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Haven’t I Seen This Before? Protest in the Postmodern age of Extreme Capitalism

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I have often written about the tendency of late-stage extreme capitalism to sell back to us our childhoods and our histories. Put another way, it is a crude commodification of the past; a commodification of our own histories themselves. It is interesting how even our protest movements have recently succumbed to this logic: rather than come up with new ideas, even what attempts to pass as “protest” just rehashes the past. History most certainly does repeat itself.

On 24 March 2018 at the March For Our Lives Martin Luther King Jr.’s granddaughter gave a speech. Like her grandfather’s, hers started with “I Have a Dream”. Sadly, unlike her Grandfather’s speech, nine-year old Yolanda’s left much to be desired: “I have a dream that enough is enough. And that this should be a gun-free world, period.” Beside the blatant utopic fantasy-land that Ms. King describes (“a gun free world”), it is more troubling that the American people are all-too-willing to use the past in order to further a neo-fascistic agenda for the future. Never mind that this future has nothing to do with the inclusive vision laid out in the original “I have a dream” speech; instead, it is a cheap attempt to use a nine-year-old girl for propaganda purposes. In any other context, this would be considered child abuse. Apparently, however, in the context of depriving American citizens of their constitutional rights even child abuse is not only tolerated, but encouraged, by the mass media.

Sadly, the entire “gun control” debate has brought back many more troubling comparisons with the past (even if The Washington Post doesn’t like to admit it). The most prominent member of the Parkland High School cadre, David Hogg, was seen making a Nazi-esque salute following his speech on 24 March. Of course, this should not be surprising given that Mr. Hogg’s sister also encouraged the wearing of armbands to show support for the anti-gun protests; that this “look” resembled the Hitler Youth of Nazi Germany was not lost on many social media users.

 

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An…Odd Salute. Image Courtesy Of: https://theminorityreportblog.com/2018/03/25/david-hoggs-salute-after-speech-causes-major-reaction-on-twitter/

 

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Regardless of One’s Political Position, The Resemblance is Disturbingly Similar. Image Courtesy Of: https://downtrend.com/donn-marten/david-hogg-models-new-armband-but-it-seems-its-been-used-before/

 

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Image Courtesy Of: Unclesamsmisguidedchildren (Instagram)

 

In short—and as an Instagram post by user “Unclesamsmisguidedchildren” shows—history has a way of repeating itself. Regardless of whether or not the gun control activists have valid arguments, their presentation leaves much to be desired. In fact, much of it bears a little too much resemblance to a dark past that those of us who value our countries—and our lives—would prefer not returning to. Regardless of your personal political opinions, we should all stand up to the creeping rise of fascism. Given that late-stage extreme capitalist society is merely selling our collective pasts back to us, it shouldn’t be too hard to realize that history has a way of repeating itself. Always remember, as Hannah Arendt notes in Origins of Totalitarianism, both the Nazis and the Soviets hated their countries due to their global aspirations . . .

 

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A Friendly Reminder From a Marginal Sociologist, Writing in the Spirit of C. Wright Mills: It Is The Job Of The Sociologist To Point Out The Absurd. Image Courtesy Of: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_the_United_States#/media/File:Flag_of_the_United_States.svg
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A Marginal Sociologist on Social Engineering Part 2: Emotions

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Part one of this post focused on technology and its dehumanizing effect by reducing interactions between human beings. In Part two I will focus on emotions, and how the social engineering of emotion—what is acceptable and what is not acceptable—provides people with a false sense of their own humanity. Recently in the United States—and Western culture more generally—it has become the fashion to be “offended” when someone else says something that you might not agree with. Of course, this is ultimately a childish response and offers absolutely no opportunity for communicative action—itself a necessity for societal advancement—in the sense that German sociologist Jurgen Habermas meant it.

Most recently, we saw how many public sentiments in the United States were offended after a bizarre exchange between two septuagenarian politicians in the United States: President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. At a 21 March 2018 rally against sexual assault at the University of Miami, Mr. Biden said “They asked me would I like to debate this gentleman [referring to U.S. President Donald Trump], and I said no. I said, ‘If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him’”. Not one to be outdone, Mr. Trump responded via Twitter on 22 March with this: “Crazy Joe Biden is trying to act like a tough guy. Actually, he is weak, both mentally and physically, and yet he threatens me, for the second time, with physical assault. He doesn’t know me, but he would go down fast and hard, crying all the way. Don’t threaten people Joe!”. If we as a society were not so uptight—and so easily offended—we might have found this exchange to be humorous; perhaps it could have even made us laugh!

 

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A Humorous Tweet. Image Courtesy Of: https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/976765417908776963

 

Yet, it seems, that we are more used to dehumanization. We are so dehumanized that we cannot laugh. The main(lame)stream media in the United States—led by, predictably, CNN—chose to interpret this absurd event in terms of its own world view. Chris Cillizza wrote that Mr. Trump’s Tweet revealed “Three Big Things”. They were: 1) Being “presidential” is not a thing for Trump; 2) Trump sees himself as a street fighter; and 3) Trump is very, very frustrated. I would say that none of the three so-called “big things” that Mr. Cillizza mentions mean much. This is why I believe a second list of “three big things” is necessary in order to get to the point. My three “big things” or, more accurately, big questions are as follows:

 

  • Why Are we blind to the fact that Mr. Biden is exuding this level of toxic masculinity?

Why is Mr. Biden, a darling of the American “left”, a man who “leads with love and kindness”, and takes (supposedly) candid photos of himself with homeless men, threatening physical violence against anybody? Isn’t falling back on stereotypical “male” behavior the kind of thing that those on the American “left” abhor and, ultimately, shame? Indeed, there should be no place for this kind of machismo and empty talk in American society. Yet, for some reason, this is a topic that the main(lame) stream media will not touch. After all, if Mr. Biden was just the kind of stereotypical male that feminists detest, then it would go against the narrative.

 

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Heartfelt? Image Courtesy Of: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2018/03/13/joe-biden-homeless-man/422097002/

 

  • Why do we get offended when Mr. Trump responds in kind?

Why did so many in the main(lame) stream media get offended when Donald Trump responded to Mr. Biden’s threats? Indeed, this was not the first time that Mr. Biden threatened Mr. Trump with physical assault, it happened on the campaign trail as well. Has our culture really become so neutered—so bland—that it is no longer acceptable to speak up when something wrong—like threatening physical violence—occurs? We owe it to ourselves, like the great sociologist C. Wright Mills once said, to speak up when we see absurdity happen.

  • Why do we allow the mass media to frame our world views?

I have written in the past about media framing. It is certainly dangerous, and it happens all the time. Just look at The Atlantic’s poorly informed attempt to frame the terms “globalism” and “globalist” as anti-Semitic slurs (rest assured they’re not, “globalist” merely refers to those who are advocates for globalization) or The Guardian’s attempts to discredit clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson. Unfortunately, the media has much more influence on people’s lives than they believe, and it is hindering the ability for independent thought.

 

Given these three questions I have raised, I will now attempt to provide an answer for all of these “whys”. I believe that the reason that that many people are unable to recognize Mr. Biden’s machismo, the reason that they are offended by Mr. Trump’s response, and the reason that they allow the media to frame their worldviews is because too many people are all too ready to fall back on the fake emotions that the culture industry has provided for them. If supporting Mr. Biden and his party means one is tolerant (and certainly against “toxic” masculinity, since it is a cause of the sexual assaults Mr. Biden was purportedly speaking against), then the case is closed. The media serves to fill the emotional void created by technology and tells the public just how they should feel. Of course, this happens everywhere, not just in the mass media.

 

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A Sign to Make Us Feel Better . . . Image Courtesy Of The Author.

 

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. . . While Our Childhoods are Sold Back To Us. Image Courtesy Of The Author.

 

Recently I found myself in an Urban Outfitters store and saw a sign which pointed towards the fitting rooms. It read “All-Gender Fitting Room: Open to All Persons, Regardless of Gender Identity or Expression”. Of course, most fitting rooms are already “all gender”. Indeed, they have always been so. They’re just…fitting rooms. But, Urban Outfitters seeks to put up such a sign in order to assuage the emotional fears of their customers while unabashedly selling customers their collective childhoods back to them in the context of late stage capitalism. I remember Champion Sweatshirts and the “flower” Adidas design from my childhood. Now, apparently, they’re back—and at a considerably inflated price. Perhaps customers should be offended at having the past being re-sold in the present at a premium price point, rather than worry about dressing rooms. The emotional appeal of the dressing room sign serves to mask the fact that Urban Outfitters is, cheaply, capitalizing on the nostalgia and memories of its customers to further its own profits. Indeed, the corporation is playing on emotions—the same emotions which are rapidly being phased out by the modern world—in order to provide a sense of emotional connection to their customers who are now living in an increasingly rational and ultimately emotionless world. In short, it is the same process we see unfolding in the mass media: raw emotions—and memories—are being transformed into controlled and sanitized forms of marketable emotion.

A Marginal Sociologist on Social Engineering Part 1: Technology

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Yesterday I found myself connecting through Washington D.C.’s Reagan National Airport. There were just nine gates in the small terminal I was in, so I headed to a nearby restaurant for a drink and a snack. To my surprise, there was no one around. No one working, at least. Each table had two Ipads—one for each chair—with menus, games, and even flight information on them. There were no waiters or waitresses. It felt like an odd wasteland, but I decided to play along. I touched the “drinks” page, scrolled down to “spirits”, chose “whiskey/bourbon”, scrolled down to “Jim Beam”, chose “double (plus 4 Dollars), chose a “non Coca-Cola Mixer” and selected “Ginger Ale”. Success (even if it meant spending more time on the Ipad than it would have to tell a server “One double Jim Beam and Ginger Ale please”). When it came time to pay, I was told to add a gratuity. But why? Would I be giving myself the gratuity? I took my own order, after all! And there were no servers whose service I could rate; after all, gratuity is given after the service has been conducted, not before!

I was bewildered. But the system does not let one order without paying; one must pay up-front in order to even get a meal! On top of that, one must swipe a credit card in order to pay! My attempts to pay in cash, needless to say, failed miserably. It was clear that the losers—in this situation—are those who do not have credit cards (this establishment, clearly, did not serve their kind . . . isn’t that discrimination?) and the limited number of servers themselves; those lucky enough to have kept their jobs in this technological utopia will be chronically under tipped because no one in their right minds should tip before seeing service.

Once the order was in, I decided to poke around the menu for a few minutes. I noted that it was available in a number of languages, which intrigued me (perhaps I should have been a marginal linguist, but I digress), so I scrolled down to “Turkish”. The translation was, predictably, atrocious. Likely, it would have embarrassed a five-year old. “Gluten Free of Charge” meals, Grilled Cheeses made of children, and “national bread” did not seem like very appetizing meals. Clearly, the restaurant had chosen to eschew human translators (like they eschewed employing a human wait staff) and instead relied on Google Translate. Unfortunately, the end result was an embarrassment. I felt like I was living in an episode of Black Mirror; I had found myself in a dystopian present dominated by the limits of technology. No, technology certainly does not make us “freer”; rather, it tends to erect more and more boundaries around us—it is certainly Max Weber’s “iron cage” of rationality.

 

A Bar Without Bartenders at Reagan International Airport…Black Mirror Much? Image Courtesy Of the Author.

 

While the restaurant itself was kind enough to provide me a prompt reply to my complaint via email, this example stretches far beyond just one poorly run restaurant in the Reagan National Airport. Rather, this kind of technological rationalism—if left uncheck—will likely spell doom for human kind (and human freedom more specifically) in the long term. Peter L. Bergman and Thomas Luckmann’s 1966 work The Social Construction of Reality makes it clear that we, as human beings, are social creatures (For more on Social Constructionism, please see the Wikipedia page here. We need human contact not only to just thrive, but also to survive:

 

Men together produce a human environment, with the totality of its socio-cultural and psychological formations. None of these formations may be understood as products of man’s biological constitution, which, as indicated, provides only the outer limits for human productive activity. Just as it is impossible for man to develop as man in isolation, so it is impossible for man in isolation to produce a human environment. Solitary human being is being on the animal level (which, of course, man shares with other animals). As soon as one observes phenomena that are specifically human, one enters the realm of the social. Man’s specific humanity and his sociality are inextricably intertwined. Homo Sapiens is always, and in the same measure, homo socius (Berger and Luckmann 1966: 69).

 

By severing our links with our fellow human beings—by privileging the technological over the social—we are, in actuality, setting ourselves up for a bland (and perhaps even bleak) future devoid of empathy and social interactions. While I have written about both the threats to empathy and ongoing cultural homogenization in the modern world before, it is useful to remember just why empathy—and human relations—are so important.

Empathy and respect for your fellow human beings are factors which can prevent tragic events like mass shootings and homicides; social alienation, however, are risk factors which can exacerbate anti-social behaviors and—ultimately—lead to violence. The first step of fascism—which the history of mid 20th century Europe provides a few examples of—is the dehumanization of the “other”. Once one sees “the other” as sub-human, it becomes much easier to dismiss and—in extreme cases—get rid of them; it is the process which Hannah Arendt outlines effectively in The Origins of Totalitarianism. In the period Arendt writes about, this dehumanization was encouraged by state-led propaganda. In the current era, this dehumanization is encouraged by corporations and Silicon Valley, who constantly stress the value of technology for “making our lives easier”. The other side of the coin, of course, is that machination serves the interests of corporations (by driving down the costs of labor and increasing competition between the remaining human employees) but does not serve the interests of average human beings. Is technology really making things “easier”? Or are we just willingly accepting a form of domination and—simultaneously—sewing the seeds of our own destruction? Perhaps we should care about one another—our fellow human beings—than we should care about robots. Unfortunately, it seems like Amazon’s Alexa gets more respect than living, breathing, human beings do, and that is a very real problem. Otherwise, we will be left in a very bland world where restaurants look something like this, too bland to ever offend anyone:

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A…Bland New Eating Establishment. Image Courtesy Of the Author.

 

Take back your lives from corporate greed.

Take back your educations from radical ideologues.

Take back your countries from dehumanizing bureaucratization.

 

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Image Courtesy Of: http://world-visits.com/2011/12/flag-of-the-united-states

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

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Buffon: A Legend, Who Is Not Afraid to Talk About Depression Or Anything Else. Image Courtesy of: https://sports.vice.com/en_us/article/qkqy7m/gianluigi-buffon-from-darkness-into-light

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Its Not the Word Origin. Imags From: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/penetrate (Top) and https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/penetrate (Bottom)

 

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The Cambridge Dictionary Seems to Have No Qualms With Using Penetrate Alongside Female Pronouns. Image From: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/penetrate

 

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

 

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A Diagram Of How To Penetrate the Paint in Basketball. Image From: https://www.google.com/search?q=penetrate+the+paint&client=safari&rls=en&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj-tKavnvXZAhUU8mMKHZYnAGoQsAQIWg&biw=1268&bih=628#imgrc=pkNbq7XuVzAeNM

 

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

Why Should We Listen to NBA Players About Anything?

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

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

 

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Mr. Durant (L) and Mr. James (R) Are Apparently Political Scientists Now, According to The Washington Post. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2018/02/16/lebron-james-and-kevin-durant-discuss-how-trump-doesnt-give-a-f-about-the-people/?utm_term=.d531f33d0c39

 

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

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

 

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Mr. Smith Is Certainly Correct When He Reminds Us To “Have An Open Mind”, It Would Just Be More Useful To Have An Open Mind About More Immediate Questions. This Is How the Culture Industry Re-Directs Our Own “Open-Mindedness” (For Lack Of A Better Term). Image Courtesy Of: https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/geno-smith-i-may-be-with-kyrie-irving-on-this-whole-flat-earth-vs-globe-thing/

 

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

 

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If We Want The World To Stay Around–No Pun Intended–It Would Be Best to Address The Immediate Problems We See In Our Own Societies, Like Progressive Fascism. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.popsci.com/best-images-earth-from-space#page-6

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Monk (2015: 422)

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.haberaktuel.com/carsidan-michael-jackson-pankarti-haberi-205645.html

 

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