Accelerationist thinking is proliferating in ways that could destabilize democracy

By | June 7, 2021

The New York Times reports:

For QAnon it is “The Storm,” when mass violence will topple the elite cabal of pedophiles who they imagine to be running the government. White-power groups in the United States have long promised a catastrophic race war. And in Germany and Austria, neo-Nazis herald an imagined putsch on “Day X” — when the democratic order collapses and they take over.

All are examples of “accelerationist” ideologies, which promise a moment when the institutions of government, society and the economy will be wiped out in a wave of catastrophic violence, clearing the way for a utopia that will supposedly follow.

Accelerationism has long been a feature of white-power groups and other far-right militias. But now, experts say, accelerationist thinking is proliferating in ways that could threaten not just public safety, but the stability of democracy itself.

“In many ways we can see how Jan. 6 was a kind of loosely formed coalition around this idea of accelerationism,” said Cynthia Miller-Idriss, the director of the Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab at American University, said of the attack on the U.S. Capitol Building last January.

Mainstream leaders, she believes, are failing to heed the risk that coalition could pose. “My fear is that we are, as a country, starting to treat that like a one-time fluke rather than as a potential turning point.”

“I have thought a lot about the parallels with the Weimar Republic,” the fragile period of democracy in Germany whose collapse allowed the Nazis to take power, she said. It was marked by a series of attacks, failed coups and other efforts to undermine democracy. And even though actions like Hitler’s beer-hall putsch failed, German democracy was ultimately not strong enough to withstand the chaos.

“For me, the parallel is that I think a lot of people want to see Jan. 6 as the end of something,” she said. “I think we have to consider the possibility that this was the beginning of something.” [Continue reading…]

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