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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.
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Football Clubs Continue to Respond to the Soma Mine Disaster in Turkey as the Government Weighs In

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Since news of the Soma mine disaster broke last night there have been many responses, both from football clubs and from government officials in Turkey. Sadly, the latter have been less than encouraging. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had an opportunity to win over his detractors by taking a conciliatory tone in the wake of disaster. Unfortunately he decided to stick with his harsh and unrelenting rhetoric, which does not bode well for the country’s future.

As the death toll rose to 274—the biggest industrial disaster in Turkish history–Erdogan made his move in an interview with the Soma municipality. Perhaps, in fact, Reuters wrote it best:

“Explosions like this in these mines happen all the time. It’s not like these don’t happen elsewhere in the world,” he [Erdogan] said, reeling off a list of global mining accidents since 1862.

Reel off he did. Hurriyet.com carried the Turkish version here from which I got the italicized portions below. His comments were, frankly, embarrassing. A sampling is below, taken from what I assume to be the interview with reporters at the Soma Municipality (so as to excuse the grammatical errors even in the Hurriyet transcript):

The video is here starting from 14:00:

 

İngiltere’de geçmişe gidiyorum, 1862 bu madende göçük 204 kişi ölmüş. 1866 361 kişi ölmüş İngiltere. İngiltere’de 1894 patlama 290. Fransa’ya geliyorum 1906 dünya tarihinin en ölümlü ikinci kazası 1099. Daha yakın dönemlere geleyim diyorum, Japonya 1914’de 687. Çin 1942, gaz ve kömür karışmanın neden olduğu sayılıyor ölüm sayısı 1549.

 Değerli arkadaşlar yine Çin’de 1960 metan gazı patlaması 684. Ve Japonya’da 1963’te yine kömür tozu patlaması 458. Hindistan 375. 1975’te metan gazı alev aldı, maden çatısı çöktü ve 372. Bu ocakların bu noktada bu tür kazaları sürekli olan şeyler.

Bakın Amerika. Teknolojisiyle her şeyiyle. 1907’de 361.

My translation:

I go to the past in England. 1862 in a mine there was a cave in 204 people died. [In] 1866 361 people died [in] England. In England in 1894 [there was an] explosion 290 [died]. I’m coming to France, [in] 1906 [was] world history’s second most deadly accident, 1099 [died]. I say we should come to more recent history, in Japan in 1914 687 [died]. China 1942, because gas and coal mixed the death count was 1549.

My dear friends again in China in 1960 a methane gas explosion caused 684 [deaths]. And in Japan in 1963 again a coal dust explosion [caused] 458 [deaths]. In India 375 [deaths]. In 1975 methane gas caught fire, the roof of the mine collapsed and 372 [died]. In these places in coal mines these kinds of accidents are things that constantly happen.

Look [at] America. With its technology [and] everything. In 1907 361 [died].

 

I can only shake my head. I don’t need to go into the details of the history of Turkish industrial accidents—Reuters has that covered. But the fact that the leader of a country that is listed as one of the world’s leading economic powers—a founding member of the OECD and G20—should resort to statistics from two centuries ago is astounding. Does he mean to say Turkey is comparable to England in 1862 and the United States in 1907? This is an insult to the development Turkey has seen under the AKP and to its standing in the world today. Given these words, it does not surprise me that protests broke out across Turkey today . After all, this is symptomatic of the rampant privatization that has occurred under the AKP government—unions argue that “safety standards were not improved once formerly state-run facilities were leased to private companies”  (the mine in question in Soma is privately owned). Corruption isn’t only morally wrong, its dangerous.

I write this because I believe that Prime Minister Erdogan, as the leader of a democratic country, should have been more conciliatory in the wake of tragedy instead of dredging up numbers from the distant past in order to provide context for a terrible tragedy. That said, I prefer to let the dust settle and allow families time to grieve before pointing fingers of blame (even if the direction those fingers will point in is fairly obvious). With that, I present some heartwarming news from the football world, which Hurriyet.com has collected (http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/spor/futbol/26418723.asp and http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/spor/futbol/26414735.asp ).

Many teams have started a #TribunHasilatlariSomaya campaign, and there have been many responses:

–       The proceeds from this week’s Kardemir Karabukspor match with Sivasspor will be donated to those affected by the tragedy.

–       The supporter groups of Ankaragucu—themselves a team formed by workers at a munitions plant during the Turkish war of independence—will donate money they collect to the families of those who lost their lives in Soma.

–       The proceeds from Besiktas’s match with Genclerbirligi will be donated to those affected by the tragedy.

–       Galatasaray will donate the proceeds from an upcoming friendly to the victims and their families as well.

–       Fenerbahce’s fans at 12 numara.org have also started a campaign to raise money to help those affected.

 

Also internationally Barcelona added their voice of support to Liverpool’s.

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From England (whose mining tragedies were listed by the Prime Minister) condolences came from Chelsea and Sheffield United.

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Schalke 04 from Germany, a miners club themselves (their nickname is Die Knappen—the Miners) from Gelsenkirchen in North Rhine-Westphalia, added their voice as well in a meaningful show of solidarity.

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Respect to all these clubs for bringing international recognition to this tragedy that may well have repercussions for Turkish politics in the not so distant future.