Home

Black Friday: A True Representation of Jean Baudrillard’s “Hyperreality”

Comments Off on Black Friday: A True Representation of Jean Baudrillard’s “Hyperreality”

The French sociologist/philosopher Jean Baudrillard’s concept of the hyperreality is—ironically—quite real in 2018. We have, indeed, accepted the symbol as more real than that which it symbolizes. Surrounding the holiday of Thanksgiving—what was once the most wholesome and anti-consumption of American holidays—three news stories caught my eye. All three show quite clearly that Baudrillard was right: We are living in a hyperreality.

On 21 November, USA today chose to report to the American public with the headline “Why women and girls bear the brunt of the romaine lettuce E. coli outbreak”. The absurdity of this headline manifests itself on multiple levels. The most dangerous consequence of irresponsible reporting like this is that it infuses identity politics into a situation which—quite clearly—affects all reaches of American society. Yet, in the hyperreality of modernity, the main (lame) stream media is telling the public that they should see a nationwide problem in terms identity politics; rather than questioning why our lettuce is infected with bacteria we are told to question the sexism of…the lettuce itself. Quite clearly, this is an absurd attempt to reframe the issue at hand and avoid asking the difficult questions.

Yet even this poor reporting might not be as absurd as the consumerist phenomenon that is “Black Friday”. The United States, over the course of the past thirty years (which correspond with the rise of globalism), has become a country where the holiday of Thanksgiving has transformed from one celebrating family and friends to a sideshow consisting of the kind of consumerism that Christmas has devolved into. While, in my childhood at least, Thanksgiving was seen as a holiday just like Christmas, it has now become a glorified pre-game show (to use sports terminology) to the consumerist “show” that Christmas has become. In what other country would we see people celebrating “thankfulness” and “family” before, a few hours later, fighting over television sets at a Wal-Mart? Indeed, this is an absurdity of the hyperreality we live in, and—sadly—it is being exported to other countries. This example alone should show us that Baudrillard was right when he pointed out that globalization does not bring us together in any “real” sense; rather it connects us in the superficial ways which befit the post-modern hyperreality.

 

BlackFriday.jpg

Black Friday Comes to…Brazil? If This is the Face of Globalization, Then Who Could Want It? Image Courtesy Of: https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/black-friday-2018-chaotic-scenes-at-stores-worldwide-as-shoppers-dash-to-snap-up-deals-a3997806.html

 

The most interesting thing to think about is that—amid the hyper consumerism of black Friday—there are a few companies that are not doing so well. One of those is the U.S. lingerie label Victoria’s Secret, whose sales have been declining since 2016. While these figures may just seem like the bottom line of a corporate giant, to me they suggest something deeper. One clue might lie in the fact that the millennial generation is having less sex than any generation in 60 years. As one quote from Melissa Batchelor Warnke’s 2016 article points out:

 

many young people speak disparagingly of the messy emotional state love and lust can engender, referring to it as “catching feelings”.  […] Noah Patterson, 18, has never had sex. “I’d rather be watching YouTube videos and making money.” Sex, he said, is “not going to be something people ask you for on your résumé.”

 

 Both of these quote point to a closing off of emotion in favor of rational concerns like “making money” and having a good “resume”. Of course, if these are the most important concerns for modern society, then spending money on expensive lingerie would not be a priority; this would explain the drop in sales for Victoria’s Secret. But there is a larger consequence of this eschewing the emotional in favor of the rational: It denies all that which makes humans “human”. As human beings, what distinguishes us from animals is our ability to appreciate aesthetic beauty, whether that be another human being, a piece of art, or a beautiful sunrise. When we start to ignore these things—or seek to commodify them (by turning them into a vehicle for making money)—we start to rationalize the emotional. It is a very good example of what German sociologist Jurgen Habermas called the colonization of the “life world” by the “system”. Sadly, this process can also begin to slowly chip away at our own emotional sense of what it means to be “human”.

Taken together, all three of these news stories show that postmodern life has become a hyperreality, one where the rational supercedes the emotional. It is something which is ultimately very dangerous, since it threatens the very ties which bind us to on another on this earth. When we begin to see the contamination of lettuce in terms of identity politics, and not as something that threatens all of humanity equally, we are falling into a hyperreality. When we celebrate the virtues of “thankfulness” and “family” yet, a few hours later, engage in fistfights with strangers over electronics we are falling into a hyperreality. And when we begin to preference rational concerns over human concerns—and stop appreciating beauty (in all its forms)—we fall into the hyperreality. At least the football fans—as those pictured below at Partizan Belgrade—can provide us with a more real intrpretation of Black Friday.

 

BlackFridayScreenshotBalkanskinavijaci.png

I’ll Take This Black Friday Over the Commercial One Any Day. Image Courtesy of @Balkanskinavijaci on Instagram.

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

2 Comments

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.

 

Screen Shot 2018-04-29 at 4.36.23 AM.png

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.

 

Screen Shot 2018-04-29 at 2.44.14 AM.png

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.

 

Unknown.jpeg

 

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/

 

fifa_corruption_scandal__popa_matumula.jpeg

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

 

fifa-corruption.jpg

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

 

fifa_world_cup_2249865.jpg

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