A man sets his tactical gear bag next to the assault rifle on his bed, above which hangs an American flag. “Don’t mind me,” he says, “I’m just getting ready for my IRS audit.” This, pulled from a viral Twitter thread, was just one of the many TikTok videos that, explicitly or implicitly, threatened civil war after the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. “It’s go time,” he continues. “Everybody knows exactly what I’m talking about.” (He’s talking about fighting IRS employees who are supposedly coming to seize his guns. The IRS is not doing that.)
Most or all of the videos on the thread have since been removed from TikTok, but it’s no accident that this sort of inflammatory political discourse proliferates throughout the platform. In the past four years of its existence in the US, TikTok has become the most effective platform for any single user to communicate to the largest possible audience in the shortest amount of time. And despite the company’s attempts to be viewed as apolitical, it’s now one of the most widely consumed sources of discourse, political and otherwise.