Category Archives: social media

Mobs and Jobs

We had been waiting for the barbarians for some time. The President had been, over four years, mapping the threat of the barbarians advancing from across borders. But we imagined that they would arrive from the edges of empire, the edges where the acting President had been mapping threats of their arrival for five years, informed by the images of a border that without adequate defenses, as he evoked a breaching the ramparts of defense as the primary threat to national security.  Maybe that was a feint. For the crowds assembled on the Washington Mall, a mob crowd-sourced, whose fight or flight responses were stimulated across their vagal nerves, were ready to sack the Capitol building, invading the offices of congressional representatives as if to interrupt a peaceful transition of Presidential power. These were not the barbarians of whom we had been repeatedly warned as arriving from without borders. Rather, it was those who had been alerted to the danger from the southern border, and had arrived on busses from across its states, carrying not their belongings but the sense of resentment and anger nurtured on the apparently unjust maps of electoral votes, to stall consensus about the end of Donald Trump’s presidency–then were a crowd that had been energized and nurtured on social media, at Trump rallies, and in chat rooms that bewailed the fear of a loss of liberties.

FOX News

In the very final Presidential debate, Trump had taken pains to evoke the marauding crowds that would fill the streets after the election of his opponent, to illustrate that Biden should be trusted–he promised the public the mantra “jobs not mobs,” ensuring that the jobs would materialize as he kept “illegals” who had undercut wages out, and ensured an America First policy. The barbarians had arrived at the Capital, not at a frontier settlement, but at its center, as they hoped to promote America First; rather than arriving as migrants from across the border, they came on busloads, airplanes, and cars, in busses paid for by Trump evangelist, the Republican donor who believes the President chosen by God–or by itineraries to Washington, DC, that PeacefulRedStateSecession had mapped.

This invasion did not cross national divides, or defend anything other than endangered liberties. It was not on foot, but they were dressed for cold weather. But it was an actual seizure of the U.S. Capitol, by an inside job, utterly unlike the visions of invasions threatened during a series of National Emergencies in recent years–from the Migrant Caravans, enabled by the “humanitarian visas” given out by the Mexican government, that had made it so urgent to “fix” America’s immigration laws–a pedestrian pilgrimage on a sacred calendar that had necessitated the first $1 Billion to be transferred from the Department of Defense to remedy “critical readiness issues facing our military” as the caravans “thumbed their noses at our drug and immigration laws” as they advanced in four massive caravans “in an effort to enter the US” and threatened to breach borders.

Migrant “Caravan” Approaching American Border (March, 2019)

Their routes were longer, and were not conducted on foot–but these barbarians were truly at the gate, if they didn’t come as vectors that wold pierce our borders. They were, rather, crowds that were sourced on social media, in reaction to the threats of regime change that would come by elections, by the creation of consensus.

They could not be traced to transnational cartels or the “historical routes” of migrant caravans; these threats at the perimeter of the U.S. Capitol were crowd sourced, promoted in multiple Facebook groups, where, in hours after the refusal to accept the results of the U.S. Presidential election had been called in several states, verb tenses became unhinged from reality in the waning hours of election night, as what would be the largest-growing Facebook groups ever in the history of the platform grew online, a virtual crowd, not able to be tracked by GPS or viewed as puncturing our borders, but rather aimed at puncturing sovereignty from within: the boundaries of states were less important know, despite threats of migrants overwhelming those fortified border check-points by rushing them en masse, but the crowd that was assembling on January 7 before the sun rose was threatening to pierce the perimeter of the Capitol, to finally stream down the Mall, down Constitution Avenue, down Pennsylvania Avenue, energized by having been urged “we’re going to have to fight much harder” and reverse the betrayal by “traitors” in the U.S. Senate of the electoral maps that they were all convinced were rigged. They advanced not on the edges of empire, for over two thousand miles–

–but by moving several thousand feet to cross scaffolding set up for inauguration day, tearing down fencing that separated them from the Capitol, pushing past barricades into a citadel of governance.

New York Times

The barbarians were not of migrants, this time, approaching the border, that animated their sense of urgency, but of a certification of the deep danger of an end to the Trump Presidency–even though President Trump had, equipped with with U.S. Border patrol statistics, traced national threats and states of emergency throughout four years of his Presidency, in the specter of invasion evoked by transnational threats.

But if all maps depend on consensus–few migrants saw themselves as crossing a border that was a crime to cross–the Despite images of the Caravans we had watched as they arrived from Central America, determined to cross our national boundaries, these barbarians looked as if they were all white–a crowd celebrating, signing, and dancing as they wore red MAGA hats, scarves, and carried TRUMP 2020 signs and other campaign paraphernalia, and had arrived to conclude a campaign that had not gone as they had expected, while the collective mug shots of those guilty of “immigration crime suspects” that had popped up on billboards throughout the nation had effectively under-written the need for racial profiling.

Mug Shots of Immigration Crime Suspects

Rather than crossing the fortified border at the edges of empire, this threat grew before and as if in opposition to the chambers of representative government occurred from a stage erected in previous days, but an event that was promoted since the electors had met in individual states to confirm popular votes for U.S. President. They had been alerted by the dangerous maps of a subversion of votes by electors or at the ballot box, specters of which had haunted viewers of FOX and

How two polls predicted Trump's surprise victory | Fox News

and the several states that were “still in play” and “what if” maps of the battleground states that Trump might need to win to secure a nearly materialized victory in 2020. As if egged on by the charges that corruption had disrupted this map, and interrupted the hopes for Trump 2020 many banners bore, charges of voter fraud, doctored ballots, and the ability to flip what was once a “magic screen” to show red states created a sense of the danger of making any predictions, as if unveiling the strength of Trump long underestimated, as if to dull the minds of a nation by a “very tight race” where “despite predictions” many challenges were being waged on the ground. Why not stage a challenge to the certification of electors, to press the charges of challenges that seemed. The foregrounding on Fox of Trump’s deep opposition to ‘shutdowns’ that would hamper the economy, or cast the process of selection of a President lay in counting votes more than casting ballots. As pro-Trump attorneys launched a “stop the count” movement on November 5, was a “stop the steal far behind? As the Trump campaign continued over six and a half weeks to express confidence and predicting victory, asking how much the live counting of votes that showed a margin of 100,000 votes in Pennsylvania, then 14,000 in Georgia, or entertaining the possibility of one elector in Nebraska made the democratic process almost openly venal and ridiculously debased.

So why not debase democracy and restore a diret vision of process, unclouded by faulty tallies and unobserved vote counts? This crowd was crowd-sourced on social media, by hashtags like #StoptheSteal, Large crowds had begun to arrive before sunrise, occupying the rows of seats on the Mall. They seemed benign, but would set up a conflict between the power manifest in crowds and the allocation of representational government by states’ electors. The confrontation before the primary seat of representational government was arrived at by varied routes–busses organized to Washington DC, often by the same groups who had sponsored Rallies for Trump but the underlying map was a call for a new form of governance, interrupting smooth progress of transition of power that had been mapped out from Election Day in November to the meeting of electors in respective states on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December to the certification of electors by a joint session of the U.S. Congress. This timed progression of an assembly of representative structures dedicated to mediate the popular vote was interrupted by a crowd that claimed the American flag, lest it be desecrated, as certification was interrupted by an alternative manner of government of acclamation by a crowd, eager to oppose the immediacy of its collective unruliness and deep conviction to the stately dome.

2021 storming of the United States Capitol - Wikipedia
East Side of Capitol before Crowd-Sourced insurrectionist Crowd

These were not the barbarians that had overwhelmed empires of the past. They were not the caravnas we were long told to be expecting from across the southwestern border, but they posed a far deeper national security threat, and lay in the electoral system. Those who arrived to rectify the vote arrived dressed the for part, displaying their patriotism. Some were in revolutionary or paramilitary garb; others who had attended of past Trump rallies wore election garb of the concluded 2020 campaign. They channeled a mythological past of the defense of the constitution,–more than crossing from “barbarian” lands, to destroy a vision of empire that had promised civilization to the world, they arrived from the red states to the center of corruption in Washington, DC, hoping to stop the change of government, and change the course of history.

Emmanuel-Auguste-Dieudonne Las Cases, A map, exhibiting the . . . . destruction of the Barbarians, that invaded the Roman world (1800)

The detail of the routes by which those barbarians had arrived from all Europe and Asia were detailed with elegance in post-Napoleonic Paris, where they must have been prepared with reassurance of a sense of some stability after the restoration of the July Monarchy, from a place of security before 1848 revolutions brought a new wave of urban uprisings across much of Europe from a large urban working class.

“Invasion of the Barbarians,” E. Soulier Paris, 183

Rather than arriving from outside our frontiers, as we had been warned, this invasion came from within, by those who ostensibly sought to set the Empire right, rather as an invasion in the sort of ur-maps of invasion and historical decline that were framed in the elegant color-coded historical maps of the post-Napoleonic July Monarchy, that looked back on the invasions that eroded political stability.

This was a crowd of believers, and was not a spontaneous crowd: it was truly crowd-sourced, sourced and summoned by sirens of social media. This consensus assembled from all America would not be an invasion, but would invade Washington, DC, to ensure not its destruction, but an alternative universe of electoral victory: the results would change the course of global history as consequentially as that ur-map of invasions, mapped in detail in a masterpiece of historical geography, that condensed barbarian invasions at the fall of the Roman Empire, collapsing many years in a moment of destruction. If hard to map with any comparable historical or analytic distance, they seemed to seek to awe us with their spontaneous presence, as they were seeking to impose a judgement on the process of the election, to take back the clock not to just the early hours of election night, when Donald J. Trump appeared from initial results to be in the lead, but to the height of his President, if not to the first inauguration; he nourished fantasies of his own of accepting acclamation as President for Life, jokingly entertained the possibility of accepting as an honorific half way through his term, in 2018, proposing in a private speech at Mar-a-Lago to Republican donors he would “maybe . . . have to give that a shot someday” at the position, planting the seed to claim by April 2019 his base may well just “demand that I stay longer” as President or extend his term “at least for ten to fourteen years.”

1. The culmination of Trump rallies and crowd management techniques that had developed since the summer of 2015: this time, the crowd was reliably sourced. The assembly of the crowd improvised a new form of government, a new form of staging a putsch of the sort never seen in America, whose members would themselves rectify Donald Trump’s own disappointment and inability to process an election he argued “we were getting to win,” until the tallies changed as absentee votes were tallied, in ways that didn’t fit his narrative: convinced he in fact had won and did win the 2020 election, in keeping with models of fringe news media sources that had predicted his victory, early tweets that warned “They are trying to steal this election” had set up an alternative reality over two months–“Frankly, we did win this election” and then “We are up BIG but they are trying to STEAL this Election. We will never let them do it!” —that set in motion the logic of an alternate reality by an alternative structure of governing, in the arrival of a huge crowd eager to preserve the vision of an electoral victory that did not occur. As the crowd’s momentous size was described to its members repeatedly, that had its own entity able to overpower representative structures, they gained momentum to overpower the representative structures that had badly served the President’s plans. This was the map to project the vision of Donald J. Trump’s second term by a crowd in the Mall bigger than on Trump’s inauguration, a crowd joined to their President, more than the faithless Vice-President or Secretaries of State who had confirmed what Trump appeared convinced were faulty tallies of votes.

The invasion by these barbarians was animated by a different mythical vision of the historical past. They attacked, possessed by starting an imagined revolutionary uprising to appeal to a revolutionary fervor of asserting belonging and agency. They arrived inspired by claims that the vote had been stolen on a scale of “widespread, nationwide, massive voter fraud” since mid-November, even if his lawyers were hard-pressed to say where the fraud lay, even as allegations shifted to charges of “good-faith errors in operating machines,” or to corrupt tallies in machines themselves that were operated by companies lying outside the United States, or just glitches in electronic voting machines–if not the fraud of mail-in ballots that Trump had warned since the spring of 2020 might have been fabricated en masse in foreign countries. The evanescence of any sense of agency as to who was manipulating fraud on such a scale had driven them to desperation that they could only correct by taking the Capitol building themselves, to stay the election at the very last minute.

The crowd came to impose an alternative reality he demanded, to interrupt the due process of the electors’ certificaiton. Busses paid for by one of the last remaining Republican donors, the MyPillow Guy, Mike Lindell, ferry millions of patriots to Washington, DC, a Trump Base meant to replace institutional distortions that had allegedly obstructed the election’s transparency.

The Patriots who arrived on The Ellipse where they had been invited by Donald Trump, immediately sensing belonging, removed from the social isolation of being sutured to screens since the election, from fears of the disruption of a stolen election in the confidence of the crowd, listening to music as they warmed up from before seven in the morning. If the crowd met a moment of what crowd theorist Elias Canetti termed “release”–the moment of cohesion–as they were harangued for an hour by a President who described the failure of all the structures in place he had expected would lead to a second term. Upon hearing Vice President Pence, acting as President of the Senate, would not disrupt the certification of electoral votes at 10:02, reminded again by Trump how “they rigged it like they’ve never rigged it before,” they took matters into their own hands, with the agency they felt the U.S. Constitution promised. The invitations offered a time to meet with President Trump, and make their voices heard to representatives in unison with his complaint about the certification of the electoral vote.

The FB Group PeacefulRedStateSecession.com, which long nourished the secessionist fantasies, set the stage for an overturning of the very structures of government–assembled at a red star on Constitution Avenue, to Save America. The project of national salvation reveal the deeply corrosive of an increasingly oppositional mapping of the nation into “red” and “blue” states that has increasingly been mis-mapped around the defense of constitutional freedoms, before Trump promoted the constitutional crisis by inciting crowds to storm the Capitol to interrupt a joint session of Congress. The crowd that had been released as Trump finished his speech, stormed the capitol with anger and entitlement, indignantly yelling at Capitol Police, “We were invited here. We were invited by the president of the United States” as if entitled to bring down the state in an “exercise in patriotism,” an undefined “call to action” that promised to change the election’s outcome–an invitation extended widely on social media surviving only as screenshots apprehended from a social media sea. And once they arrived, these messages were reinforced, urged by the Tea Party activist who founded Women for America First to protest the first impeachment of Donald Trump in 2019. This time, Trump urged the assembled crowd-sourced crowd that it was imperative to show strength, in this final effort that awaited them: “It is up to you and I to save this Republic! We are not going to back down, are we? Keep up the fight!”

Rushing the chambers of the U.S. Congress would forestall not only the tally of electoral votes and their certification responded to the need to overturn the illegitimacy of the “hoax,” widespread corruption, and sullying of American democracy and the civic ritual of the in-person ballot. Those storming of the Capitol as not exactly a siege, but would trigger the sudden pressure of an energized mob to shatter the bureaucratic process of Congress, meeting in their chambers without cell phones, by needed pressure, to overturn the election Trump had assured them was indeed a landslide that audits had not yet fully revealed, but the demand for full transparency would immanently reveal, and create consensus only waiting to be mapped.

2. This crowd sourced mob assembled with a sense of urgency, listening in an almost relaxed manner to Village People’s rousing choruses of YMCA as they developed their identity in a sea of flags of discontent long before they were activated and directed energy to the Capitol building before which they’d been asked to assemble. Crowd theorist Cannetti argued the most important moment of the transformation of the crowd from within is “discharge,” the moment of unification behind a sense of purpose that mobilizes and realizes is new identity as a crowd. Before that moment of collective self-knowledge, the crowd does not actually exist in the same way, but it suddenly erases any sense of distance in a shared purpose, and shared identity, a feeling of equality and relief where they are collectively oriented in a moment of release in a blessed moment of orientation. When did the moment of discharge arrive? The process of assembling this crowd had begun of the sixty five days since the election, as snowballing #StoptheSteal groups took Trump’s tweets to nourish faux stoic solidarity. When Trump urged,”You have to show strength,” the words percolated with desires to defend Constitutional liberties in ways that masked the contradiction that they were disobeying the law.

Discharge arrived at the crowd over several stages in the rally, boosted by the simultaneity of being addressed by the President and being tweeted to by him, that “Mike Pence doesn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our country,” as he refused that he would ever concede, live, and growing in their minds while hearing him wield truthful hyperbole as magnified it to beyond a million, bending time and space, while investing the crowd that had been assembling since 3 AM with a directionality and purpose that became clearer over time. The goal of changing the election that brewed behind all those optimized electoral maps crystallized around the goal of forestalling of the goal of Pence changing the certified electoral, as if he was empowered to do so, their goal strengthening their common identity, energizing the crowd with a renewed sense of immediate purpose. How much did it help that a Black and a Jew had been elected to enter the Capitol building the previous night, electrifying the Base by alerting them this was not business as usual, and demanded interruption? This crowd arrived filled with the sense of indignity as if entitled to overthrow their government when it took their rights away–the promise was embedded in the Gadsden flags that they waved, as much as the MAGA ones, and the banners that they took pains to bedeck the Capitol in a major media event, as they arrived with cell phones and Trump 2016 hats and Trump 2020 banners in a four-hour Siege of the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, long after the election was lost.

Their sense of urgency was apparently echoed in their use of survivalist rock-climbing skills, knee-pads and gloves, some in paramilitary outfits and some in fantasy garb, they scaled the neoclassical facade, wrapped in American flags and bearing Gadsden Flags to forestall regime change and equipped with cell phones. They also brought, in those backpacks, unregistered ammunition, unregistered firearms, tasers, ropes, Molotov cocktails, and fireworks, and megaphones, to fulfill a patriotic duty to the nation, filmed on iPhones to make sure it would be covered in global media markets and across the nation. Enraged at the identification of the Vice-President presiding over the certification of electoral votes, who they called a “traitor” the crowd seem to have stormed the Capitol for their own duly elected representatives, as Secret Service members tried to secure the Senators, representatives, and VP who had become targets of wrath by an almost entirely white mob bearing weapons, storming the chambers of Congress like a lynching mob. The image of Pence as a traitor and turncoat, betraying a President who refuses to accept electoral results. Had the evangelical Catholic Pence been replaced by those who believe Trump was “chosen by God”?

Scaling the Perimeter Wall at the NE Corner/Michael Robinson Chavez/Washington Post

They cheered as they planted American flags atop the Capitol building, hanging banners reading “Trump 2020/STOP THE BULLSHIT,” equipped with signage to keep hope alive after the election was lost. They weren’t the barbarians we had expected and were long announced as at the gate. But they came with a sense of vengeance, gripping the walls they had prepared to scale the stone facade on a mission with tenacity and a sense of duty after having received a Presidential benediction. They had just been chanting “Fight for Trump! Fight for Trump!” as the black-gloved President told them he would never concede, and “We will not take it any more, . . . and to use a favorite term that you people will came up with, we will stop the steal.” Trump bemoaned the state of corruption in the nation, alerting the crowd of the dangers posed by fake news media and big tech as surrogates for a global war. He placed the certification of votes as the final chance for populist groups to defend freedoms as if it were the eve of a monumental battle of civilizations, not at the border between the United States and Mexico, but to rush the Capitol building, where the senators and congressmen were cloistered, without cell phones, voting to confirm Trump’s removal as President as the end of an era.

3. If Trump did not directly communicate plans for staking siege to the Capitol, on that day, but communicated indirectly to the assembled crowd who seem to have understood the plans for an insurrection or seizure of power. Just after Christmas, images predicted the arrival of a storm as if by an act of divine vengeance to break the delivery of the electors’ vote. The size of the crowd was difficult to estimate, but seems to have been difficult to estimate, but the number was far fewer than seems to have been widely expected by each of the groups who predicted “low number a few hundred thousand, in high numbers 2-3 million, imagine the scene” drawn from all fifty states, in a scene of mass consensus achieved by massive-crowd sourcing from vigorous online promotion to the announcement at rallies of “Stop the Steal” held as electors met on December 12.

We know Trump’s words, whose intention was transparently clear, but can only imagine their effect. Amidst a befuddling tally of votes he insisted were misreported by a Fake Media, he had bemoaned again the scale of the “egregious assault on our democracy” in the theft of a landslide that was itself a a threat “our country be destroyed” and a threat to “America First,” with urgency. The invitation to advance–where was there left to go?–got only crisper as the speech advanced. Truthful hyperbole allowed him to exaggerate the crowd that he imagined stretching to the Washington Memorial, as if it were a new inauguration audience. The date had been grimly pre-announced, and the urgency to “Save America” hardly needed to be spelled out.

The urgency grew, as the crowd had entered an alternate reality, as the hour continued. Trump bemoaned that “our media is not free” asked them all to turn on your cameras, as “we’re going to walk down to the Capitol,” “that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard,” ramping up the energy of the crowd that had been listening to music for hours, thanking his “incredible supporters” as he asked them to refuse all hoaxes, to remember why they had come to the event, how they were all waiting for the Vice President to act as President of the Senate, and join him in demanding “sweeping electoral reforms” and asking them, his soldiers, finally and conclusively to drain the swamp, to restore vital civic traditions of in-person voting, as the representatives and senators who owed their election to him alone would not. Without such a renewal of the Tree of Liberty, the worst would happen, beyond a feared end of liberties: “they want to take down the wall” and “let everyone flow in,” Trump concluded with urgency, imagining the destruction of his long-vaunted project to raise the stakes. Instead, the MAGA minions would “be pouring in to Washington, DC” to restore order and affirm the intensity of their personal relation to the state in a transparent manner that the corrupt tally of the vote obscured.

“We are going to–we are going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, I love Pennsylvania Avenue, and we are going to the Capitol,” he wrapped up his remarks to the audience he cherished. “. . . So let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue,” he urged his minions, asking them to retake the very halls of government that obstructed his second term, making the transactional nature of the march clear. Even the President did not incite the crowd to violent entrance of the Capitol Building, the publicity that announced the “march” showed its target–and the site to demand election integrity–clear. The rapt audience was ready to assault the building and strike down the police guards they encountered with flagpoles to answer the President’s personal “call to action to us to come back to Washington on January 6 for a big protest” by “taking back the country from corrupt politicians,” and wrest the nation from the political class, intensifying its sense of urgency.

They all knew the endpoint of the Save America March and had iPhones in their hands, but weren’t using their mapping functions, as they recorded the scene that the news media would not report. They were being invited to reveal their patriotism, and stand up for the U.S. Constitution and the country by the Commander-in-Chief in the face of “pure theft” of what was a landslide, and came dressed for re-enacting a drama of insurrection and revolution, in a rally that would consume the halls of government, uniting the size of the momentous rallies of the five-year Presidential campaign that Trump had been boosted to the empyrean, beyond Reality TV, to a new level of transcendence. But few have spent much attention to map from where they came. Few members of the mob needed to use their devices’ mapping functions or GPS, as the mission of retaking the government could be seen behind the bullet-proof glass from which Trump had addressed them.

Trump had magnified the size of the crowd considerably, describing the “tens of thousands” he saw before him, inviting those in attendance to turn their cell phones back to cover the size of a crowd he said the media would underestimate, and magnifying what was estimated as a crowd of 10,000 by trademark “truthful exaggeration” by magnifying it to “hundreds of thousands of people here” and describing the “hundreds of thousands of American patriots [who] are committed to the honesty of our elections” across the nation. The number was guesstimated at “several thousand people . . . even 10,000, maybe.” After Trump’s moment of truthful hyperbole, social media photographs and claims magnified the crowd and multiplied its loyalty on social media. The filming of the breaching of the Capitol’s perimeter spread on social media, as members of Congress without cell phones remained in the dark, and protestors counted on the element of surprise: even as Trump insisted that “the media will not show the magnitude of this crowd,” recalling the disputes he had had with the crowd on Inauguration Day, describing “hundreds of thousands” to rival even an inauguration crowed, famously falsified as the largest ever, estimated at 300,000-600,000, to keep the Trump flame alive. Trump insisted that the marchers themselves film the event for history and the nation, from the start of his hour-long harangue to turn their cameras on, and to “Turn your cameras please and show what’s really happening out here because these people are not going to take it any longer.” “Go ahead,” he urged, making the audience part of the spectacle, “Turn your cameras, please. Would you show?” In his subsequent public address, at the United States southwestern border, the President fondly remembered how “Millions of our citizens watched on Wednesday as a mob stormed the Capitol and trashed the halls of government,” before pivoting to affirm his respect for America’s “history and traditions” and “the rule of law.”

They existed on the media they created and streamed. Live-streaming the assault was a way to trigger a national movement, if not to create a testimony of the great attempt to keep an outgoing administration alive, and with it an alternate reality. Amidst cries of disbelief from “They’re going up—go, go, go, go!” and “Oh! They’re climbing up the wall!” to ecstatic rejoinders of “Let’s go, let’s fucking go!” to “There’s so many people! I can’t believe this is reality! We accomplished this shit! Together! . . . We’re all part of this fucking history!,” to “Holy shit, there’s so many people!” the ragtag group wrapped “TRUMP NATION” banners and “Trump 45” jerseys, the oddly dressed one said “Wait a second, I’m filming this!” a mob advanced past guards they saluted as “bro” as they sought to seize the House chambers, blowing vuvuzelahs chanting “U.S.A., U.S.A.,” saying You guys gotta follow the Constitution!” and, more festively, “Fuck, that was awesome! Let’s burn this shit down!”

As this potential orgy of destruction was unfolding, President Trump had assured his overeager audience that he would be marching with them to the Capitol–“after this, we’re going to be walking tot he Capitol, and I’ll be there with you.”–but retired from the lectern of the Save America March to enter an awaiting limousine in his motorcade, to watch the fate of the joint session of the U.S. Congress on cable news in the White House, as the rest of the world watched in disbelief and shock the last fruits of the Trump Presidency unfold.

If the National Guard had been activated across the nation in response to the George Floyd protests, as social injustices and police profiling were protested in a scenario of reckoning with systemic injustice, in what was described as national disorder, the protesters seems to move “going wild” to Washington DC, concentrating their pent up rage as observers of a changing country into an uprising against a representative system that seemed to have failed to recognize their urgent needs.

The New York Times on Twitter: "Protests have erupted in at least 140  cities across the United States over racism and police brutality. Some of  the demonstrations have turned violent, prompting the
Weiji Cal, Juliette Love, Jugal K Patel and Yuliya Parshina-Kottas/Daily Kos

A false social media post had eerily circulated in the summer of instability that had claimed protestors had caused Trump to flee the White House, including the image of the same Capitol Building that these protestors would assault. Disseminated on Facebook, YouTube, and news sites of uncertain authority as well as Twitter, the breaching of the boundaries of “Fake News” seemed a cause for global panic, prefacing the destabiization of authority for a global market–with some qualifications confined to the comment section.

Did Protesters Storm The White House? A Fact Check
June 1, 2020

The mock up concealed that the footage was not even in Washington DC, but this time the crowd had assembled in a real place, at the Capitol, even if the war they were waging was Fake News.

Their ears were already electrified by their President, as POTUS allowed the crowd to discharge, and even to envision this pathway to the future, and the they vital fight they would wage, affirming that he would never concede, and with the gestures of a television preacher he evoked how “we’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, I love Pennsylvania Avenue, and we’re going to the Capitol and we’re going to try and give —” before breaking off his thoughts in midstream, and entering a limousine, having planted plans for an insurrection to his best ability.

The routes to the Capitol building itself would be less direct, but would flow about the building that the Capitol police tried to secure, and to overwhelm them in the immense discharge of their collective energy, overwhelming the limited number of Capitol Police they had already judged insufficient to protect the legislators, or obstruct a crowd of their size: Trump had given a benediction to move forward as Christian soldiers, and to surge beyond the Ellipse in an illustration of their own agency and apparent liberty.

Save America March/Pete Marovich, New York Times

Reports are that Trump watched the insurrection as it unfolded with excitement, pleased at what he saw on television. On the ground, cheers drowned out reality, elevating to a vertiginous ecstasy the idea of a seizure of power of which the participants ensured a live stream continued, as they breached the upper chambers. “We did this shit! This is surreal scene! What reality is this? Fucking did this shit!”Hell, yeah!” “About time!” “Oh, my bad–I didn’t know I hit it that hard.” The mob paused in the Rotunda for selfies while chatting up guards, reminding them of the futility of resistance and admiring the cupola, amazed at the scale of their accomplishment, pinching themselves that this “was real life,” urging one another to “treasure this moment,” and bursting, without anything else left to say, into chant–“We want Trump! We want Trump! We want Trump!” to make their voices heard. They were confident there were too many people to for bullets to be used against a crowd whose size they seemed to magnify, until the arrival of the police. Then, they were shocked a gun was actually fired and someone entering the chambers–amazed a moment of violence had in fact occurred, but also glad and still excited to have gotten it on film, not noticing Donald had left them alone.

Roberto Schmidt, AFP/Getty/Quartz

Born on a sea of insurrectionist flags of all stripes–Gadsden flags, American flags, Trump flags, Confederate flags, and sporting a range of Trump gear, they were ready to confront forces of Darkness. It may not have mattered that Trump was no longer with them, as he was presiding over the entire event, and they had internalized his litany of baseless complaints and groundless assertions. Waving triumphal flags overhead as they approached the Capitol, they entered the House of Representatives’ and Senate chambers, chanting “Our house! Our house!” and “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” they told guards not to put their hands on them, telling them they were impotent before events that were unfolding as they clung to their freedoms. Among these America Firsters, the right of “the people to alter or abolish any government that does not secure inalienable rights” seemed, on the morning of January 6, 2021, the only agency that remained in their power to stop the transmission of power that they felt a rigged system of elections about which they had ben warned for years was about to take place in the pro forma certification of electoral votes underway in the Congressional chambers as the Save America March had assembled to hear purported heroes of an outgoing administration. Did America First entail subverting the electoral process, or was it about defending liberties?

4. President Trump did not directly encourage the crowed to enter the joint session of the U.S. Congress, but affirmed its logic. Students of revolution have long studied the crowd as an actor of revolutions, and tried to study the logic of crowd behavior: fear is a major motivator of crowd behavior, and the fear of a loss of rights, an impending restriction of rights, from the panic of the Great Fear of 1789, as rumors spread of an “aristocratic conspiracy” to overthrow the king created a massive rural panic that triggered a convulsion of possibly anarchic character at fears of a restriction of grain supplies in the near future: the logic of the fear of a loss of liberties was fed by the growth of rumors across the countryside of the impending absence of a great protector, which historians have tried to map across rural regions as transmitted by their own rural circuits of considerable historical consequence, most powerfully in the work of Georges Lefebvre:

If Lefebvre worked hard to map the overlooked spatial and temporal progression and identity of the fear that spread through France, the twitterverse registered similar waves of panic transmitted among online groups. For if we are still unsure of labeling the even an insurrection or act of sedition or uprising, looking only at the movement on the ground near the capitol reminds us of the need to examine the charges and accusations that were long coursing on social media, increasing expectations for a day of wrath, imagined to attract up to three million, if permissions only expected 5,000, the rumors of millions of marchers suggested easy overwhelming of the Capitol police.

Their size increasingly magnified to punctuate the lists of grievances Trump listed for just over an hour, the magnification of the crowds who had felt isolated with the mandate for social distancing many so deeply opposed were released as they gained a new density on the Ellipse, no matter where they had come from. They were encouraged to tap into a sense of being wronged, and the hectoring of the audinece must have heightened their already long-nourished fight-or-flight response, as the representative structure of the capitol was in sight. The speech didn’t need to list the other grievances that Trump might not have mentioned theis time, but were implicit–a curtailing of freedom of gun ownership, a silencing of speech, a turning back of religious freedoms–which were fought over in the election. Those fears of a loss of liberties and change in administration had already been amplified through social media across the nation, far more electrically than Lefebvre’s spatial map of primary currents of the Great Fear through rural France that demanded historians recast their research of what was long seen and studied as an urban revolution: this revolution was born on social media, if it arrived in busloads or by plane, to witness an event they could only dream, but seemed to call for their own participation in nothing less than a new model of government.

The intensity of currents of fear that had run through chat rooms, TheDonald, and various citizen militias and Trump supporters came to a head at the condensation of these groups as a false populist force outside the Capitol building as the certification of the 2020 Presidential election was tried to be obstructed. Rather than fear spreading on the ground, however, or through popular movements, the mass-based nature of rally based on Facebook groups assembled a sense of purpose and direction that might be embodied in the busses that stopped in twenty-five American cities to collect Patriots, often in parking lots or airplane hangars from Arizona, Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Florida seemed to summon a virtual confederacy to Washington. Riders foud collective experiences on the bus, having had their vagal nerves electrified by barrages of claims that the electoral vote had been distorted on NewsMax, FOX, OANN, that Trump had promoted–seeming to bestow his favorites to escalate temperatures across the nation that seemed evidence that the election raged, as “news bubbles” of 2016 bore fruit in adherence to different sets of electoral maps.

We had all watched how the margins of votes broke in different states, parsing them by voting groups, but as we watched them, the nation that had hived into groups broke into different alternate realities that called into question the election’s validity before it was even held, and drew out debates about its validity. And as they did so, the very institutions of representative government had been eroded. In polls that promised to refresh “the most up-to-date and accurate tallies in the Presidential race” from OANN, the contest had become a horse-race, undercutting the validity of the results that would be announced on Election Night, and creating a fake drama that ran against the predictions of most major news networks, hiving off America into two separate media silos which doubted the validity of the mainstream media. In what was seen as only an attempt to out-Fox News, the electoral maps that were projected on news sites predicted clear signs of victory that undercut the representational value of the electoral map, before and after the election-, that dislodged the ontological status of the electoral map, long before protest of certifying electoral votes–to turn back the clock, perhaps, to the very first tallies of votes, made before Democratic and internationalist tampering, when Trump led in Georgia and Pennsylvania by credible margins of victory–the provisional and unstable nature of all electoral tallies were made apparent, even after states had certified results. If FOX projection models long predicted a certain victory for Trump, the aftermath of the election and the contestation of votes eroded the ontic stability of the electoral map in a strategic way, as if playing a long game for overturning the vote.

Electoral Prediction
OANN November 16, 2020
DigiKai Marketing (@digikai_mj) | Twitter
November 11, 2020

These maps erased contingency, increased conviction, and unmoored a map once the bedrock of democratic representation, validating assertions “Trumpland doesn’t believe the election results” and would contest them, and denying any consensus of a map that had no role but to create consensus.

The squabbles between the size of crowds nominally assembled by joint crowds brought to Washington by Women for America First who organized the March to Save America and the Stop the Steal and MAGA crowds came to bolster the claims that this was a “real Million Man March. Unlike the Women’s March, that once embodied the Trump Resistance, or the Million Man March, these foot soldiers embodied the true electoral map that the size of crowds at this rally confirmed: as Trump had argued that he knew he won the election in Georgia by the greater size of his crowds compared to those reported for the Democratic ticket, the size of crowds provided a true direct illustration of democracy that the electoral maps based on fault tallies only disguised. The logic of the crowd’s behavior was promoted as evidence of fears of the loss of liberties a Biden administration would bring, planted long before their arrival in Washington DC. The fears were magnified in the increased urgency that Donald Trump gave to the erosions of liberties as a direct result of an illegitimate transition of power to convulse his audience. The fears rendered evident the need to stop the joint session of Congress. lest they validate the false electoral map Fake News had promoted. Until Trump agreed to concede, they would provide the defense of rights and liberties a Biden presidency would erode, and the declaration of a victory for two Democratic senators in Georgia the night previous only augmented the intensity of pressure on embodying a physical presence that would overturn the tally of electoral votes by a sea of supporters in bright red MAGA gear that embodied a real, authentic electoral map before the Capitol itself.

Trumpland did not believe in counting, so habituated had they been to rallies, rather than just tallies. With such systematic ontological destabilization of the electoral map, evident in the sea of distinctive bright red hats, could the end of the protracted drama of the election be announced? The sense of being on the side of righteousness was affirmed in the Invocation that proceeded the Capitol Siege, as Donald Trump was prayed for as the divinely sanctioned leader of the nation, chosen by God to lead America, in ways that invalidated the need for electoral approval of the President God had selected for the nation.

The fear and the logic of a loss of liberties promoted online was very old regime and premodern, if they were cast in an imaginary of defending early modern nationalism. For while the Capitol Siege has been argued by Jill Lepore to be considered a race riot, the conflict cannot be captured save as a deeply anti-parliamentary tactic, a coup, as Fiona Hill insisted, a “self-coup” of the sort strongmen like Recep Erdoğan staged in 2016, before Trump came to power, to seize power outside established parliamentary process by an autgolpe that renders impotent the parliamentary system. The confusion of a sense of lawlessness and the demands of restoring a legal order that was in danger of being eroded was considerable, as the crowd was augmented by the possible and alleged presence of off duty police officers from Seattle, Rocky Mount, Virginia, and Fire Departments in New York City, Florida, ready and willing to help strategize as they entered the building, unlike a disorderly mob. It might be that the two-color division of map might reveal, but the range of those light blue states, that weren’t such strong blue, belied the far, far greater intensity of a MAGA crowd.

5. The right to declare a separate region of like-minded liberties was promoted in the maps in online Facebook forums that promoted “peaceful secession.” Maps provided for online Facebook forums redrew the nation with the promise that red states might secede from the nation that had been gaining steam on Twitter and elsewhere, while we all socially distanced, the need for DIY nation-making emerged, as local Republican Party Chairs sanctioned, endorsing Rush Limbaugh in suggesting the not so secret conspiracy that Republican-governed states exercise their “rights” and freedoms in what was a compact of states. The need to “keep the American parts of America American,” as the Facebook group had it, would become clear as Limbaugh urged they “band together” as Texas, Wyoming, Nebraska, Utah, Montana, Alabama, and Mississippi join others–and break from the nation that the electors were about to saddle with a new President they had not chosen and did not want, and in America liberty was, in the end, that everyone should get what they want.

The moment of violence from which this birth of a new nation would begin might be commemorated in the future as January 6, 2021, bundling national security, sacred identity, and second amendment rights that defined an ecoystem of identity-based authoritarian systems, but ensured a good sleep at night. Yet as Lindell continued to tweet proof of broad hacking of the election–and eagerly contested Democratic margins of victory in a full six states–he undermined any sense stable resolution might be expected in electoral maps.

5. The potentiality of secession was sketched as a redemption of rights began atop the Manichean antagonism of battle lines, as they were encouraged by chromatic oppositions of red v. blue state maps to nourish secessionist fantasies as overlays atop the two-color dichotomy of electoral maps: by pooling the resources of all those smaller red dots, and overpowering or just excluding those blue dots–and sacrificing some, as in the Central Valley of California or upstate New York, in hopes they might migrate to North Dakota or Montana, and getting creative in Arizona and Colorado, but focussing on the parts of Wisconsin and Minnesota that in “a county formed from red states–or individual counties–“would follow the constitution.” Gerrymandering the nation, rather than only a few states, might more fully proceed to actual secession, confounding the map with the territory, and obscuring that the excision of backed-out counties would offload actual sites of wealth-production, major centers of population, and impose consensus in falsified ways in an eroded union.

The next time they are in control,... - Red-State Secession | Facebook
PeacefulRedStateSecession

This vision of secession would be nominally “peaceful,” but any sense of tranquility would be for observers of an online map. The cartographic fantasy adapted newsmaps everyone had seen on election night, and used to draw a new sense of sovereignty, which might be imagined as meriting an even more insurmountable wall:

Red-State Secession: “Potential Borders if Trump States and Hillary States Split into Two or More Countries, and States Allow Certain Counties to Join another Country”

Secession need not be a bad thing, those who held high Gadsden Flags realized. This was about defending the imaginary of a new nation, forever resilient, and might create either the basis to restore the rightful ruler or if not trigger the secessionist movement that might follow in the country, as a number of simultaneous protests were planned across state capitols–demonstrations that might be pushed to create a unifying protest that awoke a sleeping red giant, and many of the overlapping groups of Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, secessionist movements in varied states and alt right groups.

Demonstrations at State Capitols on January 6, 2021

Severed from national laws that were no longer representing their interests, the members of Red State Secession (when exactly was the modifier added?) had been cut off from the laws that DC sought to impose on them, and had, they convinced themselves, the longer that they looked at the Gadsden Flag, perhaps, and the map that it created as a call to arms and indeed military recruitment to defend the denial of liberties: the image that Benjamin Franklin had devised as a rallying cry to join an army against Great Britain and throw off the yoke of British Sovereignty: only by being divided into segments would the power of the nation be denied, but the “duty, to throw off such government” after a long series of abuses and usurpations described in the Declaration of Independence would merit the altering or abolition of “any government that does not secure our inalienable rights,” from second amendment rights to gun ownership to religious freedoms. The disparate segments of vigilant MAGA groups, from the Proud Boys and militant Oath Keepers and 3%ers, offspring of Patriot movements formed lest the Obama Presidency diminishing freedoms, would storm the Capitol united for “We the People,” with aims far beyond rights of assembly or freedom of expression.

III%ers Tweet Promoting January 6, 2020

The rally that had long been planned was, after all. Those who attended anticipated an orgy of open carry, and an affirmation of religious identitarianism, where rioters, as the original American revolutionaries who fought for their inalienable freedoms, might assemble beneath the Washington Monument with thousands of AR-15s in an unstoppable show of force, equipped with high-capacity feeding devices, even if carrying handguns without a permit is an offense in Washington, DC.

The event was, after all, planned in mid-December as a major event of Free Speech, shortly after the electoral college had met, and Pennsylvania electors had cast their ballots for Biden, as a conclusion already envisaged if the attempts to audit the vote and suits to dismiss votes as invalid would fail; it would celebration of Second Amendment rights by fiat; and if one wonders at reports that the rioters had come to Washington, DC, having widely shared maps of tunnels under the Capitol Building to concretize their plans for surrounding and taking the Capitol building. While described as insider knowledge, and perhaps facilitated by taking tours of the site in advance, they probably had only cobbled together tourist maps of the tunnels under the Capitol building that seemed routes to prevent Congress members they sought to make their views known to from not hearing the demands that they, the crowd We The People, felt it was their right to make: the protection of rights to assemble, freedom of speech, and rights to bear guns had all been obscured by how fake news had stolen the election. The recent escalation of #StoptheSteal tweets confirming the stolen nature of the election in 1.3 million tweets since election day suggested something like a seismic register for the Base that had jumped on the eve of the rally.

Popularity of hashtags

While the President did not directly invite the marchers who had assembled in the Ellipse to breach the Capitol, the incessant reminders of the stolen nature of the election had baited them since state electors had delivered the Presidency to Joe Biden. Trump tweeted out falsehoods with vigor, questioning the legitimacy of the transfer of power, as many flagged as false grew from Election Day throw the day of protest.

Washington Post

6. The indignation that tweets channeled was mapped onto real space on January 6, in ways that drove momentum to real moment of release. While announced as a First Amendment Activity, this was a second amendment rally, a rally asserting religious freedoms and religions nationalism, with fervent conviction, with many other fellow travelers convinced of the infringement of their rights and the need to Save America and their duty to do so. As their Commander in Chief animated the crowd assembled by affirming “we will never concede” and that at this moment, “we will stop the steal,” the heady disorientation clarified a map of affirming what was just ‘right.’

The claims of purifying the Capitol and the center of power was not a cry of a Presidency in its death throes, but a concerted effort that might prompt the restoration of a form of government transparency in asserting and protecting rights by reclaiming the chambers of government in misguided hopes to start a revolution. Many might have procured the maps of these tunnels in anticipation of storming the Capitol to defend the “true” results of the election by downloading them off an ESRI story map; a map of entrances to tunnels would also be confirmation of the plans of action that readied their disparate forces to enter the grounds to force the election. Online chat groups had already reasoned and spread the news in anticipation: “He wouldn’t be calling us to Washington unless there was a purpose that would ultimately end in him winning the election.” The maps could be easily gotten; the marchers would retake the Capitol building from entrances off of the ellipse that must have illustrated not only the vulnerability of the Capitol to attack but direct access to government.

Washington Tunnels on Capitol Hill/ESRI

Maps of tunnels available from visitors map circulated as “the most important maps of the day,” the basis to look for anyone fleeing the Capitol, rather than as a point of entry; it was disseminated in color-coded urgency with instructions to form “a TRUE LINE around the Capitol and the tunnels” in conspiratorial tones:

TheDonald.win/Distributed Map of Underground Exits from Congressional Chambers to be Blocked as Congress Certified Electors

The hopes for surrounding the Capitol, in hopes not to allow any legislators to leave the premises, and indeed to paralyze the government’s regular function, as it prepared to, in the words of the planners of the event, “certify the steal,” led rioters to enter the building from numbers of sights, to overwhelm security by multiple breaches of the building, first from the east, approaching the west front by breaking open doors (5), having scaled rim of the portico (3) as others scaled the walls on the northeast portico (6)–all areas marked “very important” to man–to enter the Senate wing (7). Security was at the same time clustered at the west front (2), as reinforcements were unable to be called. Only after crowds broke into the House chamber and the Speaker’s Gallery did law enforcement officers draw guns, hoping to disperse the rushing rioters at the buildings entrance (4).

But is the on-the-ground assessment of the movement of rioters only able to scratch the surface of the ways fears were incited and communicated across the masses of marchers who moved on, like Christian soldiers, animated by a sense of duty that had cascaded into different causes and chatgroups, constituencies of the movement Trump had triggered that were swirling under all those different flags–flags of Confederates, Gadsden flags of insurrectionists of 3%’ers and Oath Keepers or Second Amendment groups, and Trump 2020 banners that created a sense of a sea of red, American flags and the Thin Blue Line flags, popular among pro-police groups that won broader currency among White Supremacists after Black Lives Matter, emblems that placed those who flew them in the space Trump extolled the police as occupying “between civilization and total chaos. The uniting of these groups, in an echo of the “Unite the Right” rally at Charlottesville, assembled to fight forces of darkness.

“Visualizing a Riot,” Curbed

While these graphics of mapping the on-the-ground situation suggest the coordination of forcing entrance and taking the building, the hope was perhaps that the logic would unfold as a mob scene, able to be deflected from responsibility, but generalized an image of crowd violence that would “build momentum and pressure and the on the day change the hearts and minds of Congress, peoples who weren’t yet decided, or who saw everyone outside and said ‘I can’t be on the other side of that mob,’” as a right-wing activist who helped organize Stop the Steal claimed he planned with U.S. Representatives since late December, or since the electoral college met, when plans to interrupt congressional certification of the electoral votes began. As those who saw the seeds of dangerous crowd behavior, in mid-nineteenth century Paris, in prisons, brothels, and asylums as grounds for breeding criminal behavior, the proliferation of falsified revolutionary fantasies of seizing the state and interrupting processes of government to prevent loss of liberties proliferated online.

As much as map the routes of the entrance of what has been called a mob, we might pay more attentio to mapping how it was crowd-sourced. How did social media channel the Stop the Steal votes in multiple states by magnifying calls in chamber of accusations of illegitimacy to prepare for a populist putsch on January 6? To be sure, the manufacture of crowds asserting false populist claims began not only online, but in Stop the Steal rallies in individual states, as individual rallies for “stopping the steal” in Arizona, Philadelphia, and Virginia grew in November and December, as “President Trump’s path to victory appears to shrink,” according to national media group Nexstar.tv, leading Trump allies in Congress, as Arizona Representative Dr. Paul Gosar, to tweet a demand tha President-Elect Biden “should concede” on the eve of the certification of electoral votes in Congress, tagging the Stop the Steal movement. With Alabama Representative Mo Brooks, Arizona’s Andy Biggs he had planned since mid-December the massive rally on January 6 in DC.

As much as focus on the routes of an angry mob, filled with whites dressed in gang-like colors of passionate intensity, was there a possibility that tours of the Senate Chambers were given to members of such populist groups agitating for Second Amendment rights or Christian Nationalism the day before crowds assembled?

The anticipation was fanned on chatrooms and TheDonald amplified as they intersected with the script of historical re-enactment that Second Amendment defenders defended, far more than a mere First Amendment activity: the images of a threatened end of times asked viewers to envision the capitol in apocalyptic terms. Gun ammunition websites had explained that “a failed state is to post-modernity what the nation-state was to modernity,” and the incapability of our current states from “exercising authority over all of its nominal territory” was in fact a “hallmark of our age,” but the rights to overthrown government that denied rights, as was not doubted for gun owners, sanctioned the state of emergency to Save America. The “map” attributed to founding father Benjamin Franklin survives in the Gadsden Flags many held at the insurrection that they imagined would be the start of a new revolutionary war to defend local liberties, to defend the “sacred landslide election victory” Donald Trump had affirmed that morning by the “trial by combat” Rudy Giuliani had ominously foretold. The compact was able to be secured by “We the People,” and invited contingents to identify themselves by Gadsden flags that illustrated their commitment to the cause, diffused by the “3%ers,” a militia group of Patriots who since 2008 have vowed anti-government extremism, often based in Canada.

Engraved Map of Thirteen Colonies, Philadelphia Gazette, ed. Benjamin Franklin (1754)

There was something more than deep theater here: Trump, who had lost the election, was desperate, with a group of lawgivers who had decided to stall the confirmation of electoral votes that day for as long as necessary, saw the “Stop the Steal” rally as a final attempt to give those who remained in his base a sense of their agency as true patriots, attracting disparate groups from Oath Keepers to Q Anon to deep loyalists, to claim their new identity as domestic terrorists, convincing them that they might stage a new revolution, and be part of a truly historical “experience” that transcended them all, using the Capitol building as a prop in a final Reality TV show that exposed the falsity of the official popular vote by the sheer force of passionate intensity, in a last-minute attempt by which true patriots could move collectively to Stop the Steal definitively.

There was a sense of collective brainwashing at that Rally as they readied for combat, ready to have their adrenaline and fight or flight impulses energized as they had at other rallies in the past. But this time was different, and they had packed nooses, axe handles, hockey sticks, heavy duty zip ties and flexi cuffs, repurposed cattle prods disguised as flagpoles, molotov cocktails and other handmade armaments, and backpacks concealing ammunition: as improvised police, they arrived to take control of the congressional chambers. Despite the DIY nature of many improvised weapons at the riot at the Capitol, many counter-terrorism experts believe encouraged or animated as an inside job, if one that betrays the Commander in Chief’s fragile state of mind–an inside job that was allowed by the absence of any security cordon, the long-term denial of an electoral loss, and the false urgency of preventing a ratification of an electoral tally Trump willfully wrongly argued might be stopped. When the crowd entered, Nancy Pelosi had to place a personal phone call to Virginia’s Governor, Ralph Northam, to secure the arrival of the National Guard, as other representatives turned to their offices to ask why more security forces were not on the way.

As for the fear of invasions, it was not that we had long mapped it wrong–it is just that the Deep State was within, and a lynching mob that went straight into the Capitol, without pausing for nicety, might fulfill the needs of the moment that allowed the disbanding of laws, and defense of liberty, fueled by escalating claims of voter fraud, and summoned to defend the system of elections that were sacred to the nation, in the “Second American Revolution” that the secessionist group announced was scheduled to start “on Jan 6,” to be noted on one’s calendar. The night before the rally assembled, Trump again promoted it on social media, reminding his base on Tuesday evening that “thousands would be pouring into Washington DC” to shake things up, if not shut down government for the specific aim of preventing the certification of electoral votes, the final “line in the sand” that the Trump administration seemed to see fit to draw.

7. We had told the barbarians were coming from the start of the Trump Administration, and it was reliably mapped from the southern border. This invasion of Washington, DC was not an overthrowing of empire, but rather the final chance to punish the Deep State, and change world history by securing and defending the liberties of the Gadsden Flag. It aimed at a major historical change, reversing the election by a false populist putsch for broadcast on global media. After all the attempts at audits, lawsuits, and recounts, the confrontational Schmittian Moment of a “state of exception” with the enemy began–to quote the Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt, who adopted a vision of politics structured by the dichotomy between “enemy” and “friend” that gained new traction for Trumpers as those who were ready to allow the certification of electors to proceed became clear, and the image of Mike Pence certifying the election grew–even if Joe Biden’s victory had been almost uniformly projected by news outlets in mid-November and had been officially confirmed by Electoral College votes in mid-December. At the heady moment when electors were certified at the Capitol building, the formal decorum of the roll call could be punctured in a final revelation of agency and anger, as the Vice President made it clear he would not reject the electoral college in the manner the President wanted, overturning the law in the way that Schmitt argued followed a “higher law” than parliamentary procedures.

Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty Images

This depended on the continued loyalty of the crowd who attended the march to their leader. From his arrival, Trump readied himself behind the bullet-proof glass, steeling himself for the appropriate moment for stepping out of the law, into a State of Exception, adopting parliamentary decorum and shattering the reverence for the norm that was manifest in the largely ceremonial joint session of Congress, whose procedural function was going to be shattered, after the final objections for discarding Biden electors had been launched, but failed to delay the procedural vote whose outcome was now clear, and the time to create a crisis at the Capitol had arrived.  “I hope Vice President Pence has courage today,” prayed a marcher on the Ellipse, echoing the words Trump had just spoken and proceeding to Pennsylvania Avenue with the President, “and I hope any politician who thinks he has a future shows courage to stand up and do what’s right.” “I hope,” President Trump had just told the rally, “Mike Pence does the right thing, because if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election . . . ”

Was he readying himself for the advance of rioters on the parliamentary chambers? They had betrayed him. Unlike the representatives, these groups would advance in an incarnation of will of “We the People” groups would affirm the direct tie of people to sovereign, a principle of fascism, embodying Carl Schmitt’s notion of “present government” and the invoking of a higher law, in a negation of democracy, and a determining moment of rejecting norms akin to other revolutionary moments in world history: the impending certification of the vote constituted a need to reject norms, in the “decisionist” school of thought Schmitt nourished, and promised the rioters a sense of agency. For the moment of rushing the Capitol would incarnate a will able to substitute for elected representatives needing to be stopped, physically in the process of betraying the people’s will; at the very moment of the ceremony that would start the formal transition of executive power, the walls could be breached, one of the lucky groups of rioters could seize Pence and his family, Pelosi, Schumer, and Clyburn, and place their heads on pikes outside the Chambers, as Steve Bannon had boasted the heads of FBI Director Christopher Wray and public health officer Anthony Fauci be placed on picket as a public warning on both sides of the White House in Trump’s second term, following the precedent of Tudor England or medieval Italy, but that Bannon argued gained precedent as “how you won the Revolution” in November, 2020. The rumor that Trump had peevishly demanded to place the heads of any Republicans who supported his first impeachment on pikes suddenly seemed more credible than ever. If we had been sloppy in using the political term of fascism as a label for disparaging the anti-democratic, the political enthusiasm of broad-based mass organizations that were manifest at the Ellipse for what was announced as a rally and a protest march as senators and congressmen were meeting.

The rally assembled a convergence of mass movements to contest the certification of the democratic election. In contesting electoral certification fascism in America seemed to have arrived, as pro forma certification of electoral votes they refused to accept compelled the overthrow of the government that had now been complicit in falsifying the election. The need for accountability had led the crowd to assemble in defiance of the very dangers of a new international order that Schmitt had feared, promoting globalist agendas threatening the national legal order, calling for defiance.

The President enjoined the audinece to fight “big tech and the fake news” who stood for the internationalists who demoralize and control Americans by rigging the election. Mike Lindell was all too ready to blame China and Iran for the Democratic victory, although Trump seemed to have refrained from going there. Trump insisted on allegedly falsified election results on a variety of fronts, leaving it vaguely situated between miscounted the ballots counted by machines in other nations, resolving to “finally hold big tech accountable” for concealing his victory now that no other means than direct action remained. If the rioters have effectively suspended the speed of such transition to occur, or forestalled the formation of a new administration, they did so not only through the rehabilitation of an image of a confederate past or “Lost Cause,” but the precipitation of the very “State of Emergency” Trump clearly felt, and that some believed would precipitate a break from the political order and a leap into the state of exception that Lawfare’s Quinta Jurecic feared in 2016, before the election and even start of his Presidency, suspending a constitutional transition of power, inaugurated, as it were, from the sovereign’s own articulation of the state of exception by virtue of the “extreme peril” that the transition of power poses to the state. As the rioters were encouraged to fight for Donald Trump’s second term and his survival, as if trapped in his narcissistic fantasies that blinded them to actual events.

They were not really invading the Capitol, but provoking the transition to a new stage of history that, despite earlier marches, needed to finally clear the bureaucratic obstructionism of the liberal state that might be poised, in future weeks, to dismantle the very Border Wall that had given America its sovereign integrity. The moment of breaching the citadel instead occasioned a release of vertiginous empowerment for those who we were waiting to preserve democracy and ensure the safety and security of the accuracy of the Presidential vote. Their arrival had been something we were long envisioning, and many indeed also knew was coming. They had, indeed, been planning to dash hopes for a peaceful transition and to save America, more than overthrow it, but the crisis of destabilization of national security was far greater and far more immediate: in order to fulfill plans for Making America Great, they had downloaded travel routes to DC and memes to promote the march from the Washington Monument, across the Ellipse, envisioning scenarios by which “we’ll storm offices and physically remove and even kill all the D.C. traitors and reclaim the country.” The forum called “The Donald,” which had addressed “patriots” from 2015, if it migrated from Reddit until the excited agitation of the subreddit expressing solidarity with the President who had lost the election was removed, in June, 2020, after it began bubbling over with Donald Trump memes for the election, now migrated to alternative media, moved to TheDonald.win, had promised a virtual apocalypse of a shitstorm. Proud Boy Joey Biggs, well schooled to “stand down and stand by” by his leader, boasted on a video uploaded to Parler, “Watch out, January 6 — you ain’t gonna know who the fuck it is standing beside you!” with glee.

Envisioning the storming of the U.S. Congress and routes of breaking into all federal buildings on the day electoral votes were due to be tabulated, readers of the online forum known as “The Donald” ruminated about the prospect of bringing their own guns to D.C., even if doing so would be a crime in Washington DC, due to the capitol’s stricter and perhaps more reasonable gun laws. Rather than carrying guns on routes across borders, they would illustrate Second Amendment freedoms on the President’s Park, while it still “belonged” to President Trump. After all, many of the communities where they had found most meaning were disrupted, and this was their historical legacy: they had been invited to take back a seat of power for the final chapter of a long-promised draining of the swamp to prevent the stealing the vote–surrounding the Capitol in a burst of glory. Marchers who rebuffed police as they had been “invited by the President” reflected the crisis of authority that would be a culmination of the Trump Era, offering the last time to Make America Great Again, even by subverting gun control laws and destruction of federal property, as part of a new revolutionary tide.

They were, after all, invited in, even if they did a bit of breaking and entering, and invited to partake in a redemptive act–and could not be able to believe their good fortune as what seemed to be starting as they entered the Peoples’ Chambers, and the chant turned to another Trump Rally cry, “Stop the Steal!, Stop the Steal!” as they wondered what the officers were doing to contain their movement, and tried to film as much as possible of what was an almost orgiastic experience of iPhones, elevated banners, and a huge effort to enter the locked doors of the chambers, incredulous that they had gained access to the building and could break down the chambers’ doors, or jimmy them with a knife, pausing reflectively amidst everything to wish that they had only thought to bring boom boxes to play music that might match the drama of the occasion.

They had all, in the end, been invited to an event to which Donald was himself the master of ceremonies and host of a final melding of his career in public politics and DIY Reality TV.

Donald had, after all, started the machinery of the MAGA crowd on December 19, several days after the electoral college voted, as he begun to plan the massive rally that he might bring to Washington as a direct manifestation of democracy and patriotism that was a last attempt to “Save America” from Joe Biden. Trump let let his base know, as Rudy Giuliani was running a smokescreen by distracting the nation with claims of widespread fraud, to plan a “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th.” The President hectored the crowd about what really matters on social media, and Jack Dorsey must rue that tweet which had seemed so harmless when it was sent on Dec. 19, cryptically addressing his base, “Be there, will be wild!” as he sanctioned abandon at the biggest Stop the Steal rally ever at the Capitol, the one they’d all been waiting for. And he continued to hector the crowd angrily, mentioning the upstanding nature of Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who had recently lost their elections, reminding them of the danger of granting a Democratic majority to the US Senate, reminding them of the need for only 11,779 votes–just 11,000 votes and 779–and the scale of the fraud that must have occurred, in a tormented world salad of obsessions that had so filled his mind in previous weeks.

Members of the Facebook group whose members were already visualizing secession read remarks urging them to put aside other business for this truly Manichaean battle, not waged at the polls: “If you are not prepared to use force to defend civilization, then be prepared to accept barbarism!” Is it enough that Facebook has barred Trump, now that the base has had time to migrate to Parler and Gab? Was it surprising that cellphones were the weapon of choice, as if they might unleash the revolution online that would cascade across the country in the same way that they were alerted and summoned to Washington, DC? In case any one had missed it, and was not planning to arrive, Republican Attorneys General both helped fund the “Stop the Steal” rally, and promoted it by robocalls that rallied the troops with the heady news “At 1 p.m., we will march to the Capitol building and call on Congress to stop the steal,” in a rally at the Ellipse in President’s Park, with doors opening at 7 AM, . . . we will march to the Capitol building and call on Congress to stop the steal!” After disclosing the plans of action, the robocall concluded with the reassurance “We are hoping Patriots like you will join us to continue the fight to protect the integrity of our elections,” nothing its sponsorship by the “Rule of Law Defense Fund,” a group to which anyone reasonable Republican would want to belong. 

 Rule of Law Defence Fund and other Groups sponsoring March to Save America

The battle seemed truly world changing, and a moment of history where the opportunities for martyrdom might abound, as well as true heroism, a new historical age beginning, or a sun kept from setting, seen with the sudden clarity of newfound depth of field as a contest of civilizations in which they could partake.

Albrecht Altdorfer, Battle of Alexander at Issus [Alexanderschlacht] (1529)

The gap in understanding in the nation was captured by the Newspaper of Record. To capture the Capitol Siege underground journalist Elijah Schaffer captured by following the crowd into the chamber offices, the riots were described for all who were not there to witness as anti-climactic in the absence of violence, even after the huge rush of adrenaline breaching the walls of the Capitol building met. The riots were not an invasion or desecration of a house of government, but oddly unplanned as those who waited to incapacitate the officers of the Deep State in their tracks may have realized they had no plans–or been so overcome with the ease of entering the Capitol building where they found such limited resistance until the arrival of Police from Washington, D.C., that they abandoned all plans for using subterranean corridors to plant explosives and aimed to rush the chambers of Congress directly.

8. The New York Times did the nation a deep disservice in describing a tragedy as low-level comedy. The Times characterized the arrival of rioters at the Capitol who had rushed suspiciously few number of capitol building police to enter the inner sanctum of power as a moment as awe-struck protestors per the newspaper of record. After breaching the walls, they paused, as if utterly at a loss that seemed more giddy than violent, filled with awe rather than breaking all sense of order and respect for lawfulness: “inside, there was a strange mix of confusion and excitement, and the almost lack of police presence in the beginning amplified the feeling of lawlessness” as an extreme game which they had only tried to visualize in the past unfolded. Struck by the grandeur that comes from not having visited museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, it was time for selfies. “They gawked at the place of wealth and beauty, adorned with art and marble, a domain of the powerful,” as if it was all wrongfully procured by their tax dollars, feeling for a moment, in those four hours of insurrection that left five dead, “for a short while on Wednesday afternoon, [they] were in control . . . [and] could not be ignored.” The odd assortment of DIY equipment, zip ties to take prisoners, and even the occasional noose suggests something much more terrifying was at hand as the chambers were vandalized.

But if this was a tragedy of national proportions, it was also a farce, a battle that was enacted in costume, and with imaginary weapons. The Washington police who arrived rightly treated them as folks who were possibly dangerous, but could be most sensibly escorted out of the building after ensuring that they were not laying the sort of pipe bombs that had arrived, that very day, at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee and Democratic National Committee alike, by domestic terrorists who the administration may well have facilitated, in a marriage of convenience that demands broad investigation.

Was this only for four hours, or was this a declension of how the government was to be understood in post-Trump America, where the promise of democracy was only about breaking walls? After all, this would be the last time in a while that they would be invited in. There was a sense of the declension of history in the member of the mob that entered the Capitol posing with loot from the Speaker of the House, before a picture of the surrender of General Burgoyne who attempts to present his sword to General Horatio Lloyd Gates, Adjutant General to the Continental Army,–

Protesters enter the US capitol Building on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Win McNamee/AFP/Getty

–and the landscape scene of the honor of U.S. Military was a sharp contrast to the looter who mugged for the photographer Win McNamee: a story of the declension of patriotism, perhaps. The young Floridian father who was leaving the Rotunda with the Speakeer’s podium had devoted hours to social media alternately mocking Black Lives Matter and defending pro-Life groups. He church-going Baptist who was also animated about attacking abortion rights shared his mounting anticipation at being part of the March, filling his Facebook feed with images chronicling his itinerary to Washington, DC, to stall confirmation of electoral votes, and taking the speaker’s podium was sort of doing his part.

Back at the real American Revolution, after General Gates had defeated the British forces at Saratoga, he graciously showed his honor to posterity by offering Burgoyne hospitality and refreshment in his battle tent, as a motley band of American soldiers of disparate rank looked on to witness the former British soldier’s decorum, in which he seemed to show himself forever the gentleman, burnishing his reputation despite rumors of his participation in a conspiracy to take General Washington’s place at the charge of the revolutionary army. The historical painting of the former British soldiers was planned by John Trumbull for a series of historical canvasses that would serve to “meditate seriously the subjects of national history, of events of the Revolution,” including Bunker’s Hill, Trenton, Saratoga, and Yorktown, based on local landscape studies.

John Trumbull, Surrender of General Burgoyne (1826)

The 1777 Battle of Saratoga that was fought by the white men who joined the Revolutionary Army were being led by a man accused of having sought to replace Washington, and it was fitting that this picture was the background of a misguided attempt to disrupt the completion of electoral process if not stage a coup as an inside job. The scene was a model of America First.

Blurred in the background of the widely shared news photo of the man participating in the mob that rushed the Capitol building to obstruct the lawful transmission of power, an iconic image of the Siege of the Capitol, is perhaps a reminder of the plaintive nature of the frayed bonds of government to people that led some to enter the chambers of members of the U.S. Congress. This time, they arrived to pry open locked doors that had failed to represent the common will, and would break into congressional offices to liberate information, seeking to steal unlocked “open” laptops, private property they eagerly removed from the capitol building to scour for evidence of corruption which they had hoped to cleanse the nation.

One rioter boasted on social media he had found a mine of needed information on Pelosi’s laptop as if its seizure provided a moment of clarity: it revealed in transparent ways “all facets of this complex Election Theft using Vatican Bank to give Obama CIA 14 pallets of $400 million cash to Leonardo!!” at military bases in Texas. Luckily, Trump was on his way to arrive in Texas, that bastion of liberty, to decode the conspiracy that the man who stole the laptop would present to him, on his final lap of victory of a long campaign. Another stormer of the Capitol, citizen journalist Elijah Schaffer of BlazeTV, channeled the coursing adrenaline flowing through everyone’s veins who illegally entered the government building, shocked at the vertigo of having penetrated the Capitol building, and detailed the pleasure of collective cosplay before he was banned from Facebook and Instagram: “I am inside Nancy Pelosi’s office with thousands of revolutionaries who have stormed the building. To put into perspective how quickly staff evacuated, emails are still on the screen along side a federal alert warning members of the current revolution.”

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Filed under Capitol Riots, Donald Trump, Red States vs. Blue States, Secession, social media

The New Xenophobia

One of the scarier consequences of the Paris Terror Attacks are the waves of renewed xenophobia that have swept Europe’s already seething right wing, and somewhat surprisingly travelled across the Atlantic.  The suicide bombings by jihadis were widely mapped in Paris at first, in attempts to comprehend the coordinated suicide bombings and sites at which terrorists struck with AK47’s and Kalshnikovs in quite shocking near-simultaneity.  (Coordination of the attacks, which claimed 130 lives, and left 368 wounded, undoubtedly increased their terror, and eerily echoed the parallel hijacking of planes on September 11, 2001, in suggesting vulnerability and geographic reach of an unseen network.)

The transformation of reflexive spontaneous public displays mourning the victims or in solidarity with migrants have all too rapidly been replaced in many European cities, as if leading us through a looking glass, into nationalist protests of anti-migrant sentiment, channeling fears that have grown with threats of another attack into neo-nationalist sentiments–as if governments had failed to defend public safety, following on the immediate declaration of a state of emergency, closing of borders, and multiplication of police raids.  The initial reflexive show of widespread solidarity of mourning and commemoration at the unprecedented attacks appeared to heal profound shock and disbelief at the murders at outdoor restaurants and night clubs in Paris and attempted assassinations at a soccer stadium attended by the President of the Republic outside the city.   Those public displays of sentiment contrasted sharply to how the deadly attacks have fed a new xenophobia in Europe and America, and a deep suspicion of the “other” of the refugee–now increasingly suspected of disguising their own ties to terrorist cells.  If these protests appears–inadequately–to orient and focus fears of further terror attacks of such terrifying scale, they suggest the disorientation before the shock of the Paris attacks, if not outright cynical deception.  After ISIS claimed responsibility for the coordinated attacks,  President Hollande’s immediate declaration that ‘France is at war prepared the stage for a rhetoric of opposition evoking George W. Bush’s declaration of a clash of civilizations, giving broader circulation to a misguided concept first theorized by Samuel P. Huntington, but that gained startling currency to justify the so-called war on terror:  it returned as a master-narrative of global oppositions reduced to the easiest alterity of us v. them and cast less in terms of law than religion; if it was readily reclaimed by ISIS news releases to magnify the actions of a group of attackers resident in Belgium who were second-and third-generation immigrants, the group of plotters was not based in Syria.

Despite clearly harmful over-simplifications in so faulty an opposition, the narrative have mobilized unjustified fears of infiltration removed from evidence:  mapping ties between ISIS and the perpetrators of the attacks shifted nefariously to mapping terror onto Syrian refugees.  Only three days after shock and outpouring of global sympathy to shootings that left 129 dead in six simultaneously timed attacks in the city’s center, fears of infiltration of displaced Syrian refugees by ISIS terrorist cells have gained unprecedented currency based on only the flimsiest of circumstantial proofs.  It is as if this responds to the relative inadequacy and failure of efforts to comprehend the plight or the scope of needs of Syrian refugees, and shock at the use of military-grade weapons in civil spaces.  Many of the multiple attackers in fact held French or Belgian nationality, and for disaffected underemployed Europeans living in the Brussels’ district of Molenbeek and other poor urban neighborhoods, the Islamic State appears to have exercised a particular appeal.  And although the attacks were coordinated by the Belgian ISIS Lieutenant  Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who sought to impress higher ups with a devastating attack in France, the group of terrorists and gunmen, if many were trained in Syria, are poorly mapped onto Syrians writ large, even if they were adept in evading security forces at airports and in cars.  For despite his presence in every available database of terror, Abaaoud evaded suspicion, as did other Paris plotters and Belgian jihadists, who had sequestered large amounts of triacetonea triperoxide explosives and automatic explosives.  The danger of terrorist threats and operations is profoundly mis-mapped and poorly apprehended as originating abroad, even if Abaaoud was indeed eager to “do jihad”:   ISIS propaganda has lavished praise on the “eight knights” for having “brought Paris down to its knees” but increasing evidence points to local coordination of the attacks, most probably planned and executed by a contingent of Europeans.  Yet rather than being coordinated at a remove from secretive locations in Pakistan, Syria, or Yemen, as Al Quaeda, European residents who joined ISIS have apparently hatched plots of their own–as firing automatics at close range in a concert hall or stadium–that reflect ISIS’ increased exploitation of social media and crowd funding to attract jihadis eager to pose beside the black ISIS flag.

 

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From ISIS’ online recruiting magazine, Dabiq

The topography of the Paris attacks is increasingly reveled to have unfolded in the changing urban sociology of European cities in France and Belgium, and neighborhoods plagued by high unemployment rates and disaffected youth as St. Denis and Molenbeek; although some suspects have indeed traveled to Syria, they are removed from a central command, and seem to have enacted their own fantasies of violence in crowded public spaces (a rock arena and soccer stadium), rather than being orchestrated from abroad as the French President Hollande has asserted: indeed, despite the target of ISIS’s Syrian de facto capital, many of the ISIS higher ups have left the city long ago, and bombs are focussed, it is argued, on empty lots.  The perpetrators are among thee roughly one thousand French citizens and six hundred Germans who have travelled to Syria to join the Islamic State; over 3,000 Europeans committed to jihad, attracted in part by IS’s increasingly effective use of the internet as a recruitment and fundraising tool, as well as for diffusing a call to jihad.

 

1. It is striking how public spectacles of collective mourning have rapidly mutated into frustration to contain deep fears of where terrorists might strike, and desperation at the unexpected attacks–even as parallel protests have occurred sympathetic to the plight of refugees.

The government’s official denunciation of attacks as “planned in Syria” have justified airstrikes against the Syrian capital of the Islamic State, led to over 600 raids and numerous house arrests across France, and increased visible military presence in much of the nation.  French President François Hollande’s involvement of the army across the country “confirms we are at war“–as is, by extension, suddenly, much of the world.  The absence of the face of the “enemy” has led concern to be projected upon the next potentially scary suspect, in an attempt to contain fears of repeat attacks, with the whereabouts of their actual coordinator unknown.  We assume that it must be contained in fixed border, and arrive from a place that lies far outside the boundaries of the European Union.

 

Islamic State's Frontier

 

Yet if France is at war, where’s the enemy?  Molenbeek?  The problem of mapping the threat has provided substantiation of deeper fears of the arrival of terror cells in the European Union’s borders whose provenance was limited to the Middle East is no longer tenable, and the bombing of unidentified targets in Syria may not even be an adequate response to a network of men in their late twenties or early thirties, mostly petty criminals, who are presumed to have recently traveled to Syria.  Even if their radicalization occurred in Syria, they are not refugees.

 

Molenbeek detail

New York Times

 

The lack of clear compass to where the enemy exists has made the apparent insinuation of terrorism into the European Union so startling that a finger has been quite deceptively pointed toward refugees.  A similar lack of knowledge and growing fears of further attacks have come to justify an unprecedented public expansion of xenophobic protests calling for a rethinking of the European Union’s previous decision to admit refugees.  These protests, stoked by threats of continued terror attacks, mirror a broad attack on outside, external forces as if they have indeed coordinated the vicious jihadi attacks, and the de facto ISIS capital of Raqqa constitutes an odd localization of the the terrorist threat.  Bombings have been unleashed against northern Syria, announced to be in retaliation, concentrated in the operational capital of the Islamic State, have been concentrated on its outskirts.  Even in the face of evidence locating coordination of attacks in Paris among local jihadis, the unprecedented intensification of anti-migrant rhetoric across Europe mismaps and exploits the danger of further jihadi attacks in irresponsible ways, largely because of the discovery of a Syrian passport near the corpse of one suicide bomber in the Paris attacks at the Stade de Paris.

 

Bataclan Concert before Attack:Marion Ruszniewski:Agence France Presse.pngMarion Ruszniewski/Agence France Presse

 

The Syrian refugee crisis has already provoked severe human rights violations, from sequestrations and confinements to arrests and strip-searches, and numbering, dehumanizing displaced refugees who try to enter Europe in search of residence and work.  The renewed currency of ties between terror and migrants have also led American politicians eager to find common ground to condemn Barack Obama’s offers of asylum within the United States to those displaced–as if it constituted a heedless abetting of the spread of terror attacks, mirroring inflated anti-refugee rhetoric throughout the European Union.  The wholesale borrowing of such groundless charges from right wing European parties is a particularly toxic manifestation of anti-Islamic xenophobia, transported by means of tweets and social media, and giving rise to a melding of anti-immigrant xenophobia and nationalism that attract an inverse demographic than protests welcoming immigrants in recent months, demanding their repatriation and literally cloaking themselves in regional nationalisms.

 

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Russia Today

Pelagics Protest

DW

The protest of Germans anointing themselves as “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident” hearken back to visions of oppositional political history framed by Karl Schmitt in the Nazi period.  The pressure they have put on Germany’s continued promises to resettle refugees has forced its Minster of Justice, Heiko Maas, to caution against equating refugees with terrorists, and affirm the absence of any actual ties between Syrian migrants and the perpetrators of the Paris attacks, and the EU to tighten security on the boundaries on the Schengen region.

The actual geography on the ground hasn’t at all changed.  But the links already insinuated between hidden terrorist cells and Syrian refugees have materialized as a rationale for collectively turning our backs on the growing refugee crisis as if our actual well being and survival depended on it–and the acceptance of refugees has provided an entry point of sleeper cells who may execute similar attacks.  As the manhunt for the terrorists who committed the atrocities has expanded, waves of panic have spread, stoked by accusations that resemble a witch craze, as the association of migrants and terrorists has virally mutated not only in Europe, but migrated across the Atlantic to the United States, in ways that stand to infect political discourse and debate.  The recent reassessment of how open America’s doors would remain to refugees–and absurd request for assurances that none would engage in “terroristic activity,” as Greg Abbot of Texas put it, or, as Senator John McCain glibly demanded, while defending migrant asylum, that “there’s a process that prohibits any kind of infiltration like we’ve just seen in Paris,” entirely misses the point.  And they stand to expand the waiting-time to process Syrian refugees in the United States beyond the  18 to 24 months now required, and hamstring plans to grant 10,000 refugees asylum in 2016–by requiring the heads of the FBI and Secretary of Homeland Security to personally approve each refugee for entrance, radically reworking practices of processing Syrian and Iraqi refugees at a crucial and sensitive time.

The discovery of a passport of the Syrian Ahmad Almohammad, who entered Europe from the island of Leros in Greece and the traversed the Balkans, near one site of terrorist attack offered circumstantial evidence but needed grist to identify refugees who have arrived in Europe with feared terrorist groups.  Links between ISIS terrorists and Syrians refugees in Europe acquired the sort of substantiation which politicians believed to exist, even if they were not searching for them.  Although no previous proofs of actual connections exist that could have prevented the Paris attacks, the fingerprints of one of the suicide bombers on a Syrian passport has suddenly substantiated fears of terrorist infiltration of groups of millions of undocumented refugees.  Such identifying signs, no doubt since they provide the archetypical clues for how the police have apprehended and identified criminals, offer the needed grist for inflammatory ties between national security and displaced Syrian migrants and substantiating long latent xenophobic fears.  The documented passage of the holder of the passport through the Greek island of Leros tied to the cluster of deadly attacks under the name Ahmad Almohammad suddenly offered possible grounds to fear potential infiltration by Islamic State operatives among the 1.5 millions displaced entering Europe from Turkey–even though the other perpetrators were of longstanding European residence, including a French national and Belgian resident.  The poor sense of the geography of terror is to blame.  For even the discovery of the even crudest hand-drawn map of a route from Turkey through Greece and Hungary to Germany provokes speculation about terrorist plots.  Suspicions of the presence 4,000 “covert gunmen” in Europe have been stoked by ISIS videos promising further attacks, and led refugees to be stopped on suspicion in Turkish port cities.

Ahmad was clearly not the ringleader of the operations–local police finger the Belgian-born jihadist Abdelhamid Abaaoud–but the apparent presence of a Syrian refugee at a site of terror has provided the needed catalyst for expanding increasingly inflammatory rhetoric linking jihadi terrorism to Syrian refugees, despite the unfounded nature of these links.  The potential links of terrorist threats and the arrival of Syrian refugees in Europe has been often cited by countries than had already built barbed wire fences in order to discourage the arrival and block the progress of Syrian refugees across the Balkans in the Schengen region.  The border barriers built in Greece, Hungary, Bulgaria and Croatia served as physical barriers to transit points of entrance to the Schengen area of passport-free travel–

 

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migrant-borders-europe-1442357424369-master495-v3

 

But the identification of the fingerprints–regarded as a clue that conceals the illogical association of guilt with all refugees from the region to seek a home in Europe–has become grounds to criticize whatever agreement existed for resettling refugees within the European Union.

And so, three days after outbursts of sympathy and horror at the Paris shootings, panic has been fostered about the fear for admitting terrorists disguised as refugees and displaced.  European nations from Poland to Czechoslovakia, a nation already eager to turn away refugees from its borders, and a rousing chorus of tweets from others to close their borders in the light of terror attacks for which ISIS claimed responsibility,–by linking the danger of the further attacks that ISIS has promised to the presence of refugees within their borders, as if accepting refugees constituted surefire vulnerability to further attacks.  But even closing borders won’t help stave off the attacks that ISIS promises would be repeated, though the reflexive agenda of far-right politicians in Europe–and, shortly after, in the U.S.–has been surprisingly swift.  Poland provided one of the easiest cases for accepting this policy, its new right-wing government having been elected on a platform of anti-migrant platform.  Such right-wing opponents of accepting refugees have even found recognition and previously implausible legitimacy as defenders of the common good:  they obscure the fact that such home-grown jihadis originate in districts of European cities with unemployment rates exceeds 30%.

Molenbeek.png

The Paris attacks may have broken a delicately negotiated managed solution to a growing crisis, despite the reluctance of Austria, Hungary, and other nations.  Only shortly after the President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, instituted an emergency quota system to spread the admittance of an expanding number of refugees who entered the Schengen region among EU member states and their neighbors–requiring almost all of the member states to welcome a total of 160,000 people–the Paris attacks that claimed 129 victims have provided a pretext for Europeans as the incoming Polish president or Slovakia’s government to bend to popular protests against the acceptance of immigrants from Syria and the Middle East.  (None other than the now-cranky Lech Walesa has reared his head again as a nationalist spokesperson, asking the world “to remember that Poland has been transitioning from communism for only 25 years.”)  Yet the market has little to do with the rampant xenophobia nourished in anti-migrant marches in Polish cities, which have prominently included emblems of explicit nationalist protectionism.

But the Euroscepticism of several incoming conservative governments has relished in having found new fodder for their claims.  Just after an equably distribution of refugees among Europeans seemed reached, the shock of processing the terrible deaths of innocent civilians in Paris seems to have helped redraw the map again, giving far-right European politicians from Marine Le Pen–tweeting an “immediate halt to all intake of migrants in France”–and Poland’s European Affairs Minister Konrad Symanskic, with Viktor Orbán not far behind, occasion to tweet about the need to close borders to prevent unsubstantiated fears of terrorist infiltration.  Even in France, where President Hollande had recently if only grudgingly decided to accept 24,000 displaced refugees over two years, the readiness to evoke fears of admitting unwanted terror cells give expression and justification to longstanding deeply-seated anti-migrant and -immigrant attitudes that have been suddenly given a new boost by conservative social media.

While Facebook unveiled the Safety Check app to alert friends ‘I’m Safe’ just after the Paris shootings, post-shooting tweets have disseminated particularly dangerous rallying cries from the right on social media.  The rage of tweets from members of the radical right from Filip Dewinter of the Flemish secessionist Vlaams Belsang party to Nigel Farage of England’s UKIP echoed the decision another Eurosceptic, Poland’s Foreign Minister, to use the events to revise his nation’s policy toward migrants.  The tragedy has sadly provoked the weirder, post-tragedy tragedy of making it even harder for refugees to be accepted in Europe who are fleeing ongoing civil war, even as that war seems to have visited Europe.  The New Xenophobia is of the most dangerous sort–a xenophobia prominently rooted in the fear of enemy agents potentially destabilizing the nation, based on linking the displaced to the most nightmarish event visited on a nation for several years.  The new xenophobia stigmatizes the humane acceptance of displaced migrants based on the paranoid fear that displaced migrants, rather than seeking asylum, seek to attack our security and our cities and our homes.

The stoking of all this barely logical fear has, back in our own country, somehow swiftly set the stage for the weirdly unpredicted closing of ranks that Presidential candidate Donald Trump couldn’t have possibly foreseen himself.  But it stands to add an element of distinct charm to the presidential race:   for in the face of President Obama’s humane decision to multiply the number of accepted refugees accepted by the United States from Syria five-fold, a strikingly cynical consensus has emerged among American republicans in the wake of the Paris tragedy that state governors must act as federalist sheriffs to protect the country, and refuse the entry to displaced Syrian refugees which Obama had earlier promised.  If Donald Trump has taken the opportunity to impugn the President’ sanity as much as his foreign policy choices–

 

IMpugn sanity

 

–other candidates have not hesitated to broadcast their own readiness, unlike the President, by implication, to protect similar tragedies in the United States, and rather put at risk the hopes of entry of the 30,000 refugees that the United States government promised  it would soon increase from 70,000.  Indeed, the strike in Paris, claimed to be the proportional equivalent of the Twin Towers’ destruction in New York City back in 2001, and “France’s 9/11,” has led Republicans to direct renewed attacks on President Obama’s offer to resettle a small share of the refugee crisis to be equated with putting Americans at risk.

And so, just three days after the terror attack in Paris, Texas’ Governor, Greg Abbott, took it upon himself to write a letter informing President Obama that, given his experience in dealing with the dangers of migrant crises and immigrant threats, and the foiling of an ISIS-related terrorist attack, and by extension his greater familiarity with terrorist threats, he would refuse to allow Syrians to be placed in the state he represented, and called on the President to “halt your plans to allow Syrians to be resettled anywhere in the United States,” given the possible danger that they pose to the country.  The chorus of Republican governors, from Bobby Jindal’s advice of prudence to Charlie Barker of Massachusetts, to Chris Christie of New Jersey, seemed an attempt to drown out the airwaves after shock over the terror attack.  The bizarre move imitated far-right European parties again evoked the degree of “unacceptable peril” Republicans have long liked to Obama’s presidency, rather than any material threat.  But within a few days, sympathy was overwhelmed by isolationism, as the television news network CNN trumpeted in banner headlines that governors of over half of the states in the union–twenty-seven states–have unilaterally refused to accept Syrian refugees, although the position has limited if any legal ground, in ways that have been imitated by a spate of Republican presidential candidates eager to prove their executive abilities.  All have been magically transformed, including Jindal, into foreign policy experts.

 

CNN No Refugees.png

CNN

 

The map of those still honoring their commitments to accept displaced refugees struggling to find homes appear to be in the vast minority–five states that seem almost foolhardy embraces of national vulnerability, from Vermont to Pennsylvania to Colorado and Washington, against the dominating common sense of declaring closed doors to the displaced.  When placed in context of nearly five million Syrian refugees  displaced truth, of course, regions of the United States have hardly absorbed their share–and those states whose governors were so quick to condemn the possibly plausible terrorist ties of refugees from Syria or Iraq had admitted far fewer than 300 or 250 refugees since 2011 at most:  their governors seem to be showing their own ignorance by taking such a broad stance.

 

a pittance of refugees in US

The map of those local Republicans who took it upon themselves to retract any offer of resettlement to all displaced Syrians–by far the greatest majority of refugees who left homes with hopes to resettle in Europe–seems not only an eager posing as patriots, or launch grenades at the existing foreign policy of the Obama White House yet again, but reveals an unforeseen opportunism as well as little familiarity with the workings of the federal government:  those most quick to reject entry to refugees as if this were within their competence responded to the fears of their own constituents, or so it looks in the below visualization printed by the New York Times–the graphic may not map clearly onto where displaced Syrians have been relocated or placed, but to the demographics that local politicians seek to reach.   The declaration spread like a meme, at any rate, over the airwaves of the United States, alerting constituents that their immediate governors would not place them at risk–as, by implication, the folly of the President had, and Hillary Clinton and the Democrats had been uniformly duped to advocate.  And it is not a surprise, to enter the world of the archeology of data visualizations, that they mirror those states that reject the federal government’s expansion of Health Reform.

Medicaid-Expansion-States-07.01.14

Access to health care--insurance

And so, the entire party has been associated with irresponsibility, and the other accepted xenophobia as the cry of the day. Quickly, not only Donald Trump but Marco Rubio and Chris Christie and Ted Cruz have joined in calling for shutting the borders to the displaced, and Bobby Jindal can appear a model of executive authority–whose deeply felt opinions illustrate little familiarity with constitutional law or Geneva Conventions.

 

 

What Governors Draw line at Syrian Refugees?

New York Times

 

The opportune nature of such a quick in-step realignment of the debate about immigration took up its lines went without much comment.  But it unsurprisingly seems to replicate opportune lines of political pandering at its worst:  if it was the ultimate insult to most refugees, and the perhaps poorest forms of protection mirrored political opportunism below the historical 48th in the United States parallel that so sadly seems to continue to divide north and south, and have little correspondence to the areas where most of Syrian extraction live–or Syrian refugees have been placed by the US Government since 2012, and mirror the red/blue divide, as configured in these cartograms reflecting the electoral results of Presidential elections of 2004 (state by state) and 2012 (county by county).

 

Shaded Cartogram 2012.jpg

What do they have in mind?  Out-Trumping Trump?  Winning, more likely, or hoping to do so by stoking fears and bringing them to the surface again.

For the close-minded knee-jerk refusal stokes the most unfounded fears in the wake of the tragic terrorist attacks that we are all vulnerable:  and to pretend we are living in the shadow of 9/11, when Republicans once unbelievably came to be improperly equated with protecting our nation’s safety and common good, and to wallow in complete amnesia by bandying about the word “terrorism,” ISIS, and “terror attack” with undue frequency to suggest the benefits of responsibly closing our frontiers.  The good old days.

 

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Filed under Clash of Civilizations, ISIS, Paris Terror Attacks, refugee crisis, refugees, social media, Syrian refugees

Mapping Friendships? Facebook Maps Social Networks

The recent growth of web-based “social networks” inspire maps no longer rooted in terrestrial relations, but stand to become vertiginously unmoored from them:   maps often help us to grapple with the distance between them, as much as to orient us spatially to their relationships, but the blobs on this series of maps oddly disaggregates the inhabitants from the land, focussing less on their spatial situation than their relative degree of web-presence.   Indeed, in ways that very inventively rewrite the map as a throbbing surface, rather than a static interface, the attachments of folks to the interactive space of Facebook becomes cast as the subject that is being mapped–as well as being the datasource from which the map’s dataset derives.

Thanks to the creative folks at Stamen design, we have a beautiful interactive global map of Facebook users, whose bold colors offer a neatly clickable index of social networking over space.  The map is not an innovative ordering of space, but illustrates the network’s global reach in a twist on the project of mapping the inhabited world, shared by Ptolemy and Abraham Ortelius alike.  But let’s ask what’s at stake in crafting a visualization culled from archived data gathered from users’ profiles–as much as celebrating the virtuosity of the clickable map as a chart of the social network’s reach, as if it were able to map as previously unquantifiable (and indeed ultimately almost ephemeral) value as ‘friendship’ might be.

World's "Friendships" on Facebook

Many maps employ self-reported data.  In a sense, the map of Facebook use–or the self-identified “Friendship Map”–charts global inter-relations, like the global maps of national distribution of GDP, provenance of coffee beans or even pathways of the migrating whales, both discussed in earlier posts.  But whereas  maps objectively mediate terrestrial inter-relations–and inter-connectivity–the notion of connectivity has been re-appropriated in the images of “Friendship” that Facebook commissioned, as has the meaning of the word “Friendship” itself.  On the one hand, this map is a celebration and triumphal illustration of Facebook’s near-ubiquity.  But it is also with clear limits, even if they are unacknowledged.  Anyone not on Facebook is absent from the map, since connectivity is generated from profiles that are registered online.

Facebook connections allowed the folks at Stamen to generate instantaneous images of web-use, making this sequence of clickable maps a truly interactive treat, as well as a visual feast.  But the effect is also to present the data generated from Facebook use as endowed with the allegedly objective criteria of maps, and to normalize Facebook’s criteria of “friendship” in apparently objective terms.  Although the very notion of geographic connectivity is fundamental to map making, the maps that are used as the templates to indicate the “connections” of friending in the Facebook platform invest a sense of objectivity and meaning in trends of friending that elevates the medium as the basis to generate further information to a degree that boosts Facebook’s criteria of meaning, as much as provides analytic tools:  if “the medium is the message,” the medium is not cartography, although the multiple images echo the authority of cartographical forms, but Facebook itself.

This is particularly pernicious, and bears some examination.  The maps on this site visualize aggregate friendships on Facebook as quivering blobs of connections that pulsate as with life of their own.  Although claiming objective authority of a map, the aggregates map “friendship” as Facebook has defined it, and embody and reify the data FB use itself creates and generates:  this is a map of FB use, in other words (rather than of web use in general), and a vision of the interconnectivity Facebook promises and the very “Friendships” that it creates.

Take a look once again at the snapshot of the connectedness of the Marshall Islanders who use Facebook:

World's Friendships on Facebook

 

Such a map is decidedly not a territory–nor could it be confused with one.  But if “all maps are arguments,” in Harley’s words, and conceal interests, as much as show meaning, the interests concealed in these “Maps of the World’s Friendship” demand considerable unpacking.  For to me, the multiple maps that Stamen design unveiled last September 12 are something like post-modern versions of earlier corporate emblems.

The aggregate views of information born of Facebook use essentially trumpet the inter-connected world that Facebook promises as a matrix achieved by corporate interconnectedness, in other words, in ways that update the familiar stream-lined modernist logo of global unity Pan Am once used to promote itself as the “world’s most experienced airline,” able to provided air service to all regions of the world by airline jets.  The Pan Am emblem emptied the familiar format of projection from toponyms or places, as if to illustrate the lack of obstacles to air travel and the global surface that its flights promised to link.  The logo owned by Pan American World Airways erased places in favor of the latitudes that link the world bridged by flight paths and no longer in need of land maps, no doubt intentionally offering the new map the airline corporation promised to provide to its users.

 

277px-Pan_Am_Logo.

The interactive map of Facebook connectivity are constantly evolving and generated at a given moment, and, unlike the static emblem, as if living independently from the viewer, but embodying actual FB use.

The contrast is interesting on iconographic grounds as well as stylistic ones.  The generation between these visions of global interconnectedness has led to a map of greater sophistication and persuasiveness of interactive form, and one that seems, like Facebook, user-friendly and value-free:  but the map of Facebook users is particularly insidious, as ‘friending’ and connections are rendered by the web-based platform itself.  In comparison to the Pan Am logo, rather than merely provide an illusory image of the promise of global unity, the map is a triumphant image of the actual interaction that the web-based platform promised: “friending” provides the metric of global interconnectedness and the sole standard of national interconnectivity.  Although the map can be re-centered at a click in order to map the connectedness from a different point of view, the “point of view” does not really change. In the text above the map, “friendship” doesn’t appear in scare quotes:  it in fact normalizes Facebook use as the sole index of contentedness and inter-connection.

Let’s examine specific cases to ask what is revealed or viewable in these multiple maps, which represent a proliferation of different data visualizations as much as providing a basis for geographical or spatial orientation. To do so, return to the “map” of Facebook connectivity in the Marshall Islands, which maps Islanders’s global connectedness via Facebook friendships:

World's Friendships on Facebook

 

 

The notion of mapping an emotion or state of mind–friendship–suggests the sort of positivism of early twentieth-century phrenology, or the comic maps of lands of contentment, like the early modern “Carte du Tendre“–an imagined geography described as a “topographic and allegoric representation” by Mme. de Scudéry in seventeenth-century France–as a geography of Love, complete with a river of Tenderness that runs through towns named after different stages of tender affection.

There’s a wonderful paradox of mapping the intangible as concrete, or mapping the ineffable–how often do we invest deep significance in the word “friend” after fourth grade?–in graphic terms, as if to make manifest the good-will that exists as if it were a physical topography.  (The notion of such mythic lands is re-inforced by dividing the map into color-coded continents, as if an emotional Olympic games between different parties.)  But it is more the hubristic belief of Facebook in their own metrics, doubtful in any event, than a positivistic belief in the ability to locate sites of well-being in the body or on the planet.

What’s the metric here?  Hopes of visualizing interconnectedness among Facebook’s users is more of an advertisement for their web-based platform than a visualization of disinterested data, and it’s not at all certain that this converts to a metric of well-being:  the huge number of connections boasted by residents of the Marshall Islands, Guam, Fiji, and the Philippines may derive from a sense of disconnectedness among the American populations in these regions, and a reliance on FB as a platform to remain in contact with their relatives in a different time-zones.  Although the Marshall Islands were only occupied by the United States until just less than thirty years ago–American forces left in 1986–the 10% of the population of American origin maintain extremely close ties to the US, and, more tellingly, the top destination for Marshallese ex-pats is the US.  “Technology bridges distance and borders,” Mia Newman boasts from Stanford on the FB website itself, as, due to the grace of this platform, “Individuals today can keep in touch with their friends and family in completely new ways — regardless of where they live.”  In a world characterized by dislocation and isolation, Facebook provides social ties.

The appeal of the map is of course to advertise how Facebook trumps geography, and one might do well to return to the interested nature of this map as a corporate logo:  “Immigration is one of the strongest links that seems to bind these Facebook neighbors,” the website informs us, if this was a discovery that the platform allowed; having (and maintaining) a lot of FB connections isn’t that surprising given the dislocations caused by such out-migration over recent years.  Flipping to the site itself,

[http://www.facebookstories.com/stories/1574/interactive-mapping-the-world-s-friendships#color=continent&story=1&country=MH],

watch with awe as color-coded aggregate bubbles quiver with connectivity,  as folks update social profiles, making new connections, adding “Friends”, or, as I happened to do last night, de-Friending others.  Clicking on the variable of ‘language’ on the site, we can see or imagine close ties between the Marshallese and the Philippines, and note with some surprise that the dominance of red (English) on the map, the improbability that non-English speakers in the islands nonetheless register the greatest number of connections.  This omits the different uses of “Friending” or “FB Friendship” among each region, of course, we failed to add, as it assumes that use of Facebook conventions is as universal as Facebook’s global reach.

The deepest attraction of the site is its interactive feature by which the map at a click newly configures itself from the perspective of dfferent FB users.  The movable centering of the map doesn’t change the geographic distribution of place, but rather  reveals how connectivity is centered in the globe from different national aggregates, which can also be segregated by language.

Experiment at the link here, to explore the fluidity of this new mode of mapping the world’s population, and abstracting one’s web-presence from the world.

[http://www.facebookstories.com/stories/1574/#color=continent&story=1&country=HT]

In this case Haiti, the “map” correlates the number of Facebook connections in the country and numbers between countries in ranked order that are a bit surprising, given the prominence of Canada, until one imagines the number there of Haitian refugees:

Learn Which Countries Share

The links among active FB users, cast here in terms of language groups, ostensibly responds to the question of who “shares the closest friendship connections,” although the reasons for those connections are not able to be clarified–although the illumination of linguistic ties clearly helps.  The huge prominence of Haitian ties to the Dominican Republic and Canada is not a big surprise; if the slightly lesser ties Haiti enjoys to the United States may be, it is not surprising that the proportional ties to France rank a close fourth.  This is a map, however, of dislocation, and attempts to bridge physical divides, as much as it is of friendship ties–or even a measure of friendship per se–so much as the type of “friendship™”  that Facebook seeks to market and be able to offer:  friendship that is less in, as it were, meatspace than cyberspace.

In contrast, the close ties of Russia to the Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus might be better explained by their recent division from a formerly united regional territory, albeit one that was ethnically diverse:

Russia's %22Friends%22

These maps display salient ties of economic and linguistic relations, to be sure, yet filtered through the economy of Facebook use.  The dramatically interactive map measures different perspectives of the world through the sum totals of FB users in one region or nation–a self-selected group–based on the criteria that that group imposed on the map.  Unlike other maps, where the data is cherry-picked and chosen and balanced by the mapmaker to conceal or pinpoint interests in an objective manner, Facebook has culled the data for this map–created and devised by Stamen Design–based on data that is not only essentially self-reported, but represents not only a portrait, but Facebook’s ability to mine the data archived by user-preferences and to assemble its own data of the aggregate of regional Facebook communities.

The result is a fantastic vision of totality through the eyes of the Facebook network, in which we can “click” on any country to view its population’s “connections” to other areas of the world.  What else does the map tell us?  Little more than the economic ability to dedicate large amounts of time to FB, or the state of emotional dependence on expanding one’s connections–or, more accurately, the acculturation of FB as a way of maintaining ties.  “Economic links, through trade or investment, also seem to be strong predictors of country connectedness,” Mia Newman informs us as she seeks to interpret the map for readers who have stumbled upon it and seek to understand this new configuration of the globe online.

Since we’re championing interconnectedness, let’s look at the potentially more isolated country of Pakistan:

Pakistan 1

The ever helpful text panel–as the legend that must always be read with care in any map–calls special attention to Pakistanis’ ties to Bangladeshis, an effect of their unity in colonial times, but is less than illuminating about what are the classes of Facebook users in the former South Asian colonies, or what are the groups using the platform:  perhaps the emphasis on the fourth largest aggregate site of connections distracts from the comparable ties to users in Afghanistan, or the surprising permeability of the Indian-Pakistani border.

The multiple FB connections of inhabitants of Greece, however, and the generous radii of countries in Eastern and Central Europe, belies the notion that interconnectedness is a metric of economic vitality.

Greece.

There’s a lot of FB activity in Micronesia–but are Bulgaria and Serbia hotspots of economic vitality or cooperation?  Are Chile and Argentina sites of stability, or is Mexico?  Is Argentina really a center of stable labor relations and a model of free markets that we are instructed to read the map as providing evidence of?

Argentina's Friendship and Labor Market

The arrangement of a configuration of bubbles of different colors are beautiful, and the pulsation of colored blobs dramatic, but the group of users are particularly difficult to identify, as are the habits by which they might “friend” their “friends”–or the networks they create.

Does–to chose a limit case–an absence of FB interconnectedness in China really reveal that the country is moribund economically?  In the manner that North Korea drops off Google Maps, although we all know that North Korea is not known for its open-access, there is no point of reference on which to click or metric to view for the largest of the world’s economies.

The limits of mapping FB use as a form of “friendship” rests on a combination of economic benefits, security, and desires for companionship that jointly contribute to online “friending” and the archiving of “friends.”  Not only is there a uniform level of “friending”–so that the necessity of economic “friendship” is equated with the ties of countries of origin among immigrant communities–but the homogenization of these different gradations of “friendship” obscure the potential benefits of legibility in this dramatically interactive map of Swedish FB users’ ties to geographically proximate and distant members of the FB community.

As the test notes, it shows the close ties of the Swedish market to Norway-not surprisingly–Denmark, and Finland, but also the ties of refugees who have arrived in Sweden, a preferred site, from both to Serbia and Iraq.  These recent settlers in the region, unlike the Scandinavian nexus, document a “friendship” to parents, schoolmates, or extended family– the database FB has culled suggests a deep desire to continue an imaginary with these faceless “connections,” and the lack of ability to make easy contact with these ties among immigrant communities, rather than the depth of their connections.

sweden's friendships

In the end, these are wonderful maps of our own making, whose indices are a better reflection (or projection) of what connectedness means to us–connectedness now being a relation that Facebook has now both defined and designed.  Whereas the old Pan Am logo surely maps geographical interconnectedness, as do all maps, the series of user-generated maps of Facebook connectedness map the extent of networked interconnectivity:   they are less truly maps, in some sense, than data visualization schema, that render in pictorially iconic form the data that Facebook is able to collect.  All maps reflect their makers to be sure; the maps of Facebook connectivity, more than perhaps anything else, illustrate the range of data Facebook is able to mine.  Perhaps this is the real function of the maps, which parade the range of information and “closer looks” that Facebook has access to.

For what goes unsaid–and remains unsaid–in this endless sequence of maps is the variations among the penetration of Facebook within each country–it is assumed to be complete, and to rester anyone that one is interested in taking measure of, as if it were the metric of Who Really Counts.  Yet the wide disparities within the extent of Facebook’s currency (or, if you will, adoption) in different countries not only widely varies but might be itself mapped, as something like a corrective to the data streams that the above maps claim to oh-so-conveniently organize.

The distribution of the differential sin Facebook’s adoption in the population at large might be usefully remembered in this far yet brilliantly colored but useful bubble map, which chats the intensity of Facebook’s penetration in the population, based on site-registered active users around 2012 from a variety of sources, from a project of Elvin Wyly and Larissa Zip, which attempts to map the more socially-networked world that Facebook boasts it can offer access to.  Although the ranking of urbanization of countries is problematic–given the local variation in a largely rural nation as India that possesses large cities–the huge size of connectedness that was privileged in the urbanized areas of brazil, the United States, UK, Uruguay, Chile, France, Columbia, Turkey, Argentina, Malaysia and the Philippines, as well as highly urbanized Singapore and Hong Kong–irrespective of actual geography or population size.  (India is the outlier of a largely unorganized country with high FB users, but the undoubted majority of its users are concentrated in cities or urban areas–Facebook does not release or record precise geophysical location; the relatively small user numbers for Iraq, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Uganda, or China seems to show regional poverty.

 

paste74

The outsized boast of mapping “The World’s Friendships” conceals the very absence of the non-networked, the new disenfranchised who the ideology of Facebook erases from the map–and who are poised to become the unnamed hordes of the inhabited world, whose lives are less visible in a globalized world, although we absent India, Kenya, China, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Nepal and Uganda at considerable risk.

Unurbanized Low-FB presence

The “Maps of [Facebook] Friendship” are fundamentally ways to advertise the very sort of datasets that Facebook is able to sell to companies that want its records of page-views, if by orienting folks to the very metrics that Facebook has at its fingertips.

What we get is a sense of the reliability and credibility that the data Facebook possesses to orient us to the webspace that Facebook has created, using the trademark of being a “friend”–that crucial desideratum in an economy when credibility seems hopelessly confused with web presence and social connectedness intertwined with virtual contexts and contacts mediated over Facebook and LinkedIn–is able to be mapped with apparent accuracy, of an almost positivistic tenor, albeit allowing for the fluidity that is itself so characteristic of the web as a medium and of Facebook as a virtual interface.

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Filed under bubble maps, data visualization, Facebook, Facebook Friendship Map, Facebook Urban Penetration, FB users, Interactive Maps, social media, social networking