"Culture war" isn't a term we hear that often anymore because, well, the crucial center of American politics is sick and tired of the very idea of culture war.
But the concept (first coined by professor James Davison Hunter) still best explains where we are today in US politics -- where the vast center of America is stuck in a tug-of-war between two deeply competing visions of reality.
Cultural power, explains Hunter, is the power to "name reality." Culture is mostly created in urban centers and spread to the periphery. E.g.: Harvard Law School decides that gay marriage is a basic human right, which spreads through judges until it runs smack up into the one source of cultural power in America that isn't controlled by urban centers -- the American people.
We are by far the most democratic system on earth. A certain form of Euro-liberalism may capture the universities, reinforced by its dominant control over government money, influencing the media and Hollywood.
In Europe, the political leaders respond to this complex of cultural power mostly by submission to it -- it's easier. And then voters are deprived of choice. Where elite leaders cooperate to end the culture war by giving in, voters do not get to choose between competing visions.
But in America, leaders can spring up from nowhere, develop their own financial base, form a counter-academy through think tanks and a counter-media with talk radio and Fox News, and finally swarm into primaries to unseat party bosses who try to be an echo, not a choice.
From the February 12 broadcast of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:
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WorldNetDaily advanced false claims by anti-gay "critics" that a proposed bill would grant Obama administration official and longtime right-wing target Kevin Jennings "almost unlimited authority to mandate indoctrination in public schools." In fact, the bill -- intended to reduce discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in public schools -- does not mention Jennings, provide any official with "almost unlimited authority," or "mandate indoctrination."
From the February 10 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor
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It's a safe assumption that newspapers receive letters to the editor on a daily basis from people who disagree with government policies. There's also no doubt that some are incendiary, hurtful, racist, sexist, homophobic, etc, because, well, some people have those beliefs and aren't afraid to say so in a public forum.
But newspapers have differing standards for which letters actually make it into the paper. So, let's take a stab at guessing The Washington Times' standard. Here are snippets of letters that The Washington Times published, discussing the possible repeal of the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military.
From today's online paper, in which a reader argued that "homosexual orientation is contrary to human nature":
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates; and other so-called leaders are working to allow homosexuals to serve openly in the military. Even psychiatrist-commentator Charles Krauthammer is saying that the law forbidding homosexuals to serve in the military should be changed because social mores have changed. That is false.
Homosexual propaganda has prevailed, but the natural law has not changed. The homosexual orientation is contrary to human nature, just as blindness and deafness are distortions of the anatomy/physiology of mankind. Just because some women have children out of wedlock does not mean society gives up on marriage. When will our political and moral leaders bow to the moral law and use it to guide human nature?
And another from yesterday, in which a reader compared military officials who oppose "allow[ing] avowed homosexuals to become Marines" to German soldiers who opposed Hitler:
A small group of German officers opposed the loyalty oath to Hitler despite great political pressure. They courageously honored and respected the moral and institutional values they represented and knew to be right. We who are Marines are proud to see that our commandant has shown similar courage in the face of political pressure to allow avowed homosexuals to become Marines.
A cold chill shivers down the spines of men when they contemplate the physical acts of homosexual behavior. It is important the American people know that their Marines, and our commandant, have spine enough to notice and oppose this folly. I hope they will honor the many generations of Marines who sacrificed for American freedom and will remember to vote for and support those who will work to "keep our honor clean."
Now, to be fair, some newspaper editors do opt to print objectionable letters because they either want to err on the side of inclusion, or they think it's necessary to show that some extreme views exist in the public discourse. For example, John Taylor, former president of the National Conference of Editorial Writers, told The Poynter Institute in 2003 that his paper elects to print some offensive letters because a "viewpoint that many find objectionable is a real viewpoint and it exists in the community. And we ought not to be asleep to that, because if you're asleep to those kinds of views, that's how they prosper." But, he added, the opinion pages are "about presenting divergent points of view, a spectrum of views."
Not so for the Times. Its letters fit right in with the homophobic rants that the Times' purportedly professional columnists like editor emeritus Wes Pruden and Frank Gaffney have published on the opinion pages since the first murmurs of repealing "don't ask, don't tell," emerged. Media Matters has extensively documented the paper's history of anti-gay rhetoric, and since at least the beginning of this year, Times readers have been treated to nothing but opposition to the repeal of DADT on the Times opinion pages. If their readers want divergent beliefs on DADT, the opinion pages certainly aren't the place to see them.
Accuracy in Media's Cliff Kincaid has emerged as perhaps the most full-throated defender of Uganda's proposed anti-gay law, which adds Draconian penalties -- including death -- for alleged crimes related to homosexuality. Most recently, Kincaid has been portraying the views of a pair of anti-gay activists in Uganda as representative of all 30.9 million Ugandans, though without offering any evidence that this is the case.
In a February 3 column headlined "Uganda Confronts 'Loud-mouthed Homosexual Lobby,'" Kincaid claims that a "leading pro-family activist in Uganda says that Christians in that East African country need help resisting the schemes of the international homosexual lobby." This person is the only one he quotes. This was followed by a February 5 column headlined "Uganda Rejects Obama's Pro-Homosexual 'Change,'" in which, again, only one person is quoted, "Ugandan Christian minister Martin Ssempa." Kincaid doesn't mention that Ssempa has been screening images of gay pornography in Uganda to whip up support for the bill.
In the February 5 column, Kincaid writes: "Accuracy in Media's review of coverage of the so-called 'Kill the Gays' bill in Uganda finds that it has been completely one-sided, inaccurate, and distorted beyond belief. Contrary to press accounts, the legislation is not designed to kill homosexuals but discourage and punish homosexual practices which spread disease and death. Christians in Uganda are trying to build a culture of life and avoid the sexual perversions which have devastated families in the U.S."
In fact, one of the offenses of "aggravated homosexuality" that would warrant a death penalty in the bill is being a "serial offender," which the bill defines as "a person who has previous convictions of the offence of homosexuality or related offences." In other words, if you were convicted of previous homosexual behavior -- or even one of the "related offences" such as "failure to disclose" homosexual acts or "conspiracy to engage in homosexuality" -- and were convicted of it again, you could be put to death.
While there has been much discussion of amending the bill, it has not yet been amended. So as the bill currently stands, despite Kincaid's insistence, mere homosexual behavior is a capital offense under the bill, meaning that it will, in fact, "kill the gays."
There are other things Kincaid doesn't mention -- for instance, the fact that the bill applies to Ugandans not living in the country. He's also quiet about another inconvenient fact: In Uganda, HIV has historically been spread mostly through heterosexual or mother-to-child contact.
It seems that, when it comes to his own writing, Kincaid doesn't believe in fulfilling the promise of his employer's name.
When MoveOn ran a newspaper ad referring to General David Petraeus as "General Betray Us," the Washington Times was not amused. One Washington Times editorial said the ad "sets the new standard for bad-faith, motive-impugning argument. This is beyond the pale, sinking swiftly to the level of Klansmen and Neo-Nazis" and blasted MoveOn for suggesting Petraeus was not being honest. Another suggested MoveOn was guilty of "slandering" Petraeus. Another blasted the New York Times for running the ad:
He [New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt] also cites company policy against scurrilousness in advertising: "We do not accept opinion advertisements that are attacks of a personal nature," read the guidelines. Someone should have recognized that calling a decorated general a liar and a person likely to "Betray Us" is, in fact, an attack of a personal nature, even considering the very public circumstances.
The Washington Times was quite clear: ads calling a high-ranking military official a liar are deeply inappropriate. So imagine my surprise when this appeared in my email inbox this morning:
The email, sent by the Washington Times, was an ad from The Pray In Jesus Name Project, and it repeatedly accused Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs chairman Admiral Mike Mullen of lying to the Senate Armed Services Committee:
There's much more -- more than 2,400 words in all. Here's a representative sample:
Sadly, the pro-homosexual Mullen has believed the lies of homosexual propaganda, and deceived himself, and now deceived Congress, all the while claiming he wants a more honest policy that discourages lying, when in fact Mullen actually demands homosexuals tell more lies to their military commanders when enlisting as open homosexuals. Here's a simple proof: Men who were created by God with male body parts are not women, and they lie to themselves, the world, and their commanders when they pretend to be, and act like, women. Women who were created by God with female parts are not men, and they lie to themselves, the world, and their commanders when they pretend to be, and act like, men.
Mullen's confused argument would permit men to deceptively act like women, and women to deceptively act like men, openly deceiving themselves, the world, and their military commanders, and boldface lying against God's very truth, that He created men to be men, and women to be women. But today's confusing homosexual propaganda equates "honesty" with men openly flaunting their femininity, and "truthfulness" with women openly flaunting masculinity. Who's really telling God's truth?
The Bible describes homosexual liars: "Who changed the truth of God into a lie...women did change the natural use into that which is against nature, and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error." (Romans 1). Thank God Senator John McCain (R-AZ) denounced the Admiral's deceptive plan as destructive to the military, but Senator McCain needs your help to fight this open perversion, and protect our troops from open homosexual aggression...
CBS news interviewed homosexual Army Lt. Dan Choi, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at Werest Point who currently faces discharge for publicly announcing he's gay.
"I think it's a very healthy thing for people to be able to tell the truth and to come to terms with who they are. I think it's a sign of maturity," Choi said, "At my very first day at West Point, I learned that the honor code says a cadet will not lie, will not tolerate those who lie," said Choi. "They didn't say that a cadet who was gay could lie whereas straight cadets didn't have to lie."
As a USAF Academy graduate knowing the honor code, I now personally confront Choi as a liar, who now openly violates his honor oath, since he deceives himself and the world, by claiming to be feminine, when God created him masculine, with a male body. LIAR. Choi should immediately be thrown out of the Army, not merely for sexual perversion, but for DISHONESTY AND LYING. The only reason he graduated West Point is that he never lied by openly claiming to be feminine while a cadet, when God created him to be masculine. THIS PROVES DON'T ASK DON'T TELL IS THE MOST HONEST POLICY, because it encourages people with sexual perversions not to openly lie about their sexual identity. But if DADT is repealed by Congress, men will claim to be women, and women will claim to be men, and the open season of dishonesty and lying will begin.
From the February 6 edition of Fox News Watch:
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RedState managing editor Erick Erickson stated that Harry Knox, a Human Rights Campaign official appointed by President Obama to the Advisory Council of the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, is an "insult to the Christian faith" who "cannot be trusted to fairly work with Catholics" after criticizing Pope Benedict XVI for "hurting people in the name of Jesus." But Erickson, who stated that "the basis" for Knox's "attack on the Catholic Church is its position on homosexuality," did not note that Knox's comments came in response to the Pope's statement that condom distribution "increases the problem" of AIDS, a remark for which the Pope received widespread criticism, including from ministers of several nations.
Last week I wrote about the hypocrisy on display by CBS when it agreed to air an anti-choice ad from the right-wing Focus on the Family during this year's Super Bowl after rejecting an ad from the United Church of Christ intended for the 2004 Super Bowl that advocated the inclusion of LGBT people and others.
Well, CBS has doubled down on the hypocrisy rejecting a gay-themed ad that was intended to run during this weekend's big game.
It gets worse.
According to a report in The Daily Beast, CBS worked for months with Focus on the Family developing the anti-choice ad's script featuring college football star Tim Tebow which the network ultimately approved (surprise, surprise):
The major broadcast networks have avoided political advocacy ads for years, so CBS's decision to air the Tebow ad caught abortion rights advocates off guard. But Focus on the Family, the Colorado Springs-based conservative Christian group founded by Dr. James Dobson, says that it has actually been working closely with CBS executives for months on the ad's script.
"There were discussions about the specific wording of the spot," said Gary Schneeberger, spokesperson for Focus on the Family. "And we came to a compromise. To an agreement." Schneeberger declined to comment on exactly how CBS changed the ad's message.
CBS has said that in the last year, in an acknowledgment of "industry norms," it loosened previous restrictions on advocacy advertisements, accepting ads that pushed for health reform and environmental activism.
In a Weekly Standard editorial headlined "Don't Mess With Success," editor William Kristol approvingly cited Sen. John McCain's reference to Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT) as a "successful policy" and stated that it "works pretty well at accommodating the complex demands of a war-ready military nestled in a liberal society." Those claims are undermined by the discharge of thousands of servicemembers under the law at a cost to replace them of hundreds of millions of dollars.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, foreign policy journal editor Mackubin Thomas Owens argued against repealing a ban on gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military by claiming it would "undermine the nonsexual bonding essential to unit cohesion"; Family Research Council senior fellow Peter Sprigg made a similar claim during the February 2 broadcast of MSNBC's Hardball. But those claims are heavily undermined by the fact that other countries allow gay men and lesbians to serve in the military and have not experienced issues with "cohesion."
In a Washington Times column, Frank Gaffney falsely asserted that Americans "overwhelmingly ... oppose conferring on homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender individuals and hermaphrodites a nonexistent 'right' to serve openly in the military." In fact, numerous polls show "overwhelmingly" high support for allowing gays to serve openly in the military.
CNN just spent nearly 8 minutes on a segment about Don't Ask, Don't Tell and whether gays should be able to serve openly in the military. Incredibly, in all that time, CNN never once so much as alluded to the fact that the current policy is discriminatory.
Instead, they talked mostly about money and logistics, with CNN journalists repeatedly parroting the Republican non-sequitur that the current economic uncertainty makes this a bad time to allow gays to serve openly in the military.
Eight minutes, and they didn't once mention the fundamental question at hand.