On the Jan. 6 Capitol Attack

These folks represent at least half of the U.S. today and much of its history.

I came across this long article relating game design to QAnon. A few memorable quotes:

Apophenia is : "the tendency to perceive a connection or meaningful pattern between unrelated or random things (such as objects or ideas)"....

These were normal people and their assumptions were normal and logical and completely wrong...

It's easy for people to forget that they are not discovering the story, but creating it from random data....

Q is almost pure propaganda. That IS the sole purpose of this. It's not advertising a product, it's not for fun, and it's not an art project. There is no doubt about the political nature of the propaganda either. From ancient tropes about Jews and Democrats eating babies (blood-libel re-booted) to anti-science hysteria, this is all the solid reliable stuff of authoritarianism. This is the internet's re-purposing of hatred's oldest hits. The messaging is spot on. The "drops" implanted in an aspic of anti-Semitic, misogynist, and grotesque posts on posting boards that, indeed, have been implicated in many of the things the fake conspiracy is supposed to be guilty of!
Q is also operating in conjunction with many other initiatives as documented by other sources and other developers. The coordination is consistent.
A game helps the people who play build an internal world that best serves them. Q helps players develop an internal world that best serves Q's initiatives....

Laughing at them or insulting them, just drives them to familiar boards where they get more assurance and praise. It entrenches them.

I thought about this article in relation to what happened in DC recently.

The mainstream response to these events, thank goodness, is to condemn the mob's actions and motivations from January 6, 2021. However, I've seen people going beyond condemning their actions and motivations by throwing insults and ultimately dehumanizing the people themselves--they are "hicks", "have no intelligence", "idiots" that have "ruined our country"[1]. We can call out their bigotry, hatred, cruelty, and ignorance. We can get rightfully outraged at the lack of appropriate police enforcement (including documented support from the police for the mob). We can hope the justice system works as it should to handle them appropriately.

But going further to insult these people's intelligence, existence, socioeconomic status via slurs, etc., i.e., things they cannot easily control, is dangerous. One of the rioters killed was an Air Force veteran. Others included "lawyers, local lawmakers, real estate agents, law enforcement officers," etc., i.e., productive, skilled, probably at times kind and loving people just like us. Such dehumanizing has some negative ramifications:

  • it gets us closer to being monstrous ourselves,
  • it perpetuates violent, hateful thought,
  • it distances us by a disingenuous amount from these fellow Americans and human beings,
  • it is rather self-righteous, and
  • it erases all hope in finding redemption, rehabilitation, and common ground.

Yes, the final bullet point is incredibly hard to do and requires great patience, wisdom, love, and resources. Simply locking these people away forever, killing them, or calling them less than human (in whatever colorful words you choose) sounds morally satisfying and much simpler. However, this attitude has contributed to our staggering incarceration rates compared to other countries.[2]

If you believe you are immune to such views or acts because you're clearly smarter, more enlightened, more educated, unambiguously on "the right side of history", etc., you are

  • deluding yourself as much as they have been deluded by Trump and friends convincing them to (try to) de-stablize the government,
  • lacking empathy that is crucial to unifying our incredibly divided country,
  • not reflecting on your own role (or the role of your political party, the social media you use, the people you call friends and don't call friends) in strengthening echo chambers,
  • disregarding the fact that our country was built on stolen land and stolen labor and many of our democratically-issued laws still discriminate against entire populations,
  • possibly virtue signaling and trying to make yourself feel morally or intellectually superior,
  • not well-versed in "niche" (big quotes) views being problematic in the past, and vice versa, and
  • not being self-aware.

Our country was not "ruined" by the people who attacked the Capitol building on January 6. These people represent (the extreme views of) about half the population of our country, and hold views that are similar to the slave-owning, colonizing founders of our country. We continue as a nation to reckon with this problematic past and its lingering sentiments of dehumanizing entire populations. As the progressive side gains more power, this side must be careful not to fall into the same trap of dehumanizing the radical right-wing side that is (I believe) losing power--we must be better as people.

The question we must all ask is, WWWWD? (What would Wonder Woman do?) Love and truth, not more hatred and violence! I know some of you may be rolling your eyes--ask yourself why the former concepts elicit that response and then come back to me. For others, I know love and truth is a tall order, given, for minorities and our allies, our strong negative feelings come from being directly hurt by their cruelty--and indeed, these are the same people who try to erase our existence as Americans. It is also probably unfair to ask, for the radical right does not try to compromise (given that they are "radical"; the same can be true for the radical left). But for those of us who have the strength, let us use it to be better, make our country better, build bridges, comfort those who lack the strength now, and keep each other in check. Let's aspire to be more like WW (!) and not like the people we disparage. Okay, off my WW fanbox.

But seriously, recall that these folks feel as passionate or even more passionate about being disenfranchised, oppressed, tricked, casted out from others, etc. as you for yourself or people you care about. Their injustices do not equate to those who have had their land stolen, been forced into slavery, been discriminated legally (sigh) due to race, religion, sexual identity, etc., but it is difficult for human beings, including us, to focus beyond their personal sufferings. Some of these other folks, especially their charismatic and strategic leaders, are perhaps more educated and smarter than you and me. To reiterate, in a way they represent many views from history that were the norm and are now getting upended (slowly but steadily), which we sometimes forget within our cozy social bubbles and echo chambers.

The anti-Black, anti-Semitic, racist, misogynist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, hateful, violent views also associated with the mob's feelings of disenfranchisement, etc. are not acceptable and are downright harmful. They seriously need to examine their own privilege, tunnel vision, homogenous social group, and lack of empathy for people outside their group. But they are human beings with psychologies as vulnerable as ours, and their pain is valid.

That pain has been constructed over centuries of systemic injustices (from which they benefit, and also not benefit) including

  • increasing inequality,
  • manufacturing jobs disappearing due to technology shifts,
  • inflation outpacing wages,
  • food deserts and such adding to health inequities, etc.,
  • more physical isolation in rural areas due to companies and young people leaving, not developing those areas, and social distancing a la the pandemic (which also affects non-rural areas),
  • loss of small businesses and jobs due to the pandemic,
  • media and politicians not "speaking their language" anymore, thereby feeling invisible themselves, and especially
  • the engineering of their psychology via propaganda, social media, QAnon, our 45th President, etc. Like other terrorists, these regular, vulnerable people have been indoctrinated via powerful forces.

While (hopefully) our beliefs are not harmful and are actually "good," we should always be aware of our propensity as fellow human beings to get easily influenced by powerful forces and carried away by our own beliefs to the point where it is unhelpful, harmful, or oversimplified, closing us off to all other viewpoints. If the same circumstances happened to us, how would we react?[3]

Some of us may even have relatives or old friends who share hateful views similar to the rioters to some degree, and we can easily continue to dehumanize the rest by saying, "But my family and friends are not that bad compared to the others." (Sounds similar to the phrase "They're not like other people" that we get tired of ourselves.) The reality is, these millions of Americans are not too different from us, and we always need to keep our own conduct and passionately negative feelings in check.

We are all hurting from a very traumatic 2020 and the latest major threat to democracy. Take the time to heal and grieve. Afterward, if you feel safe and ready, come join me in working through this mess together and across the aisle. We have varying capacities, but so long as we hold true to our values and not give in to hatred, we can all make a positive difference in repairing this broken nation. It may take a Wonder Woman amount of hope, strength, and compassion, but we must not give up on the idea of redemption and reconnection with so many millions of Americans... or at the very least, we must not succumb to such monstrous hatred ourselves.

Some further suggested reading/watching, if you have the energy:

  1. These are direct quotes from people I know dehumanizing the Capitol rioters. ↩︎

  2. 2 ↩︎