Tag Archives: Culture War

Culture War Redux

As the midterm elections loom, campaign ads proliferate. Here’s a sampling of recent ads which take up the Culture War banner in order to promote their candidates.

First up, Jim Marshall, of Georgia, assures prospective voters 40 years too late that he’s neither a San Francisco hippie nor– worst of all– anything like Nancy Pelosi. It’s interesting to note that Pelosi has become a national symbol of “big government” radicalism on the right despite her rather dead-center-liberal politics. In races far removed from California her name is being used as a kind of shorthand for the worst excesses of political liberalism (for the apotheosis of this tactic see Tim Burns’s recent ad):

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Culture War (VIAL)

Remember the first day of class we screened a clip of Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell discussing 9/11 in national providentialist terms? I failed to mention that the clip was posted on youtube by Talking Points Memo, a liberal website, thus missing an opportunity to raise the issue of one of the ways Culture War works in a hyper-mediated political environment. The initial statement, made in all sincerity we can assume, directed at those who might tend to agree with it, is then resituated as evidence of the political opposition’s unreasonableness, core values, etc. The Culture War text, then, possesses a double function: to appeal to the faithful and to shock or dismay their opponents. Now consider the following campaign ad, a particularly egregious example of Culture War rhetoric in the service of political gain, which references the fabled “Ground Zero Mosque.”

The ad not only equates Muslims with terrorists, but proposes that 9/11 is part of a centuries-long struggle between Islam and “the West”– an ongoing conflict symbolized by the planned construction of a “victory mosque” at the former site of the twin towers (that these basic assertions are untrue does not apparently matter– the community center will be built on a lot formerly occupied by a Burlington Coat Factory).

But note that I found the second clip at Salon.com, another left-liberal website, which posts the campaign ad– now in a new context– as a response to it. In other words, the Culture War text functions to rally not only the like-minded (those who believe that the US is engaged in a deadly struggle with some monolithic Islam) but those opposed to these very ideas.


Just to be fair, here’s evidence that the uses of political demonology are, as they say, bi-partisan. Alan Grayson’s campaign add erroneously asserts that “religious fanatics try to take away our freedom in Afghanistan, in Iran” (sic) before likening his opponent, Dan Webster, to a Talib.