Protesters carry rifles near the steps of the Michigan State Capitol building in Lansing, Mich., on April 15. Flag-waving, honking protesters drove past the Michigan Capitol to show their displeasure with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's orders to keep people at home and businesses locked during the new coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Protesters carry rifles near the steps of the Michigan State Capitol building in Lansing, Mich., on April 15. Flag-waving, honking protesters drove past the Michigan Capitol to show their displeasure with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's orders to keep people at home and businesses locked during the new coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Civil unrest in America

Eros Hoagland has traveled all over the world covering conflict. He now sees some of the same troubling patterns in his own country.

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By Carmen Gentile

In Season 2, Episode 8 of the Postindustrial Podcast, host Carmen Gentile talks with Eros Hoagland, who has worked as an independent photojournalist and visual documentarian since 1994.  Hoagland has bore witness to violeence around the world with projects in Latin America, the Caribbean, Iraq, and Afghanistan and America. He was featured in the HBO documentary series, “Witness” about war photographers.

As you look at this situation in America right now, how does your previous experience covering conflicts and urban warfare color your perception of what’s going on right now? 

I think the beginnings of any kind of civil conflict, they always start slow and they start out in little pockets. Now I haven’t been privy to the early days of civil wars. I’ve usually jumped right into the middle of them, but history tells us that they don’t start out with pitch battles. They start out with heated little exchanges, sporadic in different areas of a country, that there’s, you know, eventually has the potentiality to become a more protracted armed conflict. 

We’re seeing pockets of armed groups starting to form or coming out of the woodwork rather, all over the country. And that is surely alarming. And I would say that if things don’t settle down soon, we’re going to see much more of that in various parts of the country.

When I think about what’s playing out, a side of me says, maybe what I’m proposing might happen could be adversely influenced by my experiences (covering war abroad). 

I just think that you and I, and people who have been through it, we have, have seen the worst of the worst. And I think we tend to have a negative bias towards the ease of which humans can descend into complete violence. Now, is that unwarranted? No. But I think that we are a little bit more…accepting of the fact that the social contract can get flipped on its head overnight. Now, realistically, maybe it’s not overnight. Maybe it’s over several nights or several years, but we can get there. We can definitely get there. … I think our experiences do color things a little bit differently because we’re like, ‘well, we saw how that slipped out of control.’ We saw how that place slipped out of control. But look: This is a young country that was formed on extreme violence with a cultural divide that’s been with us since the 1700s, 1800s. All the makings are there and then throw in now, vast unemployment. 

To listen to the rest of the podcast, click here.