open to the idea of using meta-argumental allegations to keep speech non-harmful and productive than other common positions are.
Stance #3: Deciding what speech is “acceptable” is a fundamental aspect of public discourse.
Lastly, we have the stance described by the University of Illinois Professor Nicholas Grossman in an essay titled "Free Speech Defenders Don't Understand the Critique Against Them."
Professor Grossman considers the current debate around "free speech" and suggests that the debate is really over what we consider socially acceptable these days—a discussion which we've had before and will have again.
As he points out, most people would agree that there is nothing wrong with deciding that Holocaust denial is odious. Furthermore, they would likely also agree that private actors can (and should) use their capacities to limit the space available for a Holocaust denier to speak in. Most people would also hardly shed a tear if the denier faced social consequences for their speech. However, not everybody agrees on giving the same treatment to J.K. Rowling in light of her statements concerning transgender individuals.
Professor Grossman argues that our current discussions are really about where the line of "acceptability" is. Are people, like Rowling, crossing that line when they imply transgender women are not women? If so, what social consequences should they face, if any? What else might be on the other side of that line now? How do we know? The line has moved before, consider how common the public use of racial slurs was in the past, is the idea of moving the line now any different?
They agree with Dr. Breakey in thinking that these are big questions without easy answers. However, Professor Grossman suggests that, in determining what speech is socially acceptable, these discussions can, and must, take place for debate to move forward. In contrast, Dr. Breakey suggests that these concerns can derail other debates if not used properly.
How can I use this?
Perhaps the most obvious take away is that all three of these thinkers agree that certain speakers, notably those inciting violence or those deliberately trying to cause harm using racial slurs, can (and perhaps should) be challenged. It suggests a semblance of agreement exists around the idea that some speech does harm and that this legitimizes certain follow up actions to prevent the speech.
This idea is nothing new; even John Stuart Mill agreed with the idea of censoring speech that could cause immediate violence.
The three thinkers considered here also all agree on the importance of open debate in general. None of them are suggesting that you should be arrested for giving an unpopular opinion. They all argue in favor of using reasoned, respectful debate to advance our understanding of various issues.
However, they disagree on how easy it is to know what is respectful debate and what is speech worthy of critique, deplatforming, and social consequence, and what to do when that line is crossed. While the three do seem to be concerned with slightly different scales, Professor Grossman focuses on societal debates while Dr. Levy focuses on institutional level problems, the differences endure, and each stance can be applied at various scales.
Despite this lack of agreement, they all provide strong arguments for their position and a launchpad for further debate. Though, we might need to already agree on a few points before that debate can even happen.
Going from a solitary teenage protester in front of the Swedish parliament to a global icon in little more than a year certainly merits a distinction.
- Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate change activist, has been named Time's Person of the Year.
- The award is given to "the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year, for better or for worse."
- Considering the magnitude of directly inspired protest movements and real-world impacts she has had, the award seems to be merited, although not everybody is pleased about this.
In August 2018, Greta Thunberg skipped school on a Friday afternoon to stand outside Swedish parliament with a sign reading Skolstrejk for Klimatet, Swedish for "School Strike for Climate."
A year later, she spoke at the recent 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference and the United Nations Climate Action Summit, inspired a four million–person protest, and now, she's won Time magazine's Person of the Year Award. Her meteoric rise at the age of only 16 has both earned her praise as a "Joan of Arc" and scorn as a "puppet," "mentally ill," a "little brat," and "a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future."
She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see! https://t.co/1tQG6QcVKO— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2019
The "Greta effect"
In part, Thunberg was awarded the Person of the Year due to the so-called "Greta Effect"; her activism has had tangible impacts on organizations and governmental policy and has resulted in a large protest movement largely composed of young people.
For example, Thunberg's refusal to fly in airplanes has resulted in a new term in Sweden: flygskam, or "flight-shame." As a result, domestic flights dropped by 8 percent from January to April of 2019 compared to a 3 percent drop for the whole of 2018. Correspondingly, rail travel saw an 8 percent bump over the last year.
Rather than fly, the activist has traveled by rail or a carbon-neutral yacht. Though the term "yacht," inspired accusations of hypocrisy, it should be noted that the seacraft had no shower or toilet, which doesn't entirely mesh with the wasteful pleasure cruises typically associated with yachts.
By August 2019, sales of children's books related to climate change had doubled, which publishers attributed to the Greta effect. While sharing the stage with Thunberg, the President of the European Commission vowed to dedicate one in every four euros of the EU budget to be dedicated toward mitigating climate change. Crediting the activities of Thunberg in part, U.S. philanthropists established the Climate Emergency Fund, committing half a million pounds (a bit more than $650,000) with tens of millions more promised to fund climate strikes like Extinction Rebellion, the school strike, and other climate-related protest movements.
A youth-led protest movement
Most importantly, however, protest movements directly motivated by Thunberg's own activism have involved young people in the millions.
Thunberg herself was inspired by the school strikes organized by teenage activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. In the aftermath of a school shooting at the same high school, students organized the March for our Lives in support of greater gun control.
Thunberg's own protest started out as a solitary one. "I tried to bring people with me," Thunberg told Democracy Now!, "but no one was really interested, so I had to do it alone." But another person showed up on the second day. Over time, more and more people joined her protest, until thousands were camped out in front of Sweden's Parliament.
The fact that the protest movement is mostly composed of young people is critical. "You say you love your children above all else," said Thunberg at the U.N. Climate Change Conference. "And yet you are stealing their future in front of their very eyes." Many of the most successful protests have been driven by young people: the Velvet Revolution, the Black Lives Matter movement, the Greensboro sit-ins, and countless others.
Extinction Rebellion climate protesters listen to Greta Thunberg speak at an April 2019 protest in London.
Ollie Millington/Getty Images
A long road ahead
Many criticize Thunberg and the climate change protest movement as being overly dramatic. However, dramatic rhetoric appears to be merited. In an article for New York Magazine, journalist David Wallace-Wells described a conversation he had with energy expert Vaclav Smil when he asked about the planet's chances of staying below the Paris Agreement's threshold of two degrees Celsius of warming.
When I put the question of two degrees to him, he literally laughed: "To make that happen, you are talking about billions and billions of tons of everything. We are mining now more than 7 billion tons of coal. So you want to lower the coal consumption by half, you have to cut down close to 4 billion tons of coal. You have to get rid of more than 2 billion tons of oil. These are transformations on a billion-ton scale globally. They cannot be done by next Monday."
Emissions are still at an all-time high, though their growth is slowing. Ultimately, only government policies will be able to reverse a trend of this magnitude. But governments respond to public opinion and protest. Given that the Person of the Year is selected based on "who most affected the news and our lives… for better or for worse," the fact that they are a teenage climate activist should be cause for celebration.
Elon Musk and many top CEOs condemned President Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement on climate change.
President Trump announcement that the U.S. is going to pull out of the Paris Agreement on climate change has prompted a strong backlash from business leaders. Many have urged Trump to stay in the environmental pact, like the other 194 nations that signed it, and are now expressing their disappointment. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors, SpaceX and Neuralink, has previously warned that he would have to leave the President’s councils if Trump pulled out of the Paris accord. And now that he did, Musk is out.
"Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world," said Musk in his tweet.
Musk was part of an economic advisory board Strategic and Policy Forum and the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative. He has taken flak previously for seemingly legitimizing Trump’s ideas by serving in such a capacity, a decision Musk defended by saying he used the access to the President in order to influence him not to leave the Paris Agreement and to institute a carbon tax to fight emissions.
Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 1, 2017
Clashes between "antifa" on the far left and the alt-right have intensified.
The election of Donald Trump has been a catalyst for releasing the pent-up tensions in the American society. The country is not only divided but the opposing sides are not finding much in common to talk about. While the violence has not been widespread and can be written off at this point as clashes between fringe groups, there is potential for things to boil over.
Groups united under the alt-right banner have made their presence felt at protests targeting pro-Trump speakers. But they have been increasingly confronted at these rallies by violence-minded protestors known as the “antifa” or “anti-fascists.”
The 2017 skirmishes between the alt-right and antifa included the infamous Nazi-punch when the white supremacist Richard Spencer was punched in the face by a masked passerby. Further confrontations happened during the protests against uber-troll Milo Yiannopoulos’s speeches in Seattle’s University of Washington, where an antifascist protester got shot, and at Berkeley University in California. The April 15th fight dubbed “The Battle of Berkeley” devolved into smashed windows and set fires, with 20 arrested and 11 injured.
So who is behind antifa?
According to The Nation, the movement has its roots in anti-fascist fighting predating World War 2. Anti-fascists organized in military brigades fought Franco in Spain in the '30s. An infamous “Battle of Cable Street” saw thousands of fascists fighting an even larger crowd of anti-fascists on the streets of London in October 1936. The antifa movement via groups like Anti-Racist Action (ARA) has been clashing with neo-Nazis in America since the 80s.
Protesters push a burning recycling bin at Trump supporters during a 'Patriots Day' free speech rally on April 15, 2017 in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
Trump supporters face off with protesters at a 'Patriots Day' free speech rally on April 15, 2017 in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
The modern antifa sees neo-fascists as actively trying to change the world and people’s minds with their ideas and do not want to wait in the wings until things get worse. And they believe that the Trump movement has incorporated into itself radical far-right voices that now feel empowered to make themselves heard.
“For too long have our elected officials and our media placated these violent, toxic people. For too long have the enemies of democracy and rational, informed discourse been granted platforms to spew their rhetoric and earn notoriety for their movement. A warning to those who wish to destroy what we hold dear; We will resist you in the streets, in the poll booths and in the townhouses... We will not allow history to repeat itself. We will shut you down everywhere you go. We will block your marches. We will interrupt your speeches. We will protest your legislation. We will be the thorn in your side. The glass in your bread. The pain in your ass. We are ARA. We are watching.” - wrote a Louisville, Kentucky ARA branch on its site.
This kind of tough talk has translated into genuine mini-riots when the opposing sides get together.
Here’s how the April 15th melee at Berkeley looked [WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE, VIOLENCE]:
Here’s how it looked in Portland [WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE, VIOLENCE]:
Another confrontation in May in Portland also got out of hand [WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE, VIOLENCE]:
As far as the violence, it is not the only way in which antifa groups counteract their opponents, engaging in tactics like exposing the true identities of fascists and internet trolls, helping people join unions, advocating for issues like the environment. But some do see violence as intrinsic to fascism and as such regard resorting to violence as a necessary counterforce measure.
A representative for the Antifa NYC news site explained their mission more broadly to The Nation: “Antifa combines radical left-wing and anarchist politics, revulsion at racists, sexists, homophobes, anti-Semites, and Islamophobes, with the international anti-fascist culture of taking the streets and physically confronting the brownshirts of white supremacy, whoever they may be.”
Antifa protesters often wear black masks and black clothing - a “black bloc” force. Newsweek describes this as a tactic for anarchist protest which doesn’t necessarily represent one group. It should be noted that antifa is far from just one organization and is a rather decentralized force (much like its alt-right counterpart). Antifa also includes militant groups outside of ARA. There’s the Hoosier Anti-Racist Movement (HARM) in Indiana and Redneck Revolt and others.
Conservative commentators see antifa as agitators and anarchists. Kevin D. Williamson at National Review has dismissed antifa as an invented “gang” and “children” while at the same time painting the white nationalists and antifa as “two sides of the same very sad little coin.” Williamson also doesn’t see America as having a “budding fascist movement”, which would of course make the existence of antifa unnecessary and nonsensical if you believe that.
From President Trump’s standpoint antifa are troublemakers, with some of them being paid (probably by George Soros, the right-wing's favorite boogeyman). He tweeted a threat that federal funding could be pulled from Berkeley over the violence and suppression of free speech. There are petitions out from the right to designate “antifa” as a domestic terrorist organization. Liberal detractors, in their turn, are also paranoid that a small group of antifa agitators could start a chain of events whereby some sort of martial law would be instituted by the incensed Trump.
Could the fighting between the fringe groups get worse and go beyond the radical elements on both sides? If the rhetoric in the country doesn’t improve and a wedge will continue to be driven between the two sides, who both listen exclusively to their own media outlets, nothing rosy is to be expected. Add to this the possibility that as the various investigations around Trump close in, knowing his penchant for doubling down on his positions and riling up his base, it’s not inconceivable to imagine an America exploding in much stronger violence down the line.