Death at a Trump rally
By Julia Azari
Julia Azari is a professor of political science at Marquette University.
Political violence can be very disruptive, and it’s usually not planned. Here’s one scenario.
On Oct. 19, a fight breaks out at a Trump rally in Tampa, Florida. A group of five white men in their early 50s looked like standard rally-goers. But as they catch the attention of one of the many TV cameras in the arena, the group pulls out protest signs reading: TRUMP LIES and SAVE DEMOCRACY NOW. They had done similar protest actions together for years — anti-war protests, national political conventions and a few Trump events. Part politics, part reunion for longtime friends who had met in college protesting the first Gulf War.
What happens next is disputed. A couple attending their seventh Trump rally say that the protesters started pushing when people around them chanted insults. Other accounts say the Trump supporters initiated the fighting. However it happened, one of the five protesters suffered a heart attack. He is rushed to a local hospital but dies a few hours later.
News media scramble to cover the event, and the public can’t look away. A clear narrative proves elusive. Was the protester’s demise simply a random tragedy? Or a sign of the dangers of an increasingly violent time in American politics?
Pundits’ debates over these questions, interspersed with interviews with the deceased man’s friends, grieving widow and eloquent, angry teenaged children dominate the remaining weeks of the campaign. These stories drown out much of Biden’s messages about declining unemployment and legislative victories and distract from Trump’s slogans about immigrants and making America great again. The poignancy of the story draws in some Americans who paid little attention to politics, but for close watchers of politics, it was irresistible. Some question why the matter gets so much press when violence against people of color draws a fraction of the coverage. Others call for the suspension of Trump’s campaign, which leads to a whole new set of arguments about whether this was just a pretext to push him out of politics once again. One cable network devotes an hourlong program to a panel discussion about whether the Biden administration has done enough to curb political violence.
And so it continues, until Election Day.
Mother Nature wreaks havoc on the election
By Alec Ross
Alec Ross is the author of The Raging 2020s and a former senior State Department official during the Obama administration.
The latest-breaking event that will shape the 2024 presidential election will be a spectacularly destructive Category 5 hurricane that tears through the country just weeks before the election creating a Climate v. Christ binary in the electorate.
The Biden campaign will cite the hurricane as evidence of the extreme weather events produced by climate change that affirm his strategy to invest in next generation solutions to mitigate climate change. Trump will cite the storm as God’s wrath against Joe Biden.
Biden will spend the last weeks of the campaign visiting with victims and working from the White House and FEMA headquarters directing a response demonstrating his credentials as a competent and empathetic president. This will drive a youth vote that was withholding support back into the Democratic camp. Trump will visit a different disaster site every day and give speeches with his arms frequently spread in a crucifix pose. Millions of his evangelical Christian supporters will build a movement rooted in the belief that Trump is the resurrection of Christ to whom all worldly, secular powers must be transferred. Trump will do nothing to dissuade them. The election outcome will not be known until more than a month afterward because of the difficulty of administering an election with millions of Americans dislocated from their homes and home states due to the storm.
A message from outer space
By Avi Loeb
Avi Loeb is the head of the Galileo Project, founding director of Harvard University’s Black Hole Initiative, director of the Institute for Theory and Computation at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and the former chair of the astronomy department at Harvard University.
Galileo Project Observatory at Harvard University, we spend every day searching the universe for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. Our research suggests that it’s only a matter of time before we’ll find something that signals that we’re not alone in the universe. And that will change a lot of things. There is no way to make a specific prediction on this matter. Of course, the Galileo Project could discover a technological object that arrived from interstellar space, or the U.S. government could disclose a similar finding.
Finding a package from a neighbor among familiar rocks in our backyard is an exciting event. So is the discovery of a technological object near Earth that was sent from an exoplanet. As a follow-up on such a finding, we could search for signals coming from any potential senders, starting from the nearest houses on our cosmic street. The sudden knowledge that we weren’t alone in the universe would immediately upend how humans think about themselves and their civilization, and the effects on earth would be both momentous and unpredictable.
This isn’t as speculative a scenario as you might think. The opportunity for a two-way communication with another civilization during our lifetime is limited to a distance of about 30 light years. But already we know of
a dozen habitable exoplanets within 30 light years from Earth, and we are only aware of a few percent of them. But even if we identified all the nearby candidate planets for a two-way conversation, they would constitute a tiny fraction of the tens of billions of habitable planets within the Milky Way galaxy.
Most likely, any visiting probe we encounter had originated tens of thousands of light years away. In that case we will not be able to converse with the senders during our lifetime. Instead, we will need to infer their qualities from their probes, similar to the prisoners in
Plato’s Allegory of the Cave who attempt to infer the nature of objects behind them based on the shadows they cast on the cave walls.
A digital apocalypse, and so much more
By Charlie Sykes
Charlie Sykes is editor-at-large at the Bulwark and host of the Bulwark Podcast.
Let’s set aside the obvious Black Swan events that could upend 2024: assassination(s), heart attack(s) or stroke(s). Let’s also stipulate that the entire year will be a Black Swan of sorts — with a leading party nominee facing trials on 91 felony counts. America might elect a convicted felon to its highest office. The swans don’t get any blacker than that.
What else could go wrong? A hell of a lot, because we live in an era of chaos and fragility. The new year is a nesting doll of unknown unknowns.
We could see 1968-like riots at the major party conventions and perhaps a humanitarian disaster at the border.
Internationally, we could see the collapse of an abandoned Ukraine and the subsequent invasion of Taiwan by an emboldened China. We could find ourselves on the brink of a nuclear confrontation amidst a global economic meltdown that would overshadow every other issue.
In 2020, no one envisioned a global pandemic, but in 2024, we might be hit by a global digital virus. What if the computers and the satellites stopped working? For even a few days? What if the virus attacked the world’s banking system, vaporizing trillions of dollars of wealth?
And since we are contemplating a Digital Apocalypse, we probably should brace ourselves for AI-generated fakes that could drop days before the election itself.
Happy New Year.
Global warming-induced havoc
By Bill McKibben
Bill McKibben is an environmentalist and author, most recently, of
The Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon: A Graying American Looks Back at His Suburban Boyhood and Wonders What the Hell Happened.
Given that 2024 seems almost certain to break 2023’s global temperature record (and this year was already the hottest in 125,000 years), the physics of global warming indicate that we can expect … havoc.
The precise form it will take and spots it will strike can never be known in advance — some combination of fire, flood, storm, drought and sapping heat — but it would be a shock only if it didn’t happen. And perhaps when it does, it will be one more reminder of the folly of electing climate deniers to high office.