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Industrial Football, Neoliberalism, and American Soccer: The MLS’ Columbus Crew Have Been Saved . . . For Now

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Facing an impending move to Austin, Texas, it looks as if the Columbus Crew have been saved, and—improbable as it may have seemed—dealt a blow to industrial football in the United States in the process. According to an ESPN story from 12 October 2018, a partnership involving the owners of the NFL’s [American football] Cleveland Browns have entered negotiations with MLS in order to purchase the team. In a Tweet the owners of the Cleveland Browns, Jimmy and Dee Haslam, announced their intention to keep MLS’ first team in Columbus, Ohio.

 

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Strange Bedfellows: NFL To The Rescue? Perhaps Civic Pride In the Real World Is More Important Than Competition In The Business World For the Haslams. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.forbes.com/sites/bobbymcmahon/2018/10/15/save-the-crew-how-mission-seemingly-impossible-now-seems-very-possible-for-the-columbus-crew/#6311c67a1f82

 

Understandably, the leaders of the #savethecrew movement were ecstatic at this development which simultaneously struck a blow at both industrial football in the United States, but also the undemocratic nature of progressive politics. Indeed, this victory had seemed so impossible that one of the Crew’s players actually went to celebrate with fans at a local bar after hearing the announcement. Clearly, the Columbus Crew represent a very real element of community in the capital of the Buckeye State . . . right?

 

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Have they #SaveDthecrew? Image Courtesy Of: https://www.massivereport.com/2018/10/12/17968262/misson-accomplished-saved-the-crew-columbus-crew-sc-mls-2018-jimmy-haslam

 

That indeed may be the case, but don’t try to tell that to Silicon Valley who seem to believe that “community” in the here and now—rooted to a specific geographic location with an emotional connection—is passé; it represents an impediment to the complete establishment of a virtual community located in the digital “world” of social media and connected to consumption. After all, exactly one year ago—on 17 October 2017—the Crew’s owner Anthony Precourt had announced his plan to move the team to Austin, Texas.

 

The proposed move—given Mr. Precourt’s background—should not have been surprising to fans. After all, Mr. Precourt is a managing partner at his own investment management and private equity firm . . . based in San Francisco. That’s right; the owner of the Columbus Crew resides in California and—prior to his acquisition of the MLS franchise—had no clear connection to central Ohio or even the Midwestern United States. According to bizjournals.com he has more connections to California (where Stanford University has named an institute after his family), New Hampshire (where he went to graduate school), and Texas (where his father was an oil executive) than he does to Ohio. This last connection is most telling, as it might explain some of the motive for the proposed move to Austin.

 

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Anthony Precourt When He Was a Crew Fan. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.mlssoccer.com/post/2014/02/03/columbus-crew-owner-anthony-precourt-says-club-logo-not-representative-citys

 

As I said earlier, fans should not be surprised that Mr. Precourt should have wanted to move the team he purchased for $68 million in 2013. It seems that from the beginning the new owner had a disdain for the culture of the city which hosted the team he had, ostensibly, “invested” in. In early 2014, Mr. Precourt announced his plans to overhaul the team’s logo which had survived—unchanged—since the league’s inception in 1996. While the original Columbus Crew logo depicted “three stoic construction workers shoulder to shoulder with hard hats, a not-so-subtle nod to the city’s working-class roots” ; Mr. Precourt saw this logo as “outdated”. To justify the re-branding, Mr. Precourt was quoted as saying in 2014 “We want it to represent the Columbus we’ve come to know. I don’t think a construction crew is really representative. [Columbus is] not a blue-collar, manufacturing, industrial town. It’s a smart, young, progressive university town with world-class businesses. It’s a white-collar town”. This re-branding resulted in a spectacularly—in the way that the European Union’s currency is  —bland logo.

 

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A Campaign That Could Only Have Been Thought Up In A Corporate Boardroom. Here Is a Hint: If You Have to Explain Your Logo In A Full Page, It Probably Isn’t A Good One. Images Courtesy Of: https://www.columbuscrewsc.com/newcrew

 

But the parallels of the Crew’s new logo “inspired” by Mr. Precourt with the Euro—which features “bland, fake architecture that doesn’t exist”–are not misplaced; indeed they are both reflective of neoliberal globalism which looks to create the most inoffensive designs in order to focus the consumer on their consumption and not be distracted by the details of history or locality. In Mr. Precourt’s justification for the team’s new logo, he seems to be focused on disengaging Columbus from its working-class and industrial roots; indeed, he seems almost embarrassed by the city’s background as he looks to underline its “progressive” nature. Even the adjectives used to define the city as “progressive”, like “smart” and “young”, imply that the hypothetical pre-“progressive” Columbus was be just the opposite, “dumb” and “old”. Now, this is clearly no way to view the city that the team you own represents, but it is reflective of a generation of “progressive” politicians all over the world who view half of their citizenry with contempt; the“urban” is favored over the “rural” and the “modern” is favored over “tradition”. This contempt likely played a role in Mr. Precourt’s eventual decision to move the team, but not—of course—before selling the stadium’s name to the highest bidder. It was another play from the neoliberal globalist playbook: Come, See, Exploit, Move on to the next market.

 

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Out With The Old…And In With The New? Images Courtesy of https://www.columbuscrewsc.com/newcrew

 

While Columbus has seemingly avoided the pitfalls of industrial football, it is important to understand that the new deal has its own profit-driven issues. As Sports Illustrated points out, the owner of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns is also the brother of the Tennessee governor Bill Haslam who is close to the owner of MLS’ new expansion team in Nashville, Tennessee. Also, the news of the Crew’s “being saved” was followed almost immediately by headlines like “Does Keeping the Columbus Crew Mean Building a New Stadium?”. Clearly, industry will not cease to profit off sport—even if the team’s “old” stadium is just 19 years old. Try telling a Fulham fan or a Boston Red Sox fan that their team needs a new stadium and see what they say. Still, the case of the Columbus Crew shows why it is important to notice the (all but unavoidable) connections between sport and elite wealth in the era of extreme capitalism. The key to a more equitable future for sports fans lies in resisting the rootless elites who treat sports clubs in the same way that they themselves might see their own lives (as well as the enormous wealth that defines them): rootless, cultureless, and—perhaps ultimately—meaningless aside from the bottom line. At least the Columbus Crew survived this round, and that is something that sports fans can take comfort in for now.

 

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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

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?

A Marginal Sociologist’s Take on The Rationalist Myth That Technology Sets Humanity Free: Two Examples from The Sports World

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Often, in the brave new world we all live in, we hear the praises of technology being sung. Phrases like “technology has brought us closer together”, “technology is shrinking the world”, or even “technology sets us free” have become common place. Unfortunately—for all the praise of technology—few people seem to realize that the world we live in is not the world of a century ago.

There was a time that technology—despite its drawbacks—arguably did more good than bad. Sure, motor vehicles have made travel easier than it was in the days of the horse-drawn carriage. And yes, electricity has certainly made things easier in the home after sundown. But what about the consequences of more modern technological advances? Have they all been as positive?

These days, we see companies embedding their employees with microchips—while a CEO says “it’s the right thing to do”. Is it really “the right thing to do”; is it really a positive development? Is sacrificing humanity in the name of productivity right? Or is it the kind of logic that could only be born out of late stage—extreme—capitalist society?

After a recent conversation with a designer for an American corporation, I started to question whether or not technology—in and of itself—was truly a wholly positive development. The designer told me that while computers have made creating new designs easier, it has meant that skills do not improve; (I paraphrase): “Re-creating designs on the computer is quick and easy while re-drawing designs [by hand] had been time consuming . . . but as I re-did them [by hand] I realized that my designs were better each time I re-drew them”. The designer’s comments made me wonder, when will people realize that technological advancements carry with them numerous undesirable elements and cause numerous undesirable developments as well? To get people thinking I will provide two examples from the sports world.

 

New Development I: 24 Hour News Media on the Internet and Television

It is often believed that continuous news coverage is positive because it provides people with information 24 hours a day and seven days a week (24/7) available at the click of a button. This, granted, would be a very useful service if only the news networks were not as biased as they are. Instead of being helpful, the 24/7 news networks have led us to believe everything we read or see, even if it is not true. This is because—in order to prove the necessity of 24/7 news coverage—content is often manufactured to fill in the gaps; this means that both producers and consumers of the news are not as discriminating as they may have been in the past. This is how fake news has become real news, and how Moldova’s Masal Bugduv (of Olimpia Balti) became a football starlet. In fake news stories the Moldovan footballer (who does not exist) was linked with Arsenal, and the New York Times even published a story about how the hoax of Masal Bugduv went viral. Unfortunately, many main stream news outlets “bought” Bugduv as the real deal long before he was revealed to be a hoax. This case is just one example of how 24/7 news media can lead people down the wrong path.

 

New Development II: Cellular Telephones

 Another popular misconception is that the advent of cellular telephones has made us, somehow, “more free”. We can now be reached at any time not only by friends and families, but also by non-friends and telemarketers. As if this were not enough, we can also be found at any time by the state and businesses through the GPS functions of our phones which track our every move—and even listen to us! (Indeed, while talking to my brother about the Ford Raptor Truck we soon found a Ford Trucks ad pop up on Instagram a moment later!). This is not a positive development, but when will we stand up to it? Recently, a college [American] football coach in the U.S. was forced to resign when a muckraking lawyer and author uncovered phone records that revealed calls to an escort service. While I won’t go into my thoughts on the illegality of prostitution, it is remarkable that—in the media world—a one-minute call made in private, a one-minute poor decision—can cost a man a lifetime of work. The decidedly unremarkable thing is that it can, especially in a world where anything you say and do can and will be held against you at any time. Of course, since this is a sports story, fans of the rival team are overjoyed since they brought down the opposite team. What they may not realize, however, is that the tables could turn at any time and that they too could become the victims on the losing end of this new surveillance society.

This type of society—which actively encourages social media use because it “brings people together”—yet also punishes failures to use it “correctly” (whatever that means)—is a dangerous one. It limits the freedom of speech and the freedom of expression. It trains everyone to think in the same one dimensional thought of corporate life: “Talk a lot, about a lot of different things, without ever actually saying anything. And never, ever, say something that ruffles feathers because its one strike and you’re out”. Its that easy because—in the world of late-stage capitalism—workers are easily replaced. The case of a Utah teacher who was almost fired for posting pictures of her own workouts on Instagram and that of a young Belgian girl who was offered a job by L’Oreal before being fired after posting a poorly worded (and imaged) Tweet during the 2014 World Cup in support of her country’s (Belgium) match against the United States are cases in point. Apparently, freedom of expression is only tolerated insofar as it helps the company’s bottom line (just look at how Kim Kardashian has amassed a slew of corporate sponsors despite her lewdness). The private sphere has become intertwined with the public sphere in the world of late stage capitalism: You are free to say or post what you want…unless it hurts the business (or the general sensibilities). This is why—unfortunately—I (as a writer who should have intellectual freedom) must also be aware that every word I write on this blog can—and will—be held against me due to its presence on the internet. This means that I am hardly a free writer, and that in itself hinders my ability to be creative. It is a vicious cycle to say the least.

While the champions of this kind of one dimensional thought make it seem that they are making the world a better place—by getting rid of the “rude” and “bad” and “hurtful” people—the reality is that there will always be “rude” and “bad” and “hurtful” people; there will always be a**holes. They cannot be erased. The only people who lose in the world of one dimensional thought and unchecked technological advances are the creative ones, the outsiders who dare think beyond the boundaries imposed by a so-called “rational” society”.

Late Stage Capitalism and One-Dimensional Thought in the Modern World: From Football Shirts to Hollywood and Beyond

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As readers may know, collecting soccer/football shirts is one of my main hobbies; it gives me a souvenir to collect in the cities I visit as well as a way to intimately get to know every city I visit. Each polyester shirt serves mainly as a memory of a team, a neighborhood, a city, and a country. In that sense, the shirt can serve as device for building personal, local, and national memories. Unfortunately, modern shirts are become less and less about either personal or national memories and more about extreme capitalism. The German team Schalke 04’s new shirt will have a payment chip in it as part of a sponsorship deal. Fans will apparently be able to buy halftime beers and sausages with…their shirts.

 

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Just Lean Your Shoulder Towards the Register . . . Image Courtesy Of: https://www.wareable.com/smart-clothing/schalke-smart-jersey-pay-4516

 

While this is a troubling attack on what shirts should mean, the Americans have a different way of turning football shirts into vehicles for consumption in the age of late-stage capitalism. While in Europe shirts are being produced to allow people to consume more with money they may not have, in the United States the trend of “throwback jerseys” is creating a market for shirts that once existed; it is an odd form of double consumption. The throwback jersey encourages spending on pseudo-vintage items to the point where, according to Ebay at least, the new “vintage” item sometimes costs more than the actual vintage item itself! The U.S. soccer team LA Galaxy has done a Throwback shirt night at a game, while Sporting Kansas City brought back their throwbacks (from the Kansas City Wiz era) for one night only in April of 2016. Interestingly, USA Today originally labelled the Kansas City Wizards shirts as being too ugly to come back. Yet, in the age of late-stage capitalism, it came back. How did this happen? It is symptomatic of the world of extreme capitalism we live in: People will spend money on anything, as long as it appeals to some sort of human emotion—affection for the past is one such emotion. It is also an example of the one-dimensional thought (to borrow from Herbert Marcuse)  that characterizes the time we live in, a kind of thought that discourages all forms of creativity and different lines of thought.

 

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Old and New…New and Old? Images Courtesy Of: http://www.kansascity.com/sports/mls/sporting-kc/article69923152.html

 

The field of movies can provide us with a few more examples. Rather than develop new films and new storylines by encouraging creativity, the film industry has instead taken to recycling old ideas. Star Wars, which some cultural critics argue should have stopped at one film, and the recent fourth installment of Indiana Jones are two great examples. The latest culprit of rehashing is the Transformers franchise; the newest movie is apparently “racist” according to some critics, while others simply called it terrible.

Like most male children growing up in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I loved Transformers; who wouldn’t love cars that transform into robots? It was, after all, far more interesting than what we see today—human beings transforming into…(i)robots—but I digress. In order to capitalize on the nostalgia of my generation, the purveyors of late-stage capitalism in the film industry have taken to re-making the films of our childhood in hopes that we, many of us now parents, will pass the interest on to our children! The re-appearance of Batman, Superman, the Ninja Turtles, and Power Rangers—just to name a few—are all further examples of this process. Along with the films come merchandise and toys; essentially money is being made on recycled ideas and there is little room for new ideas. Interestingly, some toys/franchises from the 1980s have not seen a revival. Among them are GI Joes and Barbies (perhaps because they push messages that run counter to the one-dimensional thought that dominates our current age of late-stage capitalism: American nationalism in the former case and cisgender normativity in the latter case).

 

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I’m Not Sure What This Is, Since It Bears No Resemblance to the Optimus Prime I Know. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cbr.com/the-last-knight-15-ways-it-killed-the-transformers-franchise/

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This Is More Like It. Can I Have My Childhood Back? Image Courtesy Of: http://tfwiki.net/wiki/Optimus_Prime_(G1)/Generation_1_cartoon_continuity

 

Interestingly, sometimes these remakes even end up changing the original to fit the needs of the dominant strains of existing one-dimensional thought: It is a world where Barbie’s beau, Ken, sports a man bun. It is also one where the new Spider man is black, Iron Man is now a young black girl (how the fictional character’s name is still Iron “Man” is unclear, but that is something the progressives clearly failed to acknowledge), and the superhero Thor is now…a woman (Again, the fact that Thor is actually a Norse God—and a male—was missed by progressive minds). We should not, of course, be surprised that cultural history is being re-written; American history itself is also being re-written, as evidenced by the war on Confederate monuments in the South. But we should be surprised that—in a cynical bid to make more money—the purveyors of extreme capitalism are pandering to one dimensional thought by changing the genders and races of comic book characters while they remake them and resell them to the general public and no one seems to care. Wouldn’t it be nicer if comic book executives came up with new  superheroes, and made them whichever race or gender they pleased, rather than succumb to tokenism by changing the existing superheroes in order to pander to the demands of one-dimensional thought? Unfortunately that would require something called “Creativity”, something that has been stifled in the brave new world we now live in.

 

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In This (Brave) New World, Ken Sports a Man Bun. Image Courtesy Of: http://barbie.mattel.com/en-us/about/fashionistas.html

 

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Also, Spider Man (Top) and Iron Man (Bottom) Have changed Races and Genders, Belittling the Causes of Race and Gender Equality Advocates By Becoming Symbols of Tokenism. Images Courtesy of http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/news/miles-morales-to-replace-peter-parker-as-first-black-spider-man-in-marvel-comics-10336153.html (Top) and http://www.breitbart.com/big-hollywood/2016/07/06/marvels-new-iron-man-teenage-black-woman/ (Bottom).

 

This kind of one-dimensional thought has become so pervasive that there was outrage when U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted an admittedly comical Gif of him body-slamming Professional Wrestling entrepreneur Vince Mcmahon with a CNN logo superimposed over his head. Instead of recognizing the humor, there was only outrage. Unfortunately, the outrage did not go far enough since few people batted an eye when CNN essentially blackmailed the creator of the Gif when they threatened to publically expose the individual’s identity. When a media company acts like the mob one would expect outrage. Instead, there is silence because the public has succumbed to one dimensional thought; the public refuses to recognize that the mainstream media is—and has been for years—essentially lying. When the New York Times calls globalism a “far-right conspiracy theory” you have to question the media’s legitimacy: Academics have been critical of globalization for years!.

Again, this refusal to question dominant narratives is not a new phenomenon. If the government said they would be taking pictures of everyone’s homes and neighborhoods and making it publically available, they would be outraged. But when Google does it people do not bat an eye. If the government told people that they had to “check in” and publically announce where they are during the day, there would be outrage. But when people voluntarily give such information on Facebook, or their online comments are stamped by the location of their phone or computer’s IP address, people do not bat an eye. It is, indeed, a dangerous world.

People would do well to break free of this type of one-dimensional thought fostered by late-stage capitalist society and encouraged by mass media and Hollywood celebrities. Society will be better—and more “diverse”, to use a liberal catch phrase—if alternative perspectives are allowed.

The media would be better if freedom of thought was encouraged. Academia would improve if freedom of opinion was encouraged. Movies and comic books would be better if creativity was allowed. We are tired of the same old things, the same old stories, the same old one-dimensional thought being re-hashed with only the goal of making money in mind. We want new things—and new ideas—to help us break free of the conservatism and rationality of the late-stage capitalist world.

Politics Clashes with Sports in the United States Uncovering the Far Reach of Corporate Greed: The Perspective of a Marginal Sociologist

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These days it seems as if the culture wars are seeping into all walks of society. Previously I wrote about how political developments have affected sports in Turkey; now I am writing about how political developments are affecting sports in the United States. In the United States we are seeing how the entrance of politics into the world of sports (and wider culture) may be morphing into a fascistic movement without offering any real solutions. That sport is involved should come as no surprise; it represents—after all—a major part of culture in the United States and the world.

The biggest provider of televised sports in the United States, ESPN, has turned much of their sports programming into political programming, the fact that North Carolina’s “bathroom bill” is being debated on a sports program is (in my most humble of opinions) doing a disservice to all those who pay for ESPN in order to watch…sports (these policies have actually caused ESPN to lose money). While it is of course admirable that important societal issues are discussed on different platforms, it makes me (as a marginal sociologist) wonder whether or not we—as a society—are not muddying the waters. Could it be that sports are serving as a vehicle, by corporate interests, to intimidate people into making decisions? If this is indeed the case, what is the difference between sports organizations (like the NCAA and NBA) and the mafia man in the back alley threatening to break your knees with a baseball bat unless you do what you’re told? It’s a fine line, and one that I feel deserves some discussion.

The NCAA—the governing body of university sports in the United States—warned the state of North Carolina about HB2, which The Charlotte Observer says is “North Carolina’s newest law [that] solidifies [the] state’s role in defining discrimination”. One of the main points of the law is that “Transgender people who have not taken surgical and legal steps to change the gender noted on their birth certificates have no legal right under state law to use public restrooms of the gender with which they identify. Cities and counties no longer can establish a different standard”. Taken at face value, this is not very discriminatory; if one has not “taken surgical and legal steps” to change their gender, they cannot enter the bathroom of their choice. This keeps people from arbitrarily claiming that they can enter whichever bathroom they would like. Obviously the solution to the bathroom conundrum in the United States is complicated, but it is important that we realize that not everything is inherently discriminatory; somethings are merely the best attempt we can make to appease all facets of society, both “progressive” and “conservative” instead of one or the other. While, according to the Charlotte Observer “the national headquarters of the ACLU describes North Carolina’s HB2 as the ‘most extreme anti-LGBT measure in the country’”, they also use language that presents the situation as a zero-sum game, where those on one side of the debate are diametrically opposed to those on the other. CNN supports this kind of rhetoric, claiming that proponents of HB2 are subscribing to 3 myths:

 

1) Sexual predators will take advantage of public accommodations laws and policies covering transgender people to attack women and children in bathrooms; 2) Being transgender is not a valid condition. Transgender people are mentally ill and should not be afforded the same legal protections or healthcare guarantees as gay and lesbian Americans; 3) Children are too young to know if they are transgender, and supporting a child who identifies as transgender is child abuse.

 

Personally, I do not believe that any of these myths are true. However, I also recognize that some people might not be ok with the idea of people of another gender being in their bathrooms. As much as we need to respect transgender rights, we must also respect the rights of those who have differing opinions which might not be based on bigotry. If the United States is to be a free country, then people are allowed to have their opinions on an issue; they cannot be forced into accepting things they are not comfortable with accepting. Some states (as the map below shows) agree with allowing transgender people into the bathroom of their choice, while others do not. Isn’t the essence of democracy allowing people a choice? Notably, the sports world is seems to not agree with these basic democratic principles, which is worrisome.

 

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/07/health/transgender-bathroom-law-facts-myths/index.html

 

On 23 March 2017 the NCAA, the governing body for Collegiate athletics in the United States, “issued a straightforward warning to the state of North Carolina on Thursday, the one-year anniversary of the controversial House Bill 2: Revise or repeal the law in the coming weeks, or don’t host any NCAA events between now and 2022” . In 2017 the NCAA moved games from Greensboro, North Carolina to Greenville, South Carolina because of the North Carolina law, while the National Basketball Association (NBA) moved the 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte, North Carolina to New Orleans, Louisiana. This prompted the “North Carolina Sports Association [to send a letter] to the state’s House of Representatives and General Assembly in February warning that the economic impact of the bill could reach $250 million as the state continues to miss out on major sporting events”. In the face of this social (and economic) pressure the North Carolina Legislature decided to repeal the bill; but the power of sports wasn’t lost on some lawmakers: State Representative Carl Ford said “”If we could have props in here, I would take a basketball covered in money and roll it down the middle aisle there, because that’s what this is about, money and basketball”.

 

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Amidst the Controversy, Only Fans Lose…Regardless Of Their Gender. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.si.com/college-basketball/2017/03/14/north-carolina-ncaa-tournament-games-hb2

 

Of course few people were happy with the decision on either side of the debate, while the HB2 issue is—according to CNN—“estimated to have cost the state millions of dollars through the loss of jobs, businesses and consumer spending, though by one measure, the losses only amount to about 0.1% of the state’s total GDP”. Here we see the results of polarizing rhetoric. Essentially North Carolina was blackmailed into repealing a law in order to not lose money. To an impartial observer, this seems dangerously fascistic. While champions of LGBT rights may celebrate this decision because it benefits them today, but what about the perils of allowing democracy to be subverted by financial concerns? What keeps members of the LGBT community from being discriminated against down the road if we allow the financial concerns to subvert the democratic process? And what about the state income that was lost when the NCAA and NBA decided to boycott North Carolina? Were people—transgender and cisgender—not both affected when jobs were taken away? Economic hardship—especially to the tune of 3.76 Billion USD lost—does not discriminate based on gender or anything else.

It is interesting that the sports world was quick to bully North Carolina lawmakers on this issue while—in the face of other social issues—the sports world has not been nearly as quick to respond. Recently, a passenger was forcibly deplaned from a United Airlines flight because it was overbooked. While the event has caused much controversy, the CEO of United Airlines, Oscar Munoz, gave conflicting responses while refusing to step down. At first Mr. Munoz seemed to argue that the customer was in the wrong for being (justifiably) upset, before backtracking and offering a half-hearted apology.

Notably, no one from the sports world has responded to this heinous act of corporate violence with a threat of boycott (despite the fact that most sports teams in the U.S. use air travel to cover the great distances of the United States). Even (state) media in the United States, the Washington Post, discouraged any potential boycott in an 11 April, 2017 article entitled “Want to boycott United? Good luck with that”. Here the author, Christopher Ingraham, notes that “thanks in part to a rash of airline mergers and consolidations in recent years, major airports are increasingly becoming one- or two-carrier affairs. Today, United commands over 50 percent of the market share in some places where it served fewer than five percent of air travelers ten years ago”. Essentially, because of the slow monopolization of air-travel by corporations like United Airlines, the author believes that normal citizens have little ability to resist the disgusting behavior of United Airlines.

What are we to take away from these two issues? Is it that corporations—due to their financial might—can do whatever they want to paying customers because individuals cannot respond? And is it that state governments cannot respond to voters’ concerns because they will be bullied by business interests? In both cases the corporate side, the one with the money, is effectively over-riding public opinion.

Or is it that people in the United States only take a stand when it is a small group—in the North Carolina case transgender people—are affected? Is a general affront on humanity—like the United Airlines debacle—not enough to make people take a stand? Apparently, it isn’t. As days have gone by, the issue has become racialized: New Republic writer Clio Chang’s piece “Why it Matters That the United Dragging Victim Is Asian” is a notable example of this discourse; and it contains the statement: “…for Asian-Americans who watched this video, the victim’s race is an important part of this story. To treat it as an inconsequential factor seems, at best, an oversight—at worst, it’s an erasure”. I would argue the opposite. To racialize the issue makes it an “Asian” problem when it is not an Asian problem. It is a human problem. Everyone in the world faces an unequal fight against corporate greed and extreme capitalism; to racialize the issue only serves to divide rather than unite.

 

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Somehow, a Human Issue Becomes a Racial Issue. Image Courtesy Of: https://fortunedotcom.files.wordpress.com/2017/04/asian-american-protest-police-brutality-united-airlines.jpg?w=720

 

Needless to say, both of the aforementioned trends, where corporate interests over-ride voter concerns and where human issues become racialized issues, are worrisome trends that people—regardless of their sex, gender, race, class, sexual orientation, religion, or any other sociological variable you can think of—need to think about.

The Robots Have Arrived: A Marginal Sociologist’s Take on McDonald’s and the Rationalization of American Society in the Age of Extreme Capitalism (With Bonus Coverage of McDonald’s’ Love Affair With Industrial Football

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As an educator it is sometimes difficult to explain the intricacies of Sociological theory. Much of it is abstract and can best be understood only through real social interactions. Since too many sociologists (in the current context) shy away from actually interacting with their fellow humans (due to, mainly, political disagreements) I believe that it is important to put the subjects I teach in the context of real-life situations. A few nights ago, at the local McDonald’s, I was provided an experience that allowed me to better explain eminent Sociologist Max Weber’s concept of rationalization to my students. I shared it with them in class, and I believe it is equally relevant to the wider social world so I am choosing to share it in this context as well. After all, McDonald’s is one of the major corporations that sponsors football’s most visible competition, the FIFA World Cup.

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McDonald’s and the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Image Courtesy Of: http://bizztro.tumblr.com/post/88927751559/fifas-game-of-sponsors

 

Sociologist George Ritzer coined the term “McDonaldization” in his book “The McDonaldization of Society”. It was essentially an extension of Max Weber and his ideas regarding the development of a form of social control driven by a focus on efficiency and “means-end” concerns. This process involves a certain degree of homogenization and it is something that globalization itself perpetuates: Everything—down to our human interactions—must be rationally controlled; even the football stadium is not immune to this process. More and more new stadiums are being built in the interests of corporate profit and not the fans—what earns the the team money is the most important concern. This is why we have seen a backlash to industrial football among world football fans. The stadium has become a space for profit, not passion.  This process erodes human agency, and I saw—first hand—how this process works at my local McDonald’s.

 

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Marginal Sociologists Can Sometimes Transcend Their Own Marginality (Author’s Note: I Have Yet To Achieve That Level). Image Courtesy Of: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_McDonaldization_of_Society

 

I dropped by the nearest McDonald’s for a late night snack the other day. Upon walking in I noticed that there were four (4) computer screens set up for ordering; there was just one human cashier. Since I am against the growing computerization (and mechanization) of society, I decided to wait in line so as to physically interact with a human being during my transaction. After all, the only way of telling corporations that human beings are better investments than machines is by supporting them. After waiting about three minutes I actually got the “privilege” of interacting with a human being.

 

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How Human Is The Idea Of Breaking Burgers Down Into Nationality For the World Cup? It Seems Like More Of  a Tool To Further Atomize–and Divide–Global Society In the Age of Globalization. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.lifehacker.com.au/2014/05/taste-test-mcdonalds-2014-world-cup-brazil-and-australia-burgers/

 

I ordered one double cheeseburger (only onions and ketchup; no pickles or mustard). Assuming it would be a small purchase I presented two (2) American dollars as payment. The cashier informed me that the final price was two dollars and two cents ($2.02). I asked if $2.00 dollars was enough; it would save her the time of counting out ninety-eight cents in change and me the time of waiting. It made “sense” insofar as it reduced the need for “cents”. The cashier, for her part, did not budge. $2.02. She wanted those two cents. I searched on the floor for dropped change in vain. I pleaded for her to drop the two cents but she was adamant. $2.02. In effect, my human cashier had become as robotic as the machines that will soon push her out of a job. But, in the context of the rationalized world of extreme capitalism, she couldn’t understand that she had lost her human agency. If she had cut me some slack—as a human being could (and arguably should)—she would be held accountable by her manager for the missing two cents in her register at the end of her shift. And I get that. But I also get that it represents the kind of bureaucratic rationalization that Max Weber argues leaves human beings bereft of their own human agency. My cashier on this night might have saved the McDonald’s corporation from losing two cents, but that will not keep the McDonald’s corporation from laying her off in favor of a computer somewhere down the line. This particular cashier was all too willing to earn the company profit—which will likely not trickle down to her paygrade—at the expense of having a human interaction. In fact, for two cents, she even risked losing a customer (After all, I am not opposed to criticism of corporations who subscribe to the values of extreme capitalism, such as Starbucks).

 

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Again, in 2006, McDonald’s Was At the Forefront of Football Advertising. Image Courtesy Of: http://fifaworldcup.tk/fifa-world-cup/fifa-world-cup-2006-logo

 

In the end I decided to order a second double cheeseburger (since two are $3.20) so as to at least get more “bang for my buck(s)” (and to get less change). As I waited for the food, however, I became more and more incensed at the blatantly impersonal nature of the modern fast food restaurant. Eventually I lost my appetite. Rather than refuse the food (an action which I, for a moment, contemplated), I decided to take it and walked out hoping (for possibly the first time in my life) that one of the famous panhandlers in my city would accost me looking for money. When one did—asking for a dollar so as to purchase a bus ticket to a city more than five hours away—I made my own move: “I don’t have any money for you, but I do have two hot McDonald’s double cheeseburgers with only onions and ketchup—will you take them?” At that a smile crept across the gentleman’s face and I presented him with the food I had ordered. It was fitting that—in a dehumanizing world—we can still strive for humanizing experiences (even if extreme capitalism tries, at times, to suppress our own humanity).

 

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Like Starbuck’s, McDonald’s Might Attempt to Send a Multicultural Image (Look At the Clearly Inter-ethnic Display of the Four Children In This Advertisement) But That Doesn’t Mean They Don’t Pursue The Kind Of Global Homogenization That Globalism and Globalization Encourage; A Kind of Discriminatory Cultural Imperialism That Erases All That Is Local. Image Courtesy Of: http://bizztro.tumblr.com/post/88927751559/fifas-game-of-sponsors

 

 

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