Under the Clicks, the Beach
Does free-flowing access to information on arms and conflict increase the risk of future violence?
There has never been a better time to study war and conflict in human history.
This morning, while walking my dogs, I was listening to a conversation on Twitter Spaces about Ukrainian artillery tactics at the eastern frontlines in their defense against Russia. A half-hour later, I read about the home-manufactured firearms built by Tetsuya Yamagami, who shot and killed former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a few days ago. Not long after, I saw some Instagram videos of 3D firearms enthusiasts demonstrating their latest builds at the range. The internet and social media bring an utterly massive amount of information to would-be researchers and other observers on a daily, near-instant basis.
I’m wondering: Does all this free-flowing information on arms and warfare increase the risk of widespread violence?
Three points come to mind:
- There was a surge in conflict and small arms proliferation worldwide in the decades following WWII. Will there be a similar surge following the end of the U.S. War in Afghanistan and Russia’s War in Ukraine?
- Durable 3D-printed firearms — as seen in the uprising against the military junta in Myanmar and the stockpiles of far-right extremists in Europe — are now available to anyone with access to commonly available materials.
- Online radicalization has contributed to the spread of brutal violence at the hands of far-right extremists and Islamist militants. Will this trend likely be exacerbated as improved weapons and tactics are shared via the internet?
I’m not going to attempt to answer this question.
To be completely honest, I don’t know. Neither does anyone else.
I can say that it seems likely that all of this will at least become an integral part of some of the conflicts on the near horizon. Whether or not it is a central motivating factor remains to be determined. I’m skeptical that it will. But conflict, like all social tensions, moves in waves. And just as with waves against the shoreline, it is impossible to predict precisely how each next one will crash.
Originally published at https://davidnwaeze.substack.com on July 10, 2022.