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Conspiracy Culture has More of Us Thinking Violence May Be Needed to Fix America

Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

For all of our concerns about international terrorism, new studies reveal a disturbing number of domestic indicators that are akin to, as an old movie title goes, “The Killer is in the House.”

I’m talking about trends reported in a new Washington think-tank study showing a dramatic surge in the number of Americans who think violence is the answer to the country’s problems.

Nearly a fourth of Americans (23%) agree that “things have gotten so far off track” that “true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”

Although that slice might not seem like a large percentage, it shows major growth over the 15% who shared that view two years ago.

It also tends to confirm what keen observers noticed much earlier: The MAGA (“Make America Great Again”) movement that Donald Trump created has radicalized multitudes and set expectations that cannot easily be contained in a voting booth.

The study by the Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with the left-leaning Brookings Institution surveyed more than 2,500 Americans on such familiar hot-button issues as abortion, gun laws, QAnon, immigration and election integrity — particularly in regard to Trump’s insistence, despite a profound lack of credible evidence, that the 2020 election was stolen.

 

PRRI has asked that political violence question in eight surveys since March 2021, and this is the first time support for political violence exceeded 20%.

The differences unsurprisingly followed familiar party lines: A full third of Republicans, compared with only 13% of Democrats, agreed on the possible need for “true American patriots” to resort to violence.

And believers in QAnon conspiracy theories — think Democratic Party-led child-sex trafficking rings and elaborate “deep state” plots — jumped from 14% to 23% of Americans, the survey found., Republicans are twice as likely as Democrats to give credence to them.

I thought of a news report I read as the suspect being hunted in connection with the mass shooting that left at least 18 people dead in Lewiston, Maine, was quickly identified as an Army reservist. As an Army veteran myself, I would note that it was way too soon for anyone to jump to conclusions about the suspect’s guilt or innocence, especially based only on their military experience — or lack of it.

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