Our National Death Sport and the Million MAGA March

A Narrative Analysis

Yesterday, thousands of Trump supporters and “stop the steal” protestors travelled to Washington, DC, to participate in the Million MAGA March. 

To some, this march on the nation’s capitol was akin to a nazi rally.  

To others, it was a powerful and legitimate gathering of patriots.



Later that evening, Proud Boys wearing MAGA gear and counter-protestors dressed in black bloc fought in the streets. Videos of multiple altercations have been circulating through Twitter, prompting (as videos often do) divergent narratives about what happened.

To the left, the counter-protestors are community protectors, defending against out-of-town right-wing thugs. And because the police are in bed with white-supremacists and the right, private citizens must bravely push back against fascism on their own.

To the right, it’s a similar story. Progressive politicians are running cover for antifa and BLM, and so the responsibility to push back against anarchists who wish to literally destroy the country falls on private, patriotic citizens. 

Justifiable Violence

Very few people find all violence unjustifiable—it’s a rare thing to come across a dyed-in-the-wool pacifist. For the rest of us, we evaluate the justification for each instance of violence individually and based on context. This is why the narratives that surround violence often emphasize who did what first—who swung first, etc.

Part of this, of course, is in-group bias. But part of it is also the narrative that we tell about ourselves and our contra-partisans that informs how we integrate new information about conflicts. If I already have the narrative that the Proud Boys are a fascist street gang who engage in unjustifiable violence, any new information about violence they’re involved in will be integrated into that framework.

Death Sports

We’re not in a civil war. But we are symbolically elaborating a civil war by cheering on our respective sides in micro-conflicts on the streets of American cities. It’s like football, where we sit on the couch and eat Cheetos while our preferred group of tough-guys smashes into other groups of tough-guys—we love our team and hate our rivals.

But unlike football, where affiliations are fairly arbitrary, the teams in these virtual conflicts are sorted by political affiliations. And so while this isn’t a civil war, we’re undoubtedly playing civil war through our preferred surrogates.

And although either side of these conflicts often lament the impotence and inaction of police and the authorities, I don’t think everyone really wants the police to stop this. I think most fans of our national death-sport just want fair referees. “Let them fight!”

The point here is that while we are not in an open civil war, these conflicts are symbolically elaborating a deep political-cultural divide.  And I don’t think this is going away anytime soon. Everyone loves watching the bad guy get beaten up, and the market usually gets what it wants.

We love our death sport, and so every American street may become a colosseum. 

I really hope I’m wrong about that.

That’s all for now.

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