Reprinted with permission from DailyKos
Parler, the Twitter-like social-media platform, only exists to service the American right's paranoia-fueled persecution complex, especially the belief that mainstream platforms censor their ideas. After all, it was created ostensibly to give people who had been banned from Twitter or Facebook a new home.
So it's probably not a surprise that, in the post-election period, it's become a massive cesspool of violent seditious rhetoric advocating for a military coup to defend Donald Trump's presidency, and a civil war in which many of them say they intend to murder every liberal in the country.
In some quarters of Parler, the rhetoric has run strongly in support of Trump, who they believe has had the election stolen from him, echoing his own claims:
Only possible solution is Martial Law NOW. Declare current election illegal. Set January 3 as new election date, ballots must be in by that date, all other voting IN PERSON WITH PROPER ID in precinct you are registered in.
Wow. America as we thought we know, is over.
We must know recognize that there is no Democracy, not Republic. It's all a façade.
What's next? Resistance. In ALL forms.
I see no moral reason to limit resistance to legal means. We've lived enough under a two-tiered justice system. Enough is enough.
We have a 2nd Amendment. The situation we find ourselves in is precisely why we've fought all these years to preserve it.
Others, such as the user known as "ghost ops," have moved into the planning stages of violence:
On January 20th we need to start systematically assassinating #liberal leaders, liberal activists, #blm leaders and supporters, members of the #nba #nfl #mlb #nhl #mainstreammedia anchors and correspondents and #antifa. I already have a news worthy event planned.
Alex Newhouse at The Conversation observes that Parler's popularity exploded after the election, doubling its membership to 10 million users in November alone. The app was one of Apple's top downloads. However, Gizmodo also reports that the spike was short-lived, with downloads sharply declining in December.
There have been several attempts to create a "total free speech" platform hospitable to right-wing hate speech, most memorably Gab. None have succeeded so far, for several clear reasons beyond simply being wonky and unwieldy interfaces: for starters, the platforms attracted violent extremists such as Pittsburgh killer Robert Bowers, who openly planned and discussed their killing sprees there; for another, their relatively small sizes made them into ideological echo chambers with very little reach or impact. Gab in particular became known as White Nationalist Central and nothing else.
In contrast, Parler attracted a number of high-profile early adopters from the Trumpian right's supposed mainstream—people like Candace Owens, Brad Parscale, and Sean Hannity, who were soon followed by elected Republican officials such as Senator Mike Lee of Utah, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, and Rep. Devin Nunes of California, as well as White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. Its user base remained tiny—fewer than a million—until early 2020.
The rush to Parler became intense during the post-election period, particularly as Twitter and Facebook attempted to crack down on the spread of misinformation about the election, primarily emanating from conspiracist "Stop the Steal" movement. As those platforms began banning groups disseminating false election claims, they all began setting up camp at Parler, and drawing large numbers of participants along the way. Still, even at 10 million users, it is dwarfed by Twitter and its estimated 330 million users.
The worldview on Parler is a conspiracist alternative universe: Trump won in a landslide, but the victory was stolen by a wide-ranging alliance of evildoers, ranging from ballot-counting software companies to a host of Democrats and, of course, the "deep state."
Most of all, it has become the social-media home of a variety of unabashed white supremacists, anti-Semites, and raging misogynists, many of whose contributions are monitored by the Twitter account Fascist Parler Watch. These extremists regularly rub shoulders with and amplify Parler's ostensibly more mainstream Republican contributors.
Some of these figures become centers of conspiracist activity on Parler—notably, sometime Donald Trump attorney Lin Wood, who in addition to being a QAnon enthusiast has also become a vocal advocate of Trump invoking the Insurrection Act to nullify the election. His posts are unapologetically seditious:
Our country is headed to civil war. A war created by 3rd party bad actors for their benefit – not for we the people.
Communist China is leading the nefarious efforts take away our freedom. @realDonaldTrump should declare martial law.
This US election is a treasonous coup. Only force can defend the United States. There is no coup that can be resolved peacefully in the world.
His fans and followers responded predictably:
Let's rock this country like it's 1776 again.
Yep locked and loaded for Trump and America
We are prepared. Let's get this shit over with. God bless us all. TO THE DEATH.
In days past, God had complete tribes eliminated to stop them. Just saying.
Enacting Martial law to arrest those evils is the most correct action now. Going through honest and fair election process founded by our founding fathers is naïve after the coup.
Get your AR-15 out of the cabinet. Clean it and keep it well oiled. Get more ammo. You will need it sooner than later.
Patriots must be given street immunity. We will fight but we must be given power to do so.
Time for Trump to use the Red Phone. Militias should move into D.C. to protect and defend USA. Emergency war powers.
Patriots do your homework as Lin gave us. This is not fraud this is TREASON against our United States. Foreign countries WERE involved! Our President CAN'T leave office under any circumstances until this makes its way through the US Supreme Court. This is an act of WAR! Heavy politicians ARE involved! Judges ARE involved! Soldiers HAVE lost their lives in this matter! Give us liberty or give us death. Defend at all cost!
The upside in all this is that, despite Parler's growth, the spread of the toxic rhetoric has been limited. As the Washington Post notes, the efforts by Facebook and Twitter to clamp down on dis- and misinformation has at least had an effect: More mainstream news is now appearing in the ranking of top shared articles on both platforms, whereas right-wing outlets had dominated on them for some time.
And as Gizmodo reports, the early November surge in Parler app downloads has slowed to a trickle: "In other words, it appears to be a blip." The unanswered question is whether the spread of violent rhetoric through Parler will likewise fade away, or grow more intense in the coming weeks and months.
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