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Notes from the First Week of the 2018 World Cup: A Lesson in the Culture Industry of Globalism

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The 2018 World Cup is sorting out to be less of a sporting event and more of a propaganda machine for the budding culture industry of globalism and globalization. While events on the pitch play out—like Mexico’s shock upset of defending champion Germany—they are interpreted through the lens of a globalist culture industry which prefers to tie what happens on the field to events off the field; indeed Germany’s loss has been blamed on the row over German players appearing in a photo with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a topic I have written about. Of course, this has not been the only instance where politics and off the field concerns have stolen the spotlight from what we should be focusing on: the sporting competition on the field.

Former U.S. national team star Landon Donovan caused “outrage” after appearing in a Wells Fargo ad to announce his support for Mexico. In the advertisement (which can be seen here) Mr. Donovan says “Wells Fargo and I are inviting anyone in need of a team to root for to join us in cheering for the Mexican national team. Vamos Mexico!”. In a Tweet announcing his support for the United States’ southern neighbor, Mr. Donovan appears with a scarf reading “my other team is Mexico”.

 

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I join Carlos Bocanegra in saying “Really?”. Image Courtesy of: https://www.upi.com/Sports_News/Soccer/2018/06/18/World-Cup-USMNT-icons-disagree-with-Donovan-for-support-of-Mexico/9461529329390/

 

It didn’t take long for other former U.S. national team players to respond to Mr. Donovan’s comments. On his Instagram account, Cobi Jones said “Nah man! Mexico is not ‘my team.’ Mexico is a rival in CONCACAF. In sport there is something sacred about rivalries. Meaning and history behind them! I don’t see Brazil cheering for Argentina. England cheering for Germany. Barca for Madrid. Man U for Liverpool or Lakers for Clippers. Yankees/Red Sox etc … It’s sports and you’re allowed to cheer against someone. Let alone your regional rival!”. Former striker and current ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman also joined in, saying on Twitter “I’d rather cut off my toe than ‘root for [Mexican flag] and I’m on the outside on this one, but how could I root for my/our rival? Imagine any [Chilean] players rooting for [Argentina] today. I can’t imagine how American Outlaws would feel if I rooted for Mexico … but then again I’m old school.” Of course, these emotional responses are both warranted and also understandable.

 

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Proud Americans. Images Courtesy Of: https://www.upi.com/Sports_News/Soccer/2018/06/18/World-Cup-USMNT-icons-disagree-with-Donovan-for-support-of-Mexico/9461529329390/

 

The previous generation of U.S. soccer players proudly represented their country at a time when football infrastructure was all but non-existent in the United States. Despite this lack of institutional support, they successfully qualified for the 1990 World Cup and built football in the country through their dedication and hard work. Therefore, when a player like Landon Donovan comes out and—in the name of a sponsorship deal with Wells Fargo—seemingly ignores the blood and sweat which (literally) went into building U.S. soccer from the ground up, it is bound to touch a nerve.

Unfortunately, however, comments like Mr. Donovan’s have come to be expected in a world which favors political correctness and culture industry catchwords over real emotional attachments. Indeed, the fact that Mr. Donovan prefers attachment to global capital (in the form of Wells Fargo) and culture industry compliant catchwords—over attachment to his nation—is evident in his response to criticism. His post in response both attempts to reaffirm his patriotism while also catering to the dominant strand of globalist one dimensional thought: “I believe in supporting each other and building bridges, not barriers”. Mr. Donovan is looking to defend himself by falling back on the politically correct trope of “building bridges”. What Mr. Donovan does not understand is that none of his former team-mates are advocating “building barriers”; rather they are just pointing out the rather obvious fact that it is ok to not support your rival; not supporting a rival does not mean hating a rival. Unfortunately, however, in the modern world it is the utopic ideas of “love trumping hate” which tend to frame events in a zero-sum game of “love” vs. “hate”. There can be no middle ground, and we see similar interpretations as regards other off the field developments during the 2018 World Cup.

When the coach of the South Korean national team Shin Tae-Young “admitted that his team mixed around its jersey numbers for recent training sessions and warm-up games because he believes Westerners find it difficult to ‘distinguish between Asians’, USA today deemed the comments “extraordinary”. Of course, there is nothing very “extraordinary” about the comments; Mr. Tae-Young’s move was a strategic one in footballing terms yet, in the world of one-dimensional thought, USA Today needed to frame the move in terms of the politically correct discourse created by the globalist culture industry. At the same time, there was outrage when the Mexican team’s fans chanted “homophobic slurs”. Of course, much of the outrage in The Guardian’s story comes from “Professors” at U.S. Universities who have very little knowledge of first hand football culture. Most real football fans know that, in the stadium, one’s sexual preference is irrelevant; what matters is supporting your team. Unfortunately for football fans of all sexual orientations, however, this fake outrage—and virtue signaling—only serves to further alienate football fans from one another. These divisions mirror the divisions created by the global culture industry in other walks of life.

Consumers of sports and main (lame)stream sports media prefer to have their own sense of “morality” and “virtue” confirmed, rather than look at the bigger picture. This is why CNN gleeefully reports on Russian oligarch (and Chelsea owner) Roman Abramovich’s program to bring seriously ill children to the World Cup. While Mr. Abramovich’s actions are of course laudable, they gloss over the cut-throat manner in which the oligarch made his billions during the free-for-all of privatization following the collapse of the Soviet Union. CNN prefers to sing the praises of virtue without even focusing on how the money was made in the first place.

In sum, football fans this summer should be cognizant of the fact that the FIFA World Cup is far from a sporting event; instead, it—like many international events—has become an incubator for the inculcation (indoctrination?) of the globalist culture industry. This culture industry is attempting to gradually homogenize the emotions of the world under the guise of a sporting event. What we all must remember, however, is that manufactured emotions are not real in any sense of the word, rather they are represent a gradual pacification of the world in order to create more docile bodies—in the Foucauldian sense—to participate in consumerism on a global scale.

 

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From the 2014 World Cup, But Still Very Relevant. Image Courtesy Of: https://thesunshineroom.com/category/world-cup-2014/
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The Latest Betrayal of Main(Lame)stream Media

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History is full of journalists who strove for the “truth”; they saw through the manipulations of the culture industry and tried their best to give their readers at least a semblance of an alternative view on current affairs. While I put the term “truth” in quotations above, this is only to recognize that absolute “truth” is a difficult thing to find for any human being. This does not mean that existential philosophy is the end all and be all, rather it is to say that many of us—as unique human beings—have different perspectives on the world. This is to be expected from a humanist view point. Unfortunately, however, too many modern journalists have chosen to avoid even attempting to find “truth” in their reporting; rather, they have—it seems—chosen to focus on what can best be termed as nonsense.

While this blog is about football, there are certain times when I cannot help but point out absurdities in the modern world since, as a sociologist, I work with the words of C. Wright Mills in mind: It is the job of the Sociologist to point out absurdities in the world. And, indeed, the modern world throws out absurdities almost every day.

Most recently, I came across a piece in The Guardian with the headline “Hate body odour? You’re more likely to have rightwing views”. Now, clearly, this is absurd. So I dug further. Indeed, the article claims that, according to research published in the British journal Royal Society Open Science “People who have a greater tendency to turn their nose up at the whiff of urine, sweat and other body odours are more likely to have rightwing authoritarian attitudes”. The Guardian continues, claiming that “The team say the findings support the idea that a feeling of disgust might partly underpin social discrimination against others, with the link rooted in a primitive urge to avoid catching diseases from unfamiliar people or environments”. Indeed, according to the co-author of the research, Dr. Jonas Olofsson from Stockholm University and the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, “authoritarian attitudes might, at least in part, be rooted in biology”.

Now, the idea that one’s world view should be rooted in biology is very clearly a slippery slope; biological determinism is something that most sociologists—and indeed, I’d say most academics—should have given up long ago. Yet, clearly here, we see “research” which attempts to tie a concern for hygiene with “authoritarian” ideas. Unfortunately, however, the absurdity does not end here. Indeed, the Los Angeles Times chose to cite the same story with the headline “Disgusted by other people’s body odor? You might be more likely to support Donald Trump”. Again, this is absurd. Yet the main(lame)stream media will go to any length to attack Mr. Trump—and his supporters—even if it means demonizing people whose only concern is with basic human hygiene. After all, one of the first rules of being a decent citizen—of whatever country one may be a citizen of—is not making others uncomfortable as a result of your own body odor!

It is interesting that the main(lame)stream media chose to focus on this rather absurd piece of “research” rather than on a piece published by the (much) more reputable journal Political Psychology entitled “Finding the Loch Ness Monster: Left‐Wing Authoritarianism in the United States”. Given the agendas and narratives of the main(lame)stream media, it should not be surprising that they should ignore the presence of left-wing authoritarianism in the U.S. Yet it is also concerning, considering that the body odor “study” cited by The Guardian and the Los Angeles Times used the right-wing Authoritarianism scale which the authors of “Finding the Loch Ness Monster” criticize for not being accurately representative of “authoritarian” sentiment at all; rather—they argue—it reflects a particular conservative point of view which was prevalent in 1980s America. In short, it is a bogus scale used by bogus research to confirm a certain narrative.

What is most important to recognize is that The Guardian and the Los Angeles Times are not the most reliable of news sources, at least when it comes to doing their jobs. In fact, with less than a week to go before the FIFA World Cup, neither paper has reported (as of the time that this piece was published) on the fact that a Kenyan referee appointed to Football’s biggest tournament has resigned after it was revealed that he took bribes while officiating in Africa. While this kind of corruption threatens the integrity of the game most of the world loves, you won’t see it reported on by the lame(main)stream media.

 

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The Guardian Cannot Seem to Report on Real Issues . . . Image Courtesy of Google Search.

 

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. . . Even on their Sports Page, Even Though They Are The “Sport Website Of The Year”. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.theguardian.com/uk/sport

 

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Yet, Apparently, the LA Times Cannot Be Bothered Either. Misery Loves Company, I Suppose. Image Courtesy of Google Search.

 

A simple Google search of both The Guardian and the Los Angeles Times has no mention of this scandal (in fact, a search of The Guardian reveals an ironic headline from 2010 “Kenya leads way in ending blight of corruption in African football” instead). In a bid to follow the globalist narrative, both papers refuse to admit that the globalists from FIFA turn a blind eye to corruption nearly every day. And it has to make the reader pause for thought: Which is more important? Taking every possible route to criticize U.S. President Donald Trump and his supporters, or pointing out—and rooting out—corruption in both African and world football? Clearly, the reader should know—by now—what the most important thing is between these two choices. Let’s just hope that more people start to recognize that the main(lame)stream media are only interested in following their own narratives, while ignoring the well-being of the world we live in.

A Marginal Sociologist on How to Understand Media Bias and Combat Fake News: A Case Study of a World Cup Tweet

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Having studied a lot about media and society, I am keenly aware of media bias. Sadly, it is something that is all around us. Since the advent of mass media (which really kicked off with the television), Horkheimer and Adorno’s culture industry has become deeply intertwined with news media. In fact, recently, it has become more and more difficult to separate fact from fiction and—most alarmingly—news from entertainment. The French Sociologist Jean Baudrillard understood just how this new hyperreality works; as the boundaries between information and entertainment implode, news commentators “disguise culture industry hype as ‘facts’ and ‘information’ (Best and Kellner, 1991: 120). Given that this is the state of the world we all live in, it makes sense to pay a little bit of attention to how media bias operates, and how it can frame our opinions of even the most basic of topics and events (indeed, it is a topic I have written on before).

One way to better understand how media bias works is to pick a topic you are familiar with and also knowledgeable about (so just “Googling” this topic occasionally likely does not mean you are “knowledgeable”). Once you have your topic, then look at the ways in which varying news outlets report on—or view—the topic you chose. Ideally, since you will be very familiar with the topic at hand, you will be able to pick out bias and fake news from miles away.

In my case, the topic I chose for this short example is football and American politics, with the specific topic being U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent Tweet Regarding the “North American bid” (a joint bid between NAFTA(!) members Canada, Mexico, and the United States) to host the 2026 World Cup. This particular Tweet is interesting because 1) while Mr. Trump Tweets prolifically, it is not usually about football; and 2) because Mr. Trump’s Tweets themselves embody the blurring of the line between information and entertainment; indeed the responses from most media outlets seem to suggest that bashing Donald Trump has become a national sport (i.e., entertainment). Thus, the topic is perfect for a look at how media bias perpetuates itself, while preying on those who cannot be bothered to check things out for themselves.

 

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The Tweet in Question. Image Courtesy Of: https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

 

For this short example, I just used the first six websites to come up on a simple Google search with the term “donald trump fifa” [sic]. Because this is a quick look it is by no means “scientific”, but it is still instrumental in terms of showing just how media bias works in both blatant and more subtle ways. In fact, given Google’s tendency to filter out results it doesn’t like, this small search is likely even more representative of the “hyperreal” state of modern mass media.

 

The Search

The first thing that is clear is the fact that most of the headlines are nearly identical—if that does not imply media censorship, than I don’t know what does (Image courtesy of:. The second thing that is clear is that many of the outlets that reported on this event have a certain bias embedded in their interpretations. Below, I provide a brief discussion of each outlet’s presentation of the story, followed by my own judgement.

 

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The Search Results Look as if There is no Diversity in Thought! Image Courtesy Of: https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&ei=TmnlWs7SE4mYjwSiqKiIBQ&q=donald+trump+fifa&oq=donald+trump+fifa&gs_l=psy-ab.3..0l2j0i22i30k1l2.3155.5396.0.5632.11.11.0.0.0.0.165.1222.0j10.10.0….0…1c.1.64.psy-ab..1.10.1219…0i131i67k1j0i131k1j0i10k1.0.TPuv10s-Ibw)

 

CNN.com

Article by Sophie Tatum: (27 April 2018) “FIFA points to its ethics guidelines following Trump tweet”. The first thing to notice in this article, clearly, is the headline—it stresses “ethics”. The implication here is that, in some way, FIFA is standing up for ethics in the face of Mr. Trumps unethical Tweet. Within the article, however, there is no mention of FIFA’s own considerable corruption (Cite own work here). This inability to give the whole story makes me rate this item fairly neutral towards Mr. Trump with a pro-FIFA slant.

 

Huffington Post

Article by Mary Papenfus: (27 April 2018) “FIFA Cites Ethics Rules After Trump’s Threatening World Cup Tweet”. Here we again see the stress of “ethics” in the headline, along with an important value judgement as it calls Mr. Trump’s Tweet “threatening”. Like all news stories, this one also has filler; in this case it is background information on Trump’s travel ban and the “shithole” countries fiasco which all amounts to a bizarre conclusion by the author that there is a “perception that the U.S. is increasingly hostile to foreigners”. It even contains this gem of a sentence: “The U.S. won’t be playing in the World Cup competition in Russia this summer because its men’s team wasn’t strong enough to advance”, where the writer seems to take a dig at the “men’s team”; when radical feminism is at the point where we gloat at the failures of our nation’s athletes you know you are reading a biased—and far-left wing—piece. Only in the last sentence is there a mention of FIFA’s own past ethnical issues, contextualized by what the author sees as a “surprising” low for Mr. Trump, being “schooled” on ethics by FIFA. Overall this article is very slanted negatively towards Mr. Trump with a slight pro-FIFA slant.

 

Reuters

Article by Simon Evans: (26 April 2018) “FIFA points to ethics rules after Trump tweets threat to World Cup bid opponents”. Again there is a stress on “ethics” in this headline, along with an interpretation of Mr. Trump’s Tweet as “threatening”. Reuters then has a short paragraph referring to—but not detailing— FIFA’s having faced “repeated ethics questions over past bids to host the tournament”. Nowhere in this article do we see the kind of filler used by the Huffington Post. Overall, this makes Reuters’ piece about as neutral as we can get in this day and age.

 

Yahoo Sports

Article by Henry Bushnell (26 April 2018) “Dear President Trump, please never tweet about soccer again”. This article is the only one of the bunch to not use a similar headline as the others; indeed, it is phrased as a suggestion to Mr. Trump and implies the author’s view of President Trump from the outset. The second sentence sets the tone for the article: “Donald Trump tweeted about soccer on Thursday. And, in a wholly unsurprising development, he had no idea what he is talking about.” As the piece goes on, the author slams Mr. Trump for his threatening language and calls his Tweet “about the worst thing the president” could have done in terms of supporting the U.S. bid. Apparently, in the author’s mind, Mr. Trump has already hurt the bid simply because of his existence, noting that the U.S. is looking for votes from “207 people, or groups of people, whose fellow citizens don’t like the U.S. because they don’t like Trump”. In order to back up this “claim”, the author cites a Gallup poll which reveals that “the worldwide approval rating of U.S. leadership has dipped to 30 percent, the lowest recorded since the poll was first conducted over a decade ago”. Perhaps the author is an ardent imperialist—and is lamenting the fact that the U.S. is not “leading” the world”—or the author is simply un-informed; the “lowest” approval rate in “nearly a decade” is hardly an informative statistic as it doesn’t include, for instance, the Vietnam era (indeed, if this statistic is to be of any value, one might want to read it as a reflection not of Mr. Trump but of his predecessor, whose attempts at “king-making” were on full display around the world from Ukraine to Libya). In this article, like a few of the others, there is absolutely no mention of Fifa’s own ethnical questions and scandals. Because of this failure to present both sides, this article is highly biased, with a negative slant against Mr. Trump and a fairly favorable position on FIFA (which is praised, throughout the article, as a “democratic” group—after all, the author claims that “Germany’s vote counts for as much as Guam’s”).

 

ESPN.com

Article by ESPN Staff (27 April 2018) “FIFA points to ethics rules after Trump tweets support of World Cup bid”. As part of the main (lame)stream media, it is not perhaps surprising that ESPN’s article should be a little biased. Again, we see a similar headline to some of the other articles mentioned here, stressing “ethics”. In their filler section, ESPN refers to some of Donald Trump’s missteps, albeit in a much less abrasive manner than Huffington Post, noting that the vote between the U.S. and Morocco is closer than expected “due in part to Trump’s foreign policies — including a travel ban against mostly Arab countries — and rhetoric in describing poorer countries. Lingering resentment over the U.S. Department of Justice investigation into FIFA corruption has also hampered the U.S.-led bid’s effort to attract votes”. Indeed, the second sentence of this passage is the only one which mentions the FIFA corruption scandal.  Given ESPN’s inability to properly point out FIFA’s own questionable ethics, I must rate this story biased, with a negative slant against Mr. Trump and a slightly favorable to neutral slant towards FIFA.

 

The Hill.com

Article by Max Greenwood (27 April 2018) “FIFA refers to ethics rules after Trump tweets on US World Cup Bid”. Like other articles, this headline also focuses on FIFA’s “ethics”.  While this article also provides an interpretation of Mr. Trump’s Tweet—calling it a “veiled threat”—it is much less negative than many of the aforementioned articles. Additionally, The Hill’s filler has no mention of Trump’s travel ban or rhetoric regarding poorer countries, but does contain the lengthiest statement regarding FIFA’s own history of corruption: “FIFA has its own history of scandal. It is facing criminal investigations into the bidding process and allocation of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup tournaments in Russia and Qatar, respectively.” Given that this article spells out FIFA’s own history of corruption, I would say that this article is neutral, with a neutral to slightly negative presentation of Mr. Trump and a slightly negative to neutral slant towards FIFA.

 

So what does this exercise in media literacy teach us, in the end? I believe that it shows just how slanted the news media—and main(lame) stream media in the United States has become. Given that just two out of six of the aforementioned articles have any reference to FIFA’s own (in)famous scandals—while three of the six refer to irrelevant and non-football related topics like the “travel ban” and Mr. Trump’s “rhetoric regarding poorer countries”—it is clear that most media outlets have some sort of an agenda. They are looking to, depending on their perspective, further a certain narrative. In one case, it is that anything Mr. Trump does is inherently bad and has negative consequences for the United States; in order to further this narrative journalists tend to use filler to disparage the U.S. President. In another case, it is to further the idea that somehow FIFA—which itself is a major globalist entity—has a democratic ethos; in order to further this narrative, of course, media has to conveniently ignore the problematic aspects of FIFA’s past actions (a topic I have written about before).

It is important to recognize implicit media bias like this, because false reporting—or agenda-setting reporting—affects us all. Regardless of ones’ personal opinions about Donald Trump or his presidency, the general public would do well to recognize that biased reporting does nothing to emancipate human beings on a wider scale. In fact, it just serves to further imprison people into their own ideological cages. Given that many social media studies show that many people tend to get their news from social media—which itself tends to segregate people into camps based on political ideology—this means that many people do not look at 6, or even four, articles about the same news story. Instead, they tend to look at just one; often sent to them by a friend who thinks similarly. Imagine, for a moment, if the only piece about Trump’s World Cup Tweet that you read was the aforementioned Huffington Post piece? This would give you a very biased—and very incomplete—picture of the events. In fact, you might even believe that FIFA is some paragon of virtue—which is really the wrong take-away. This is why it is important to always do a thorough search of the news items on any topic so as to ensure that you are always striving to find a balanced portrayal of the events in question. This will help to create a more aware public and, hopefully, one less susceptible to manipulation by the mass media. Fake news is a very real problem, and the only solution to it can be found by using the human mind in a critical and discerning manner.

 

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Indeed, As Is the Case With So Many Globalist Entities, FIFA Pays Lip Service to the World While Making Off With Huge Profits. Image Courtesy Of: http://theconsul.org/2015/11/when-a-huge-corruption-takes-place-in-a-huge-nonprofit-organization-the-2015-fifa-corruption-scandal/

 

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Image Courtesy Of: https://www.cartoonmovement.com/cartoon/2668

 

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.indianlink.com.au/backup_old/fifa-corruption-affects-us-all/ 

 

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Image Courtesy Of: https://anticap.wordpress.com/tag/qatar/

FIFA Corruption: The Globalist Model for a Brave New “World Society”?

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I have written before about the theories regarding the U.S. government’s corruption case against FIFA, the governing body of world soccer. Although the U.S. attempt to clean up the game may have been positive, it is clear that there was also some geopolitical wrangling going on at the time.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama was not able to bring the World Cup to the United States because, ultimately, Qatar won the prize. Yet the fact that disgraced former FIFA President Sepp Blatter recently admitted to calling Mr. Obama before the final decision was made public suggests that there was more that a little politics involved in FIFA’s “choice” to award the world’s most prestigious tournament to Qatar, itself a country with very little footballing history.

One of the themes emerging from Mr. Blatter’s revelations is just how deep the corruption goes—both financially and, unfortunately, politically. Mr. Blatter might have seen it as a purely financial transaction, which is to be expected in the era of industrial football: “America is very good for us [. . .] The sponsors, the broadcasters, the fans. It would help football there after 1994, almost 30 years, and that is good for football.” Here Mr. Blatter is merely invoking the logic of industrial football. Yet, somewhere along the line, politics got in the way. According to ESPN’s story, the former corrupt leader of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, is “under investigation in his country for his part in the bid process. Blatter has previously alleged Sarkozy applied pressure on [UEFA President Michel] Platini to change his vote [on where the World Cup would go] in a meeting also attended by Qatar’s crown prince.” Why political leaders should get involved in a footballing decision is a question that all football fans should be asking.

As other media outlets have outlined, FIFA’s corruption is undeniable (here and here). It seems that, sometimes, the globalist logic is what runs world football: In a fake bid to create “multiculturalism” and “diversity”, world football has given the World Cup to an Arab country because it is “their turn”. For real football fans, however, the reality should be apparent: in order to line their pockets, many FIFA officials knew that they could take Qatar’s money while also looking like they were somehow contributing to the globalist zeitgeist of “multiculturalism” and the continual attempts at a global shift away from the “West’s” domination of the global culture industry. To put it bluntly, it is one of the most blatant marriages of football and politics in the history of the world—and on a global scale.

While the United States has wasted over 300 billion dollars in the Middle East between the end of WWII and 2010, it is clear that throwing money at the region solves nothing in terms of “bringing it in line” with the interests of global (and extreme) capitalism. It is also clear that Qatar is involved in their own attempts—perhaps sanctioned and even encouraged by the West, since Qatar is intimately tied to global financial flows—to achieve a regional hegemonic position in the Middle East. This has been most clearly evidenced by the country’s recent investments in Turkish sports and the political fall-out with regional powers like Saudi Arabia and Egypt (which have hitherto resisted the forces of extreme—Western style—capitalism). This is because the World Cup is an amazing coup for Qatar in terms of increasing their “soft-power” in the region while also cementing the country’s standing within the existing neoliberal order.

 

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Just Think About How Much of This Money Could Have Been Spent on Bettering the Lives of Both Americans And Middle Easterners? Perhaps Infrastructure Spending Vs. Meaningless Wars and Imperialism in the Name of Extreme Capitalism? Image Courtesy Of: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/19/us-aid-middle-east_n_3779275.html

 

Most importantly for football fans—and the average citizen all over the world—is that FIFA’s corruption shows clearly what a globalist regime in charge of the world would look like. This case highlights all of the dangers that a technocratic and bureaucratic ruling elite—on a global scale—would present to the world. This is because a globalist ruling class would:

 

  • Disguise corruption and increasing inequality as “equality”;
  • Further enrich the super-rich at the expense of the poor (Who is building Qatar’s stadiums?);
  • Inject itself into every aspect of our lives, controlling even our leisure time, a time that should be exempt from the concerns of economics and politics, in a crude attempt to regulate even our most basic human emotions, such as our support for sports.

 

Globalism (the ideology) and globalization (the process it supports) are both inherently corrupt and exploitative systems; it is up to us as citizens—of whatever country we live in—to hold our leaders accountable in order to resist it.

 

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Qatar’s Stadiums Under Construction. The Scene Reminds Me Of the Construction Workers in the Lego Movie (Itself a Criticism of Extreme Capitalism in the Modern World). Everything is Awesome (For Qatar, But Definitely Not For the Workers). Image Courtesy Of: http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/international/world-cup-2022-qatars-workers-slaves-building-mausoleums-stadiums-modern-slavery-kafala-a7980816.html

Media Literacy And Syria’s Improbable World Cup Dream

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I have written about media literacy in regards to Syria in the past, and a recent Daily Mail piece on the Syrian national football team’s World Cup hopes offers another chance to dissect media narratives. We know that Syria has been engulfed in a bloody civil war for half a decade. Yet, despite international opposition to the regime of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian “state” has not yet fully collapsed because there is still—on some small level—a modicum of national “identity” left in the battered nation-state. This tragic civil war shows the dangers of allowing division to triumph over dialogue, and a recent article regarding the Syrian national football team shows why alternative readings of modern media narratives are necessary to form independent positions of thought.

Journalist Ian Herbert of the Daily Mail wrote a piece on 30 September 2017 entitled “Syria are on the brink of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup… but will their team just be a propaganda tool for the murderous Assad regime?”. With all due respect to Mr. Herbert, I took from his article the opposite conclusion: It is possible that Syrian qualification for the World Cup would actually be a propaganda tool for FIFA instead? I came to this conclusion after a critical reading of the article, which I will share here.

In the article Mr. Herbert makes a few arguments that could lead the reader to an opposite conclusion, yet the title has already framed the issue at hand for readers; no independent analysis is necessary and the reader is made to believe that anything good that happens for Syria’s national football team is bad. That the headline should be one of the first signs of a biased media piece is not very surprising. In just the second and third sentences of this article, we are shown how evil the Assad regime is: “One of the national team’s goalkeepers was deemed an enemy of Bashar al-Assad’s regime and survived several assassination attempts. Another was jailed. A talented member of the nation’s Under 16 squad was killed by a bomb a few years ago”. An educated reader, of course, will already know that this is the case. It will not seem out of place; it fits with the headline.

 

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Just Who Stands To Gain From Syria’s Possible Qualification For The World Cup? Image Courtesy Of: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-4936834/Syria-brink-World-Cup-just-propaganda.html

 

In the fifth sentence, we see the shift: “Such is the backdrop to the most extraordinary of all the World Cup play-off ties: Syria‘s journey to the brink of qualification. Beat Australia over two legs, and Syria will have one final qualifier — possibly against the USA, of all countries — to earn a place in Russia”. Here are the seeds of a feel good story, one fit for a Hollywood movie. The team from the war-torn country, that the West is saving from a tyrannical leader, will face their liberators (here Australia and possibly the United States) in football and play for a right to go to the World Cup. What a narrative it is.

The article goes on to inform us that the seeds of the team’s performance were planted in the midst of the Assad regime a decade ago:

 

As the [Syrian national] side progressed deep into the qualification stages, the charismatic [coach Ayman] Hakeem has persuaded several of a golden generation developed in the past decade to put their abhorrence of Assad to one side and return to the international fold.

 

But before we get to thinking that there was actually a positive aspect to life under Assad, the author wakes us up:

 

They include veteran striker Firas al-Khatib, whose young cousin was killed in an attack on Homs, and Omar al-Somah, Syria’s most celebrated footballer due to his goal-scoring exploits with Saudi club Al Ahli – but this is by no means the fairy tale it seems. 

Assad’s regime is providing the team’s finances and seeking a propaganda coup. In the early stages of qualification, some of the team’s players wore shirts featuring an image of Assad at a pre-match press conference. 

Making it to Russia would create the impression of normality and order in his country. It would also give a headache to FIFA, who vehemently oppose political interference in football.

 

It is shocking that the writer makes the reader believe that Syria’s success would be a boon for the Syrian regime and not the West. As the author explains, there are few in Syria who do not want their country to win—and the piece ends with this quote from striker Firas al Khatib:

 

The people could do with some kind of enjoyment and happiness. The reason why I have come back into the team is very complicated but I can’t talk more about these things. Better for me, better for my country, better for my family, better for everybody if I not talk about that, but if we can win and go the finals it will lift the people. The people deserve that.

 

I do not think one could find anyone from a Western audience who, after reading the quote above, would not support the Syrian national team. It would be very, very difficult not too. And it should not come as a surprise to anyone that this particular quote was the one selected to close the piece. So why does the title of this piece conflict so much with its contents?

Perhaps it is because the author does not want to dwell on the fact that there might just be life beyond politics. Maybe it does not all have to be about politics, maybe we can—for once—celebrate Syrians being able to come together for the purpose of supporting their national football team. Or maybe it is because there are clearly some footballers—like apparently Firas al Khatib—who have some sense of national identity left that they care to spend their energies for their country’s team, since this would go against the anti-nationalism rhetoric of Western media outlets like the Daily Mail. Or maybe it is even because the truth hurts too much: the truth might just be that Syrian qualification for the World Cup will mean a propaganda coup not for Assad, but for FIFA. After all, FIFA has far more to gain from Syria’s qualification. It will mean a feel-good story about a country pulling itself together against all the odds, and those stories always sell. An emotional story about Syria will also help FIFA sell the World Cup and paint over the fact that they gave the 2018 World Cup to Russia (where stadiums are in trouble according to The Daily Mail) and the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a state sponsor of terrorism. In short, it seems like FIFA has much more to gain from Syrian qualification for the World Cup than Bashar al-Assad does.

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Russian Stadiums For the 2018 World Cup Are…Different. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-4947998/World-Cup-venue-Ekaterinburg-Arena-odd-new-stands.html

 

Who knows, with reporting like this, maybe the Russian football fans who branded the BBC “Blah Blah Channel” were right: mainstream media is too busy building narratives to actually report on anything in a non-biased objective way. Maybe it is because, in the age of 24 hour media available on the internet, journalists are no longer tied to their consumers. If no one pays for news anymore, then there is no longer a system of checks and balances. If journalists cannot be held accountable, then we–as the public–lose a valuable resource in the public sphere.
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Spartak Moscow Fans Voice Their Opinion. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/spartak-moscow-fans-brand-bbc-10056759

 

 

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

 

 

Football and Geopolitics: Behind the FIFA Scandal

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May 27 2015 will prove to be a day that lives in infamy—the day scandal rocked world soccer’s governing body, leaving 14 FIFA officials under arrest in Zurich, Switzerland. This is, of course, old news. I’ll try to make it interesting by putting the whole surreal event in a geopolitical context. Lets start with the basics. It was the United States Department of Justice that spearheaded the operation in a 164-page 47-count indictment. In some ways it felt like turning back the clock; the United States of America emerging from its isolation to ostensibly “save the world” by crossing the oceans as in World War One and World War Two. Of course, there were reasons for this particular move since parts of the scandal pertained directly to the United States of America; the Economist outlines them nicely. A video version for those averse to reading is available courtesy of CNN.

The United States has, since World War Two, controlled much of the world system indirectly through both formal and informal international organizations, befitting its hegemonic role. Financially it was initially through the Bretton Woods system, since then it has been the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. Politically control came first through Woodrow Wilson’s brainchild the League of Nations, now there is the New York headquartered United Nations. Culturally the United States has been able to influence the world to a great extent as well; first through Hollywood and music, now it is through technological advancements such as iPhones and iPods, Google, Facebook and Twitter that American culture is felt the world over.

The one sphere in which the United States has failed to make a global impact is, arguably, the world of sports. Indeed the results of a 2014 Harris poll, which has asked Americans aged 18 and older the simple question, “What is your favorite sport?” every year since 1985, tell us that Americans are very USA-centric when it comes to sport.

 

America’s Favorite Sports in 2014 (Courtesy of ESPN)

The National Football League (NFL)(Professional [American] Football): 35%

Major League Baseball (MLB) (Professional Baseball): 14%

College Football (NCAA): 11%

Auto Racing: 7%

National Basketball Association (Professional US Basketball): 6%

National Hockey League (Professional Hockey): 5%

College Basketball (NCAA): 3%

 

The top three vote getters—and more than half of the entire poll’s respondents and 60 percent—listed sports played almost entirely in the United States as their favorite sports. The next highest sport listed is Auto Racing. Although this is a global sport—think of Formula 1 and Rally cars—I personally believe that responders had NASCAR (Again, very American) in mind when answering this question. That leaves the NBA and the NHL—just 11 percent of all respondents called these two their favorite sports—as the only ostensibly international sports to make the list. I say ostensibly because although basketball is played all over the world—and the NBA has been making itself more international with each passing year—it is still a very different game than FIBA’s Euroleague, to name one. Hockey is international in the sense that the NHL has 7 Canadian teams (alongside 23 American teams), but I’m sure very few responders cited in this poll had ever watched a game from Russia’s KHL. Hockey also has a fairly small fan base, limited to those living in northern climates along a belt stretching from Vancouver to the steppes of Central Asia and going only as far south as, perhaps, Zurich, along that belt outside of the United States.

Soccer is certainly the one place in world sport—and world culture, for that matter—that the rest of the world has a chance to best the United States. And it is this chance for “the rest to beat the best of the West”—the battle between the global South and global North played out on the pitch—that gives international football, and the World Cup in particular, its unparalleled allure. The recently departed Eduardo Galeano’s masterpiece Soccer in Sun and Shadow explains the phenomenon well without explicitly saying it (and therein lies the book’s genius, at least for me). So why did the United States focus its power on FIFA, what I explained in my thesis was arguably the first international organization and the globe’s first foray into global civil society, when the US isn’t even interested in the sport? The answer may lie in the organization’s history. FIFA was founded in 1904 in the midst of a different era, the era of empires when the hegemonic power base was located in colonialist Europe and old world territorial powers such as the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Russian Empire, and Ottoman Empire were in decline. Fledgling nations rushed to achieve FIFA membership in order to affirm their independence—to states such as Lebanon, Syria, and others, emerging from the ashes of empires that had long controlled them as dusty peripheral provinces from lavish imperial palaces in far-off capitals, FIFA Membership was what NATO membership now means to Georgia, what European Union membership now means to Ukraine and Serbia. Membership to FIFA was a bold statement to the world: We Have Arrived! And this feeling has not gone away. Today there are 209 members in FIFA. Compare that to the 193 official member states of the United Nations. Look at Palestine’s attempts to push Israel out of FIFA if you don’t believe that FIFA membership can provide succor to those unable to get a seat at the United Nations at which to air their grievances. Perhaps the United States moved to strike a blow at an international institution that had strayed from its original goal of bringing together nations in fair play for everyone’s benefit; it was not founded to line the pockets of a few corrupt officials after all. So, like the American interventions in both World Wars, this can be looked at as another benign intervention by the world’s superpower in order to save the (sporting) world from itself. But there are other theories as well.

As many know, the nexus of the FIFA scandal lies in the bribes received by officials in return for, among other things, votes in choosing World Cup hosts. The hosts of the next two World Cups—as chosen by the aforementioned officials—are Russia (in 2018) and Qatar (in 2022). Both of these countries have something else in common—they are, on some scale, geopolitical rivals of the United States. And both won the right to host their respective World Cups over the United States’ interests; chief US ally England lost out to Russia in 2018 and Qatar beat out the United States’ own bid for 2022. Clearly, the United States could not sit idly by when the chance at winning a considerable amount of soft power influence in the world for themselves and their ally went by the way side. Russia has long been a geopolitical rival to the United States; Qatar is using the confusing situation in the Middle East to cement their role as a regional power in a region key to the United States’ foreign policy interests and hope that hosting a major sporting event such as the World Cup can add to their influence in the region. South African Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula represents another voice from the global South who criticized the U.S. move by mentioning the U.S./British alliance, saying that it is “for the United States and Britain to fight their own battles: ‘We have fought colonialism and defeated it and we still fight imperialism and we will fight it whenever it manifests itself.’

With the stakes this high, the United States’ move may still pay off. Although FIFA insists that there will be no re-vote for either the 2018 or 2022 World Cups, signs are showing that nothing is certain. Human rights groups have called on Qatar to publish the death figures for workers building stadiums for the tournament and it is estimated that 1200 migrant workers have died in the construction since 2014. Long-time FIFA president Sepp Blatter—who was reelected days ago despite the scandal—resigned on June 2 from his position at the head of Soccer’s governing body. These events—along with UEFA president Michel Platini’s long standing issue with the 2022 World Cup’s potential to affect the European football season—signal to me that a re-consideration may be on the cards.

In such a globalized world—where the World Cup has become bigger than ever—it is only fitting for the world’s sole superpower, the United States, to take a leading role. And in this increasingly interconnected world it is equally fitting that geopolitics is intimately linked with cultural and sporting events.

I find it refreshing that some action has been taken against corruption in world football. But there is still more to be done—the Economist warns that the endemic corruption in sports goes beyond just Sepp Blatter because “sports corruption is a reflection of wider problems—sport merely being an organism to which criminal succubi attach themselves—it is too formidable for sporting organisations to tackle alone.” For the sake of the game we all love let’s hope the United States’ intervention keeps the game from turning into a vehicle to make the rich richer. In David Goldblatt’s words, “the entire football industry has traded on the notion that the game really is the most global cultural practice in the world, a rare form of universalism on a divided planet. That, if nothing else, is worth salvaging from the wreckage.” I can only agree.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://pulse.ng/sports/football/sepp-blatter-resignation-sepp-blatter-resignation-the-football-world-reacts-id3822195.html

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