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Commentary Over Los Angeles’s Election Bid Focuses on Concerns Over U.S. Elections But Misses Intersection of Sports, Race, Politics, and Money

Comments Off on Commentary Over Los Angeles’s Election Bid Focuses on Concerns Over U.S. Elections But Misses Intersection of Sports, Race, Politics, and Money

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Image Courtesy Of: https://www.olympic.org/news/ioc-sanctions-16-athletes-for-failing-anti-doping-tests-at-beijing-2008

The recent presidential election in the United States has sparked some very interesting fears. The most common one is a feeling of danger; “I don’t feel safe” is a term that is often repeated, characteristic of a country that sometimes needs something to happen just to relieve the monotony of extreme capitalism: Work-Eat-Shop-Eat-Sleep-Repeat. In order to assuage some of the international concerns over Donald Trump’s election the U.S. Olympic Committee has made some interesting claims that highlight some of the major concerns.

The delegation for Los Angeles’ bid to host the 2024 made their first presentation to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), an organization (like FIFA) that is “representative of a corrupt global power structure” in the words of Forbes. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti made one of the strangest comments  I have ever heard uttered about the U.S. in August when he claimed that if Mr. Trump won IOC members would say, “Wait a second, can we go to a country like that, where we’ve heard things that we take offense to?” In many ways, the words “a country like that” mirrors the rhetoric that some Americans use when describing “other” countries: “I heard it’s really bad there”. Behind this over-the-top rhetoric, of course, there lies a relationship between sports and politics. As Bloomberg notes, Mr. Garcetti was a supporter of Mr. Trump’s rival Hillary Clinton and the LA bid’s chairman Casey Wasserman not only donated “millions to the Clinton Foundation through his charitable organization” but he also held a fundraiser for Ms. Clinton at his home.

Alex Reimer, writing for Forbes, believes that Mr. Trump could be an “ardent critic” of the Olympics coming to the United States due to this corruption:

Trump fixated on the pay-for-play accusations surrounding Clinton’s time in the State Department. But perhaps nothing represents the culture of patronage more than the Olympic bidding process. The 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, for example, were ripe with scandal. Members of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee bribed certain IOC members, paying for luxuries such as family vacations, plastic surgery and Super Bowl tickets. Several IOC officials also walked away with cash bribes between $3 million and $7 million.

Corruption is endemic when sports and (big) money converge, but unfortunately state media in the United States miss the point (as they so often do, perhaps intentionally). ABC news highlighted the words of the bid’s key speaker Allyson Felix who emphasized that “America’s diversity is our greatest strength”. Ms. Felix added “We’re also a nation with individuals like me, descendants of people who came to America, not of their own free will but against it. But we’re not a nation that clings to our past, no matter how glorious – or how painful. Americans rush toward the future”. While Ms. Felix’s words regarding America are re-assuring, unfortunately they do not really reflect reality. In many cases, in fact, the United States does “cling to its past”.

Americans’ obsession with race stems directly from an inability to come to terms with the fact that slavery was an essential component of early America’s industrial development. One example of this inability to come to terms with the fact came when students and faculty at the University of Virginia were “offended” when the president of the University quoted the school’s founder Thomas Jefferson in an email to the student body. In a typically American response, Assistant Professor of Psychology Noelle Hurd drafted an open letter saying “We are incredibly disappointed in the use of Thomas Jefferson as a moral compass. Thomas Jefferson owned hundreds of slaves”. Apparently Ms. Hurd—despite being able to successfully obtain a PhD—never learned to think critically during her education and is evidently unaware of what the social structure was during Thomas Jefferson’s time. No one can ever say that it was a good or a just system, but to judge people from 200 years ago on the standards of today is fairly absurd. The president of the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education went so far as to call for all schools named after slave owners to be re-named. In particular, he asked that George Washington high school be renamed as Maya Angelou high school.

Of course this is a slippery slope. Names are powerful, and Turkey’s renaming of stadiums is part of a similar process of rewriting the national narrative. In this case, however, it is indicative of America’s obsession with the past: There is a lot of guilt but very little improvement. Instead of actually trying to better the lives of African Americans in the country, the Democratic party (which most African Americans vote for) has only entrenched them in a form of political slavery by taking their votes for granted and giving them little in return in terms of tangible improvements in quality of life. After all, if their economic situation improved then they would have little reason to vote for a party that runs campaigns based on improving their lives. The party therefore has little interest in improving anything since it would mean lost votes.  African Americans in the United States deserve to have better lives and more opportunities; renaming schools for famous African Americans is just a pathetic attempt to pander without providing real improvement. This means that the exploitation of a long suffering group of Americans continues on.

The delegation for LA’s Olympic bid is also complicit in this system. While I wish that the United States could, as Ms. Felix says, “rush towards the future”, her very presence in the delegation as an African American athlete is indicative of these flawed policies. If LA succeeds in winning the bid, the beneficiaries in the (corrupt) system will likely be mostly White, even if the key speaker is not. It is just another job of window dressing that fails to address the root causes of African Americans’ marginalization in U.S. society and fails to offer real avenues for improving the situation. Remember the last Olympic games held in the United States. After the 1996 Olympics, held in the largely African American city of Atlanta, Georgia, it was the same: the poorest communities did not benefit at all from the development boom surrounding the games.

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Will the U.S.–and Los Angeles–Rush Towards the Future? Image Courtesy Of: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Angeles_bid_for_the_2024_Summer_Olympics

A Marginal Sociologist’s Take On America II: U.S. Election Reveals Parallels Between the United States and Turkey

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As protestors continue to struggle to come to terms with Donald Trump’s election victory, I can only chuckle. Its almost as if these people, mostly millennials it seems, have read about the romantic notions of “revolution” and “people power” in other countries that they want to have their own similar moment in the sun, snapping selfies while they are at it. Of course, since they live in the sanitized world of the United States—and not, say, somewhere like Turkey—it is all “safe”. No one will be shot, no one will become a political prisoner. It will just be another social media topic of the day.

Some on the left have begun to provide reasons for why Mr. Trump’s improbable victory happened. One article published in state media’s Washington Post says that “This [election] is an indictment of the monolithic, insulated political culture in the vast majority our colleges and universities.” As someone who has spent a lot of time in higher education in the United States, I would have to agree. Colleges and universities tend to show only one way of looking at things, which is unfortunate because ideally education should be about a “broadening” of the mind—not a “narrowing” of the mind in one direction. Of course, by “narrowing” the mind of college-educated people it ensures that a vast swathe of the population will think in a certain way; that is a very useful thing for the power elite when it comes to engineering elections since it virtually assures that a vast segment of the electorate will vote along a certain party line.

One admittedly humorous piece that also appeared in the Washington Post was written by the famous Garrison Keillor. Some of his better lines bear repeating below (complete with bolding!):

The Trumpers never expected their guy to actually win the thing, and that’s their problem now. They wanted only to whoop and yell, boo at the H-word, wear profane T-shirts, maybe grab a crotch or two, jump in the RV with a couple of six-packs and go out and shoot some spotted owls. It was pleasure enough for them just to know that they were driving us wild with dismay — by “us,” I mean librarians, children’s authors, yoga practitioners, Unitarians, bird-watchers, people who make their own pasta, opera-goers, the grammar police, people who keep books on their shelves, that bunch.

We liberal elitists are now completely in the clear. The government is in Republican hands. Let them deal with him. Democrats can spend four years raising heirloom tomatoes, meditating, reading Jane Austen, traveling around the country, tasting artisan beers, and let the Republicans build the wall and carry on the trade war with China and deport the undocumented and deal with opioids, and we Democrats can go for a long, brisk walk and smell the roses.

I like Republicans. I used to spend Sunday afternoons with a bunch of them, drinking Scotch and soda and trying to care about NFL football. [Author’s Note: Liking sports is not a bad thing] It was fun. I tried to think like them. (Life is what you make it. People are people. When the going gets tough, tough noogies.) But I came back to liberal elitism.

Clearly, these are some very humorous passages. According to them, many supporters of Mr. Trump will be “grab[bing] a crotch or two” before jumping into RVs with six-packs while supporters of Ms. Clinton—who can count among themselves “people who make their own pasta” and “people who keep books on their shelves”— will spend the next four years “reading Jane Austen” and “tasting artisan beers”. I honestly hope that people can do these pleasant things—but they would first need to finish their cry-ins before enjoying said beers and Jane Austen. [Author’s Note: This is the second time in history that “Jane Austen” has been mentioned in the same breath as “artisan beer”; the first time was in Mr. Keillor’s piece cited above. Enjoy it].

As someone who tries to take as close to a neutral stance as possible—but who has no love lost for Ms. Clinton due to her involvement in meddling with Turkish affairs and wider Middle Eastern affairs—I can assure readers that I do not want to grab even one crotch, let alone two, and that I actually do have (too)many books on my shelves. On the other hand, I also don’t make my own pasta (it’s a lot of work, instead I buy Barilla at Publix when it’s on sale) and I don’t care much for Jane Austen (I’m more a James Salter and Hemingway man). And artisan beer? No thanks, I like to sip Grant’s. All jokes aside, the problem with Mr. Keillor’s kind of perspective (as sarcastically exaggerated as I hope it is supposed to be) is that it is just so divisive. Of course, since division serves the power elite, it is understandable why these things get published (in state media, no less). This kind of division, however, is not good for American politics in the real (as in for the people—not the elite) sense.

Hemingway, Salter, and Grant’s. In The Current Environment I’m Sure A Few People Might Interpret This Trifecta As Being Too “Masculine”…But It’s Just What I Like. (Top Left; Image Courtesy Of: https://67.media.tumblr.com/05e5e37167c5232e40478e5218c73a58/tumblr_njuau20lKS1qmmlfco1_500.jpg. Top Right; Image Courtesy Of: http://www.historynet.com/online-extra-james-salter-gallery.htm. Bottom; Image Courtesy Of: http://www.brayleino.co.uk/ImageGen.ashx?image=/media/1109/grants-whiskey-find-your-past-campaign.jpg)

In Turkey similar things happened. The supporters of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) that ruled Turkey for so long were viewed as elitists—intellectuals sipping wine on the shores of the Turkish Riviera, never taking any interest in things beyond the capital of Ankara. Many had never been past central Anatolia, and never visited the struggling Kurdish areas of the southeast. This elitism caught up to them in 2002, when the (now) ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power, led by the uneducated former footballer Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Fourteen years later, the AKP is still in power and the (now) opposition CHP supporters are still seen as the same old elitists. They’re still sipping wine—albeit at much higher prices—and they still haven’t gone past Ankara (for the most part). If you really want to be a party that represents your people and your country, you just cannot be an elitist. Some people are lucky enough to afford an education—and others are not so lucky. Just because you are one of the lucky ones does not mean you can look down on those who have not been so lucky. Instead, do your best to try and understand where they are coming from, instead of denigrating them as “racist”, “sexist”, “ignorant”, or “bigoted”. I have seen how such misconceptions led Turkey down a very bad road.

A second similarity this election has pointed out is the prevalence of the “deep state” in both countries. Given that they are taking election results so seriously, clearly the millennials currently protesting in the streets are too young to know what it is and Mr. Keillor might be too blind to know what it is. But I digress. In both the United States and Turkey (Derin Devlet) there is a “deep state”. In the United States, it is a nexus of Wall Street, the intelligence community, and the military-industrial complex. It means that public policy is controlled behind the scenes by unelected interest groups; regardless of the political party in power the status quo continues unabated, essentially. This is related to the concept of sociologist C. Wright Mills’ “Power Elite” that I have mentioned before, and it is no coincidence that it came to the fore post-WWII (when most of the U.S. intelligence community was formed). As this video from the Rutherford Institute mentions, when JFK expressed a desire to end the secrecy in government…well, we know the rest, don’t we? It remains to be see if Mr. Trump’s election is a true populist movement challenging the status quo, or if it falls by the wayside.

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JFK and Dulles. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.salon.com/2015/10/15/every_president_has_been_manipulated_national_security_officials_david_talbot_investigates_americas_deep_state/

One positive result from this election has come regarding Turkey however. It has come out that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan looked to expand his influence in U.S. politics through donations to the Democratic party and now this might finally be recognized. An advisor to Mr. Trump, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn (ret.), came out and said what current President Barack Obama and Ms. Clinton have consistently failed to say as Turkey spirals further out of control—that Turkey is a U.S. ally that needs support. Lt. General Flynn compares the alleged mastermind of the attempted coup of July 15, Fethullah Gulen, to Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini and Osama Bin Ladin. This is refreshing to hear, given that Ms. Clinton received donations from Mr. Gulen. Hopefully statements like these portend an end to some of the disastrous meddling in the Middle East that many American administrations, Obama’s included, have engaged in—and that Ms. Clinton openly planned to continue.

A Marginal Sociologist’s Take On America: Burning New Balance Shoes and American Flags—“Third World” Solutions to First World Problems

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It seemed that things couldn’t get more ridiculous in the United States. But they do. I was told today at the University that “the era of free speech in the United States is over”. It seemed odd to me, given that the candidate with the most inflammatory rhetoric among the two—Donald Trump—actually won the election. But then I saw that after the sportswear brand New Balance said “The Obama admin turned a deaf ear to us & frankly w/ Pres-Elect Trump we feel things are going to move in the right direction” they were absolutely savaged. New Balance is an American sportswear brand based in New England that recently entered the football shirt market, manufacturing kits for Liverpool, Porto, and Sevilla among others. In a response to the savaging, the company released a statement:

“As the only major company that still makes athletic shoes in the United States, New Balance has a unique perspective on trade in that we want to make more shoes in the United States, not less. New Balance publicly supported the trade positions of Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump prior to election day that focused on American manufacturing job creation and we continue to support them today. We believe in community. We believe in humanity. From the people who make our shoes to the people who wear them, we believe in acting with the utmost integrity and we welcome all walks of life. Since 1906, we have carved our own path in being passionately committed to making things at our five factories in New England, even when nobody else did. New Balance and our thousands of employees around the world constantly strive to better our local communities. We always have and we always will.”

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Liverpool’s New Balance Kits, Complete With Inspirational Message. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.soccer.com/guide/ynwa-liverpool-new-balance-launch-first-home-jersey-together/

The company’s response seems fairly normal; they would like to make as many of their products in the United States as they can. And that really isn’t discriminatory. Contrast their statement with Nike’s, another major sportswear manufacturer that is very active in the football shirt world.

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Of Course Nike Supports the TPP–It Means More Money, After All. Image Courtesy Of: https://twitter.com/germanotes/status/796440633175113732

Nike’s support of the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade agreement (that Trump criticizes) may seem well and good for supporters of neo-liberal policies, but it also means there could be more—not less—exploitation. Remember the days of child laborers making Nike’s footballs?  We used to have critical discourse like this:

Only a boycott by the United States and other nations will have any impact on slavery and child-based industries. Futhermore [sic] the U.S constitution states that child labor is an illegal and inhumane practice and any U.S. company found guilty practicing and encouraging it will be prosecuted. GATT and WTO prohibits member nations, like the United States, from discriminating against the importation of goods made by children. Are dolphins becoming more important than children?

As recently as 2012 we saw outrage at Nike’s use of child labor in the making of their products. Yet now we see people protesting because another U.S. sportswear company, New Balance, is asking to return jobs to the United States, away from the exploitative practices born out of outsourcing production.

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But What If the Shoe Was On the Other (Western) Foot? Image Courtesy Of: http://www1.american.edu/ted/nike.htm

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A Pakistani Child Makes Footballs and Lives In Poverty So the Rich in Paris Can Play With a Paris St. Germain Ball. Please Tell Me Again How Global Free Trade Benefits Everyone Equally? Masking These Global Inequalities By Pretending to Address Local Inequalities Is What Has Driven–Not Resisted–The Rise of Extreme Capitalism in the West and Global North. Images Courtesy Of: https://globalpeaceandconflict.wordpress.com/2012/02/23/nike-and-modern-day-slavery/

What I suspect to be millenials in the United States have actually taken to burning—or throwing away—their New Balance shoes because the company dared recognize that outsourcing production hurts both Americans in the global north and others in the global south equally. It is a nod to a slightly more humane capitalism as opposed to extreme capitalism. But I guess the millenials are too young to remember the days when the American left protested Nike’s sponsorship of many universities due to their exploitative practices in the name of profits; when I was in college from 2004-2008 I saw it myself in Boulder. What is worse, however, is that this kind of behavior is reflective of the conceited superiority that many in the United States have when it comes to global issues. These people believe that their moral superiority allows them to burn or throw away their perfectly good shoes. Do they not realize that they are lucky to even have shoes—let alone quality ones like New Balance—when so much of the world goes without even these small luxuries? It is the epitome of a “First World Problem” when rich Americans—who can afford another pair of shoes—burn their own to send some sort of political “message”.

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Please Note the Ridiculousness of These Images. It Is One Thing to Take a Picture of a Lit Lighter Hovering Above Your 90 USD Shoes…It Is A Whole Other Thing to Actually Burn Them. Even If they Did Not Follow Through (I Doubt They Could) The Sentiment of Privilege is Still Stomach Turning. Images Courtesy Of: http://ftw.usatoday.com/2016/11/donald-trump-new-balance-burning-shoes-tpp

These actions are part of a wider trend where the supporters of Hillary Clinton, the ostensibly “liberal” candidate, are violently protesting the election results that didn’t go their way after believing that Mr. Trump’s supporters would be the ones to engage in such un-democratic actions. (This is why I use the term “third world solutions” in the title of this article. I do not aim to insult; rather, I try to point out that violent protests—including tear gas and wounded police—are generally not associated with the transfer of power in democratic American society). The irony, as I have noted before, is palpable. Indeed, it was a Latina supporter of Ms. Clinton who threatened escalated violence saying “people have to die to make a change in this world” while the portended crash of markets failed to materialize. Maybe this is why Trump backer Rudy Giuliani has called the protesters “a bunch of spoiled crybabies.”

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According to Ms. Clinton the Trump Supporters Were “Baskets of Deplorables” But I Don’t Know How Anyone Can Condone These Scenes. Images Courtesy Of: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/trump-win-sparks-riots-across-9225317

Unfortunately, in a bid to create more division state media (this time NBC) has turned to reporting about attacks on Muslim women, tying it into Trump’s victory. It is obvious that such actions are unacceptable; it is obvious that these attacks are carried out by fringe elements but—for some reason—they are used to distract people from the real issues of violent protests. It is also striking that the ostensibly “liberal” side has extended the attacks on free speech to … Muslims, of all people. The physical attacks come from the far “right”, the psychological from the far “left”.

Asra Q. Nomani, a “a former Wall Street Journal reporter and a co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement” wrote a useful piece on the opinion pages of state media’s (!) Washington Post. In it, she explains why she—a female Muslim (two strikes against her in this election) voted for Mr. Trump. Like a post-ideological voter, she supports the “Democratic Party’s position on abortion, same-sex marriage and climate change” but she cannot afford Obamacare, and she “as a liberal Muslim who has experienced, first-hand, Islamic extremism in this world, [is] opposed to the decision by President Obama and the Democratic Party to tap dance around the ‘Islam’ in Islamic State”. In the end, she offers a reasonable explanation for why she voted for Mr. Trump:

The revelations of multimillion-dollar donations to the Clinton Foundation from Qatar and Saudi Arabia killed my support for Clinton. Yes, I want equal pay. No, I reject Trump’s “locker room” banter, the idea of a “wall” between the United States and Mexico and a plan to “ban” Muslims. But I trust the United States and don’t buy the political hyperbole — agenda-driven identity politics of its own — that demonized Trump and his supporters.

She takes some things from Mr. Trump that she likes and leaves others she does not like—it’s what a voter in any democratic society should strive to do. Unfortunately, she—like New Balance—was also savaged in an era where free speech is, apparently, no longer valued. It’s almost as if free speech is good if it’s what people want to hear but isn’t if it is something they do not want to hear. It’s like the American outlook on foreign policy and democratic regimes; some–those who follow the U.S. line, are “good” democracies (like Saudi Arabia” while others who do not (like Syria) are “bad” democracies…even though neither is–or was–ever a democracy.

Some of the language used to demean Ms. Nomani is, quite honestly, horrific. Dare I say (to use a word I detest) “offensive”. And it is certainly not befitting of people who cried because their candidate lost an election. Just look at a few of the screenshots below, taken from state media’s New York Times:

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The language is startling, from insulting Ms. Nomani’s intelligence: “puts moron into oxymoron” to public shaming: “shame on you” to downright hate: “go fuck herself” and “self-hating sellout”. Third Wave feminists would cringe at this kind of language and it is really not befitting of any “left” leaning party in history, supporting my theory that we may be watching a sea change in U.S. Politics, something that many of the old “left” have not yet noticed.

Amid the chaos it was refreshing to see that at least Forbes published one piece designed to cool people down; the fact that it was written by a graduate student and not either a career journalist beholden to his career or a Professor waiting on tenure is in itself telling; it allows for a (maybe) independent voice. Carlo Jose Vicente Caro rightly explains—in clear prose—what he thinks is necessary:

People need to both support and pressure Donald J. Trump to be an inclusive president. If he faults, then you protest. You do not need Bernie Sanders in order to create a political revolution. And he was right about that. Democracy is about being active and putting your leaders in check. You won’t be able to put them in check if they do not feel pressured.

As Mr. Caro reminds readers, “one thing was certain and that is that we will not see Hillary’s dangerous foreign policies again,” and it is a relief to see Mr. Caro’s words appear in a wide-reaching publication like Forbes:

the loss of Hillary Clinton means fewer weapons, training and finances to the allies of al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. Many of the groups that are being aided under the Obama administration and which were supported when Clinton was Secretary of State have cooperated tactically with Jabhat al Nusra (I refuse to call it by its “new name”) and many have salafi ideologies akin to ISIS or al-Qaeda’s affiliate. These groups would have continued to receive support under a Clinton presidency, thereby making the threat of terrorism bigger for the entire world. Since the Soviet invasion to Afghanistan, the establishment in Washington D.C has failed to understand that it does not make sense to create an “ISIS” in order to defeat another ISIS. So believe it or not, the world (at least in terms of terrorism) will be a safer place with Trump in the White House.

As I have argued, a Trump presidency may (I emphasize it) mean “that the U.S will stop engaging in overthrowing dictators (Bashar al Assad was on Hillary Clinton’s list)” and “that the U.S will worry more about its hemispheric security rather than entangling themselves longer in conflicts that cost trillions of dollars in remote regions, and which are far worse than ever before”. This is part of the “Empire Endgame” thesis I outlined in my previous post; if President Donald Trump’s ideas are to be taken at face value it suggests that the United States will finally try to distance itself from the military-industrial complex that has led it into far too many wars in far too many far-away places that have only resulted in lost lives both in the United States as well as in the global south. I just hope that people can spare more time reading writing like mine and Mr. Caro’s in order to get a broader perspective instead of spending time crying, burning flags and New Balances, or engaging in social media shaming. This isn’t all about YOU, its about YOUR COUNTRY and the WORLD.

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A Piece Of Banal Nationalism, In Response To the Aforementioned Flag Burners Above. Image Courtesy Of: http://aflags.blogspot.com/2012/06/american-flag.html

Donald Trump Wins: The Culture Wars In U.S. Politics Represent A Changing World

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The most bizarre election in American history has come and passed, and the victor—in what apparently has come as a surprise to many—was none other than the much maligned Donald Trump. Evidently, many did not learn from the lesson of last summer’s Brexit. But what is it that allowed Mr. Trump to succeed against the odds? As I wrote a few days ago, it is related to a global backlash against neo-liberal economics and a larger reverse within American politics; the left became the right while the right became the left. In becoming the new “right”, the old “left” represented by the Democratic party enlisted the help of many famous personalities. Counter-intuitively, this focus on fame actually is one reason for the backlash that manifested itself in what might be a revolutionary change in American politics. To understand its implications, it is useful to use some cultural metaphors—sports, after all, is a form of culture.

While many in the U.S. may be angry, it is refreshing that American voters finally saw through the racial barriers of American politics. It was clear that the presidency of Barack Obama did little to help black lives in the United States and that a change was in order; arguably, this election can be considered “progressive” (not in the liberal sense) if only for breaking the “political slavery” inherent in the American political system. The map of America is quite red at the moment which reveals the ills of American democracy.

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Lots More Red Than Blue. Image Courtesy of the Author, From Fox News’ Election Night Telecast).

Vast areas of the country are red, while small pockets—generally corresponding to urban areas—are blue; this corresponds to an unhealthy (and ultimately) undemocratic relationship between rich urban whites and poor urban minorities (mainly black and latino/latina). This purely exploitative relationship is something that needed to be stopped, at least in the context of democratic society, since it basically ensures that one political party (in this case, the Democrats) had an interest in keeping “minority” groups in a low socio-economic state since that meant they would keep providing votes. If the platform is based on “improving conditions”, but no improvement ever comes even though the media narrative keeps saying it will, then votes will continually get exploited. This kind of toxic alliance between rich, establishment whites and poor minorities—formed against poor and middle class whites—has shown its weakness. For some statistical maps on this racial divide can be seen at BBC (http://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2016-37889032 and USA Today (http://college.usatoday.com/2016/11/09/how-we-voted-by-age-education-race-and-sexual-orientation/ .

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In Both Pennsylvania (Above) and Florida (Below) We See That it is Major Urban Areas Voting One Way and Rural Areas Voting Another Way. Images Courtesy of: http://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2016-37889032

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The Racial and Education Breakdown Are Also Interesting. We Can See How Democrats Have a Solid Base Among Minorities (Bottom), While We Also See that Education Has Opposite Effects; Whites Are More Likely to Vote Democrat With a College Degree While non-Whites are Slightly Less Likely to Vote Democrat With a College Degree (Top). Images Courtesy Of: http://college.usatoday.com/2016/11/09/how-we-voted-by-age-education-race-and-sexual-orientation/

As someone who grew up in New England, I might have also been shocked at the result. As one TV pundit implied, maybe it is because they lived in New York and LA that they dismissed this outcome as a possibility. It is probably true—and thankfully I did NOT live in New England my whole life. I thank my parents for allowing me to pursue my undergraduate education at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and I thank the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Florida for allowing me the chance to pursue post-graduate education. In the course of living in these distinct areas of the U.S.—the North, the (deep) South, the West, the Southwest—I have come to realize that not everyone is wealthy. Not everyone has equal opportunity. And (perhaps most importantly) not everyone is divided in terms of race; in fact many times class interests can trump (pardon the pun) racial issues.

Poor urban blacks and poor rural whites are not as different as politics tell you they are, and sports provides an example of it. Rapper Biggie Smalls (Notorious B.I.G) tells the story in “Things Done Changed” , rapping:

If I wasn’t in the rap game

I’d probably have a key knee deep in the crack game

Because the streets is a short stop

Either you’re slingin crack rock or you got a wicked jumpshot

Shit, it’s hard being young from the slums

Biggie makes the connection between sports and poverty; for him the only way out of the ghetto and poverty for urban blacks is music, drug dealing, or sports (in this case, basketball). For poor rural whites, it is no different. For former Boston Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz, baseball was his only way out of Texas. In other parts of rural America it is football that provides a possible escape as country music artist Aaron Watson sings; the hope was to get “across the county line” and football was one way to get across it.

In the blink of an eye high school flew by

You went your way and I went mine

But we swore we’d make it,

Our love could take it

Four hundred miles could stand the test of time

Well I left that fall to play college ball,

But my dreams would all come to an end

‘Cause you know the big leagues never called,

And you went and fell in love with him

We sure saw a lot of miles,

Never even crossed that county line

I would’ve bet the farm, given my right arm

So you’d always be mine

Did we crash and burn or make a wrong turn

Or run out of gasoline?

I lost you around 3rd gear and 17

In Turkey too there is a saying that became popular during the 1990s, an era of increasing materialism in society as Turkey enthusiastically joined the neo-liberal world order following an economic opening in the late 1980s under Prime Minister Turgut Ozal. It is bu devirde ya topçu ya popçu olacaksın, or “these days you got to be either a pop star or a [football] player”. Sports provides a way out of hopeless poverty the world over, and it certainly doesn’t matter what your skin color or nationality is. I am grateful for having been able to travel domestically and internationally, since it has made me more able to understand these nuances—and to make the connections between them. Specifically, it has allowed me to appreciate—and visit—the different areas in the United States and has broadened the sociological perspective I can take on my country.

It is in relation to these “forgotten” areas of the U.S. that I now move my focus. One TV pundit—rightly I might add—correctly noted that it is possible that these rural voters felt alienated by the likes of Jay-Z, Beyonce, Bruce Springsteen, and Lady Gaga. Great musicians as they all are, they are all wealthy…and make money off the (much) less wealthy. Such endorsements are not exactly gospel to the poor and struggling people within America. America’s obsession with race has ignored the fact that many people struggle to get by and their struggles have nothing to do with race. It has more to do with resentment for a culture that values consumerism and instant fame (by way of selfies and social media). Sports stars too got out to vote and looked to influence choice in one way or another. Sadly again, their perspective was not the most useful in terms of truly bridging the gap between urban and rural, rich and poor.

The fact that Mr. Trump’s speech even seemed heartfelt is enough for me in that someone actually showed joy in being selected to lead his country; it restores faith in a vision of positive nationalism. Of course we shall see what happens—while the state media apparatus The New York Times continued using deliberately polarizing language, focusing on the connection between “working-class” and “white”; which needlessly racializes voter preferences:

The results amounted to a repudiation, not only of Mrs. Clinton, but of President Obama, whose legacy is suddenly imperiled. And it was a decisive demonstration of power by a largely overlooked coalition of mostly blue-collar white and working-class voters who felt that the promise of the United States had slipped their grasp amid decades of globalization and multiculturalism.

State media wants to frame this as an attack on progressive values but I will argue that it could also be interpreted as the beginnings of a more truly progressive world. Politicians cannot be trusted farther than they can be thrown, but it is important to provide an alternative perspective at a time when so many people are going to extremes. When a University Professor—at an Ivy League institution, no less—cancels a test because of students being “emotionally distraught” over the election I know things are getting out of hand. As an educator myself, I know that education is vitally important for professional and, much more importantly, personal development. To deny that to students because of an election is morally criminal and cannot be accepted; that is why some alternative perspectives are vital.

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The Ivy League! Image Courtesy Of: https://twitter.com/jon_victor_

An interesting post I read came from The Saker blog (I first found it on southfront.org). It makes a case I have long believed, that the globalist era has elicited a sea-change in international politics and that—perhaps—the lesser of two evils may not be the worst thing to happen in our lives as citizens of the world. I too believed that a war with Russia (over Syria) may have been on Hillary Clinton’s agenda; and Trump’s victory speech seemingly rejected this possibility outright: “I want to tell the world community that while we will always put America’s interests first, we will deal fairly with everyone, with everyone — all people and all other nations. We will seek common ground, not hostility; partnership, not conflict.” As I said, I don’t really trust politicians and therefore all I can do is take what I hear at face value. And Mr. Trump’s words are not the worst of things to hear by any means.  The Saker writes:

I have always said that the choice for the lesser evil is morally wrong and pragmatically misguided.  I still believe that.  In this case, however, the greater evil was thermonuclear war with Russia and the lesser evil just might turn out to be one which will gradually give up the Empire to save the USA rather than sacrifice the USA for the needs of the Empire.  In the case of Hillary vs Trump the choice was simple: war or peace.

[…]

the crisis in Europe is entirely artificial, the war in Syria has an absolutely obvious solution, and the international order can easily accommodate a United States which would “deal fairly with everyone, with everyone — all people and all other nations” and “seek common ground, not hostility; partnership, not conflict“.  The truth is that the USA and Russia have no objective reasons for conflict – only ideological issues resulting directly from the insane ideology of messianic imperialism of those who believe, or pretend to believe, that the USA is an “indispensable nation”. What the world wants – needs – is the USA as a *normal* nation.

I have always believed that the USA is the most abnormal country in the world, underlined by its “world police” mentality that emerged post-WWII (but arguably the roots go back to Woodrow Wilson’s era). This behavior was amplified after the fall of global communism in 1989-1991, and it gave the United States unilateral control over the world system. By pushing the Americanization/McDonaldsization of the world, the United States sought to (re-)build the world in its image: extreme capitalism and neo-liberalism. This, unfortunately, meant increased global inequality that favored the very rich in the United States and the global south and, to a lesser extent, the middle classes of the United States and wider global north while completely forgetting the poor of the United States and most of the global south. Perhaps, this is why the movement led by Mr. Trump against this system makes so many of the U.S. elites wary; the media have stressed that Mr. Trump’s presidency will threaten the global order as we know it because they stand to lose the most from it. After all, they won’t be the ones fighting the wars–it will be those from the rural “red” areas on the maps cited above that will have to fight.

As The Saker continues:

This is a direct blow to the credibility and legitimacy of the entire socio-political order of the USA: far from being a democracy, it is a plutocracy/oligarchy – everybody pretty much accepts that today.  Likewise, the election of Trump has already proved that the US media is a prostitute and that the majority of the American people hate their ruling class.  Again, this is a direct blow to the credibility and legitimacy of the entire socio-political order.  One by one the founding myths of the US Empire are crashing down and what remains is a system which can only rule by force.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn used to say that regimes can be measured on a spectrum which ranges from regimes whose authority is their power and regimes whose power in in their authority.  In the case of the USA we now clearly can see that the regime has no other authority than its power and that makes it both illegitimate and unsustainable.

Finally, whether the US elites can accept this or not, the US Empire is coming to an end.  With Hillary, we would have had a Titanic-like denial up to the last moment which might well have come in the shape of a thermonuclear mushroom over Washington DC.  Trump, however, might use the remaining power of the USA to negotiate the US global draw-down thereby getting the best possible conditions for his country.  Frankly, I am pretty sure that all the key world leaders realize that it is in their interest to make as many (reasonable) concessions to Trump as possible and work with him, rather than to deal with the people whom he just removed from power.

I have bolded what I believe to be the most salient parts in what is, admittedly, a fairly harsh assessment since it contains some very valid points. The fact that so many supporters of Ms. Clinton were crying profusely tells me that much of America definitely did buy into the system and believed the “democracy”.

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From the Looks of it, You’d Think Someone Had Died. Politics Should Not Be Taken This Seriously! Image Courtesy Of: https://ageofshitlords.com/pictures-clinton-supporters-crying/

It is unfortunate, because the United States was meant to be a democratic republic—not an  undemocratic empire. After WWII—and especially after the Cold War—the United States embraced the idea of empire which took it farther and farther from its people and its founding ideals of democracy and equality. In the cultural realm, even revisionist interpretations of Star Wars show that people have been thinking along these lines; the United States in its current state has come to resemble Darth Vader’s Galactic Empire far more than the Rebel Alliance, represented by our favorite childhood heroes Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Chewbacca:

The story is not only about each man’s ability to choose good or evil, or how wars destroy limited republics and empires alike; it is also about how the subtle manipulation of power behind the scenes helps make it all possible. By fooling all of the various characters into thinking they are doing the right thing, or at least acting in their own interests, Darth Sidious (AKA Palpatine) implements the final phase of the Sith Lords’ long-term plan to take revenge on the Jedi and total power for themselves.

Another perspective adds:

All the steps in the Dark Lord’s rise to total power were enabled by the crises of wars that he himself engineered. The overriding theme of the first trilogy is that the star wars engendered galactic tyranny. This is a perfectly realistic narrative motif, because it is merely an interstellar extrapolation of Randolph Bourne’s insight that war is the health of the State. The emergency-propelled rise of the Sith also fits with Robert Higgs’s broader insight that crisis is the health of Leviathan.

Indeed, throughout history, rulers, regimes, and power cliques (just like Sidious and the Sith) have dragged their countries into wars in order to acquire, shore up, and enhance their power. This power play almost always works, because war activates in indoctrinated adherents of a State what Randolph Bourne called the “herd mind”: a sort of statist Protocol 66.

This is all eerily similar to American foreign policy from Vietnam to Iraq, and what has recently occurred in the Middle East under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s leadership (regime?); in the name of defending freedom the United States has forcibly pushed neo-liberal economics on unwilling states (sometimes resorting to war as a Machiavellian means to an end). As I have often written, sometimes these policies have unintended consequences; Turkey (and president Recep Tayyip Erdogan) is just one example of how U.S. foreign policy often creates dictatorships. Sadly, the media in the United States is still missing the point by equating Mr. Trump with Mr. Erdogan.

In order to best understand the changes we are undergoing, I—as a marginal sociologist—will quote the writing of fellow (but not marginal) sociologist C. Wright Mills who coined the term “power elite”:

Is it not, in a word, the enormous enlargement and the decisive centralization of all the means of power and decision, which is to say—all the means of history-making? In modern industrial society, the facilities of economic production are developed and centralized—as peasants and artisans are replaced by private corporations and government industries. In the modern nation-state, the means of violence and political administration undergo similar developments—as kings control nobles, and self-equipped knights are replaced by standing armies and now by fearful military machines. The post-modern climax of all three developments—in economics, in politics, and in violence—is now occurring most dramatically in the United States and the USSR. In our time, international as well as national means of history-making are being centralized. Is it not thus clear that the scope and the chance for conscious human agency in history-making is just now uniquely available? (C. Wright Mills The Sociological Imagination 1959, 183).

Mills was writing in 1959, a crucial year—a time that, indeed, “human agency in history-making” was still available—while the United States was also beginning to show similarities between itself and the Soviet Union in many odd ways. Two years later, in January 1961, outgoing president Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against the military-industrial complex. His full speech can be seen here, the transcript here. He may have seen the writing on the wall, the nascent stages of American politics’ close relationship to war. A year later, in 1962, President John F. Kennedy resisted nuclear war after compromising with the Soviet Union during the Cuban missile crisis. A year later, on a November day, he was shot dead in Dallas, Texas. Other U.S. presidents to resist the dominant state narratives—Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan—also fell victim to gunmen with the former assassinated and the latter surviving. It is food for thought, especially given that media have already begun a narrative of international conflict as a response to Trump’s election win to discredit it; ABC news (a branch of state media) reported that Cuba just announced military drills as a response to an American “threat”.

Given this background, I am left wondering how bad Donald Trump’s presidency really will be, if at all? As someone who respects nationalism, I love America. And that means loving the values that it stands for—freedom and equality. Sometimes it doesn’t always work out as it should, and the imperialist era of American geopolitics has not reflected well on the country (just like earlier epochs, like that of slavery, were equally abhorrent). A change to this would be welcomed. Intervening in foreign lands does not show respect for freedom or equality; the neo-liberal world order which detests nationalism as a concept has equated nationalism with fascism (and spawned comparisons between Mr. Trump and populist leaders like Hitler). I argue that nationalism does not have to be bad, one can love America country without believing in American exceptionalism or American empire. I can see America as just one country among others, a “normal” country as mentioned above, not necessarily “better” than any other. Maybe it can be a “normal” country like the other one I know, Turkey. In both countries we have seen attacks on nationalism (salient, since both are very nationalist): The erasure of national identity was evidenced in the U.S. by criticisms of the Confederate flag, and in Turkey by the muted celebrations of Republic Day in recent years. But take the ad “there some debts you cannot repay” commemorating the anniversary of the death of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey’s founding father. It is spine-tingling for any Turk (myself included), and it celebrates a leader who fought against imperialism and who founded a modern,secular, and democratic republic out of the ashes of an empire. Despite some flaws, it was still a functioning state. In the context of modern meddling though, driven by the neo-liberal agenda, it is being torn apart by conflict. The world over, leaders like Ataturk have been thwarted by foreign powers in the past and it makes me wonder, sometimes, what the world would have been like if the post-colonial stage of nation formation during the Cold War hadn’t necessitated that states subscribe to either of two paths to development: The Soviet model or the American model.

Most importantly, as someone who believes in true equality and not lip service, is that America—the main exporter of “democracy” and “freedom” in the world—should practice what it preaches. From the standpoint of equality, the fact that Mr. Trump may become the first U.S. president to come from neither a military or political background is something to be celebrated; arguably it is more historic than Ms. Clinton’s bid to become the first female president. It is a shame that this important fact is being lost in the maelstrom since if we are to believe in true democracy, then we should all have the chance to become president regardless of our backgrounds or career choices. For me, this is a good thing because it allows one to resist the pre-existing biases of the “establishment”. The mere fact that outgoing President Barack Obama is taking the unprecedented step to meet Mr. Trump on 10 November is telling: Perhaps he will warn Mr. Trump that the “establishment” line must be followed…a warning Mr. Trump could ignore at his own risk, of course.

Politics is a murky business, and that is why I have become a marginal sociologist instead of a politician. Unfortunately, however, it has trained me to always think critically and that in itself is a valuable tool to use when viewing world events. I can see the irony in Ms. Clinton’s reluctance to concede when the worry was that Mr. Trump wouldn’t just as I can see the irony in Bruce Springsteen supporting a hawkish supporter of war like Ms. Clinton–what happened to the message of “Born in the USA”? And I can see the irony in the fact that many of the anti-war left are the main detractors of Mr. Trump, who has shown less inclination for foreign interventions than his rival Ms. Clinton. It is my hope, as always, that the United States under a President Trump lives up to its values and represents a republic—not an empire. American exceptionalism is not safe for the United States, and it is not safe for the world. If the United States can move away from that mode of thinking, and return to seeing itself as just one state among many, we may well see positive developments over the next four years. If not? Then, unfortunately, the future is very bleak indeed. I will prefer to remain optimistic despite it all because–sometimes–thinking outside the mainstream not only essential, it is our duty as human beings.

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Image Courtesy Of: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USA_Flag_Map.svg

What Industrial Football Can Tell Us About the U.S. Presidential Election and the Precarious Political Situation in Turkey: A Marginal Sociologist’s Take

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As an American and a Turk, I am used to constantly comparing and contrasting both countries; I observe the political situations in order to find patterns and—sometimes—identify parallel and divergent trends in both. This might be the most crucial period for either country in recent memory; Turkey is struggling with the aftermath of a failed military coup in July and the United States will experience its most contentious presidential election in (arguably) the country’s history on 8 November 2016. The uncertain situation in both countries is not just a local issue; since both states are geopolitically important the repercussions of events in either are felt far beyond their respective borders.

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Two Countries That Are Strangely Connected. Image Courtesy Of: http://turkicamerican.org/networking-for-success/

In the era of globalization and late-stage/extreme capitalism, we are seeing a growing dissatisfaction with the system of governance (and its companion, neo-liberal economics) all over the world. Economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen was one of the first to note how deeply the American political system was tied to economics. This is explained in The Social Scientist as Public Intellectual:

Veblen did not treat business and government as separate entities but framed them as components of an integrated institutional order […] the rising complexity of industry and its subsequent growth in productive capacity demanded new regulations to ensure the security of investment capital. The state became the proper means through which to achieve this goal and maintain the stability of traditional economic arrangements” (Gattone 2006, 36).

This system, characterized by an intimate relationship between state power and business interests, has defined the American political system since its inception and—after WWII—was exported to the rest of the world. Following the Cold War and the end of the communist/socialist alternative represented by the Soviet Union and its allies, American style capitalism became the pre-eminent world economic (and thereby political) system. Now, we are beginning to see some of the faults of this global interconnectedness—the state is no longer independent, and it is the rich states who exert a powerful influence on the poorer states; essentially, there is an unequal lack of independence. No state is completely independent, and it is the poorer states that are less independent than richer states in this economic system.

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A Rudimentary Map Explaining the Global Divide. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.bartlett.ucl.ac.uk/dpu/news/Thinking_across_boundaries_RGS

Recent events in Turkey are a perfect example of this trend. After a deadly blast in southeast Turkey following the arrest of several prominent Kurdish leaders from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Kurdish protests have broken out in Istanbul. The perpetrators of the blast are not known, but BBC reported that ISIS/ISIL/DAESH claimed responsibility; the Kurdish Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) were originally suspected. Regardless of who the culprits are, it just shows how Turkey—and the Turkish state—is not independent. They have been pushed into the Syrian crisis along with (and perhaps at the behest of) the United States, and now no one knows how to get out of it. Since the 15 July attempted coup, Turkey has slowly spiraled more and more out of control. The BBC asks “is Turkey still a democracy?”, Newsweek is saying “Turkey is Headed for a Bloodbath”, while a Washington Post opinion piece by Asli Aydintasbas laments the downfall of Turkish “democracy”:

The story of Turkey is fast becoming a heartbreaking saga of a budding Muslim democracy tossing out a historic chance at progress, only to settle for a familiar pattern of Middle East despotism by succumbing to a retro personality cult. A decade ago, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was applauded by the world for the pace of its reforms and advances toward European Union membership. I myself was writing in praise of the ruling party AKP’s brand of “Muslim democrats,” which at the time seemed like a hopeful alternative to both the hard-line secularism of Kemalism and Islamic radicalism. A decade later, Turkey is barely able to hold civilized relations with its western allies, experiencing a rapid decline as rule of law, and has become a thorn in Europe’s side.

Ms. Aydintasbas’ retrospective account uses many of the adjectives we have come to associate with liberal, progressive, democratic regimes in the globalist era of neo-liberal economic development: “Progress”, “Advancement”, “Hope”, “Change” and “Reform” are the keywords bandied about in a way to convince people that what is happening is unquestioningly good—both morally and politically. But is all that glitters gold? In order to answer that question, it is first helpful to look at recent events in the world’s number one exporter of democracy—the United States of America—before returning to Turkey.

On 10 October 2016 journalist Mary Forgione’s story appeared in the LA Times with the headline “Detained in Turkey for a visa violation, all alone. Would I ever get home?”. At first glance, it is one of those eye-catching headlines that harkens back to the era of Midnight Express. Of course, there is an element of this—but the real consequences of such reporting go far, far deeper. Ms. Forgione recounts her story of being detained at the airport in Istanbul after returning from Europe because she did not have an exit stamp from Turkey in her passport; either she—or more likely the operators of the cruise ship she had departed Istanbul on—failed to procure an exit stamp upon leaving the port in Istanbul. As the story notes, Turkey is concerned with their border security because of the ongoing Syrian civil war. This is, of course, a normal precaution for a state to take, but in the globalized era that encourages “open borders” as the panacea to all ills these kind of policies are not always shown in the best of lights and this article is an example of that. Interestingly, the last line of the story sums it up well: “And if I ever again run into a visa problem while traveling overseas, I’ll know not to turn to the State Department, which usually doesn’t help with such issues”. At the end of the day, it is the incompetence of U.S. diplomats that is highlighted…but in the headline, Turkey is the place that gets slammed, making it part of a media “narrative”. This is a perfect example of media framing, and it is part of the media bias in the United States that is threatening “democracy” and the flourishing of a larger democratic society.

In coverage of the upcoming U.S. elections we can see this kind of bias everywhere. All sorts of media outlets are rushing to endorse one of the candidates, making sure to tell their readership that this is an “unprecedented” step. This is not a problem in theory since an independent media is one prerequisite for democracy; it becomes a problem when the endorsements are—unquestioningly—in favor of one candidate while shaming the other. Foreign Policy’s recent endorsement of U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is a good example of this process. Their note is couched in language that glorifies the tenets of democracy, designed to disguise the bias:

In the nearly half-century history of Foreign Policy, the editors of this publication have never endorsed a candidate for political office. We cherish and fiercely protect this publication’s independence and its reputation for objectivity, and we deeply value our relationship with all of our readers, regardless of political orientation. It is for all these reasons that FP’s editors are now breaking with tradition to endorse Hillary Clinton for the next president of the United States.

A closer reading of the endorsement, however, shows that many of the points brought out are in fact subject to debate. One such point is that which claims Ms. Clinton’s rival, Republican nominee Donald Trump, “has alternatively forgiven then defended Russia’s invasion of Crimea and employed advisors with close ties to the Russian president and his cronies”. The story cited claims that Mr. Trump did not know about the situation in Ukraine, yet it is clear from other news stories that the United States administration run by Ms. Clinton’s party had a hand in the Ukrainian “regime change”. Indeed, one conservative outlet asks the rhetorical question “is the U.S. back in the coup business?” Leaked transcripts of state department calls cited by the BBC also support the notion that there was U.S. involvement—Russia has repeatedly claimed it, mostly to absolve themselves of guilt in the eyes of the international community.  Given the possibility of U.S—particularly Hillary Clinton’s—involvement in July’s attempted coup in Turkey through the reclusive Islamist cleric Fethullah Gulen (possibly to secure Turkey’s position in the global economy given President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s growing authoritarianism), I am not so sure that the United States is completely innocent in Ukraine, either. And that is enough to tell me that maybe the US does not need a President pushing for coups and “regime change” around the world; even if it were true maybe its better that Mr. Trump doesn’t care about Ukraine since it would mean less meddling in foreign countries. Just don’t tell Foreign Policy I said that.

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Mr. Trump Has Business Interests All Over the World–Including Istanbul. Perhaps, This Means an Unstable Turkey Would Affect his Bottom Line, and Therefore he Might Encourage Stability in the Country Rather Than Instability…Image Courtesy Of: https://twitter.com/br_uk/status/708263154770448384

This is just one example, from the foreign policy realm, of how media in the United States is continually framing issues and threatening true democracy. The Huffington Post even runs a “Editor’s note” complete with hyperlinks following every story regarding the election that reads:

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims ― 1.6 billion members of an entire religion ― from entering the U.S”.

Even to the uninitiated, this screams “media bias”. But that is not surprising, since liberal investor—and renowned champion of global homogenization George Soros—has influence over of much of the U.S. Media. It is certainly a worrying trend for American democracy—and indeed democracy in other countries that fall victim to American policies—that the U.S. media is less than independent. Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index shows that from 2002 to 2007 (the years of George W. Bush’s presidency) the United States’ Press Freedom Index fell from 17th in the world (2002) to 48th in the world (2007). Notably, the “change” promised by democratic President Barack Obama didn’t materialize in terms of press freedom either. The U.S. ranking in 2008 was 36th in the world; despite climbing to a high of 20th in 2009, as of 2015 the U.S. ranking was lower than in 2007, 49th in the world. A few outlets have tried to point out how media bias is “unjustified” but, more often than not, they get shouted down in the ideological maelstrom that has become American politics.

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The Writing Is On The Wall. Image Courtesy Of: https://rsf.org/en/united-states

It is important to note that the consequences of this media bias are not just confined to engineering the election by encouraging readers to choose one candidate over the other. Rather, this type of bias also defends political actions that are not defensible in “democratic” society. This is, arguably, more worrisome in terms of the political climate and leads Mr. Trump and his backers to make claims that the elections are “rigged” or that these elections will define if the United States will remain a “free country”. Such polarizing rhetoric, however, does not come out of a vacuum. The climate driven by the media is one of an almost fascistic silencing of opposing views, whitewashing corruption and supporting (at least tacitly) political violence.

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Shhh! Nothing To See Here Folks, Nothing Corrupt at All. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-marshall-crotty/has-hillary-clinton-won-the-email-battle-only-to-lose-the-corruption-war_b_11251504.html

It has become clear that the Clinton campaign has received debate questions ahead of time (which is forbidden) through media leaks. When one Clinton aide was questioned about this, she fell back and—unable to defend herself—defiantly stated that “she would not be persecuted”. In the current climate, telling the truth and admitting to a wrongdoing apparently amounts to persecution. Unfortunately, similar “un-democratic” actions also get short shrift in much of the media. After the uproar about violence at Mr. Trump’s rallies (one of the points touched upon by Huffington Post’s aforementioned Editor’s Note), it became clear that agitators from the democratic party had been sent to the rallies to incite violence; a Youtube video shows the conversations. Two democratic operatives lost their jobs after the news came out, but the Washington Post was still quick to report that there was no “direct” contact between these men and Ms. Clinton’s campaign. In an election where the media is quick to believe every new accusation against one candidate—but is equally quick to deny any allegations against the other candidate—it is imperative that all citizens think critically about what they hear and read.

There are many other examples of this process. On 17 October 2016 a Republican Party office in North Carolina was firebombed; of course, the headlines didn’t carry the words “political terrorism”. On 21 October 2016 current Vice President Joe Biden—in a fairly unprecedented comment in the American political context—seemed to challenge Mr. Trump to a fight saying:

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A Case of Political Terrorism In the United States? Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2016-37673802

What he said he did and does is the textbook definition of sexual assault. And think about this: It’s more than that. He said that ‘Because I’m famous, because I’m a star, because I’m a billionaire, I can do things other people can’t.’ What a disgusting assertion for anyone to make. The press always ask me, ‘Don’t I wish I were debating him?’ No, I wish we were in high school — I could take him behind the gym. That’s what I wish.

It is certainly not the most couth statement any politician has ever made, but the (slightly) menacing picture of Mr. Biden that the CNN sourced story carried gives the impression that the media didn’t have a problem with the statement. After all, Mr. Trump’s comments were “morally” deplorable. Yet on the other side, insinuating that Mr. Trump’s wife was “an escort” is not “morally” wrong at all—such is the state of American politics.

In A Ridiculous Election, Neither Candidate is Very Appealing. Images Courtesy Of: http://www.businessinsider.com/hillary-clinton-donald-trump-helps-her-2015-9 (L) and http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2016/11/04/donald_trump_s_plan_to_privatize_america_s_roads_and_bridges.html (R).

Having given the background regarding the U.S. election, this is where I will synthesize my argument. In the current state of the world it is “progressive” and “liberal” ideas that are pushing the world towards a consensus of a globalized community driven by the engine of neo-liberal economic development. Anything that goes against this “grand narrative”, to borrow a term from French sociologist Jean Francois Lyotard, is labeled as “reactionary”, “xenophobic”, and “bigoted”. While there may indeed be people who feel this way on one side of the divide, there are also those who defend the “progressive” ideals of globalism and neo-liberal economics with an almost fascistic zeal that is no better. In this context, two wrongs most certainly do not make a right. This is why the world would do well to move into a “post-ideological” stage that does away with the steadfast labels “conservative” and “liberal”. Indeed, the current American election has shown that these labels are shifting. The ostensibly left-leaning Democratic party, represented by Hillary Clinton, has become the party of the establishment—even the FBI was pressured to cover up any wrong doing on her part regarding her handling of classified information. And on the other end, Mr. Trump has been vilified and attacked in nearly every manner imaginable; the smear campaign has been so intense it is clear he is not at all the establishment’s choice (which is, in itself, food for thought).

There are many examples in history in the ways that “progressive” and “globalist” ideas have served as cover for more nefarious enterprises of domination as humans succumb to Nietzsche’s “will to power”. Miroslav Vanek and Pavel Mucke’s Velvet Revolutions: An Oral History of Czech Society gives one example of this process in the Czech context; “among other things, they [the communists] launched a campaign against ‘reactionary’ values and ‘bourgeois and petit-bourgeois relics,’ with the goal of controlling as many ‘human souls’ as possible and creating a ‘new human being’ within a ‘progressive’ society constructed (or rather re-arranged) according to the Soviet model” (Vanek and Mucke 2016, 10). The values attacked by the communists justified the creation of what would become a totalitarian state, and later the authors show the parallels to the modern system:

People enjoy freedom through several types of rights: civil, political, economic, and social. Excessive emphasis on one of them over the others is the beginning of limitations on the exercise of free will. The truly free (liberal)society maintains a balance between the various types of rights. In addition, freedom is achieved when it is linked to responsibility. The attempt to separate freedom from responsibility (as under the Communist system and in present attempts by market fundamentalists) usually ends in failure” (Vanek and Mucke 2016, 16. Emphasis added).

The authors show an odd parallel between the communist system of the past and the current neo-liberal order of the world economy. When freedom is not connected to responsibility—such as a free society’s responsibility to maintain a free and unbiased media—we start to have problems.

The same emphasis on progressive values is what brought the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini back to Iran in the days preceding the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Michael Rubin, using it as context for the current situation in Turkey, explains:

Many Carter-administration officials believed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini when he told the Guardian in 1978, ‘I don’t want to have the power or the government in my hand; I am not interested in personal power.’ William Miller, staff director for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, even called Khomeini ‘a progressive force for human rights.’ Secretary of State Hillary Clinton famously described Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as a ‘reformer,’ a view shared by former Senate colleague and successor John Kerry … (Michael Rubin 2016, American Enterprise Institute).

This brings us, of course, back to Turkey. Mr. Rubin calls the July 15 coup attempt “Turkey’s Reichstag Fire”, insinuating that it was forces within Turkey that drove the attempted putsch. As I have said earlier, I am not convinced that the United States did not have a hand in it but that is beyond the point here. What is important is that the United States—and indeed, much of the West—believed Mr. Erdogan when he claimed that he was a “progressive” force representing “moderate” Islam. In those days back in 2004, as a young undergraduate at the University of Colorado pursuing a B.A. in International Affairs, I had said that his mission to roll-back the influence of the secular military in the name of joining the European Union was a ruse; it was his own way of getting rid of opponents in a politically palatable way. Of course, nobody listened back then since Mr. Erdogan was a “forward-thinking moderate”. I will let Mr. Rubin’s piece explain the rest in depth:

Even after Erdogan began subtly shifting Turkey’s orientation from West to East, American officials remained largely in denial. Standing beside Erdogan at his residence in Ankara on June 27, 2004, President George W. Bush praised Turkey as an ‘example…on how to be a Muslim country and at the same time a country which embraces democracy and rule of law and freedom.’ Daniel Fried, assistant secretary of state for European Affairs, described the AKP as ‘a kind of Muslim version of a Christian Democratic Party,’ that is, not religious at all. ‘We are on the same page moving toward the kind of world we want,’ Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a Turkish audience after meeting Erdogan in July 2011. Both public statements and Wikileaks documents show that, with the exception of Eric Edelman (who served in Turkey from 2003 to 2005), every U.S. ambassador to Turkey—from Morton Abramowitz (1989–1991) to Frank Ricciardone (2011–2014) dismissed concerns that Erdogan harbored an Islamist agenda that trumped his spoken commitment to pluralism and integration with Europe (Michael Rubin 2016, American Enterprise Institute).

Again, I have bolded the words that play into the current discourse that connects globalism and pluralism to such abstract concepts as “democracy” and “freedom”. Whose “democracy” and whose “freedom”? Of course Ms. Clinton supported Mr, Erdogan “moving toward the kind of world we want”. That kind of world is characterized by open borders, free trade, and neo-liberal economic development. Mr. Erdogan was privatizing state owned industries in Turkey and opening it up to international capital—while quietly silencing his opponents, such as those who came out during Gezi in 2013. After all, he was an American ally and could do no wrong. That was all until the war in Syria, of course. At that point, things changed. Realist geopolitics returned to the fore, the Kurdish issue was reignited, and the borders started closing. Mr Erdogan began consolidating his power. That’s when, perhaps, the U.S. and Ms. Clinton decided that enough was enough and pushed for the coup attempt. It failed, due in no small part to the fact that the leader had enjoyed so many years of full-blown support from his American allies. Even in Turkey, as opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper journalist Ms. Aydintasbas quoted above notes, his “reformist” ideas had been embraced even by his ostensibly “liberal” opponents—she herself admits to having bought into it! So what is the solution to the ills of late-stage/extreme capitalism and its stranglehold over governments and even human agency? For an answer, like Camus, I look to football.

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Albert Camus, a Kindred Spirit. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/gallery/2014/jun/24/14-quotes-from-football-inspired-writers-fans-world-cup

We must realize that people—regardless of their nationality, race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation—have real concerns that are not tied to their more general “ideological” outlook on the world. It is more nuanced, and—interestingly—it is in the global game of football that we can see this. The term industrial football is one that may be familiar to many football fans. It basically describes the modern trend where football has become commodified to such a degree that players are merely commodities valued for their labor alone (in the Marxian sense) and that they are just one cog in the machine of profit-based sporting culture. Teams—and their fans—have lost their agency as well in the context of rising ticket prices and international sponsorship deals; the club is no longer an autonomous representation of its community but beholden to investors who come from a class of global capitalist entrepreneurs far removed from the local. In a sense this is the globalizing trend of neo-liberalism in microcosm. Liverpool no longer belongs to Liverpudlians, it belongs to Americans. Manchester United no longer belongs to Manchester, it belongs to Glazer. Chelsea no longer belongs to London, it belongs to Abramovich. And who knows how many English clubs will belong to Chinese interests in the future. The examples could go on forever.

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Love United. Hate Glazer. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.toxicfox.co.uk/updates/love-united-hate-glazer-or-love-glazer-hate-united/

Joe Kennedy’s Games Without Frontiers is an interesting take on the processes affecting world football, written from a personal perspective. He notes, in regards to political persuasion, that “there is no space on the left, at least in England, for the current generation of people in their thirties and twenties to define their own version of political authenticity” (Kennedy 2016, 125). This may, of course, be because of the changes in orientation of left-leaning parties as explained above in the U.S. context. Kennedy goes on:

the questions posed by the needs of a wildly variegated precariat and a class who have, as the contemporary sociologist Imogen Tyler argues persuasively, been othered into political oblivion under neoliberalism, are beyond the range of acknowledgment of both Labour’s and football’s comprehension of ‘society’ […] football fans [are] currently immobilized with frustration at the options which seem to be the only ones available to them: acquiescence to the accelerating commodification of supporting or backing an #AMF [Against Modern Football, a movement also against Industrial Football] movement which seems atavistic at both of its ideological poles (Kennedy 2016, 126).

Indeed, the anti-industrial football/AMF movement can be either far-right, as we have seen in Eastern Europe and in England, or far left as we have seen with Hamburg’s St. Pauli and London’s Dulwich Hamlet FC. At the root, however, we see that both sides are against the commodification of sport, they just come from different ideological backgrounds. It is not hard to see why the movement against industrial football has become so widespread, coming to appeal to various ideologies. The 2018 Russian World Cup is quickly becoming President Vladimir Putin’s World Cup, designed to showcase the country’s “progressive” entrée into the world (sporting) economy. The more Russia plays the “game”, the more money FIFA makes. The homogenization of world football too has worked hand in hand with the homogenization of world culture. FIFA, on 3 November 2016, declared that the English and Scottish national teams cannot wear poppies on their shirts during an upcoming World Cup qualifying match. According to FIFA the poppies, a sign of respect for the UK citizens who have fallen in battle fighting for their country, are a “political statement”. Again, in the name of making more profits (God forbid the poppies “offend” anyone), FIFA—as the engine of Industrial Football—have again attempted to sanitize the global game beyond any recognition of its former working-class self.

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World Football, Hand In Hand With World (Elite) Politics. Image Courtesy Of: http://mashable.com/2016/06/14/russia-world-cup-fan-violence-france/#Mlv_z.H9DqqS

In the world, then, we must realize that people are moving against global homogenization driven by neo-liberalism and that one candidate—regardless of political party—is not necessarily much better than the other. Rather, we must resist the arbitrary divisions that politicians try to impose and think critically of the ideas beyond just the personalities and parties.

Regarding these divisions, the African-American sociologist W.E.B. DuBois gives an interesting perspective in the context of America’s institutionalized racism. He points out that there is a sense of noblesse oblige inherent among privileged White Americans regarding their African-American countrymen:

Here it is that the comedy verges to tragedy. The first minor note is struck, all unconsciously, by those worthy souls in whom consciousness of high descent brings burning desire to spread the gift abroad,—the obligation of nobility to the ignoble. Such sense of duty assumes two things: a real possession of the heritage and its frank appreciation by the humble-born. So long, then, as humble black folk, voluble with thanks receive barrels of old clothes from lordly and generous whites, there is much mental peace and moral satisfaction (W.E.B. DuBois On the Meaning Of Race, 33).

By paying lip service to “progressive” values nothing ever changes; the rich feel morally secure while the poor remain destitute. One example of this is the case of Shirley Chisholm, the first black women to be elected to the United States Congress. By her own admission, it was Northerners from New York and Pennsylvania (the “progressives” of the time) who urged her to pull back from her campaign for the presidency in 1972. (From 1:00 on in a great video).  This climate causes divisions between people who need not–and indeed should not–be divided. In a recent Washington Post article a racial motive is inserted into what seems to be a simple dispute over one neighbor being loud in the middle of the night. The African-American who was accused of being loud says: “White people will sometimes speak without thinking of the bigger implications of their actions…They’re just kind of reacting. That kind of speaks to their own privilege.” Unfortunately for lack of neutral reporting, the fact that the White neighbor was not aware of the other’s race is reduced to a footnote. The wide-sweeping generalizations regarding “white people” in the above quote are, similarly, not questioned. This kind of climate—where everything race-related is hyper-sensitized—is unfortunately a danger to social cohesion. After all, these were—before the race element—two people of a similar economic class living in close proximity to one another. But by inserting the element of race into the dialogue—in the name of progressive politics—these two people become divided against their class and social interests. This is why literary and social critic Irving Howe could say that “the central problems of our society have to do, not with ethnic groupings, but with economic policy, social rule, class relations. They have to do with vast inequalities of wealth, with the shameful neglect of a growing class of subproletarians, with the readiness of policy-makers to tolerate high levels of unemployment” (Irving Howe, “The Limits of Ethnicity,” New Republic, June 25, 1977, p. 19.). It is this unfortunate situation that has led to a situation of “political slavery” for many of America’s African Americans.

In order to break these chains of thought, I argue, we must move to what I mentioned earlier: A post-ideological society. The modern day ideologies of “liberal/progressive” and “conservative/reactionary” tend to classify people according to certain lines of thought—even if they do not necessarily subscribe to them fully. As society modernizes and people become exposed to different ideas a mix of ideas becomes possible; no ideological “ideal type”, in Max Weber’s sense, exists. W.E.B. DuBois, writing near one hundred years ago, explains how difference need not be something bad, something that needs to be erased:

No one can envisage a dead level of sameness in human types . . . there is every shade of method and conception and thought in differing groups of human hearts and minds, and the preservation and development of this interesting and stimulating variety in mankind is a great human duty (W.E.B. DuBois, On the Meaning of Race, 38).

The globalizing project is facing opposition from many corners for precisely this reason. The goal of this project is not really a “progressive” acceptance of all races, ethnicities, cultures, and nationalities. Instead, the goal is the total erasure of all racial, ethnic, cultural, and national identities to further consolidate humanity into one docile, homogenized, whole that can play two crucial roles that will further the uninhibited growth of global capitalism: the role of producer, and the role of consumer.

After all, that is what will allow the world system to continue as it is, unabated. There will be winners (the global north) and losers (the global south) in this exchange, and it will pit the rich elites in the global south against their less affluent countrymen. It very well could lead to a WW3 situation; Syria is just one example of a conflict that could emerge from this kind of internal inequality in the global South. The elites can only hold the majority down for so long.

In order to resist this kind of large-scale homogenization of the world we must recognize and embrace difference; humanity is stronger when difference can be freely expressed. This is something completely reliant on human agency. No one, no state, no government can make it happen magically (and that is why they have focused on a path of erasure (Homogenization), rather than acceptance (Heterogeneity)).

This is why we have a responsibility to stand up to media bias everywhere, regardless of if it is Turkey or the United States or anywhere else. Just because one country is “less democratic” than the other does not mean that censorship and bias are not present. This is why we have a responsibility to stand up to the commodification of our daily lives—down to our sports clubs; just because something is expensive doesn’t mean it is good. This is why we have a responsibility to resist being blinded by decades-old ideologies that only divide us further by pigeon-holing us into certain lines of thought. And this is certainly why we should seriously consider, in politics, which candidate best represents our intentions, and resist those candidates who are only in it for themselves. In short, we must always think critically about what is happening around us. If we do not, we risk being sucked into a vortex from which there will be no escape.

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I Leave You With Sartre: In Life, too, Everything is Complicated By the Presence of the Other Perspective. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/gallery/2014/jun/24/14-quotes-from-football-inspired-writers-fans-world-cup