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

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

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

 

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Mr. Leach May Be a Contraversial Figure, But He Makes Very Important Points That We–As a Society–Ignore at our Own Peril. Image Courtesy of: http://www.dbknews.com/2017/12/15/mike-leach-washington-state-coach-maryland-football-interview-randy-edsall-dj-durkin/

 

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

 

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A’s Are Easier To Get Now More Than They Have Ever Been. But What Does This Say About Our Country’s Education? Image Courtesy of: https://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/tag/stuart-rojstaczer/

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Anderson Cooper the Snakeoil Salesman: CNN’s Recent Advertisement on the Aforementioned Post. Unfortunately, CNN Sells More Opinions Than It Does Facts [“Summarize the News” Should Never be an Option for Any News Organization with a Modicum of Self Respect]. Image Courtesy of: https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/13/health/utah-school-children-dance-trnd/index.html

 

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

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

 

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

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

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Image Courtesy Of: https://www.zazzle.com/patriotic_american_flag_heart_stickers-217018501992539322

 

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

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Time to “Kick” Corporate Greed Out of Industrial Football? Image Courtesy Of: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2924895/Eric-Cantona-wish-d-hit-harder-Manchester-United-legend-shows-no-remorse-Crystal-Palace-kung-fu-kick.html

 

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

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

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

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

 

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Where Does it End? Image Courtesy Of: http://www.uefa.com/MultimediaFiles/Download/OfficialDocument/uefaorg/Clublicensing/02/53/00/22/2530022_DOWNLOAD.pdf

 

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

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

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

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

 

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Its Not Just an American Problem. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.epi.org/files/pdf/130354.pdf

 

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

 

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It Is A Sad Sight Indeed. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.epi.org/files/pdf/130354.pdf

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Apparently, Foreign Policy Needs a Little Lesson on Middle Eastern Geography. Image Courtesy Of: http://foreignpolicy.com/2018/02/06/the-storm-before-the-storm-trump-middle-east/

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The View of a Marginal Sociologist: The Culture Industry and Music in the Age of One-Dimensional Thought . . . And Mark Hoppus is a Chelsea Fan?!

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In class this morning our professor kindly gave us a respite from our discussions of criminological theory and instead had us watch the 2002 film Gangs of New York. It was, in itself, an exercise in theory building. The film itself touches on many topics which are pertinent to the modern world, such as immigration: While some interpretations focus on the elements of nativism in American society which were prevalent in the mid 1800s, resistant to increasing immigration from Ireland, other elements within the film show the tendency of American politicians to use gangs in order to exploit immigration in order to garner votes for their cause. Needless to say, the film provided a useful opportunity to debate both sides of the current state of American society.

And when I got home, I researched the film further—and that’s what provided me another opportunity to tie the film to current American society. Apparently, Gangs of New York’s star actress Cameron Diaz is now married to Good Charlotte band member Benji Madden; apparently she was introduced by her (now) sister-in-law Nicole Richie, who is married to another Good Charlotte member, Joel Madden. As someone who grew up in the late 1990s in the United States, I am very familiar with Good Charlotte—in fact, I listened to them.

Now, almost two decades later, these (former?) rockers show just how the culture industry (to borrow from Theodor Adorno) perpetuates itself in American society, despite its contradictory messages. It is a perfect example of Herbert Marcuse’s theory of “repressive tolerance”; that which is critical of capitalism is turned around to perpetuate capitalism.

Fans of Good Charlotte will remember them for their songs critical of America’s capitalist society. “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” (2002) had the lyrics “Lifestyles of the rich and the famous/They’re always complainin’/Always complainin’/If money is such a problem/Well, they got mansions/Think we should rob them” [Emphasis mine]. The band’s first major hit “The Little Things” (2001) opened with the following call to the marginalized:

Yeah, This song is dedicated (This is Good Charlotte)/To every kid who ever got picked last in gym class (You know what I’m saying, this is for you)/To every kid who never had a date to no school dance (Run to your mother)/To every one who’s ever been called a freak This is for you.

That these lyrics seem to be the antithesis of the lives that the band members of Good Charlotte now live—married to members of the Hollywood elite—should not be surprising. Yet, what is surprising is that most Youtube comments on the aforementioned songs are nostalgic for this music; even I must admit that this kind of music is missing on current American airwaves. Indeed, some might even go so far as to say that rock is dead—the kids have smartphones and social media to amuse themselves with, they no longer need this aspect of the culture industry. And here we also see that the culture industry, in the early 2000s, sent us messages against the proverbial “man”, only for those same messengers—who were artists—to become the proverbial “man”. This is how the culture industry tends to perpetuate our own continued subordination to the system.

 

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From Punk Rock . . . Image Courtesy of: https://www.odt.co.nz/entertainment/music/patient-wait-good-charlotte-fans

 

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. . . To Hollywood Elite. Image Courtesy of: http://www.instyle.co.uk/celebrity/madden-brothers-benji-joel-bond-missing-wives-cameron-diaz-nicole-richie

 

This should not be seen as a criticism of the marriages of these individuals, everyone is free to marry whomever they choose and indeed I wish nothing but happiness to both couples; rather this is a criticism of the culture industry itself. Purveyors of the culture industry send us political messages without actually believing it themselves; this is why—in the age of extreme capitalism—even art has become a tool of mass culture indoctrination. It sells us things in the name of “resistance” without actually carrying any substance. And this is very real problem. Not only has “art” been co-opted–and the “distance” between “artist” and “viewer” widened–but it has been co-opted in a bid to influence our very thought. Yet, this is a culture industry that a generation of Americans grew up on; it sent messages of victimhood (“to every kid that never had a date to no school dance) that tie into psychologist Jordan Peterson’s (astute) critique of men who have become “adrift, arrogant, hostile and vengeful” (among other things) in the modern era.

Another band from the late 1990s that I (still) enjoy is Blink-182, and I was surprised to learn that (co)-lead man Mark Hoppus had become a Chelsea fan since moving to London. For me, it was interesting that Mr. Hoppus would become . . . a Chelsea fan; after all, it is the team that embodies the trends of industrial football: foreign ownership, distance from local fan communities, etc . . . yet it is a team that also embodies the “success” and “greed” that extreme capitalist society encourages, so I suppose it is not surprising.

But it is also indicative of something larger. This is how the culture industry sustains itself. It sells us the messages we want to hear without actually following the meanings behind these messages. It is empty. For instance, as a football fan and with all due respect to Mr. Hoppus whose music I enjoy (and not that I would ever tell someone what team to support), it seems to me that it would make more sense for a “punk” rocker to support, say, West Ham United than Chelsea (even if the latter is his “hometown” team due to proximity). But such is the culture industry; it is—for all its “reality”—all too fake. That said, judging by a graffito I saw on a wall in Istanbul, it is clear that the influence of the culture industry (and Blink-182) is still alive and well in 2018. Given that the messages of popular culture are so prevalent in our societies, it is worthwhile that we parse out what these messages really mean so as to become more than mere passive receivers of “culture” itself. In this Brave New World, culture itself is more politicized than ever.

 

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Above is the Hashtag #Hayir, in Reference to Last Spring’s Referendum. Below it is a Love Note to Mr. Hoppus’s Band-Mate, Tom Delonge. Here, the Culture Industry Meets Politics on the Streets of Istanbul. Image Courtesy Of the Author.

The Cesspool of Academia: Take Back Your Education, Advice From a Marginal Sociologist

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I finally used he term “left-wing cesspool” in response to an academic assignment and, I must say, it feels like a burden has been lifted off my back. This is because most of my colleague have come to believe that they are superior to their fellow citizens; in their minds it is only the college “educated” class that deserves respect. To me, this is absurd. Interestingly enough, country music artist Brad Paisley’s “Country Nation”  provides a great example how, regardless of our education, we are all part of American society (especially due to identification with the university’s sports teams). Academics are not superior to the people they study; they are the people. What makes a person is their respect—their humanity—and those are qualities that are not tied to one’s level of education; that’s what Mr. Paisley implies in his song and it is something we would do well to keep in mind.

After reading a horrid racist tirade written by Eduardo Bonilla Silva and a few indoctrinated graduate students—disguised as academic work work—I second what I remarked earlier, the fact that Mr. Bonilla Silva is the head of the American Sociological Association is an insult to me. Additionally, I realized that we—as citizens and sociologists—must do to things to resist the fascistic spread of identity politics:

  1. We must TAKE BACK OUR NATIONS
  2. We must TAKE BACK OUR EDUCATIONS

The concretization of ethnicity as a result of identity politics has driven us apart; the pinnacle of this process was seen when the great-nephew of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Joe Kennedy, chose to respond to the President’s State of the Union address in Spanish at times.

In any other country a politician campaigning in a language other than that of the majority would be an issue; you do not see the President of Norway speaking, for instance, Mongolian. Yet it is the same absurd logic that encourages the building of a mosque at ground zero in New York; it is globalist logic. It is this logic within academia that uses the indoctrination to train the wealthy classes from foreign countries who come to study in the United States so that they return to their countries and inject the poisonous logic of identity politics into their societies (In Turkey, I have often seen Western-Educated students return to Turkey with heightened sensitivities to “identity politics” which tend to influence their voting). Again, this is part and parcel of the globalist logic—divide and conquer. From now on, students should be aware that it is not their skin color—or language they speak at home—that defines one’s success in life; rather it is their ability to stand up to the globalist education system that looks to divide more than it looks to unite. Despite what the globalist media’s interpretation of Merle Haggard’s classic “Are the Good Times Really Over” says, we must recognize that “progress” has meant diminishing returns for many and that it is only by coming together that we can live in harmony. In Mr. Haggard’s terms, we should want our Fords and Chevys to last for more than ten years just like we should stand up for our flags . . . and our education, which too many are willing to fall into debt for. If you’re willing pay for it, you should take it back and rescue it from the cesspool.

 

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Despite the Media’s Attempt to Shield Former U.S. President Barack Obama From Blame, it is Clear that Student Loan Debt Increased to A Large Degree Under Mr. Obama’s leadership. Image Courtesy of: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/aug/14/jeb-bush/jeb-bush-student-loan-debt-has-doubled-under-obama/

Tensions Between the U.S. and Turkey Rise as Erdogan Attempts to Re-Brand Himself as a Nationalist: The View From the Football World

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On 27 January 2018 Voice of America reported that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was willing to risk a military confrontation with fellow NATO ally the United States in order to rid Turkey’s southern border of Kurdish YPG/PKK militants. While Turkey’s interest in the Syrian border has historical precedent since the region represents an area of crucial geopolitical interest to Turkey, the soundbite VOA chose to quote is an interesting one. According to the VOA article, “Erdogan has pledged to ‘crush anyone who opposes our [Turkey’s] nationalist struggle’.” Given the VOA’s framing of Turkey’s offensive in terms of “nationalism”—a term that has taken on a pejorative meaning in the West—it is useful to delve into this particular matter.

First of all, it is important to recognize that Mr. Erdogan is not a nationalist at all; rather his rhetoric is part of a wider re-branding strategy. That Mr. Erdogan is certainly not a nationalist was made clear last December during the opening of Trabzonspor’s brand new Akyazi stadium, an event that drew criticism from all walks of Turkish society. During the opening ceremony on 19 December 2016, four banners were hung from the stadium’s rafters. From right to left (and, ostensibly, in order of importance) the banners of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (the founder of modern Turkey), Recep Tayyip Erdogan (the current president of Turkey), the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Sani, and Binali Yildirim (the current prime minister of Turkey) were hung. Of course, the idea of the Qatari Emir’s poster appearing before a member of the Turkish government elicited criticism from many Turkish commentators. Yet, as if that was not enough, the Qatari national anthem was played before the Turkish national anthem at the opening. While Qatari involvement—and interest—in Turkish football is not unprecedented (indeed the Gulf state’s Qatar National Bank—QNB—is also Trabzonspor’s shirt sponsor), this degree of acquiescence to Qatari interests was unprecedented at the time. As commentators rightfully asked, “what was the Qatari Emir’s relationship to Turkish history”? In short, it is a manifestation of Qatari soft-power (and economic imperialism) through football. Turkey is effectively selling off its own infrastructure to Qatar, thereby succumbing to the rising tide of globalism, despite framing it as—alternatively—a Neo-Ottoman agenda or Turkish nationalist agenda. In reality, it is neither of these; it is merely a cynical attempt to attract foreign investment from a wealthy Gulf State.

 

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From Left to Right: The Turkish Flag, Turkey’s Founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Sami, and Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.diken.com.tr/akyazi-stadinin-acilisinda-katar-emiri-al-saninin-posteri-asildi-katar-ulusal-marsi-calindi/

 

The reasons for Mr. Erdogan’s re-branding are complicated. It is both a response to the so-called “populist” turn in the United States (due to Donald Trump’s election) and the United Kingdom (due to Brexit), while also being a response to Mr. Erdogan’s failure to hide his own party’s corrupt globalist agenda (most recently revealed by disgraced Iranian trader Reza Zarrab). A third reason that Mr. Erdogan has had to re-brand himself is due to the stress created by the presence of a large Kurdish militant force on Turkey’s southern border; as a Turkish leader tasked with preserving Ataturk’s borders Mr. Erdogan cannot afford to lose an inch of Turkish territory.

While Mr. Erdogan is in a difficult position, sandwiched between the neoliberal globalism demanded by American (Western) interests and the mandate of Turkish nationalism bequeathed upon him by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the contradictory situation is one that reflects the contradictory nature of globalism itself. In the West, the ideology manifests itself as part of a utopic iteration of “progressive” politics. Yet—as the impasse in Syria shows—the globalist world is a world of war. While most progressives—and in fact many Americans—will tell you that the last World War ended in 1945, citizens of Iraq, Yugoslavia, Iraq (again), and Syria might tell you that they have lived through World War III in the past thirty years—the “globalist period” post 1991 have been characterized by the constant destabilization and ultimate disintegration of nation-states defined by strong statist governments.

Of course, it was American meddling that caused these destabilizations, coupled with the poisonous addition of identity politics. In Turkey’s case, the idea was certainly one “born” in the West; the carrot of European Union membership had been extended to Turkey if they would just extend more “rights” to their Kurdish minority. Here an article by an American academic who subscribes wholeheartedly to the poison of identity politics shows how real the problem is. While the author argues that “Turkish prejudice against the legitimacy of the Kurdish identity reminds one in some respects of the former prejudice against African-Americans in the United States”, it is clear that the author is only exemplifying the tendency of Western researchers to use Western discourse to dominate conversations in reference to non-Western areas; it is an example of the neo-colonialist nature of “progressive” academia in the West.

The end-result of this neo-colonialism and identity politics is, sadly, an attempt to divide Turkey. The case of Turkish footballer Deniz Naki is a great example of this division based on identity politics. Mr. Naki, a Turkish-German footballer of Kurdish descent who plays for Kurdish side Amedspor decided, on 28 January 2018, that he would not return to Turkey following an attack on his vehicle while in Germany. Following that decision, the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) decided to hit him with a fine. On 30 January 2018 the disciplinary wing of the TFF hit Mr. Naki with a three year six month suspension; since the suspension was over three years it means a lifelong ban from Turkish football for the footballer. He was fined 72,000 USD for “separatist and ideological propaganda”, due to his sharing “a video on social media on Sunday calling for participation in a rally in the German city of Cologne to protest against Turkey’s military offensive into northern Syria’s Afrin region” according to Reuters. Another result of identity politics in Football means thatt Diyarbakirspor could return to the top flight soon,

 

 

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A Defiant Deniz Naki in Happier Times. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/spor/915063/PFDK___Turkiye_ye_donmeyecegim__diyen_Deniz_Naki_ye_ceza_verecek.html

 

Unfortunately, the ugly tentacles of identity politics extend from the globalist West to all corners of the world. Just like the United States, Turkey is unfortunately not immune to the divisiveness of identity politics. Despite Mr. Erdogan’s rebranding he is still a globalist at heart; after all, no true nationalist would have allowed the Syrian crisis to unravel the way it did on Turkey’s southern border, just like no true nationalist would have stoked the fires of identity politics and divided Turkey between ethnic Turks and ethnic Kurds. While Erdogan is trying to frame his actions in terms of nationalism, most observers of Turkish politics know that—due to historical constraints—Mr. Erdogan had little choice but to act on anything that threatens the territorial integrity of the Turkish state. That said—and despite everything—Turkey will survive this crisis like it has so many before. As Serif Mardin writes in State, Democracy, and The Military: Turkey in the 1980s, “there does exist an enduring populist, egalitarian, democratic strain in Turkish history which shows greater institutionalization than in other Middle Eastern countries and which has enabled this country to emerge from a series of soul-searching tests with pride” (Mardin 1988: 27).

As for the United States, they will survive this as well. As U.S. President Donald Trump said during his State of the Union Address, “the U.S. must give money to friends and not to enemies”. In return, then, the United States must be a friend to friends as well. By succumbing to the globalist logic, the United States has turned its back on too many “friends”. The presence of U.S. Troops on Turkey’s southern border—aiding Kurdish militants—does nothing for American national security, especially while the southern border of the U.S. with Mexico remains as porous as ever. The United States must return to being a republic, as its founding fathers envisioned it to be. Instead of wasting money in the Middle East, the U.S. would be much better off spending at home in order to improve infrastructure and address poverty within the country.

 

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U.S. Soldiers–and the U.S. Flag Should Be At Home, Not Dispersed All Over the World. Images Courtesy of: https://www.voanews.com/a/ergodan-says-he-is-ready-to-risk-confrontation-with-us/4227613.html

 

This is why the end of globalization—and its ideological brother, globalism—will mean an end to WWIII and a fairer, more peaceful world in the end. It is up to us as citizens, however, to demand that our leaders resist the temptations that the corruption of globalization offers. After all, it is a system that enriches a global class of super-rich on the backs of a world-wide working class.

 

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Globalization only seems to work if you’re part of the “super rich”; an alernative explanation has been chewing tobacco. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/01/the-story-of-globalization-in-1-graph/283342/

The Grammys and the Pro Bowl: Two Cultural Spectacles Amidst the Attempted (Re)education of America

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Sometimes it feels as if the whole of American society is going through a sort of attempted re-education. I have already written about the sad state of American academia, yet the attempts at re-education are visible elsewhere as well. They are evident in attempts to re-write American history (also here), and they are apparent in the demonization of police and the rule of law. The common denominator in these attempts at re-education is their focus on division, rather than unity. Unfortunately, the culture industry is a major tool in this divisive re-education.

Sunday 28 January 2018 is a good example of how this divisive form of re-education takes place. On this Sunday there were two major events vying for airtime in the United States: the first was the NFL Pro Bowl, the all star celebration between the AFC and NFC; the second was the 60th annual Grammy awards. The solution was . . . playing the Pro Bowl in the afternoon so as to not compete with the prime time Grammys. Of course, that also meant playing the football game in conditions which, at times, bordered on monsoon level. Despite the hiccups, I can say that Pro Bowl 2018 was definitely a nice experience; I have no doubt that it was much more pleasant than the Grammys (to be discussed later).

The Pro Bowl is, admittedly, a manufactured experience, as SB Nation notes. It is, of course, a great example of the kind of commercialization of sport that the United States is famous for. Ironically, the Pro Bowl is American football without the violence that is so often criticized . . . which means that, in the end, no one watches it. The situation is emblematic of what might be American English’s few proverbs: you’re damned if you and you’re damned if you don’t. Despite the rampant commercialization, it was still a human experience. Like New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees’ display of proper parenting on national TV (something that is usually missing in the United States, due to the demise of the concept of “family”), the Pro Bowl offered me many opportunities to interact with some amazing people.

 

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The Pro Bowl had its Human Side As Well at Camping World Stadium. Image Courtesy Of the Author.

 

It was nice to see fans from all over the United States, donning the jerseys of their favorite teams, who had come to one stadium to quite literally hang out. I met a few Manchester United fans visiting from England who were able to point out the absurdities of the US: “So…the drinking age is 21 but you can go off to fight in Iraq or Afghanistan at 18?” . . . “Yep” . . . “Wait . . . you can’t bet on sports in the United States?” . . . “Nope” . . . and I had to add that, yes, few American football stadiums have covered stands when most top level European football stadiums—even lower tier stadiums—have at least one covered stand. It is the absurdity of America, it is also the uniqueness of America—uncouth and immature as it may be. I met a Denver Broncos fan from Cleveland who lamented the financial mismanagement of some NFL players, who manage to blow through millions of dollars without realizing that their careers are, quite dependent, on their own ability to stay healthy. Despite the over-commodified nature of the Pro Bowl, it was clear that—in American society—we can come together when we need to in the name of sports. As my British friends pointed out, in Britain the site of so many different jerseys would be enough to start a brawl.

What is shocking is that Sunday’s second event, The Grammys, was so different. It started with U.S. President’s Twitter spat with rap artist Jay-Z, whose criticism of Mr. Trump was met with a response that the unemployment rate for black workers is the lowest in 45 years. Unfortunately for Jay-Z, this was not his only embarrassment—despite being the most nominated artist at the Grammys he went home empty handed. Yet this feud was just a prelude to what the Grammys would become—a political s***(side?) show as music artists gave their political opinions one after another (a run down, which I will not deign go into here, can be found here).

 

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A Pretty Funny Tweet; Also Interesting That a U.S. President is Actually Interacting with a Citizen. Sadly, such Alternative Interpretations are Missing From Mainstream Media Since They Don’t Fit the Narrative. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/01/28/trump-rips-jay-z-for-remarks-on-african-american-unemployment.html

 

The irony of it all was, of course, that hyper-commodified music had become hyper-politicized. This is one reason I do not listen to new music; in a bid to follow the logic of late stage capitalism—where profit is king—most music has come to sound the same. It is emblematic of a society that has killed creativity. But it also begs the question: Why do we care what billionaire celebrities in a music business, that is less art and more money, think about politics? The last time I checked, neither Jay Z or Bono had been reading the latest theories in political science or sociology. They are not “left” in any traditional sense of the word; indeed Karl Marx is likely spinning in his grave after Hillary Clinton’s appearance on stage.  And that is why a technocratic government, propped up by the propaganda of the culture industry, is a very dangerous thing indeed. We are swiftly becoming two Americas: One that cares about mass culture, and another that does not. In order to bridge this growing gap, however, we will need new minds that can transcend the one dimensional thought emanating from the culture industry and academia. We are still human beings with an ability to think independently; I would say it is high time we recognize it in order to resist this cultural (re)education.

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