Accelerationism in America: Threat Perceptions

Accelerationism in America: Threat Perceptions
4th February 2020 Jade Parker
Jade Parker
In Insights

Accelerationism is an ideologically agnostic doctrine of violent and non-violent actions taken to exploit contradictions intrinsic to a political system to “accelerate” its destruction through the friction caused by its features. Unlike vanguardism or coups d’état, dissolution of the system through accelerationism must come from mechanisms within the system itself. The actions of the revolutionaries provide the accelerant. The doctrine includes terrorism, insurgency, guerilla warfare, and political and media manipulation.

Aspiring revolutionaries originating in fascist, socialist, and anarchist communities are forming coalitions of extremists and extremist groups across interest groups and ideologies on forums and social media platforms. These individuals are mobilizing compatriots for online and offline action. They share a desire for the dissolution of liberal democracy and global capitalism. The coalitional entities coordinate activities and logistics with other groups within their respective milieus and act as funnels for local insurrectionary cells. Accelerationists also co-opt niche affinity groups like QAnon conspiracy theorists and involuntary celibates. Entryists pretending to be members of the targeted communities radicalize users, recruit, incite violence, and inspire other subversive activities.

Accelerationists engage in any means necessary to manipulate public perceptions to activate insecurities over individual liberties and collective security. Both violent and non-violent acts of accelerationism inorganically manipulate threat perceptions. They purposefully choose tactics that leverage partisan divisiveness to herald in a civil war.

Accelerationist terrorism as theater disrupts the political discourse to specifically concentrate attention on highly polarizing subjects. It takes advantage of the journalistic adage, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Assemblages of facts and opinions are amplified and editorialized by politically diverse communications ecosystems into packaged narratives for various targeted audiences. The conflicting commentaries contingent on personal characteristics of attackers or victims compels accelerationists to heighten contradictions that exploit confirmation biases, particularly biases held by policy, media, and academic elites. These tactics erode public trust in the free press and their expert sources. The mass broadcast of unintentional missteps gives credence to claims of “fake news” for skeptics and partisans.

For example, accelerationists were responsible for the August 2019 attacks at the Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California, the Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and the bar scene in Dayton, Ohio.  Immediately after each attack, perpetrators were characterized as white supremacists. The commonalities among them were their use of the Internet and shared accelerationist aspirations, not their ideologies. Authorities found no evidence Santino Legan in Gilroy was committed to a single ideology. He was encouraged by accelerationists online, a tactic popularized by the Islamic State. Patrick Crusius in El Paso admired Christchurch terrorist Brenton Tarrant and wanted a confederacy of racially homogenous territories. His manifesto expressed his expectation the media would misrepresent nuances in his beliefs and instead blame inflammatory political rhetoric to perpetuate partisan narratives regarding white supremacy. Throughout 2019, socialist and self-identified antifascist Connor Betts tweeted about accelerationism. He grew impatient with incremental political solutions and sought a socialist revolution.

The divisive discourse over race and prejudices was again brought to the forefront by accelerationists in early December 2019. Black Hebrew Israelites David Anderson and Francine Graham opened fire on a kosher deli in Jersey City, New Jersey. When the attackers’ African-American heritage became known, commentators speculated it was a botched robbery despite the similar modus operandi to previous accelerationist violence. Robert Bowers’ August 2018 attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA, and John Earnest’s April 2019 attack at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Poway, California, both charged Jewish targets with assault rifles after online exposure to accelerationism. The former was in direct contact with accelerationist militants while the latter’s digital footprint suggests, at a minimum, Tarrant and Bowers inspired his actions. It later became clear the Jersey City attack was a premeditated act of terrorism, too. Despite the commonalities between incidents, the op-eds about the menace of anti-Semitism in African-American communities never arrived.

Reduced time elapses notably exaggerate inconsistencies. There was a fifteen-hour window between the El Paso and Dayton attacks. The result was competing narratives of white nationalist terrorism and Antifa terrorism between liberal and conservative ecosystems, respectively, each avoiding mention of the shooters’ traits that captured the imagination of their political opponents. Accelerationists repeated this tactic when Black Hebrew Israelite Grafton Thomas attacked a Hanukkah celebration with a sword in Monsey, New York. Thirteen hours later, white nationalist Keith Thomas Kinnunen opened fire on a Christian church outside of Fort Worth, Texas. The commentary that followed was heavily contingent on the racial, political, and religious characteristics of the victims and perpetrators and the political biases of the outlets that covered the carnage.

Accelerationism generates friction between the contradictions underlying liberal democracy. It challenges our commitment to fundamental national principles. Free men can vote away their liberty; a majority can embrace tyranny and oppression through the political process in times of fear and uncertainty. Accelerationists believe capitalism and technology produce irreparable moral degeneracy and decadence that requires violent revolution. Their disruptions challenge the spirit of the First and Second Amendments on the margins of technological advancements not protected by Constitutional law.

Extremists are infiltrating public rallies to instigate violence and manipulate the media into characterizing staunch Second Amendment advocates as white supremacists. They are employing assault rifles in their attacks so gun control advocates justify restrictions based on technicalities involving the scope of the Second Amendment’s meanings of arms and well-regulated militia. Additionally, their violence attracts social media censorship as public disgust is mounted against diverse digital enclaves where they recruit and post incendiary material and manifestos. This outrage engenders arguments against the First Amendment based on the technicality that private companies have no obligation to honor Constitutional protections.

The greatest challenge to the continuity of liberty is not our adversaries; it is ourselves. Revolutionaries cannot accelerate the Republic’s collapse without our voluntary cooperation. Authorities have warned political violence may increase amid partisan divisiveness as we draw closer to the 2020 Presidential election. In this moment of peril, we would be wise to heed John Quincy Adams’ 1814 warning to John Taylor:

“Remember democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes exhausts and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet, that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious or less avaricious than Aristocracy or Monarchy. It is not true in fact and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and crueltyIndividuals have conquered themselves, nations and large bodies of men, never.”