The more I consume social media content on various platforms, the more people I see with varying opinions. It’s hard not to get yourself sucked into the algorithm of like-minded thinking, losing the diversity that we need to see the bigger picture. For some reason, the content that I’m accustomed to continues to flow my way, yet the person sitting next to me is having a completely different curated experience. So I seek out new perspectives to find out what pieces I’m missing to this complicated puzzle.
A Critical Turning Point in Our Country Today
Last week on January 6, 2021, our Capitol in Washington DC was infiltrated by misdirected people who think they are fighting for the freedoms we already have. The middle management team of this global operation doesn’t even realize the real objective of the dangerous people orchestrating this from the top. They are awaiting instructions from these unknown “military generals” that are radicalizing their thoughts.
The very democracy we already have is at stake because of the rhetoric being fed to well-meaning “patriots” over something that has not happened nor is in the works to happen. We are not anywhere close to the ideologies of Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, or the like. The fabric in our nation’s laws, traditions, and our Constitution is stronger than these trumped-up conspiracies.
The supposed cast of characters on this world stage:
GI JOE (JILL): The disillusioned military veteran
- Men and sometimes women who are no longer active-duty US military
- Likely has served overseas and potentially has experienced trauma
- Have not found their way to a fulfilling civilian life after active duty
- Dutiful, loyal, ready to fight for freedom
- Awaiting instructions and using quick tactics to create new social media accounts and pass the message around to recruit support
- Believing fully without question in those who have captured their attention that they are being censored and fooled
- They believe their tactics are cunning and sly, but their methods are obvious and easily detected
- People following them are commenting, “Trump is our God!”, “AMEN!”, “Trump will save us!”
REAL HOUSEWIFE OF WHATEVER: The SAHM, wealthy by inheritance or by marriage, or spicy career woman who is making her way in the world
- Doesn’t want her money used to help others, unless they are like her or she chooses exactly who she helps, rather than sharing with humankind without judgment
- Lives comfortably and keeps up appearances
- Has not experienced poverty in her life, either directly or indirectly, even on a week-long mission trip
- Gives to charities and/or organizes events, but doesn’t get up close and personal with recipients or perpetrators of abuse
- Likely white, goes to church on Sunday, does the “right” thing
- Thinks her hard work pays off
- Believes others who struggle are not working hard enough
- Turns her nose up a lot at the idea of white privilege, which really means white advantage
- Does not do well with personal discomfort. Think temperature, hunger, shelter, thirst
- Fears losing status
BIBLE THUMPER: Religious zealot of Christian or Catholic faith usually, fundamentalist in nature
- Eternal salvation is a theme
- Religious, attends church regularly, asks for forgiveness
- A pastor who preaches politics from the pulpit
- Cultish behavior
- Uses the Bible as a weapon to justify behavior
SUPREMACIST (WHITE OR CLASS): Comes in all shapes and sizes
- Politician or corporate executive, someone powerful
- Typically misogynistic
- Often wants his wife in the home
- Abusive relationships around money, control, guns
- Working-class poor, often called white trash or redneck, feels marginalized
- Middle-class white
- Unwilling or unable to see past racial, gender, or class division
- Denies systemic injustices against BIPOC and refuses to even try to empathize
EMPATHS: Those with omnipresent perspective
- Goes above and beyond
- Healers, therapists, social workers
- Healthcare workers
- Focuses on personal development
MARGINALIZED: Those caught between a rock and a hard place dealing with systems designed against them
- Religious, but not fundamental
Who is calling the shots?
How can just a few people use their power to manipulate the masses?
When Trump won the Presidency in 2016, the division had already begun. Hillary Clinton was a polarizing figure as much as Trump, which is why she went toe-to-toe with him in the Election. Hillary had been attacked since her husband ran for President. Her reputation is that Republicans love to work with her once she’s on the job, as she is able to work across party lines and get things done to benefit everyone through compromise. But run against her? She’s painted as a devil, for she wields power over world leaders who know she is onto their games. Regardless of anyone’s specific opinion of her, she has never been convicted of any wrongdoing, just accused of many unproven theories.
Social Media Chaos is the Medium
With known Russian interference in the 2016 election, Campaign Analytica’s data gathering, and Facebook’s breach of security, a brilliant marketing campaign backed by money and strategy was born. Knowing how digital marketing and audience targeting work, I can clearly see how information gets spread via the algorithms to pigeon-hole people into the character descriptions above.
I recently performed a market research analysis on the content that people consume online in this article entitled What Kind of World Do We Want to Leave for our Kids?. I explored the type of content Americans consume online broken down by religious and political affiliations using tools readily available on Facebook.
Disruptive content not only sells, it also transforms people’s thinking. The more we are spoon-fed exactly what the doctor ordered, the more we will believe in its nutritional value.
Disinformation and Diversionary Tactics
Over the last 4 years, the United States has been subjected to disinformation and diversionary tactics with the main goals to be:
- To erode trust in age-old systems, such as media, education, or government,
- To use scare tactics to threaten religious freedom, racial equality, LGBTQ rights, or gun rights,
- To create false narratives around perceptions of who people are, to label people with mutually exclusive traits having no gray areas, or attaching personal choices and ideals to political parties.
When people are so staunch in their beliefs, it’s difficult for them to see any other perspective. They feel attacked, like a stubborn teenage girl with daddy issues who falls in love with the bad boy. She clings tighter and tighter the more she’s told her choice is the wrong one. Or the uneducated being made fun of for their grammar, appearance, or social status. Instead of seeing reason, they cling to the narrative that makes them feel justified.
What makes a belief something to be fought for to the core? The ideals that coincide or collide with our values, such as individual freedoms, faith, and cultural traditions, are what we take a stand for or against the most. We’ll do anything to protect these things, even more than we will protect our own family members. It’s a means of survival, self-preservation. So if we are led to think that our values are being compromised, our stance to defend them becomes rock solid.
Thoughts, Feelings, Actions, Outcomes
This entire concept goes back to the typical “Thoughts >> Feelings >> Actions >> Outcomes” model.
Thoughts evoke emotions. Emotions provoke actions. Actions create change (or support the status quo).
Good marketing triggers emotions. Emotions create buyers, advocates, voters, protestors, activists, rioters, rebels, insurgents. When these things conflict with each other…or we think they conflict, trouble brews.
The Syrian Civil War
Let’s take a look at Syria over the last decade. On March 15, 2011, labeled The Syrian Day of Rage, Arab Spring protests quickly turned into an all-out civil war by July. This was around the same time when I was considering going to Damascus with a friend from Turkey. She had recently visited there with her daughters, who had played soccer with my daughters here in Nashville before moving back to Elazig. Because we wanted to visit her family in Turkey, this seemed like a great side trip to take as well. I started following an American ex-pat blogger who was living in Damascus who loved the city, its people, the cuisine. Syria was a robust country in the Middle East that had been considered safe for travelers.
But everything changed with an uprising from rebels that opposed Assad, the Syrian president. Confusion broke out as fast as the war between brothers began. No one could really understand what was happening from the outside looking in, and no one inside the country knew which way was up anymore. Neighbors could not trust neighbors. The US did not want to get involved, as it was believed that the risks would outweigh the benefits, potentially leaving a more unstable situation in its wake. “Too often, U.S. interventions have not been effective. In many cases, they have done more harm than good,” according to an article by Steven Heydemann, Nonresident Senior Fellow — Foreign Policy, Center for Middle East Policy.
Without reliving the atrocities of the time, such as the horrific chemical warfare believed to be administered by Assad on his own people, today there are approximately “5.6 million refugees, and another 6.2 million people are displaced within Syria,” per World Vision, an organization that provides aid to children and families. It’s a true tragedy.
Vanilla ISIS Enters the Picture
By 2013, ISIL, also known as the Islamic State in Iraq, formed ISIS, the Islamic State in Syria to terrorize from within. The reason the moniker “Vanilla ISIS” is being given to Q’anon conspiracy theorists in the United States is due to the similarities in how the faction was born. The people targeted to believe these theories are military veterans, white working-class poor, religious people, yet the rhetoric stinks of far-right extremist and white supremacist ideas with the intent to convince others that Democrats, liberals, people of color, immigrants, and even political independents are against them to create a socialist society.
With Donald Trump as a Republican President who has spoken to the fears of his base, the others involved have been crowd-sourced to grow a larger, loyal following. These people have been led to believe that their freedoms are at stake, which has drummed up fear of losing them to opposite-end extremes.
In reality, most people want the same things, yet they are being led to believe their neighbors cannot be trusted and that basic foundational rights for everyone will erode US democracy. It’s happening on both sides of the aisle. The belief is that social media has been infiltrated by Russia, Iran, and possibly China to push people further into their hard-line stances. Some believe that China is being painted as the fall-guy with COVID-19 since they objected to removing Assad with military action from Syria, seeing it as Western aggression.
Regardless, we are in trouble in this country.
No matter which countries are at fault, sowing division within a sovereign nation is an atrocity in itself. The President’s antagonistic button-pushing and well-documented fabrications have only served to further deepen mistrust of our government, our neighbors, co-workers, friends, and even family members. This is dangerous regardless of what anyone’s political beliefs are or what they think about the pandemic, the protests, or anything else divisive. The level of consternation and vulnerability has created a perfect storm for unrest.
Christmas Day Bombing in Downtown Nashville
It was Christmas morning at almost 6:30 AM when I was shaken out of my bed in downtown Nashville to the reverberations of an explosion just 3 streets away. “That’s not thunder,” I muttered, as I grabbed my phone and headed to the living room to look outside. There was a huge plume of yellow and gray smoke rising from behind the Fifth-Third Bank building, but I couldn’t tell exactly how far away it was located. I quickly found a tweet that pinpointed the location as 2nd Avenue North and Commerce Street. I tweeted my own video as my husband and kids emerged out of bed to join me in questioning what had just happened.
Explosion downtown Nashville. Looks to be similar spot where fireworks go off every 4th of July. pic.twitter.com/v9iY8Q6dkj— 🌎 Sally Hendrick 🌍 (@sallydowntown) December 25, 2020
Without going into too many details of the ensuing chaos in the area over the next week or two, we are left to believe the bomber, Anthony (Tony) Quinn Warner, was the loner-lunatic type, likely with untreated mental illness combined with sharp technical and electronic skills, who was untrusting of the world around him. I launched my own investigation, along with award-winning photojournalist, John Partipilo with Tennessee Lookout, and shared my findings on TikTok in a series of one-minute videos. To this day, there has been no connection revealed to the current situation regarding the US election and state of the union.
The following photo was taken by John while we were together on the Monday after Christmas on a scavenger hunt to find a way to get photos of the scene from a good angle. Most of the area had been cordoned off, but we found a way in that had been unsecured.
Photo credit: ©John Partipilo Photography, Dec 28, 2020, Nashville explosion.
Crowd-Sourcing and Conspiracy Theorists
Due to the time I’ve been spending on TikTok and the connections I’ve made in the journalistic community throughout 2020, I’ve been battling misinformation that spreads quickly from impulsive people who will share anything that makes them feel better or justified. It takes tremendous discernment and research skills to know which info bytes have merit. My experience as an actuarial statistician inspired me to report on COVID-19 statistics when there was little information to be had in the early days. Hardly anyone was explaining how to read and understand the data at that time.
Fast forward to the days of “Stop the Steal” leading up to Inauguration Day, the US is at a breaking point that could be the tipping point for a civil war. We do not want this to happen under any circumstances, as the risks to our active troops, ex-pats, and embassies in other parts of the world could put them in grave danger.
The US also has diminishing relations with Cuba that were warming up under the Obama administration. Russia left Cuba in a bind during the Special Period after the fall of the USSR, eventually eroding the threat of an enemy situated only 90 miles from Key West, Florida. With Trump’s reversals leaving Cuba vulnerable to fall prey to foreign enemies once again, the sonic (or possibly microwave) attacks on American embassy workers had Russian tactics written all over them, though nothing definitive has been proven yet.
The Cuban people are hungry, as our friends we visited in 2017 have been subjected to food insecurity as the number one problem facing them today. With Trump redesignating Cuba as a ‘state sponsor of terrorism’, the island is ripe for becoming a Russian outpost once again within reach of the US that is too close for comfort.
From TikTok to Parler and Beyond
The TikTok accounts I’ve been following, among dozens more, are reporting what is happening around the US and on dark social media to bring light to what’s happening on the ground before the mainstream media reports it. Marcus Dipaola covered the January 6 protest at the Capitol in DC and summarizes up-to-the-minute news online on his TikTok account. His Linktree links out to other media he shares.
The Big Weird Mom is an anonymous content provider who was sharing posts from Parler until it was shut down via Google Play and Apple Store and files were no longer hosted by Amazon AWS. She continues to share information on TikTok and via her Linktree.
Some military vets are crowd-sourcing followers to carry out mystery generals’ messages and potentially recruit people to take action. Instead of realizing that our democracy is being protected, they believe they’re being censored, further deepening their belief that we’re headed towards Communism. I personally believe this is very dangerous and is fueling the fire to wreak havoc in our communities.
These military vets are going live and/or sharing information via TikTok, Gab, and Clapper, some getting their accounts shut down, passing the live streams to other accounts, sending people on these so-called clandestine missions to get information. What they’re not realizing is that people are reporting them to the FBI, and the support in the comments is suspected to be a mixture of FBI agents, informants, and their own true followers. They seem to be fueled by the attention and truly believe they are leaders doing a good thing to help overthrow the government.
Some of the rhetoric they share is that they are waiting for instructions from Trump or the military generals they believe are orchestrating the grassroots movement. They’re telling people to get generators, to fight, to protect our freedoms, to not allow Communists to take over our country….all these Q’anon based conspiracy theories with little to no basis in real facts, just twisted narratives.
They do not seem to be blaming the left or the right or people of color as being the cause. They think similarly, that someone is creating the divide in our country, but they’re trusting that Trump is the answer. People in the comments on the live streams have said things like, “Trump is our God”, as shown in this screenshot from one of the live streams.
Source: Screenshot from a video removed from TikTok. Account names are blocked out to not give attention to these recruiters.
What Does the Rest of the World Think?
As a business owner in the social media industry with clients all over the world, I am a member of business groups where we are paired up with others to stay accountable for our progress. Recently, I was paired with a woman in Europe to be my accountability partner. We both were too busy in December to connect, and finally, we had our first discussion on January 12. Neither of us had done any research on the other, so when I asked her what she does and where she lives, she responded, “I work in The Hague as a lawyer that prosecutes war criminals.”
My mouth dropped open. Having a connection to The Hague and essentially the United Nations (my second connection to the UN thus far in life), is intriguing.
So I asked, “What are we dealing with here?” referring to Trump. Her response was chilling. She said that he is a very dangerous man with extremely powerful connections, echoing the feelings that I’ve had about him for years. We went on to discuss what I had been seeing on Parler, Facebook, TikTok, and the like. Our sentiments matched in that the well-meaning characters that stick out today are being manipulated to do the bidding of world powers that want to see the United States destroyed.
The casualties in this seem to be well-meaning people. If they’re not careful, they’ll be tried and convicted, like many ISIS recruits who thought they were doing a good thing. The shame of the people who have fallen prey to carry out missions from the ground up will be astounding once they realize they’ve been conned by the ultimate conman.
We Must Learn from History
With the Holocaust being the most significant event of the last century, many lessons can be learned from it. “The fascist playbook has been used to the letter the last 4 years. Europeans know it well, as it’s taught and understood to avoid what happened with Hitler again,” says a friend from Europe. “The media is accused of everything these conspiracy theorists are actually doing…using fears, spreading fake info, and manipulating people. Keep calm. These groups are using people’s emotions.”
Austria-born Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former Republican governor of California, made this video after the insurrection on the Capitol comparing it to the Day of Broken Glass in 1938 when a “night of rampage” was carried out against the Jews by the “Nazi equivalent of the Proud Boys.”.
A lady on TikTok of German or Austrian descent, I presume, spoke about the Night of the Long Knives in 1934 where she says all the elected leaders of the German government were killed by Hitler. She claims everyone must be brought to justice, the entire mob of people who stormed the Capitol. If our justice system works the way it should, the innocent will go free, and the guilty will be convicted of insurrection and sedition.
Upcoming Protests at All 50 Capitols
With the inauguration looming for President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris on January 20, protests are being planned at all 50 Capitols. Strangely enough, I had already heard this on social media more than a week before it was published on nearly every news source on January 11, 2021.
All residents living near the Capitol have been notified by the Chief of Police, John Drake of Nashville, about the exact dates protests are expected here.
We Must Come Together
Being at the tipping point of a collective meltdown, we must stand strong and come together as the united people we are meant to be. The FBI warns of continuing problems throughout 2021 with violent extremists. Joining this movement is not in anyone’s best interest, as it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing designed to tear us down. The consequences are dire and everlasting. Hopefully, we can all take a collective breath together when this is over to start the healing process of our nation for the better.
Sally Hendrick is a digital marketing strategist, statistician, and storyteller. She runs an academy, an ads agency, and a nonprofit to help thought-leaders and experts bring their ideas and solutions to the world by doing life and business on purpose.