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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.

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Industrial Football, Globalism, Homogenization Consumerism, Imperialism, and Football Shirts: The Case of Leeds United’s New Crest

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Most football fans will already be aware of how industrial football works. As it encroaches on football clubs it first globalizes them, distancing them from their localities and their fans, before homogenizing them into a form more compatible to the consumerist culture of extreme capitalism. At the same time, industrial football serves to only benefit the same groups that stand to benefit from a globalist, “borderless” world: multi-national corporations.

Leeds United is the latest club to face the wrath of industrial football gone mad, with their hideous new logo. Like Juventus, Leeds United’s technocrats came up with a brand new logo, prompting ridicule from the football world. Even heartburn remedy Gaviscon recognized the ridiculous new logo as what it is—hideous.

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The New Crest is Definitely “Soulless” and “Offensive in its Robotic Inoffensivity”, Which–I Suppose–Is Important In a World Where People Look For Ways To Be Offended.

 

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FC Zenit’s Fans Always Know How to Point Out Absurdity in Industrial Football.

 

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Point Well Taken Mr. Short, Leeds’ New Crest Is Depressingly Ahistoric.
Images Courtesy Of: https://www.express.co.uk/sport/football/909386/Leeds-United-badge-logo-salute-LUFC

 

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Image Courtesy Of: https://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/heartburn-remedy-gaviscon-posts-ad-mocking-new-leeds-united-crest-1-8983602

 

The Independent’s Jonathan Liew gave a good reason for why Leeds United’s new crest should not, necessarily, surprise us. Liew notes the “faux-inspirational” dogma with which global corporations speak to us these days, referencing a message he saw inside a package of muesli: “No-one ever looked back at their life and wished they’d spent more time at work”. I have long railed against this kind of faux-inspirational language emanating from the corporate world; for me the Gap’s ridiculous holiday slogan of “Love” is a cheap attempt to frame consumerism as a humanist virtue when, in reality, it is just boring clothing with no emotional value whatsoever being sold as something more. Liew correctly notes the reason that such cheap marketing ploys work on us:

 

Part of the reason our muesli and our shower gel have started talking to us, I think, is to do with the way we interact with each other these days. The face-to-face and the voice-to-voice conversation have been supplanted as our primary means of communication by the email and the instant message. Though we are all theoretically closer together, we are actually more alone, and more detached, than we ever have been. And so into this torrent of words and pictures slide the brands: cleverly disguised as your friends, talking just like the sort of regular people you would meet, if you ever met people, or talked to them. We have replaced genuine human connection with an ocean of talking machines spouting cutesy banter, and when most communication has been stripped of its basic human signals, it’s tempting to wonder: what, really, is the difference?

 

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The Gap, A Globalist Company That Sells Our Human Emotions Back To Us. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.lovemarkscampus.com/gap-love-comes-in-every-shade/

 

In a world where social media has alienated us from one another more than we could have ever imagined, we are seeking emotional connections to…corporate brands. If this is not absurd, then I do not know what absurd is.

The Sunday Express’s Joe Short labeled the new badge “soulless” and “offensive in its robotic inoffensivitiy”. At the same time, Mr. Short connects the entire process to globalism and the homogenized consumerism it encourages:

 

Make no mistake, Leeds in rebranding are setting themselves up for the world. And to do that you need to play by the world’s game. And that includes design, it includes marketing. It’s why Everton changed their logo to a simpler design so it can go on pencils and key rings and all the other crap a football club mass produces.

 

Hopefully, the fan’s protests will reverse the team’s decision. Sadly, I am not very optimistic. This is because this same process has happened elsewhere, and not just at Juventus.

The uniforms for the Dutch women’s national team changed in summer 2017, with the classic Dutch crest’s lion undergoing a sex change. According to shirt designers working with Nike “It’s a message that gives female players something of their own to rally behind and to help drive sports participation amongst women in the Netherlands and beyond”. At the outset it seems like a suitably noble endeavor; couched in the language of “gender equality” and “social justice” the casual observer would think that there is nothing wrong. Yet—as one commentator on Dezeen’s online story points out—hidden in the “lioness’” tongue is a Nike logo! This is how the globalist world works. It tries to sell us corporatization and consumerism and homogenization with catchwords like “equality” and “tolerance” and “progressive ideology”.

 

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Notice the Nike Logo? Image Courtesy Of: https://www.dezeen.com/2017/07/13/royal-dutch-football-association-replaces-lion-crest-with-lioness-national-womens-team/

 

This is how a memorial for a heinous terror attack becomes mere product placement for a budding artist; using a tragic event to sell art must be one of the lowest forms of life but . . . people do it. This is how the European Union, sold to us as the panacea to Europe’s political problems and the end of fascistic nationalism, becomes—itself—the prototype for a fascistic world government. Because it sounded so good to progressive minds, no one could see that taking away national sovereignty—and governments for the people and by the people across Europe—would result in a technocratic form of fascism.

Now, the fans of Leeds United have learned just how fascistic extreme capitalism in the globalist world can be. Juventus fans learned it last year. Just how many more teams—how many more communities—have to lose their teams to consumerism before we all wake up to the undeniable fact that globalism and globalization are a lie?

RB Leipzig and Zenit St. Petersburg Take Different Approaches to Industrial Football and Extreme Capitalism in the Post-Communist World

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Karlsruhe Fans “Voice” Their Disapproval”. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.goal.com/en/news/1717/editorial/2015/04/07/10495172/the-next-chelsea-or-anzhi-red-bull-gives-leipzig-wings-and-funds-

 

When RB Leipzig went top of the Bundesliga last week, becoming the first newly promoted side to remain undefeated after 11 weeks in the league’s history, one would have thought it would be a cause for celebration. After all, everyone likes an underdog, right? Just think of Leicester City’s fairy tale season last year in the Premier League. Despite love for the underdog, RB Leipzig’s rise to prominence has divided football fans with the Daily Mail calling them “the most hated club in Germany”. The cracks were there in September, when fans of Borussia Dortmund refused to travel to an away match in Leipzig. The leader of the protest, Jan-Henrik Gruszecki, said “Of course Dortmund makes money, but we do it in order to play football. But Leipzig plays football in order to sell a product and a lifestyle. That’s the difference.” This simple response shows why RB Leipzig’s rise is so repulsive to many fans; the team embodies the extreme capitalism that has characterized globalization in the last twenty-plus years, a poster child for the “Industrial Football” that has slowly taken the beautiful game away from fans and put it squarely in the pockets of big business.

RB Leipzig, on paper at least, should be celebrated as the first team from former communist East Germany in seven years to appear in German Football’s top flight. The reality is much different. As the Guardian explains:

Until 2009, RB Leipzig was a fifth-division club called SSV Markranstädt that few had heard of even in its native Saxony. Then the Austrian energy drink manufacturer Red Bull bought the club’s licence, changed its name, crest and kit, and promised a transfer budget of a rumoured €100m (£85m).

 Money was all that mattered, and the team had it. They also had the clout (or cunning) to skirt a rule that prohibits German teams from being named after sponsors so “the new club was christened Rasenballsport Leipzig, meaning lawn ball sports’”. Fans in the USA and Austria are, no doubt, familiar with similar “Red Bull teams” like Red Bull New York (who destroyed the legacy of the young—but proud—New York/New Jersey Metrostars and Red Bull Salzburg. It was not the naming of the club, however, that irked most people.

Rather, it was the fact that the club took control away from the fans in true corporate/extreme capitalist fashion. This was especially irksome in Germany, since the teams tend to value their fans: “The statutes of the German Football Association deter big investors from taking over its clubs. According to the so-called ‘50+1’ rule, clubs must hold a majority of their own voting rights. Only investors who have been involved with a club for more than 20 years can apply for an exception to the 50+1 rule.” It is a good rule that gives fans a say, but RB Leipzig has made being one of those “owners” prohibitively expensive: The Guardian reports that “while membership at Dortmund costs adults €62 per annum, being a ‘gold’ member at Leipzig will set you back €1,000 a year – and that still only makes you a ‘supporting’ or non-voting member,” and, therefore, RB have only 17 members—all of whom are either employees or associates of Red Bull.

There has—predictably—been a backlash to this from other fans. One fan of RB’s local rival Lokomotive Leipzig says “’My club was founded in order to play football, RB Leipzig was founded to make money. To sell an energy drink.” Indeed, in a cup match this season with Dynamo Berlin, opposing fans threw a severed Bull’s head onto the side of the pitch. While it is important to note that it is not all doom and gloom—RB have a great youth setup and tend not to invest in players over 24—there is still something unsettling about the corporate outlook that has overrun the East German side.

 

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Horse Head In Your Bed? Dynamo Dresden Fans Respond to RB Leipzig’s Policies. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2016/sep/08/why-rb-leipzig-has-become-the-most-hated-club-in-german-football

 

Fortunately, there have been pockets of resistence to this trend. Union Berlin, another of East Germany’s (formerly) famous sides, saved themselves by selling shares to fans—not corporate interests—in 2012. (They also wrote an article about bull farming in their program for the match against RB Leipzig in lieu of writing about their rivals).

 

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Union Berlin Chose Not To Give Their Rivals Any Press In Their Program. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-3599158/Why-RB-Leipzig-hated-club-Germany-Owned-Red-Bull-crafty-sponsor-s-outpriced-fan-power-aiming-Bayern-Munich.html

 

Elsewhere in Eastern Europe, Russia’s famous Zenit St. Petersburg turned down a lucrative offer from American fast-food chain Burger King to rename the club “Zenit Burger King”. While this is not the “McDonaldsization” of the world but an attempt to “Burger King(ize?)” the world, the response by Zenit fans was amazing—Russia Today found it (predictably) “hilarious”. For my part, I was left wondering which genius at Burger King thought that this attempt at cultural/economic imperialism could have ever been successful but that is beside the point; after all I’m just a marginal sociologist making much less than a big-wig in Burger King’s corporate structure.

 

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The Letter in Question. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/european/zenit-st-petersburg-burger-king-offer-57m-offer-change-name-a7221766.html

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Zenit Embrace The Past. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.rt.com/sport/358140-zenit-st-petersburg-burger-king/

 

Zenit’s social media presence has been a welcome breath of fresh air, resisting the corporate imperialism of globalization. They shared a picture of the team that harkens back to the artistic history of their city—a solid rebuke of the homogenizing trends of globalism—and even engaged in a humorous polemic with the English newspaper The Daily Mail for insulting their logo that I found to be very funny. The attempts of global (extreme) capitalism to steamroll the world into submission are being resisted in pockets of the world such as Berlin and St. Petersburg but are being accepted as a matter of course in Leipzig. The fact that we see the conflict play itself out in football is indicative of the power of the world’s most popular sport to accept—or challenge—global trends that extend way beyond the football pitch.

 

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Zenit’s Social Media Team Working Hard–At Least It Made Me Laugh (Out Loud). Image Courtesy Of: https://tr.sputniknews.com/spor/201609051024704838-zenit-burger-king-cevap-kral/