Episode 157: How the "Culture War" Label Is Used to Trivialize Life-and-Death Economic Issues

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"Let the Culture Wars Begin. Again," The New York Times announces. "How the ‘Culture War’ Could Break Democracy," warns Politico. "As The Culture Wars Shift, President Trump Struggles To Adapt," NPR tells us. "Will Democrats Go on the Offensive in the Culture Wars?" Vanity Fair wonders.

Over and over, we’re reminded that so-called culture wars are being waged between a simplified Left and Right. Depending on who you ask, they tend to encompass issues under very broad categories: “LGBTQ rights,” “abortion,” “funding for the arts,” “policing,” “immigration,” “family values.” While there is some validity to the label of “culture war issue” – say, Republican opposition to an art installation, or tantrums over the gender of M&Ms – most of the time, the term is woefully misapplied.

Despite what much of the media claims, LGBTQ rights, police violence, abortion, and so many other issues aren’t just “culture war” fluff in the same league as the latest Fox News meltdown about a cartoon character. Nor are they both-sides-able matters of debate. They’re matters of real, material consequence, often with life-and-death stakes. So why is it that these are placed under the “culture war” umbrella? And what are the dangers of characterizing them that way?

On this episode, we discuss the vague nature of the term “culture war”; how this lack of clarity is weaponized to gloss over and minimize life-and-death issues like police violence and gender-affirming healthcare; and how the only consistent criterion for a “culture war” seems to be issues that impact someone other than the media’s default audience, i.e., a white professional-class man.

Our guest is The Real News Network Editor-in-Chief Max Alvarez.

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