It is hard to dispute that today’s political polarization is unprecedented since the Civil War. I think it has been caused by three tightly linked developments: a) the radical Left takeover of the liberal establishment and Democratic party; b) the radicalized lib/Dem establishment takeover of the media, academia, government, nonprofit sector, and most academic institutions; and c) foreign interference aiding and egging on the lib/Dem establishment.
The Left’s abuse of government power for its own advance is well known, although the actions that a as this situation suggests have not been undertaken. The extent to which they succeeded to suppress the conservative, libertarian, and patriotic views over the last 20 years have only begun to emerge now. Even under G. W. Bush’s administration, the “deep state” (including activist state Attorneys General, the National Science Foundation, NPR, PBS, etc.) continued doing the bidding of the Left.
But this essay deals with another cause of polarization – the social dynamics inside of the liberal public sphere that have let it slide so low and so far to the left. The existence of social mechanisms that amplify certain trends or opinions is well known. They are called vicious spirals, availability cascades, self-exciting loops, etc. Self-excitation brings system instability. Similar mechanisms are responsible for the collapse of bridges in engineering, boom and bust cycles in economy, and market bubbles. Their effects on the society might be even worse.
“How is the world ruled and led to war? Diplomats lie to journalists and believe these lies when they see them in print,” said by Karl Kraus after beginning of WWI, providing an example of self-excitation in a social system with only two types of elements – diplomats and journalists. Obviously, today’s society is more complex, the speed of information exchange is incredibly higher, and the action – feedback – more action loops are shorter.
Unnoticed Suppression of the Conservative Thought
The Liberals have traditionally believed that their voices sound too quiet, that their speech is threatened, if not outright muzzled, that they tend to be too honest and too factual, and that they call to love while their conservative opponents spread hatred. They also internalized the Marx delusion that society is ruled by money, added to it the belief that they are underfunded comparably to the conservatives, and arrived at an absurd conclusion that they are disadvantaged in the media and public debate. Having repeated these myths for decades, they made it a cornerstone of their common ideology. Apparently, to compensate for this imaginary unfairness, they Liberals took a license to massively lie and to incite hatred. These myths have also led them to suppress conservative views and dissent from any direction but the Left, and to disregard what could not be suppressed.
Of course, the Liberals did not notice the muzzling of conservatives, and attributed the Leftist domination of the public debate to the absence of arguments on the conservative side or to a general stupidity of the conservatives (another precious liberal myth). On many topics, such as the climate debate, they also believed each other’s lies that the inconvenient facts had been debunked, discredited, or otherwise invalidated. That created a feedback that further strengthened their beliefs.
Technology in the Loop
A lot has changed with the rise of the Internet search and the (anti-) social media. The Internet technologies became Leftist messaging amplifier, transmitting far beyond the liberal echo-chamber, and especially effective because very few suspected that. An example of how that has been working follows.
Google Search has a “seed lists” of sites considered highly trustworthy and authoritative. Ranking of other sites is derived, to a large extent, from their “endorsement” (including but not limited to the cascading “links equity”) by these seed sites. The seed list probably includes much of the domains .edu and .gov (the education and the government), and the formerly mainstream media. Other search engines probably work similarly. All these “authority sources” turned sharply left after 2008, with search engines and automatic news aggregators following. Google also deployed artificial intelligence algorithms with capacity to understand if a web page’s content agrees with whatever Google considers facts, and to punish pages and sites that disagree. Google’s Chairman Eric Schmidt was a major donor to Obama campaign and a member of the Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. Thus, technology became a huge amplifier of the Leftist message, transmitting far beyond the liberal echo-chamber.
This is not to say that technology is alone to blame. The executives and employees, responsible for the content in the “tech” companies have been immersed in the Leftist echo-chamber and actively steered their companies that way. In 2016, Reddit re-wrote its rules to decrease visibility of Trump’s supporters in response to the popularity of r/The_Donald subreddit, and Facebook suppressed conservative news in its Trending News (1, 2). Wikipedia’s misadventures are well known. These corporations promoted themselves and were believed to be neutral platforms, and their users accepted domination of the leftist content as vox populi, completely unaware of manipulations happening behind the scenes.
The cat got out of sack after the elections when these mislabeled “tech” corporations readily acknowledged “guilt” and partnered with openly leftist “fact checkers” in response to suggestions by the Dems that “fake news” spread on the social networks helped Trump’s election.
False Flag Operations
“False flag operations” have always been a staple of conspiracy theories. Now, real false flag operations are routinely run by the Left, frequently assisted by technology.
Another example from Reddit. A bot named Stop_White_Genocide_ automatically posts new articles from The American Thinker, WattsUpWithThat, and The American Conservative into the subreddit r/hardright. The moderators of this sub have names like -Slutlord-Fascist-. This tiny sub has less than 200 subscribers (for comparison, r/The_Donald has more than 400,000; r/Conservative has nearly 90,000). Hardly anybody reads that sub. But those bot and sub look like a neo-Nazi user and a neo-Nazi sub. When articles The American Thinker (including this one) are posted by real users to real subs, Reddit automatically associates them with neo-Nazis. After seeing this Reddit association few times, even a reasonable viewer is likely to conclude that this publication and its authors are really associated with neo-Nazism or fascism. (Currently, there is a hack. When posting a link on Reddit, add to it an arbitrary query, like “?abc”: http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2017/06/death_wish_progressives.html?abc. The modified URL would likely point to the same page, but will not be associated with the original URL.)
The Leftists and Dems run similar operations in the real world, too. James O’Keffee, Project Veritas’ video shows Democrat operatives explaining their tactics, pre-elections: “If you are there and you are protesting and you do any of these actions, you will be attacked at Trump rallies. That’s what we want.“, “… the media will cover it no matter … The key is initiating the conflict with people who are naturally psychotic.” Nobody knows how many attempts they made to generate the handful of violent incidents that appeared all over the left-stream media. And this is in addition to actual violence employed by the Democrat allies against Trump supporters, under the watch of Democrat administration.
Since the public is not aware that these are false flag operations or intentional provocations, some of it starts to believe that Trump is supported by violent fascists, and those who are inclined to believe become finally convinced.
Political misinformation is not a precision weapon. It distorts the worldview of the friend and foe alike. The leftist/liberal/Democrat side is more centralized than their apolitical/conservative/Republican opponents, but even they have no single command & control center. Just like persons of all persuasions, the left-leaning individuals consume and believe lies and misleading half-truths they get from the leftist fake news networks and the anti-social media. Because these signals agree with their existing beliefs, they trust and further disseminate them. And some of them get excited and produce new pieces of fake news, fake poll results, fake consensus, etc. These lies are then believed by the rest of the hive, and so on. The vicious spiral is in the action.
Thanks to H.J. for collaborating on this article.