Mapping Civil Unrest in the United States (2000–2020)
See a static version of these maps by clicking here.
Protests are a regular feature of democratic society, but they can occasionally cross over from non-violent demonstrations into civil unrest. Even protests that are largely peaceful can still result in arrests, violence, police aggression, and property damage.
Our animated map above looks at the last two decades of civil unrest in the United States using lists compiled on Wikipedia.
Instances of civil unrest eventually leave the news cycle, and we rarely have the chance to examine the bigger picture or see where they fit within a nation-wide pattern.
From this map we can see that certain cities, such as St. Louis and Oakland, have been disproportionately impacted by civil unrest. As well, universities have also been hotspots for rioting, though often for much different reasons.
Looking back over two decades, we see that instances of civil unrest in the United States have fallen into roughly four categories:
- Economic and social injustice
- Sports and event related riots
- Politically motivated civil unrest
- Reaction to police actions
Let’s take a look at a prominent example in each of these categories, to get further context.
Examples of Civil Unrest, by Category
1. Economic and Social Justice
One of the most prominent examples in this category is the Occupy Wall Street movement. The protests began in September 2011 in Downtown Manhattan, and soon spread through cities throughout the world.
In 2016, the Dakota Access Pipeline protests grabbed headlines around the world as protesters faced off against armed soldiers and police with riot gear and military equipment. By the time camps were broken up the next year, hundreds of people had been arrested.
2. Sports and Event Related Riots
Between 2000 and 2010, the majority of incidents plotted on the map are related to sports and events. This includes major sporting events like the L.A. Lakers championship win in 2000, but also the University of Maryland riot of 2004, where rowdy post-game celebrations crossed over into arson and property damage.
A more recent example is the Philadelphia Eagles’ first-ever Super Bowl victory in 2018, where celebrations eventually got out of hand.
3. Politically Motivated Civil Unrest
The political divide has been growing in America for years now, but those differences more frequently resulted in confrontations and civil unrest in 2016. After the election of Donald Trump, for example, protests erupted in many cities, with riots breaking out in Portland, Oregon, and Oakland, California.
Of course, the “Bundy standoff” – an armed confrontation between supporters of cattle rancher Cliven Bundy and law enforcement over withheld grazing fees – showed that not all civil unrest takes place in America’s cities.
4. Reaction to Police Actions
Some of the biggest flashpoints seen in recent years have been in response to people who were killed by police.
In fact, more than half of the points on our map were a direct response to incidents in which a person – typically a black male – died at the hands of law enforcement officials. In previous years, the unrest that followed was typically confined to the cities where the death took place, but protests are now increasingly erupting in cities around the country.
The Situation Now
The death of George Floyd – the latest black male to be killed during an encounter with law enforcement – has had a ripple effect, spawning protests in cities around the United States and internationally.
As our map showing the history of civil unrest makes clear, excessive force from police against black citizens is nothing new. The data shows that black men have by far the highest risk of being killed in an encounter with law enforcement.
Until these systemic issues are addressed, history may not be repeat exactly, but the rhyme will sound very, very familiar.
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A Logarithmic Map of the Entire Observable Universe
Scientists believe we’ve only discovered about 5% of the universe. Here’s a map of what we’ve found so far, visualized using a log scale.
A Logarithmic Map of the Entire Observable Universe
Among the scientific community, it’s widely believed that so far humans have only discovered about 5% of the universe.
Yet, despite knowing about just a fraction of what’s out there, we’ve still managed to discover galaxies billions of light-years away from Earth.
How Does the Map Work?
Before diving in, it’s worth touching on a few key details about the map.
First off, it’s important to note that the celestial objects shown on this map are not shown to scale. If it was made to scale with sizes relative to how we see them from Earth, nearly all of the objects would be miniscule dots (except the Moon, the Sun, and some nebulae and galaxies).
Secondly, each object’s distance from the Earth is measured on a logarithmic scale, which increases exponentially, in order to fit in all the data.
Within our Solar System, the map’s scale spans astronomical units (AU), roughly the distance from the Earth to the Sun. Beyond, it grows to measure millions of parsecs, with each one of those equal to 3.26 light-years, or 206,000 AU.
Exploring the Map
The map highlights a number of different celestial objects, including:
- The Solar System
- Comets and asteroids
- Star systems and clusters
- Galaxies, including the Milky Way
- Galaxy clusters
- Cosmic microwave background—radiation leftover from the Big Bang
Featured are some recently discovered objects, such as the most distant known galaxy to date, HD1. Scientists believe this newly-discovered galaxy was formed just 330 million years after the Big Bang, or roughly 8.4 billion years before Earth.
It also highlights some newly deployed spacecraft, including the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is NASA’s latest infrared telescope, and the Tiangong Space Station, which was made by China and launched in April 2021.
Why is it called the “Observable” Universe?
Humanity has been interested in space for thousands of years, and many scientists and researchers have dedicated their lives to furthering our collective knowledge about space and the universe.
Most people are familiar with Albert Einstein and his theory of relativity, which became a cornerstone of both physics and astronomy. Another well-known scientist was Edwin Hubble, whose findings of galaxies moving away from Earth is considered to be the first observation of the universe expanding.
But the massive logarithmic map above, and any observations from Earth or probes in space, are limited in nature. The universe is currently dated to be around 13.8 billion years old, and nothing in the universe can travel faster than the speed of light.
When accounting for the expansion of the universe and observed objects moving away from us, that means that the farthest we can “see” is currently calculated at around 47.7 billion light-years. And since light takes time to travel, much of what we’re observing actually happened many millions of years ago.
But our understanding of the universe is evolving constantly with new discoveries. What will we discover next?
33 Problems With Media in One Chart
In this infographic, we catalog 33 problems with the social and mass media ecosystem.
33 Problems With Media in One Chart
One of the hallmarks of democratic society is a healthy, free-flowing media ecosystem.
In times past, that media ecosystem would include various mass media outlets, from newspapers to cable TV networks. Today, the internet and social media platforms have greatly expanded the scope and reach of communication within society.
Of course, journalism plays a key role within that ecosystem. High quality journalism and the unprecedented transparency of social media keeps power structures in check—and sometimes, these forces can drive genuine societal change. Reporters bring us news from the front lines of conflict, and uncover hard truths through investigative journalism.
That said, these positive impacts are sometimes overshadowed by harmful practices and negative externalities occurring in the media ecosystem.
The graphic above is an attempt to catalog problems within the media ecosystem as a basis for discussion. Many of the problems are easy to understand once they’re identified. However, in some cases, there is an interplay between these issues that is worth digging into. Below are a few of those instances.
Editor’s note: For a full list of sources, please go to the end of this article. If we missed a problem, let us know!
Explicit Bias vs. Implicit Bias
Broadly speaking, bias in media breaks down into two types: explicit and implicit.
Publishers with explicit biases will overtly dictate the types of stories that are covered in their publications and control the framing of those stories. They usually have a political or ideological leaning, and these outlets will use narrative fallacies or false balance in an effort to push their own agenda.
Unintentional filtering or skewing of information is referred to as implicit bias, and this can manifest in a few different ways. For example, a publication may turn a blind eye to a topic or issue because it would paint an advertiser in a bad light. These are called no fly zones, and given the financial struggles of the news industry, these no fly zones are becoming increasingly treacherous territory.
Misinformation vs. Disinformation
Both of these terms imply that information being shared is not factually sound. The key difference is that misinformation is unintentional, and disinformation is deliberately created to deceive people.
Fake news stories, and concepts like deepfakes, fall into the latter category. We broke down the entire spectrum of fake news and how to spot it, in a previous infographic.
Mass media and social feeds are the ultimate Darwinistic scenario for ideas.
Through social media, stories are shared widely by many participants, and the most compelling framing usually wins out. More often than not, it’s the pithy, provocative posts that spread the furthest. This process strips context away from an idea, potentially warping its meaning.
Video clips shared on social platforms are a prime example of context stripping in action. An (often shocking) event occurs, and it generates a massive amount of discussion despite the complete lack of context.
This unintentionally encourages viewers to stereotype the persons in the video and bring our own preconceived ideas to the table to help fill in the gaps.
Members of the media are also looking for punchy story angles to capture attention and prove the point they’re making in an article. This can lead to cherrypicking facts and ideas. Cherrypicking is especially problematic because the facts are often correct, so they make sense at face value, however, they lack important context.
Simplified models of the world make for compelling narratives, like good-vs-evil, but situations are often far more complex than what meets the eye.
The News Media Squeeze
It’s no secret that journalism is facing lean times. Newsrooms are operating with much smaller teams and budgets, and one result is ‘churnalism’. This term refers to the practice of publishing articles directly from wire services and public relations releases.
Churnalism not only replaces more rigorous forms of reporting—but also acts as an avenue for advertising and propaganda that is harder to distinguish from the news.
The increased sense of urgency to drive revenue is causing other problems as well. High-quality content is increasingly being hidden behind paywalls.
The end result is a two-tiered system, with subscribers receiving thoughtful, high-quality news, and everyone else accessing shallow or sensationalized content. That everyone else isn’t just people with lower incomes, it also largely includes younger people. The average age of today’s paid news subscriber is 50 years old, raising questions about the future of the subscription business model.
For outlets that rely on advertising, desperate times have called for desperate measures. User experience has taken a backseat to ad impressions, with ad clutter (e.g. auto-play videos, pop-ups, and prompts) interrupting content at every turn. Meanwhile, in the background, third-party trackers are still watching your every digital move, despite all the privacy opt-in prompts.
How Can We Fix the Problems with Media?
With great influence comes great responsibility. There is no easy fix to the issues that plague news and social media. But the first step is identifying these issues, and talking about them.
The more media literate we collectively become, the better equipped we will be to reform these broken systems, and push for accuracy and transparency in the communication channels that bind society together.
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