Civil war expert recoils in horror at interviews with Trump fans: 'They don’t want democracy anymore'
The U.S. recently fell out of the rankings of democratic nations, and one expert worries that it will happen again -- and tip the country into civil war.
Barbara Walter, a University of California professor and an expert on civil conflicts, recently wrote about the political volatility in the U.S. since the Jan. 6 insurrection, which dropped the country into the anocracy zone, and she told CNN the riot had made the deadly risks from Donald Trump's lies "impossible to deny and ignore."
"Anocracies are neither fully democratic nor fully autocratic; their citizens enjoy some elements of democratic rule (e.g., elections), while other rights (e.g., due process or freedom of the press) suffer," Walter wrote for the Washington Post. "In the last weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency, the respected Center for Systemic Peace (CSP) calculated that, for the first time in more than two centuries, the United States no longer qualified as a democracy. It had, over the preceding five years, become an anocracy."
President Joe Biden's peaceful inauguration moved the polity ranking back into the democratic zone, but Walter warned the threat remained, putting the U.S. at real risk of additional violence and instability, and Walter reacted with alarm when a CNN host showed her interviews with Trump supporters who refused to accept the former president had lost the election.
"Well, 10 years ago, [my reaction] would have been shock and disbelief," Walter said. “I would have thought, ‘Well she’s an outlier and she’s not representative of anything larger than a fringe movement, maybe.' But of course, that’s not the case anymore.”
Walter and others who study civil conflict have been sounding the alarm for years, but she said no wanted to believe the risks, but she said Trump and his right-wing media allies have corroded trust in democracy itself -- with already fatal results.
“Citizens do believe what they are hearing and if they hear it long enough and consistently enough and if that’s all they hear, they absolutely don’t think it’s a lie, they think it’s the truth,” Walter said.
"You know, they're good people," she added. "They are trying to do what they think is right. It's the leadership that's cynical. It's the leadership that knows better who is feeding them lies consistently. They’re priming their supporters to believe that democracy isn’t worth defending because they don’t want democracy anymore."
Civil war expert reacts to Trump supporter. See her warning for the US www.youtube.com
Incumbent Republican governors in multiple states are facing primary challenges for being viewed as insufficiently extreme in the GOP's era of Donald Trump.
"Months away from their primary contests in this 2022 midterm election, a number of Republican governors nationwide are under siege," The Daily Beast reported Thursday. "Of the 15 GOP chief executives who are running for re-election, eight are facing at least one primary challenger running a real campaign. That number stands in stark contrast to the number of credible primary threats faced by the eight Democratic governors running for re-election: zero. It’s an unprecedented phenomenon for the party, Republican operatives say."
The report noted most challenges were against Republicans who responded to the coronavirus pandemic and those viewed as insufficiently loyal to Trump.
"The Republican governors who didn’t reject public health measures wholesale—and even some who did—faced intense backlash from their right, which grew over the last two years into serious primary threats," The Beast reported."
Covid restrictions are driving the campaign against Idaho Gov. Brad Little by Lt. Gov.Janice McGeachin and against Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine by former Rep. Jim Renacci.
"That is a testament to Trump’s ironclad hold on the GOP for a fourth election cycle. Indeed, his endorsement means as much as ever, and his singular ability to turn conservative darlings into enemies overnight is the wildcard in every Republican primary nationwide," the report noted. "The primary motivation for Trump to target GOP incumbents himself isn’t COVID, however, but his endless sense of grievance—particularly around the 2020 election."
In Georgia, the campaign against far-right Gov. Brian Kemp by former Sen. David Perdue is driven by the governor's refusal to overturn the 2020 election. The report noted the infighting could help Democrat Stacey Abrams win the seat in November.
"But even if the GOP’s primary bumper crop yields no flipped seats, the political impact could still be significant. If governors in safely red states are replaced with even more conservative and even more Trump-aligned Republicans, the party’s center of gravity in statehouses around the country will lurch further right. And in order to beat their challengers, incumbents will likely have to shift that way themselves.," The Beast explained.
Read the full report.
Our eyes are continuously bombarded by an enormous amount of visual information – millions of shapes, colours and ever-changing motion all around us. For the brain, this is no easy feat. On the one hand, the visual world alters continuously because of changes in light, viewpoint and other factors. On the other, our visual input constantly changes due to blinking and the fact that our eyes, head and body are frequently in motion.
To get an idea of the “noisiness” of this visual input, place a phone in front of your eyes and record a live video while you are walking around and looking at different things. The jittery, messy result is exactly what your brain deals with in every moment of your visual experience. This can be seen also in the video below. The white circle on the right shows potential eye movements, and the blurry blob on the left reveals the jumpy visual input in every moment.
Yet, seeing never feels like work for us. Rather than perceiving the fluctuations and visual noise that a video might record, we perceive a consistently stable environment. So how does our brain create this illusion of stability? This process has fascinated scientists for centuries and it is one of the fundamental questions in vision science.
The time machine brain
In our latest research, we discovered a new mechanism that, among others, can explain this illusory stability. The brain automatically smoothes our visual input over time. Instead of analyzing every single visual snapshot, we perceive in a given moment an average of what we saw in the past 15 seconds. So, by pulling together objects to appear more similar to each other, our brain tricks us into perceiving a stable environment. Living “in the past” can explain why we do not notice subtle changes that occur over time.
In other words, the brain is like a time machine which keeps sending us back in time. It’s like an app that consolidates our visual input every 15 seconds into one impression so that we can handle everyday life. If our brains were always updating in real time, the world would feel like a chaotic place with constant fluctuations in light, shadow and movement. We would feel like we were hallucinating all the time.
We created an illusion to illustrate how this stabilization mechanism works. Looking at the video below, the face on the left side slowly ages for 30 seconds, and yet, it is very difficult to notice the full extent of the change in age. In fact, observers perceive the face as aging more slowly than it actually is.
To test this illusion we recruited hundreds of participants and asked them to view close-ups of faces morphing chronologically in age in 30-second timelapse videos. When asked to tell the age of the face at the very end of the video, the participants almost consistently reported the age of the face that was presented 15 seconds before.
As we watch the video, we are continuously biased towards the past and so the brain constantly sends us back to the previous ten to 15 seconds (where the face was younger). Instead of seeing the latest image in real time, humans actually see earlier versions because our brain’s refresh time is about 15 seconds. So this illusion demonstrates that visual smoothing over time can help stabilise perception.
What the brain is essentially doing is procrastinating. It’s too much work to constantly deal with every single snapshot it receives, so the brain sticks to the past because the past is a good predictor of the present. Basically we recycle information from the past because it’s more efficient, faster and less work.
This idea – which is also supported by other results – of mechanisms within the brain that continuously bias our visual perception towards our past visual experience is known as continuity fields. Our visual system sometimes sacrifices accuracy for the sake of a smooth visual experience of the world around us. This can explain why, for example, when watching a film we don’t notice subtle changes that occur over time, such as the difference between actors and their stunt doubles.
There are positive and negative implications to our brain operating with this slight lag when processing our visual world. The delay is great for preventing us from feeling bombarded by visual input every day, but it can also risk life-or-death consequences when absolute precision is needed.
For example, radiologists examine hundreds of images in batches, seeing several related images one after the other. When looking at an X-ray, clinicians are typically asked to identify any abnormalities and then classify them. During this visual search and recognition task, researchers have found that radiologists’ decisions were based not only on the present image, but also on images they had previously seen, which could have grave consequences for patients.
Our visual system’s sluggishness to update can make us blind to immediate changes because it grabs on to our first impression and pulls us toward the past. Ultimately, though, continuity fields promote our experience of a stable world. At the same time, it’s important to remember that the judgements we make every day are not totally based on the present, but strongly depend on what we have seen in the past.