I have been arguing elsewhere with a good friend about identity politics and culture wars. I have written before about the culture wars narrative, in which cancel culture features so heavily. This discussion went something like this [excuse typos and grammar as lifted from Facebook and Messenger]:
JP: Ok, business as usual here. This government is a horrible bunch of politicians. Priti Patel is contemptible. They have spent a couple of years stoking the culture wars and taking as many plays from the Republican playbook as they possibly can. And now, it is biting him on the arse.
We have a situation where an anti-pc comedian feels emboldened enough to tweet quite overtly racist things. The problem is, Boris Johnson is as popular as ever in the polls. The man is made of Teflon. And moderates are getting sucked into the culture wars narrative. This Is US politics wholesale imported.
JP: Soubry [ex-Tory MP, critic of this govt] was spot on the other night on Newsnight in observing that her party has become Trumpian populist. GB News literally have a nightly segment called “Woke Watch”. Is it really apples to apples?
[GB News recent events posted and linked.]
JP cont.: This is EXACTLY the kind of shit that pisses me RIGHT off. And I don’t AT ALL agree with the whole “both sides stoke the culture wars” claim.
R: It’s hard to put numbers on what is driving what. The progressives often want to say “nothing to see here”, the “right” seem to want to egg things on too– who knows? Maybe more. All I’m saying is it takes two poles to have polarisation.
JP: I suppose here is why I see it as very different. For the right, this is an explicit campaign project. For example, GB news was set up entirely to promote culture Wars narratives. So the right uses this as an explicit tool very purposefully. For the left, it’s just a thing that people do.
R: it’s a push and push back thing. I see the progressives as pushing to change and the “right” as pushing back. For instance, the recent polemic each way over the reinterpretation of history of UK. Churchill etc. There’s a one-sided portrayal of Churchill as a kind of nazi and a similar portrayal of him as only a saviour. Neither is correct but narratives get pushed and reacted against.
JP: This has literally been going on for 50 years in America. So I don’t think we realise quite how much is strategized about in the campaign backrooms. There are people who are busy constructing messages all the time and working out how to position their parties. The GOP have done this since the neocons came in in the 70s. This is bread-and-butter stuff for the Republicans as being part of their explicit campaigning for 50 years. This is why you have seen the conservative movements in America shift very visibly away from fiscal conservatism to social-moral conservatism. They don’t have the policy so they replace this with culture wars narratives content. And what is worrying is that is exactly what is happening in the UK as they are taking every single play out of the Republican playbook. Johnson, whether you like it or not, is a murky reflection of trump and the GOP strategizing.
There is nothing even remotely comparable on the left, nowhere near. It is just not centrally strategized. This is also linked to evangelical Christianity. So there are so many, and I mean so many massive funding organisations that perpetuate the cultural narratives. The American Enterprise Institute, the Heartland Foundation, and all the huge vested interest groups that hijack it, and umpteen family groups, billions of dollars etc etc. This has then been exported explicitly to Europe: See this link.
R: So the right has more money. The left has conceived of a goal through changing society following failed revolution by capturing the universities. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_march_through_the_institutions Which some claim has been an orchestrated strategy— and the left-leaning social studies departments emerging first out of Yale English department but origins in Frankfurt school.
JP: I don’t think that’s a centralised orchestrated campaign in the same way.
R: Agreed. Lefties are too chaotic by nature ;)
Which was all good and well, and then serendipity popped her head in. I was listening to two people I admire in conversation and then the final question popped up and it was exactly what I was talking about, I have timestamped the video below (though it is interesting to listen to it all). Vaush answers the question perfectly.