Barbara F. Walter (@bfwalter) is the Rohr Professor of International Affairs at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California, San Diego, and the author of the NYT bestseller How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them.
What We Discuss with Barbara F. Walter:
- What does Barbara’s research into causes and warning signs of civil wars around the world portend for the chances of such a conflict in the United States?
- What is an anocracy, and have you ever lived under one?
- Why societies transitioning toward or away from democracy are especially vulnerable to the threat of civil war.
- What makes some countries survive political instability without the violence of civil war while others rapidly succumb to it?
- Who is most actively pushing for civil war in the United States, and what are their grievances?
- And much more…
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At a time when the United States seems to be increasingly disunited by political polarization and calls for violence to “save” the Republic are on the rise, is it reasonable to wonder if we’re on the cusp of a civil war? If so, how would it differ from the one our nation endured in the 19th century? What lessons can civil wars around the globe teach us about the potential for de-escalating our society’s undercurrent of conflict before it comes to a boil and erupts in large-scale violence?
On this episode, we delve into the common factors that precipitate civil wars and what can be done to avert their inevitability with Barbara F. Walter, a UCSD political science professor and author of the NYT bestseller How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them. Here, we discuss which societies are particularly vulnerable to civil war, why some countries survive periods of political instability without experiencing civil war while others seem predisposed to violent upheaval, the case being made by some in the United States for a new civil war, and what those of us committed to avoiding this scenario can do to help correct course. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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Miss our conversation about national security, strategic empathy, and the societal benefits of immigration with former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster? Catch up with episode 410: H.R. McMaster | The Fight to Defend the Free World here!
Thanks, Barbara F. Walter!
If you enjoyed this session with Barbara F. Walter, let her know by clicking on the link below and sending her a quick shout out at Twitter:
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Resources from This Episode:
- How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them by Barbara F. Walter | Amazon
- Expert Analysis on Violence and Its Alternatives | Political Violence at a Glance
- Barbara F. Walter | UCSD
- Barbara F. Walter | Website
- Barbara F. Walter | Twitter
- List of Civil Wars | Wikipedia
- The January 6 Insurrection: One Year Later | The Brookings Institution
- Timeline: The Plot to Kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer | Wood TV
- Philip K Dick: The Writer Who Witnessed the Future | BBC Culture
- The Man In The High Castle by Philip K. Dick | Amazon
- On US ‘Anocracy’ and the Possibility of a Coming Civil War | MinnPost
- Conflict in Ukraine’s Donbas: A Visual Explainer | Crisis Group
- Political Instability Task Force: New Findings | Wilson Center
- Identity Politics | Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Why Did Czechoslovakia Break Up? | Kafkadesk
- Debating Media’s Role in Driving Rwanda’s Genocide | Genocide Watch
- ISIS and Innovative Propaganda: Confronting Extremism in the Digital Age | Swarthmore International Relations Journal
- Milosevic: A Biography by Adam LeBor | Amazon
- Trump Could Still Lead the US to Civil War | Time
- Antigovernment Movement | Southern Poverty Law Center
- The Conservatives Dreading—And Preparing for—Civil War | The Atlantic
- Fears of New Conflict as Bosnia-Herzegovina Faces Growing Serb Nationalism | BBC News
- The Effects of Overturning Roe v. Wade In Seven Simple Charts | Nature
- Putin/Disinformation Starter Pack on The Jordan Harbinger Show | Spotify
- Renee DiResta | Dismantling the Disinformation Machine | Jordan Harbinger
- Rohingya Sue Facebook for £150BN over Myanmar Genocide | The Guardian
- Scott Galloway | From Crisis to Opportunity Post Corona | Jordan Harbinger
- Gerrymandering Explained | Brennan Center for Justice
- Citizens United Explained | Brennan Center for Justice
- Chaotic and Crass: A Brief Timeline of Elon Musk’s History with Twitter | The Guardian
- ‘They’re Rapists.’ President Trump’s Campaign Launch Speech Two Years Later, Annotated | The Washington Post
- North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) | Investopedia
- A Brief History of “The Troubles” | Peacebuilder Online
- Imagine Another American Civil War, but This Time in Every State | NPR
- Mosab Hassan Yousef | The Green Prince of Hamas | Jordan Harbinger
- The Rise of Political Violence in the United States | Journal of Democracy
- Almost One in Three of Republicans Say Violence May Be Necessary to ‘Save’ US | The Guardian
- South Africa in 10 Iconic Images | The Independent Photographer
- The End of South African Apartheid | ThoughtCo.
- 10 Years Later, OKC Bombing Figure Walks Free | Southern Poverty Law Center
- The Turner Diaries: How a Dystopian Neo-Nazi Novel Helped Fuel Decades of White Supremacist Terrorism | Vox
- How Viktor Orbán Wins | Journal of Democracy
- Focus on the Big Lie, Not the Big Liar | Brennan Center for Justice
- Guide to the Analysis of Insurgency | CIA
- JJ MacNab | Twitter
- Kentucky Primary Election: How 2022’s Turnout Compares to Prior Years | Courier Journal
- How to Register to Vote | USAGov
718: Barbara F. Walter | How Civil Wars Start (And How to Stop Them)
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:03] Barbara F. Walter: White working-class men have declined on most social and economic measures in terms of divorce rates, in terms of suicide rates, in terms of their average wage, in terms of their life expectancy, in a way that hasn't happened with any other demographic group. And so they were a ready population that was felt ignored by the establishment and suddenly they had this candidate in Trump who seemed to understand them.
[00:00:37] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with scientists and entrepreneurs, spies and psychologists, even the occasional Russian chess grandmaster, mafia enforcer, undercover agent, tech mogul, or economic hitman. And each episode turns our guest's wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better thinker.
[00:01:03] If you're new to the show — welcome — if you want to tell your friends about it, please do that. Our episode starter packs are the best way to do so. These are collections of our favorite episodes, organized by topics. That'll help new listeners get a taste of everything that we do here on the show — topics like persuasion, influence, disinformation, cyber warfare, negotiation, and communication, crime and cults, and more. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start or search for us in your Spotify app to get started.
[00:01:28] Today, how do civil wars start, and are we headed for one here in the United States? Now, before I read this book, I did think all the talk of civil war was hyperbolic, designed to get clicks — a little bit annoying frankly. Now, I'm not so sure we're seeing a lot of the signs, the growth of militias in the United States, the failure of peaceful protest. Civil wars are often preceded by years of failed nonviolent protests and protests are a warning sign. They show that people believe the system will still respond to them, but if the system doesn't work and does not respond to them, they will resort to violence because there's nothing left, and groups that lose in elections often resort to violence or civil war. We've seen it in other countries and we've seen some of the most contentious elections in our country's history, just in recent years. There are plenty of other signs, and we're going to explore a lot of this on the show today with our guest Barbara F. Walter, who's been studying civil wars in other nations and is now applying what she's learned and her expertise to what we're seeing right here at home. Disturbing stuff, but not hopeless.
[00:02:28] Here we go with Barbara F. Walter.
[00:02:34] I'm not going to lie, the book scared me a little bit. It's one of those books that says what a lot of people are probably thinking but maybe too afraid to say. Either, because they don't want to think about how horrible it's going to be or because they don't want to sound like a kook because a lot of my kook friends were the first people to go, "We're going to be in a civil war," and I'm like, "Calm down. You also think there's going to be a famine every year in California."
[00:02:56] Barbara F. Walter: Yeah.
[00:02:56] Jordan Harbinger: So what's going on here? There's a lot of civil wars in countries throughout the world, sure. And I think the problem is everyone thinks their civil war is unique, but it's not. And that was what really kind of freaked me out because I was like, well, it's America. We don't do that. We did it once but that was a long time ago. But there's factors that you can spot leading up to it. And, then when you lay those out, it's like, "Oh, we have that. I have that."
[00:03:17] Barbara F. Walter: You know, when I started writing this book, I did not think it was going to be a terrifying book. And it wasn't terrifying initially because when I started writing the book, I was writing about all the other civil wars that I've studied around the world. I don't really talk about the United States until chapter six. So it was only when I started to do the hard work of applying all of this research that we knew about other civil wars outside of the United States to my own country, that I myself started to get terrified.
[00:03:46] And there were times when I was writing chapter six and chapter seven, where I have a standing desk, I'm standing, I'm typing and I would have to step back and I would have to walk away. And I would walk around the block and I talk to myself and I say, "Is this right? Am I getting this right?" Because what I'm saying is a big deal, what I'm saying is really powerful. What I'm saying is going to hit people hard and it better be right.
[00:04:16] Jordan Harbinger: You can't compare Michigan to Iraq and be like, "There you have it, folks." And then light your cigarette and lean back in your chair.
[00:04:21] Barbara F. Walter: No.
[00:04:21] Jordan Harbinger: You better have some ish to back it up.
[00:04:24] Barbara F. Walter: I'm an academic. Nobody's ever heard of me. This is a really tough, hard, dark subject. My expectation was that nobody was going to read this book. Academics weren't going to read it because it's not an academic book and normal people weren't going to read it because it was what it was. And I think one of the reasons why it took off and resonated so much and kind of became the national debate for a while is because I didn't say, "Oh, America is going to hell. You know, terrible things are happening in America."
[00:04:54] I started by saying, I've studied this for 30 years. I've been on a task force that our own government actually runs. That has a predictive model about where around the world, civil wars are likely to break out. We know what the factors are. Our government knows what the factors are. And now let's just take all of that information that people don't have, that our politicians don't have because it's on the shelves in universities, or it's very, very technical or it's so dense that nobody wants to plow through it. Let me take all of that and apply it to what's happened here in the United States and let's see what we see.
[00:05:28] And I think that's when it becomes terrifying, because as you're reading stories about Bosnia and Sarajevo, as you're reading stories about Ukraine, as you're reading stories about Northern Ireland, as you're reading stories about Israel and the Palestinians, I'm not talking about the United States at all. I'm just saying, this is what happened. And as people are reading that they're realizing they're seeing the patterns themselves and they're realizing, "Oh my gosh, this is what's happening here. This is what we're seeing here — and oh my gosh!"
[00:05:57] Jordan Harbinger: That was me, right? I understand this. People like me think events like January 6th where it's like, okay, this happened and it was definitely wild and crazy, but also the media is playing it up. But also that really wasn't necessarily exaggerated because I saw the footage of somebody getting shot in the capital building because he tried to climb through the widow.
[00:06:16] And the plot by — was it anarchist kooks who kidnapped the governor of Michigan, my home state, and then put her on a show trial and execute her? That is something you hear about in a novel by — what's that? The man in the high castle. Is it Philip K. Dick or something like that? I mean, it's like a Sci-Fi—
[00:06:33] Barbara F. Walter: Yeah, it's dystopic, sounds dystopic.
[00:06:35] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. And I'm like, we don't do that in the west, let alone in Michigan. When we hear that stuff, we go, "Look, that's going to be put down by a powerful government. We don't stand for that crap. But then you see stuff online or you hear people you know go, "Yeah, they should have got her." And it's like, "What are you talking about? Are you insane?" And the answer is kind of, yeah.
[00:06:53] You've said that democracies increase in number alongside the rise in civil wars. What does that mean? What's going on here?
[00:06:59] Barbara F. Walter: Yeah. So if you look back to the 1800s, the vast majority of countries were not democracies. There were very, very few democracies. The United States was this exception in that we were the first modern democracy. We were the big grand experiment in whether democracy can actually work.
[00:07:17] Jordan Harbinger: What was Switzerland? Sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt you. What was Switzerland at that time? Were they like a monarchy back then? I don't even know.
[00:07:23] Barbara F. Walter: So Switzerland is this interesting case of a federal republic with fairly autonomous cantons.
[00:07:29] Jordan Harbinger: Like the Italian part, the German part, the Flemish. Is that one of them?
[00:07:33] Barbara F. Walter: The Romansh, it's called Romansh, but there's multiple cantons in the German and the French part.
[00:07:39] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:07:40] Barbara F. Walter: So some of them are quite tiny.
[00:07:41] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. So you're saying the United States is this democracy it's kind of, well, it's very much an experiment. It's this outlier, but civil wars start increasing as democracy starts increasing. So does that mean democracies cause civil war? I assume that's not necessarily what you're saying. It's got to be the transition—
[00:07:57] Barbara F. Walter: No
[00:07:57] Jordan Harbinger: —or something, right?
[00:07:58] Barbara F. Walter: I mean, social scientists will say correlations don't mean causation.
[00:08:03] Jordan Harbinger: Yes.
[00:08:03] Barbara F. Walter: The fact that you always have clouds when it rains doesn't mean that clouds cause rain. It means that clouds are perhaps an indicator of rain. So what started happening in the 20th century is that country started to democratize. That occurred, especially, you know, after World War I, World War II, and then at the end of colonialization. And what happened was we also started to see a rise of civil wars. Who knows why that's the case? We do know that one of the predictors of civil war is whether a country is a partial democracy. It's neither fully democratic nor fully autocratic. We call it anocracy.
[00:08:41] Jordan Harbinger: Is that what we are? Because that sounds like what we are, kind of.
[00:08:44] Barbara F. Walter: So we became an anocracy for a very short period of time in December of 2020 — we can talk about why that's the case. We have moved out of the anocracy zone since then.
[00:08:54] Jordan Harbinger: That's good, right?
[00:08:55] Barbara F. Walter: Yes, that is very good.
[00:08:57] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:08:58] Barbara F. Walter: But because we haven't had any significant reforms to our political institutions because our democracy really hasn't been strengthened since then, we could easily slip back into the anocracy zone. So I think part of what was happening in the 20th century is you have these countries that were attempting to democratize. Some of them are trying to democratize quite rapidly. This tends to create not only instability — things are changing, leaders are changing — but it also creates opportunity. You suddenly had once autocratic governments that were very strong. They knew how to suppress any sort of uprisings. If you have governments that are changing rapidly and you want to challenge them, that would be the time to challenge them.
[00:09:42] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:09:42] Barbara F. Walter: So you had groups that perhaps had been shut out of power. They want a piece of the action. They see this opening and they go for it. But we also know that civil wars are more likely when governments are transitioning away from democracy. So you had a once strong democracy, that's becoming more autocratic or that's gaining more autocratic features. Ukraine is an example of that. Its civil war broke out in 2014. And that was at a time when Yanukovych was concentrating power in the hands of the president. You have a higher risk of civil war in those situations.
[00:10:18] Not because the government is less able to repress descent like you have with democratizing countries, but because you know you have more grievances. Suddenly, citizens are realizing that they're losing rights, freedoms. They're losing power and they're seeing that the window for them to do something is closing. And so those are also the times when you see groups that are losing in that situation, or that are particularly worried about the move towards autocracy when they begin to organize and they make a move.
[00:10:53] Jordan Harbinger: And that's when the government says, "The CIA is fomenting a coup," when it's a bunch of students that are out on the Euro might on or whatever.
[00:10:59] Barbara F. Walter: Yes, exactly.
[00:11:00] Jordan Harbinger: Trying to make sure that their future actually looks like something that's not just what their parents had to live through in the Soviet Union.
[00:11:05] All right. Why do some countries move fast through this shaky middle transition zone? I'm thinking Eastern Europe. I was in the former East Germany in the '90s. There weren't civil wars. There was Bosnia and Yugoslavia. Don't get me wrong, but Czech Republic, totally fine, Romania, fine. I mean, all these countries sort of slid out of very repressive communism under the USSR, the Soviet Union. And then just kind of were like, "Hey, we're going to join NATO in a decade," or whatever. And it was like the sun came up over the horizon and the gray landscape turned into color, but then we have Venezuela. That's like, "Oh, just kidding. We're going to bundle this and turn into a banana republic, that's just a commodity-based kleptocracy or Iraq or other places that have just absolutely gone, I don't even know if you can say backwards, but certainly sideways.
[00:11:53] Barbara F. Walter: So, you know, I mentioned that I was on this task force with the US government. It was called the Political Instability Task Force. And it's been around since 1994. And one of their goals is to have this predictive model. Two types of people sat in the room to help create this model. Half the people were social scientists, experts on civil war, people like me. And half the people were data analysts who were taking all the information that we were giving them. And they were trying to come up with the best possible model. And when this model was created, the experts gave the data analysts over 30 different types of factors that we thought would put countries at high risk of civil war.
[00:12:33] And it was things like poverty, income inequality, how ethnically and religiously diverse a country was. So these things seemed pretty obvious. And the data analysts left and they worked on their model and they worked on the model and they came back and they basically said only two factors were highly predictive. And we were shocked. We didn't expect that. And we didn't expect the two factors that they found. That was a surprise to the experts.
[00:13:00] And the first factor was what I just talked about. This partial democracy. It was the countries that were in this middle zone that were the most unstable and the most prone to violence. And the second factor answers the question you just asked. So, you know, why was it that Eastern Europe transitioned rapidly with relatively no violence, except for the former Yugoslavia? Central Asia, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan had violence, but these other countries didn't. So why was that the case? Because the second factor was whether, in these partial democracies, citizens organize themselves politically around ethnic-religious or racial lines. So it was the combination of having these weak, partial democracies together with political parties that were identity based and not based on any sort of ideas. And identity-based political parties tend to emerge in multiethnic, multireligious countries.
[00:14:03] And so why didn't it happen in Eastern Europe? Because these are some of the most ethnically homogeneous countries in the world.
[00:14:10] Jordan Harbinger: Except for Yugoslavia, right?
[00:14:12] Barbara F. Walter: Except for Yugoslavia and, you know, Czechoslovakia, for example — and you know there are going to be people in your audience who say, "No, none of these countries are entirely ethnically homogeneous."
[00:14:22] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:14:22] Barbara F. Walter: And that's absolutely true. There is no such thing as a pure ethnic or racial state, but if the vast majority of the population is from one ethnic and religious group, you don't tend to have powerful, competing ethnic parties like you do in Yugoslavia, or like you did in Iraq. Czechoslovakia had the Czechs and the Slovaks. And what did they do? They split. They chose not to live together. And so they created homogenous ethnic states and didn't have to deal with these competing ethnic parties.
[00:14:54] Jordan Harbinger: You wrote a lot about factionalism. Is that the tribalism that we're hearing about in the news and seeing online? The ethnic-religious groups, political parties split by identity, is that what factionalism is?
[00:15:04] Barbara F. Walter: So it is very similar. Think about it as tribalism.
[00:15:08] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:15:08] Barbara F. Walter: You know, ugly tribalism or predatory tribalism. So it's not just where the population breaks down into whatever their separate identities are, but that they organize politically around that. And then one or more of those parties, they seek to gain political power, not only to gain political power but in order to shut out all the other parties. It's tribalism on steroids.
[00:15:33] Jordan Harbinger: So how did these factions develop? You know, I was jokingly going to say, "Oh, it's Fox News versus MSNBC," but maybe that's not actually a joke now that I say it out loud. I mean, those aren't ethnicities, thankfully, but there—
[00:15:44] Barbara F. Walter: Yeah.
[00:15:44] Jordan Harbinger: —certainly seems to be tribalism, especially online if people that say like, "Oh, if you're going to try and do this, you're going to take it out of my dead hands or you're not going to make me stop going to my church," even though no, one's actually trying to make you do that.
[00:15:56] Barbara F. Walter: So the rise of tribalism or you know, what I call it factionalism, political ethnic factionalism, it tends to require two things, at least two things. It tends to emerge in times of change and usually demographic, social change. And it requires what I call ethnic entrepreneurs. So ethnic entrepreneurs are, they tend to be politicians, but they can be media personalities. They can be ministers of a church. It refers to individuals who play on people's fears about the other. And that use ethnicity or religion or race as a way to galvanize support for their campaign, for their church, for their radio station. And they do it quite consciously and it tends to be very, very effective.
[00:16:50] Jordan Harbinger: So ISIS did this, right?
[00:16:52] Barbara F. Walter: ISIS did this.
[00:16:53] Jordan Harbinger: That starts the caliphate. Rwandan genocide, didn't they use an FM radio kind of spokes guy?
[00:16:58] Barbara F. Walter: They had radio towers all around Rwanda and for 18 months, what extremists within the Hutu party did was they broadcast messages of fear. The Tutsis are organizing. "The Tutsis, if they come to power, which they will in 18 months, they're going to launch a genocide against the Hutus. And so you need to arm yourself and you need to take action before this happens to us." it is a form of conscious, organized fear-mongering for politicians catapulting themselves into power for the purposes of people who do this, you know, in industry, it's to enhance their profits or their bottom line.
[00:17:41] Slobodan Milošević was sort of the classic example of this. And I could tell the story if you're interested in hearing this story.
[00:17:47] Jordan Harbinger: The Serbian dictator, yeah, I don't want to get too far off track, but I did—
[00:17:51] Barbara F. Walter: Yeah.
[00:17:51] Jordan Harbinger: I read his biography a long time ago and it was very much like, "Hey, I know we control the army and the economy and everything else. But look at these minorities, Albanians that are coming in and polluting our whole country, and they're taking from us."
[00:18:05] Barbara F. Walter: Yeah.
[00:18:05] Jordan Harbinger: But also the Croats, you know, they're kind of — and it's almost like Tuđman, who was also like the Croatian version of Milošević. I don't know if they were in contact with one another, but it was almost like when you think about it and you look at it, it's almost like, "I'm looking at you and I'm going, all right, you do your thing over there. I'm going to do my thing over here and we're just going to cause hell. And then we'll probably go to war with each other, but whatever." It was almost like they just knew that it was going to happen that way. And they just didn't care because they were busy building a bunch of wealth for themselves and thinking that — I mean, it's is sociopath sh*t.
[00:18:35] Barbara F. Walter: Ethnic entrepreneurs generally don't pay the cost of war, right? They're smart.
[00:18:38] Jordan Harbinger: Well, look, Putin is doing it, right?
[00:18:40] Barbara F. Walter: Right.
[00:18:41] Jordan Harbinger: Hey, a bunch of poor people, they can't read, you guys go to war. I'll pay you in vodka, but I'll be here in my palace.
[00:18:46] Barbara F. Walter: So the ethnic entrepreneurs are going to gain all the benefits of war. War is going to put them in power and keep them there. And they're not going to pay any of the costs. It's the poor average citizens who are fighting the war for them who are going to pay the costs.
[00:19:01] But I want to get back to the second issue — so you need ethnic entrepreneurs, but the fear-mongering message that ethnic entrepreneurs bring to if you're Milošević to the Serbs, or if you're Tuđman to the Croats or if you're the leader of the Taliban that you bring to average Afghans. The reason it resonates is because it happens during a period of rapid change. A period of time when average citizens are nervous when they're looking out in the world and they're seeing changes and they're already a bit afraid and it's that fear and that sense of that there's potentially looming threat to their livelihood or to their political power or to their status in society that resonates with the average citizen. And that allows the ethnic entrepreneur and his or her message to be successful.
[00:19:53] If an ethnic entrepreneur emerged at a time of absolute stability, you know, think about, I don't know, maybe the 1950s here in the United States when everybody's kind of feeling good. Everybody's boat is rising with the tide.
[00:20:09] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, we say everybody, but we're also talking — we mean like, "Except for you African-American people who are totally not doing that."
[00:20:16] Barbara F. Walter: Yes.
[00:20:16] Jordan Harbinger: Right? Come on.
[00:20:17] Barbara F. Walter: And that's a really, really great point because you know, there have been hundreds of studies of civil wars. We actually know who tends to start them, especially the ethnically-based civil wars.
[00:20:29] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:20:29] Barbara F. Walter: And it's not who people think. People think it's going to be the poorest groups in society.
[00:20:34] Jordan Harbinger: Oh yeah.
[00:20:34] Barbara F. Walter: Or it's going to be the groups that are most discriminated against. It's going to be the African Americans or the illegal Mexican immigrants because they're the most downtrodden of the groups. And they seemingly have the greatest motivation to rebel. Those groups do not rebel and they don't rebel for a good reason. Partly, they don't have the energy to rebel. They're so busy trying to survive.
[00:20:59] Jordan Harbinger: They're working.
[00:21:01] Barbara F. Walter: That organizing is a luxury that they don't have.
[00:21:04] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:21:04] Barbara F. Walter: And the second reason is they don't have the capacity. If they even try to organize, the state tends to jump on them immediately—
[00:21:12] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:21:12] Barbara F. Walter: Because that's who they're watching. The group that tends to start these wars are the once dominant groups that are in decline.
[00:21:19] Jordan Harbinger: This is a really long way of saying white people, Barbara. This is a really, really long version of that, isn't it?
[00:21:24] Barbara F. Walter: It is. And here in the United States, the group that has been politically, socially, economically dominant since the very beginning of this country, have been not just white people but white Christians. And we could go a step further and it's been white Christian males for the most part. America is changing and it's changing rapidly. And it's been the most rapid demographic changes had happened in the last 20-plus years. So it's relatively recent. And what most people don't realize is that America's going through this radical demographic transition from a white majority country to a white minority country.
[00:22:04] And this is deeply, deeply threatening to a subset of the white population who sees the loss of power. They see that politically, they no longer are guaranteed the presidency. They see economically that they're no longer necessarily guaranteed the best jobs. They see that they're no longer guaranteed access to the most elite universities. And you can go on and on and on. And there's a subset of this population that's deeply resentful of that. That's deeply threatened by that and truly, truly believe that it's their patriotic duty to do something about this because they truly believe that America's identity is a white Christian nation and it's their obligation to retain that.
[00:22:53] You know, when you have extremists within a particular population, they very early on begin to preach. If the system no longer works for us and we feel like the system is going in the wrong direction, any means is justified. And again, what we're seeing is that those extremists have existed for decades, but their message is increasingly resonating with a larger portion of the white population.
[00:23:19] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Barbara F. Walter. We'll be right back.
[00:23:24] This episode is sponsored in part by IPVanish. Do you browse online in incognito mode because you think you're clever? You're protected from hackers, advertisers, and prying eyes. Not quite. Incognito mode just doesn't really cut it. If you want to stay truly private and secure on the Internet, you really need to get a VPN. IPVanish is a VPN service that helps you safely browse the Internet by encrypting a hundred percent of your data. So any private details like passwords, communications, browsing history, all that, that's going to be shielded from falling into the wrong hands. IPVanish makes you virtually invisible online. It's very simple to use tap a button you're instantly protected. You won't even know it's on. I use IPVanish everywhere, especially at coffee shops and airports. I travel a bunch and I would not be caught without a VPN, especially at a hotel where you can see other people's computers on the network. I mean, look, hopefully, you keep nothing important on any computer you use on the public Internet, but if you're like literally everyone else and you have important stuff on there that you don't want the world to see, go ahead and grab IPVanish.
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[00:26:21] Now back to Barbara F. Walter.
[00:26:25] I want to clarify something because you mentioned white Christian males. I think a lot of people when they hear that, are going to go, "What the hell? I'm a white Christian male. How dare you?" This isn't really something that replies to all white Christian middle-aged dudes like me, right?
[00:26:37] Barbara F. Walter: No.
[00:26:38] Jordan Harbinger: This is just like, there's a certain subset of them.
[00:26:40] Barbara F. Walter: Yes.
[00:26:41] Jordan Harbinger: Typically that are disaffected that are seeing things. Not go their way.
[00:26:45] Barbara F. Walter: Yeah.
[00:26:46] Jordan Harbinger: Because I think people are going well, you're just making, you're just uttering me. You know, you're creating the faction by saying it's us doing it, but it's really not all of those people doing it.
[00:26:55] Barbara F. Walter: No, no. And thank you for that clarification. The way to think about this, in any population, there's moderates and there's extremists, and the vast majority of the population, they're going to be moderates. Most people aren't radical. But every population does have radicals.
[00:27:11] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:27:12] Barbara F. Walter: And so that's the same here in the white population. The vast majority of whites are moderates. They want peace. They want democracy. They want our country to thrive, but there is a small subset. That feels like our country is being taken away from them and that they are justified to use violence, to retain what they believe is the original identity of the country. The challenge for extremists is always can they convince at least some of the moderates to shift in their direction, because unless they're able to do that, they will never succeed, right? They don't have the numbers to succeed. And so what you see those extremists doing, they use propaganda. They attempt to use information and in the world of social media, disinformation and misinformation to radicalize, at least some percentage of those moderates because they need numbers.
[00:28:11] Jordan Harbinger: The thing that seems extra dangerous here is that the factions don't happen overnight. Most people don't realize that they're turning into the faction. They don't realize they're gripping together by identity. And even if they kind of do it's because they're protecting their country, they're protecting their people.
[00:28:24] I lived in the former Yugoslavia in the early 2001, basically in 2004, 2003, something like that. I got to look it up. It's been a while. But it was right after the civil war for the most part. Everyone thought I was nuts, but it was fascinating. Also, I think I was nuts more so than now, having kids will do that to you. But I saw a lot of like the rural-urban divide was a thing. Having people be like, "Well, we didn't think that much about how I was Serbian and my neighbor was Croatian until the Croats over there started doing this. And the Albanians started doing that. And then, our neighbors started to disagree with this on this." And then I realized that guy's got guns because he was in the army. And it was like a whole slow boil. And that got really scary. And then of course...genocide of all parties on all sides, essentially. I mean, it was just like a massive thing over there, as we all know.
[00:29:14] Barbara F. Walter: And of course, it's been happening slowly here in the United States, simply because of migration. Kids have been migrating from the rural states to the coast and the cities for generations. And it's a particular type of person that tends to be migrating. It's the more educated person, it's people who tend to be less conservative. And so you're getting this selection effect that a hundred years ago didn't exist. And of course, once you geographically live in different places, you're not interacting with each other. And if you're not interacting with each other, you start to lose the sense that you're all human beings that you start to not see the similarities. It becomes easier to think of somebody who's different from you in some ways as the other and to dehumanize them. So that's the slow process that's been happening. And I suspect that selection effect is going to continue. One of the things that I really worry about now that we have state governments that are imposing increasingly conservative social policy and the end of Roe V. Wade is a precursor to that is that you're going to see, I think, more migration and more selection out of where conservatives want to live in conservative states and liberals want to live in liberal states. And there's going to be even less interaction.
[00:30:28] What's been happening more quickly in terms of creating this tribalism here in the United States, I think has to do with social media. I truly believe it's been an accelerant and it's been an accelerant, not because of the material that people are putting online. It's become an accelerant because the algorithms that have been designed to keep people engaged as long as possible on various social media platforms. The social media companies have figured out that the material that keeps people online the most is the most emotionally charged, the most incendiary. The material that taps into people's deep seated sense of fear and threat and anger, those sort of old core emotions. So Facebook and YouTube are agnostic about the social implications of their algorithms. All they care about is keeping people online. But the result of that has been that they're spreading the most divisive material and the more, most extreme material. And they're putting in the hands of Americans and that's dividing us even further.
[00:31:33] Jordan Harbinger: Well, I've done a lot of shows on this. I actually created a whole playlist of episodes about this. If people want to check it out, it's our disinformation starter pack at jordanharbinger.com/start. It has things with episodes with Renee DiResta, episode 420, which explains all of that, how it works, how she discovered it, and sort of monitors that. She writes about all this.
[00:31:51] But also Facebook in Burma comes to mind. For people who don't know what I'm talking about, there's a minority group there called the Rohingya. And essentially, these, I guess, government sanctions or local government sanctions, people are just like, "Hey, these people are trying to take your land and they're trying to do that." And so they whipped up a froth among some of the locals and they just went and burned down all of the areas and houses where these people lived and pushed them over, I think, into Bangladesh or something like that.
[00:32:16] Barbara F. Walter: Yeah.
[00:32:17] Jordan Harbinger: And they're just all gone now. They're just moved into these refugee camps and it was because everybody got whipped up into a froth on Facebook about how the Rohingya were going to come after them. So they went after the Rohingya. Is that considered a genocide or was that just considered like a civil war precursor? I don't know.
[00:32:33] Barbara F. Walter: It was not a civil war because the Rohanen had absolutely no ability, they didn't organize and didn't fight back. It was, to be more specific, a military-sponsored genocide on a minority group there. And you know, what's really interesting about that case is the timing of it. So why did it happen when it happened? And it was a variety of things. One, Burma was in the process of democratizing. It was in this middle zone and the losers of that democratization attempt was the military. So the previous regime had been run by a military junta. They had all the political power, they had all the economic power. If the country's going to democratize, they're going to lose, and this was threatening to them but they had to figure out how do they actually retain power.
[00:33:18] And one of the things that they did was they used Facebook as a way to convince ethnic Burmese who are Buddhist, that the Muslims that who were in Burma were deeply threatening to them and that they needed to organize. And that the military was going to protect them. And therefore average Burmese citizens needed the military. And so it served a number of purposes for them. It enhanced their stature and their power at galvanized the support of citizens behind the military, the time when they were losing power. And eventually, you know, they were able to bring themselves into power and democracy reversed.
[00:33:54] Jordan Harbinger: This is something that can absolutely happen when you have — I see the wealth gap growing in the United States. Social media allows extremists that were maybe normally just in small groups or small cells or had to be in large groups in order to do anything. The KKK, people go, "Well, they're basically gone now." Okay, fine, but now you can have a group of one in a basement, somewhere interacting with all the other groups of one all over the place.
[00:34:17] My friend, Scott Galloway said, it's never been an easier time to become a billionaire. And it's never been a harder time to become a millionaire. There's way more insanely wealthy folks with power and control over huge amounts of resources. And there's much fewer upper-middle-class folks who just kind of made it. And that's a dangerous inflammatory combination. And I kind of worry, the pitchforks could come out just because of that politics and tribalism aside.
[00:34:40] Barbara F. Walter: The billionaires, it brings up an interesting point. We know that our politics are becoming increasingly polarized, meaning that both sides are moving more and more to the extreme. So the question is, okay, where is this extremism being injected? How is that happening? And it's happening through gerrymandering through the primary system through billionaires. And I'll explain that in a second and through social media. So, you know, the fact that we have increasingly gerrymandered districts means that we have districts that are increasingly one party.
[00:35:12] You might think okay, well, how does that make it more extreme? But that means that in the primaries if let's say you have a gerrymandered district, that's almost entirely democratic, right? The voters who tend to show up for the primaries on both the left and the right are the more passionate—
[00:35:29] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm, yeah.
[00:35:30] Barbara F. Walter: —the more extreme voters. They have the more radical preferences. And we know that turnout in primaries is really, really low. So the last primary in Kentucky, I think about 20 percent of the eligible voters showed up. And those 20 percent are not representative of the average voter in Kentucky. So they tend to pick the more extreme candidates.
[00:35:51] Then when you think about billionaires, one of the things most people probably don't know is that Citizens United, the decision by the Supreme Court to basically allow individuals to donate as much money as they want to political candidates was a huge boon to billionaires. That meant that billionaires could target an individual who otherwise would not have had any chance of getting elected and propel him or her into power.
[00:36:16] I firmly believe that pre-Citizen United Trump would never, ever have been a candidate, but we also know from really good social science studies that billionaires on average, their political views are much more extreme than the average individual. Think about Elon Musk, I mean, he's sort of a perfect example of this. They're not representative of the average American, and yet they have disproportionate influence. That's injecting more extreme candidates and more extreme ideas into our politics.
[00:36:48] And then social media again, because the algorithms, disproportionately favor more extreme material because that shocks people and it keeps them on their phones longer. People are getting more extreme information than they used to in the past. So you have extremism coming in from these various directions in a way that wasn't the case 30 years ago.
[00:37:09] Jordan Harbinger: I am not the expert here at all. So I'm going to defer to you, but man, it sure seems like Trump would've had a chance without what you mentioned the billionaire thing because I feel like what he says does actually represent what a ton of people feel and want. I don't know if it's just — well, there was a lot of money put behind him by these big money interests. I think a lot of people, they were just waiting for somebody to call bullsh*t on the establishment and I get it. I mean, I look at stuff in the establishment. I'm not a firmly on the right or the left, but I look at the stuff in the sort of like establishment folks. And I'm like, "Ah, come on, more of the same." And I'm doing well in life, right? The show's doing good.
[00:37:46] Barbara F. Walter: Yeah.
[00:37:46] Jordan Harbinger: I feel like I'm in a good place. I live in California. You know, I get my tan, whatever. If I lived in Michigan and I was like, "Crap, I'm still not able to get a job because of this bullsh*t." I would be so angry and I sure as hell would not vote for the person, who's like, "Let's continue onward doing what we've never done to help you." Of course, I would vote for the guy who's like, "You know what? Everybody's lying to you. I'm the one who's not going to do that."
[00:38:07] Barbara F. Walter: Yeah. And that's absolutely true, right? The message that, let's call them ethnic entrepreneurs—
[00:38:13] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:38:13] Barbara F. Walter: —are putting out there will not resonate unless there's a bit of truth to them. And so Trump's brilliance, or maybe he was just lucky was that he put out this very powerful anti-immigrant message early in the campaign. You know, when there's something like 36 Republican candidates, nobody's paying attention to him, he starts talking about Mexicans coming across the border. It's resonating with, especially the white working class. They start coming out for him and again, he rises in the ranks to become the Republican candidate. His message 30 years ago would have gone nowhere, but it went somewhere today because the white working class has suffered. They were the losers of NAFTA. You know, there were lots of winners of NAFTA here in the United States, but there was also losers and the white working class that had used to have secure, well-paying, manufacturing jobs, they lost those jobs and nothing replaced it.
[00:39:17] So if you look at the data, white working-class men have declined on most social and economic measures in terms of divorce rates, in terms of suicide rates, in terms of their average wage, in terms of their life expectancy, in a way that hasn't happened with any other demographic group. African Americans, Latinos, at worst, their quality of life has remained stable. It has not declined, whereas for the white working class it has. And so they were already population that felt ignored by the establishment. And suddenly, they had this candidate in Trump who seemed to understand them. And of course, you know, now that other Republican leaders have observed the success of Trump's message and they've seen that it resonates with this important voting block, they're going to double down on it.
[00:40:11] Jordan Harbinger: Do democratic systems that have civil wars all share any kind of common traits? I'm looking for like, "Okay, what do we have in America? That is a common trait with another democracy that's had a civil war."
[00:40:24] Barbara F. Walter: So, first of all, full healthy democracies don't experience civil war. It does happen in countries that people think of as very comparable to the United States. The UK, you know, for decades had, they called it The Troubles. I don't know how they got away with calling it The Troubles. This was a civil war.
[00:40:40] Jordan Harbinger: That's a very British way to say it. Well, they're very understated, right? We have some issues over there. There are literally bodies in the streets, but yes—
[00:40:47] Barbara F. Walter: Yes.
[00:40:47] Jordan Harbinger: It's troublesome.
[00:40:48] Barbara F. Walter: But that's a really nice case in part because people think, you know, well, the United Kingdom was this very, very healthy democracy at that time. Yes and no, it was in most of the United Kingdom, it was not in Northern Ireland.
[00:41:03] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:41:03] Barbara F. Walter: Northern Ireland, London basically seeded Northern Ireland to the Protestants and said, "You can run this place pretty much any way you want as long as you keep law and order." And they were brutal towards the Catholics and it was in no means a full democracy in that particular region. And so the Catholics eventually organized to try to convince Westminster to reform, but it's also really indicative in the type of civil war you see.
[00:41:32] I think one of the reasons many people have a hard time thinking that the US could have a second civil war is that they're thinking of the 1860s version of a civil war. And people's responses, "We're not going to have two big armies with people in uniform, you know, meeting each other on a large battlefield. That's just not going to happen." And they're right, because the 21st-century civil wars that we see, especially against powerful governments with powerful militaries like you had in the UK, or like you would have here in the United States. It doesn't look like that at all.
[00:42:03] It looks like a form of insurgency where you have kind of small cells or small bands of individuals. It could be militias. It could be paramilitary groups and they generally use unconventional tactics, gorilla warfare, or terrorism. And they don't try to engage the military. They try desperately to avoid engaging the military because that's a losing proposition instead they target civilians. And that's exactly what the IRA did.
[00:42:31] Jordan Harbinger: The Irish Republican Army, yeah, they put a lot of, I mean—
[00:42:34] Barbara F. Walter: Yes.
[00:42:34] Jordan Harbinger: —among other things, bombs in garbage cans in London, which is why London has no garbage cans. Have you ever noticed that?
[00:42:40] Barbara F. Walter: No, no, I haven't.
[00:42:41] Jordan Harbinger: There's no garbage cans. Yeah, when I was there, I was like, I wanted to throw this away. No garbage cans anywhere. And you had to go into a place to do it. Like outside, they just don't have garbage cans like you would see in New York City.
[00:42:51] Barbara F. Walter: Yeah.
[00:42:51] Jordan Harbinger: And someone finally told me, yeah, well, they used to get blown up all the time. So we just removed all of them.
[00:42:56] Barbara F. Walter: Yeah. You know, the IRA or splinter groups from the IRA still exist. This is not entirely in the past. And if you look at Hamas and Israel, Israel has one of the most powerful militaries in the world. If you are a rebel group, you want to push for change in a country like that, you don't want to engage the Israeli military. You're going to turn to terrorism and that's exactly what Hamas has done over the years. So that's the type of violence we would see here in the United States if it were to happen.
[00:43:23] Jordan Harbinger: I've heard you say that Americans across the political spectrum are becoming more accepting of violence to achieve political goals. How do we know that? I mean, that's a scary statement.
[00:43:33] Barbara F. Walter: Yeah. Well, I only said that because I've been reading the polls.
[00:43:37] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:43:37] Barbara F. Walter: There have been recent polls. I'm trying to think who did the last one, which was just a couple of weeks ago, but the Pew Research Institute is polling this. Researchers at the University of California Davis have a working paper on it. And I think actually Science Magazine did a quick brief on it two or three weeks ago. Their polls are showing consistently what you just said, which is that Americans on both sides of the political aisle are more accepting of using violence under certain circumstances. And that is part of a longer trend that we have seen certainly over the last 10 years and possibly even further back.
[00:44:17] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Barbara F. Walter. We'll be right back.
[00:44:22] This episode is sponsored in part by Freshly. Holidays for me is about spending time with family and people you care about, not stuck in the kitchen, trying to whip up food/not paying attention, and burning the food to a crisp. I love Freshly for this reason. Freshly delivers ready-made meals each week and takes three minutes, whatever to heat up. It's not frozen. I repeat never been frozen and it's nutritious. They have meals that are gluten-free, dairy-free, plant-based, carb smart, calorie-conscious. I like the plant-based stuff because it's hard to make that stuff on your own kind of, at least for me. We recently gifted Freshly to a friend of ours that's going through chemo and she needs nutritious meals that require just very little effort. She's undergoing treatment. She's tired, feels like crap all the time. And she told us they're delicious. She's super grateful to have Freshly. My favorite is — and this is not, plant-based, fine, but it's the peppercorn steak and she loves the chicken tikka masala.
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[00:46:51] Now for the rest of my conversation with Barbara F. Walter.
[00:46:56] What about a place like South Africa? That place had every chance to devolve into civil war, but it didn't. Is there a model there in some way or are we just waiting for their turn at this point?
[00:47:06] Barbara F. Walter: So I love that case and I do think it's really informative. I actually have been thinking about civil war since the late 1980s. And I remember I was in a class in college and actually it was probably in the mid-80s class in college. And we're talking about where's the next civil war going to happen. It was so clear to us and the answer very quickly was it's going to be in South Africa. There's no question about it. And that's because South Africa not only did it have an apartheid regime, which was run by a minority of whites in this vast majority black country. But the apartheid regime in the face of what was essentially South Africa's version of civil rights protests, you had peaceful protests by the majority black population. In the face of those protests, they started cracking down even more aggressively.
[00:48:00] And many of your listeners will remember this, Soweto riots. They'll probably remember that famous photograph of a young black boy holding the dead body of a — I think it was a young boy or girl. And so it had come to the point that when school children went out to the streets, just peacefully demanding reform of the political system, the government sent the military in and mowed them down. That was where South Africa was. And then it changed. Wow. Why did that happen?
[00:48:34] So the business community in South Africa was also white and they were suffering under years of economic sanctions. The United States, Japan, and the European community, which were the three biggest trading partners of South Africa had placed very harsh economic sanctions on the country. And it has economically strangling businesses there. And it came to the point where the white business community had to decide, "We can either have profits or we can continue apartheid, but we cannot have both." And they chose profits. And so they very quickly went to the apartheid regime and they said, we're not going to support this any anymore. You must agree to majority rule transfer power to the majority blacks." And of course, once the government lost the support of the business community, they understood that the game was. and then you suddenly had this situation where Nelson Mandela was released from prison and very quickly the clerk transferred power to the ANC and civil war was avoided.
[00:49:39] You know, people, when they think about South Africa, they think about Nelson Mandela and what it just an extraordinary man and humanitarian, he was and that is absolutely true, but what's so interesting about South Africa is the role that the business community played. And most people don't know about that. They're the ones who ultimately decided they were no longer going to support apartheid. And of course, it wasn't because they had a change of conscience or because—
[00:50:03] Jordan Harbinger: No.
[00:50:04] Barbara F. Walter: You know, there's no altruistic motive, but they were incentivized to do that because they were losing economically in an apartheid system and that made it no longer tolerable.
[00:50:15] Jordan Harbinger: The problem with the slow boil, the factionalism, most people just don't believe in the possibility of civil war until violence is a part or a reality of their everyday life. I think there's a quote from, I don't know if this is a German after World War II but he says—
[00:50:28] Barbara F. Walter: Yeah.
[00:50:29] Jordan Harbinger: You know where I'm going with this?
[00:50:30] Barbara F. Walter: Yeah.
[00:50:30] Jordan Harbinger: "You can no more see it happening from day to day than a farmer sees the corn in his field growing. One day, it's just over your head." And that's me. And I think it's a lot of other people, because I'm like, "Oh, civil war, come on." But you're right. I was thinking of somebody playing the is the piccolo or the flute and marching with a drummer boy out in Manhattan and being like fire the cannons. I'm like, "That is just not going to happen," but you're right. It's going to be more like, "Why did this grain silo blow up? Or why did this train get derailed?" And it's going to be, we're going to see something like partisans for free trade or something or partisans for the border wall or partisans for whatever, you know, the crazy thing on the left or the right, this extremist kind of ideology. I don't even—
[00:51:12] Barbara F. Walter: Yeah.
[00:51:12] Jordan Harbinger: —know what it'll come from, but we're all going to have shocked Pikachu face and everyone else like you is going to go, "Duh, we've been saying this for 10 years. Of course, this is going to happen."
[00:51:20] Barbara F. Walter: It makes sense. It's human nature, right? We all are living our lives. We all have jobs to go to. We have kids to raise, weddings to attend. You know life is busy. And then on top of that, we don't want to think about terrible outcomes, right?
[00:51:34] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:51:35] Barbara F. Walter: You know, human beings are inherently hopeful. Like tomorrow's going to be better than today. And then on top of that, you have individuals who, who actually want to create smoke screens. They want to distract us. They don't want us to be paying attention for years. Things like Timothy McVeigh's attack in Oklahoma City was portrayed as a lone wolf attack. That this is just the result of a crazy individual. No, no, this is part of a larger, far-right, white supremacist, anti-federal government movement here in the United States. He had pages from The Turner Diaries, which is the Bible of the far right in his pickup truck. He probably was a member of one of the Michigan militias that was also involved in the attempted kidnapping of Governor Whitmer. So there is — but the problem is if you don't connect the dots, if you continuously portray this, as these are just crazy individuals, then you remain blind to what's actually the cancer that's growing slowly from within.
[00:52:33] On January 6th, my email blew up and people were asking me, "Oh my gosh. Like, what do you think? Are you surprised? What are you feeling?" And my response was I'm feeling relief and it's because people like me, who've been studying extremism around the world and here in this country, people who've been studying the rise of political violence, the increase in terrorist attacks, directed at synagogues and directed at African Americans and directed at very particular individuals. You know, we've been talking about this for years and people have not been receptive to the message because they haven't seen its existence. They found it hard to believe, but January 6th was so public. It was so obvious. It was impossible not to see that this was something that we'd never seen before.
[00:53:23] And it finally allowed this cancer, the growth of this cancer to enter the conscious of average Americans. And again, like you don't want to be surprised by civil war. You want to recognize the warning signs so that you have time to do something about it.
[00:53:40] Jordan Harbinger: These, I guess you would call them Sons of the Soil parties, are becoming more and more popular globally. In America, it tends to be rural. And maybe, I would — look, I'm not saying people who live in rural areas of America are undereducated.
[00:53:52] Barbara F. Walter: Yeah.
[00:53:52] Jordan Harbinger: So I want to clarify that before I even say this, but rural and undereducated people who are undoubtedly getting the shaft on jobs because of NAFTA benefits, healthcare.
[00:54:02] Barbara F. Walter: Yes.
[00:54:02] Jordan Harbinger: Like their situation is bad. I'm not saying it's their fault. I want to be very clear on this. Their situation is very bad.
[00:54:08] Barbara F. Walter: Yes.
[00:54:08] Jordan Harbinger: And I see this as a huge problem. Well, the other problem is it's not like there's no choice. There's no other option. We've been so misinformed in this country. We often vote against our own interests. And I feel like—
[00:54:19] Barbara F. Walter: Yeah.
[00:54:19] Jordan Harbinger: —a lot of these groups are the ones who vote against their own interests over and over and over again. And then go, "Well, our situation's still getting worse. Arm yourselves." And that's really dangerous.
[00:54:29] Barbara F. Walter: Yeah.
[00:54:29] Jordan Harbinger: Because it's not like there's no outlet for change. They just chose something else and I don't understand why. I don't understand how, I guess, it is misinformation or disinformation. Why would you choose a worse in life and then go, "You know what? This just keeps getting worse." Well, of course, it does. It's the meme where the guy's riding the bike, takes the stick and shoves it in his front wheel and falls over and says, "This is their fault."
[00:54:50] Barbara F. Walter: Yeah. Again, the way I think about what's happening within the Republican party today is I think about it that there's really two players. There's Republican leadership and there's Republican voters. And I would even break Republican voters down into moderate Republicans and those on the far right?
[00:55:08] Jordan Harbinger: Sure. You have to do that because lots of people that I know vote Republican and they are not this at all.
[00:55:14] Barbara F. Walter: Yes, exactly. So Republican leadership deserves an enormous amount of blame for what's happening. It's Republican leadership. They have a challenge. Their challenge is that starting in the 1970s, they decided that they were going to pursue a strategy where they appealed to Southern whites. So they have created a party that is predominantly white Americans, and some portion of that are very, very conservative and intolerant. But they also vote. and they also have put Republicans in positions of power for the last few decades. So their problem is that whites are a declining group in society. They're going to be a minority by 2045. And that means that in a system of a democratic system of one person, one vote, you cannot continue to win election if that's the profile, if that's the makeup of your party.
[00:56:13] And so I think what Republican leadership has realized is that they need to kind of do what Viktor Orbán did in Hungary, which is there are these legal loopholes in our system that will allow you to make voting harder. That will allow you to basically stymie any sort of legislation so that you begin to convince your citizens that democracy is inefficient. That democracy isn't working. That democracy is shutting you out of power. And what people are calling the big lie, if you add to that, that our electoral system is broken, that there's enormous fraud there, that the results of elections aren't legitimate, then you can actually convince citizens your support. That democracy isn't the best system for them. And they will actually begin to support your strategy of unraveling democracy to ensure that you can cement in your rule, even after you're no longer the majority.
[00:57:15] You know, I do think that there are many Republicans out there who truly believe that the 2020 election was stolen. That Joe Biden is an illegitimate president, that the Democrats will do everything to hold onto power because that's what they're being told. They're being told that by their politicians, they're being told that by, you know, Fox News, they're being told that in the social media sites that they go to. And so they truly believe that. And then suddenly you have a situation where they agree with the politicians. Let's get rid of democracy or let's weaken democracy because it's not a system that's working anymore.
[00:57:52] Jordan Harbinger: Is the other side blameless on this? Because whenever we have something polarizing like this, you know, you mentioned Republican leadership, polarizing means there's two poles but I'm a little uncomfortable with blaming one side for polarization—
[00:58:05] Barbara F. Walter: Yeah.
[00:58:06] Jordan Harbinger: —I guess.
[00:58:06] Barbara F. Walter: And again, you know, the Democrats have moved further to the left. They haven't moved as far to the extreme as the right have but they have certainly moved to the left. You know, you could also consider the democratic party an ethnic faction. In the same way, you consider the Republican party an ethnic faction. You know, the vast majority of African Americans are Democrats, the majority of Latinos and Asians and atheists and Jews, and non-Christians are Democrats. You know, in a country that's multiracial, multiethnic, multi-religious, the fact that you have different races and ethnicities and religions are not really overlapping significantly across the parties. It's a problem for the Democrats that they're losing white voters because you know whites still are a majority of the country and they've been gravitating towards one party since the 1970s.
[00:59:01] Jordan Harbinger: Speaking of the far right, we've seen what seems like extremist infiltration of government and law enforcement. How much of that is kind of kooky conspiracy stuff and how much of that is real? I know friends in the military that say actually far-right extremism and I'm talking about far right, I'm not talking about Republicans in the military officer corps. I'm talking about like white supremacists in—
[00:59:22] Barbara F. Walter: Yeah.
[00:59:23] Jordan Harbinger: —the Army Navy Air Force, whatever, these folks are saying, "It's a real issue," again, not conservatives, but like Nazis. Is this a thing that you're tracking at all?
[00:59:33] Barbara F. Walter: I read about it, but I don't actually, I'm not doing the data collection on it.
[00:59:36] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:59:37] Barbara F. Walter: Other good people are. But, you know, the CIA has this manual, it's called the manual for insurgency. It's actually open source. You can find it on the web. There are portions of it that are redacted, but it's really, really interesting. And it talks about the stages that a country will go through on the road to insurgency. And one of the things that they talk about is that you begin to see the nascent rebel groups, sending individuals into the military for training. That's part of their strategy, not only to gain experience with combat but also to have access to intelligence.
[01:00:16] So again, the CIA's manual is outward-looking. It's all about what should we be observing in other countries. The CIA is not allowed to study the United States. So it has nothing to do with the United States. But again, if you take that and you think, "Okay, is that happening here in the United States?" It absolutely is. You know some of the far-right militias and the three big ones currently although this is likely to change are the Oath Keepers, the Proud Boys, and the Three Percenters. We know that they have actively encouraged members to join the military, to join law enforcement for these two reasons — to gain experience, also to gain access to firearms and to understand where firearms are being stored and then also for information and reconnaissance. So that is absolutely happening here in the United States.
[01:01:04] For people who are interested in this, the person who's doing, I think some of the best work is a woman named JJ MacNab. And if you google her, you'll find her pretty quickly.
[01:01:12] Jordan Harbinger: We'll find out some more on that because I am interested in this. Because a lot of my friends who are in law enforcement, in the military, many of them are conservative Republicans and they'll tell me things like, "Yeah, I'm a little worried because there's like these kooky guys in here."
[01:01:24] Barbara F. Walter: Yeah.
[01:01:25] Jordan Harbinger: Look, I got a lot of left-leaning listeners and a lot on the right and we disagree on stuff, the left and the right all the time. What I don't want people to do is tune out and go, "Oh, he's just blaming Republicans for everything."
[01:01:36] Barbara F. Walter: Yeah.
[01:01:36] Jordan Harbinger: The majority of people that I know who vote Republican are very concerned about this because people they associate with a lot are often the people that tend to put one foot into this camp, whether they're in law enforcement or the military, or they're just voting for more extreme things. I have a lot of people write in that say, "Hey, I'm a Republican, I'm a Christian gal or guy, but my parents are just telling me stuff that is bat sh*t crazy." They live in Albuquerque and they go back and they visit their town in New Mexico or wherever and they just go, "What happened here? Everyone's being a psycho. The things we talk about make no sense." Those of us that are more conservative are on the front lines of this and seeing it much more closely than somebody like me, who's kind of in the center and is like, "Is this a real thing?" and then you talk to people on the extreme other side and they're like, "Oh, it's all the right's fault." And it's like, "Well, you know what? I don't really trust what they say because of course everything is always the right's fault if they're like hardcore on the left." And so it's been confusing for people like me because we don't always see it. And we are the people who are slowly boiling in the pot.
[01:02:39] Barbara F. Walter: Yeah. And both of my parents were lifelong Republicans until recently. You know, I grew up in a household where we had the Reagan calendar every year in our kitchen. And then we had the Bush calendar and I worked for the CIA for a number of years. But I also think it's incorrect to say that both sides are equally dangerous at this point. One side is pursuing anti-democratic measures. They really are trying to weaken our democracy. And when elements of that side are also actively organizing.
[01:03:13] And two days ago, when Mar-a-Lago was raided, if you looked on the chat rooms, the references to civil war just went through the roof. You know, that's not coming from all sides of society. That's coming from a very particular part of society. And again, as somebody who studies civil war, it's coming from the part of society that we would expect it to. It is the group that is in decline. And that is most threatened by the changes that are, are occurring demographically here in the United States.
[01:03:45] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. Another feel-good episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show, hey, everybody.
[01:03:49] Barbara, can you leave us with some advice here? Is there a positive note in this?
[01:03:54] Barbara F. Walter: There is a positive note. Again, you know, countries that have these two factors, that are both a partial democracy and have these ethnic parties, these tribal parties. We know that they have about a four percent annual risk of civil war. That seems like it's low but it's not. It means that every year that those two features continue in a country, the risks increases, but it also means that we have time, right? We actually know the risk factors. We know that the United States is kind of in dangerous territory. It gives us time to strengthen our democracy.
[01:04:28] And I think the fact that this book resonated so much, the fact that we're even having this discussion, the fact that people are paying such close attention to the January 6th hearings means that American citizens are now paying attention and are now beginning to ask, like, what can we do? And again, let me just say probably the most important thing people can do is to vote. For example, people think Kentucky is a deep red state. All we know is that Kentucky is a non-voting state. And you could say that about almost every state in this country. There's a huge portion of the American population that's standing on the sidelines and not voting. And if they were to go out and vote, we would have a very different outcome.
[01:05:10] Jordan Harbinger: Barbara, thank you so much for taking the time and doing the show. I know I've given you a little bit of a hard time and I appreciate you being a good sport as well.
[01:05:18] Barbara F. Walter: Oh, it's my pleasure. Thank you for having me.
[01:05:22] Jordan Harbinger: I've got some thoughts on this one as usual but before I get into that, here's a preview with the 26th National Security Advisor, General H.R. McMaster on the greatest threats to the United States. Here's a preview.
[01:05:35] H.R. McMaster: War is this continuous interaction of opposites, right? You and maybe multiple entities and adversaries inside of a complex environment, you have to understand strategic empathy to try to view these complex competitions from the perspective of the other.
[01:05:52] Jordan Harbinger: Do you think our divisions domestically right now are one of the greatest threats to our national security?
[01:05:57] H.R. McMaster: Absolutely, Jordan, they are. And you know, our adversaries are doing everything they can to exploit them. I mean, Russia's masterful at this. When we were attacked on 9/11, you know, Al-Qaeda didn't target Democrats or Republicans, right?
[01:06:11] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:06:11] H.R. McMaster: They targeted Americans. Now I think it's time to really demand real reforms, you know? And if teachers' unions are an obstacle, we've got to tell them, "Hey, you can't obstruct reform anymore." And we need to demand it. The fact that we're driven apart from each other, based on these divisions in our society, what social media is doing to us, by driving us apart with these algorithms to show you just more and more stream information that based on your pre-elections, the fact that, you know, if you are of one political persuasion, you watch one TV network speaker, and somebody of a different political persuasion watches a different one, you're creating two different realities.
[01:06:43] We're doing this to ourselves, Jordan, we got to stop. You know, we got to stop it. So let's think about let's work together to make our Republic better every day. And there are some who don't want to do that. They think that. "Hey, you can't even empathize. You're not even allowed to empathize." It's a real tragedy.
[01:06:59] Jordan Harbinger: For more including General H.R. McMaster's thoughts on immigration and climate change, check out episode 410 on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:07:08] Like I said disturbing but also not totally hopeless. It makes sense that when people lose elections, sometimes they think they might win next year. But if they think they will never win again, they will never regain power, then they start to lose hope and that can spark violence. Kind of scary, given the rhetoric on both sides of the aisle these days.
[01:07:29] The United States now has as much factionalism as Ukraine and Iraq. When you hear that, do you think, "Well, two countries doing great right now, nothing to worry about here"? The comparison here, really, this is not an exaggeration — does this mean the left and the right in the United States are supposedly about as factionalized as the Russians and the Ukrainians are in Ukraine? That is a question that some academics are debating, but either way, you look at it, not a good sign, scary stuff right there.
[01:07:54] But how does all of this lead to armed conflict? Well, in the early stages, groups will buy arms and link up with one another to make other groups feel insecure, to gain power, which then causes those groups to buy arms and link up to feel more secure, causing the other groups to then ratchet things up. And often you have foreign interference in the mix here. And then at the end of it all, you have large armed groups that are afraid of one another, and that is not good.
[01:08:19] The book is really interesting. It gives a lot of examples of different countries and different regions throughout modern history that have experienced civil wars and analyzes the contributing factors. I thought it was a good read. It sounds like what we need to do here in the United States is make sure that the grievances of people who are attracted to extremism are addressed.
[01:08:38] So if we are worried about people in the inner city gravitating towards, let's say left-wing extremism, then we need to address those concerns. If we're worried about rural folks being drawn into extremist ideology, then we need to address their concerns as well. Basically, we need to reduce the draw of extremist groups by addressing the concerns of those who would become radicalized. It seems like doing a lot to increase education, healthcare, addiction, stagnating wages, unemployment in certain groups and things along those lines would do a lot to stabilize our country but according to some, that's crazy talk as well.
[01:09:13] If you're interested in factionalism and social media and misinformation, check out our episode with Renee DiResta that's episode 420. Also, we've got a whole playlist on disinformation over at jordanharbinger.com/start. It's worth studying and looking into.
[01:09:28] Big thank you to Barbara F. Walter. All links to all of her books and work will be in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com. Books always link up at jordanharbinger.com/books. Please use our website links if you buy books from any guests on the show. It does help support what we do here. Transcripts in the show notes, videos on YouTube. Advertisers, deals, and discount codes, all at jordanharbinger.com/deals. Please consider supporting those who support this show and make it possible. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn.
[01:09:59] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships, maybe even across the aisle. Speaking of reaching across the aisle, I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using the same software, systems, and tiny habits that I use every single day. That's our Six-Minute Networking course. The course is free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Dig the well before you get thirsty, who knows? Hopefully, we can avoid civil war by bringing the world a little bit closer. Most of the guests on the show actually subscribe to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[01:10:27] Hey, and at worst case, maybe you'll find somebody who has an underground bunker. You can put your family in during the next conflagration. I hope I'm kidding about that.
[01:10:35] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who's been thinking about this, talking about this, or is in denial about this, definitely share this episode with them. The greatest compliment you can give us is to share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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