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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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