In an excellent book The Spirit of Disobedience, Curtis White has the following critique of what is labeled our “Culture War,” which he says should be called our “Culture Theater.”
In discussing this Culture War and its “warriors,” White points out that “The Maher/Coulter/O’Reilly oppositions are nothing more than public spectacle, political circus, the semblance of difference where there is none….They are the summons to fundamental change that means everything will stay the same.” [p. 87]
As White points out, these “warriors” never say that which cannot, legitimately, be said: “You cannot say that the ruling order has no moral right to rule and hence no legitimacy. You cannot say that the order as a whole is spiritually bankrupt.” [p. 81, emphasis in original]
And you cannot say that “Business, politics and legalized violence are a fluid whole.” You cannot point out that our governance is “indistinguishable from organized violence for profit.” [p. 82], even though if you examine Dick Cheney’s career, for example, it is clearly true. Cheney, Secretary of Defense, congressperson, vice president, head of Halliburton, and orchestrator of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, as well as other military actions that were not inconsistent with profit making for the likes of Halliburton, et. al. The “fluid whole” of business, politics and legalized, profit-making violence is there for everyone to see; that is, if you care to look at it and call it for what it is.
So, the likes of Maher, Coulter, and O’Reilly always disavow any idea that they think our political, social, and economic order is spiritually bankrupt, illegitimate, even when, as after 2008, our economy was actually bankrupt. Why was it bankrupt? Not because our ruling order was thoroughly corrupt. Rather, it was bankrupt because of “mistakes” that were made, just as the Vietnam War and the invasion of Iraq were “mistakes.” And, if we take care, we can in the future avoid those “mistakes.” Nothing fundamental has to change; we just have to have a “do-over,” a “mulligan,” and we will get it right. Why? Because our ruling elites are not only well intentioned but also humane and just. Besides, everyone makes “mistakes,” don’t they?
And here is another version of what is unsayable. This is from a book by John W. Dower entitled The Cultures of War. It is rather long but worth quoting in full. It is explaining why George Bush, for example, was never held accountable for the grave strategic debacle he created in Iraq.
“What shielded the Bush administration from accountability…was… the inviolate nature of the national ‘security state’ that was spawned by World War II and the Cold War. Forty years prior to September 11,…Lewis Mumford…was describing this Leviathan as a ‘priestly monopoly of secret knowledge, the multiplication of secret agencies, the suppression of open discussion, and even the insulation of error against public criticism and exposure through a ‘bi-partisan’ military and foreign policy, which in practice nullifies public reaction and makes rational dissent the equivalent of patriotic disaffection, if not treason.’ The security state, with its holy writ and labyrinthine complexity, amounted to a profane theocracy.” [pp. 439-440]
Like any theocracy, dissent, real dissent is seen as apostasy and cannot be allowed. Say these things and you will be marginalized, ostracized, and certified as either psycho or a traitor. It is an interesting state of affairs.