Soon after the F.B.I. searched Donald J. Trump’s home in Florida for classified documents, online researchers zeroed in on a worrying trend.
Posts on Twitter that mentioned “civil war” had soared nearly 3,000 percent in just a few hours as Mr. Trump’s supporters blasted the action as a provocation. Similar spikes followed, including on Facebook, Reddit, Telegram, Parler, Gab and Truth Social, Mr. Trump’s social media platform. Mentions of the phrase more than doubled on radio programs and podcasts, as measured by Critical Mention, a media-tracking firm.
Posts mentioning “civil war” jumped again a few weeks later, after President Biden branded Mr. Trump and “MAGA Republicans” a threat to “the very foundations of our republic” in a speech on democracy in Philadelphia.
Now experts are bracing for renewed discussions of civil war, as the Nov. 8 midterm elections approach and political talk grows more urgent and heated.
More than a century and a half after the actual Civil War, the deadliest war in U.S. history, “civil war” references have become increasingly commonplace on the right. While in many cases the term is used only loosely — shorthand for the nation’s intensifying partisan divisions — observers note that the phrase, for some, is far more than a metaphor.
Polling, social media studies and a rise in threats suggest that a growing number of Americans are anticipating, or even welcoming, the possibility of sustained political violence, researchers studying extremism say. What was once the subject of serious discussion only on the political periphery has migrated closer to the mainstream. [Continue reading…]