Culture Wars as a Cynical Strategy in the Face of a Lack of Economic and Social Policy

Culture Wars as a Cynical Strategy in the Face of a Lack of Economic and Social Policy July 18, 2021

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.

When Priti Patel refused to answer whether she would boo the England players for taking a knee at the beginning of the tournament, it was an incredible “statement”. She literally couldn’t say that she wouldn’t boo players for taking peaceful anti-racist protests. And now, her comments in that car crash interview are rightly haunting her. I mean, she appears to support leaving up statues of slave owners. That classic morally attractive position… Boris Johnson is no better.

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.

R: The culture wars are not one side. They are stoked on both sides… by definition.

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.

It has long been known, esp in the US, that this is precisely how the GOP win their elections, whilst the Dems fight on policy. And EXACTLY what got the Tories did to win last time. Labour had a manifesto as long as their arm chock full of policy, Tories had “Get Brexit Done!” whilst doing all their culture wars stuff. It’s getting worse in the UK. I basically hate that this channel set up to be EXACTLY what they are. It’s horrible, divisive and cynical. I hope it falls apart like it is looking to.

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.

This is why the culture wars narrative both wind me up and fascinates me because it is so cynically driven. Not on the left, where you just have an amorphous bunch of quite disparate people banging on about identity politics, but on the right where you have an explicit campaign that uses Fox, huge internet presence like Ben Shapiro, Candace Owens, Dave Rubin, Prager U, Tim Pool and any number of other players. All you need to do is follow the money. There is an absolute massive bank load of funding in dark money.

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.

"What's going on that you believe is still left to be found?"

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