“Total War:” Weaponizing and Exporting USA Popular Culture


Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D. – TRANSCEND Media Service

Coda: It is WRONG — morally, ethically, legally — for any nation or people to pursue political, economic, and/or cultural interests, security and safety by openly or insidiously imposing upon any other nation or people, a form of political, economic, culture (e.g., values, religion, language), and/or military invasion, occupation, and control that serves to colonize, oppress, and/or dominate this nation or people by any other means limiting self determination.

These are my words; but THEY are not words of my making. These words, and the thoughts they embody, appear in timeless historical documents inspired by anti-war and anti-violence advocates.


The United States of America (USA) is engaged in Total War!”  “Total War” is not restricted to the USA. It is an old strategy designed to defeat a targeted population through the use of “any and all means.” The USA has used “total war” to not only defeat and subdue a targeted population or nation, but to destroy, annihilate, and humiliate a targeted foe’s historical traditions, languages, values, and potential for survival capable of resisting destruction.

“Total War” is a military-like strategy designed to win a war by engaging in assaults on “any and all” of a nation’s resources as legitimate military targets. This includes domination and control of media, entertainment, financial systems, and purchased leaders.

  1. Exportation of USA Popular Culture

For the United States of America, “Total War” involves the direct and indirect exportation of USA popular culture, resulting in the “weaponization” of culture manifestations, representations, and expressions.  Exportation becomes a powerful way for invasion, occupation, dominance, and ascendancy of organizations, societies, and nations. Among the notable consequences “total war” via the exportation of USA popular culture are:

  • Colonization of minds in accord with USA values, knowledge content, and ways-of-knowing (i.e., epistemology), ways-of-being (i.e., ontology), and ways of acting (i.e., praxiology);
  • Homogenization of human behavior supporting global uniformity and conformity while destroying variation, diversity, and differences;
  • Promotion of major USA goals (e.g., hegemonic globalization, unregulated capitalism, corporate domination of local and national policies, dollar supremacy, and USA ascendancy as the sole world power (e.g., Project for a New American Century);
  • Formation of military alliances, distancing the USA from possible threats from other nations. There is increased dependency upon USA military protection, and sales of military arms to conquered people and nations;
  • Presence of military bases to secure USA dominance and stability. (There are now an estimated 1600 USA military bases around the world. USA Africa Command has established 35 military bases).

From the point of view of costs and military invasion, exportation of USA popular culture is an effective way to win! “Acculturation” becomes palatable when communicated as “modernization,” “progress,” and “change.”  It is “change,” but it is neither “modernization” nor “progress!”

Once USA popular culture is implanted in other nations, “Regime Change,” with the assistance of financial corruption and military control, becomes a predictable course. With bought pro-USA leaders, the USA controls a nation’s future. Indigenous cultures often disappear, population declines, local life forms become extinct, and natural resources become exploited. The “gift” of USA popular culture is often incompatible with human survival because it is based on exploitation.

USA residents sense they are captive to their own culture, yet appear unable to liberate themselves from the matrix of powerful events and forces. Amid pauses and respites from the comforts of pizza, wings, beer, shopping, TV football games, “unreality” shows, biased media, computer games, and omnipresent advertising, they sense something is wrong, but they feel powerless to escape. Agency is lost! Habits are difficult to break!  Go along! How long can it continue?

  1. Elements of USA Popular Culture:
    1. Consumerism:The promotion of the constant and unlimited purchase of goods as a source of personal satisfaction and status. Consumerism has little concern for the consumption and exploitation of natural and human resources. (Sustainability)
    2. Materialism: The belief that personal worth and well being is directly related to the acquisition of tangible goods and personal possessions. Materialism is a major source of consumerism. (Spirituality)
    3. Commodification:The assignment of a monetary value to all things so they can be treated as commodities (i.e., articles of commerce or trade on the commodity market and exchange) to be considered in determining worth and value. Within this ethos, money becomes a critical arbiter of personal, governmental, and commercial decisions. (Human Worth)
    4. Inequality/Privilege/Diversity:This American cultural ethos seeks to hide or disguise itself amidst spin, platitudes, and self-righteous assertions in government, commerce, media, and religion, but the harsh reality is that the very diversities we claim to support constitute sources of their absence or minimal existences. Racial, ethno-cultural, gender, sexual preferences, social class, and a host of other biases define popular culture, and are sustained by it.  (Diversity/Equality)
    5. Violence and Power: The impulse and tendency to use harsh and abusive force for both pleasure (e.g., football, computer games), and to pursue power (e.g., bullying, gangs, war). There is a tolerance of violence and, in many ways, a fascination with its expression and consequences. (Peace/Justice)
    6. Individual Self Interest: A focus on the “individual” to such an extent that there is minimal attention to the consequences of this for the social and collective nexus. Support for individual rights, while essential for the protection of human freedom and liberty, is often in conflict with the needs of a society and nations (Social Interest,Gemeinschaftesgefuhl).
    7. Celebrity Identification and Pre-Occupation:The attachment and concern for the lives of celebrities to such an extent that there is preoccupation with the events in celebrity lives at the expense of concern for critical issues in one’s own life and events of the wider world (e.g., People Magazine, TV shows, fan clubs, social networks). (Attachment to “Ordinary” Citizens and Neighborhood Life)
    8. 8.Competition:Competition is a defining trait of the American national character and daily life. Throughout education, commerce, entertainment, athletics, and political arenas of life, competition is considered good and to be encouraged. “Survival of the fittest” is an ingrained virtue, and there is often little concern or admiration for those who are second best. (Cooperation)
    9. Financial Greed:In accord with its capitalistic system and attachment to competition in all areas of life, the unbridled pursuit of profit has turned into greed—an excessive desire to acquire money and material wealth often at the sacrifice of all ethical, moral, and often, legal standards. (Sharing)
    10. Rapid and Constant Change:The emphasis on rapid “change” and the pursuit of the new is a valued goal and activity. This is powered by the new technology. This emphasis continually pushes the boundaries of current and conventional beliefs and activities to new limits. This is especially true for TV programs, movies, computer games regarding explicit sexuality, violence, and dress styles and fads. (Tradition, Continuity)
    11. Hedonism:While the pursuit of pleasure is certainly a “normal” human value and behavior, first articulated in great detail in ancient Greece, and subsequently in Western psychology (behavior is motivated to seek pleasure and to avoid pain), its pursuit in America is unhampered by the extensive freedoms to self-indulge, and to disregard tradition or convention. These views often conflict with religious beliefs that see seeking pleasure as a sin. (Self-Denial, Endure, Restraint)
    12. Time Compression and Management: The response to time as a commodity tom be negotiated via multi-tasking, cost-benefit tradeoffs, immediacy rewards, quotas, computer speeds, and highly scheduled family and children’s lives pervasive throughout USA culture. Other cultures share this obsession, but it seems to me, the USA is the major advocate of time compression and management (Aside from sweatshop slave labor in various Asian countries caught in production quotas). (Enriched Time; Fulfilling Time)
    13. Fast Foods: Elements of “fast food” include brief, immediate, or non-existent eating breaks, inexpensive food, high-caloric energy foods, salt and sugar taste-disguises, and poor nutrition value. Fast food is not unique to popular USA culture. However, USA Fast-Food Industries have refined the contents, production process, distribution, and taste to mass population appeal. It is hard to resist bacon, hamburgers, fries, fried chicken, wings, hot dogs, pizza, tacos, and sweetened carbonated beverages (Nutrition; Weight Management; Time Stress Management).   
    14. Transgressive Ideology: An emerging cultural ideology that accepts as normative, violations of human decency and morality by promoting illicit behaviors (e.g., violent murder, torture, rape, pedophilia, incest, pornography, substance abuse, sado-masochism) involving all ages. This is manifesting itself in literature, movies, music, and television. (Civility, Decency, Respect)
    15. Pills, Products: While all cultures produce and use pills and products to treat illness and to promote health, wellbeing, and appearance, the USA supports massive national and international industries (e.g., cosmetic, pharmacological) in these areas. In combination with effective and seductive advertising, homes in the USA are filled with pills, lotions, potions, salves, and devices. (Natural Substances, Holistic Medicine).   

These elements are displayed graphically in Chart 1.   Each element of USA popular culture carries with it an explicit and implicit socialization power transcending invasion, occupation, dominance, and ascendancy. It is a colonization of mind, designed to erase and denigrate past.

As the cultures before the invasion of USA popular culture, disorders and deviancy emerge including alcoholism, prostitution, crime, family disintegration. Logo t-shirts emerge and become carriers of a new culture.  It is called, “identity with the aggressor.”

  1. Some Closing Thoughts

There are other symbolic, verbal, and material representations of USA popular culture including (1) USA exceptionalism; (2) “I did it my way mentality,” and (3) sexualization of advertising.  My point is made. Think about it!  Each day we are caught in a cultural web we openly criticize, and yet we cannot seem to escape.  Constant advertising keeps us confined to the advertising messages.

The power of USA popular culture is vast and complex. It has been exported to virtually all nations. It is a “war-like” invasion and occupation of a way-of-life, displacing and overwhelming existing cultural values and practices.  Even as the USA is subject to increasing criticism for its abusive and intrusive actions in the culture’s of other nations, USA leaders appear reluctant to accept criticism.  Like it or not, we won!”


Footnote (1):

This article is part of a continuing series of publications I have authored on critiques and commentaries of USA foreign relations strategies, policies, and tactics. I have contended USA is engaged in immoral, unethical, and illegal actions, including war, invasion, occupation, and exploitation of foreign nations and people toward the promotion of USA global dominance, control, and supremacy. Examples of relevant articles follow:

2011…Anthony J. Marsella The United States of America: A culture of war. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 35, 714-728.

Jan 9, 2012 Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D. The United States of America is a culture of war!


Nov 12, 2012 Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D. The United States of America: A culture of violence:”

https://www.transcend.org/…/the-united-states-of-america-a-culture-of- violence/

Nov 11, 2013 Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D. Popular American (USA) culture: A dysfunctional and destructive life context.

https://www.transcend.org/…/popular-american-usa-culture-a-dysfunctional-and- destructive-life-context/

December 28,2015… Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D. World order and disorder. The games and gambles of life and lives.



Aug 1, 2016 … Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D. The “versus” mentality of our … times: Twenty-five conflicts.



Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D., a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment, is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Emeritus Professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii’s Manoa Campus in Honolulu, Hawaii, and past director of the World Health Organization Psychiatric Research Center in Honolulu.  He is known internationally as a pioneer figure in the study of culture and psychopathology who challenged the ethnocentrism and racial biases of many assumptions, theories, and practices in psychology and psychiatry. In more recent years, he has been writing and lecturing on peace and social justice. He has published 21 books and more than 300 articles, tech reports, and popular commentaries. He can be reached at marsella@hawaii.edu.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 27 Mar 2017.

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2 Responses to ““Total War:” Weaponizing and Exporting USA Popular Culture”

  1. PK Willey says:

    A very astute article. The author has thought wisely and seriously about our global impact. Some Thoughts: The only thing I would question is the ‘weight management’ part of the antidote to Fast Foods, and that only from the angle of appearance. There is an obsession in our country with physical appearance as being an indication of many other factors. Cultivated through media, piped or waves into our eyes and ears, resulting in life long mental illnesses, particularly in girls and women, now extending to boys and men as well. Inwardly, I hold thankfulness that those who do not fit into the advertised depictions of beauty, body and facial compositions walk among us, beacons of a reality we are missing in our daily doses from media.

    A recent trip to a laundromat in a Hispanic area was enlightening. I don’t have time for TV, and had not realized that a separate Hispanic media via TV was going on in Spanish. It was clearly evident that social programming was being aimed at Hispanic women. Outfits, social behaviors, etc.; an hour of viewing a stream of endless advertisements, while I waited for some heavy blankets to go through the machines helped me to understand apparel choices that are being made. It is as though specific populations in society are being targeted through media to dress in certain ways, behave in certain ways, and get their group identity acceptance from those modifications. These ways and apparel choices may be held as ‘in poor taste’ by those programmed and conditioned otherwise. They may also become ‘identity markers’, and cause a sense of ‘othering’ which is inimical to a shared participation in our democracy.

    I was amazed to see in Leh, Ladakh (2010) which only opened to the public in 1975, teens in jeans and corporate branded t-shirts. To hear in a You-tube video of a car pile-up in the snows of Russia, American music playing in the car…there are few corners left on the globe where the outer signs of pop culture have not invaded. Stores in Asia: “Global Teen!”

    The imitation and copying of outer symbols are also a call for some of the freedoms that we have, that people perceive. Youth in other countries where social ordering is strong, are often sick of it. They want the freedom of heart that our music and media promises.

    In all my travels, I have seen no other society where the breadth of genuine willingness exists as it does in the USA to tolerate and accept others. There are plenty of exceptions, but, in an overall viewing we still have a huge buck on the hierarchical thinking. It may not be a social reality in many places (I have little experience with the deep rural south), but, the average American does not kow-tow like those in the rest of the world (with Scandinavia, Germany, Canada, as exceptions). The rest of the world, accepts social ordering and has far greater xenophobic tendencies to an extent not seen here.

    This is perhaps one of our our sole remaining ethical strengths. Out ethos of social equality, however imperfect in practice, is better than elsewhere. Although social inequality is seen in jobs, education, etc. here, there is the American Heart – the one that responds humanely to all kinds of situations, that has churches throughout the country engaging memberships in creating things for those in need. That common heart rushed to help the victims of Katrina, and was literally forced back by the US militarized forces there at the time. Why were people, the deeply concerned public of America, not allowed to bring even water to the New Orleans residents locked in the astro-dome? Why were New Orleans people fired upon when trying to leave this disaster on the only roads accessible? This was not the response of the American people, who to this day cannot understand it. Nor are the wars currently raging all over the Earth in the name of oil, resources, political control, and terrorism – (whose?).

    I have seen that the majority of ‘helping videos’ posted on Youtube, how-to-do, how-to-fix, are from the USA. Americans love to help one another. Its a deep part of our ethos. Its what makes us great in the real sense of our transcendent humanity. We are a symbol of genuine human universality that the youth of the world take hope in.

    That our politics are odious to the rest of the world is tragically true. They are odious to most of us as well. It appears that govt. has lost sight of the exercise of ‘good will’. As a society, we have opted for the legitimacy of greed, encouraged for decades now, perhaps beginning through those mindless screaming game shows, where people are shown actually crying with joy to get new household appliances, and 10K. We have been educated into these patterns, conditioned into violence since the 1930’s. Yet, many in America, perhaps the vast silent majority of people deplore this.

    Confusion on civic duty (now dropped from educational curriculua for several decades) and rights is enhanced by deliberate obfuscation on things like the first amendment, freedom of speech. At present, I am observing a huge push to ‘normalize’ pedophila, to decriminalize ‘under age sex’, drug use, etc., etc. The success of technology and media control has been able to now shift public opinions within a week with constant bombardment.

    The lack or dropping of civic education has caused great damage to our alertness in the ways our democracy is functioning. We are, after all, a people’s experiment, but have forgotten it, and it is only we, who can reclaim our true individualism and functioning democracy.

  2. PK Willey says:

    I have since added some other thoughts and links to articles which demonstrate the ‘jeans’ issue in Asia, posted on my site:


    thanks again to the author, Dr. Marcella who nudged me to think and write today.