Sunday, December 12, 2010

Culture war? - Fiorina et al. 2005

Fiorina, Morris P., Samuel J. Abrams, and Jeremy Pope. 2005. Culture war? : the myth of a polarized America. New York: Pearson Longman.

Such confess - “Jesus Christ changed my life” – is widely observed in American and also in my home country. Especially, the name of Jesus, at least in South Korea, is contested by itself. The name of Jesus is equated with American Solider, and frequently American President. Usually, Jesus followers are very extremely anti-communistic (most South Koreans are very anti-communistic, due to the Korean War), and very negative towards Russia and China, and also emphasize the blood-relationships with the US. Religion, whatever morals it argues and takes and propagates to the public, is not unrelated with politics because religion believers are also voters who can determine the political power.

Personally I believe culture war exists. Also I assume some arguments are seriously overblown as the authors (Fiorina et al.) pointed out. However, in my opinion, culture war can be serious if some situations come (Probably no one knows the day!). Why? First, even if there were only some people who cause culture war, they hold high solidarity, indicating that their power could be more than dispersed or heterogeneous others. In an emergency, the small but well-connected fews dominates the large but isolated manys, as shown in Animal Farm or in Nazi. (Be careful, I am not negative toward certain religions. I self-identified myself as a god-believer).

Second, the winning margin in duopoly system like the USA, small number of supporters – who do not change their minds in whatever situations – are attractive, giving politicians safe political bulwarks. Consider LDS (frequently called Mormons). I believe if they were scattered across the continent, their political power would not be so influential. While the geographically concentrated particular religion believers may hurt their success in nation-wide politics (e.g., Romney), it is also true that such loyal and well-predicted success warrants the survival of certain morals that a religion wants to hold.

While I read the authors’ findings and arguments, I agree with their conclusion but I do not think their findings are truly enough to deny ‘culture war’ ideas. Some of the findings (especially, the figure) seem inappropriate because the vertical axis (i.e., Y-axis in XY coordinate) is assumed to have the full scale, which, in turn, hides any subtle (but could be substantial in real world situation) differences between so-called two sides. I think their way to provide their findings has some problems..

Also, as a media scholar, I have to point out their assumption on the role of media. As a one factor creating the illusion of culture wars, the authors mentioned the media which almost give up providing meaningful neutral information by emphasizing the entertainment value of the contents. However, I am less inclined to agree with this point. First, I am not sure why the ‘commercial’ media should have such norms. Their purpose is to make money, not to report facts. Second, without people’s preexisting stereotyped culture-war idea, the media can make such illusion?

Despite some disagreements of mine, I believe their conclusion should be seriously taken because of the danger of self-fulfilling prophecy.

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