Gianluigi Buffon’s Battle with the Culture Industry as Emblematic of the Postmodern World’s Double Standards

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Buffon: A Legend, Who Is Not Afraid to Talk About Depression Or Anything Else. Image Courtesy of:


Author’s Note: This Post Was Originally Written as an Assignment for a Qualitative Methods Seminar. Please Excuse the Excessive Use of Academic Citations.


Paul Atkinson’s Thinking Ethnographically explains one facet of the modern world well: Citing Harold Garfinkel, Atkinson explains that “degradation requires a ‘perpetrator’ to be denounced before some witness or audience, and for there to be agreement that there has been a serious infraction of collective values, in such a way that displays the true character of the perpetrator, and is not a minor blemish. Nowadays such degradations and character threats are likely to be seen in mass media and social media” (Atkinson 2017: 89). Atkinson ties these “degradation ceremonies”, as he calls them, to labelling. For Atkinson “labeling implies attribution. In the course of labeling our fellow actors, we attribute to them particular kinds of motives, characters, and other attributes” (Ibid.: 90). Here we see that the label is tied to the individual’s character, which carries with it a strong moral connotation.


Ostertag and Ortiz’s 2017 article regarding bloggers writing about hurricane Katrina touches on the same moral point, as they note that bloggers “communicate personalized stories packaged with emotional and moral messages (Ostertag and Ortiz 2017: 63). In fact, the authors quantitatively point out just how often “moralities” are mentioned in the blog content they analyze, showing that “blogging served [for Katrina bloggers] as an outlet to direct their emotional energies and voice their senses of moral indignation” (Ibid.: 70). Unfortunately, I believe the authors miss the mark on their analysis when they claim that this stress on “morality” facilitates “the development of social ties rooted in trust, compassion and companionship” (Ibid.: 76). Quite the contrary, I believe that the stress on morals—which carries with it an implicit character degradation (in the manner that Atkinson discussed it) of all who might disagree—means that the bloggers are only erecting boundaries between their own (moral) selves and the amoral “others” who may not agree with their writing. It is in this sense that we can clearly see that social media can, sometimes, merely serve as an echo chamber.


Wendy Griswold’s (2013) chapter does a good job of showing that the culture industry plays a major role in defining—and even encouraging—the division of society along (perceived) “moral” lines. Griswold, citing Hirsch, explains that “the culture industry system works to regulate and package innovation and thus to transform creativity into predictable, marketable packages” (Griswold 2013: 74). Indeed, “morality”—or at least the perception of it, given its short supply in the hyper-consumerist society of postmodern Western civilization—is a “marketable” commodity. As Griswold notes, “once an idea has been put into words or symbols (a manifesto, a peace symbol), it is a cultural object” (Ibid.: 82). In this sense, morality is just another “cultural object” in the post modern world. The Katrina bloggers Ostertag and Ortiz write about—knowing full well that moral indignation gains more followers—play a role in turning “morality” itself into a “cultural object”. This is how the culture industry gradually homogenizes culture itself (Ibid.: 75); by adhering to what sells—what brings home emotional or financial capital—would-be opponents of the culture industry end up succumbing to its effects. Put another way, Griswold explains this process by pointing out that “if cultural creators can frame their product or message so it resonates with a frame that the audience already possesses, they are more likely to persuade that audience to “buy” (an idea, a product, or a taste)” (Ibid.: 88). For many cultural creators—like the bloggers studied by Ostertag and Ortiz—it is “morality” that is the frame.


Griswold shows us that there are two competing schools of thought regarding the interpretation of culture: The first is mass culture, which posits that culture overwhelms recipients. The second is popular culture, which sees individuals as “active makers and manipulators of meaning” (Ibid.: 90).  I would say that the truth lies somewhere in between; it is a mix of both mass culture and popular culture theory which explains the emphasis on “morality” in modern culture. Although, as popular culture theory posits, we might make our own cultures (and meanings), it is only a matter of time until the mass culture appropriates those meanings and sells them back to us, leaving us bereft of any other interpretation. Whatever meaning we, as individuals, might make, it will always be subject to the logic of producers and consumers and thus subject to homogenization.


I will provide an example of this process by discussing the case of Italian footballer Gianluigi Buffon. Although Buffon is a legend in Italian—and world—football, his career has not been one without controversy. At the beginning of his career, Buffon was criticized for choosing the number 88 (because some deemed it an anti-semitic number) and for wearing a t-shirt with a slogan which had been used by Italy’s fascist leaders (Brodkin 2000). Of course, due to this perceived amorality, Buffon was vilified. And the culture industry of the media ran along with it. Fast forward almost two decades later, and it is a very different story. Indeed, Buffon was praised by the culture industry for his enthusiastic rendition of the Italian national anthem before a football game (Lloyd, n.d.) as well as for is “class” in applauding the Swedish national anthem when some Italian fans booed it (Polden 2017). What, then, is the true story of Gianluigi Buffon? Is he a fascist, or a neo-Nazi as some tried to brand him for donning the “88” shirt? Or is he just an Italian patriot, who supports the patriotism—and national anthems—of other nations as well? I would interpret him as the latter since there is absolutely no proof whatsoever that Buffon is a bigot. Unfortunately, however, the soil of his previous experience with what Atkinson called “degradation ceremony” remains. The controversy—immortalized as it is by the internet—cannot be escaped.


Here we see the hypocrisy of the culture industry. The culture industry, in praying on the general search for “morality” in the wider public (which itself lives in a postmodern world devoid of morals), will vilify—or sanctify—in accordance to popular demand; if what is being sold resonates with the frames possessed by the masses it will sell. While it was easy to degrade Buffon as a “fascist” or “anti-Semite” when he was an up and coming player, it became harder to do so after he established himself as one of the best players of his generation. This is why the media narrative did a proverbial 180; it was not selling anymore because Buffon had become a national hero. Unfortunately, what Atkinson does not recognize, is that “degradation ceremonies” are part of the tool kit of postmodern fascism; they can be used at any moment to attack the “morality” of an individual and sully a reputation in an instant. It is just one danger that the independent thinking individual faces in the hyper-commodified hyper-consumerist society we now find ourselves in.


March Madness: A Marginal Sociologist’s Note on Sports and Linguistic Censorship on Campus in the Postmodern Age

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As if watching my university unceremoniously bow out of the NCAA basketball tournament was not punishment enough, I had to endure a battle with my ideological colleagues at the same time. It was certainly March Madness in more ways than one. As we watched our university throw away their championship hopes, the conversation turned to our day jobs and a topic I am very concerned with: political correctness and the ongoing loss of free speech in the United States.

I mentioned a professor from our department who told me that a journal once criticized him for using the word “seminal” in an article; since the word referred to “semen” it was, therefore, a masculine word and thus off-limits. I was appalled that, for instance, writing the sentence “Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism is a seminal work in sociological thought” could ever be grounds for censure. Unfortunately, the Brave New World of postmodern identity politics loathes free speech. Indeed, the brown-shirts of “progressive” ideology will be the first to tar and feather any who step out of line. Simply put, if you do not want to be labeled as a “racist”, a “sexist”, or some other “’cist”, you might not want to raise your ugly head in modern academia by going against the dominant strains of one dimensional thought. I know the punishment one will face because I live it every day.

In my conversation with colleagues, I recalled out loud a graduate seminar from a few months back where the professor explained to us that the word “penetrate” should be avoided because—like “seminal”—it has a masculine connotation. Shockingly, my colleagues seemed to agree with this assessment of “penetrate”. They told me that “penetrate” was a “sexist word”, and shouldn’t be used. I informed them that “penetrate” is certainly not a sexist word. At that, one colleague told me “well, it comes from ‘penis’”. At that I had to ask—was my colleague now a linguist? I thought we were studying Sociology! Unfortunately, my colleague had clearly not taken four years of Latin in high school; “penetrate” comes from the Latin “penetratus” and related to “penitro” meaning “to place within” (see and ). Indeed, the word “penetrate” has nothing to do with “penis” but, I guess, it is my colleagues who have their minds in the gutter.


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Its Not the Word Origin. Imags From: (Top) and (Bottom)


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The Cambridge Dictionary Seems to Have No Qualms With Using Penetrate Alongside Female Pronouns. Image From:


As if to prove my point, the announcers on the television in front of us lamented the failure our team’s offense: “they just cannot penetrate the paint” was a familiar refrain. Indeed one of the main tactics in basketball is to “penetrate the paint” in order to get as close as possible to the basket so as to have an opportunity for a high percentage shot.


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A Diagram Of How To Penetrate the Paint in Basketball. Image From:


Unfortunately for my university, however, the players were not able to do this. Perhaps, it shouldn’t be surprising: given that instructors at the university are all too happy to do away with the word “penetrate”, I should not blame the players for not penetrating the paint. After all, at this point, they may not have even known what the word means! As students and educators alike, we must all stand up to the attacks on free speech which are taking place on university campuses across the United States. If we want to raise the next great generation of American citizens, we must stand up in the face of fascism and censorship regardless of the form it takes. In fact, some might say that we must “penetrate” the walls which political correctness have erected around our thoughts. Who knows, it might just have a positive effect on our basketball teams as well.

Why Should We Listen to NBA Players About Anything?

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As readers will know, I am all for individuals from the sports world voicing their political opinions. After all, athletes are citizens and they have every right to express themselves regarding their opinions on the state of their (respective) nations. However, it is important to engage in such protests while still respecting the nation that one belongs to so as to maintain a basis for implementing the social change being protested for. Similarly, we should recognize that there is a difference between the organic protest of sports figures and that which can be used for propaganda, as we have seen in Turkey.

Unfortunately, in the United States, the media has become more and more involved in actively searching out political opinions from sports figures in what amounts to the perpetuation of a propaganda campaign. It should go without saying that these are hardly “organic” opinions, rather they are opinions that are being searched out in order to further certain political positions. Recently, ESPN reporter Cari Champion rode around with NBA stars Lebron James and Kevin Durant in a perfect example of the kind of “searching” I am talking about. In the interview Mr. James says, without mentioning the President of the United States by name, that the “appointed person [is] someone who doesn’t understand the people, and really don’t give a f— about the people.” Again, Mr. James’ poor grasp of the English language (something I have criticized previously) comes through in this statement.



Mr. Durant (L) and Mr. James (R) Are Apparently Political Scientists Now, According to The Washington Post. Image Courtesy Of:


What’s worse is that Mr. James’ political opinions can have little effect on the majority if he uses terms like “appointed person”; by furthering the divides in his country Mr. James is not really voicing his own opinion, instead he is merely parroting the opinions of the main (lame?) stream media. In effect, Mr. James is being used by the culture industry. That, in itself, should be food for thought, but you won’t hear this opinion in The Washington Post. Indeed, their columnist who specializes in “identity politics” criticizes Mr. James’ detractors by connecting it to (predictably) race. I would argue that it is more racist to use an athlete for propaganda purposes, but I am not The Washington Post (thankfully).

Throughout the controversy, I am left wondering: Why should I care about an athlete’s political perspective? Why should it be a topic of conversation in a national news outlet like the Washington Post? What makes Mr. James’ perspective more valuable than my own, other than the fact that he is supported by the culture industry? Indeed, if we were to take the opinions of NBA players as “truth” we would be in big trouble. In February 2018, NBA star Kyrie Irving repeated his support of the “flat earth theory”, which he first came out in support of in 2017. Shockingly, a former NFL quarterback also seemed to support Mr. Irving’s “theory”.


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Mr. Smith Is Certainly Correct When He Reminds Us To “Have An Open Mind”, It Would Just Be More Useful To Have An Open Mind About More Immediate Questions. This Is How the Culture Industry Re-Directs Our Own “Open-Mindedness” (For Lack Of A Better Term). Image Courtesy Of:


It is absurd that we are being told to take athletes’ political opinions seriously when these same athletes are also coming out in support of outlandish theories that dismiss gravity itself. Despite the absurdity of it all, we must all recognize that these events are indicative of wider societal issues. Due to the internet and increased social media usage, there are a multitude of opinions proliferating all over the internet. Unfortunately, many of these opinions have little basis in reality and are merely used to distract us all from the real questions that need to be asked. In this sense, people are encouraged to have “different” opinions only when they are clearly absurd. People can question the idea that the world is round, yet they cannot question the relevancy of an NBA player’s political opinions. People would undoubtedly be better off questioning the progressive fascism happening all around them—furthered by the culture industry—than questioning things that were settled a long time ago. 2,000 years ago, to be exact.



If We Want The World To Stay Around–No Pun Intended–It Would Be Best to Address The Immediate Problems We See In Our Own Societies, Like Progressive Fascism. Image Courtesy Of:

Racism In Progressive Society: A Short Example From the Sporting World and Why We Need More Communicative Action

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A few weeks ago on 12 February 2018, NBA head coach Gregg Popovich candidly stated that, in the United States, “we live in a racist country”. As someone who studies both sports and society, this was—of course—fairly obvious. Yet, it was not obvious in the sense that Mr. Popovich may have meant it to be. While he might compare the current state of the United States to “the fall of Rome”, the road to that trajectory was paved by the 44th President of the United States of America, Mr. Barack Obama. Indeed, the racism goes much deeper than the surface level change in the White House which Mr. Popovich seems to allude to.

This kind of racism was clear on 8 Februrary 2018 when House Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D of California) uttered these words regarding her six-year old grandson speaking with regard to his Guatemalan friend “Antonio”:

This was such a proud day for me because when my grandson blew out the candles on his cake, they said, ‘Did you make a wish?’… He said, ‘I wish I had brown skin and brown eyes like Antonio.’ So beautiful, so beautiful. The beauty is in the mix.

To me, as an American, the odd veiled form of racism contained in the above statement made me cringe; indeed it made me embarrassed to be an American. It was uncouth to say the least. Yet, sadly, this kind of veiled racism—disguised with the rhetoric of “tolerance”—is, sadly, everywhere in American society. It is this tendency to blindly subscribe to “tolerance” without actually believing it which has made so many Americans into what they should never be and, indeed, what they claim to fight against. Many Americans have become—unwittingly—racists, sexists, and bigots. It is a twisted and remarkable story.

I was reading an article for a graduate seminar last week and was struck by a passage written by the author, Ellis P. Monk, Jr. In his 2015 article “The Cost of Color: Skin Color, Discrimination, and Health among African-Americans”, the author has this to say:


I find that medium-tone blacks actually perceive significantly less discrimination from other blacks due to their skin color than both the very lightest-skinned and very darkest-skinned blacks (both self-rated and interviewer-rated skin color measures produce this result, although I only present the self-rated skin color findings in table 4). Moreover, I find that both very light-skinned and very dark-skinned blacks report significant amounts of discrimination due to their skin shade within the black population (table 4, models 3 and 5).

Monk (2015: 422)


As I read this passage I was repulsed. How was it, I wondered, that in 2018 we were discussing something as banal as gradations in human skin color? I found it to be the epitome of racism; indeed, I thought to myself that 100 years from now (if the world still exists, of course) sociologists will look back at our era and comment on how backward—and indeed racist—our society really was.

It is my hope that, as individuals, we will be able to get over our collective hyper-sensitivity to all that is different and which has poisoned our society due to the emphasis on identity politics. The signs of this kind of hyper-sensitivity—which encourages division over unity—are visible all over the town I currently live in, from a sticker on a trash can which reads “this oppresses women” (how a rubbish receptacle can oppress an entire gender I will never know) to a ludicrous poster in the window of a local bar. I would never have thought that all races, religions, countries of origin, sexual orientations, and genders would not be welcome at a bar—until, of course, I saw this particular poster. Acting as if the default—that is, inclusion—is not actually the default, that it is somehow an exception, is not doing a service to wider society. Indeed, this kind of absurd virtue signaling only serves to further divides within society by erecting boundaries where there are none and–in turn–furthers the other-izing of marginalized populations.



A Few Absurd Images From Around the Town I Live In. Images Courtesy Of the Author.


I, for one, see the Besiktas ultra group Carsi as one example of how football fans can collectively poke fun at the small absurdities we see around us every day in order to combat these divisions. We cannot deal with a social problem like racism by further concretizing our differences; quite the contrary, we can only move forward and truly “progress” by abandoning the neo-fascistic ideology of modern progressivism which tends to concretize marginal identities in the name of “oppression”. That is why Carsi’s banners—which address social problems through humor—are so refreshing. During a match in 2009, the fan group acknowledged Michael Jackson’s death with a banner in the stadium which read: Rest in Peace Michael Jackson, the Great Besiktas Fan Who Lived Half His Life Black and Half His Life White [note: Besiktas’ colors are black and white].



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Carsi’s ability to shed light on social problems through humor with banners like “Carsi is against nuclear weapons”, “Carsi is against racism”, “Carsi is against terrorism”, or even “Carsi is against itself” allows for at least a semblance of communicative action (in the Habermasian sense) in Turkish society; this is how the group has become such a successful social movement. Unfortunately in American society, there is currently little dialogue since the real racists are hiding behind a neo-fascistic form of progressive ideology which only serves to mask a dangerous tendency to “other” everyone, whether they agree or (especially) if they disagree with the dominant strains of thought.

Valentine’s Day Special: Sports as a Window on to the Regressive Nature of Progressive Ideology

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The United States has, since the early 1990s, been engulfed by a cultural ideology in youth sports that encourages what are called “participation trophies”. This is where it is not the first (or second or third) place finishers in a given competition that get trophies, rather all participants get trophies. I witnessed it growing up, as my little league and youth soccer league gave out meaningless trophies (in spite of, at times) poor performances on the field. At the time, I certainly understood—even as an eight-year-old—that I had done nothing to warrant a trophy. I also remember, as a child, when my school did away with valentines in school on Valentine’s Day, lest some students feel excluded for not getting as many Valentines as the next. I could have never known how harmful these policies could be at the time; it is only now—as an “adult” that I can reflect on the results of these policies. Unfortunately, I cannot say that they have made me—or any of my generation—“better”, per se. Rather than making us resilient—making us resistant to the inevitable bullshit that life will throw at us—it made us complacent, all-too-ready to succumb to adversity (and, consequently, anything that promised to “fight adversity). And that is no way to raise a society, or a country.

The head coach of Washington State University’s football team, Mike Leach, made his feelings clear regarding “participation trophies” in a 2016 post-game press conference. Mr. Leach, bemoaning the poor performance of his team, said “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s the team that has the most fun. All the crap like that. All the stuff that’s contaminated America where they give everyone a trophy and don’t keep score in little league anymore”. To be honest, one cannot take much issue with Mr. Leach’s comments; indeed a book The Wussification of America was written on the topic.

Mr. Leach May Be a Contraversial Figure, But He Makes Very Important Points That We–As a Society–Ignore at our Own Peril. Image Courtesy of:


Even globalist media specialists Huffington Post published an article entitled “When Everyone Gets a Trophy, No One Wins” bemoaning this trend in 2012. In this article, by Michael Sigman, the author rightly points out that grade inflation has become a major problem at American universities; 43% of students got A’s in 2011 compared to just 15% in 1960. Did Americans suddenly get smarter, as a group? Or did they suddenly become more catered to? Judging by my own experiences teaching at an American University, I will say that it is mire the latter; as knowledge has become more commodified (to borrow some terminology from sociologist Jurgen Habermas), the pressure to give good grades has risen. After all, people are paying for, what they assume, will be good grades.



A’s Are Easier To Get Now More Than They Have Ever Been. But What Does This Say About Our Country’s Education? Image Courtesy of:


Despite this obviously problematic trend in U.S. society, media outlets have recently changed their tune. Fellow globalist media specialist Forbes published a 2016 piece entitled “Only a Few Win Mentality More Dangerous to Kids Than Participation Trophies” in which author Bob Cook claims that the “only a few win mentality” leads to an interpretation of “life-as-a-zero-sum-game”. What Mr. Cook fails to realize is that life sometimes works in just that way: Either you feed your family, or you don’t; either you make enough money to survive, or you don’t; either you live, or you die. Unfortunately for us, the media in the U.S. has a tendency to “flip-flop” or change their tune as a result of the Zeitgeist; the irresponsible nature of American media is a topic I have written on before. That the media supports this odd form of coddling, for lack of a better term, is odd. It is odd because it is this coddling that has neutered American society (to borrow words from coach Leach) to the point of not even realizing when the progressive mentality can become regressive.

A recent event at a Utah elementary school shows just how this can happen. According to CNN’s story:

Kanesville Elementary School in Ogden, Utah, holds a sixth-grade dance on Valentine’s Day each year. The dance is intended to promote inclusion and kindness, and students have traditionally been told by their teachers to say yes when a classmate asks them to dance.

CNN went on to seemingly lament the “changing times” with this passage:

But times have changed, and some parents were angry when they got wind of the dance’s protocol this year. Natalie Richard was shocked when her sixth-grade daughter told her she couldn’t refuse a dance with a boy at the upcoming dance. “The teacher said she can’t. She has to say yes. She has to accept and I said, ‘Excuse me?,’” Richard told CNN affiliate KSTU.

Doubling down, CNN frames the story by seemingly encouraging more progressive ideology:

At a time when parents are teaching kids they don’t need to hug a friend or even kiss their grandparents, there’s been a movement toward children maintaining control of their own bodies. To many parents, not being able to turn down a dance partner goes against that.


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Anderson Cooper the Snakeoil Salesman: CNN’s Recent Advertisement on the Aforementioned Post. Unfortunately, CNN Sells More Opinions Than It Does Facts [“Summarize the News” Should Never be an Option for Any News Organization with a Modicum of Self Respect]. Image Courtesy of:


More than any other recent news story, it is this one which most exemplifies the regressive nature of modern progressive thought. To force young girls to do anything that they do not want to do is, under any circumstance, unquestionably unacceptable. To not allow young boys to face rejection—and deal with its consequences—is similarly irresponsible. To encourage this kind of fascistic social engineering is to encourage a weak and divided society. Girls are not trophies, and school dances are not places where one gets “participation” trophies. To argue anything else, to me, would be fundamentally anti-humanist.

On this Valentine’s Day, everyone should remember that they are free to dance—or not dance—with anyone they choose to (or don’t choose to), and I will leave you with George Strait. Happy Valentine’s Day.


Author’s Note: After I had organized this post, I learned of the tragic shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. 17 innocent people lost their lives on this Valentine’s Day, and it is something that should make every American uncomfortable. This kind of violence has no place in American society. While the politicians will, likely, try to make it about gun laws, we should all recognize that it has nothing to do with gun laws; there is no quick and easy fix to social ills as the sociologist C. Wright Mills would point out. The United States has had the second amendment since 1791, and mass shootings did not become commonplace until the 1990s. Like sociologist Emile Durkheim’s study of suicide—which showed that there were social causes for suicide apart from psychological ones—we should see that mass firearm-related violence is symptomatic of wider societal troubles. The uber-individualistic culture of the United States has alienated many while progressive ideology has attempted to paint over the cracks of this individualism with fake buzzwords like “tolerance” and “kindness” and “inclusion”, as the case of the dance mentioned above exemplifies. Until we solve the root causes of the problems in U.S. society—such as alienation and extreme individualism—it is not likely that we will be able to avoid other tragic events like today’s in Florida.

I will revisit a quote from the above post, taken from CNN, which mentions a recent trend: “At a time when parents are teaching kids they don’t need to hug a friend or even kiss their grandparents . . . “. Again, we see that progressive/globalist news outlets like CNN subconsciously (or perhaps consciously?) encourage the fragmentation of American society. Why should we—as citizens (and for those who are, parents)—be encouraging our children to avoid physical displays of affection to their friends and family? This kind of “parenting”, if it can be called that, will only result in a more fragmented and alienated society for future generations. As someone who values the stability of my society and my country, that is something I do not want. We must all stand up to “progressive” ideology when it approaches its most regressive. Otherwise, we will all suffer. May I remind readers once again: United We Stand, Divided We Fall.


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Emile Durkheim, Donald Trump and Manchester United: A Short Essay on The Media and Corporate Greed

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Time to “Kick” Corporate Greed Out of Industrial Football? Image Courtesy Of:


Business Insider recently published a piece with the headline “Manchester United is blaming Donald Trump for the club’s half-year loss of £29 million — here’s why”. Considering that the piece garnered almost 5,000 hits in just under 24 hours I might need to consider using sensationalist headlines myself, but I digress. According to the article, Manchester United FC had to write off £48.8 million ($67.9 million) and “because of US tax cuts imposed by Trump, United posted a half-year loss of £29 million up to December 31, 2017”.

Given that the club’s chief financial officer noted that “It should be beneficial to the club in the long-term”—which should not be surprising, seeing as how Mr. Trump’s tax cut was designed to favor corporate entities like Manchester United—the sensationalist headline was surprising. Indeed, it is so surprising that it is worth delving into. While the headline follows the tendency towards one-dimensional thought in the media—anything negative about U.S. President Donald Trump sells—it also does nothing to further the traditional “watchdog” role of the media. In the past, the media acted as a counterweight to the state/government/dominant narratives; now it seems as if the media merely trumpets out the same old familiar lines day in and day out. It is one-dimensional enough to turn one off from even reading the news—which would be a feasible course of action were it not so dangerous!

What is most disturbing about this headline, however, is that Business Insider (and other outlets who carried the story with nearly identical headlines such as The Daily Mail, Bleacher Report, and The Telegraph) conspicuously ignored the much bigger—and more concerning—picture for football fans and normal citizens alike.

Who, honestly, really cares how much Manchester United loses? Does a £29 million loss really mean a lot to Manchester United, the most valuable team in Europe according to UEFA, with a value of 689 million Euro and a yearly growth of 169 million Euro (32%)? The question journalists should be asking is just why we care that a football team—that is supposed to be for the people (just like our countries used to be)—needs to make such obscene amounts of money. It is this kind of corporate greed which has led the world towards a tipping point; capitalism cannot—and will not—be able to sustain continued growth to infinity. Just like the club revenues of football teams in Europe that have tripled this century according to UEFA, it is inevitable that the upwards trend will end. The question, of course, is when. And it is a question which journalists are clearly not willing to touch.


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Where Does it End? Image Courtesy Of:


This kind of greed has had negative effects on working classes and middle classes all over the world, and that is why it is something—one would think—that journalists would make note of. In national terms, this has led to a “bloated” and “unaccountable government” in the United States; as the (conservative!) Washington Times notes

bureaucrats in the information business flout the law, as though they’re above it. While those in charge of our money use it like a never-ending water stream, that is unending and belongs to them [. . .] When the government views the citizen as the servant, we get weaponized law enforcement agencies to be used against us, and law-breaking agency bureaucrats and politicians who see our democracy as an inconvenience to be subverted.

This is why the issue of corporate greed goes far beyond the faux “left” and “right” dichotomy that, clearly, journalists love to underline in order to (you guessed it) sell more news!

Indeed, the United States—like much of the world—is facing absurd amounts of equality even though there is more than enough money to go around. According to the United Nations, the poverty and inequality in the U.S. is “shockingly at odds with [the United States’] immense wealth and its founding commitment to human rights”. Similarly, the Economic Policy Institute found in 2017 that “in 2016 CEOs in America’s largest firms made an average of $15.6 million in compensation, or 271 times the annual average pay of the typical worker”. As the report shows, this is “light years beyond the 20-to-1 ratio in 1965 and the 59-to-1 ratio in 1989”. Indeed, “the average CEO in a large firm now earns 5.33 times the annual earnings of the average very-high-wage earner (earner in the top 0.1 percent)”. Clearly, the jump in discrepancy between CEO’s and average workers since 1989 (not coincidentally, the end of the Cold War) is not sustainable. What is more alarming, is that this absurd gap is not just confined to the United States; as Bloomberg notes ( many European countries also have large discrepancies between CEO and average worker, even if they are not as astronomical as in the U.S. (Indeed, in Manchester United’s home country, the UK, the ratio is 201 to 1).


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Its Not Just an American Problem. Image Courtesy Of:


The scariest part of these figures is that while CEO pay has increased from 843,000 USD in 1965 to a projected 15,636,000 USD in 2016, the annual average wage for private-sector production/nonsupervisory workers increased from 40,000 USD in 1965 to a projected 53,300 USD in 2016. That is an astounding 936.7% increase in CEO pay between 1978-2016 and a mere 11.2% increase in average worker pay during the same time period. Needless to say, the issue is not that there is not enough money to go around; the issue is corporate greed. And it should be clear that this system is not sustainable, it will—quite literally—lead to the end of world civilization as we know it. And the solution will certainly not be found if the media continually ignores inequity in the favor of furthering their own bizarre sensationalist agenda based on the imagined “left” and “right” divide.


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It Is A Sad Sight Indeed. Image Courtesy Of:


Here, French sociologist Emile Durkheim is quite relevant. I quote from George Ritzer’s The Development of Sociological Thought (8th ed.), the text I use in my class:

In Durkheim’s view, people were in danger of a “pathological” loosening of moral bonds. These moral bonds were important to Durkheim, for without them the individual would be enslaved by ever-expanding and insatiable passions. People would be impelled by their passions into a mad search for gratification, but each new gratification would lead only to more and more needs. According to Durkheim, the one thing that every human will always want is ‘more’. And, of course, that is the one thing we ultimately cannot have. If society does not limit us, we will become slaves to the pursuit of more (Ritzer 2008: 81 [Emphasis mine]).

We would all do well to keep Durkheim in mind given the massive amounts of inequality we see in the world. It is our responsibility—as citizens—to keep our journalists aware that they exist to serve the people, and not their corporate sponsors. Their job is to print news that keeps business and government accountable, not sensationalism that panders to the zeitgeist of the day.

Why One Dimensional Thought in the Modern World Hinders Our Ability to Actually Have Conversations, and Why It Might Lead to a Very Dangerous Future

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Sociologist Jurgen Habermas wrote a lot about his theory of communicative action, where individuals could exchange in discussion with the purpose of, among other things, “a mutual search for understanding”. Unfortunately, in the context of the increasingly intolerant world we live in, Habermas’ ideal may be becoming more and more elusive.

This is because too many people are more than ready to dismiss the “other” outright, without even engaging in communicative action in the first place. Recently, three members of the newly-crowned NFL champion Philadelphia Eagles announced that they would reject any invitation to the White House, should U.S. President Donald Trump extend one, as U.S. Presidents typically do to championship winning squads in U.S. sports. Torrey Smith said clearly that “It’s not about politics; I just don’t think the president is a good person. I don’t want to go out of my way to go see someone who isn’t even welcoming the men in this locker room and our different cultures”. Despite Mr. Smith’s claim that its “not about politics” something tells me it is; after all, he “thinks” the president is not a “good person” without having, most likely, ever even spoken with him. And here is where communicative action becomes impossible: When we refuse to acknowledge another person and write them off before even speaking with them, instead choosing to judge them based off of portrayals in the media or—even worse—based off of personal opinions that are being projected onto the “other”, we get into dangerous waters.

That the media “paints” pictures of individuals with their words is undeniable; in the modern world corporate mass media has become a master of propaganda, even though they are often very wrong. Take a recent Foreign Policy article, for instance, which mistakenly reports that Mosul is in Syria. Why should anyone—in their right minds—trust a media outlet that does not know the difference between Syria and Iraq? Perhaps it is because Foreign Policy sees both as being “shithole countries”, but I digress.


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Apparently, Foreign Policy Needs a Little Lesson on Middle Eastern Geography. Image Courtesy Of:


What is remarkable is that it is not just main(lame?) stream media that is guilty of such heinous propaganda. The Jacobin, a publication that calls itself “a leading voice of the American left, offering socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture” and boasts of 30,000 print subscribers and a monthly web audience of one million is—despite its self professed “left” perspective—just as guilty of propaganda as the ostensibly “mainstream” outlets. Of course, given the “left’s” proclivity for propaganda—think Pravda in the USSR—this should not, necessarily, be surprising.

The magazine recently published a piece written by Harrison Fluss, a lecturer in philosophy at St. John’s University and Manhattan College, entitled “Jordan Peterson’s Bullshit”. Since I find Jordan Peterson’s perspective to be vital in the current climate characterized by a growing tendency towards one dimensional thought, I decided to take a look at just how one could characterize it as “bullshit”. After reading, however, it became clear that the article should have been entitled “Harrison Fluss’ Bullshit” because the writer seemed to lack even a basic knowledge of Marxist thought, despite being a self-professed “leftist”. Indeed, if this is the caliber of lecturers at St. John’s University and Manhattan College American college students are being severely short changed and must certainly begin to take their educations back. Judging by his piece, Mr. Fluss has no place teaching at any institute of higher learning.

Mr. Fluss casually dismisses the growth of one dimensional thought (“the Left allegedly has turned authoritarian”) while himself taking a very authoritarian perspective while imputing views on Mr. Peterson that were never expressed in his half hour interview with Channel 4. The number of Mr. Fluss’ errors in this article are too numerous to note here, but—as a marginal sociologist myself—I cannot forgive this particular line:

“In response to Newman’s statistics about the wage gap, Peterson argued that this inequality was a necessary part of the capitalist dynamic.”

In order to make this criticism, it means that either Mr. Fluss has never actually read Karl Marx—despite his, apparent, “red” political stance (pardon the pun)—or that he is just ignorant. I’m not sure which would would be better in order for him to save face amongst his “comrades”! This is because—as all my students of sociology know, “Marx believed that the capitalist system is inherently unequal. The capitalists automatically benefit more from the capitalist system, while the workers are automatically disadvantaged. Under capitalism, those who own the means of production, those with capital, make more money from their money” (From George Ritzer’s Sociological Theory, Eighth Edition: Page 69). This was a quote from the textbook that my students read. Either Mr. Fluss has never taken an introductory Sociology course, or he is just a left-wing nut-jub ideologue masquerading as a scholar, since one of Marx’s main arguments was that capitalism is based on an unequal system. Clearly, Mr. Fluss is a product of the failing cesspool that is American academia at the moment.


Yet while I might be able to excuse pure ignorance, I cannot excuse calls for fascism. Mr. Fluss argues that

“When we theoretically confront Peterson, we need to do more than refute his pseudo-scientific claims, his bad pop psychology, and his Cold War–inflected version of history. The real challenge is overcoming his fundamental irrationalism” [Emphasis Mine].

Mr. Fluss seems to forget that we are all human beings. We are all, to some extent, irrational. This is because we are individuals.  And, if that is a problem, then there could only be one solution: Fascism. The drive to make us all “rational” would mean making us act with one and the same motive at all times; it would mean  erasing our individuality once and for all. Of course, given the history of Stalinism, it is not surprising that the someone writing for a “leftist” magazine should encourage fascism; it is par for the course since it has been attempted before.

This makes Mr. Fluss’ subsequent criticisms of Mr. Peterson even more comical:

Peterson does not speak for what is “normal.” His jargon of authenticity — that he is just a simple academic fighting for truth amid so much political correctness and censorship — masks his authoritarian ideas. He calls Marxism a “murderous ideology,” but his paranoid and conspiratorial politics are hard to distinguish from the alt-right’s denunciations of cultural Marxism. Indeed, the line between Peterson’s authoritarianism and Richard Spencer’s paleo-Nazism is a blurry one.

Here Mr. Fluss resorts to a common tactic that has become popular in the progressive era; label anyone that does not agree with you a “Nazi” or “Fascist”. No, society cannot continue to work under the assumption of an assumed dichotomy like this, especially when people are not even willing to talk with one another and instead prefer labeling people based on tropes popularized by the main(lame) stream media.

The only solution to this state of affairs is communicative action; that is people talking with one another not with the preconceived purpose of disagreement but with the purpose of mutual understanding. Otherwise, we kill off the logic of Hegel’s dialectic and risk a dark future indeed. I leave you with some images I took in the bustling working class district of Karakoy in Istanbul. Monday through Saturday it is bustling with a variety of businesses, on Sundays it is quiet without a soul on the streets; it is eerie to see what the area looks like when it is so chillingly empty. If we refuse to even talk with one another based on—in the case of the Eagles players mentioned above—images proffered by the media, or, in the case of Mr. Fluss, factually incorrect information, then we will only destroy the societies we live in. We can still avoid such a grim and dystopian future, it just requires an escape from one dimensional thought.



A Dystopian Future of Empty Streets is Not What We Should be Aiming For. Images Courtesy of the Author.

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