I was discussing political violence recently with a friend who is progressive, and he said we are sliding towards civil war--a point I disagreed with.

I asked him to provide an example of political violence in America beyond his initial example of the January 6th Capitol riot. He argued that all violence from hate crimes--i.e. racial, religious, etc.--are a form of political violence. Though I feel that's not really accurate, I didn't really have a great counterpoint to that.

This may seem silly, but any advice on how I might be able to get my friend to consider that we're not sliding towards civil war?

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Hi Alex. This is a complicated topic because, while actual war seems unlikely, it's definitely clear that something is wrong in the way people across the isle are relating. I'd point to two types of evidence that maybe large scale violence isn't imminent:

First, the references we linked to above about support for political violence. Most surveys are not well done, and when you do careful surveys you find support is quite low, maybe a few percent. See https://reason.com/2022/01/06/was-the-capitol-riot-really-the-opening-battle-of-a-civil-war/

Second, we all think the other side is much more extreme than it actually is. This is known as a the perception gap. We're actually a lot closer together on the key issues than we think we are!


Thanks for your support!

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Jun 28, 2023Liked by Jonathan Stray

Thanks for the reply! I will definitely send him this perception gap quiz. (Just took it myself, fascinating!) I will continue to gently pushback against my friend's extreme views on extremism!

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