Our culture is more concerned with not offending our enemies today. We have a culture, if somebody attacks us, a growing percentage of our country wants to ask, “What did we do to cause this? It’s our fault.” Somehow they’ve been told and they’ve bought into the notion that America is hated deservedly. So this Spanish stuff that you see in this ad, this is just an outgrowth of America thinking it’s guilty of being so big and such a superpower that we have to reach out, we have to be nice to the people that we’ve oppressed or made angry. ~Rush Limbaugh
Via David Sessions
What struck me when I read Limbaugh’s statement was not his remark about American culture being “under assault from within.” After all, this is more or less what Lowry and Ponnuru claimed about Obama seven months ago when they attempted to describe his “assault on American identity. What interested me was the way that Limbaugh immediately took a Spanish-language ad during a football game and turned it into a symbol of criticizing U.S. hegemony in the world. When you and I hear about this ad, we might have one of a number of reactions. I would dismiss it as typical corporate promotion of the cult of diversity, but for Limbaugh it was a product of a “blame America first” mentality and somehow related to arguments about blowback. The ad was instantly symbol of something insidious for Limbaugh, as if it were part of Obama’s “apology tour” that Limbaugh and people like him have invented out of thin air. Implicit in the connection Limbaugh made is that “our enemies” are everywhere and are even now among us (perhaps on the New York Jets’ starting roster!), and that the main problem in America is that there are too many people unwilling to resist them. This is the usual foolish alarmism that we are all used to by now, and it is tempting to point and laugh and then move on.
Instead of dismissing the appeal to a “distinctive American culture” that Limbaugh makes, I want to make plain that believing that a distinctive American culture exists shouldn’t have to have anything to do with the Americanism and hegemonism Limbaugh is offering here. One of the things I find grimly amusing about Limbaugh’s invocation of a “distinctive American culture” is that he is an enthusiast for the global reach of both American power and American popular culture and commerce. All of these have contributed to the steady erosion of differences between American culture and cultures elsewhere, and they have hastened the homogenization of distinctive American regional and local cultures into a mass culture that is remarkable mostly for how little it stands out from the mass cultures of other countries. When Limbaugh talks about a “distinctive American culture,” all that he is really referring to is America’s superpower status and a certain brash, arrogant disdain for other nations. A random Spanish-language ad raises the alarm because it hints at a failure to show the proper disdain and an unwillingness to assert American preeminence. My guess is that Limbaugh’s reaction to the ad has almost nothing to do with questions of assimilation, immigration or culture, and has almost everything to do with a certain mindless sort of American self-congratulation that Limbaugh would applaud no matter what language was used to express it.