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As Protestors March to Reverse Brexit Vote, Main(lame)stream Media Manipulates Readers by Focusing on Football

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Which Way? Image Courtesy Of: https://briefingsforbrexit.com/where-the-eu-and-ourselves-went-wrong/

 

Hundreds of thousands of protesters descended on London on 20 October 2018 to demand a second referendum on the final Brexit deal, which is scheduled to occur in March 2019. Perhaps in line with the dominant narratives in Western media, football has become a major talking point in the media’s fear-mongering which surrounds Brexit. Most recently, Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino (who is, ironically, Argentinian) compared Brexit to “a car crash” and claimed that voters received “manipulated information” during the campaign. With all due respect to Mr. Pochettino, I am forced to ask a simple question: Where did this “manipulated information” come from?

 

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A 16-year Old Saying “Brexit Stole My Future” is the Height of Victimhood. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/premier-league/brexit-mauricio-pochettino-european-union-britain-tottenham-hotspur-referendum-a8591976.html

 

It is no secret that the media manipulates information in the modern era, but I am afraid that Mr. Pochettino is mistaken when he thinks that pro-Brexit voters were the ones who were manipulated; indeed, most of the media was—and continues to be—extremely biased against the “leave” campaign and voters. A good recent example of this bias is a 4 September 2018 The Telegraph piece written by Tim Wigmore with the emotional title “Why Premier League fears work permit changes after Brexit could make another Leicester miracle impossible”. Now, to any football fan the utter idiocy in this headline should be fairly obvious.

 

It is well known that modern industrial football—especially in the last twenty years—has become increasingly unequal due to its intimate connections with the processes of globalization, characterized by growing interconnectedness, transnational flows of capital and corporations, and the trend towards “open borders”. Similarly, those familiar with the Premier League are also aware that it is one of the world’s most unequal leagues. Therefore, one would rightfully give you a weird look if you were to argue that the Premier League is an “equal” league. Similarly, one would also likely give you an odd look if you were to make the claim that—somehow—Leicester City’s improbable 2015-16 Championship happened because of Britain’s EU membership, as The Telegraph’s headline seems to imply. Make no mistake, Leicester City took the title in spite of—and not because of—the Premier League and the EU’s open borders. This is an important distinction to make, and one that Mr. Wigmore seems to miss in his article.

 

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Make no mistake, Leicester City took the title in spite of—and not because of—the Premier League and the EU’s open borders. Image Courtesy of: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/football/2018/09/04/premier-league-fears-work-permit-changes-could-make-another/

 

Mr. Wigmore claims that the Premier League’s great concern is that “Brexit will limit the talent that clubs can access, and so make the league of lower quality, more predictable and less interesting to a global audience”. It seems that this should not be a concern, since the Premier League was never supposed to be for a “global” audience; it is an English League and—therefore—was primarily designed to be played for an English audience. Perhaps this passage would have been more correct if it had said “Brexit will limit the international talent that clubs can access”; the rhetorical jump made in assuming that this would make for a “lower quality” and “less interesting” league is based partially on assumption, and partially on a major underestimation of Britain’s young footballing talent. There is absolutely no guarantee that the young British players—who are often shut out of the top teams due to international competition—are somehow of a lower quality than their international counterparts. Indeed, making this argument in any other context—at least one not referring to the native talent of a white Anglo-Saxon country—could easily be construed as xenophobic or racist. Imagine making the claim that African football cannot survive without access to European (often white) coaches? It likely wouldn’t go down well, yet we—somehow—allow opinion shapers in the media to give us these same biased opinions on other topics without batting an eye.

 

According to Mr. Wigmore, the Premier League fears that “clubs’ ability to recruit from the continent” will be obstructed if the UK were to leave the EU. This would be of little concern to British teams—and the Premier League—if they had faith in their own academies and locally raised players. But, of course, the issue is not as humanist as one focusing on faith in one’s fellow humans; rather, it is about money (as it often tends to be in industrial football). As Mr. Wigmore notes, “the Premier League is increasingly dependent upon foreign broadcasting revenue, [and] becoming more amenable to young foreign talent [is] commercially appealing”. From this comment, we see that the real fear for the Premier League is that international audiences would not be interested in watching XIs made up of players from the British Isles. Yet instead of admitting this very real concern, the author—and the Premier League—instead appeal to emotion through some thinly veiled virtue signaling with this absurd claim: New transfer rules would affect the smallest teams, “so the Premier League’s competitive balance would suffer, entrenching the elite”. I am certain that the vast majority of Premier League fans who have been watching for the last twenty-six years can recognize just how patently false this is. After all, the elite have already been entrenched.

 

A cursory look at the history of the Premier League shows that, over the past twenty-six years of the league’s existence, competition has gradually become intra-elite, rather than league wide. Just look at the champions that have come out of the twenty-six years of Premier League football (from 1992 to 2018) as compared to the twenty-six years preceding the Premier League (1965-1992):

 

1992-93 – 2017-18 (26 Seasons):

6 Different Champions

Manchester United (12)

Chelsea (5)

Arsenal (3)

Manchester City (3)

Blackburn Rovers (1)

Leicester City (1)

 

1965-66 – 1991-92 (26 Seasons):

9 Different Champions

Liverpool (12)

Arsenal (3)

Everton (3)

Leeds United (3)

Derby County (2)

Aston Villa (1)

Manchester United (1)

Manchester City (1)

Nottingham Forest (1)

 

It is a fairly obvious fact that the Premier League did not increase the competitiveness of English football’s top tier. Can you imagine Derby County taking the title one year, followed by Aston Villa the next year? If you can’t, then it may become clear that The Telegraph is engaged in a crude form of opinion shaping and manipulation, which goes against Mr. Pochettino’s argument that it was just “leave” voters who were “manipulated”. The entire nature of this debate would, of course, be comical if it were not for the fact that it is harmful to the development of what German sociologist Jurgen Habermas termed “the public sphere”, characterized by free and open discussion of matters of public concern.

 

If we are to be able to realize that transnational unions like the European Union—and the rhetoric of “open borders” and “increased productivity” that go with it—are actually harmful to individuals by subverting democratic practices, open dialogue is essential. Indeed, given that the protestors of 20 October 2018 who have filled London’s streets are actively participating in subverting their own democracy by demanding a second referendum, it is clear that this kind of open dialogue is important now more than ever. It is only by individuals speaking to other individuals—within the public sphere—that elite control over the media and culture can be resisted. But, of course, don’t think you’ll find that in outlets like The Telegraph.

 

It is vital that citizens take back their countries—and their democracies—from transnational oligarchs. Nations are made by and for their citizens, just like football leagues. By participating in the public sphere, individuals might be able to realize this. Otherwise, they will fall into the logic of The Telegraph, which writes that “the Premier League is one of the UK’s most successful exports, televised in 189 of the 193 countries in the United Nations. It has harnessed globalization [sic] to become the envy of every other football league in the world – not so much a domestic league as a transnational one, inspiring deep devotion from Jakarta to Lagos and New York”. The Premier League was not meant to inspire “deep devotion” from Jakarta to Lagos and New York. Rather, it was meant to inspire “deep devotion” from Plymouth to Norwich and Newcastle and give young British footballers the hope that they could, too, don the shirts of their favorite teams. And just like the Premier League, the British government was not meant to take its cues from European Union bureaucrats in Brussels; it was meant to take its cues from citizens in London, Belfast, Cardiff, Glasgow and across the UK.

 

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A Pro-Brexit Campaigner Saying “We Want Our Country Back” While Looking to Reverse Democracy Must Be the Height of Irony. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.businessinsider.com/the-british-public-now-backs-a-second-brexit-referendum-2018-7
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Industrial Football, Neoliberalism, and American Soccer: The MLS’ Columbus Crew Have Been Saved . . . For Now

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Facing an impending move to Austin, Texas, it looks as if the Columbus Crew have been saved, and—improbable as it may have seemed—dealt a blow to industrial football in the United States in the process. According to an ESPN story from 12 October 2018, a partnership involving the owners of the NFL’s [American football] Cleveland Browns have entered negotiations with MLS in order to purchase the team. In a Tweet the owners of the Cleveland Browns, Jimmy and Dee Haslam, announced their intention to keep MLS’ first team in Columbus, Ohio.

 

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Strange Bedfellows: NFL To The Rescue? Perhaps Civic Pride In the Real World Is More Important Than Competition In The Business World For the Haslams. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.forbes.com/sites/bobbymcmahon/2018/10/15/save-the-crew-how-mission-seemingly-impossible-now-seems-very-possible-for-the-columbus-crew/#6311c67a1f82

 

Understandably, the leaders of the #savethecrew movement were ecstatic at this development which simultaneously struck a blow at both industrial football in the United States, but also the undemocratic nature of progressive politics. Indeed, this victory had seemed so impossible that one of the Crew’s players actually went to celebrate with fans at a local bar after hearing the announcement. Clearly, the Columbus Crew represent a very real element of community in the capital of the Buckeye State . . . right?

 

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Have they #SaveDthecrew? Image Courtesy Of: https://www.massivereport.com/2018/10/12/17968262/misson-accomplished-saved-the-crew-columbus-crew-sc-mls-2018-jimmy-haslam

 

That indeed may be the case, but don’t try to tell that to Silicon Valley who seem to believe that “community” in the here and now—rooted to a specific geographic location with an emotional connection—is passé; it represents an impediment to the complete establishment of a virtual community located in the digital “world” of social media and connected to consumption. After all, exactly one year ago—on 17 October 2017—the Crew’s owner Anthony Precourt had announced his plan to move the team to Austin, Texas.

 

The proposed move—given Mr. Precourt’s background—should not have been surprising to fans. After all, Mr. Precourt is a managing partner at his own investment management and private equity firm . . . based in San Francisco. That’s right; the owner of the Columbus Crew resides in California and—prior to his acquisition of the MLS franchise—had no clear connection to central Ohio or even the Midwestern United States. According to bizjournals.com he has more connections to California (where Stanford University has named an institute after his family), New Hampshire (where he went to graduate school), and Texas (where his father was an oil executive) than he does to Ohio. This last connection is most telling, as it might explain some of the motive for the proposed move to Austin.

 

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Anthony Precourt When He Was a Crew Fan. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.mlssoccer.com/post/2014/02/03/columbus-crew-owner-anthony-precourt-says-club-logo-not-representative-citys

 

As I said earlier, fans should not be surprised that Mr. Precourt should have wanted to move the team he purchased for $68 million in 2013. It seems that from the beginning the new owner had a disdain for the culture of the city which hosted the team he had, ostensibly, “invested” in. In early 2014, Mr. Precourt announced his plans to overhaul the team’s logo which had survived—unchanged—since the league’s inception in 1996. While the original Columbus Crew logo depicted “three stoic construction workers shoulder to shoulder with hard hats, a not-so-subtle nod to the city’s working-class roots” ; Mr. Precourt saw this logo as “outdated”. To justify the re-branding, Mr. Precourt was quoted as saying in 2014 “We want it to represent the Columbus we’ve come to know. I don’t think a construction crew is really representative. [Columbus is] not a blue-collar, manufacturing, industrial town. It’s a smart, young, progressive university town with world-class businesses. It’s a white-collar town”. This re-branding resulted in a spectacularly—in the way that the European Union’s currency is  —bland logo.

 

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A Campaign That Could Only Have Been Thought Up In A Corporate Boardroom. Here Is a Hint: If You Have to Explain Your Logo In A Full Page, It Probably Isn’t A Good One. Images Courtesy Of: https://www.columbuscrewsc.com/newcrew

 

But the parallels of the Crew’s new logo “inspired” by Mr. Precourt with the Euro—which features “bland, fake architecture that doesn’t exist”–are not misplaced; indeed they are both reflective of neoliberal globalism which looks to create the most inoffensive designs in order to focus the consumer on their consumption and not be distracted by the details of history or locality. In Mr. Precourt’s justification for the team’s new logo, he seems to be focused on disengaging Columbus from its working-class and industrial roots; indeed, he seems almost embarrassed by the city’s background as he looks to underline its “progressive” nature. Even the adjectives used to define the city as “progressive”, like “smart” and “young”, imply that the hypothetical pre-“progressive” Columbus was be just the opposite, “dumb” and “old”. Now, this is clearly no way to view the city that the team you own represents, but it is reflective of a generation of “progressive” politicians all over the world who view half of their citizenry with contempt; the“urban” is favored over the “rural” and the “modern” is favored over “tradition”. This contempt likely played a role in Mr. Precourt’s eventual decision to move the team, but not—of course—before selling the stadium’s name to the highest bidder. It was another play from the neoliberal globalist playbook: Come, See, Exploit, Move on to the next market.

 

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Out With The Old…And In With The New? Images Courtesy of https://www.columbuscrewsc.com/newcrew

 

While Columbus has seemingly avoided the pitfalls of industrial football, it is important to understand that the new deal has its own profit-driven issues. As Sports Illustrated points out, the owner of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns is also the brother of the Tennessee governor Bill Haslam who is close to the owner of MLS’ new expansion team in Nashville, Tennessee. Also, the news of the Crew’s “being saved” was followed almost immediately by headlines like “Does Keeping the Columbus Crew Mean Building a New Stadium?”. Clearly, industry will not cease to profit off sport—even if the team’s “old” stadium is just 19 years old. Try telling a Fulham fan or a Boston Red Sox fan that their team needs a new stadium and see what they say. Still, the case of the Columbus Crew shows why it is important to notice the (all but unavoidable) connections between sport and elite wealth in the era of extreme capitalism. The key to a more equitable future for sports fans lies in resisting the rootless elites who treat sports clubs in the same way that they themselves might see their own lives (as well as the enormous wealth that defines them): rootless, cultureless, and—perhaps ultimately—meaningless aside from the bottom line. At least the Columbus Crew survived this round, and that is something that sports fans can take comfort in for now.

 

Football Elites Again Attempt to Sell Us What We Do Not Need in the Name of Globalism: The Idea of a North American Football League

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On 10 October 2018, ESPN and Reuters announced that there is now talk of a combined North American Football League between Canada, the United States, and Mexico. According to Enrique Bonilla, the head of the Mexican first division, such a league is a possibility following the 2026 World Cup which will be hosted by the three countries. As to be expected, Mr. Bonilla framed the globalist project with a vague veneer of social justice:

 

If we can make a World Cup then we can make a North American league or a North American Cup. The main idea is that we have to grow together to compete. If not, there is only going to be the rich guys in Europe and the rest of the world.

 

According to this interpretation, the proposed combined league would raise the quality of football in North America while also allowing the continent to compete with “the rich guys” on the other side of the Atlantic. As tends to be the case with such transnational ventures, the rhetoric is dominated by positive catchwords which only serve to distort the reality that the proposed venture would likely be harmful to North American football in the long term.

 

One reason that the positive perspective is highlighted by mainstream news outlets like ESPN is that such a mega-league would likely be very profitable—both for media and sporting elites in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. The downside, of course, is that—as is usually the case regarding globalist policies—the average Canadian, Mexican, and American footballer would suffer.

 

This is because by centralizing football in the three countries, competition for spaces in the hypothetical league would increase. Given that most top-flight football leagues in the world have between 16 to 20 teams, one would have to assume that this proposed league would be similar. Given that MLS is aiming for 28 teams in the next to years—and given that Mexico’s Liga MX has 18 teams—there are a total of 46 potential teams. To make such a league feasible, this number would have to be cut down. This, in turn, would mean greater competition for players due to the internationalization of the labor market. Currently, Mexican players are mainly competing with other Mexican players for spots on Liga MX teams; American and Canadian players are mainly competing with other American and Mexican players for spots on MLS teams. By erasing the national boundaries of these leagues, however, would mean a greater pool of players and, as such, less chances of gaining employment. Instead of seeking employment in two different entities, essentially, players would be forced to seek employment in one entity; this centralization—and monopolization—would be devastating in terms of players’ choices.

 

Having just taught my students about wealth inequality in the United States, I am keenly aware of just how dangerous the centralization of wealth—and, relatedly, power—can be. Indeed, the American Sociologist C. Wright Mills pointed out more than fifty years ago that the centralization of power—and wealth—in the United States would have devastating consequences. Now, this is not to ignore that inequality is not a defining feature of capitalism; indeed it is a defining feature of humanity; our outcomes—based on our choices—can never be truly equal. The problem is that this inequality has been exaggerated by globalism and globalization. Markets have increased in number, which has resulted in an equal increase in profits. Yet because these markets—and sources of profit—do not correspond to existing national boundaries (indeed, they are often outside of them), the wealthiest citizens no longer have any stake in the well-being of their fellow citizens. After all, it doesn’t matter too much to—say—Apple if Americans can buy iPhones; if they can sell those same iPhones in China or Germany or Madagascar than the American citizen no longer matters to them. Essentially, corporate responsibility no longer matters. And the same would happen in football; the well-being of the Mexican, Canadian, or American footballer would no longer matter.

 

This increasing centralization of wealth in fewer and fewer corporate hands—the big 5 of Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook, for example—is not good. Nor is the centralization of power in the hands of the federal government. And if these centralizations—which C. Wright Mills warned us about—aren’t good, then why would we assume that the centralization of sports would be good? The reality is that the creation of one North American football league would increase the centralization of power and money in football on the continent, and it will have devastating consequences for aspiring footballers in Canada, Mexico, and the United States alike, who would face the loss of playing opportunities. This is why we owe it to ourselves—regardless of which country we are citizens of—to stand up for our countries (and our football leagues) in the face of predatory globalism and predatory globalization.

 

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“Human Rights” as Justification for Continued Western Imperialism with a Kinder Face: The Case of Euro 2024

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On 27 September 2018 Turkey lost their bid to host UEFA Euro 2024, Europe’s biggest football tournament. Germany, the hosts of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, will be the host country, winning a bid where “realism” won out in the face of “romance”. In typical fashion, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shrugged the loss off by pointing out that Turkey evaded the costs. While I am sure Mr. Erdogan himself was a little disappointed—after all, EURO 2024 was going to be the tournament in which Turkey’s shiny new stadiums could be showcased after Istanbul lost the bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics—he was very right when he pointed out that “it is always in the same country”. Indeed, it always seems that Western countries end up hosting most major football tournaments, no doubt because—in many cases—they have the requisite infrastructure. Yet, what makes this case different, is that the entire debate surrounding the bid decision focused on one very particular facet of Western foreign policy: the case of “Human Rights”.

 

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Ms. Merkel Seems Unable to Recognize Her Own Nation’s Football Shirt (!). Image Courtesy Of: https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/international/euro-2024-bid-germany-turkey-realism-romance-mesut-ozil-a8554776.html

 

I put the aforementioned term in “quotations” not because I find it frivolous, but rather because I remember the many injustices which have been committed in the name of furthering or protecting these “human rights”; the war in Iraq and interventions in Libya and Syria come most readily to mind in this context. The German public international broadcaster Deutsche Welle brought this issue to the fore in a 26 September 2018 article by Felix Tamsut entitled “Human rights in the spotlight for Euro 2024 host bid”. According to Deutsche Welle:

 

For the first time ever, UEFA has included clauses related to the human rights situation in the hosting country as part of its bidding process. In its announcement, UEFA said the bidding country has to “culturally embed human rights,” as well as “proactively address human rights risks.” The term “human rights” was mentioned 11 times in UEFA’s final evaluation report of both Germany and Turkey, which goes to show the importance of both countries’ record in the field. For comparison, the same report released ahead of Euro 2020 did not contain that term at all.

 

To any reader, this should itself stand out. How could it be that “human rights” comes to the fore when Turkey is involved? I would argue that this newfound interest in “human rights” is more a result of Western virtue signaling—in the name of a kinder form of imperialism—than it is a reflection of Turkey’s own human rights record. This is not to say that Turkey has not presented the world with a very real contradiction in terms—as an authoritarian neoliberal state—but, I believe, the “human rights” records of other recent hosts of football’s major tournaments have not been held to the same standard, leading this observer to believe that something else is behind this form of opinion shaping emanating from the global “West”. For a moment, lets look at the cases going back from the 2010 FIFA World Cup hosted by South Africa (Indeed, a cursory Google search of “Human rights Germany World Cup” or “Human rights France Euro 2016” reveals nothing, either a result of Google’s own censorship policies or—more realistically—a result of the fact that the issue of “human rights” was never brought up in the context of these “Western” bids).

 

FIFA World Cup 2010: Hosted by South Africa

A 4 June 2010 report by Amnesty International ahead of the 2010 World Cup entitled “Human Rights Concerns in South Africa During the World Cup” points out that:

 

There has been an increase in police harassment of informal traders (hawkers), homeless South Africans, and refugees and migrants who are living in shelters or high density inner city accommodation.

This harassment has included police raids, arbitrary arrests, ill-treatment and extortion, as well as destruction of informal housing.

The tearing down of informal housing has taken place without prior notice, provision of adequate alternative housing or compensation and in violation of domestic law prohibiting forced evictions.

Regulations created to comply with FIFA World Cup requirements in host cities are being used by police to expel homeless people and street traders from “controlled access sites” and exclusion zones around World Cup venues. Penalties for offences under the regulations include fines of up to Rand 10,000 {$1,300] or imprisonment of up to six months.

 

Of course, this emphasis on sheltering the world from the realities of poverty in South Africa—especially by destroying informal housing—is hardly unique to the South African case. Indeed, it is part and parcel of the trend for international sporting events to deflect attention from the reality of urban poverty in the non-Western world so as to present a utopian vision of society by sweeping the problems under the proverbial rug. Indeed, the Brazilian World Cup suffered from a similar tendency.

 

FIFA World Cup 2014: Hosted by Brazil

On 4 April 2014, Amnesty International published a report entitled “Brazil: Human Rights Under Threat Ahead of the World Cup”, showcasing the words of Atila Roque, the director of Amnesty International Brazil:

 

The excessive use of force by Brazilian police in response to the widespread protests last year resulted in many people injured. Rather than training the police in how to deal with peaceful mass protests, the government’s response has been to criminalize protesters giving the security services carte blanche to arrest and detain people at will. New laws have been proposed that threaten the right to freedom of expression. This is not just about the World Cup but will have long-term consequences for any future peaceful protests.

 

Indeed, the Guardian (surprisingly) was one of the Western news outlets to report on the widespread “social cleansing” of Rio de Janeiro’s “favelas”. According to the 2013 story, “At least 19,000 families have been moved to make way for roads, renovated stadiums, an athletes’ village, an ambitious redevelopment of the port area and other projects that have been launched or accelerated to prepare the city for the world’s two biggest sporting events [the Olympics and FIFA World Cup]”. Predictably, of course, the government justified the forced eviction of the country’s poorest citizens as “necessary to modernize the city”.

 

FIFA World Cup 2018 Hosted by Russia

 Even before the summer of 2018, Human Rights Watch published a piece on 21 March 2018 readying viewers for the “World Cup of Shame” to be hosted by Russia, noting that there is no better way for countries to “exercise soft power than hosting the top tournament of the world’s most popular sport”. Indeed, after the tournament, the same news outlet claimed that “the human costs” of Russia’s “bloody World Cup” were high, citing the death of at least 21 workers involved in stadium construction and the country’s ongoing discrimination of its LGBT citizens. Yet even Russia’s “human rights” abuses are nothing when compared to Qatars.

 

FIFA World CUP 2022 Hosted by Qatar

Amnesty International’s piece “Qatar World Cup of Shame” details the plight of Qatar’s migrant workers who have been imported to help construct the country’s new stadiums, detailing the (often) forced nature of their labor and appalling working conditions. The graphic below provides some important context of the argument against Qatar 2020.

 

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Its a Numbers Game. Image courtesy of https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2016/03/qatar-world-cup-of-shame/

 

This is how we now arrive at the Euro 2024 bid, where Turkey—despite boasting a strong football infrastructure, as well as offering beautiful tourist sights and a vibrant culture full of hospitable locals—loses its bid to Germany on the basis of “human rights”. If such things truly mattered for hosting international football tournaments, then South Africa and Brazil would not have been able to cleanse urban areas of their unwanted urban poor while Russia and Qatar would not have been able to build their infrastructure through poorly regulated labor contracts which—in the case of the latter—border on slavery. Yet, all four of these countries were able to abuse human rights while successfully sanitizing urban areas to better fit the consumerist ethos of modern sports.

 

And this is where we get to the real reason that Turkey was not chosen to host UEFA Euro 2024. It is not about human rights, nor is it about Turkey’s perceived ability (or inability) to host a major tournament; Turkey would make a fine host. But instead, it is about consumption. Since the Turkish Lira has lost 40 percent against the U.S. Dollar in the past year, many economists fear that the country’s economy is heading into recession. If this happens it will mean that Turkish consumers will not be able to consume as much as they would in a stronger economy; thus—for the sports marketers who (behind the scenes) ultimately decide the location of international sporting events—Turkey is not the best choice of venue. Make no mistake, the rhetoric behind the “human rights” argument is just a veneer of Western virtue signaling which does not stand up to empirical scrutiny when the cases of Qatar, Russia, Brazil, and South Africa are considered. Of course, it is also worth noting that the aforementioned four cases also were chosen at a time when globalism was ascendant; with this disastrous global ideology seemingly on the back foot it seems that Europe is circling the wagons to ensure that—at least—the European Championships stay in the heart of Europe as we end the first quarter of the twenty-first century. Of course, the ethno-centric nature of UEFA’s decision to award Germany the bid will also be obscured by the “human rights” discourse, pointing to yet another way that virtue signaling serves to discourage the search for alternative explanations which both stray from the dominant media narrative, but which also might be closer to the truth.

Sport as a Reflection of Dangerous Trends in U.S. Society: The Case of Serena Williams at the U.S. Open

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A few days ago American tennis star Serena Williams opened up regarding her now infamous U.S. Open Final Loss to Naomi Osaka on 9 September 2018. In a forthcoming interview, Serena Williams reasserted her belief that sexism played a role in the penalties she was assessed during her loss, saying “If you’re female, you should be able to do even half of what a guy can do”. While the equality of male and female athletes should certainly be something we all strive for, it seems that (as with so much in current U.S. society) the point was missed.

 

Most American commentary on the debacle was conspicuously one-sided, as commentators looked to either blame the rules, the umpires, or—of course—sexism in a bid to deflect blame. Even the few articles which acknowledged the blame that lay with Ms. Williams’ actions seemed to do so half-heartedly, with Jerry Bembry of The Undefeated opining that, “like solid officials have done in every sport when confronted by great athletes expressing themselves in the heat of the moment, [Spanish Referee Carlos] Ramos should have looked away and ignored her continued complaints”. Make no mistake, Mr. Bembry should be commended for at least acknowledging that some of the blame lay with the athlete’s behavior, but essentially telling a referee to not do their job—by ignoring unsporting behavior—is hardly something that would alleviate an existing double standard (if indeed there is one); quite the contrary, such actions would only encourage double standards to continue!

 

And indeed this is why Serena Williams’ outburst says something about the current state of American society which goes far beyond the tennis court and sports, or even ideas of “sexism” or “racism”. Rather, Ms. Williams’ behavior—as one non-American commentator in the Australian press, Greg Baum explained—was one which caused everyone to lose:

 

In her outbursts, she invoked sexism and, implicitly, racism, and so managed to set back both those momentous causes. Williams came from a long way back in life, but she is now just about the most privileged black woman in the US, the most indulged, too. It makes it hard to buy the interpretation that this was some sort of stance against oppression. And it obscures the mighty, desperate and real battles that are being fought around the world in the name of both.

 

Mr. Baum’s comments are far more useful than those emanating from the U.S. media, which goes to show that there is a very real problem in American society which is being actively ignored by the news media. In fact, one look at the fifteen minute highlights of Ms. William’s interactions with umpire Carlos Ramos shows just how ugly things got. The American fans, instead of calming Ms. Williams down, decided to—in effect—egg her on by cheering for her whilst she berated the umpire. The crowd’s behavior goes beyond just the boorish and banal form of nationalism which American sports fans can sometimes be guilty of, rather it was done with the sense that she was doing something “right” . . . which completely overshadowed the well-deserved victory of her Japanese/Haitian opponent, Ms. Osaka.

 

It seems that American society has allowed improper behavior—like the poor sportsmanship of Ms. Williams in this instance—to be excused by invoking the rhetoric of “social justice” (indeed, cartoon criticism of this incident was roundly criticized as “racist”, again missing the point of what social criticism is all about). What American sports media fail to see is that this trend does not look good in the eyes of the rest of the world, nor does it serve to further any of the causes which it purports to further! Indeed, as Mr. Baum points out, the fight for racial and gender equality is a very real and very righteous cause. But by excusing immature behavior in front of the world by invoking these same causes, it only serves to demean and obscure those messages. Just like encouraging referees to “look the other way” does nothing to ensure fair refereeing, invoking “sexism” and “racism” to defend poor sportsmanship only serves to belittle the fight for equality which these causes are engaged in.

 

American news media would do better to encourage and congratulate Naomi Osaka for a well-deserved victory in what is the biggest moment of her career to date, rather than try to find excuses for Ms. Williams disrespectful behavior. After all, sport is above all a human endeavor which celebrates the accomplishments of athletes, regardless of their background; poor sportsmanship goes against those humanist values of mutual respect. Sport is certainly a political field, but we must do our best to not allow sport to be completely consumed by politics. By focusing solely on intersectional identities like “race” and “sex”, we obscure the “human” and—through the obsession with categorization and political correctness—risk losing our own humanity as well.

 

Genoa: While Football Might Be Able to Bring People Together, the Media Keeps Trying to Drive People Apart

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These days, it seems that outrage—and anger—is what sells. The main(lame) stream media is all too ready to produce stories which strike fear into the hearts of normal citizens, in a bid to foster some kind of outrage. Most recently, CNN published another of their (extremely slanted) op-eds, with the headline “Trumpesque alt-right nationalism must be defeated in Europe”. The author, Guy Verhofstadt, is a former Belgian PM and president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group (ALDE). In his piece, Mr. Verhofstadt writes:

 

For too long, in both the US and Europe, populists have gotten away with selling a retreat to isolationism and protectionism, wrapped up in a rose-tinted notion of absolute national sovereignty, as a solution to voter’s problems. Progressive voices must now challenge these assumptions and once again make the case for internationalism.

 

While one could argue that “internationalism” has been tried before on the Eurasian landmass in another form—which was also a transnational “union”—to disastrous results, this is not quite the kind of journalism CNN supports. For CNN, the panacea is to be found in strengthening—and not dissolving—the European Union. This is, of course, to be expected from a news organization which publishes a line like this: “The new divide in European politics is not between left and right, it is between nationalist illiberalism and pro-European liberal democracy”. While the divide is certainly not between left and right, this sentence certainly does present it as such while missing the point that nationalists need not be “illiberal” at all. In fact, nationalism may just be the one thing that can keep Europe together, given the increasing meaninglessness of the “multicultural” European Union which has enriched elites at the expense of normal citizens across the continent.

But CNN does not understand the unifying power that nationalism can provide. Indeed, in a late August Op-Ed about the tragic bridge collapse in Genoa, the headline boldly claimed that the collapse “shows what’s wrong with modern Italy”. Noting that the Morandi Bridge was badly in need of a makeover, the story quotes Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister—and “long-term EU critic”—Matteo Salvini as tweeting “If there are European constraints that prevent us from spending money to secure the schools where our children go or the motorways where our workers are traveling on, we will put the safety of Italians before everyone and everything”. While this seems to be a very valid criticism of the European Union project, the writer of the Op-Ed Silvia Marchetti was quick to dissuade readers from believing it. In the next sentence, the story follows Salvini’s quote with “But the truth is that the public funds earmarked to modernize roads or build new ones are allocated, but often never actually spent. The money is there, but we don’t know what to do with it”. Unfortunately, this type of pedantic reporting only serves to distract readers and shape their opinions.

 

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A Typical Ad from Cnn.com. Here the goal is to encourage readers to choose the “summarize the news” option, which in reality just means a swifter form of indoctrination. As long as individuals stop relying on their own discerning analyses of the news–and instead outsource the “thinking” to CNN–then the world is in for a very dark future indeed. Image Courtesy of Cnn.com.

 

Instead of giving a fair presentation of a perspective which has validity—since the EU certainly does require states to not put their own interests first—CNN chose to further the globalist narrative (since criticizing the European Union does not fit the main(lame) stream media’s agenda). It would seem that news outlets like this would do well to learn a little bit from the football fans. In the wake of the disaster, fans of both Genoese teams came together to mourn. In a difficult time, the local identity of being Genoese—and Italian—was what brought people together, not the pan-European “identity”. If nothing else, the fans can perhaps be a model for politicians, reminding them that their most important job is representing their localities, their people, and their country. The European Union should be of a secondary concern to Italian politicians whose job is to ensure the safety and prosperity of Italian citizens, since all countries have the right to determine their own futures.

 

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Genoa and Sampdoria Fans Together. Image Courtesy of Ultrasworld_Official’s Instagram page.

The Hyperreality of Corporate Virtue Signaling: Nike and Colin Kaepernick

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Nike’s bizarre decision (bizarre because it cost them almost four billion USD) to make Colin Kaepernick, the mid-tier professional football player who started protesting what he calls “racial injustice” in the United States by kneeling for the national anthem, the face of their classic “Just Do It” advertisements. While this is of course an absurd reflection of the commodity fetishism of post-modern life, arguably the response has been even more absurd.

 

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With a Multi-Million Dollar Sponsorship Deal, One Has To Ask: What Exactly Did This Gentleman Sacrifice? Image Courtesy Of: https://www.thenation.com/article/on-colin-kaepernicks-nike-ad-will-the-revolution-be-branded/

 

Surprisingly, various media outlets (like Yahoo Sports) have reported on the responses in an extremely partisan nature; the opening paragraph of Jason Owens’ piece says “In the time-honored tradition of consumers expressing their rage at companies aligning with perceived liberal policies, people took to Twitter on Monday to light their own property on fire”. While the idea of consumers lighting their own purchases on fire is absurd, to tie it to “rage” at companies with “liberal policies” is as absurd as it is untrue. Indeed, many so-called “liberals” burned (or at least threatened to burn) New Balance shoes when the company seemingly came out in support of U.S. President Donald Trump after his election. This is hardly a partisan issue, but it does raise some real questions.

CNN offered another piece of partisan “analysis”, with LZ Granderson explaining the “hypocrisy of Nike outrage” for readers. While this outrage is certainly hypocritical, Granderson—who is apparently a political analyst—offers a poor explanation of this hypocrisy. Granderson connects it to Donald Trump’s (and indeed wider conservative America’s) support for the military. For Granderson, the idea that Pat Tillman (the former NFL football player who quit football and enlisted in the army, only to lose his life in Afghanistan), sacrificed more (i.e., his life) than Mr. Kaepernick, and President Donald Trump’s praise for the U.S. military, are both hypocritical because of the bad blood between Mr. Trump and the late John McCain (widely recognized after his death as a war hero). Of course, Mr. Granderson here fails to recognize that Mr. Trump’s support for the military need not equate to sanguine feelings towards Mr. McCain, especially given the latter’s role in encouraging American adventures in Libya, Syria, and Iraq in the name of globalism. Thus, given the ideological divide between the two politicians, these claims of “hypocrisy” don’t really stand up to scrutiny; quite the opposite, it seems that Mr. Trump is in keeping with his nationalist—and anti-globalist—rhetoric, as (rhetorically at least) Mr. Trump has criticized America’s imperialist wars in the past.

While Granderson’s analysis leaves much to be desired, his assertion that there is hypocrisy in the outrage over Nike is spot on. Unfortunately for Mr. Granderson, however, that hypocrisy has nothing to do with Donald Trump, Colin Kaepernick, racial injustice, or “right” and “left” divides in politics. The hypocrisy inherent in the outrage over Nike, rather, has everything to do with the moral degradation and regressive nature of the American Social Justice Warrior (SJW) mindset. In this instance, the virtue signaling and self proclaimed “anti-capitalists” of the American “left” are lapping up the virtue signaling of corporate America, somehow believing that a transnational corporation—like Nike—is “standing” (pardon the pun) for “something”. The idea that Nike—a company that has based its manufacturing policies on the exploitation of child laborers and impoverished workers in the “third world” so as to sell their products at a premium in the “first world”—cares about morality is bizarre to say the least. Where is the “virtue” in manufacturing shoes for 1.65 USD (if even that) in southeast Asia and selling them for 165.00 USD in Manhattan? Is this standing for something? No, Nike is no paragon of virtue (like FIFA is no paragon of virtue).

Unfortunately, pundits like CNN’s LZ Granderson are not doing their jobs as journalists when they allow Nike to engage in a classic example of what philosopher Herbert Marcuse called “Repressive Tolerance”; capitalism takes what is critical of it (say, protest) and commodifies it before selling it back to the world having taken the teeth out of the criticism. By standing silent in the face of this insult to the American public—and by allowing Nike to engage in what can only be called corporate fascism—the media sends the message that corporations can join the virtue signaling of the SJW class. This is because of an increased focus on “morality”, given Donald Trump’s perceived lack of morality according to the main(lame) stream media. Indeed, Levi’s—a company highly identified with the culture of cowboys and the “wild west”—has picked up on this as well, teaming up with nebulously named “gun control groups” in a bid to signal their own virtue. Not only does this reinforce the dangerous message that corporations “are people too”—after all, they can virtue signal with the best of them—but it also represents the high point of extreme capitalism: the commodification of ideology.

By adopting Colin Kaepernick as the “face” of their advertising campaign—in a bid to virtue signal—Nike is insulting not only the American public, but also its customers all over the world. Nike is simply trying to generate a new “grand narrative” of corporate tolerance which stands in the face of their history of exploitation as they engaged in—to borrow Richard Falk’s term—“predatory globalization”, exploiting low-wage workers throughout the so-called “developing” world. Nike has, for years, been involved in the global “dictatorship of bureaucratic economy” which, as Guy Debord notes in The Society of the Spectacle, “must be accompanied by permanent violence”. In this case, the violence is wholly symbolic (to borrow Pierre Bourdieu’s terminology): those who stand with Nike win the virtuous labels of “tolerant” and “progressive”, and those who stand against Nike are violently tarred and feathered with the labels “racist” and “intolerant”. Of course, out of this paroxysm of symbolic violence, no winner can emerge.

This event shows, more clearly than ever, that French philosopher Jean Baudrillard was correct when he said that we are now living in a “hyperreality”, where “simulations come to constitute reality itself” and “the boundaries between information and entertainment, images and politics, implode” (Best and Kellner, 1991). As the masses eat up what is proffered by the culture industry and the mass media, I am left wondering just how the American educational system has failed so spectacularly and created a mass society of the spectacle (again, pardon the pun). Unfortunately, vast swathes of the American public continue to fake outrage at everything…except, of course, that which they should be most outraged at: their own complicity in becoming mindless pawns of the corporate interests of transnational corporations like Nike.

 

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Just Do It! Listen To Our Virtue and Get Back In Line and Consume! Image Courtesy Of: https://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/index.php?threads/does-nike-still-use-child-slave-labor.557694/

 

This is why it is important that we all stand up for our countries against the dangerous ideology of globalism, which merely serves to legitimate corporate greed and exploitation.

 

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