Still fresh in our minds is the memory of the vile and battle-ready mob of mostly middle-aged white men who assaulted Congress on Jan. 6, 2021. Many in this mob attacked Capitol police, injuring more than 140 officers, as they attempted to forfeit the peaceful transfer of presidential power.
Just months before we witnessed some of the largest protests in our nation’s history. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands marched in solidarity declaring Black Lives Matter, disrupting street intersections and at times vandalizing property. BLM protests systemic unjust and unequal treatment by some in law enforcement.
The residents surrounding the Canadian Capital complex in Ottawa, Canada, have been experiencing truck horns sounding and impassable intersections day and night for two weeks. The Ambassador Bridge, linking Windsor, Canada, with Detroit, clogged with big rigs, creating an impasse that is just being cleared.
This chaos is caused by anti-vaxxers who are making their desires known to end mask mandates and lift COVID-19 vaccine requirements.
Protests are nothing new. But there is something different about recent protests. We are witnessing something we have not seen in our generation.
Rarely in the past have we seen so much rancor, intensity, and pure anger in so many places for so long. In the past protests were not uncommon, but the level of anger, outrage and commitment has recently moved to a fevered pitch.
We know the reason why the intensity is so high: the media.
Social media, conservative talk shows, cable and podcasts are pushing people to the edge by design. Our national intelligence agencies have reported that even foreign adversaries like Russia, North Korea and Iran are employing social media campaigns to gin up discontent and promote chaos.
Printed words never generate the kind of emotional frenzy as can impassioned faces on screen or desperate voices over the airwaves.
Modern messengers on social media and cable TV have learned to both motivate and profit from the ability to harness, cultivate, channel and direct hate.
Hate appears to be the new currency of our society.
Media that channel hate get bigger and more committed audiences, high viewer ratings and reshape our elections.
If I am screaming now with these words you see in print you would not hear me.
But if I scream about something “being taken away” or “stolen from us” or “being replaced by illegal migrants” on YouTube or on a talk show, you would feel my passion and possibly empathize with my plea for action.
Humans, despite our creative side, compassion and altruistic nature, we are also creatures of other emotions. Many easily succumb to manipulation through messages of fear and hate.
Some social media venues outright lie that we may be stirred up and manipulated. Trapped by a cycle of emotion, viewers experience anger and frustration, go back to hear the same lies again and again to reinforce these emotions.
Now, more than ever, many are hyper-motivated and quite willing to damage, burn, assail, deny the rights of others, and sometimes inflict injury to bystanders, ironically usually about their rights and the rights of others.
The sad part is that vandalism, arson, assault or even attempted murder are not only crimes, but their commission diminishes the likelihood their viewpoint will be embraced.
In other words, too much passion and causing too much disruption ends up distorting the very message a protest group is trying to promote.
How do we resist this most recent phenomena of extreme emotions?
This starts with each one of us. Whenever we feel anger to the point of hatred, acknowledge that the solution will be hindered if this hate morphs into violence and destruction. While screaming out you cannot hear a reasonable reply.
Second, attempt to disconnect from those selling hate and anger. Recognize that if you feel upset after what Fox or Newsmax just announced, you are likely a victim of their fear and hate-formatted programming.
Third, recognize resolving issues requires finding common ground and acting with mutual respect. If the goal is to create change, then presenting civility offers a better path.
Finally, embrace a higher road. Jesus of Nazareth, the Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and our most venerated figures of history are all known for non-violence. Offering compassion for the opposition represents a higher form of human nature.
While at times war and violent action may be a necessity, these should be our last choices to moving our society forward.
I wish you peace and calmness as we resolve our differences together.
Jonathan Kraut directs a private investigations agency, is the CEO of a private security firm, is the COO of an accredited acting conservatory, a published author, and Democratic Party activist. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or of other organizations.