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The Need for Chaos

Since we are in what I’ve called “The Year of Chaos,” I found several articles in the news today particularly interesting in how they came together. The first one is about why some Americans actually want chaos, and they are not all the usual Antifa crowd.

Have a Danish … conspiracy by design

A Danish scientist developed a study in which he gave Americans a variety of conspiracy theories that he completely made up against Democratic politicians and Republicans. The people enrolled in the study were asked if they would share the stories online. The results surprised him:

There were many people who seemed willing to share any conspiracy theory, regardless of the party it hurt…. These participants didn’t seem like stable partisans of the left or right. They weren’t even negative partisans, who hated one side without feeling allegiance to the other. Above all, they seemed drawn to stories that undermined trust in every system of power. Petersen felt as though he’d tapped a new vein of nihilism in modern politics—a desire to rip down the Elites, whatever that might mean.

While that desire to just chaotically rip the system apart, regardless of who was in charge, was once the province of Antifa and other anarchists, Petersen found that not to be the case anymore, and the numbers of those who just needed to create chaos were a lot higher than one would have thought just a few years back, but maybe not higher than we’d think now:

The researchers came up with a term to describe the motivation behind these all-purpose conspiracy mongers. They called it the “need for chaos,” which they defined as “a mindset to gain status” by destroying the established order. In their study, nearly a third of respondents demonstrated a need for chaos…. And for about 5 percent of voters, old-fashioned party allegiances to the Democratic Party or the Republican Party melted away and were replaced by a desire to see the entire political elite destroyed—even without a plan to build something better in the ashes.

“These [need-for-chaos] individuals are not idealists seeking to tear down the established order so that they can build a better society for everyone,” the authors wrote in their conclusion. “Rather, they indiscriminately share hostile political rumors as a way to unleash chaos and mobilize individuals against the established order that fails to accord them the respect that they feel they personally deserve.” To sum up their worldview, Petersen quoted a famous line from the film The Dark Knight“Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

What I see in that is that most of the voters who were subjects in the study only wanted to destroy the other side, since only 5% of voters couldn’t care less about party affiliation or a plan to build anything better. For them, it was just, “Rip it all down!”

What about the rest, which would be 25% of all voters. Some still say the whole system needs to be ripped to shreds. The study’s author said that White men were particularly sensitive to changes in society, but the greatest number of riled-up folk wanting chaos were Black males. The author of the article notes,” Anti-elite conspiracy theories and tear-it-all-down rhetoric can appeal to groups who feel, sometimes quite rightly, aggrieved by long-standing injustice.”

What the author doesn’t say is that people in any group—Black, White or otherwise—can sometimes quite rightly feel aggrieved by long-standing injustice. Who wouldn’t? If you despair that the system will never deliver genuine justice, then you just might want to burn it to the ground.

Take, for example, this guy:

Our system needs to be broken,” Johnson said. And only Trump, whom he acknowledged as “a chaos creator,” could deliver the crushing blow. Johnson … has a job, a family, and, clearly, a formidable financial portfolio. Still, he said he hopes that Trump “breaks the system” to create “a miserable four years for everybody.” We cannot fix the problems in our social institutions; we need to tear them down and start over.

I would suspect that is a good part of the desire for chaos—people feeling so frustrated with “the system” or disenfranchised by it that they hope just ripping it to shreds will force us to build something better. However, to build something back better (not the Biden way), you have to agree on what “better” is. Where there is no vision, the people perish. I am concerned, however, that we have moved far and perhaps permanently from any common vision of what the country should be. But I cannot see that tearing it to shreds and living in ashes is somehow better.

The need for chaos

We’ve seen this desire for raw chaos (anarchy) on the Left for decades where it is not a surprise to me:

I recalled some of the radical rhetoric from the summer of 2020: “If this country doesn’t give us what we want, then we will burn down this system and replace it,” Hawk Newsome, the chairman of Black Lives Matter of Greater New York, said during an interview with Fox News. “I could be speaking figuratively; I could be speaking literally. It’s a matter of interpretation.” When I think about our political and social institutions, I cannot help thinking, “Just let them all burn.”

What has felt really, strangely disorienting to me is how many people on the Right, which is more where my persuasion is, now sound the same way, even to the point of wanting to tear down the constitutional basics and the very things that were what being an American was all about to me when I was growing up—the principles the Right once staunchly defended, such as “democracy.” Things I still value very much. Those on the Right will accuse me of buying into liberal hysteria, but I’m truly just taking people among the far Right at their own word (as I’ll share further on down).

Some of the central people among Trump supporters are outspokenly clear about their desire for raw chaos:

Marjorie Taylor Green wrote on X:

“The number one comment I’m hearing in Milwaukee is ‘it’s boring without Trump here….’” I need chaos around me—it is too boring if nothing is going on.

Some want chaos just for the adrenaline rush. Sure, you could counter that MTG was just speaking brashly to whip the crowd into a frenzy, but why whip any crowd into that kind of frenzy? Things are already bordering on civil war, plus other leaders among the MAGA people are saying the same things she says in scorchingly raw terms now, which I’ll come to in a bit.

What Petersen and the other researchers identified wasn’t a broad interest in political violence but rather a fondness for bull-in-a-china-shop bluster that promises total war against elites. Chaos is a taste, and it seems to be having a moment. The concept of “need for chaos” can help explain the mess that is American politics in 2024….

In that sense, this is the response when “the elites” keep stirring society to try to recreated it in their image.

Ever since Trump’s 2015 candidacy kicked off, his rivals have accused him of being an agent of chaos, as if that were a turnoff for voters. Before the 2016 election, Jeb Bush called him a “chaos candidate.” In the GOP presidential primary, Nikki Haley said that Trump brings only “one bout of chaos after another.” The Biden team has repeatedly hammered home the connection between Trump and chaos. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, the chair of the Democratic Governors Association, described the 2024 election as a “binary choice”—democracy and freedom versus “extremism and chaos.”

What the Trump critics don’t realize is that pointing him out as agent of chaos does not take away any support. Trump is desired by a fair portion of his crowd BECAUSE he’s an agent of chaos, and chaos is what they are craving because they’d rather burn down the system than have any more of it as it has been run. Some of this is likely a desire for destruction wrought by the WEF gang. People would rather see the world burn to the ground than see the world that the WEF has planned, but that isn’t all of it. Much of it lies in wanting their own world.

But Trump’s chaos vibes might fulfill a significant and otherwise unmet demand in the electorate. In the conclusion to their paper, Petersen and his co-authors write that the need for chaos emerges from the interplay between “dominance-oriented” traits (i.e., a preference for traditional social hierarchies), feelings of marginalization, and intense anger toward elites. Together, these traits would seem to apply to several voting groups: white conservative men nostalgic for a diminished patriarchy; independents who are furious about elite institutional failures during and after the pandemic; and culturally conservative, nonwhite Americans, especially men, who might feel marginalized by racism and economic inequality but also rue the latest waves of #MeToo feminism. Indeed, all of these groups are shifting toward the Republican Party under Trump.

And why wouldn’t you become angry and ready to rip it apart if you are one of these:

You are an older white man … standing in the middle of a line with hundreds of millions of Americans. The queue leads up a hill, toward a haven just over the ridge, which is the American dream. Behind you in line, you can see a train of woeful souls—many poor, mostly nonwhite, born in America and abroad, young and old. You’ve waited a long time. But the line isn’t moving. You’re stuck, and you’re stigmatized. Liberals in the media say that every traditional thing you believe is racist and sexist. And now, people are cutting in line in front of you. The old order is falling apart. And somebody needs to do something about it.

That’s called being marginalized. It feels somewhat the same as a Black man feels after decades of thinking everyone in his family was passed by. The old order is what didn’t feel good for him, and he’d rather tear it all down and let it burn than have any of that old order back. Nevertheless, he might strongly agree with the old White man about the decay in culture that has nothing to do with either of them. If he feels that more strongly, he’ll team up with Trump to tear the Liberals down who have radically changed society to such a degree that no one in the liberal crowd can even agree on what a woman is anymore. It’s a disorienting society.

The CPAC machine

The need for chaos and the complete unanchoring from the very things that are most what it meant (at least, once upon a time in my life) to be an American to me, such as democracy, itself, and the Bill of Rights, recently became too brightly clear at the big Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

Alt-right conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec vowed to finish what rioters began on Jan. 6 by working to “overthrow” democracy “completely.” Posobiec made the comments during the opening day of CPAC….

“Welcome to the end of democracy!” Posobiec declared. “We’re here to overthrow it completely. We didn’t get all the way there on January 6th, but we will endeavor to get rid of it and replace it with this right here,” he said, holding his fist in the air. “That’s right, because all glory is not to government, all glory to God.”

God is a fist in the air? The Jesus who said, “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword” and “the meek shall inherit the earth,” as opposed to those who take up arms to try to seize it by force, rather than by his truth and his love and his mercy? Truth without love is tyranny. Rule without mercy is just a fist. Whose God is he talking about because it certainly doesn’t sound like the Jesus I love and whom I believe loves all? So, this uprisingly is deeply disturbing to me as it wraps itself in the mantel of religion.

What does he mean? More rhetoric like some might say MTG meant? Just stirring the crowed, to which stirring Steve Bannon responded quite religiously, “Amen!”

I don’t know for sure what he means. Like I said, however, I would just present those who want to tear it all down in their own words. They can explain themselves; but I don’t find their enthusiasm for destroying the very things that most mean “American” to me—such as democracy—any kind of worthy cause or even remotely better than the crippled, crony-ruined, sketchy, remaining framework of the old democratic, constitutional system we long had.

Said one person on X in his response,

This is not a test, these people are planning Insurrection 2.0, that’s why they went with Trump again. No one else would be the catalyst they need.

Even if one does not agree with the way I felt when I watched January 6th as it unfolded and I stood from my chair and said, “This is an insurrection!…” Even if you don’t agree at all with that, surely “the end of democracy” is an insurrection when democratic government is the guts of this nation’s government (at least, when run constitutionally), and that is what they say they seek to destroy completely. That seems more apparent when they wave a fist as their battle sign and state outright that their intention is to “overthrow democracy completely.”

Why should I NOT take them at their word? They’re saying these words, so they can own them. And I suspect they would agree that is literally their intention—to completely overthrow democracy for their version of a theocracy—their version of something that is “all to the glory of God,” which unfortunately does not fit my version of Jesus Christ at all.

I feel more like they are coopting my religion because I certainly don’t ever want to see the end of democracy to be replaced with an autocratic rule of God if the physical person in charge of that religious government is going to be ANYONE other than Jesus himself. I don’t trust any of these guys to rule on Jesus’ behalf as if they know how he would do it. History is replete with examples of people who believed they would rule for Christ on this earth until he came, and it was all bloodshed and trampled all over religious freedom to make your own religious choices. That was the manifest destiny of the Roman Catholic Church for centuries called “Dominion Theology.” It was also how the Puritan Cromwell ran the English Empire when he burned Irish Catholic villages. These are the scariest kinds of people in history.

When asked later to explain his harsh words, Posobiec said, “We are here in the swamp, to drain the swamp, and eventually to raze the swamp to the ground and create the new American republic on its ashes.” The problem is, as much as I can’t stand the way Liberals have ripped the soul of America (in my way of experiencing it) out through its throat, I don’t want to be ruled by a new group of Puritans either or by the Holy Roman Empire (Bannon, after all is Roman Catholic), or by any other religious group, including any church I’ve ever belonged to, or any pseudo-religious group. I don’t want any secular group in charge of redesigning America either. I WANT democracy.

Parties in any nation with the word “Christian” in their name concern me, because they are usually more political party than Christian and because I don’t want anyone telling me how to live my Christianity, which is what happens if they egotistically use their particular understanding of Christianity to rule us all. I prefer the American system as it was before this huge social breakdown that has come from years of abuse by the wealthy corporate bosses and from loss of our religious mores; but I don’t want to force my mores on anyone as an alternative either!

Why? Because I’m an American, and none of those religious institutions, without the safety of democracy as THE fundamental government, have shown they can rule well when given the chance. “Tearing down democracy completely” is not the conservatism I grew up in, nor anything that I cherish at all. It’s the exact opposite! It’s autocracy. It is the stuff of dictators, even “dictators for a day.”

That IS something we should be afraid of because there is no example of any good that ever came from it. It’s just conservative-colored anarchy because who is going to design the new system if you tear down democracy, itself, completely. It certainly won’t be “We the People.” It will not even be the many supporters of MAGA because that would still be democracy, albeit from within a much smaller group of people. So, who decides what rises in the place of the “EVERYTHING,” to quote Posobiec, that gets torn down?

The Year of Chaos

When I predicted, “2024 will be ‘The Year of Chaos,’” these active and enraged forces are a big part of what I meant (though not all of what I meant).

Donald Trump supporters have warned there will be a “civil war” in America if the ex-President loses this year’s election.

I believe them. My problem is not that I lean liberal; it is that I take these particular people on the Right EXACTLY at their own word, since they repeat this claim frequently. I am not hearing just from liberals that this is what the MAGA crowd wants. I am hearing it repeatedly from members of MAGA.

It is also not that I believe the social outcome from the election will be any different from the BLM and Antifa crowds if they lose and Trump wins. Many of them are just as ready to end democracy, too, replacing it as they did in Seattle’s CHOP neighborhood a few years ago with their form of democracy that quickly ran autocratic under the most charismatic strongmen in the crowd as the supposedly true democracy was largely run by an armed few—yes, even among Liberals—who had strong ideas of what that would look like and quickly resulted in the deaths of some Black youth. It didn’t serve Black people at all. And that is exactly where I expected it would go as that is the typical path of anarchy.

Chaos doesn’t make anything better, but some crave it because they have no vision of anything good ever happening and just hate what they have now.

The Second Civil War

I don’t believe anarchy is ever good. It never ends even as true anarchy. It always ends as strongman dictators warring against each other for supremacy. I’m willing to take these people at their own word when they say they “need chaos” and that they want to “end democracy completely.” What they really want is nothing like Jesus. What they really want is themselves in power—themselves determining what America will look like—and, with large groups wanting something very different from them, that could mean civil war. It is more likely, however, to erupt into widespread, multi-sided, violent, civil unrest, rather than a two-sided civil war.

Many at CPAC are giving stark warnings about what Amerika will look like if Trump doesn’t win:

“If it was like 2020 I think there'll be probably, likely, a civil war. Or some kind of revolution,” Carina Hunt, from Texas, told the Mirror. “If they try that again and are successful, with duping the results, I think people have woken up enough that they won't stand for it and there'll be a revolution. Just like we did against you all in the 1700s.”

I suppose it all sounds good when you believe your side will win the revolution and when you are totally convinced you are on the morally right side. It most likely won’t end with folks like her winning a revolution. You see, the establishment has the biggest guns (by far), and it isn’t giving up either. Not by a long shot. So, at present, I don’t see how we avoid the chaos, since many are saying they’ll be happy just to have that, and I believe they “completely” mean it, exactly as they say. They are those who need chaos.

Maybe RFK as president could avoid those two outcomes of “which side wins” and “was the election rigged” because neither side would win, nor would the “elite” members of the World Economic Forum be seen as winning because they hate RFK over his anti-Covid vaccine “conspiracy theories.” The Democratic Party could hardly be seen as winning because they see RFK is a heretic who is spoiling their party by splitting off from it. Neither the Left or the Right would know if they had anything to hate either!

I have no idea what RFK would really be like as a president, but that is just the point: Neither do the main groups who are shaking their sabers from the precipices of war. A RFK win might give a moment for a cooling down period before they all charge down into the valley of their own Armageddon. The BLM group could hardly riot against the namesake son of Robert F. Kennedy, who championed Civil Rights. The MAGA group could hardly think Biden stole the election since Biden lost to the heretic! It might leave all sides bewildered enough to hit the pause button and see what can be made out of that outcome.

That said, I haven’t decided, myself, If I’ll vote for RFK, but all this talk on both sides of civil war is starting to persuade to try a middle road. I simply know I won’t be voting for either Biden or Trump. I want nothing to do with dimwitted relics who shake hands with curtains or dictators for a day or with theocracies run by human beings who think they speak for Jesus and want to shred democracy.

The author of the lead article above writes that he feels American politics is being consumed by the “flesh-eating bacteria of a new nihilism—a desire to see existing institutions destroyed, with no particular plan or interest to replace and improve them.” He could be right.

That might be the most we end up with—nothing—because the “burn it all down” people are for real. They may fantasize that they will be the ones to rebuild America their way. I highly doubt that is how it will turn out, and I highly doubt that “their way” is anything I would like any better.

Another article today asks, “Is Everyone Angry? Toxic ‘Outrage Culture’ Consuming Society Like Never Before.” That article describes the following dynamic:

The conviction we witness in others’ comments and behavior on an issue can stir up our own emotions, in what’s called “emotional contagion”. With our own emotions heightened and our convictions strengthened, we may feel compelled to join the choir of negative discourse….

The overall tone and style of language used by others can also influence how we act and feelSocial modeling dictates that if many others are piling on with negative comments, it can make it seem okay for us to do so, too. And the more exposed we are to one-sided discourse, the more likely we are to resist alternative viewpoints. This is called “groupthink”.

Social media algorithms are also generally set up to feed us more of what we’ve previously clicked on, which further contributes to the one-sidedness of our online experience. Scholars have suggested algorithms can prioritize certain posts in a way that shapes the overall nature of commentary, essentially fuelling the flames of negativity.

Is that where we are? Has cancel culture spread with such contagion as to overcome people of all stripes in America to where America is now about to cancel itself because people would rather let it all burn than have anything outside their own ideal?


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