A New Civil War?

John Shirley
2 min readFeb 28, 2021

Sadly, what happened on January 6th, 2020–gibbering louts, gullible Qanon stooges and white supremacists invading the Capitol Bldg–is probably only a prelude. White nationalists and their conspiracy-theorizing allies will not go away; probably not for a generation. These people are deeply entrenched in their fantasy world. They have guns (who doesn’t?) and while tottering about in their psychological VR, they can twitchily squeeze the triggers of real firearms that will have an effect in the real world. They can make pipe bombs; they can drive explosive-laden trucks into buildings. They can emulate Timothy McVeigh and other mass murderers.

The New American Civil War may be fought on relatively small, discrete battlefields scattered about the US Capitol and state capitols. Unless a faction of the American military splits off under some “General Jack D. Ripper”, a lunatic officer with fanatic followers in the ranks, there won’t be much army-vs-army, per se, in this civil war. But blood will flow. There will be white-nationalist militia attacks; there will bombings, and massacres carried out by extremist right-wing murderers. Viet Cong style operations may arise in some places–but instead of VC it’ll be American racists, misled veterans, and Qanon “believers” who will discover to their dismay that combat is not like a video game. They will all be defeated. But in the meantime there will be horror; pulses of severe social chaos.

Experiments in secession are not unlikely. I predict attempts by right-wing extremists and white nationalists to declare “truth zones” (actually, Lie Zones); towns, even counties, where their racist conspiracy-theory memes and “sovereign citizen” falsehoods are for a time imposed in local laws, and schooling. “We declare Trumptown to be a free state…” These localized secessions will not stand. All such endeavors will crumble. But some urban–and suburban–warfare may be necessary to rescue sane people from armed and violent buffoons. Even now, “Five Oregon counties will ask voters in the next election whether they want to detach from the deep-blue state and join neighboring red-state Idaho.”

This spotty Civil War, an outbreak of shingles on the body politic, will be vectored by the Big Lie, fed by the fever swamps of the internet, especially the lie that “Trump was elected”…But in the antebellum South, the original American civil war was itself fueled by lies: “Slavery is natural, Negroes are inferior, the Yankees are enslaving us and they’ll steal our land.” Today, neo-racist lies in the wilderness of the internet spread like the media version of zoonotic diseases.

A cultural pandemic…We can vaccinate people, especially children, against that cultural pandemic, starting now, if we systematically teach critical thinking; if we vigorously espouse a return to standard, reputable news sources, and valid resources of historicity. . .

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John Shirley

Author of numerous novels, including Demons, City Come A-Walkin’, Stormland and the A Song Called Youth Cyberpunk trilogy. Winner of the Bram Stoker Award.