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The United States Legalizes Sports Gambling: The View from Veblen

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On 14 May 2018 the United States Supreme Court, in what amounts to a revolutionary decision, ruled 6-3 against a 1992 federal law prohibiting sports betting in most U.S. states. Justice Samuel Alito explained the decision in terms of state’s rights: “The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy choice, but the choice is not ours to make. Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own.” While this is a strong blow against the centralizing tendencies of Washington which have become more prominent in the last eight years, it is also a strong blow against the orthodox view of gambling in the United States. Indeed, this was a long time coming.

The absurdity of prohibiting sports gambling in the United States has not been lost on those of us who travel. In the summer of 2016 I was watching the European football championships with a group of British travelers in Seville, Spain, who found it absurd that in the United States Americans, over eighteen, could buy a rifle yet could not wager even a few “quid” on a football match (or baseball game. Or NBA game. Or NFL game). Yet, it seems as if at least five states have recently passed legislation regarding sports betting so–in terms of state’s rights—sports gambling might become legal in a few states in the not-too-distant future.

 

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A State-by-State Breakdown on a Very Technocratic Map. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.espn.com/chalk/story/_/id/22516292/gambling-ranking-every-us-state-current-position-legalizing-sports-betting

 

But why has this change been so long in coming? Eminent Norwegian-American Sociologist and Economist Thorstein Veblen’s The Theory of the Leisure Class might give us some insight into this. Beyond the Black Sox scandal of 1919, Veblen shows that an aversion to gambling is part of modern industrial society. Veblen explains that “the chief factor in the gambling habit is the belief in luck” and this belief is “an archaic trait, inherited from a more or less remote past, more or less incompatible with the requirements of the modern industrial process, and more or less of a hindrance to the fullest efficiency of the collective economic life of the present” (Veblen 1953[1899]: 183). Indeed, this belief in luck is incompatible with industrial society because it threatens its mechanical—and ultimately rational—nature. Veblen explains:

 

The industrial organization assumes more and more of the character of a mechanism, in which it is man’s office to discriminate and select what natural forces shall work out their effects in his service. The workman’s part in industry changes from that of a prime mover to that of discrimination and valuation of quantitative sequences and mechanical facts. The faculty of a ready apprehension and unbiased appreciation of causes in his environment grows in relative economic importance and any element in the complex of his habits of thought which intrudes a bias at variance with this ready appreciation of matter-of-fact sequence gains proportionately in importance as a disturbing element acting to lower his industrial usefulness. Through its cumulative effect upon the habitual attitude of the population, even a slight or inconspicuous bias towards accounting for everyday facts by recourse to other ground than that of quantitative causation may work an appreciable lowering of the collective industrial efficiency of a community (Veblen 1953[1899]: 187-188).

 

In short, Veblen tells us that any belief in luck “counts as a blunder in the apprehension and valuation of facts” for science and technology (Veblen 1953[1899]: 190).

Given that science and technology are the bedrocks of the rational and technocratic society which defines the modern world, luck—like individual creativity and emotions—cannot be celebrated without threatening the basic foundational logic of modern industrial (and especially post-industrial, or digital) society. Perhaps this is one possible reason why the United States has waited almost 26 years to overturn a federal ban on sports betting, giving the decision back to individual states. While this is certainly a victory for states rights—and a blow to the centralization of the American state—it is also a victory for the rule of law. As ESPN journalist David Purdum notes, the black market for sports betting already makes 150 billion USD annually. If the government can tax such betting then it could offer some states an important form of income, even if it threatens the sensibilities of a rational and “modern” society.

 

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Mr. Veblen Himself. Image Courtesy Of: http://booksyouwillneverread.com/a-review-of-the-theory-of-the-leisure-class/
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Beitar Trump Jerusalem and the Absurdity of Modernity

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The “absurdity of modernity” that Michel Foucault refers to should be in the back of all of our minds as the presidency of Donald Trump unfolds; indeed, it is precisely why we should not be too surprised when new absurdities pop up. The latest absurdity is the decision by Jerusalem football club—and six-time Israeli champions—Beitar Jerusalem FC to change their name to “Beitar ‘Trump’ Jerusalem in celebration of the U.S. President’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, thereby recognizing the ancient city as the Israeli capital. An announcement on the club’s Facebook page reads:

For 70 years, Jerusalem has been awaiting international recognition, until President Donald Trump, in a courageous move, recognized Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel. President Trump has shown courage and true love of the Israeli people and their capital, and these days other countries are following his lead in giving Jerusalem its rightful status.

While this is certainly surprising—and more than a little absurd—the question remains, what does this mean in terms of the future?

 

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Certainly An Interesting Image. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.newsweek.com/beitar-jerusalem-israel-donald-trump-name-change-us-embassy-israel-benjamin-923645

 

As a state which exhibits the darkest side of ethnic nationalism and seems to reject an inclusive form of civic nationalism, Israel has often come under fire by critics. According to a 2017 U.N. report, Israel was classified as an “apartheid state”. Of course, defenders of Israel vehemently denied this characterization of the Jewish state. These contradictory descriptions of the Israeli state—and its actions—will, of course, constrain U.S. President Donald Trump going forward. Is he a “Friend of Zion”, as the banners around Jerusalem announce? Or does he believe in an “America First” policy, as he continually claims?

 

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A Friend Of Zion? But…shouldn’t’ the U.S. President be a friend of the American People First? Image Courtesy Of: http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/israel/2018/may/lsquo-trump-is-a-friend-of-zion-rsquo

 

A short look at Edward Said’s seminal 1978 text Orientalism can offer a few explanations. As Said notes, “standing near the center of all European [and now the American imperium’s] politics in the East was the question of minorities, whose ‘interests’ the Powers, in each its own way, claimed to protect and represent” (Said 1978: 191). Given this background, then, it should not be surprising that American foreign policy is stuck in the Orientalist logic of old—support of minorities—in a classic divide and rule strategy. Indeed, we have seen the same in Iraq and Syria (with the Kurdish minority) and elsewhere to a lesser extent (Yemen, for instance). But just how long can this policy hold, specifically in Israel?

Indeed, given that so few countries (just nine, including the United States and Israel) voted against the UN resolution rejecting the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, it would seem that the United States is quickly becoming an international pariah (to use the classic terminology favored by news media).  Despite this, it seems that this process could open the door to a better future for both Israelis and Palestinians.

The first step would be to recognize that the status quo cannot—and will not—help anyone involved. Indeed, the Palestinian entity in Israel has been shrinking for years. Additionally, a few recent opinion polls (like this one, cited by the Jerusalem Post in 2017) seem to point to a plurality of Israeli Jews and Palestinians calling for a two-state solution. Indeed, the days of Apartheid style segregation—and settler colonialism—should be put behind us, since they do nothing for either the Israeli state or the Palestinian entity; rather, such an unstable situation puts both in a constant state of turmoil. Indeed, the fact that over fifty people have died in recent protests—following the embassy opening—attests to the degree of this instability.

 

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Whither Palestine? Image Courtesy Of: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/opinions/israel-settlements/?utm_term=.1c0637d70bd4

 

Of course, criticism of the status quo often results in accusations of “anti-Semitism”. Again, Said’s Orientalism is useful in explaining why such criticisms miss the mark. In a lengthy passage, Said explains the rationale behind his book:

 

The life of an Arab Palestinian in the West, particularly in America, is disheartening. There exists here an almost unanimous consensus that politically he does not exist, and when it is allowed that he does, it is either as a nuisance or as an Oriental. The web of racism, cultural stereotypes, political imperialism, dehumanizing ideology holding in the Arab or the Muslim is very strong indeed, and it is this web which every Palestinian has come to feel as his uniquely punishing destiny. It has made matters worse for him to remark that no person academically involved with the Near East—no Orientalist, that is—has ever in the United States culturally and politically identified himself wholeheartedly with the Arabs; certainly there have been identifications on some level, but they have never taken an “acceptable” form as has liberal American identification with Zionism, and all too frequently they have been radically flawed by their association with discredited political and economic interests (oil-company and State Department Arabists, for example) or with religion” (Said 1978: 27).

 

In short, there is a major anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias in American (and Western) presentations of the region and indeed the Israeli/Palestinian conflict more generally; this—in itself—constitutes a form of anti-Semitism given that Arabs (like Jews) are themselves a Semitic people (an argument put forth in Orientalism). And this is another reason why the current status quo—consisting of low level violent conflict between Israeli security forces and Palestinian terrorist groups, and de-facto segregation between Israel’s Arab and Muslim populations—cannot stand for long. Both Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs deserve to live with dignity and in peace. And it is clear that the current situation cannot offer this kind of peace.

Perhaps, by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the United States will finally be able to rid itself of the burden to defend Israel—a country the size of the U.S. state of Connecticut—and move forward domestically without becoming embroiled in Middle Eastern conflicts in the future. After all, it is Israel’s responsibility to both its Jewish and Arab citizens to ensure equality before the law; it is also Israel’s responsibility (like any sovereign nation) to enforce their own borders without encroaching on Palestinian lands. Now that the capital has been recognized (and one contentious issue taken off the table), there might be hope that both sides can move towards a reconciliation with both their Arab neighbors (and Arab citizens); there might also be hope that the United States can recede from its current position as an imperial overseer of Israel and tend to more urgent domestic matters.

Time will tell as to what road both Israel and the United States take in the Middle East, as well as if Beitar Jerusalem’s name change will hold. While Beitar’s move is not surprising—given their far-right fan base—it is my hope that the name change will commemorate the transition to a more peaceful, and less belligerent, Israel going forward. Regardless of the football team’s name change, lasting peace in the region is important and it is increasingly clear that the current status quo will not deliver that kind of peace.

 

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Beitar’s La Familia Ultra Group are Known For Their (Ethnic) Nationalist Identity. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.espn.com/soccer/beitar-jerusalem/story/3497455/beitar-jerusalem-announce-they-will-rename-club-after-trump

Beware Mass Media: The New York Times’s Coverage of Turkish Football and Politics is a Veritable Disaster

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The New York Times Looks to Portray Hakan Sukur as the Aggrieved Victim in His Upscale Cafe. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/03/sports/hakan-sukur.html

 

U.S. President Donald Trump has been much maligned for his criticism of mainstream news outlets like the New York Times; he has indeed repeatedly criticized them for being “fake news” and has described them as “failing”. Of course, as is to be expected, the main (lame)stream media—like CNN—have hit back at Mr. Trump’s criticism with columns like Brian Stelter’s; that this particular column should carry the heading “Reliable Sources” is almost as absurd as the name of the Soviet Union’s main newspaper, Pravda, which was translated as “True”. Interestingly, Mr. Stelter’s claim that the New York Times (NYT) is not failing is based on purely economic concerns; Fortune reports that Mr. Trump’s opposition to the NYT has only served to bolster the periodical, whose stock was trading at a nine year high as of July 2017. Reuters corroborates this claim, as the globalist news outlet reported profits of over 15 million dollars in the second quarter of 2017.

 

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Mr. Trump Tends to Criticize the New York Time’s Poor Reporting. Since Turkish Football is a Subject I Know A lot About, I Have To Agree Here. Image Courtesy Of: http://money.cnn.com/2018/01/02/media/new-york-times-president-trump/index.html

 

What is surprising is that CNN and Fortune do not seem to understand that the “success” of a news outlet is not defined in terms of profit; rather its success is defined by its service to the people. Norwegian-American Sociologist Thorstein Veblen pointed out long ago that the commercialization of both media and education would have negative consequences, since it would mean that both would write for profits and—by extension—for the interests of those who would be providing investment. Taken in these terms, it should be clear that the main (lame)stream media is most certainly failing; they are writing in the interests of the global capitalist elite, but not at all in the interests of the millions of middle and lower class citizens at large.

A recent piece in the New York Times—written by John Branch about famous Turkish footballer Hakan Sukur—is a perfect example of the failing New York Times and, indeed, the failing main(lame) stream media in general. The 3 May 2018 piece makes Mr. Sukur out to be an innocent refugee, escaping an “authoritarian regime”; it is a portrait of an immigrant “trying to build his own American dream for his family”. While this, of course, follows the pro-immigrant and pro-victim narrative of globalism, the truth is a bit more complicated than Mr. Branch admits (or, perhaps, even knows—after all, journalism in the modern era has become a refuge for surface level analyses which often lack knowledge of deeper details). While many of my fellow Sociologists mock “the American Dream”, it is interesting that the NYT is so eager to bring it up—especially when looking to legitimate a famous figure who is being described as an innocent victim.

The reality is that Mr. Sukur was once a close ally of Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan—indeed, he eventually resigned from his position as an MP in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and came under attack from Mr. Erdogan himself, mainly because of his support for the shadowy Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen. While it is likely that Mr. Sukur did not have full knowledge of Mr. Gulen’s plans for Turkey, his support for the cleric is undeniable. He was likely a pawn, whose celebrity status could be used in order to sway public opinion in Turkey (similar to the way Lebron James is used in the U.S.), but that does not excuse the New York Times’ atrocious reporting.

 

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A Bizarre Triangle…Mr. Erdogan (Left), Mr. Sukur (Center), and Mr. Gulen (Right). Image Courtesy Of: http://kaanil.blogcu.com/hakan-sukur-fethullah-gulen-le-ne-konustu/18008146

 

In Mr. Branch’s story, he seems to insinuate that the attempted coup of 15 July 2016 was a good thing (after all, authoritarian regimes are “bad” and need toppling). Please see the passage in question:

It was his [Mr. Sukur’s] first interview since he left Turkey in 2015, nearly a year before the 2016 deadly coup that tried, and failed, to topple the authoritarian regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a former friend and political ally.

This kind of framing—a topic I have written about in the past—would lead the uninformed reader to believe that a coup deposing an “authoritarian” leader would be a “good” thing. Of course, this is far from the truth—a successful Gulenist coup in Turkey would have been disastrous. Still, this is the kind of shoddy reporting that has come to be the norm in the United States, a place where famous political commentators like Bill Maher openly call for coups to depose leaders they don’t like (such as Mr. Trump).

The most insidious passage—indeed, the most repulsive portion—of Mr. Branch’s reporting, however, comes in his description of Mr. Gulen’s Hizmet movement:

Gulen’s Hizmet movement has, for decades, infiltrated Turkey’s institutions with a moderate strain of Islam, trying to nudge the country from the inside toward democracy, education and cultural openness more associated with Europe than much of today’s Middle East.

I have bolded the most important parts since they are, in my mind, absurd. That the New York Times—one of the leading news providers in not only the United States, but the entire world—should describe a movement which attempted to subvert Turkish democracy by attempting a military coup as one which tried to “nudge the country toward democracy” is a gross misrepresentation of reality. The New York Times seems to think that they can shape public opinion by using catch phrases and catch words like “moderate Islam”, “cultural openness”, and “democracy” in order to shape public opinion. This is, very clearly, an egregious example of an attempt by the media to support a very dangerous man in the name of progressive politics.

Observers should be aware of the duplicitous nature of the globalist mass media which prefers to play on emotions rather than report on facts. Mr. Gulen is no democrat, nor is he a champion of any kind of Islam; rather, he is a capitalist who looks to transform Islam into one more amenable to capitalist ideals (as the sociologist Cihan Tugal masterfully explains in his book Passive Revolution: Absorbing the Islamic Challenge to Capitalism). That the New York Times would support a man who quite possibly ordered the bombing of his own nation’s parliament—and whose purported actions killed almost three hundred innocent people—as a supporter of “democracy” is both absurd and extremely troubling. For those of us who expect veracity from our news media—and despite the fact that ABC news thinks “The Colbert Report” is legitimate news (it is not)—this kind of reporting needs to be called out. It has no place in a country which prides itself on “freedom of the press”. We should all strive to take back our countries, and our free press, in the process.

 

 

 

 

New Teams and New Friendships: Gazisehir Gaziantepspor Congratulates Caykur Rizespor on Promotion to the Turkish Super League

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The final match of the 2018 Turkish Spor Toto First Division, between Gazisehir Gaziantepspor and Caykur Rizespor, saw an interesting scene. The Gazisehir FK players lined up to congratulate the champions, Caykur Rizespor, while the latter entered the stadium with a banner reading “We Wish Caykur Rizespor Succeds in the Super League”. While this is clearly good sportsmanship, it is also a sign of the kind of institutional power which has taken hold of Turkish football.

As I have written before, Gazisehir Gaziantepspor—itself a re-invented form of Gaziantep Buyuksehir Belediyespor (formerly the municipality’s team)—is a cheap replacement for the former Gaziantepspor which, for years, represented southeastern Turkey in the country’s first division. With them now out of the picture (indeed slated to drop down to the third tier of Turkish football just one year after dropping out of the Super League) a new hegemonic football power is rising out of Turkey’s southeast; Gazisehir Gaziantepspor (whose name is conspicuously similar to Istanbul’s similarly invented Basaksehirspor) might well fly the flag for Turkish football in the region going forward.

TRT Sports reports that many high ranking political officials including the Minister for Youth and Sport Osman Askin Bak, the ruling AKP’s [Justice and Development Party] Vice Chairman Hayati Yazici, the Turkish [AKP] secretary General Fahri Kasirga, and the Turkish Football Federation’s Deputy Chairman (and UEFA Executive Committee member) Servet Yardimci attended the match. This suggests that a cultural changing of the guard is underway.

 

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The Global Transnational Capitalist Class In Action As Gazisehir Gaziantepspor Players Congratulate Their Fellow Players on a Well-Played Season. Images Courtesy Of: http://www.trtspor.com.tr/haber/futbol/spor-toto-1-lig/caykur-rizespor-gazisehir-gaziantep-160157.html

 

In fact, the two teams even congratulated one another on their seasons via social media by using local dialects; the two teams–with Rizespor being the team from AKP President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s home town—are both supported by the Turkish political class. The fact that one of the bureaucrats who attended the final match of the season in the Turkish second tier is also a UFEA official is not insignificant. Indeed, it shows the continuing influence of a global transnational capitalist class on local processes—like football—in Turkey; it also shows the degree to which the Turkish state has become connected to globalization and globalism more generally.

 

 

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Gazisehir Gaziantepspor Congratulate Their Friends From Rize: Image Courtesy Of: https://twitter.com/gazisehirfk?lang=en

Prom Dresses and Football Shirts.: A Marginal Sociologist’s Critique of Sociology and “Cultural Appropriation”

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Its…Just a Dress, People. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/05/01/shaming-teen-for-wearing-racist-dress-to-prom-is-crazy-where-does-nonsense-cultural-appropriation-end.html

 

As readers of this blog will know, I often try to connect the topic of football to current events; indeed, if football shirts can in any way be involved, it is all to the good. Given that the modern world often throws out absurdities on a daily basis, there is no shortage of odd current events topics to respond to. Recently, in the U.S. state of Utah, a young high schooler was slammed for wearing a prom dress. Indeed, you read that correctly. A prom dress has now become grounds for slamming in the modern world. Apparently, the issue was that “On April 23, 18-year-old Twitter user Keziah, who is not Chinese, posted pictures of herself wearing a cheongsam, or qipao – a traditional Chinese dress – for her prom”. Whilst prom dresses are certainly not my specialty—nor are they anywhere near my area of interest at all—this issue demonstrates a real problem in the modern world. While I will not go into the idiocy—and rage—which was elicited by a high schooler’s dress choice (some of the rage and vitriol can be viewed here), there are some interesting points of discussion raised by this incident (although you wont find them in the main (lame)stream media).

What is “cultural appropriation”? What does it even mean? As a marginal sociologist, I have—indeed—heard the term, and one recent news story cites the term as originating in, sadly, the discipline of sociology. Michael Levin explains that:

 

The term cultural appropriation is borrowed from sociology – itself a dubious academic discipline to begin with. The term means that people from a majority culture are borrowing aspects of minority culture without the permission of those minority members.

 

Indeed, absurd terms like this are—sadly—making Sociology as a discipline more and more dubious. It is not a definition of Sociology that I want to agree with, since I believe Sociology can make real contributions in the modern world, but—like Hannah Arendt—I must admit that I take issue with the discipline of Sociology for this very same reason. The job of Sociologists should not be to divide people or spread hatred; rather it should be to spread light on the human condition and—in a humanist manner—attempt to seek understanding (Indeed, Max Weber’s concept of Verstehen is in line with this position). Yet, modern sociologists prefer to descend deeper and deeper into an oddly anti-intellectual cesspool.

When I first heard of the “cultural appropriation” debate surrounding the dress controversy, my mind went back to an odd experience I had in a Sociology seminar a few weeks back. At that point the topic of discussion was not “cultural appropriation”; rather we discussed a similarly dubious (in my mind) “sociological” term: “colorblind racism”. I really do not know what the term means; I look at people as people, and am more concerned with an individual’s moral character, qualities like loyalty, courage, trustworthiness, bravery, and intelligence, rather than something as banal as their skin color. So I asked a student what the term “colorblind racism” meant. With the typical attitude that only a social justice warrior could have, I got the response “Well . . . the minute you actually believe black and white people are equal . . . that is color blind racism”. To this I just stared blankly; there was no response I could have short of laughing (and that would have been disrespectful to my colleague).

My family brought me up to believe that people are equal regardless of the color of their skin (or any other identity they might have), and no claims about “structural racism” can change what I, as a person, believe to be true in my heart. Indeed, the Sociologists seem to forget that structural racism is quite meaningless when people—in their day to day interactions—believe people are equal since, after all, it is we as individuals who create the social structure through our interactions (numerous sociologists, from Merton to Goffman to Berger and Luckman have said the same, I am hardly the first). But this small interaction showed me just how absurd the state of modern sociology—and indeed the world—has become. The structure has become so internalized that there is no longer room for human agency.

And this is where I return to the topic of the “hated” dress in question. Why are we hating a young girl for wearing what she found to be beautiful? Who are we to attribute meaning and intent to the clothes she wears? Is it bad that this young girl showed respect for Chinese culture while wearing the dress? We—as Americans—should not forget that so much of “America” (indeed what makes it great, despite its flaws) is that we have been open to different cultures for more than three centuries. Even some of the things we recognize as the most quintessentially “American”—like a hot dog and a beer at a baseball game—came from another culture; as Andrei Markovits and Steven Hellerman point out in their book, it was German immigrants in Midwestern America who brought this custom to American sports (Markovits and Hellerman, 2001: 62). If, in 1870s America, we had shamed Americans for “culturally appropriating” German tastes at baseball games we might not even have a country to call home today! And that is absurd.

As someone who is an ardent collector of football shirts—and who values the experiences I have had in every country I have visited in search of a football shirt—I take special offense(!) to the term “cultural appropriation”. While I have two citizenships, that of the United States of America and that of Turkey—it does not mean that I cannot proudly wear a football shirt from any other country in the world. Indeed, it is my pleasure to wear the shirts of the countries I come from; there is no shame in being proud of your country. But this does not mean that you cannot be proud of other countries (and their cultures) and show it, even if you might not belong to those cultures. This is because “culture” itself is very real; it is not imagined (as postmodernists might claim). Indeed, to resist the ongoing global homogenization of globalism, we must all stand up for our cultures together. To attribute to this a negative connotation—or even intent—is problematic at best and downright malicious at worst. If it is a problem for me to wear a Swedish jersey, a Greek Jersey, a Costa Rican Jersey, or any other jersey, then that represents the true regressive nature of progressive politics. And the same goes for a simple dress. If we could just stop looking at the actions of individuals—and their human agency (to speak in sociological terms)—in a negative light, the world would be a much better place indeed.

 

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This is Not Cultural Appropriation…Rather, It Brings Us Together. Image Courtesy of the Author.

 

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Stand Up For Your Culture!

 

Bonus:

A small shout out to an internet user who designed jerseys for all 50 U.S. States. Perhaps, indeed, football shirts can—in some way—bring us together.

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Image Courtesy Of: https://imgur.com/a/W1Les

A Marginal Sociologist on How to Understand Media Bias and Combat Fake News: A Case Study of a World Cup Tweet

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Having studied a lot about media and society, I am keenly aware of media bias. Sadly, it is something that is all around us. Since the advent of mass media (which really kicked off with the television), Horkheimer and Adorno’s culture industry has become deeply intertwined with news media. In fact, recently, it has become more and more difficult to separate fact from fiction and—most alarmingly—news from entertainment. The French Sociologist Jean Baudrillard understood just how this new hyperreality works; as the boundaries between information and entertainment implode, news commentators “disguise culture industry hype as ‘facts’ and ‘information’ (Best and Kellner, 1991: 120). Given that this is the state of the world we all live in, it makes sense to pay a little bit of attention to how media bias operates, and how it can frame our opinions of even the most basic of topics and events (indeed, it is a topic I have written on before).

One way to better understand how media bias works is to pick a topic you are familiar with and also knowledgeable about (so just “Googling” this topic occasionally likely does not mean you are “knowledgeable”). Once you have your topic, then look at the ways in which varying news outlets report on—or view—the topic you chose. Ideally, since you will be very familiar with the topic at hand, you will be able to pick out bias and fake news from miles away.

In my case, the topic I chose for this short example is football and American politics, with the specific topic being U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent Tweet Regarding the “North American bid” (a joint bid between NAFTA(!) members Canada, Mexico, and the United States) to host the 2026 World Cup. This particular Tweet is interesting because 1) while Mr. Trump Tweets prolifically, it is not usually about football; and 2) because Mr. Trump’s Tweets themselves embody the blurring of the line between information and entertainment; indeed the responses from most media outlets seem to suggest that bashing Donald Trump has become a national sport (i.e., entertainment). Thus, the topic is perfect for a look at how media bias perpetuates itself, while preying on those who cannot be bothered to check things out for themselves.

 

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The Tweet in Question. Image Courtesy Of: https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

 

For this short example, I just used the first six websites to come up on a simple Google search with the term “donald trump fifa” [sic]. Because this is a quick look it is by no means “scientific”, but it is still instrumental in terms of showing just how media bias works in both blatant and more subtle ways. In fact, given Google’s tendency to filter out results it doesn’t like, this small search is likely even more representative of the “hyperreal” state of modern mass media.

 

The Search

The first thing that is clear is the fact that most of the headlines are nearly identical—if that does not imply media censorship, than I don’t know what does (Image courtesy of:. The second thing that is clear is that many of the outlets that reported on this event have a certain bias embedded in their interpretations. Below, I provide a brief discussion of each outlet’s presentation of the story, followed by my own judgement.

 

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The Search Results Look as if There is no Diversity in Thought! Image Courtesy Of: https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&ei=TmnlWs7SE4mYjwSiqKiIBQ&q=donald+trump+fifa&oq=donald+trump+fifa&gs_l=psy-ab.3..0l2j0i22i30k1l2.3155.5396.0.5632.11.11.0.0.0.0.165.1222.0j10.10.0….0…1c.1.64.psy-ab..1.10.1219…0i131i67k1j0i131k1j0i10k1.0.TPuv10s-Ibw)

 

CNN.com

Article by Sophie Tatum: (27 April 2018) “FIFA points to its ethics guidelines following Trump tweet”. The first thing to notice in this article, clearly, is the headline—it stresses “ethics”. The implication here is that, in some way, FIFA is standing up for ethics in the face of Mr. Trumps unethical Tweet. Within the article, however, there is no mention of FIFA’s own considerable corruption (Cite own work here). This inability to give the whole story makes me rate this item fairly neutral towards Mr. Trump with a pro-FIFA slant.

 

Huffington Post

Article by Mary Papenfus: (27 April 2018) “FIFA Cites Ethics Rules After Trump’s Threatening World Cup Tweet”. Here we again see the stress of “ethics” in the headline, along with an important value judgement as it calls Mr. Trump’s Tweet “threatening”. Like all news stories, this one also has filler; in this case it is background information on Trump’s travel ban and the “shithole” countries fiasco which all amounts to a bizarre conclusion by the author that there is a “perception that the U.S. is increasingly hostile to foreigners”. It even contains this gem of a sentence: “The U.S. won’t be playing in the World Cup competition in Russia this summer because its men’s team wasn’t strong enough to advance”, where the writer seems to take a dig at the “men’s team”; when radical feminism is at the point where we gloat at the failures of our nation’s athletes you know you are reading a biased—and far-left wing—piece. Only in the last sentence is there a mention of FIFA’s own past ethnical issues, contextualized by what the author sees as a “surprising” low for Mr. Trump, being “schooled” on ethics by FIFA. Overall this article is very slanted negatively towards Mr. Trump with a slight pro-FIFA slant.

 

Reuters

Article by Simon Evans: (26 April 2018) “FIFA points to ethics rules after Trump tweets threat to World Cup bid opponents”. Again there is a stress on “ethics” in this headline, along with an interpretation of Mr. Trump’s Tweet as “threatening”. Reuters then has a short paragraph referring to—but not detailing— FIFA’s having faced “repeated ethics questions over past bids to host the tournament”. Nowhere in this article do we see the kind of filler used by the Huffington Post. Overall, this makes Reuters’ piece about as neutral as we can get in this day and age.

 

Yahoo Sports

Article by Henry Bushnell (26 April 2018) “Dear President Trump, please never tweet about soccer again”. This article is the only one of the bunch to not use a similar headline as the others; indeed, it is phrased as a suggestion to Mr. Trump and implies the author’s view of President Trump from the outset. The second sentence sets the tone for the article: “Donald Trump tweeted about soccer on Thursday. And, in a wholly unsurprising development, he had no idea what he is talking about.” As the piece goes on, the author slams Mr. Trump for his threatening language and calls his Tweet “about the worst thing the president” could have done in terms of supporting the U.S. bid. Apparently, in the author’s mind, Mr. Trump has already hurt the bid simply because of his existence, noting that the U.S. is looking for votes from “207 people, or groups of people, whose fellow citizens don’t like the U.S. because they don’t like Trump”. In order to back up this “claim”, the author cites a Gallup poll which reveals that “the worldwide approval rating of U.S. leadership has dipped to 30 percent, the lowest recorded since the poll was first conducted over a decade ago”. Perhaps the author is an ardent imperialist—and is lamenting the fact that the U.S. is not “leading” the world”—or the author is simply un-informed; the “lowest” approval rate in “nearly a decade” is hardly an informative statistic as it doesn’t include, for instance, the Vietnam era (indeed, if this statistic is to be of any value, one might want to read it as a reflection not of Mr. Trump but of his predecessor, whose attempts at “king-making” were on full display around the world from Ukraine to Libya). In this article, like a few of the others, there is absolutely no mention of Fifa’s own ethnical questions and scandals. Because of this failure to present both sides, this article is highly biased, with a negative slant against Mr. Trump and a fairly favorable position on FIFA (which is praised, throughout the article, as a “democratic” group—after all, the author claims that “Germany’s vote counts for as much as Guam’s”).

 

ESPN.com

Article by ESPN Staff (27 April 2018) “FIFA points to ethics rules after Trump tweets support of World Cup bid”. As part of the main (lame)stream media, it is not perhaps surprising that ESPN’s article should be a little biased. Again, we see a similar headline to some of the other articles mentioned here, stressing “ethics”. In their filler section, ESPN refers to some of Donald Trump’s missteps, albeit in a much less abrasive manner than Huffington Post, noting that the vote between the U.S. and Morocco is closer than expected “due in part to Trump’s foreign policies — including a travel ban against mostly Arab countries — and rhetoric in describing poorer countries. Lingering resentment over the U.S. Department of Justice investigation into FIFA corruption has also hampered the U.S.-led bid’s effort to attract votes”. Indeed, the second sentence of this passage is the only one which mentions the FIFA corruption scandal.  Given ESPN’s inability to properly point out FIFA’s own questionable ethics, I must rate this story biased, with a negative slant against Mr. Trump and a slightly favorable to neutral slant towards FIFA.

 

The Hill.com

Article by Max Greenwood (27 April 2018) “FIFA refers to ethics rules after Trump tweets on US World Cup Bid”. Like other articles, this headline also focuses on FIFA’s “ethics”.  While this article also provides an interpretation of Mr. Trump’s Tweet—calling it a “veiled threat”—it is much less negative than many of the aforementioned articles. Additionally, The Hill’s filler has no mention of Trump’s travel ban or rhetoric regarding poorer countries, but does contain the lengthiest statement regarding FIFA’s own history of corruption: “FIFA has its own history of scandal. It is facing criminal investigations into the bidding process and allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments in Russia and Qatar, respectively.” Given that this article spells out FIFA’s own history of corruption, I would say that this article is neutral, with a neutral to slightly negative presentation of Mr. Trump and a slightly negative to neutral slant towards FIFA.

 

So what does this exercise in media literacy teach us, in the end? I believe that it shows just how slanted the news media—and main(lame) stream media in the United States has become. Given that just two out of six of the aforementioned articles have any reference to FIFA’s own (in)famous scandals—while three of the six refer to irrelevant and non-football related topics like the “travel ban” and Mr. Trump’s “rhetoric regarding poorer countries”—it is clear that most media outlets have some sort of an agenda. They are looking to, depending on their perspective, further a certain narrative. In one case, it is that anything Mr. Trump does is inherently bad and has negative consequences for the United States; in order to further this narrative journalists tend to use filler to disparage the U.S. President. In another case, it is to further the idea that somehow FIFA—which itself is a major globalist entity—has a democratic ethos; in order to further this narrative, of course, media has to conveniently ignore the problematic aspects of FIFA’s past actions (a topic I have written about before).

It is important to recognize implicit media bias like this, because false reporting—or agenda-setting reporting—affects us all. Regardless of ones’ personal opinions about Donald Trump or his presidency, the general public would do well to recognize that biased reporting does nothing to emancipate human beings on a wider scale. In fact, it just serves to further imprison people into their own ideological cages. Given that many social media studies show that many people tend to get their news from social media—which itself tends to segregate people into camps based on political ideology—this means that many people do not look at 6, or even four, articles about the same news story. Instead, they tend to look at just one; often sent to them by a friend who thinks similarly. Imagine, for a moment, if the only piece about Trump’s World Cup Tweet that you read was the aforementioned Huffington Post piece? This would give you a very biased—and very incomplete—picture of the events. In fact, you might even believe that FIFA is some paragon of virtue—which is really the wrong take-away. This is why it is important to always do a thorough search of the news items on any topic so as to ensure that you are always striving to find a balanced portrayal of the events in question. This will help to create a more aware public and, hopefully, one less susceptible to manipulation by the mass media. Fake news is a very real problem, and the only solution to it can be found by using the human mind in a critical and discerning manner.

 

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Indeed, As Is the Case With So Many Globalist Entities, FIFA Pays Lip Service to the World While Making Off With Huge Profits. Image Courtesy Of: http://theconsul.org/2015/11/when-a-huge-corruption-takes-place-in-a-huge-nonprofit-organization-the-2015-fifa-corruption-scandal/

 

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Image Courtesy Of: https://www.cartoonmovement.com/cartoon/2668

 

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.indianlink.com.au/backup_old/fifa-corruption-affects-us-all/ 

 

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Image Courtesy Of: https://anticap.wordpress.com/tag/qatar/

Sports, Nationalism, and Unity: Rick Monday’s Great Play

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Rick Monday’s Great Play. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.azcentral.com/story/sports/heat-index/2016/08/30/rick-monday-speaks-out-colin-kaepernicks-protest/89583744/

 

25 April 2018. It was a normal day; until, that is, the moment I saw clearly that the American education system is nothing more than a façade. Though it preaches the typical catch words of “tolerance” and “diversity” and other meaningless feel-good terms, the American education system is nothing of the sort. In fact, it has come to resemble an indoctrination system which will take absolutely no deviation from the prescribed “progressive” mindset. Of course I already knew this…but I hadn’t quite seen it in practice in such a blatant way. Yet, while serendipitously hanging out with a friend while watching the Bayern Munich-Real Madrid Champions League Semi-Final, it all became much more clear to me. First my phone buzzed with some less than perfect news. As my friend tried to reassure me—as a friend would—we tried to distract ourselves by watching the game. Unfortunately, however, we could not escape the inevitable. The axe soon came down on my friend as well, who also found less than perfect news staring back at him on his Samsung screen. We could only turn to look at one another and laugh. After all, what can you do?

Indeed, on this day, a few more of our colleagues got less than perfect news. It seemed that if your topic of study does not clearly align with the totalitarian mindset of “progressive” education, you will be persecuted. But why is this? Isn’t education about questioning dominant ideas? Didn’t Jean Francois Lyotard make his name by questioning the grand narrative of history? Didn’t Galileo and Darwin make their names by questioning the dominant truths? Isn’t this essential for a functioning democracy and an enlightened society? Unfortunately—as I saw today—it just isn’t. They’d rather have you sit in line and continue to be spoon-fed (sometimes by force) a narrative which, in reality, just may not be true. While the progressives do this in the name of “science” (social science to be exact), it is clear that “science” itself is a very poor predictor of human behavior. Indeed, there are often other factors—some quite random—which enter into life, causing things to change on a Dime. The “random” is what makes life beautiful; the “random” is what makes life worth living. It is what makes us all—randomly born as we are—the unique individuals that we all are. In light of all this randomness, I sometimes am led to believe in fate. Some things may just have been meant to be. And perhaps it was meant for my friend and I to share our bad news together, received at the same time, while watching Bayern and Real. With this I mind, I had to chuckle at the date: 25 April. It was the same day of Rick Monday’s “great play”, 42 years ago. For me, it is a very real message: We must take back our education system—and our country—before it is too late.

For those who do not know (and many likely do not, due to the censorship of the main (lame)stream globalist media), Rick Monday is a baseball player who played for the Kansas City/Oakland Athletics, the Chicago Cubs, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. His statistics were nothing special: a .264 batting average, 241 home runs, 775 Runs Batted In (RBI). He did win one world series (1981, and was a two-time all star (in 1968 and 1978), but other than that his name will not show up in any record books. Yet his name does stand out in the minds of those who love their country.

Rick Monday made his most famous play while playing for the Chicago Cubs in 1976.  On that day—25 April 1976—Rick Monday saved an American flag from being burned in the middle of Dodger Stadium. Interestingly enough, on 25 April 2018, I saw just two news sites recognize this—one was the Chicago Sun Times, while the other was the Washington Examiner. From a simple Google search, I did not see any of the main(lame) stream media pick up the anniversary of this event; if, for nothing else, I would have assumed this would have been an interesting “on this date” kind of story. But no; instead it was crickets from the main(lame) stream media. Indeed, it was most startling that a search of ESPN revealed just a video of the incident—with no commentary—posted one year ago. There was no story this year (2018).

What does it tell us when ESPN, the self-proclaimed “worldwide leader in sports” (and well known “progressive” sports outlet), decides to ignore a story like this while publishing much more meaningless stories from the sports world day in and day out? After all, ESPN is quite willing to purvey meaningless stories that glorify the corporate sponsors of footballer Cristiano Ronaldo (pushing industrial football), stories which make footballers into Star Wars characters (melding the culture industry with the sporting industry), or stories about footballers playing video games (which is absurd). For one, it tells us that ESPN is more than willing to follow the narrative—blind the masses with meaningless news in order to distract them—while they encourage consumption in the name of extreme capitalism: Buy what Ronaldo sponsors, watch more Star Wars, play more Fortnite. But…one must ask… is any of this even real?

 

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I Guess ESPN Just Didn’t Want to Write a Story Because It Didn’t Follow the Narrative? Image Courtesy of ESPN.com

 

This is because the narrative cannot have a story which recognizes the American Flag as a symbol representing even a shred of something positive. As Mr. Monday himself says, regarding American footballer Colin Kaepernick’s protests:

 

If people have an issue, why not address the issue. To me, it’s insulting to those who have served. I look at the flag from a positive standpoint. And it’s taken a lot of concessions from a lot of people for us to have it. I respect the people that have fought for our country and have been there for us . . .

There are a lot of things that are not what they should be. At what point and at what degree do we try to do something about it? Why not take his efforts and channel it in other areas, make other inroads, to get groups of people together to work on something from a positive standpoint?

To me, it’s a negative. I would rather see an issue taken from a positive stance and move forward, than surround it with negativity. For those who have served, that’s how they view it and desecration of the flag is treason.

 

For my part, I would have to agree with Mr. Monday’s comments. There is no way to move forward—in terms of education, in terms of sport, or even in terms of our society and our country—if the debate it always couched in negative terms. The one common ground we all have—black, white, or green; gay, straight, or bisexual; woman, man, or transgender; immigrant or native born; etc.—is that we are all American. This is it. There is no other identity which can bring us together and provide the basis for a common ground from which to start discussion.

In her book Southern Theory, Sociologist Raewynn Connell raises a very important point when she says that “the metropolitan state, changing from its days of plump imperial pride to its scarecrow neoliberal present, [is] thinning its commitment to its citizens’ well-being while growing its capacity for external destruction” (Connell, 2007: 216). Indeed, it is true that the modern day neoliberal state has forgotten its own citizens; in the name of globalism the middle classes around the world have been sacrificed. But how can this situation be remedied if we do not even care about—or like—our own countries? I have witnessed fellow students throw the American flag on the floor of a classroom claiming that it only represents “oppression” and “racism”…and when I ask these “geniuses” how they will solve the problem they only answer with “anarchy”.

No, with a generation of people who think this way—who hate their countries—there is little hope for improving the human condition. Each and every individual must first recognize that the power for change—the power of “democracy”, as tenuous as it may be—lies in the people. As long as they are divided along arbitrary lines, there can be no change. However, when they come together—and break through the arbitrary barriers that concepts like race create (a barrier rapper Kanye West has recently broken, even though the fake news tries to shame him for it) —there is the potential for real change, and the re-establishment of a government for and by the people. The people are of all colors, all races, all religions, all sexes, all sexual orientations, and of every single intersectional identity the postmodern mind can create….but in the end, they are still the people. And they are the people who can—and will—be able to decide the future of our countries and, ultimately, our world.

We would all do well to be like Rick Monday. We must be above the divisions, take back our educations, and—most importantly—take back our countries from the forces of global capital.

 

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Take Back Your Education; Stand Up For Your Country. Image Courtesy of: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_the_United_States

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