define—or to redefine—the nature andnpurpose of American civilization. Thenweapons deployed in this war include thenmedia, direct-mail solicitation, and politicalncampaigns whose substance is morensymbolic than programmatical; yetnbecause both sides defend radicallynopposed ground and argue on separatenrhetorical planes, each finds itself speakingnpast the other. Between them, debatenis finally impossible. Hopeless of makingnconverts among their opponents, theynconcentrate instead on delegitimizing thenenemy—on convincing the broader andnmore neutral public that he is “un-American.”nAlthough Hunter concedes thatnthe debate is polarized to a far greaternextent than is the country itself, he doesnnot hesitate to suggest that, “our nationalnidentity and purpose has [sic] not beennmore a source of contention since thenCivil War.”nWilliam Bennett agrees with Hunternthat, “America … is engaged in an ongoingnand intensifying cultural war,” whichnhe describes as “the stmggle over the principles,nsentiments, ideas, and political attitudesnthat define the permissible and thenimpermissible, the acceptable and thenunacceptable, the preferred and the disdained,nin speech, expression, attitude,nconduct, and politics.” But (perhapsnbecause he is getting ready to run fornsomething) his understanding of then”war” is far more shallow and partisannthan Mr. Hunter’s; he seems to believenthat the issue is, after all, just anothernclash between the “conservative” Republicansnand the ‘liberal” Democrats. “Whynis there a battle about our culture?” henasks. “Part of the answer lies in understandingnthat there is a fundamental differencenbetween many of the most importantnbeliefs of most Americans and thenbeliefs of a liberal elite that today dominatesnmany of our institutions and whontherefore exert influence on American lifenand culture.”nI f only it were as simple as that. Mr.nHunter, while no great shakes as anwriter {Culture Wars is padded, pedantic,nand pompous), is at least a scholar ofnsorts; Dr. Bennett, by contrast, is a lifernescaped from the license-plate-manufacturingndivision of Penitentiary StatenUniversity. A trained scholar who hasnfailed to produce a work of scholarshipnbeyond the dissertation, he has made hisnway outward from the campus exercisenyard by accepting work in the hardly lessninsular world of the federal governmentnin Washington, D.C., where his provennstrategy has been to accept futile butnhighly prominent jobs (chairman of thenNational Endowment for the Humanities;nSecretary of Education; Dmg Czar),ndeclare expansive and ambitious goals,nmake provocative speeches (in contemporarynAmerican politics, a “provocative”nstatement is something on thenlevel of, “Money can’t buy a great education”)nthat solicit the attention of thenmedia, declare all missions in process ofnaccomplishment, all battles tendingntoward victory—and resign. Describingnhis tenure as a Cabinet secretary, henwrites, “I wanted to do with higher educationnwhat I tried to do with elementarynand secondary education: engage in somenBRIEF MENTIONSntmth telling, set the stage for a full-scaleneffort at much needed reform, forcenCongress to go on record, and keep thenpressure on…. Given the political climatenof the times, I couldn’t hope tonenact all the reforms I wanted. But Incould help create a climate of change andnlay the groundwork for future reform.”nClearly, Dr. Bennett has succeeded betternthan anyone since Thornton Wildernin making the part of the Stage Managerna stellar role.nThe De-Valuing of America (Bennettncontra Mundum would have been a betterntitle) is a smug, self-serving, platitudinous,ntedious, and ill-written book byna working politician and self-describednconservative who believes that “Dr.” Mar-nWATCHING AMERICA: WHAT TELEVISION TELLS US ABOUTnOUR LIVESnby S. Robert Lichter, Linda S. Lichter, and Stanley RothmannNew York: Prentice Hall Press; 322 pp., $24.95nWatching America analyzes the social and political content of thirty years of primetimentelevision and traces programming from depicting traditional morality, toncriticizing this status quo, to finally endorsing alternative values. Dramas in then50’s and 60’s, for instance, did not show “actual infidelity” onscreen “since, asnwith premarital sex, rumor and innuendo sufficed to destroy reputations.” Bynthe 80’s, however, such transgressions “elicit[ed] neither shock nor condemnation.”nMorality suffered an inversion whereby “the rigid traditionalist who wouldndeny [sex] its natural physical expression has become something of a stock villain.”nEven homosexuality, once taboo, now enjoys an air of respectability. Television’snnew morality “criticizes censorship, homophobia, and puritanism, whilentreating the victims of these evils in a generally sympathetic light.”nBefore the mid-60’s, I Love Lucy and Father Knows Best conveyed the apoliticalnatmosphere in which “traditional values and roles were assumed to be thennorm without argument.” The changes that ensued reflected what the authorsncall ‘left populism,” a social philosophy that “scomed moral restrictions and endorsedn… sexual experimentation, feminism, and … strong government action to maken.. . society more egalitarian and pluralistic.” These changes were embodied innthe Norman Lear productions of the 70’s that did so much to shape the new statusnquo. “Lucy Ricardo, Harriet Nelson, and Margaret Anderson would have beennshocked to see their Lear counterparts Ann Romano, Maude Findlay, and MarynHartman.” Indeed, it is difficult to imagine Donna Stone or Lucy Ricardo evennconsidering an abortion, but for Maude, it seemed inevitable.nThe new status quo, however, has its limits, and writer-producers who routinelyndredge up abortion, rape, incest, sexual abuse, and illegal drugs have beennwilling to take social realism only so far. The perpetrators of violent crime arenportrayed as “mainly white, mature adults, especially businessmen” when in factnFBI statistics document that “crimes are committed disproportionately by blacks,nyouths, and low income groups.” Clearly, there is “no impetus to carry ‘realism’nin this direction,”nThough the Lichters and Rothman are confident that “television has endorsednthe changes and may have accelerated their acceptance,” the limited scope of thisnbook prevents them from getting at the central issue: responsibility ultimatelynresides with the viewing audience which, if the popularity of shows like MarriednWith Children and Studs is any indication, has shown little or no resistance tonthe debased mores of the new status quo.n—Emily AdamsnnnMAY 1992/27n