Impeachment and Deplatforming Aren’t Enough to Move Forward

To achieve true unity, we must contend with the underlying cause of our division—decades of conspiratorial messages, and sophisticated networks to spread them. 

N THE WEEKS following the Capitol attack, lawmakers, technology companies, and journalists have all grappled with the same question: What do we do about this? Congress—at least its Democratic majority—is pushing forward with Impeachment 2.0, as conviction in the Senate would bar the Inciter-in-Chief from ever holding public office. Congressional Democrats are also pushing to censure the “Sedition Caucus,” the Republican lawmakers who continued fanning the flames of insurrection even after the Capitol had been secured. Technology companies, meanwhile, opted for the Great Deplatforming. And newspaper editorial boards in the Sedition Caucus members’ districts have called for resignations.

These reactions are appropriate; all responsible parties should be held to account for what happened on January 6. But we miss something critical when we narrow our attention to the worst offenders—the loudest instigators, the cruelest participants, the boldest enablers. Even if every last rioter and politician were brought to justice, the danger would remain. To prevent the next attack, and more broadly to have any chance of achieving even a semblance of unity, we must contend with the underlying conditions that allowed this one to occur.

In our forthcoming book, You Are Here, Ryan Milner and I explain the limitations of focusing on obvious sources of harm within the information ecosystem. To do this, we use biomass pyramids—diagrams that visually represent the cumulative weight and population size of various organisms within the same ecosystem. Apex predators—the lions, tigers, and bears—are at the very top of the pyramid. There are fewer of them, and as a result their cumulative weight is often relatively low, but they pose outsized threats to the rest of the ecosystem. At the same time, they are utterly dependent on all the lower strata. Take away their prey, take away their prey’s prey, take away the ecological conditions that sustain the biomass, and the lions and tigers and bears don’t have a chance… Via – Wired

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