How the swarm redefined "democracy" to wage war on enemies and maintain cohesion.
The term “democracy” or the “defense of democracy” became the focus of the networked opposition to Trump and Trumpism after January 6th, 2021. Specifically, it allowed the networked swarm to target election denial as anti-democratic agitation and the Capitol riot as an anti-democratic insurrection. It was effective in that role.
However, due to network tribal dynamics, the pattern of words and behaviors categorized as anti-democratic sprawled. Soon, it wasn’t just a method of opposing specific behaviors anymore; it and associated terms (fascist, authoritarian, etc.) became a catch-all for targets of the networked swarm.
Most recently, the Democrats used it to label the Republicans during the mid-terms. The Republican party wasn’t just the opposition party anymore; it was cast as an anti-democratic or fascist threat. “If we don’t stop the Republicans, we’ll lose our democracy.” “Democracy is on the ballot - Biden.” This is something we will see again in 2024 and beyond.
Last spring, it was used to generate the gleichschaltung required to justify a new cold war with Russia (and soon, China). Ukraine wasn’t just the location of a regional war; it was transformed into an existential defense of democracy on par with the early days of WW2. “If we don’t stop them here, a fascist Russia will take over Europe just like Germany.”
What democracy isn’t
That’s not all. The more we dig into how “defending democracy” is used, the more inconsistencies we find in the superficial narrative.
It isn’t a defense of democratic institutions as was claimed after Jan 6th. We saw that most clearly with how the Supreme Court became an “enemy of democracy” when the court became conservative.
It isn’t a defense of the popular vote, denied by a corrupt anti-democratic system, as we saw after the 2016 elections. The Republicans won the popular vote in the 2022 mid-terms by 3 million votes. Still, when that same federated structure yielded lackluster results, given the margin of popular support at the national level, it was deemed a win for democracy.
It also wasn’t anger against the anti-democratic distortion caused by social media algorithms on electoral outcomes, as we saw in 2016. The swarm’s pressure on social networking companies to build policies, algorithms, and AIs that muted public discussions that would have benefited Trump in 2020 and the Republicans in 2022, was justified as a defense of democracy.
Defending Democracy as a Catch-all
The “defense of democracy” isn’t just a way for the swarm to characterize the immediate opposition in the US and abroad. You can see elements of it in the following: