You must keep your populace divided. Any modern-day empire should know that, but it’s easier said than done. To maintain an imperialist agenda that is unchanging no matter which team is winning, you have to skillfully project the illusion of internal conflict. I’ll quote the old Chomsky adage that I’ve used before because it’s just so damn poignant: “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.”
America has two main political parties that agree on most important policy matters. If you take an honest, hard look at the world around you, you know the average person’s life changes very little to not at all when the other team takes the lead. They largely agree on foreign policy, military spending, taxes, healthcare, bank regulation, environmental issues, etc. There are only slight, cosmetic differences, but if you were to listen to the American media, you would think they are engaged in an apocalyptic battle between the forces of good and evil.
The idea is to get people to focus on cultural issues. If you get the body politic bogged down in culture war, they are less likely to care what sort of policies you are passing, and they’re less likely to notice that you are not living up to your promises.
Let’s look at some of their favorite go-tos for rallying up their bases.
One of the most absurd culture-war rallying points is the imaginary “war on Christmas.” It’s carted out every year and never fails to trigger right-wingers, while everyone else looks on in confusion. “Happy holidays” and “Merry Christmas” have been used interchangeably for a hundred years and ABSOLUTELY NO ONE cared until around 2010ish when Fox News told people they should care. As a general rule, if you have to be told you should be angry, it’s probably nothing to worry about. This one is interesting because of how amazingly one-sided it is. Right-wingers will be offended by people saying “Happy holidays,” but there is no opposing force. Literally no one cares if you say “Merry Christmas.” It’s victim mentality at its finest. Conservatives desperately want to be viewed as oppressed. This is a trend you might notice.
Another hot new battlefront of the culture war is the issue of transgenderism: an issue that directly affects less than one percent of the population. Yet the battle lines have been clearly drawn, and you can be assured that the opposition is evil and/or insane.
Again, the statistically insignificant number of people who are actually transgender have been using the bathroom of the gender they identify with forever, and no one cared until they were told to. At least this one is two-sided. Liberals love to leap to the defense of trans people. You would think they were on the verge of being ethnically cleansed from all the attention they get.
There is also a transgender sports issue that affects almost no one but allows reactionaries to play the victim. Sports are being ruined, yet no one would notice if you didn’t bring it up.
The transgender issue is inflated by dishonest tactics by prominent media figures. People like Ben Shapiro like to strawman the left by telling them that they think people can literally change their biological gender, when obviously the underlying science is universally understood, but some people choose to refer to people by whatever gender they identify as because they’re not assholes.
The trans issue is a narrow segment of the broader ‘gay right’ or ‘LGBT’ issues. This includes some of the most pressing issues of our time, like gay wedding cakes. It’s a never-ending source of division. A lot of reactionaries who are emotionally invested in this issue have deeply suppressed homosexual or bisexual urges they are dealing with themselves. These people are easy to spot. They are the only people who truly think that homosexuality is a choice. If you’re comfortable in your sexuality, whether gay or straight, ask yourself when you chose to be that way. You know that’s how you’ve always been. To truly think it is a choice, that would have to have been a choice that you made at some point. There was a point in these people’s lives where they could have gone either way. Their homophobia is an externalization of an internal struggle. It comes from a place of self-loathing and shame. The only interesting thing about this conversation to me is how much these people are unintentional revealing about themselves.
Either way, who gives a shit? Stop obsessing over things that don’t affect you personally.
The abortion question is another important cultural wedge that the powers that be use to divide us. It is, like everything, a misrepresented issue. Reactionaries will paint the left as “pro-abortion,” as if they love having abortions. The truth is, no one likes abortion. It’s a disgusting and traumatizing procedure to have to go through. The real question that should be asked is, “If a fifteen-year-old is raped by her father and gets pregnant, do you want to be the one to tell her she has to have that baby or go to prison?” It’s an admittedly extreme hypothetical, but demonstrates how complicated the issue is. But no one wants to have that conversation. It’s much easier and more divisive to just call the other side monsters.
Another battleground revolves around higher-education and related issues. There is the issue of how college campuses are now anti-free speech, communist breeding grounds. It’s nonsense, but it keeps impressionable people up at night.
There is also the trope about pink-haired college kids getting useless degrees in subjects like sociology or “underwater basket weaving.” Education for education’s sake is an inconceivable concept for many people. In the conservative mindset, there is an understanding that everything you invest your time and money in must be a means to achieving a goal, usually monetary. While others see things from the standpoint of ‘we’re only on this pale-blue dot for about 80 years (if we’re lucky), and perhaps learning about something you’re passionate about with like-minded people is a fulfilling way to spend a few years.’ The wedge can be something as inconsequential as this simple difference in worldviews.
And now for the current issue I don’t give a shit about: Impeachment. It is in equal parts entertaining and annoying to see liberals salivate over the image of Trump being led out of the White House in handcuffs. They’ve been doing it for years, first over Russiagate and now over whatever you call this ridiculous scandal. It is a similar experience watching conservatives think that there is a deep-state plot to take down Trump.
The truth is that it’s just another way of ‘resisting’ without actually resisting. The Democrats aided Trump in increasing military spending, increasing government surveillance and cutting food stamps during this show trial. But that’s not the message you hear on MSNBC. They will tell you Trump endangered all of us by halting important military aid to an ally in a war zone in order to get said ally to ‘meddle’ in America’s pristine and totally fair elections. What really happened is that Trump briefly halted support for Neo-Nazis in Ukraine in a strategy to reveal Joe Biden’s undeniable corruption, but that is not an action that resonates with the American people as impeachment-worthy.
If they really wanted to impeach Trump, they could. He’s broken the emoluments clause by personally profiting from his presidency. He has openly colluded with Saudi Arabia, who lavished him with gifts and money, and now he’s helping them commit a genocide in Yemen. When congress voted to stop arming the Saudis (since many of the arms end up in the hands of ISIS), he vetoed it, even while he’s pretending to be tough on terrorism. If the Democrat’s were to go after Trump for that, it would land with the American people in a big way. It would at the very least make it extremely difficult for him to win reelection. But the Democrats (with the exceptions of Tulsi Gabbard and a couple more) won’t do that, because they don’t actually want to oppose Trump. It’s just theater. Divide and conquer.
Notice how none of these issues have any effect on the profits of the corporations who fund both parties. They only divide the electorate, and make them feel like they are defending a worldview that is under attack, when all they’re really doing is defending one of two slightly different corporate, neo-liberal parties. Better to just ignore all this noise. I realize I’ve done everything but ignore them for the past 1,450 words, and I tainted the message with my own bias, but there you have it.