Sunday, 13 March 2011


Are American 'cultural conservatives' trying to convince the public that they are really fighting to preserve deeply held values that the 'humanist-Liberal establishment' has been threatening since Darwin's theory of evolution, or are they using the 'culture wars' as a populist tool to distract the masses from the social and economic problems confronting society and to stigmatize and demonize the political opposition while mobilizing popular support behind the Republican Party?

Cultural conservatives argue that they are defending 'traditional American values'. Upon closer examination, one discovers that they have a very narrow definition of the term "traditional American values", confined mainly to White Anglo-Saxon Protestants who remain faithful to a conservative ideological and cultural orientation. Excluded from traditional values are native Americans, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Muslims, feminists, humanists, gays, atheists, and all who deviate from their dogmatic way of thinking and professed lifestyle behind which are layers of hypocrisy on the part of the self-proclaimed defenders of traditional values.

Cultural conservatives ascribe 'evil process and intent' to the liberal entertainment industry, the biased media, organizations like American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, National Organization of Women, anything that has to do with political correctness, multiculturalism, diversity, relativism, affirmative action, gays and lesbians, and all not within their definition of 'traditional American values'. The idea of allowing America to drift toward a liberal-humanist direction is an anathema that will result in apocalypse. For that reason, they support 'traditional family' (rapidly disintegrating among all social classes), they defend Christian holidays and prayer in schools, free enterprise as long as government is there to bail it out with taxpayer funds, no funding for any social or cultural programs unless they conform to the Christian-family-values, and the right to bear arms for all Americans.

Rejecting the diversity of American cultures and subcultures, Tea Party conservatives dogmatically insist on imposing on the entire nation their narrowly-defined brand of cultural conservatism as a panacea for all calamities the country has been suffering. Either they believe that if the US adopted their narrow brand of cultural conservatism by some miracle the US would become heaven on earth, or are they playing politics of distraction and popular mobilization. Either they have seen the light of the Lord and can deliver the people to the promise land, or they are demagogues and opportunists who use cultural issues to exploit the desperate economic and social conditions.

I am not suggesting that cultural conservatives of all types from Tea Party Republicans to talk-radio 'guns-for-hire propagandists' and fundamentalist preachers that want a Christian crusade against Muslim are "fascists", but they do have such tendencies. Mussolini's Fascist Party and Hitler's NAZI party used a similar strategy when the people in Italy and Germany were desperate for solutions amid a climate of political polarization, economic hardships and dreams of recapturing the glory that never was.

If a charismatic leader (s) emerges to mobilize that segment of the population that is desperate for dogmatic and simplistic approaches to complex problems, then it is possible that a country with deep roots in liberal democracy could drift toward full-blown authoritarianism. This would be a departure from the current phase of a democratic facade behind which rests an authoritarian institutional structure.

I have stated in a number of postings in the past, that the US has become increasingly a society with traits of authoritarian/police state aspects and that it is headed for political polarization as the current jobless recovery from the recession lingers into the presidential election of 2012. The US has not reached the point of Italy in 1922 or Germany in 1932 to allow for an ultra-right wing regime to take power, although the seeds of Fascist-style politics in America rest within the 'culture wars' that target specific organizations, especially the media.

One of the targets of the cultural conservatives is the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) and National Public Radio (NPR). A mainstream middle of the road TV and radio organization whose programs include as many conservatives as liberals and whose news coverage and analysis is in many respects more conservative than that of privately owned networks, PBS and NPR are more or less the educated person's networks that appeal largely to an urban base, especially in the north, east and west coasts. Conservatives charge that such a liberal and left listener base should not be receiving government subsidies, although PBS and NPR broadcast programs of all types for all tastes of mainstream America.

In March 2011, chief executive Vivian Schiller was fired from NPR after privately stating that Tea Party Republicans were racists and xenophobic. In October 2010, Schiller fired Juan Williams after he made racist remarks about Muslims, to the delight of FOX news and cultural conservatives. FOX offered Williams a $2 million contract, thus proving that it pays if you are a news analyst celebrity to betray your 'liberal' principles and employer by embracing cultural conservatism. Despite its center-right orientation in news coverage and analysis, NPR has been a symbol of 'liberal and left' elements, and a target by the powerful National Riffle Association as well as other right wing organizations and demagogue talk-radio shows that propagate the culture wars.

There are those who have written articles and books denying there is a culture war, arguing that the 'middle America' consensus that existed in previous decades still exists, that Americans agree on issues more than they disagree, that the media is the one hammering the 'culture war' theme. The Wall Street Journal published an article on 30 April 2009, arguing that the real culture war is not over abortion, same sex marriage, home schooling, and such related issues, but over 'free enterprise' v. income redistribution.

"Free enterprise" today means corporate welfare; and 'income redistribution' is the continuation of fiscal policy used as an instrument to redistribute income from the bottom earners to the top as studies indicate on fiscal policy. With a straight face, the American Free Enterprise Institute insists that 70% of Americans support 'free enterprise' but they are not represented in Washington which represents the minority that want 'big government'!

This is exactly the sort of propaganda that corporate funding is spreading on a daily basis through think tanks, the mass media, print and online publications, churches and town halls. The idea that Washington represents anything other than corporate America cannot be supported by any empirical study or by the statistics that show how middle class and working class Americans have lost their voice in Washington that is flooded by corporate lobbies paying large sums for influence.

Behind the conservative defense of free enterprise rests an anti-trade union mentality, as though the American trade union movement, which has been in decline during the last fifty years, poses a threat to the economy. Just read about what has been happening in Wisconsin recently.  "Ethical populism' is a facade behind the crusade cultural conservatives have launched to create a socioeconomically polarized society that would be docile and accept the reality of a small minority owning most of the wealth and the majority barely making a subsistence wage.

There is a deliberate campaign funded by very wealthy and powerful individuals intended to continue the withering of the welfare state and strengthening of corporate welfare and militarist state; a campaign intended to keep the US ideologically as far right as possible during a time in history when its economic and political global hegemony is seriously challenged by China and EU. The question remains, if the US was as authoritarian politically and as free enterprise economically as those behind cultural conservatism would like, does this mean that it would solve any of its outstanding social or economic problems?

The sort of solution that the wealthy who are behind cultural conservatives are proposing was tried in the 1880s and it led to the depression of the 1890s, then again in the 1920s and it led to the Great Depression. Why are American conservative millionaires so anxious to precipitate faster decline of their country is an enigma that can only explained by the irrational that dominates in the human brain.

No comments: