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America and the Restoration of Public Order

America and the Restoration of Public Order

Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, January 16

For many decades, life in the United States revolved around a relaxed orbit ruled by clear laws, major media and major information sources, notable universities, and even churches and temples. The American ecosystem was broad and gave plenty of room for individuals and groups to follow their own choices. There were very small communist and socialist parties, and although they were banned during the Cold War, they continued to operate. Indeed, the communists had a headquarters near Wall Street, the beating capitalist heart of the US. Similarly, even though Nazi Germany killed 400,000 American soldiers in World War II, the US had a Nazi party, which was allowed to advocate and promote hatred against Jews and Blacks. These marginal parties were always free to voice their opinion, but they never really reached large crowds. However, with the advancement of information technology, they quickly found a stage online. In the past two years there have been dozens of meetings in Congress looking at how to control the situation, the most famous of which is summoning the leaders of major information technology companies such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, to examine the supposed interference of Russian actors in the 2016 US elections. In the past few weeks, things took a dramatic and dangerous downturn, with social media platforms deciding to prevent outgoing president Donald Trump from posting online. In the coming months, we will witness legal and political calls to impose further restrictions on social media platforms. Today, America is facing two information wars: one external and the other internal. The external war can be addressed by limiting the ability of foreign actors to interfere in US politics. The internal war, however, is the real dangerous one, as the events in the Capitol have proven. US authorities have proven that they have the ability to silence those they consider opponents of the state. Even the president himself, despite his tremendous powers, found himself barred from addressing the American people. If the hostile rhetoric against state institutions — the presidency, Congress, and other political entities — continues to unfold online and succeeds in galvanizing the masses, then the United States will face a real danger. The United States is a large country of some 328 million people, who represent a diverse mixture of races, religions, ethnicities and backgrounds. Without centralized control, adherence to the rule of law, and respect to its democratic institutions, chaos in the US will be inevitable. – Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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