How to Start a Culture War

  1. Hold strong opinions about a few issues. The more people that care about the issues, the better. These opinions need not be informed opinions; conviction is the key. (Note, one issue is usually insufficient to start a culture war, but don’t choose too many because then you’ll dilute the message and make it difficult to recruit soldiers.)
  2. Use the frame of war to interpret all disagreements over these issues. This includes using some, but preferably all, of the following language: enemy, fight, battle, attack, threat, defend, the fallen, and death. It also helps to draw analogies to historical wars. World War II is useful for this. Liken those you disagree with to Nazis, the Gestapo, Hitler, and Stalin. You can also mix things up once in a while by using Mao and the Junta. The key to doing this is removing all nuance from discussion. Remember, in war there is no middle ground. (And here’s a tip: when encountering those who wish to nuance the discussion, liken them to enemy spies. Works like a charm;>)
  3. Create enemies. If you are fortunate, you will find several people who disagree with you and already see the disagreement in terms of war. If so, rally the troops and commence battle. If not, use the following steps to create enemies:
    • Make public statements that are provocative but leave you with sufficient plausible deniability to avoid charges of nastiness. (Note: these provocative statements should be as vague as possible. Providing actual evidence for your claims will only work against you.)
    • When people ask what you mean by these provocative statements accuse them of mal-intent. They never came to have a civil discussion, of course. Instead, they’re hiding their sword behind their back waiting for the right moment to strike. Doing things such as questioning their ability to read or recognize their own biases work wonders.
    • When they respond with anger, play the victim. This will serve as not only evidence for your reluctance to enter the war, but also serve to further upset the enemy—creating a vicious (but effective) circle of provocative statement –> inquiry –> anger. Before long your enemies will skip the inquiry stage and go straight to expressing their anger.
    • This step is key. You must use these exchanges as evidence that this war is real and that you did not start it. The “right” side of the fight is always the side defending itself. Make this your mantra: We do not want the culture wars; they want us!
  4. Rally the troops. Find individuals who largely agree with your opinions on said issues. Use the information generated in point 3 as evidence for the reality of the enemy. Remind your troops that the stakes are high and that they must choose which side they are on.
  5. Commence battle. Use everything at your disposal to put your ideas out there. This includes blogs, facebook, online magazines, newspaper columns, etc. Media where comments are allowed is a plus since the enemy will respond and you can use this to rally the troops (see point 4). Do not try to publish in any academic venues. Not only will it take so long for your work to appear that fewer people will care about the issue, but the peer review process will likely weed out the war rhetoric and lack of evidence.
  6. Declare victory and defeat. This step may sound odd, but you need both elements to keep the war going. Victory raises the morale of your troops, but defeat reinforces the need to fight. Don’t declare both at once though (this will only complicate matters, see the point about nuance above); instead use a ratio of roughly 3:1. Victory-victory-victory-defeat. Adjust as necessary.
  7. A note on civil war. Regrettably, soldiers turn on each other. You must be ready at any time to use these steps against your soldiers. When doing this, traitor imagery is an advantage: these people are wolves in sheep’s clothing, Judas, or moles. You must show the loyal soldiers that the worst kind of enemy is a so-called friend.

I hope this helps in all your endeavors.

Have fun storming the castle,

Carl “Smallaxe” von Clausewitz

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