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The Dangerous Attack on Free Speech in American Society

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One of America’s greatest Sociologists, C. Wright Mills, said that it was a sociologist’s job to point out the absurdities within their societies. Currently, it seems like PETA’s equating “anti-animal language” with hate speech is a good example of absurdity in modern American society which needs to be pointed out. The animal rights activist group has recently taken to Twitter to propose a change in the way idioms are used in the Englush language. For instance, they propose that the saying “beat a dead horse” should be replaced by “feed a fed horse”, or that the saying “bring home the bacon” should be replaced by “bring home the bagels”. Normally, this kind of absurdity could be easily dismissed as far-left wing activism which has gone off the deep end; after all, one would think that the very absurdity of this would make it irrelevant.

 

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Image (Unfortunately) Courtesy Of: https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2018-12-05/peta-compares-anti-animal-language-to-hate-speech

 

Unfortunately, there is something far more insidious at work in this attack on language. As the literary theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak points out in her book “Nationalism and the Imagination”, language is intimately tied into conceptions of what the “nation” is. Spivak writes:

Language has a history; it is public before our births and will continue so after our deaths. (Spivak, 32).

The history of language is the history of the nation. It is something that roots the individual in the context of the nation and, at the same time, places the individual within a community beyond the “self”. As someone who is bilingual—as well as bi-cultural and a dual-national—I know better than many just how important language is. And it is idioms that are the most important; they say in only a few words things about cultures and nations that thousands of words cannot. And this is why any attack on words—in the name of resisting some sort of “cism” (racism, sexism, speciesism, and the like)—cannot be accepted.

 

Can any society truly accept this kind of censorship without contesting it? In the past, totalitarian regimes—like that of Nazi Germany—chose to burn books so as to destroy the old culture in hopes of creating a new one. Now, in the postmodern age—where, as Foucault and Elias point out, we have become repulsed by exhibitions of outright violence—we accept outright censorship in the form of political correctness in the name of “progressivism”. While books are not being physically burned, thoughts are still being silenced. And one cannot say certain terms lest they be slandered by the label of “racist”, “sexist”, or—even—“speciesist”.  Of course, this is absurd. Unfortunately, however, few are resisting this censorship of language.

 

In the workplace, this type of linguistic control has extended to the forceful use of “gender neutral pronouns” . Indeed, in the universities, “inclusive teaching” seeks to control educators’ language, and the University of Kansas has gone so far as to rationally—and technocratically—dictate what kind of pronouns educators should use. Any educator who is a true educator—that is one who stands for free speech and independent thought—should stand against this form of censorship and thought control. Unfortunately, I see few educators who are willing to take this risk. After all, in the postmodern era, the threat of symbolic violence—in the Bourdieuian sense—is all too real for many educators. Rather than risk tenure, educators are choosing to remain silent to the fundamental assault on free speech that political correctness is engaging in.

 

For those of us who still respect freedom of thought in the modern world, at least we have the football fans. Whether it is in the form of banners or choreographies, fans tend to make their voices heard. Even in the form of stickers—which some Besiktas fans affixed to a pole in Istanbul—fans are able to express their nationalism (in the form of an Ataturk sticker), their opposition to the E-Ticket scheme pushed by the state, as well as their own identity as “the peoples’ team”. Freedom of speech is something worth standing up for, and, in this regard, educators may have something to learn from football fans. After all, it is our language which plays a role in defining our cultures and—by extension—our lives. To ignore it would, in effect, mean ignoring our very lives.

 

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At least the Football Fans are Still Free. Image Courtesy of the Author.
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Football Vs. The Hyperreality: FC Basel and FC Young Boys Bern in Switzerland

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On 2 December 2018 FC Basel faced FC Young Boys Bern in the Swiss Super League, and both sets of fans put on a good display. It was a great example of why football is good in the stadium; sport offers a space for human expression in the real world.

 

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Emotion in Reality. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.ultras-tifo.net/photo-news/5501-basel-young-boys-02-12-2018.html

 

Indeed, the tifo put on by FC Basel’s fans shows just how much importance they put on the match day experience in the space of the stadium. The fact that this needs to be emphasized is, sadly, a sign of the times. This is because the first time these two teams met, on 28 September 2018, the focus was on protest. In the September match, the ultras of Young Boys Bern protested the growth of “eSports” by raining tennis balls and Playstation controllers onto the pitch while unfurling a giant banner of a “pause” button in the stands. While some commentators, like Jack Kenmare of Sportbible.com, could not understand why the Young Boys Ultras were protesting the growth of eSports, other commentators did a little more homework.

 

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Tennis Balls and Playstation Controllers are Emblematic of Protest in the Postmodern Age. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2018-09-24-swiss-football-fans-throw-controllers-on-the-pitch-in-esports-protest

 

Indeed, Forbes.com’s Steve McCaskill’s piece focused on the difficulty of “mixing eSports and sports”. Mr. McCaskill points out that, in this instance, the Young Boys’ Ultras were protesting the increased commercialization of football—a classic case, indeed, of industrial football. Mr. McCaskill goes on to point out that

 

FC Basel supporters have been especially vocal in their opposition to the plans, making their discontent about the club’s eSports operations well known. They believe the club’s resources should be devoted to football rather than the ‘brand’ […]

‘Many clubs in Switzerland’s first division now have an eSports player, but their fans are not protesting as often as Basel fans,’ adds [Oliver] Zesiger [a Swiss football scout]. ‘I think there’s a certain dissatisfaction among Basel-fans with their club being marketed as a product, rather than a football club. This doesn’t necessarily include only the “against modern football” crowd. Basel fans don’t want to be called clients for example’ […]

 

Here we clearly see that the FC Basel fans are making a very real point. Why divert resources from the reality of football—as seen and experienced on the pitch and in the stadium—in favor of the hyperreality of football—neither experienced or, truly, even seen—on a screen? Indeed, this is a valid question (and not to mention one that would have sounded absurd just a decade ago). The entire notion of trading football as it has been traditionally experienced for over a century for a digitized simulacrum of the game itself is, of course, a losing proposition. After all, eSports are—ostensibly—only as good as the players on the pitch, since the ratings of FIFA’s players are based on real-life performance….thus the two are intimately connected….right?

Unfortunately, it seems as if the modern world has become all-too accustomed to finding digital “solutions” to the real world. After all, Google seems to believe that if something is offensive, the solution is censorship (It is also something I have written about). I even know from my own experience with this very blog that—sometimes—traffic is actively diverted when the topics discussed diverge from the dominant narrative of progressive thought. This in and of itself is something worth thinking about. Regardless of if we are talking about sports, interpersonal relationships (online dating and Tinder, for instance), or even basic communication (social media), at what point does our reliance on technology start to mean trading reality for a hyperreality? While the social engineers might think that the hyperreality is preferable—since it eliminates the chances for irrational and emotional human behavior deviating from the expected “norms” generated by algorithms—the truth is that this will, inevitably, lead to an “iron cage of rationality” far more pervasive than any that Sociologist Max Weber could have conceived of.

Football and Social Media: An Intriguing Relationship Reflective of Wider Societal Trends

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Social media offers an interesting form of postmodern communication between groups of people, yet—due to its banality (indeed, it has become the main form of communication for many people) the interesting aspects are often overlooked. Particularly, the Tweets of football fans are particularly fascinating since they tend to eschew the the rules of decorum and instead tend to say what they “really feel”.

Most recently’ the Italian side AS Roma’s English language Twitter account responded to Juventus’ announcement of a new store in Rome with a Tweet reading “Finally, something in Rome you really DON’T need to see”. While this may seem, on the surface, to be insignificant—just another off the cuff comment produced by the hyperreality that is the internet—a deeper look tells us that, in fact, the AS Roma fans might be getting at something deeper.

 

 

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Rome Has Many Famous Sites…the Juventus Store is Not One of Them. Image Courtesy of: @ASRomaEN Twitter Account.

 

AS Roma’s Tweet is first and foremost a rebuke at Juventus’ greed (itself born out of extreme capitalism). As the fiasco surrounding Juventus’ new badge showed, the team shows no shame in pursuing re-branding opportunities in a bid to increase their financial gains. Indeed, their eagerness to change their badge showed that the team has no respect for tradition or even their fan base (but, in typical fashion, the main (lame)stream media celebrated this abandonment of tradition). Opening a shop in Rome, a seven hour drive from Juventus’ home city of Turin, is just another manifestation of this greed. In this sense, AS Roma’s Tweet was also criticizing the rootlessness of postmodern society. This is an age when the football club—long a symbol of local pride—has become a globalized commodity. No longer content with the opportunities for financial gain in one city (or even one country), the team has become a global product to be consumed—making it indistinguishable from McDonald’s and Starbucks.

 

It is interesting to note that this is not the first time a football club’s humorous Tweet has become an internet sensation. Back in 2016 (I wrote about it here), the Russian club Zenit St. Petersburg hit back at the British newspaper Daily Mail for ridiculing their badge by naming it one of the “10 worst”. Like AS Roma’s Tweet, Zenit’s Tweet was also a form of social commentary. After all, what business of the Daily Mail’s was it to criticize the badges of football teams? It was a form of “journalism” (the quotes well deserved) that could only be produced in the postmodern hyperreality, where empty reporting is encouraged so as to generate more traffic (and, thus, more profit). It was also a news story which kept with the dominant technocratic trends of modern society with an obsession for rankings and categorizations. Most interestingly, the Twitter exchange between the Daily Mail and FC Zenit was also related to tradition. The Daily Mail—in a bid to save face—appealed to tradition by telling FC Zenit that they preferred the team’s old logo. FC Zenit responded in kind; indeed the Daily Mail’s old logo was much more “traditional” (adorned, as it was, with two British lions). Unfortunately for the Daily Mail, however, tradition does not sell in the modern world, and that may be one reason that the paper had to “modernize” their logo by making it a bland (and inoffensive) stylized letter “m”.

 

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Note the Number of Likes on Each Post, as Zenit Seem to have Outdone @Mailsport. Images Courtesy Of: @zenit_spb Twitter Account

 

By using the Sociological Imagination (to borrow C. Wright Mills’ term), we can see that these two humorous Twitter exchanges represent much more than mere online banter. They show us that online social interactions in the football world are also reflective of debates in wider society, and in this case it is specifically the debate between notions of “progress” and “tradition” which takes center stage.

Black Friday: A True Representation of Jean Baudrillard’s “Hyperreality”

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The French sociologist/philosopher Jean Baudrillard’s concept of the hyperreality is—ironically—quite real in 2018. We have, indeed, accepted the symbol as more real than that which it symbolizes. Surrounding the holiday of Thanksgiving—what was once the most wholesome and anti-consumption of American holidays—three news stories caught my eye. All three show quite clearly that Baudrillard was right: We are living in a hyperreality.

On 21 November, USA today chose to report to the American public with the headline “Why women and girls bear the brunt of the romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak”. The absurdity of this headline manifests itself on multiple levels. The most dangerous consequence of irresponsible reporting like this is that it infuses identity politics into a situation which—quite clearly—affects all reaches of American society. Yet, in the hyperreality of modernity, the main (lame) stream media is telling the public that they should see a nationwide problem in terms identity politics; rather than questioning why our lettuce is infected with bacteria we are told to question the sexism of…the lettuce itself. Quite clearly, this is an absurd attempt to reframe the issue at hand and avoid asking the difficult questions.

Yet even this poor reporting might not be as absurd as the consumerist phenomenon that is “Black Friday”. The United States, over the course of the past thirty years (which correspond with the rise of globalism), has become a country where the holiday of Thanksgiving has transformed from one celebrating family and friends to a sideshow consisting of the kind of consumerism that Christmas has devolved into. While, in my childhood at least, Thanksgiving was seen as a holiday just like Christmas, it has now become a glorified pre-game show (to use sports terminology) to the consumerist “show” that Christmas has become. In what other country would we see people celebrating “thankfulness” and “family” before, a few hours later, fighting over television sets at a Wal-Mart? Indeed, this is an absurdity of the hyperreality we live in, and—sadly—it is being exported to other countries. This example alone should show us that Baudrillard was right when he pointed out that globalization does not bring us together in any “real” sense; rather it connects us in the superficial ways which befit the post-modern hyperreality.

 

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Black Friday Comes to…Brazil? If This is the Face of Globalization, Then Who Could Want It? Image Courtesy Of: https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/black-friday-2018-chaotic-scenes-at-stores-worldwide-as-shoppers-dash-to-snap-up-deals-a3997806.html

 

The most interesting thing to think about is that—amid the hyper consumerism of black Friday—there are a few companies that are not doing so well. One of those is the U.S. lingerie label Victoria’s Secret, whose sales have been declining since 2016. While these figures may just seem like the bottom line of a corporate giant, to me they suggest something deeper. One clue might lie in the fact that the millennial generation is having less sex than any generation in 60 years. As one quote from Melissa Batchelor Warnke’s 2016 article points out:

 

many young people speak disparagingly of the messy emotional state love and lust can engender, referring to it as “catching feelings”.  […] Noah Patterson, 18, has never had sex. “I’d rather be watching YouTube videos and making money.” Sex, he said, is “not going to be something people ask you for on your résumé.”

 

 Both of these quote point to a closing off of emotion in favor of rational concerns like “making money” and having a good “resume”. Of course, if these are the most important concerns for modern society, then spending money on expensive lingerie would not be a priority; this would explain the drop in sales for Victoria’s Secret. But there is a larger consequence of this eschewing the emotional in favor of the rational: It denies all that which makes humans “human”. As human beings, what distinguishes us from animals is our ability to appreciate aesthetic beauty, whether that be another human being, a piece of art, or a beautiful sunrise. When we start to ignore these things—or seek to commodify them (by turning them into a vehicle for making money)—we start to rationalize the emotional. It is a very good example of what German sociologist Jurgen Habermas called the colonization of the “life world” by the “system”. Sadly, this process can also begin to slowly chip away at our own emotional sense of what it means to be “human”.

Taken together, all three of these news stories show that postmodern life has become a hyperreality, one where the rational supercedes the emotional. It is something which is ultimately very dangerous, since it threatens the very ties which bind us to on another on this earth. When we begin to see the contamination of lettuce in terms of identity politics, and not as something that threatens all of humanity equally, we are falling into a hyperreality. When we celebrate the virtues of “thankfulness” and “family” yet, a few hours later, engage in fistfights with strangers over electronics we are falling into a hyperreality. And when we begin to preference rational concerns over human concerns—and stop appreciating beauty (in all its forms)—we fall into the hyperreality. At least the football fans—as those pictured below at Partizan Belgrade—can provide us with a more real intrpretation of Black Friday.

 

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I’ll Take This Black Friday Over the Commercial One Any Day. Image Courtesy of @Balkanskinavijaci on Instagram.

Jair Bolsonaro Wins Elections in Brazil: While Globalism is Rolled Back, What Does this Mean for Football and What Does it say About the State of Media and Education?

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On the night of 28 October 2018 Jair Bolsonaro won the Brazilian Presidential election, defeating Fernando Haddad with a vote of 55% to 45%. Interestingly, the mainstream press from the BBC to CNN characterized Mr. Bolsonaro as “far-right,” with The Economist–long regarded by this author as a rare example of objective opinion—even calling him “a threat to democracy”. Given this reporting, just what is Mr. Bolsonaro? Is he “far-right”, as the mainstream media seems to think? Or is he just not far-left—a position that, unfortunately—mainstream media in the United States (and indeed all over the world) seem to support, making all others “far” right?

 

It is important to note that the political spectrum is not a linear one, with far-left on one side and far-right on the other. Rather, it is a circular one; being far to either end of the spectrum—right or left—ends with similar anti-democratic and, indeed, fascistic pitfalls. The historical examples of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia would seem to confirm this perspective. And indeed this is why Brazil is such an interesting case in this regard. As I learned in one of my classes just a few weeks ago, there are words written on the Brazilian flag. Those of us who are knowledgeable about the world—and indeed football—likely know that the Brazilian flag is green and yellow with a blue circle. What most of us may not know, however, is that there is a phrase written across that blue circle: Ordem e Progresso.  It is a quote from Auguste Comte, one of the founders of the modern discipline of sociology, which translates to “Order and Progress”. This quote was inspired by Comte’s motto for positivism, which aimed to create a secular basis for morality in the face of the declining significance of religion in the post-enlightenment period. At this time, so it seemed, means-end rationality would replace religion as the “order” of the day; people would not look for guidance from the theocratic, rather they would create their own morality rooted in rational action. For Comte, this positivist philosophy would allow for the development of a discipline called “social physics,” where human actions could be studied and, ultimately, predicted.

 

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Ordem E Progresso. Image Courtesy Of: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Brazil

 

Of course, the fascistic undertones of such an idea are not hard to miss, and indeed may be one of the reasons that many—including the late (and great) scholar Hannah Arendt—abhor the discipline of sociology. After all, who are humans to tell other humans what they must—and must not—do? In effect, it replaces blind faith in religion with blind faith in science. While many assume the two perspectives to be diametrically opposed, the reality is that they are both similar perspectives insofar as they seemingly leave no room for independent human thought and interpretation (indeed, the German Sociologist Jurgen Habermas and French Sociologist Michel Foucault have pointed this out before).

 

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Arendt had No Love For Sociologists. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Hannah-Arendt

 

In this context, the reaction to the election of Jair Bolsonaro is made even more interesting. The mainstream (Western) media is up in arms, characterizing Mr. Bolsonaro as “far-right”. Unfortunately, it seems as if much of this rhetoric is rooted in the same kind of social engineering that Auguste Comte may have—unwittingly—encouraged with his own emphasis on “Order and Progress” way back in the 19th Century. These days, it seems that “far-right” is anything that does not conform to dominant ideological trends which view globalization—and its ideological counterpart “globalism”—as an inherently positive development for the world. In fact, anyone who dares question the logic of globalism risks being called intolerant, a bigot, or much worse. The totalitarian undertones of this line of thought are not hard to miss, but it is important to note that this has been a long time in the making. Indeed, as an undergraduate studying International Relations in the United States my Comparative Politics class forced me to read a book on Lula, the former left-wing leader of Brazil who is currently in jail on corruption charges. Like other students of my generation who studied international relations, I was taught to not question the logic of globalization (Indeed, a friend who studied the same topic in Turkey also told me that during his time in the university there was no tolerance for any objection to globalization).

 

While resisting globalization is still a borderline taboo subject—indeed, the fact that traffic to this very blog has fallen since I began to actively question the logic of globalization and globalism is testament to this—there are still those who choose to resist this quasi-totalitarian logic. In fact, many famous Brazilian footballers including Kaka, Rivaldo, and Ronaldinho have openly voiced their support for Mr. Bolsonaro. Of course, their actions did not go un-noticed and inews reminds us that “Reports suggest FC Barcelona have distanced themselves from the two former stars [Rivaldo and Ronaldinho], both of whom had been playing in the ‘Barça Legends’ tour.” And here the question must be, what was their crime? Why did they have to be “distanced” from?

 

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Former Barcelona Star Rivaldo Voices His Support on Social Media. Image Courtesy Of: https://inews.co.uk/sport/football/brazil-footballers-jair-bolsonaro-ronaldinho-rivaldo-kaka-lucas-moura/

 

While Mr. Bolsonaro is not the most politically correct of individuals—indeed he has made comments critical of homosexuals—and has been compared to Donald Trump (perhaps the biggest political insult in this day and age), the fact remains that globalism under Lula did not work for Brazil. Like other globalist leaders, Lula privatized many of Brazil’s state owned businesses (like Petrobras, the previously state-owned oil company) in order to gain favor with international business at the expense of his own country’s independence. Ironically, he vowed from prison to undo the sales of state assets if re-eelected. Indeed, the very fact that he is now in prison on corruption charges goes to show just how broken—and corrupt—the system of globalization and globalism really is.

 

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Comparisons with Donald Trump Defined the Latest Election in Brazil. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/29/bolsonarianos-take-to-the-streets-in-awe-of-new-law-and-order

 

Closer to the topic of this blog—football—Lula’s track record isn’t much better. Indeed, he was the one who cleaned out Brazil’s shanty-towns (favelas) ahead of the World Cup and Olympics, displacing many of his country’s poorest citizens by using military force. Indeed, the corruption endemic in Lula’s administration was closely tied to sport, and it is even claimed  that one of the stadiums built for the 2014 World Cup was actually a “gift” for himself. Lula even had a good relationship with the former President of the United States—and fellow globalist—Barack Obama, whom he gifted a jersey (!) from the Brazilian national team.

 

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If This is How the “Left” Deals With Social Problems, Perhaps a Change is in Order? Image Courtesy Of: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-26809732

 

Given this history of corruption and cruelty towards the poorest of Brazil’s citizens, it is not surprising that Lula is now in jail. But what is surprising is that the mainstream media still persists in ignoring these facts while actively trying to de-legitimize his successor Mr. Bolsonaro. While, as I have said, Mr. Bolsonaro is not perfect by any means, the disastrous track record of the Brazilian left—which has sold the country out in the name of a type of imperialism couched in the rhetoric of globalism—should be enough to suggest that a change in leadership was well in order. (Indeed, many Brazilians were quite pleased with the result). Hopefully, Brazilians—like others around the world—can soon begin to take back their country and finally reject the disastrous ideology of corrupt and exploitative globalism for good.

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

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.

 

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