Pop Semiotics:
Conservatism’s Most Influential Media

Pop Semiotics — By on April 5, 2007 at 1:01 am

What media has had the most influence on the conservative movement over the past forty years?
Various factions within conservatism will give widely differing responses. The old school intellectuals will have a short list that includes National Review, Bill Buckley’s “Firing Line”, Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, and George Will’s columns. The populist and paleocon wings will name Rush Limbaugh’s radio show, Human Events, and CNN’s Crossfire (Pat Buchanan-era). The more gullible (or cynical) might list books by Ann Coulter or Bill O’Reilly.
But the truth is that the vast majority of conservatives have never read Chamber’s Witness or puzzled over what it means to “Immanentize the Eschaton.” They don’t subscribe to The Weekly Standard or The American Conservative. They didn’t read the book that Goldwater didn’t write (The Conscience of a Conservative) and never saw Buckley cuss out Gore Vidal on national TV.
So what media has influenced them the most? I offer three candidates for consideration: a book, a magazine, and a radio show. All three of which I believe have impacted American conservatism more than any other media.

°°°°°°


Paul HarveyPaul Harvey News and Comment — Rush Limbaugh is often credited with the dubious honor of creating conservative talk radio. And it is certainly true that Rush paved the way for Hannity, O’Reilly, and other pundits by perfecting the three-hour blatherfest. But the true pioneer and undisputed king of conservative radio is Paul Harvey, a man who never required three hours and 36 commercial breaks to get his message across.
Since 1951, when he joined ABC News, the “largest one-man network in the world” has dominated radio. His show is carried on 1,200 radio stations, 400 Armed Forces Network stations around the world, and his column appears on 300 newspapers nationwide. (His broadcasts and newspaper columns have been reprinted in the Congressional Record more than those of any other commentator.) Despite his dominance, Harvey is often overlooked as a influence even though he has millions more listeners than any other conservative on the radio (including Rush). His “Paul Harvey News and Comment” airs for 5 minutes in the morning and for 15 minutes before noon. Yet the octogenarian manages to say more in those 20 minutes than other hosts say in 180.
While other pundits preach to the choir, Harvey is an evangelist for the conservative perspective. His disarming folksy charm makes his conservative views appear to be nothing more than good old common sense. Harvey has probably done more to promote non-ideological conservatism than any other figure in modern America. In fact, it would be hard to imagine the revolution of the Reagan era if Harvey hadn’t converted so many Democrats to the cause.

°°°°°°

Reader's Digest Reader’s Digest — Before email made it possible to spam your friend’s inboxes, people submitted their jokes and anecdotes to “All in a Day’s Work”, “Life in These United States”, and “Humor in Uniform.” Before we had PorkBusters and Michelle Malkin, we got word of bizarre government spending and behavior from “That’s Outrageous.” And before there was a conservative blogosphere to digest the news, there was Reader’s Digest — the most widely read conservative magazine in history.
Although it lost its way sometime around the turn of this century, Reader’s Digest once epitomized small-c conservative values. The basic values and writing style, as Wikipedia notes, expressed a worldview centered on:

  • Individual achievement Digest subjects often reflect the power of the individual. They fight the good fight against bureaucrats and unfair systems; they risk their own personal safety or fortune to help others; they triumph over a bad turn of fate. Their only weapons are their own courage, cooperation between individuals, and in some cases, their faith.
  • Optimism Although many hard-hitting pieces on terrorism, threats to children and other reports uncover crimes and misdemeanors, articles often reflect the best of humanity, with upbeat and triumphant personal stories.
  • Family values Though the Digest has from the beginning written very openly on issues of sexuality, abortion, euthanasia, abuse of children, and other tough subjects, it has always been viewed as a family magazine, able to be read by teenagers and adults alike. Curse words that routinely appear in other publications do not appear in the “Digest.” From early times, the magazine has been a frequent crusader against smoking and tobacco use.

As John Miller, the National Political Reporter for National Review, noted in 2002, the Digest “played a vital role in educating the American public about Communism.” Friedrich Hayek claimed that the success of his influential anti-statist book The Road to Serfdom came from the fact that DeWitt Wallace decided to publish a condensed version in the magazine. Even Susan Sontag acknowledged that the little magazine was on the right side of history. Speaking to a group of New York intellectuals, she said: “Imagine, if you will, someone who read only the Reader’s Digest between 1950 and 1970, and someone in the same period who read only The Nation or The New Statesman. Which reader would have been better informed about the realities of communism? The answer, I think, should give us pause. Can it be that our enemies were right?”

°°°°°°

Boy Scout Handbook.gifThe Boy Scout Handbook — One of the most conservative books ever published in America is rarely regarded as being a conservative book. That is probably for the best. For if it were widely known how masterly the Scout Handbook inculcates conservative values, the book would, like Socrates, be charged with corrupting the nation’s youth.
Cultural critic Paul Fussell once wrote that the Boy Scout Handbook is “among the very few remaining popular repositories of something like classical ethics, deriving from Aristotle and Cicero.” Indeed, it is literally a vade mecum on virtue ethics. Consider, for example, the Scout oath:

On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.

And then there is the Scout Motto (“Be Prepared”) and the 12 point Scout Law which includes the politically incorrect admonition to be “reverent” for “A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.”
Such an earnest and irony-free worldview is naturally antithetical to the South Park-style mock-the-world moronity that pervades the culture. It is also refreshing to see self-sacrifice and manly virtues encouraged in culture that praises libertarian Me-ism and a nanny society that suckles “men without chests.” The Boy Scout Handbook is what all good conservative tomes should be: deeply, irredeemably, and unapologetically anachronistic.
Other posts in this series:



  • http://johncoleman.typepad.com John

    Joe,
    This is a great article. We focus so much on the overt political influences sometimes that we miss the real texture of a culture– those things so implicitly powerful that they do more than change our minds about a particular issue, they alter the ways in which we live and think.
    Of course, the biggest overlooked pop icon is still the Bible; and in my opinion it is a remarkable blend of both conservatism and progressivism. It’s fun to think about.You have picked three really great pieces of communication (Rush et al were pretty influwntial in the 1990s, though – maybe even more than Harvey).

  • http://evangelicalperspective.blogspot.com Collin Brendemuehl

    I will add to the list some things that you may have missed.
    1. Ideas Have Consequences, Richard Weaver, 1948.
    2. The Jesus Movement, late 60s, early 70s. Every revival period is followed by a related social change. This movement created a new media, though it’s in music. The Moody era opened the market to printed music, this to recorded music. And music influences just like news. Cliff Richard, Larry Norman, Andre Crouch, Love Song, Malcom & Alwyn.
    3. Joe Pine. More conservative than either Rush Paul Harvey, 2 decades before Rush. And a death mystery that, for a while, rivalled JFK.
    (I’d counter the Reader’s Digest addition. That’s modernity, not conservatism.)

  • http://markbyron.typepad.com/main/ Mark Byron

    Paul Harvey was a nice catch on your part. He flies under most people’s radar. Reader’s Digest is another good example of fly-over conservatism that isn’t a CPAC kind of thing.
    Currently, Fred Thompson’s been subbing for Harvey; my wife listens to the Harvey broadcast at work and has liked Thompson’s wit and style. If he does pursue a presidential run, he’ll have a surprising number of flyover fans who’ve never saw him on Law and Order.

  • JohnW

    Here’s another candidate for most important under the radar influential source for supporting conservative political viewpoints: Focus on the Family.
    Good practical child-rearing advice from a man with a Ph.d and christian insights into every aspect of society…and a clear message that good christians must support “the war” and the neo-con agenda…..

  • johnW

    For a fresh, intellectually honest, truly patriotic conservative message, I would recommend the Liberty Coalition’s new American Freedom Agenda initiative.[www.truthout.org/docs_2006/040407J.shtml]

  • http://wondersforoyarsa.blogspot.com Wonders for Oyarsa

    JohnW,
    You talk about Dobson quite a bit. I haven’t been following his statements like a hawk, so I can’t particularly argue with you. But I am curious – can you give me some direct quotes where he delivers this clear message that good christians must support the war?

  • http://cluelessblogger.blogspot.com Witness

    Sometimes the most significant influence is the most subtle one. You mentioned, though, Witness by Chambers. I wish more people would read this book. It is one of the more eloquent and powerful books on conservatism I have ever read.

  • JohnW

    Wonders,
    The Focus on the Family website has various policy statements. I don’t have quotes for you now, but I will give you some later.
    I would like to recommend a speech given by Martin Luther King in April 1967 where he lays out the reasons for extending his message beyond civil rights to protesting the Vietnam and the militarization of our society. I would argue that this speech is every bit as relevant as it was 40 years ago. At one point in his speech, he says “silence is betrayal” and states how his belief in the Gospel of Jesus Christ compels him to speak out.
    Wonders, I am a Christian and feel I must speak out-our society is kind of like the frog in a pot of water that is being slowly heated up-the frog doesn’t notice the water heating up and then all of a sudden it’s boiling….our society has become so militarized, yet we hardly even notice it…so much in fact that 75% of evangelicals still support the invasion/occupation of Iraq and the so-called “war on terror”, which is really just a policy of never-ending war. I am a Christian and I believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, this state of affairs is wrong and I must speak out and ask people to try to pay attention to what is going on.
    [google “martin luther king” “beyond Vietnam”]
    JohnW

  • JohnW

    Wonders,
    Here’s a Dobson quote and a relevant article:
    In his October (2006) newsletter, James Dobson of the conservative advocacy group Focus on the Family offered staunch support for the president on Iraq and the wider war on terror.
    “For the first time in the 29-year history of this ministry, I feel I must address the burgeoning threat posed by Islamic fundamentalism,” he wrote.
    “When it comes to the threat of terror, he (President Bush) gets it,” he said. “Mr. Bush has been subjected to incredible criticism, much of it unfair and vicious, for his prosecution of this war. I admire him for standing firm.”
    [www.focusonthefamily.com/docstudy/newsletters/A000000639.cfm]
    Dobson knows the influence he has and this newsletter is clearly written to influence the Novemeber 2006 elections in favor of the republicans.
    Also, here is something interesting from a conservative libertarian perspective: http://www.lewrockwell.com/gaddy/gaddy18.html (June 2005 article re Dobson Iraq war support)

  • http://mumonno.blogspot.com Mumon

    Actually, you left out Disney. Sure, you say, they bought Miramax.
    But even with the purchase of ABC, Disney continues its conservative march.
    Do they have any “liberal” counterpart to John Stossel? OK, maybe The View. And maybe Oprah. But 9-5 people don’t watch them. And they’re not journalists.
    But to get back to Disney proper, anybody who’s been to Disneyland – and with kids either Disneyland or Disneyworld is a must-go place knows what I’m talking about.
    I am sure there are master’s theses in the social sciences on just the “It’s a Small World” ride. Contrary to what the Birchers were saying back then, “It’s a Small World” is actually this amazing musical mish-mash of racial stereotypes within a sublte narrative of happy authoritarian control.
    Other rides – as well as the recent movie “Meet the Robinsons” – herald PROGRESS as something inevitable brought to you by big corporations.
    Ultimately, as we have seen from the Bush years, conservatism is not about “liberty” or “freedom” or anything like that – though I agree with Susan Sontag about Reader’s Digest getting the bad guys (mostly) right. But the fact is, today, conservatism has been shown to be as bankrupt as it’s sibling fascism. Katrina, 9/11, and Abu Ghraib are the natural results of conservatism.

  • ucfengr

    Wonders, I am a Christian and feel I must speak out-our society is kind of like the frog in a pot of water that is being slowly heated up-the frog doesn’t notice the water heating up and then all of a sudden it’s boiling….
    This is actually an old urban myth. Cold blooded critters don’t like hot water anymore than warm blooded ones.
    our society has become so militarized, yet we hardly even notice it
    Maybe we don’t notice it because, like your example of the frog, it just ain’t so. Most people would consider 1939 Germany a throughly militarized society; in 1939 Germany had 4,722,000 men under arms (all branches) out of a military aged population (males aged 15-44, women were not subject to military service) of 17,700,000 (source: http://www.feldgrau.com/stats.html). That’s almost 27% of the military aged population. Germany was also spending 30% of it GNP on the military (source: http://books.google.com/books?id=vF_BXyjdWJIC&pg=PA28&lpg=PA28&dq=german+military+spending+1939&source=web&ots=mGL1b0ai4c&sig=ZGkF9gqljsxeYjjAnKJK6uVOVuk). In contrast, the throughly militarized US has 1.4 million active military members (all branches) and 1.2 million reserve and National Guard members (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_of_the_United_States) out of a military aged population (men and women age 18-49) of 109.3 million (source: CIA Factbook). So, counting both the active and reserve components, the US military employs 2.5% of its available military population. The US also spends roughly 5% of its GDP on defense (source: CIA Factbook). Calling the US “militarized” seems to be a bit like calling Pee Wee Herman muscular.
    so much in fact that 75% of evangelicals still support the invasion/occupation of Iraq
    Perhaps “75% of evangelicals” continue to support the War in Iraq because the alternatives are even worse.
    and the so-called “war on terror”,
    Is that like the “so called” attacks on the World Trade Centers, the London Subway, and the Madrid trains?
    which is really just a policy of never-ending war.
    Unfortunately you are half right here, the militant Islamists really do have a policy of “never-ending war” or at least until everybody submits to Islam.

  • ucfengr

    Wonders, I am a Christian and feel I must speak out-our society is kind of like the frog in a pot of water that is being slowly heated up-the frog doesn’t notice the water heating up and then all of a sudden it’s boiling….
    This is actually an old urban myth. Cold blooded critters don’t like hot water anymore than warm blooded ones.
    our society has become so militarized, yet we hardly even notice it
    Maybe we don’t notice it because, like your example of the frog, it just ain’t so. Most people would consider 1939 Germany a throughly militarized society; in 1939 Germany had 4,722,000 men under arms (all branches) out of a military aged population (males aged 15-44, women were not subject to military service) of 17,700,000 (source: http://www.feldgrau.com/stats.html). That’s almost 27% of the military aged population. Germany was also spending 30% of it GNP on the military (source: books.google.com/books?id=vF_BXyjdWJIC&pg=PA28&lpg=PA28&dq=german+military+spending+1939&source=web&ots=mGL1b0ai4c&sig=ZGkF9gqljsxeYjjAnKJK6uVOVuk). In contrast, the throughly militarized US has 1.4 million active military members (all branches) and 1.2 million reserve and National Guard members (source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_of_the_United_States) out of a military aged population (men and women age 18-49) of 109.3 million (source: CIA Factbook). So, counting both the active and reserve components, the US military employs 2.5% of its available military population. The US also spends roughly 5% of its GDP on defense (source: CIA Factbook). Calling the US “militarized” seems to be a bit like calling Pee Wee Herman muscular.
    so much in fact that 75% of evangelicals still support the invasion/occupation of Iraq
    Perhaps “75% of evangelicals” continue to support the War in Iraq because the alternatives are even worse.
    and the so-called “war on terror”,
    Is that like the “so called” attacks on the World Trade Centers, the London Subway, and the Madrid trains?
    which is really just a policy of never-ending war.
    Unfortunately you are half right here, the militant Islamists really do have a policy of “never-ending war” or at least until everybody submits to Islam.

  • JohnW

    I will not be responding to Post Nos. 11 and 12.

  • ucfengr

    I will not be responding to Post Nos. 11 and 12.
    No problem, John. However, I will continue to point out your faulty reasoning and weak logic whenever appropriate (which is almost always).
    Not to be pedantic, but by announcing that you won’t be responding to a particular post, haven’t you in fact responded to the post?

  • JohnW

    I will not be responding to Post No. 14

  • george 2

    Paul Harvey? Well, I suppose. But I still remember where I was when I heard him turn against the VN war.
    If anyone is interested, I won’t be responding to posts 1, 2, and 4 thru 15.

  • http://evangelicalperspective.blogspot.com Collin Brendemuehl

    george 2,
    Ya … well … same to you. ;-)

  • http://mumonno.blogspot.com Mumon

    ucfengr wrote:
    The US also spends roughly 5% of its GDP on defense
    Well, where to begin…
    The US GDP is by more than 2X the largest of the next runners up…who themselves spend significanlty less on defense (maybe 1-2% GDP) than we do. China’s spending on their military is puny in both GDP terms and real terms compared to ours.
    So the fact is we spend more on our military than the next 5 or so countries combined.
    And that’s not counting foreign aid – the vast majority of which is…you guessed it military aid.
    And then there’s “dual purpose” aid/spending. Like for the DEA.
    Is that like the “so called” attacks on the World Trade Centers, the London Subway, and the Madrid trains?
    Were those attacks instigated by terror? Or monotheistic religious fundamentalists?
    Oh, wait…I forgot…

  • ex-preacher

    The U.S. spends as much on its military as the next ten nations combined.
    The following chart at nationmaster.com gives a vivid picture of the spending comparison. I’m not sure this chart even includes all the additional spending on Iraq and Afghanistan.
    http://www.nationmaster.com/red/pie/mil_exp_dol_fig-military-expenditures-dollar-figure

  • ucfengr

    Well mumon, this is getting quite a bit off topic, but I’ll respond. Looking at China, according to the CIA Worldbook, China spends 4.3% of its GDP on defense. Quite a lot (the US spends about 5% of GDP) for a country that has no external threats and is only responsible for its own defense. Contrast that with the US who in addition to providing for its own defense, is also largely responsible for the defense of South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Europe, and much of the Middle East. Because of this, the US has to be able to project force far beyond its borders. This requires a large airlift and sealift capability to be able to transport and supply troops. All of this is very expensive. It also means that the US has to base troops and pre-position supplies at potential areas of conflict, another cost driver. Another factor is that the US is an all volunteer military; this means that in order to attract good candidates, the military has to pay its members fairly well. Almost 30% of the US defense budget goes towards paying its members and providing housing, health care, etc. for them and their families. China uses conscription to man its armed forces. This means they don’t have to worry about paying their troops very well or taking care of their families, most conscripts, being young men, have yet to form families. A further cost driver is that, since WW1, the US military doctrine has revolved around the concept that it money spent on equipment saves blood shed on the battlefield. If you look at the casualty ratios of US forces vs. their opponents you will find the US kills a lot of enemy soldiers for every US life spent, but this does come with a financial cost, one that I am glad we are willing to pay.
    Were those attacks instigated by terror? Or monotheistic religious fundamentalists?
    Well, if you want to be specific the attacks were carried out by Islamic extremists, but pointing that out offends some liberals, who like to think that Jerry Falwell = Osama Bin Laden. You’re not one of those, are you mumon?

  • ucfengr

    The U.S. spends as much on its military as the next ten nations combined.
    I am not sure how to do this, but if you could break down how much the US military spends on being able to defend Europe, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the Middle East, I bet you would find that this is a pretty big chunk of our defense dollars, maybe even a majority.

  • http://mumonno.blogspot.com Mumon

    ucfengr:

    China spends 4.3% of its GDP on defense. Quite a lot (the US spends about 5% of GDP) for a country that has no external threats and is only responsible for its own defense.

    No external threats? Perhaps you might not know, but both Korea and Japan have made claims on what Chinse claim is their terroritory or sea claims. Not to mention Taiwan, which whether you agree or not, is perceived by them as a province of theirs, and they have historical reasons to make that claim.
    And I don’t even know about whatever claims they may have with Vietnam. And of course Tibet has been “influenced” in their agitation for sovereignty by no other than the …United States.
    Now, China’s GDP is less than 1/2 ours – substantially less than 1/2.
    And, unlike the US, they have very tangible threats to their historic territory.
    And they don’t even have a deep sea naval capability.
    You were saying?

  • ucfengr

    Perhaps you might not know, but both Korea and Japan have made claims on what Chinse claim is their terroritory or sea claims.
    Is their any indication that either Japan or South Korea has the desire or the capability of enforcing those claims militarily? No.
    Not to mention Taiwan, which whether you agree or not, is perceived by them as a province of theirs, and they have historical reasons to make that claim.
    Whatever historic claims China may have on Taiwan, it is ludicrous to claim that Taiwan is a military threat to China. China is not spending defense dollars in response to a threat from Taiwan, but to threaten Taiwan. I’d like to be surprised that you would give any credence at all to a pretty brutal dictatorship’s designs on a small democratic neighbor, but, sadly, I am not.
    And of course Tibet has been “influenced” in their agitation for sovereignty by no other than the …United States.
    No “Free Tibet” bumper sticker for you, eh mumon, more like “Kick ‘em again, harder”. Again, I’d like to be surprised by your support of a brutal dictatorship’s conquest and genocide of a small religious minority, but, sadly, I am not.
    The reality is that your arguments are kind of silly. It would be like me arguing for more US defense spending based on Mexican, Indian, or Canadian claims to US territory. They may have legitimate historic claims, but they have neither the desire nor means to militarily enforce them.

  • http://m,umonno.blogspot.com Mumon

    Is their any indication that either Japan or South Korea has the desire or the capability of enforcing those claims militarily?
    Why, yes, of course. South Korea has a much larger standing army in percentage to their population that China does. And both of China’s potential adversaries have shown a propensity to project force in their own backyard,
    If you’ve ever been to Yasukuni Shrine, you’d see a museum that depicts “Chinese aggressions” against Japan, courtesy of the folks that brought China the Nanjing massacre (which the museum at Yasukuni Shrine says is a hoax.)
    Now when a fellow like Junichiro Koizumi goes to Yasukuni to “pay his respects,” he is in effect sanctioning this view of history, which, is more or less saying that China’s national sovereignty was stolen from Japan.
    Sound a heck of a lot like there’s a significant number of folks in Japan that are willing to enforce some of those claims militarily.
    …it is ludicrous to claim that Taiwan is a military threat to China.
    You missed my heavily elliptical point: The Taiwan situation means that the United States is a military threat to China. You might have thought it went away with all the good feeling at the Cold War, but it didn’t: Official US policy is to go nuclear in the event that China attempts to “recapture its renegade province” by military force. Yes, the US policy is “one China,” too.
    Again, I’d like to be surprised by your support of a brutal dictatorship’s conquest and genocide of a small religious minority, but, sadly, I am not.
    China has more of an historic claim to Tibet than we do with respect to, say, Hawaii or Puerto Rico; it goes back before the era of European colonialism.
    I guess you missed it too, but even the Dalai Lama recognizes this fact.
    It would be like me arguing for more US defense spending based on Mexican, Indian, or Canadian claims to US territory.
    Errr…umm… what’s that wall the conservatives want to build in southern Arizona, New Mexico and Texas?

  • John

    I suppose I was wrong-our country is not militaristic afterall. Out military is just bearing the white man’s burden and spreading democracy…and judeo-christian values.

  • http://evangelicalperspective.blogspot.com Collin Brendemuehl

    Mumon does bring a good point — ROC may prove to be a proxy situation like Korea, ‘Name, and Iraq.
    But — let’s not give up on our allies. They’re far more than pawns in a larger game — they are full allies.
    Here’s a prediction: Just as (some on the) the Left blamed 9-11 on our support for Israel, and would allow the destruction of Israel, the position on Taiwan will be the same.
    There will be a conflict of some sort with PROC and the fault will be placed on our support of ROC. Then ROC will be made the scapegoat for PROC.
    Collin
    http://evangelicalperspective.blogspot.com

  • http://mumonno.blogspot.com Mumon

    Collin-
    The US (luckily) hasn’t screwed this up yet, but it has the potential to do so, simply by giving Taiwan a message that it’s OK to formerly declare itself a separate nation.
    If that doesn’t happen,and if there’s no nuts who attain power in either China or Taiwan, there is actually a reasonable chance the Taiwan issue could be solved peacefully between the two governments.
    China/Hong Kong/Macau, the EU, and the situation in Northern Ireland are potential portents of a new way of doing business. I find it odd to use this quote by (former?) neocon Francis Fukuyama, but (via Digby’s blog):

    The EU’s attempt to transcend sovereignty and traditional power politics by establishing a transnational rule of law is much more in line with a “post-historical” world than the Americans’ continuing belief in God, national sovereignty, and their military.

    Yeah, yeah, yeah, oooh, that evil “one world government” that will usher in the “anti-Christ.” (Not that you said it, but I can imagine some readers of this blog would think it.)
    Sorry, but I’ll take Sun-Tzu over Tim LaHaye or John Hagee any day when it comes to how to deal with potential wars: the supreme excellence is to achieve your objective without having to go to war.

  • ex-preacher

    “how much the US military spends on being able to defend Europe, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the Middle East”
    Huh? Are you seriously suggesting that our troops currently stationed in Europe are there to defend Europe? From who? The Cold War ended, remember?
    We’re defending the Middle East? So we invaded Iraq to defend them from someone who might invade them? I suppose the two carrier groups we’ve got in the Persian Gulf are there to defend Iran?
    Also, a look at more current numbers found on wikipedia and other sources shows that the U.S. is now spending far more on its military than the rest of the world combined, even when spending on Iraq and Afghanistan is excluded.

  • ucfengr

    Why, yes, of course. South Korea has a much larger standing army in percentage to their population that China does.
    Okay, Japan has a potential military manpower of 43.6 million and spends 0.9% of its GDP (GDP = $4.2 Trillion) on defense, South Korea has a potential military manpower of 19.8 million and spends 3% of GDP (GDP = $1.18 Trillion) on defense, and Taiwan has a potential military manpower of 9.3 million and spends 2.4% of GDP
    (GDP = $0.668 Trillion). Contrast this with China with has a potential military manpower of 550.2 million and spends 4.3% of GDP (GDP = $10 trillion)(all figures from CIA Factbook, GDP figures reflect purchasing power parity as opposed to official exchange rate). Also of the countries, China is the only one with a nuclear arsenal. Saying China should consider any of these countries a threat would be like me considering my 3 year old son a threat because he has a better muscle to mass ratio.
    You missed my heavily elliptical point: The Taiwan situation means that the United States is a military threat to China.
    So, the US is a threat to China because China feels compelled to threaten one of our democratic allies (did I mention that Taiwan is a democracy) in the region. Sounds like China could remove the US as a military threat by simply accepting the reality that Taiwan is a separate country and has been for 50+ years. It’s not unheard of in the region; Japan seems to accept that the Korean peninsula and Manchuria are no longer Japanese provinces.
    China has more of an historic claim to Tibet than we do with respect to, say, Hawaii or Puerto Rico; it goes back before the era of European colonialism.
    The difference is that Hawaii and Puerto Rico want to be a part of the US, neither have to be held by in by force or the threat of force. I’m surprise you don’t see the difference. Actually, I am not all that surprised.
    Errr…umm… what’s that wall the conservatives want to build in southern Arizona, New Mexico and Texas?
    Oh, see I thought the fence was to manage immigration from Mexico to the US, I had no idea it was in response to a military threat from Mexico to reclaim the lands it lost in the Wars for Texas Independence and the Mexican War. The things you learn here.

  • ucfengr

    I suppose I was wrong-our country is not militaristic afterall.
    Wow, John, a little reality looks good on you. You should try it more often.

  • JohnW

    We need more money for Guns, Less for Butter.

  • http://evangelicalperspective.blogspot.com Collin Brendemuehl

    Mumon,
    While we certainly agree on the locus of the issue, we also certainly differ on the solution. I believe our “one China” policy to be inadequate for supporting an ally. It’s a compromise that fails.

  • http://mumonno.blogspot.com Mumon

    ucfengr:
    So, the US is a threat to China because China feels compelled to threaten one of our democratic allies (did I mention that Taiwan is a democracy) in the region.
    Democracy? Well, that’s only recently been true- for about 20 years or less. The Nationalists, when they took control of Taiwan murdered quite a few people.
    Moreover, it was Chinese territory.
    How would you like it if China invaded the United States because we aren’t exactly very democratic (like, you know, voter disenfranchisement?)
    But I digress.
    While Chang Kaishek was murdering the citizens of Taiwan,back in the 50s, the CIA was doing all kinds of things trying to ignite a civil war in Tibet.
    It’s not a “democracy versus dictatorship” thing, it’s a national invasion thing.
    If we Americans learned anything from Vietnam and Iraq, it is that you just can’t go into any country you want and invade them because you don’t like their form of government – or you say you don’t like their government but you really covet their oil. Because the folks in whose countries you invade, even if they hate the government will back it against the invader.
    And besides, covetting is a sin.
    The difference is that Hawaii and Puerto Rico want to be a part of the US, neither have to be held by in by force or the threat of force. I’m surprise you don’t see the difference. Actually, I am not all that surprised.
    The fact is, if they did want to secede, we’d invade.
    Just like we did in the civil war.

  • ucfengr

    If we Americans learned anything from Vietnam and Iraq, it is that you just can’t go into any country you want and invade them because you don’t like their form of government
    And yet, China invading Taiwan would be okay with you. When did defending freedom stop being a priority with left? Given a choice between defending a free nation or a nation aspiring to be free and a brutal dictatorship, there is a pretty significant portion of the left that will choose the dictatorship every time. It doesn’t seem to matter whether the free nation is the US, Israel, postbellum Iraq, Taiwan, South Korea, or even Tibet or the dictatorship is China, Iran, antebellum Iraq, or North Korea, this portion of the left will always choose to defend the dictatorship or at least attack the free nation.
    The fact is, if they did want to secede, we’d invade.
    Well, Puerto Rico has a referendum every so often on whether they want to become a state, remain a commonwealth, or become independent. I don’t recall the US threatening to invade if Puerto Rico votes the “wrong way.”
    Just like we did in the civil war.
    I think it is a little silly to assume that the USA in 2007 would react in the same way as the USA of 1861. If a significant majority of Hawaii decided to leave the Union, I doubt we’d invade to enforce our claims, but this is all speculation anyway. There is no significant portion, let alone a majority of Hawaiians who want to secede from the US.

  • who, me?

    I will not be responding to Comments 4-34.

    I thought the idea in the post here was not so much to point to "good foundational things conservatives should read" as to point out the medium and the memetics that conveys current evangelical messages, strengths and weaknesses. I think it’s accurate to catalogue your basic Paul Harvey sound-bite determined-outcome essay, plus the up-beat faux-substance of RD, stir in the archaic (however wonderful) impossibly unironic note of the Handbook.

    To the [preached-to] choir, these influences are transparent or comforting. But there is a note (I hear it in my elderly sister’s voice who has for 20 years read no secular newsmagazine) like the Mosquito, that the mainstream culture can hear and thus instantly discredit the message.

    Communicators must think more like artists, than Good Girls and Boys, without selling out the substance just to Be Liked by the Big Academic Boys. It’s a tall order, but just swapping politics and praise of Focus on the Family.  Oh my. Actually making the point.