Incubator for Political Violence and Hate: Inside Parler

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS EXTREMELY OFFENSIVE, RACIST, ANTI-SEMITIC, AND GENERALLY UPSETTING CONTENT. IF YOU’RE HAVING A BAD DAY, YOU MAY WANT TO COME BACK ANOTHER TIME.

I have created this post so others may see the content on Parler without having to create an account.

The longstanding cry of the Right is that they are censored by political correctness and social media is biased against their views. So, finally, the Right gave itself the liberty it wanted. In a mass exodus from Twitter and Facebook we can see first hand the ideas and expressions that the Right felt should remain open for public discourse. I leave it to the reader to decide what value to society is generated by providing a space for the public expression these ideas.

While the public harm that will come from the widespread expression of these heinous views is obvious, just as concerning will be the contribution to rising political extremism and violence. The literature on echo chambers (which is what Parler is) is quite clear on its effects: It creates extremism. Not only do some individuals adopt views that push the boundaries of the extremes but the entire group becomes more extreme. Several mechanisms explain this.

First, Social Comparison Theory holds that individuals will adopt more extreme views than the group average in order to gains social acceptance. This means that, within social groups, individuals will compete to signal who is the more ardent adherent of the group’s beliefs and values. This recursive effect leads to extremism of belief and action within homogenous groups.

Second, homogenous groups silence dissenting voices. This means that important information and viewpoints that might correct and moderate a group’s views are absent or dismissed.

Third, and related to the second, moderate voices get pushed out of the group. After being repeatedly shouted down, the more reasonable people will sign off, leaving only the most extreme members. The combination of all three mechanisms creates a runaway upward spiral of progressively more radical beliefs which, I can assure you, will terminate in politically motivated violence.

Finally, Parler further exacerbates social sorting–the process by which various social identities become aligned under a single social identity. For example, the social identities conservative, Christian evangelical, working class, and white have all largely converged under the social category ‘Republican.’ If I know that a person belongs to any one of the 5 social identities, I can predict that they belong to the others with reasonable confidence. As Lilian Mason demonstrates in Uncivil Agreement, social sorting drives social polarization–i.e., the affective distance between groups–from which three important phenomena emerge:

Partisan prejudice: When two groups perceive themselves to be in competition, they treat each other with bias and prejudice.

Status preservation: Those who strongly identify with a social group are more likely to act to defend it to preserve group status.

Intergroup Emotions Theory/Emotional Reactivity: The most strongly identified group members will feel increased anger in the face of threat. The greater the degree of social sorting—especially when sorting occurs along multiple identities—the greater the social polarization, and the greater the magnitude of the effects of polarization.

Given the baseline intolerant beliefs and the culture of violence already endemic in large portions of rightwing culture, their concentration on a single platform will be nothing short of catastrophic. Two years from now, Liberals will reminisce fondly on the halcyon days when the Right got their news from “benign” Fox News. Sadly, a significant increase in rightwing political violence is inevitable.

The upshot here is that if you took the all the research on extremism, polarization, and online environments and used it to engineer the perfect environment for political extremism, intolerance, and political violence you would have created Parler.

A caveat: Obviously, not all people on the political right hold racist views. Many are decent people who want the best for their fellow citizens regardless of race or religion. However, on Parler a disproportionate number do not hold benevolent views. The problem is that the dynamics of echo chambers tell us that those that enter Parler with moderate views will either be radicalized rightward or leave. This is the danger. There will always be political lunatics of all stripes. The problem is when they become large in number and hold political power.

A note on the gallery. I didn’t have to dig around for this content. It was everywhere. There was worse but I couldn’t bring myself to post it. And after you see what I have posted, you will find that shocking in itself.

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