Cognitive Psychology

Civil War: Know the Warning Signs

What I love about the social sciences is that all kinds of human interactivey behaviory emotiony cognitivey stuff can be studies systematically and some semi-hard — they’ve got medication for that now — conclusions can be come to — as long as you use the medication and don’t take SSRIs.

What I hate about the social sciences is that no one ever really pays attention to or uses their conclusions in the real world. Okay, some policy wonks do sometimes sort of, but the wider public’s collective eyes just roll into their collective heads and they start collectively snoring and a bit of collective drool drips from their collective mouth as soon as you start talking about it. That’s where super-cool blogs like this one come into the picture so that all eight visitors can have better insight into and understanding of whatever super-cool social science psychologyie political sciencey finding that being reported on or applied — BUT NEVER SHARE THE POSTS!

Screengrab of Seth Abramson’s original tweet

No, ma, I ain’t bitter… What do you mean, I sound bitter!… It ain’t that!… I just WISH that more visitors would share these posts!… I KNOW Facebook has blocked me, so people can’t… There are other social media platforms out there… I don’t know when WordPress is going to get a Truth Social button… NO! I AM NOT going to suggest it to them… Gah! Ma! Just leave me alone!… What do you mean that’s no way to speak to your mother? For crying out loud, YOUR DEAD!… I do miss you… You were right… I’ve got a blog post to finish… Yeah, right, so more people can’t share it. Very funny… You know, death becomes you. Isn’t that the saying?… Leave me ALONE, already.

As it turns out social scientists have been studying civil wars for a long time! Only they was doing it wrong. Not wrong like your favorite drunk uncle says all science is studying everything wrong. Wrong as in they weren’t comparing notes on the civil wars they were studying. They started out assuming that all civil wars were unique and you really had to understand their unique context to understand how they started and stopped. It wasn’t until they started pooling their data and supercomputers came along that they were able to discern a pattern.

And, there’s been another funny coincidence, civil war has been all over the news this week because of the Ol’ Pussy Grabber truthed about it! Check out the screengrab of TFG re-truthing a truth sent in reply to a truth of a screengrab of a tweet (maybe?) by el Presidente de El Salvador.

Now, everyone is like why isn’t the press reporting this more widely? We all need to take this talk of civil war more seriously or we’ll all be sorry. Social media has gone full Job with the rending of clothing, breaking of pottery, and scraping of boils and everything.

Let’s see if the social scientist experts have anything they can add to help clarify matters. Are we or are we not heading for a civil war?

Previously Posted

Barbara Walter… has identified four circumstances that herald the likely collapse of a democracy:

  • when they are neither fully democratic nor fully autocratic...With increasing legislative gridlock, we’ve been forced to rely on executive orders to keep the country functioning. Check this box, amirite?
  • when the leading political parties are sharply divided along multiple identity lines. [The GQP has become exclusively] white, rural, and Christian [The Dems are] diverse, liberal, and urban… We’re there.
  • when a once-dominant social group is losing its privileged status... white people are losing their privileged status. This demographic of the 6 January insurrectionists… is so telling: Fifty-two percent of the insurrectionists were from counties that Biden won…They all have declines in the white non-Hispanic populations….
  • and when citizens lose faith in the political system’s capacity to change. Given that three-quarters of MAGA Nation believes the Big Lie tells you all that you need to know… Do any of us have faith in Congress to get anything done? Respect for the judiciary is slipping…Yeah, I think this box is ticked, too.

Back in January of 2022 — don’t it seem like it was like half a year ago? — UC San Diego political science professor, Barbara Walter, published her book, How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them, all about what we know about how civil wars start and stop.

First up, in yet another coincidence, Ye Olde Blogge done reported on some of this when the book came out. Have a gander at the sidebar to get up to speed or follow the link to the previous post.

As it turns out, there have been over 200 major armed civil wars fought since 1946, and, wouldn’t you know it, we’ve been collecting data on civil wars for the past thirty years (that’s since 1994, so we rounded, sue us).

That no good liberal do gooder, Bill Clinton, got some social scientisty types together in 1994 in something called the Political Instability Task Force to figure out if we could predict which countries would become unstable and fall apart and have civil wars. You never heard of it because it was in the super-secret CIA.

When they fed all of their data from all the civil wars since 1994 into their supercomputer and told it all HAL like to figger it out, only two factors were highly predictive!

ANOCRACY. Anocracy is government by mixing authoritarian elements and democratic elements. It is a hybird. It is a government in transition either from authoritarianism to democracy or democracy to authoritarianism.

It turns out democracies and autocracies almost never have civil wars, so whew! We’re safe, right? We’re a democracy, right? World’s oldest and all that. Well, I hate to break it to ya, but we are not the picture perfect pure as the driven snow democracy that all our fife and drum corpse nationalists would have you believe. We’ve got authoritarian elements in our democracy. Authoritarian elements.

It’s the unstable transitionary periods where all the civil warry shooty things start. We’re on the democracy side of that middle.

When democracies devolve into autocracies, the populace gets the feeling that their government is not legitimate, you know, like an election or two might could’ve been stolen or something. My goodness, is that another coincidence? Some people are unhappy with their government, and they’ve lost faith in the political system, i.e. the democracy.

Yeah, this is sounding familiar, right?

IDENTITY POLITICS. The other very predictive factor was the rise of identity politics. You know where the populace identifies with a political party not on the basis of any kind of policy or ideological beliefs, but based on identity. You get the white party. Or the Christian party. Or the Catholic party. Or the German party.

Not only that, but there are clear divisions between the groups. People are clearly in one camp or the other. Easily identified. There are outgroups and ingroups. The outgroups begin to demonized and condemned. They become the enemy. They are against the ingroup.

Suddenly, presto changeo, the ingroup becomes synonymous with the state and the outgroups are against the state.

Holy pigmentation, Fatman! We’re talking white grievance politics here where white liberal socialist-communist-fascist-Antifas and BLM and CRT-teaching teachers and grooming groomers and caravanning immigrant caravans are trying to destroy America because we all hate freedom! They’re trying to dilute the pure white American blood and our votes with easily controlled groups of non-rural non-conservative non-Christian non-whites!

I think we’ve revved the American engine into the red zone for anocracy and identity politics, don’t you?

INSURGENCY. This is where the real fun, at least if you’re a swinging Second Amendment fetishist, begins. There are three stages:

  • STAGE 1, PRE-INSURGENCY: Groups organize around their grievance and grow their membership. You know like MAGA organizing around white grievance politics. Yikes! We’re past stage 1, then, hunh?
  • STAGE 2, INCIPIENT CONFLICT: Militias start to form, recruiting begins, arms are acquired, training. They recruit from the military and police. They inspire isolated violent attacks against soft targets. Hold on here just a danggum moment. Ain’t we been talking about a militia movement in this country since Ruby Ridge? Didn’t a group of these suckers just get acquitted for conspiring and plotting to kidnap and kangaroo court Michigan Gov. Whitmer? Weren’t there a bunch of these guys at BLM protests — KYLE RITTENHOUSE — saying they were there to protect innocent white Americans and business from the marauding hordes? Aren’t a bunch of these “Proud Boys” being tried and convicted for the 6 January Insurrection? Weren’t there a bunch of police and veterans in the 6 January Insurrection? Do you mean to tell me that we are already past stage 2?!?
  • STAGE 3, INSURGENCY: This is where we get coordinated attacks, not against the military or the government, but against soft targets. Infrastructure. Civilian populations. These folks aren’t idiots. They know they can’t defeat the US military, so they avoid any and all direct conflict and contact with the US military. They sow chaos in the streets. They openly patrol to bring law and order. They are often welcomed by the police. So, whew! We’re not quite at stage 3, yet, so, that’s good, right?

And that is where we are folks. We are a backsliding democracy circling the toilet hoping that sucker is backed up and this analogy is quickly falling apart. We’ve got a budding insurgency with white supremacists trying to organize, arm, recruit, and train a terrorist army to harass and snipe at the blue states.

This only gets worse before it gets better. Expect real violence before, during, and after the November 2022 elections. Expect real violence at protests against Roe v. Wade being overturned. They will use their own violence as pretext for committing more violence and bringing more authoritarian elements into our governments at all levels.

The only way to fight this is to understand the warning signs and vote. We have got to use our vote in spite of the gerrymandering and voter suppression and nullification laws.

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Like and rate this post because it scares the bejeezus out of you like it does me!

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Image Attribution

Proud Boys in Raleigh (2020 Nov)” by Anthony Crider is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

13 replies »

    • Howdy Ten Bears!

      I don’t know exactly what you mean, but I’m not bitter, either. I’m concerned and flabbergasted, but not bitter. That the conservative end of the spectrum wants to burn it all down and replace it with authoritarian minority rule should come as no surprise, shocking, maybe, but no surprise.



  1. And, what happens when a Libertarian billionaire tells the truth? This [] and he ain’t the least bit embarrassed to have said it.

    They’re voting in Georgia today – Team Trump versus Team Pence; Big Lie versus ?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Howdy Bob!

      Thiel is a piece of work, all right. Talk about disdain, but he KNOWS there are real world consequences of his decisions and actions, and he’s actively seeking them. Between him, the Kochs, and the Mercers, we have taken quite a beating in terms of support for and belief in democracy.

      Luckily Trump lost in Georgia, but Kemp and Raffensperger, they ain’t done us many favors. If the Trump candidates had won, I wonder if it would’ve helped the Dem candidates running against them. I don’t know how much Pence helped anyone. At least, he didn’t hurt, I guess. The Big Lie versus the Big Meh?


      Liked by 1 person

      • It helps a bit to know that a Trump endorsement isn’t an automatic win. Also, if it was the unaffiliated voters who made the difference, will they vote for those same Republicans in November, or for the Democrats? That’s probably some of each.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Howdy Bob!

          If Roe v Wade gets overturned. If gun violence continues. Maybe, just maybe, the unaffiliated voter will turn against the Republican brand and vote Democratic.

          I’m anxious to see what turn out was like overall and in specific states given the voter suppression and nullification laws that are in effect. Georgia Republicans, at least, turned out. And Pennsylvanian Republicans are scrapping over which votes get to be counted. So, we’ll see is anger is a motivating force in this election.


          Liked by 1 person

          • The primary turn out in North Carolina was reported as very high, much better than usual. It was 20%, 1 in 5 of registered voters. Therein lies a clue to our problem. Our politicians and media have turned politics into a spectator sport.

            Liked by 1 person

            • The sportification of our politics is one of the biggest problems. It is seen as a zero-sum game, just like a sporting contest, with about as many of the real-world consequences of the home team winning or losing. Everything nowadays is about making money from social media and the Internet. Politicians raise millions by owning the other side. News media use clickbait to drive web traffic. And, people crowdsource monetizing their personal disasters. The number of everyday folks on my social media who have a GoFund me or similar campaign for some personal issue is pretty amazing.



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