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

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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.

 

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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.

 

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

Jair Bolsonaro Wins Elections in Brazil: While Globalism is Rolled Back, What Does this Mean for Football and What Does it say About the State of Media and Education?

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On the night of 28 October 2018 Jair Bolsonaro won the Brazilian Presidential election, defeating Fernando Haddad with a vote of 55% to 45%. Interestingly, the mainstream press from the BBC to CNN characterized Mr. Bolsonaro as “far-right,” with The Economist–long regarded by this author as a rare example of objective opinion—even calling him “a threat to democracy”. Given this reporting, just what is Mr. Bolsonaro? Is he “far-right”, as the mainstream media seems to think? Or is he just not far-left—a position that, unfortunately—mainstream media in the United States (and indeed all over the world) seem to support, making all others “far” right?

 

It is important to note that the political spectrum is not a linear one, with far-left on one side and far-right on the other. Rather, it is a circular one; being far to either end of the spectrum—right or left—ends with similar anti-democratic and, indeed, fascistic pitfalls. The historical examples of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia would seem to confirm this perspective. And indeed this is why Brazil is such an interesting case in this regard. As I learned in one of my classes just a few weeks ago, there are words written on the Brazilian flag. Those of us who are knowledgeable about the world—and indeed football—likely know that the Brazilian flag is green and yellow with a blue circle. What most of us may not know, however, is that there is a phrase written across that blue circle: Ordem e Progresso.  It is a quote from Auguste Comte, one of the founders of the modern discipline of sociology, which translates to “Order and Progress”. This quote was inspired by Comte’s motto for positivism, which aimed to create a secular basis for morality in the face of the declining significance of religion in the post-enlightenment period. At this time, so it seemed, means-end rationality would replace religion as the “order” of the day; people would not look for guidance from the theocratic, rather they would create their own morality rooted in rational action. For Comte, this positivist philosophy would allow for the development of a discipline called “social physics,” where human actions could be studied and, ultimately, predicted.

 

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Ordem E Progresso. Image Courtesy Of: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Brazil

 

Of course, the fascistic undertones of such an idea are not hard to miss, and indeed may be one of the reasons that many—including the late (and great) scholar Hannah Arendt—abhor the discipline of sociology. After all, who are humans to tell other humans what they must—and must not—do? In effect, it replaces blind faith in religion with blind faith in science. While many assume the two perspectives to be diametrically opposed, the reality is that they are both similar perspectives insofar as they seemingly leave no room for independent human thought and interpretation (indeed, the German Sociologist Jurgen Habermas and French Sociologist Michel Foucault have pointed this out before).

 

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Arendt had No Love For Sociologists. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Hannah-Arendt

 

In this context, the reaction to the election of Jair Bolsonaro is made even more interesting. The mainstream (Western) media is up in arms, characterizing Mr. Bolsonaro as “far-right”. Unfortunately, it seems as if much of this rhetoric is rooted in the same kind of social engineering that Auguste Comte may have—unwittingly—encouraged with his own emphasis on “Order and Progress” way back in the 19th Century. These days, it seems that “far-right” is anything that does not conform to dominant ideological trends which view globalization—and its ideological counterpart “globalism”—as an inherently positive development for the world. In fact, anyone who dares question the logic of globalism risks being called intolerant, a bigot, or much worse. The totalitarian undertones of this line of thought are not hard to miss, but it is important to note that this has been a long time in the making. Indeed, as an undergraduate studying International Relations in the United States my Comparative Politics class forced me to read a book on Lula, the former left-wing leader of Brazil who is currently in jail on corruption charges. Like other students of my generation who studied international relations, I was taught to not question the logic of globalization (Indeed, a friend who studied the same topic in Turkey also told me that during his time in the university there was no tolerance for any objection to globalization).

 

While resisting globalization is still a borderline taboo subject—indeed, the fact that traffic to this very blog has fallen since I began to actively question the logic of globalization and globalism is testament to this—there are still those who choose to resist this quasi-totalitarian logic. In fact, many famous Brazilian footballers including Kaka, Rivaldo, and Ronaldinho have openly voiced their support for Mr. Bolsonaro. Of course, their actions did not go un-noticed and inews reminds us that “Reports suggest FC Barcelona have distanced themselves from the two former stars [Rivaldo and Ronaldinho], both of whom had been playing in the ‘Barça Legends’ tour.” And here the question must be, what was their crime? Why did they have to be “distanced” from?

 

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Former Barcelona Star Rivaldo Voices His Support on Social Media. Image Courtesy Of: https://inews.co.uk/sport/football/brazil-footballers-jair-bolsonaro-ronaldinho-rivaldo-kaka-lucas-moura/

 

While Mr. Bolsonaro is not the most politically correct of individuals—indeed he has made comments critical of homosexuals—and has been compared to Donald Trump (perhaps the biggest political insult in this day and age), the fact remains that globalism under Lula did not work for Brazil. Like other globalist leaders, Lula privatized many of Brazil’s state owned businesses (like Petrobras, the previously state-owned oil company) in order to gain favor with international business at the expense of his own country’s independence. Ironically, he vowed from prison to undo the sales of state assets if re-eelected. Indeed, the very fact that he is now in prison on corruption charges goes to show just how broken—and corrupt—the system of globalization and globalism really is.

 

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Comparisons with Donald Trump Defined the Latest Election in Brazil. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/29/bolsonarianos-take-to-the-streets-in-awe-of-new-law-and-order

 

Closer to the topic of this blog—football—Lula’s track record isn’t much better. Indeed, he was the one who cleaned out Brazil’s shanty-towns (favelas) ahead of the World Cup and Olympics, displacing many of his country’s poorest citizens by using military force. Indeed, the corruption endemic in Lula’s administration was closely tied to sport, and it is even claimed  that one of the stadiums built for the 2014 World Cup was actually a “gift” for himself. Lula even had a good relationship with the former President of the United States—and fellow globalist—Barack Obama, whom he gifted a jersey (!) from the Brazilian national team.

 

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If This is How the “Left” Deals With Social Problems, Perhaps a Change is in Order? Image Courtesy Of: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-26809732

 

Given this history of corruption and cruelty towards the poorest of Brazil’s citizens, it is not surprising that Lula is now in jail. But what is surprising is that the mainstream media still persists in ignoring these facts while actively trying to de-legitimize his successor Mr. Bolsonaro. While, as I have said, Mr. Bolsonaro is not perfect by any means, the disastrous track record of the Brazilian left—which has sold the country out in the name of a type of imperialism couched in the rhetoric of globalism—should be enough to suggest that a change in leadership was well in order. (Indeed, many Brazilians were quite pleased with the result). Hopefully, Brazilians—like others around the world—can soon begin to take back their country and finally reject the disastrous ideology of corrupt and exploitative globalism for good.

Football Elites Again Attempt to Sell Us What We Do Not Need in the Name of Globalism: The Idea of a North American Football League

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On 10 October 2018, ESPN and Reuters announced that there is now talk of a combined North American Football League between Canada, the United States, and Mexico. According to Enrique Bonilla, the head of the Mexican first division, such a league is a possibility following the 2026 World Cup which will be hosted by the three countries. As to be expected, Mr. Bonilla framed the globalist project with a vague veneer of social justice:

 

If we can make a World Cup then we can make a North American league or a North American Cup. The main idea is that we have to grow together to compete. If not, there is only going to be the rich guys in Europe and the rest of the world.

 

According to this interpretation, the proposed combined league would raise the quality of football in North America while also allowing the continent to compete with “the rich guys” on the other side of the Atlantic. As tends to be the case with such transnational ventures, the rhetoric is dominated by positive catchwords which only serve to distort the reality that the proposed venture would likely be harmful to North American football in the long term.

 

One reason that the positive perspective is highlighted by mainstream news outlets like ESPN is that such a mega-league would likely be very profitable—both for media and sporting elites in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. The downside, of course, is that—as is usually the case regarding globalist policies—the average Canadian, Mexican, and American footballer would suffer.

 

This is because by centralizing football in the three countries, competition for spaces in the hypothetical league would increase. Given that most top-flight football leagues in the world have between 16 to 20 teams, one would have to assume that this proposed league would be similar. Given that MLS is aiming for 28 teams in the next to years—and given that Mexico’s Liga MX has 18 teams—there are a total of 46 potential teams. To make such a league feasible, this number would have to be cut down. This, in turn, would mean greater competition for players due to the internationalization of the labor market. Currently, Mexican players are mainly competing with other Mexican players for spots on Liga MX teams; American and Canadian players are mainly competing with other American and Mexican players for spots on MLS teams. By erasing the national boundaries of these leagues, however, would mean a greater pool of players and, as such, less chances of gaining employment. Instead of seeking employment in two different entities, essentially, players would be forced to seek employment in one entity; this centralization—and monopolization—would be devastating in terms of players’ choices.

 

Having just taught my students about wealth inequality in the United States, I am keenly aware of just how dangerous the centralization of wealth—and, relatedly, power—can be. Indeed, the American Sociologist C. Wright Mills pointed out more than fifty years ago that the centralization of power—and wealth—in the United States would have devastating consequences. Now, this is not to ignore that inequality is not a defining feature of capitalism; indeed it is a defining feature of humanity; our outcomes—based on our choices—can never be truly equal. The problem is that this inequality has been exaggerated by globalism and globalization. Markets have increased in number, which has resulted in an equal increase in profits. Yet because these markets—and sources of profit—do not correspond to existing national boundaries (indeed, they are often outside of them), the wealthiest citizens no longer have any stake in the well-being of their fellow citizens. After all, it doesn’t matter too much to—say—Apple if Americans can buy iPhones; if they can sell those same iPhones in China or Germany or Madagascar than the American citizen no longer matters to them. Essentially, corporate responsibility no longer matters. And the same would happen in football; the well-being of the Mexican, Canadian, or American footballer would no longer matter.

 

This increasing centralization of wealth in fewer and fewer corporate hands—the big 5 of Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook, for example—is not good. Nor is the centralization of power in the hands of the federal government. And if these centralizations—which C. Wright Mills warned us about—aren’t good, then why would we assume that the centralization of sports would be good? The reality is that the creation of one North American football league would increase the centralization of power and money in football on the continent, and it will have devastating consequences for aspiring footballers in Canada, Mexico, and the United States alike, who would face the loss of playing opportunities. This is why we owe it to ourselves—regardless of which country we are citizens of—to stand up for our countries (and our football leagues) in the face of predatory globalism and predatory globalization.

 

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Thoughts on Google’s Manipulation, Nationalism, and Football Part 2: The Tribulations of Croatia’s World Cup Adventure

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Author’s Note: Upon returning to Turkey from a short trip to Greece I was reading the daily news at home and could not help but notice the main(lame)stream media’s obsession with the word “xenophobic” (and its other forms, like “xenophobia”. When I looked it up on Google, just to see how they would define it, I was surprised to see that—as a synonym—Google decided to provide its users with “nationalism”. This is, of course, absurd and only someone with a very weak knowledge of the English language would accept “nationalism” as a synonym of “xenophobia”. Yet, since Google is so keen on brainwashing internet users around the world I thought that I should—in the vein of famous Sociologist C. Wright Mills—stand up to this absurdity. This is part two of a two-part post responding to Google’s unacceptable attempts to mislead the public.

 

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Beware Google’s Manipulations. Image Courtesy of Google.com

 

Like many previous World Cups, Russia 2018 has been presented to fans as a globalist celebration of “one world” and “one game”. Of course, this message has been mainly sent by FIFA’s corporate sponsors, which look to steamroll the world—and football fans—into one homogenous, all-consuming, mass. That Budweiser (France 1998) and Coca-Cola (Brazil 2014) sent the same messages during previous World Cups goes to show the extent of consumerism’s intimate ties to the World Cup experience in the age of extreme capitalism.

 

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Coca-Cola Advert from Brazil 2014. Image Courtesy Of: https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRjm8Vl6uN4zjSqehlv7Hu8GFWIlZZNLh9p2Jk-OMbf4Uf0atBTRA

 

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Budweiser Advert from France 1998. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8uoRvD-FCw

 

Watching this World Cup, it is fascinating to see just how wary the news media—and FIFA—are of any messages which run afoul of the utopic “one world” message espoused by globalism.  Anything that goes against the narrative is liable to be labeled as “nationalistic” or—perhaps, judging by Google’s twisted logic—xenophobic as well! In a World Cup competition—itself a sporting event contested by the representatives of nation-states—there is always going to be a tension between nationalism and globalism. Just like this tension is evident in the wider world, so too is it evident in the World Cup. Despite what the globalists may wish, nationalism is not going away (a fact which the late Anthony D. Smith continually reminded scholars of). Interestingly, it is Croatia—the tournament’s unheralded surprise package—which has brought this tension to the fore time and again during the tournament.

 

Croatia is a small Balkan nation of around 4,000,000. Despite its small population, however, the Croatian team has shocked the world by making it all the way to the World Cup final. Of course, this is not the best outcome for the sponsors; after all, they are all about the markets, and a bigger population means a bigger market which means more money. And this may be why the Croatian team has been criticized time and again for—perhaps unwittingly—going against the globalist narrative. Most recently, following Croatia’s upset of England in the semifinals, the main(lame)stream media outlet Bloomberg published a piece with the sub-headline “The small country wins thanks to a unique combination of professionalism and warlike nationalist fervor”. While the author is correct in asserting that football did indeed play an important role in the break-up of Yugoslavia and subsequent identity formation of an independent Croatian state, the disdain for any type of “nationalism” is evident in the text: one passage reads “While soccer fans remain a political force, with all their nationalist warts and anti-capitalist pathos, the fervor of the 1990s no longer determines the political landscape”. Clearly, to the author, “nationalism” and “anti-capitalism” represent “warts”; they are disfigurements which need to be removed in order for Croatia to fully enter the globalist utopia.

 

It is important to note that this is just a journalistic interpretation of Croatia’s unprecedented success. Meanwhile, FIFA has also been swift to reprimand Croatia’s team—and players—for other actions which have gone against the globalist narrative.  Defender Domagoj Vida received a “warning” from FIFA for a Youtube video dedicating Croatia’s quarterfinal victory (over Russia) to Ukraine. Mr. Vida explained that the video, in which he says “Glory to Ukraine”, is a joke dedicated to his Ukrainian friends at Dynamo Kiev (the footballer’s former club). Predictably, the video did not go down well with FIFA, who sent an ‘official warning”. Given that the video was pro-Ukrainian, Russian politicians were—like FIFA—quick to condemn it, with the Russian parliament’s sports committee member Dmitry Svishchyov saying “Political, nationalist and racist slogans are not welcome at the World Cup.”. From this comment, it seems that Mr. Svishchyov has either been reading too much Google, or he is mistaken as to what entails “racist” and “nationalist” speech. Expressing support for one country—in this case Ukraine—does not entail “racist” speech. Unfortunately, however, the global culture industry continues to frame the debate, and anything that goes against the narrative is liable to be labeled “racist”… or worse; Mr. Vida escaped with a fine but the Croatian official also appearing in the video was fined 15,000 Swiss Francs.

 

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Domagoj Vida, a Hero to Many For Resisting the Global Culture Industry. Image Courtesy Of: https://tr.sputniknews.com/spor/201807151034289908-vida-ukrayna-yanlisi-ikinc-video/

 

Yet this was not the only moment of “indiscretion” for the Croatian side. Following the team’s round of 16 victory over Denmark, the Croatian soccer federation was fined over 70,000 USD for “an incident in which members of the Croatian national team were seen drinking ‘non-authorized beverage products’”. The “non-authorized beverage product” in question was one not officially approved by FIFA as an official World Cup beverage, yet by daring to consume such a beverage the Croatian team was fined ten times what Russia was fined for unfurling a neo-Nazi banner against Uruguay earlier in the tournament. Clearly, adhering to the globalist logic of consumption is much more important than being “tolerant”; this fact alone should be enough to show World Cup fans just how hollow the globalist tropes of “tolerance” are.

 

These tropes are so hollow that FIFA continually contradicts itself while attempting to tow the globalist line. Following the semi-finals, broadcasters were ordered to stop “zooming in on ‘hot women’ in the crowd” of World Cup matches. Apparently, such “zooming in” is a result of sexist broadcasters. Of course, one could easily point out that showcasing female fans does quite the opposite; it provides an opportunity to showcase female fans and thus allows football to become less of the male preserve that it has traditionally been. Football is best with fans, and their gender should not matter. Unless, of course, FIFA wants to create a controversy out of nothing.

 

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Apparently, These Fans Should Not Be Shown (According to FIFA). Image Courtesy Of: https://www.bbc.com/sport/football/44800145

 

Similarly, the British Independent claims that France’s “multicultural” team (and the patriotism it elicits) does not “disguise the racism in French society”. What The Independent fails to note is that France’s “multicultural” squad is a direct result of colonialism; the sons of French colonial possessions have come to the metropole to represent the national team in this World Cup, yet there is no mention of this uncomfortable link in The Independent’s piece. Rather, they prefer to focus on the perceived racism that exists in French society. Of course, underlining the team’s connection to the colonial past would have undermined the main(lame) stream media’s case, so it went unmentioned. Yet, for those of us who care not for equality but who strive for justice, this is unacceptable; in order to keep globalism from becoming an extension of imperialism we must not be silent when we see immigrants being exploited (a topic that the Washington Post hints at when noting the issues with calling France an “African team”). Wouldn’t it be nicer if there actually was an African team in the latter stages of the World Cup, rather than a French side advertising the European nation’s neocolonial tendencies? Of course it would be…but don’t expect that kind of analysis from the Washington Post, which prefers divisive race baiting in their “analysis”. And yet, when a former Croatia manager points out the national backgrounds of the French side, he is immediately slammed for being “racist”. Again, it represents yet another attempt to slander Croatia, the side that FIFA’s corporate sponsors did not really want in the final; England would have brought in much more publicity (and, of course, money). This is why it is important to read through the lines of the headlines put out by the main(lame) stream media; most of it is just a cheap way to frame debate and increase the divisions among people based on gender or race.

 

Keeping these examples in mind, football fans must wonder: where is the freedom in a world dominated by the logic of extreme capitalism and consumption? When corporate interests decide what drinks a team can and can not consume, it becomes clear that we are living in an age of corporate fascism. When broadcasters are told what images of fans they should focus on—and which types of fans they should ignore—it becomes clear that we are living in an age of corporate fascism. When the news media attempts to divide people based on demographic characteristics, it becomes clear we are living in an age of corporate fascism. It is these types of social control that we all must resist, regardless of the team we support or the nation we are a citizen of. The only way to defeat globalism—and its corporate sponsors—is by standing up for countries and their cultures. Otherwise, we risk becoming anonymous parts of a homogenized global “culture” of consumption. Nationalism and patriotism are not xenophobia, despite what Google might say.

 

Please See Part 1 Here.

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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From the 2014 World Cup, But Still Very Relevant. Image Courtesy Of: https://thesunshineroom.com/category/world-cup-2014/

Football Shirts Get Political Again, This Time in The United States

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Almost a month ago, I wrote about a case where a football shirt started a political storm in Germany. Now, it seems, the same is happening in the United States. A few years ago, as I was filling out my Panini album (a must during a World Cup year), I couldn’t help but lament the fact that both Turkey and the United States would not be playing. For the U.S. it is an even bigger failure (given the amount of money invested in football), and the squad will have to settle with appearing in a few pre-tournament warm-up matches. While the U.S. faced France on June 9 2018, a French friend texted me to ask “Why are the U.S. jerseys so hideous?”. I didn’t know what he meant, so I tuned in and took a look. Indeed, the jerseys were a little off…the numbering scheme was, for some reason, colored like a rainbow! The players looked like school children, and—as a shirt enthusiast—I cringed at the design. The problem, of course, is not the fact that the U.S. men’s national football team is supporting gay pride. The United States is a diverse nation, and its gay citizens are just as valuable as its straight citizens. Indeed, the only thing that should matter, in an international football match, is representing your country. In this case, the only thing that should matter is being American. And that is the issue with these shirts: it is an unnecessary distraction and the numbering color scheme represents the ongoing politicization of all spheres of culture—sports included—in the United States of America. It is certainly a slippery slope.

 

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Really? Image Courtesy Of: https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/team-usa-ireland-pride-jerseys-friendly-dublin-484427761.html

 

The politicization of U.S. Soccer brings to mind the furious campaign by former star Eric Wynalda to become president of the U.S. Soccer federation. Mr. Wynalda, in the run up to his campaign, said all the right things. Indeed, he asked the right questions:

 

We have countries like Uruguay with 3.5 million people in the whole country. You have Iceland who’s beating England. They have more active volcanoes than coaches. We here have this massive undertaking. We have 350 million people [in this country] and we can’t figure out how to find 11? Really?

 

Sadly, however, U.S. Soccer would not listen, showing both the corporatization of football in the U.S. as well as the larger world. The mainstream media labeled him an “outsider” (the LA Times) and the New York Times—leaders of media manipulation as they are—chose to highlight his personal financial problems. The LA Times article identifies the main reason Mr. Wynalda has had trouble in the football world:

 

Multiple efforts to become an MLS head coach went nowhere, as his contemporaries with vanilla personalities were awarded positions. U.S. Soccer’s player of the decade in the 1990s, a veteran of three World Cups, became an outsider.

He wouldn’t encounter such obstacles in almost any other country, where strong if not downright defective personalities are accepted as byproducts of the creativity necessary to be a star player [Emphasis Added].

 

As football has become increasingly corporate in the age of industrial football, creative ideas—as is the case in most industries—have been discouraged. This is why Mr. Wynalda’s struggles are not just a “personal trouble”, to borrow the language of American Sociologist C. Wright Mills. Rather, they are representative of wider “social problems”: Industrial society in the United States has become reluctant to open itself to any ideas which challenge the dominant narratives, creating an environment which fosters one-dimensional thought in boardrooms across corporate America and in classrooms throughout the American education system.

 

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Eric Wynalda, A Patriot Who Has Become an Outsider In Our Brave New World. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.mlssoccer.com/post/2016/06/02/us-win-over-colombia-1994-world-cup-announced-were-here-stay

 

Of course, this is not the recipe for a successful country, a peaceful society, or even a functioning football association. We, as a society, have become used to allowing technocrats to shape all facets of our lives. The two candidates Mr. Wynalda ran against, Sunil Gulati and Carlos Cordeiro, were typical technocrats. The former is an economist who teaches at Columbia University; the latter is a former partner at Goldman Sachs. In fact, Mr. Cordeiro said he was the only candidate with  “the skills to help oversee an organization with a 170 person staff, a $110 million budget, a $150 million surplus, and more than four million players, coaches, and referees”. While these are of course important factors to consider, the fact is that these skills have absolutely nothing to do with football but everything to do with business. When profit becomes the main consideration, however, these are the qualities that come to the fore. In an uber-rationalized world—in the Weberian sense—an emotional former footballer like Mr. Wynalda is deemed unacceptable for the position; instead, it is investment bankers and economists who are the ones favored. And that is how we come to an absurd situation where the most important colors of a football shirt are not the national colors of a nation but those on back of the shirts.

 

The decision to allow rainbow colored numbers—in support of Pride month—drew outrage from many. In fact, it even made a footballer for the US Women’s national team abandon her dream of representing her country because her faith did not allow her to wear the “pride” shirt in question. Given this situation, it is easy to see that there is a problem here.

 

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Jaelene Hinkel Chose to Speak Up. Unfortunately, It Cost Her the Opportunity to Represent her Nation. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/team-usa-ireland-pride-jerseys-friendly-dublin-484427761.html

 

While gay pride should certainly be supported—gay individuals are equal citizens of the United States—there are ways to do this and, unfortunately, football shirts are not the place for this. Anything that willfully alienates people—gay or straight, religious or secular, male or female—from the larger community (in this case the nation) should not be supported by anyone who is truly tolerant. It seems that forcing footballers to wear jerseys which support a certain quasi-political message represents an egregious imposition of politics on sports. It is no different from the calls from gay individuals to boycott the fast food restaurant Chick-fil-A ( https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/lgbtq-eating-chick-fil-a_us_5b1fb4cee4b09d7a3d770c81 . No one, regardless of their sexual orientation, has a right to tell people where to eat. Encroaching onto people’s personal lives like this is a form of fascism, and cannot be tolerated by anyone who values the liberty and freedom of individual human life.

 

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One of the First Lessons of Sport is That the Name on the Front of the Jersey Matters More than the Name on the Back Of the Jersey. The Same Goes For the Colors of the Jersey. If We Truly are “One Nation” and “One Team”, as the Banner Suggests, then We Have No Choice but to Abandon the Divisive Virus of Identity Politics. Image Courtesy Of: https://gaynation.co/outrage-as-us-soccer-team-dons-rainbow-jersey-for-in-support-of-rainbow-community/

 

Perhaps if the US Soccer Federation had spent its time developing the football program—rather than catering to identity politics—the U.S. would have a team to root for in the World Cup. Instead, we see the regressive nature of progressive America as the quality of football suffers when technocrats choose politics over sport. The politicization of football shirts, therefore, clearly shows that authoritarianism knows no political allegiance; it can come as easily from the “left” as it can from the “right”. Divide and rule is the oldest trick in the book, so resist the divisions and stand up for your country!

 

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The Top World Cup 2018 Shirts: A Lesson in Late Stage Capitalism and Global Homogenization

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Four Years ago, I wrote a piece detailing my top picks among the 2014 kits and my choices for the top five classic world cup kits. With just seven days until the 2018 FIFA World Cup kicks off in Russia, I thought I would do the same. However, this year, the list will be a little more sociological than the one from four years ago.

Indeed, outlets like GQ have provided their rankings, as well as a slew of other websites; one need only search “top world cup shirts 2018” in order to be bombarded by hundreds of choices. This is why my list will not be so much as a ranking. Instead, it will be commentary on just how late stage capitalist logic—and one dimensional thought—invade every aspect of our lives. This invasion—similar to the colonization of the life world by the system, that Sociologist Jurgen Habermas has written about—is very evident in the world of football shirts.

For an introduction to the topic, please see my earlier post from 6 July 2017 here. In short, my argument is that when the logic of consumption drives the creative process, one dimensional thought becomes the norm. Designers and creative minds are unwilling—in fact, in some cases, they may even be scared—to stray from the “tried and true” methods. After all, these are the methods that have brought profit. Therefore, creativity is stifled by a dominant form of one dimensional thought which cannot stray from its own money-making logic.

This is why cars have started to look more and more the same, and why mobile (or cellular) telephones are virtually indistinguishable from one another regardless of if they are iPhones, Samsungs, Nokias, HTCs, LGs, or any other brand. As a human society, we have become used to images—we are obsessed with them, as Jean Baudrillard has said—and this means that our reality is more of a hyperreality dominated by these images. We know what a mobile phone should look like, anything that does not look like the image we have been grown used to cannot be a phone (think of flip-phone versus iPhone). Similarly, with cars, we see the same process. We have become used to what a “luxury” car should look like, so we cannot conceive of anything that does not look like what we expect (perhaps this is why Hyundais and Kias look virtually the same while also resembling more expensive brands like BMW and Audi).

 

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Which One Of These Is a Phone? Image Courtesy Of: https://thoughttamales.wordpress.com/tag/prepaid-cell/

 

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The Same Car? Image Courtesy Of: https://www.carwow.co.uk/blog/kia-sportage-vs-hyundai-tucson

Unfortunately, football shirts are not immune from this ongoing homogenization in the name of increasing consumption, and the latest World Cup shirt designs show this. More than a few of this year’s shirts bare a striking resemblance to older shirts, which makes for a very boring overall lineup.

 

Spain 2018. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/gallery/world-cup-kits-ranked-2018

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Spain’s 2018 shirt did not impress GQ, and this is perhaps because it is just a re-hashing of the country’s classic 1994 design.

 

Spain 1994. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.branchofscience.com/2014/05/nineties-kits-usa-94-special-part-two/

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Colombia 2018. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/gallery/world-cup-kits-ranked-2018

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Another shirt that GQ didn’t like. Perhaps that is because this is just a modernized version of Adidas’ 1996 template; the antecedent of this shirt was perhaps Romania’s Euro 1996 shirt.

 

Romania 1996. Image Courtesy Of: https://thefootballshirtcollective.tumblr.com/post/142359500227/repost-199698-romania-home-shirt-from

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Mexico 2018. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/gallery/world-cup-kits-ranked-2018

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Mexico’s 2018 kit is not very imaginative (and has no resemblance to the beauties from 1998 which actually paid homage to Mexico’s Central American heritage). Instead, this kit seems to have been inspired by Bulgaria’s 1994 World Cup Kit. I suppose that is globalism at its best; in 20 years Mexico went from gaining inspiration from their own history to gaining inspiration from…Bulgaria. Maybe it is due to the fact that both countries’ flags share the same tricolor, who knows.

 

Bulgaria 1994. Image Courtesy Of: http://kirefootballkits.blogspot.com/2011/10/bulgaria-kits-world-cup-1994.html

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Germany 2018. Image Courtesy Of: : http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/gallery/world-cup-kits-ranked-2018

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While Germany’s shirt might be striking in this line up, it is merely a rehashing of the classic West Germany shirt from 1988. And, like so many shirts on this list, the new one is not as nearly as well designed as the old one. Indeed, sequels are never as good as the originals.

 

Germany 1988. Image Courtesy Of: http://hullcitykits.co.uk/meet-the-hck-staff/

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Nigeria 2018 (Image Courtesy Of: http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/gallery/world-cup-kits-ranked-2018

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Nigeria’s new kit has been widely touted as one of the best in this year’s tournament. GQ calls it “eccentric”, and given that it is already sold out in the UK it goes to show that sometimes it pays to stray from one-dimensional thought. Yet, at the same time, even this shirt is not completely unique. When I first saw the shirt I couldn’t help but think that I had seem something like it before. Indeed, it bares some resemblance to Holland’s classic 1998 design and West Germany’s Euro 1988 Away kit as well as Northern Ireland’s 1990 Umbro shirt.

 

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Holland 1988. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.retrosyrarezas.com/products/holland-netherlands-mens-retro-soccer-jersey-euro-88-gullit-10-replica

 

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Germany 1988-1990. Image Courtesy Of: http://kirefootballkits.blogspot.com/2016/07/germany-kits-euro-1988.html

 

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Northern Ireland 1990. Image Courtesy Of: http://nifootball.blogspot.com/2006/10/iain-dowie.html

 

It is important to note that this list—and this criticism of the 2018 shirt line up—is not to say that respecting the past, and paying homage to past designs, is not a bad thing. Indeed, respecting the past and what has come before is a good thing. But this does not mean that we should be blind to the fact that, in the name of consumption, we are being sold the past back to us in the present. It means that while we—as consumers—are paying more and more for our products, while the designers may be getting less and less creative. And it also means that there is a very real double standard in world football when it comes to shirt designs.

I will leave this post with a comparison between the 1996 Turkey Home and Away shirts and the 2016 “Spider Man” home and away Turkish Kits. Perhaps, in this instance, the designers would have done well to seek some inspiration from the past. But even here, the “past” of 1996 still represented by an Adidas template.

 

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New vs. Old. I am not a fan of the new shirts at all. Image Courtesy of the Author.

 

In March 2018 a Turkish sports pundit, Mehmet Demirkol, came out threatening to take the Turkish FA to court if they did not return to the classic Turkish national shirt design. The classic design has been changed on and off for years, culminating in the monstrosity of the 2016 “Spider Man” kits. And it is here that I agree with Mr. Demirkol. There is such a thing as national symbols, and—as Mr. Demirkol argues—the football shirt is a national symbol. We do not see international corporations like Nike and Adidas playing with German, English, Brazilian, Dutch, or Argentine kits. No, such countries have been wearing similar designs for years. Indeed, as I pointed out, Germany has returned to a classic design for the 2018 World Cup. Yet countries like Mexico and Turkey have their kits played with—and their national heritages ignored—by the whims of global capital. In order to resist the ongoing global homogenization of global corporations and globalist ideas, it is important to respect your national heritage regardless of which country you come from. And, even when it comes to football shirts, we can still stand up for our countries in the face of globalism.

 

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The Classic “Red Stripe” Design Evoking the Turkish Flag. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.milliyet.com.tr/yazarlar/baris-kuyucu/17-yil-sonra-klasik-forma-1206165/

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