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“Human Rights” as Justification for Continued Western Imperialism with a Kinder Face: The Case of Euro 2024

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On 27 September 2018 Turkey lost their bid to host UEFA Euro 2024, Europe’s biggest football tournament. Germany, the hosts of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, will be the host country, winning a bid where “realism” won out in the face of “romance”. In typical fashion, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan shrugged the loss off by pointing out that Turkey evaded the costs. While I am sure Mr. Erdogan himself was a little disappointed—after all, EURO 2024 was going to be the tournament in which Turkey’s shiny new stadiums could be showcased after Istanbul lost the bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics—he was very right when he pointed out that “it is always in the same country”. Indeed, it always seems that Western countries end up hosting most major football tournaments, no doubt because—in many cases—they have the requisite infrastructure. Yet, what makes this case different, is that the entire debate surrounding the bid decision focused on one very particular facet of Western foreign policy: the case of “Human Rights”.

 

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Ms. Merkel Seems Unable to Recognize Her Own Nation’s Football Shirt (!). Image Courtesy Of: https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/international/euro-2024-bid-germany-turkey-realism-romance-mesut-ozil-a8554776.html

 

I put the aforementioned term in “quotations” not because I find it frivolous, but rather because I remember the many injustices which have been committed in the name of furthering or protecting these “human rights”; the war in Iraq and interventions in Libya and Syria come most readily to mind in this context. The German public international broadcaster Deutsche Welle brought this issue to the fore in a 26 September 2018 article by Felix Tamsut entitled “Human rights in the spotlight for Euro 2024 host bid”. According to Deutsche Welle:

 

For the first time ever, UEFA has included clauses related to the human rights situation in the hosting country as part of its bidding process. In its announcement, UEFA said the bidding country has to “culturally embed human rights,” as well as “proactively address human rights risks.” The term “human rights” was mentioned 11 times in UEFA’s final evaluation report of both Germany and Turkey, which goes to show the importance of both countries’ record in the field. For comparison, the same report released ahead of Euro 2020 did not contain that term at all.

 

To any reader, this should itself stand out. How could it be that “human rights” comes to the fore when Turkey is involved? I would argue that this newfound interest in “human rights” is more a result of Western virtue signaling—in the name of a kinder form of imperialism—than it is a reflection of Turkey’s own human rights record. This is not to say that Turkey has not presented the world with a very real contradiction in terms—as an authoritarian neoliberal state—but, I believe, the “human rights” records of other recent hosts of football’s major tournaments have not been held to the same standard, leading this observer to believe that something else is behind this form of opinion shaping emanating from the global “West”. For a moment, lets look at the cases going back from the 2010 FIFA World Cup hosted by South Africa (Indeed, a cursory Google search of “Human rights Germany World Cup” or “Human rights France Euro 2016” reveals nothing, either a result of Google’s own censorship policies or—more realistically—a result of the fact that the issue of “human rights” was never brought up in the context of these “Western” bids).

 

FIFA World Cup 2010: Hosted by South Africa

A 4 June 2010 report by Amnesty International ahead of the 2010 World Cup entitled “Human Rights Concerns in South Africa During the World Cup” points out that:

 

There has been an increase in police harassment of informal traders (hawkers), homeless South Africans, and refugees and migrants who are living in shelters or high density inner city accommodation.

This harassment has included police raids, arbitrary arrests, ill-treatment and extortion, as well as destruction of informal housing.

The tearing down of informal housing has taken place without prior notice, provision of adequate alternative housing or compensation and in violation of domestic law prohibiting forced evictions.

Regulations created to comply with FIFA World Cup requirements in host cities are being used by police to expel homeless people and street traders from “controlled access sites” and exclusion zones around World Cup venues. Penalties for offences under the regulations include fines of up to Rand 10,000 {$1,300] or imprisonment of up to six months.

 

Of course, this emphasis on sheltering the world from the realities of poverty in South Africa—especially by destroying informal housing—is hardly unique to the South African case. Indeed, it is part and parcel of the trend for international sporting events to deflect attention from the reality of urban poverty in the non-Western world so as to present a utopian vision of society by sweeping the problems under the proverbial rug. Indeed, the Brazilian World Cup suffered from a similar tendency.

 

FIFA World Cup 2014: Hosted by Brazil

On 4 April 2014, Amnesty International published a report entitled “Brazil: Human Rights Under Threat Ahead of the World Cup”, showcasing the words of Atila Roque, the director of Amnesty International Brazil:

 

The excessive use of force by Brazilian police in response to the widespread protests last year resulted in many people injured. Rather than training the police in how to deal with peaceful mass protests, the government’s response has been to criminalize protesters giving the security services carte blanche to arrest and detain people at will. New laws have been proposed that threaten the right to freedom of expression. This is not just about the World Cup but will have long-term consequences for any future peaceful protests.

 

Indeed, the Guardian (surprisingly) was one of the Western news outlets to report on the widespread “social cleansing” of Rio de Janeiro’s “favelas”. According to the 2013 story, “At least 19,000 families have been moved to make way for roads, renovated stadiums, an athletes’ village, an ambitious redevelopment of the port area and other projects that have been launched or accelerated to prepare the city for the world’s two biggest sporting events [the Olympics and FIFA World Cup]”. Predictably, of course, the government justified the forced eviction of the country’s poorest citizens as “necessary to modernize the city”.

 

FIFA World Cup 2018 Hosted by Russia

 Even before the summer of 2018, Human Rights Watch published a piece on 21 March 2018 readying viewers for the “World Cup of Shame” to be hosted by Russia, noting that there is no better way for countries to “exercise soft power than hosting the top tournament of the world’s most popular sport”. Indeed, after the tournament, the same news outlet claimed that “the human costs” of Russia’s “bloody World Cup” were high, citing the death of at least 21 workers involved in stadium construction and the country’s ongoing discrimination of its LGBT citizens. Yet even Russia’s “human rights” abuses are nothing when compared to Qatars.

 

FIFA World CUP 2022 Hosted by Qatar

Amnesty International’s piece “Qatar World Cup of Shame” details the plight of Qatar’s migrant workers who have been imported to help construct the country’s new stadiums, detailing the (often) forced nature of their labor and appalling working conditions. The graphic below provides some important context of the argument against Qatar 2020.

 

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Its a Numbers Game. Image courtesy of https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/campaigns/2016/03/qatar-world-cup-of-shame/

 

This is how we now arrive at the Euro 2024 bid, where Turkey—despite boasting a strong football infrastructure, as well as offering beautiful tourist sights and a vibrant culture full of hospitable locals—loses its bid to Germany on the basis of “human rights”. If such things truly mattered for hosting international football tournaments, then South Africa and Brazil would not have been able to cleanse urban areas of their unwanted urban poor while Russia and Qatar would not have been able to build their infrastructure through poorly regulated labor contracts which—in the case of the latter—border on slavery. Yet, all four of these countries were able to abuse human rights while successfully sanitizing urban areas to better fit the consumerist ethos of modern sports.

 

And this is where we get to the real reason that Turkey was not chosen to host UEFA Euro 2024. It is not about human rights, nor is it about Turkey’s perceived ability (or inability) to host a major tournament; Turkey would make a fine host. But instead, it is about consumption. Since the Turkish Lira has lost 40 percent against the U.S. Dollar in the past year, many economists fear that the country’s economy is heading into recession. If this happens it will mean that Turkish consumers will not be able to consume as much as they would in a stronger economy; thus—for the sports marketers who (behind the scenes) ultimately decide the location of international sporting events—Turkey is not the best choice of venue. Make no mistake, the rhetoric behind the “human rights” argument is just a veneer of Western virtue signaling which does not stand up to empirical scrutiny when the cases of Qatar, Russia, Brazil, and South Africa are considered. Of course, it is also worth noting that the aforementioned four cases also were chosen at a time when globalism was ascendant; with this disastrous global ideology seemingly on the back foot it seems that Europe is circling the wagons to ensure that—at least—the European Championships stay in the heart of Europe as we end the first quarter of the twenty-first century. Of course, the ethno-centric nature of UEFA’s decision to award Germany the bid will also be obscured by the “human rights” discourse, pointing to yet another way that virtue signaling serves to discourage the search for alternative explanations which both stray from the dominant media narrative, but which also might be closer to the truth.

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Football Brings Greeks (As Well as Turks) Together in the Wake of Devastating Fires

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Many journalistic and academic works about football tend to focus on the negative aspects of football fandom, particularly harping on rare instances of hooliganism or “xenophobia” in order further a narrative designed to transform football fans from emotional “supporters” into docile “consumers”. In so doing, however, these writers often (perhaps purposefully) choose to ignore the positive aspects of sport which can actually bring people together in traumatic times of grief and sorrow. The footballing world’s response to the tragic wildfires which recently engulfed the environs of Athens, claiming over 80 lives, are an example of this function of sport.

 

The famous Greek side Olympiakos announced that they will be donating 1 million Euros to victims of the fires, while also setting up bank accounts at three Greek banks to accept donations. Meanwhile, Arsenal’s new signing Sokratis Papastathopoulos announced that he would be donating the weekly profits from his own business to the victims. This kind of solidarity is especially important when one considers the fact that arson may have played a part, a possibility which Greek leaders are looking into given the speed with which the wildfires spread. This national tragedy, as the Pappas Post notes, prompted Thessaloniki based club PAOK Thessaloniki to donate 100 percent of the proceeds from their recent UEFA Champions League tie with Swiss side FC Basel.

 

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“As a first aid action, PAOK FC will grant all the proceeds of today’s match to repair damage and alleviate families affected by the tragedy of Attica. Our thoughts are with the families of the victims and in ways of further assistance”. Translation and Image Courtesy of: http://www.pappaspost.com/solidarity-reigns-among-greeks-after-tragic-fires-in-attica/

 

It is important to note that support for the victims within the football world has also come from outside of Greece. Recently, Turkish side Galatasaray SK donated almost 1.5 million U.S. Dollars—the proceeds from their friendly with AEK Athens—to the victims. Before the match, the Galatasaray players took the field with t-shirts wishing their neighbors well. Similarly, Izmir side Goztepe took the field for a match with Olympiakos on 26 July 2018 with a “Pray for Athens” banner. Unfortunately, however, these important developments in Greek/Turkish relations have been widely ignored in the global English language press. This is not surprising, as the media’s narrative prefers to see sport as an avenue to further divisions in society (as can be seen from the bizarre kneeling fiasco in the United States’ National Football League (NFL)). So long as the globalist media prefers to drive wedges between communities in favor of their narrative, and continue to provide a one dimensional image of football fans, we as readers will receive a distorted view of the world.

 

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Greek and Turkish Solidarity on the Football Field. Images Courtesy Of: http://www.milliyet.com.tr/galatasaray-dan-atina-da-anlamli-ti-galatasaray-2716533-skorerhaber/

 

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Image Courtesy of: https://www.haberturk.com/goztepe-den-yunanistan-a-destek-geldi-2076832-spor

 

For an interesting academic take on the press reporting of football matches between Greek and Turkish sides, please see here: http://users.auth.gr/npanagiotou/articles/Emre-Nikos-EMU2007Paper.pdf

As someone who knows that Turkish and Greek cultures have many more similarities than they have differences, my thoughts go out out to all of those who have been affected by this tragedy in Greece.

 

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An Image that Scares the Globalists. Image Courtesy Of: https://turkiye.net/yazarlar/bugra-bakan/turkiye-ve-yunanistanin-karsilastirmali-ekonomik-durumu/

 

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Culture Is Real, so Stand Up For It Regardless of Your Nationality. Image Courtesy Of: https://komsudaneoluyor.net/prowthiste-ypiresies-proionta-se-tourkous-touristes/

 

 

Thoughts on Google’s Manipulation, Nationalism, and Football Part 1: Greece and Turkey

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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 one of a two-part post responding to Google’s unacceptable attempts to mislead the public.

 

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This . . . Might Not Be The Best Way To “Learn New Words”. Image Courtesy Of Google Search.

 

While sitting at a seaside restaurant on the Greek island of Chios, my friend explained to me the myriad of issues that membership in the European Union brought Greece. From rising prices as a result of adopting the Euro to absurd regulations which prohibit private citizens from consuming produce from their own gardens, my friend painted a picture of a highly regulated dystopia favoring corporate interests over the interests of Greek citizens at large. My friend summed it up as the destruction of Greek culture in the face of an imposed “European” culture; one which has driven a wedge between two very similar cultures: those of Greece and Turkey. Of course, as my friend noted, “they”—the globalist powers that be in the European Union—are afraid of a Greco-Turkish union since it would be a geopolitical power in the Mediterranean. To avoid such an outcome, the differences—mainly religious—between the two cultures have been highlighted to prevent any inkling of the kind of “Helleno-Turkism” that historian Dimitri Kitsikis once called for. It made for a melancholy night over ouzo, as one had to ask what similarities Greek culture has with, say, Swedish culture, other than both being members of the so-called European “Union”.

 

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Beautiful Pyrgi. Image Courtesy Of The Author.

 

The next day in the beautiful village of Pyrgi I met a storekeeper who could recite the Turkish football team Karsiyaka’s “Kaf Kaf” chant better than Turkey’s own Prime Minister! Why was it, then, that Greek storekeeper could recite this famous chant better than a Turkish politician? It is because one is a real person working in the interest of his local business (it is a smart move to create rapport with Turkish visitors) while the other has become detached from his own population while working in the interests of global capital. Indeed, that a train could derail in Northwest Turkey—and cause the loss of 24 innocent lives–is testament to the fact that Turkey’s globalist leaders ignore infrastructure when it does not directly benefit international capital. It is easy to build an unnecessary third airport in Istanbul; it is harder to maintain the railways that citizens use every day.

 

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Clearly There Was Very Little Inspection Done on the Tekirdag-Istanbul Route Before the Accident. Images Courtesy Of: http://www.haberturk.com/son-dakika-tekirdag-da-tren-kazasi-iste-olay-yerinden-ilk-kareler-2050114/5

 

During our conversation, the shopkeeper said something very important; something that all scholars of nationalism should keep in mind. He told me that the hardliners are dumb: “We only have ninety years [on earth]. So why would we live our lives hating people because of their nationality?”. Indeed, it is a great question. Life is short. So why harp on national differences when the cultures are so similar? Loving one’s country—and one’s culture and fellow citizens—does not mean hating other countries, cultures, or people. Despite what Google’s lies might tell you, life is not that simple. Nationalism is not xenophobia; it is by traveling that one can best gain the knowledge necessary to defeat the divisions created by global corporations like Google.

 

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A Turkish Truck Travels to Chios to Help Drain Sewage. It is the Artificial Divisions of Globalism Which Keep Turks and Greeks Apart, Not Nationalism. Image Courtesy Of the Author.

 

Upcoming: Part Two

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/

The Globalist Endgame in Turkey Manifested itself in Football Long Before Economic Crisis Hit the Markets

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Bloomberg quoted an Istanbul-based broker saying “God help Turkey” on 21 May 2018 as the Turkish Lira fell to a record low against the U.S. Dollar and Euro. While Bloomberg, like so much of the main(lame) stream media, enjoy fanning the flames of crisis when covering countries whose leaders they do not like (Syria’s Assad is a good example of this), the Turkish financial crisis has been a long time in coming.

I have written on this coming crisis multiple times before (in 2014 and in 2017), since the pace of privatization—and the selling off of Turkish assets to foreign ownership—was never going to end well. Unfortunately for Turkey, however, the country has been run by a globalist leader who never truly cared for his citizens any more than fellow globalist leader Barack Obama cared about the American people during his eight year tenure. While Bloomberg author Benjamin Harvey seems to connect this crisis to the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan alone, his analysis misses the mark. No, the problem is not specifically the leader; the problem—rather—is a globalist power structure which privileges international capital over human lives. Having made a deal with international capital (or, perhaps, the devil?) in 2002 to stabilize the Turkish economy in the wake of a 2001 currency crisis—which saw the dollar’s value double in Turkey overnight—Mr. Erdogan, from the beginning, was used to following the dictates of international capital. As Mr. Harvey writes:

 

When Erdogan’s party swept to victory in 2002 on pledges to open markets and liberalize institutions, Turkey’s economy was on life support, requiring an international rescue package that topped $20 billion. The lira had collapsed, along with a handful of banks and government efforts to contain raging inflation.

 

Over the course of the last fifteen years, bolstered by steady support from its base, Mr. Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development (AKP) party has gotten complacent. They believed that, regardless of what they did, they would continue to get votes while selling away the country.

Mr. Harvey, while rightly seeing the Gezi protests of 2013 as a turning point, conveniently ignores some major qualities inherent in the globalist style of rule. Mr. Harvey claims that, following Gezi, “The sense of optimism, the belief that Turks of various stripes and ideologies were all in the same boat, was replaced by a relentless divisiveness in political culture, exacerbated by a sense of grievance emanating from their uncompromising leader”. What is important to note is that this “divisiveness in political culture” was present long before Gezi; indeed it was what cemented Mr. Erdogan’s power in the first place. Identity politics, like in the United States, is the key to creating the kind of mass movements that globalism feeds on. In order to get the masses behind a movement, the populace must first be “massified”. This “Massification”—for lack of a better term—is best achieved by dividing the population against itself; in Turkey, it works by dividing religious from secular, Kurd from Turk, and urban from rural. The end result is a mass population unable to see that their beloved leader cares more about money than about the average citizen’s well being. And that is a very real problem.

In The Theory of the Leisure Class, Thorstein Veblen recognizes that

 

The tendency of the pecuniary life is, in a general way, to conserve the barbarian temperament, but with the substitution of fraud and prudence, or administrative ability, in place of that predilection for physical damage that characterizes the early barbarian. This substitution of chicanery in place of devastation takes place only in an uncertain degree [. . .] The conventional scheme of decent living calls for a considerable exercise of the earlier barbarian traits (Veblen 1953[1899]: 161).

 

In simpler terms, Veblen is saying that—in the modern world—the barbaric instinct of humans does not manifest itself in out and out violence, rather it manifests itself in fraud and chicanery; in a word violence becomes deception. In Turkey, Mr. Erdogan’s style of rule shows that Nietzsche’s will to power is alive and well in the modern world, there can be no doubt about it. This fact was most recently made clear following a football match in late April.

According to a recent OdaTV story, Mr. Erdogan himself encouraged Besiktas to play out the second leg of their Turkish Cup Semi-final tie with Fenerbahce in late April after the match had to be rescheduled following crowd violence. While Besiktas chairman Fikret Orman said that the decision not to play was not his but that the fans wanted it, Youth and Sports Minister Osman Bak responded that “the sir wants it this way”, implying that Mr. Erdogan wanted Besiktas to play. While Mr. Bak told Mr. Orman to “do what is necessary”, Besiktas still did not come out to play. Regardless of whether one believes this was a right or wrong decision in sporting terms, it is clear that Mr. Erdogan—from the beginning—had a desire to see the match played out. Indeed, his first response was that the violence—which marred the first attempt to play the game—was a “set up”. Of course, the fan’s behavior was unacceptable. And—were there a semblance of rule of law—perhaps Fenerbahce would have been punished and Besiktas would not have had to even make the decision to not come out for the match. But the rule of law matters little when it comes to globalized extreme capitalism. Indeed, Mr. Erdogan knew that there was money to be made from the Istanbul derby, as televisions across the country would tune into it and make money for A Spor, the pro-government channel which holds the rights to the Ziraat Turkish Cup (A competition which has been a money maker for pro-government media figures in the past). Football here just represents another avenue where improper behavior (and the rule of law) can be ignored when it comes to securing profits for those who are close to the Turkish ruling class.

 

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Ugly Scenes During the First Leg of the Ziraat Turkish Cup Semi-Final Between Fenerbahce and Besiktas on 19 April 2018. Images Courtesy Of: http://www.haberturk.com/fenerbahce-besiktas-derbisinde-olaylar-cikti-olaylardan-goruntuler-1927395-spor/9

 

As I said at the outset, Turkish football has long been a harbinger of economic crisis in Turkey. Reuters reported in February of 2016 that “ambitions to secure a place at international soccer’s top table have come at a high cost for Turkey’s leading clubs”. Indeed, according to the story, “the 18 teams in Turkey’s top league [in 2016 were] saddled with 4.2 billion lira ($1.4 billion) in debt, around half owed to banks”. Again, according to Reuters, Turkey’s big clubs were in big trouble as far back as 2015:

 

Galatasaray reported a net loss of 87.5 million lira in the year to the end of May 2015, while Fenerbahce lost 181.2 million. Besiktas and Trabzonspor lost 140.5 million and 104 million respectively, according to stock market filings.

Galatasaray’s short-term liabilities – debt due within one year – stood at 527 million lira, Fenerbahce’s at 477.5 million lira, Besiktas’s 338 million lira and Trabzonspor’s at 220 million lira at end May 2015.

 

But the big names and big new stadiums put football fans to sleep, just like the shiny shopping malls of Istanbul have many believing that the current currency crisis will pass sooner rather than later. As American Sociologist C. Wright Mills once said, given the “ascendant trend of rationalization, the individual ‘does the best he can.’ He gears his aspirations and his work to the situation he is in, and from which he can find no way out. In due course, he does not seek a way out: he adapts. That part of his life which is left over from work, he uses to play, to consume, ‘to have fun’” (Mills, The Sociological Imagination 2000[1959]: 170). It is this kind of blind consumption—this acquiescence to the status quo created by extreme capitalism—which has people in Turkey (and all over the world) consuming beyond their means and, eventually, results in economic crisis; it is part and parcel of the periodic “crises of capitalism” which Karl Marx pointed out over a century ago.

This is also why Mr. Erdogan can ignore his people during a currency crisis in order to benefit those close to him. Since construction is the major source of income for the Turkish rentier state, Mr. Erdogan was reluctant at first to raise interest rates (the main path to keeping the Lira competitive, and a move eventually taken) since it would threaten the construction industry. At the same time, with many of his supporters keeping their money in foreign currency, Mr. Erdogan is—in effect—making his supporters richer through arbitrage with every day that the Turkish Lira loses value. It is a classic example of a leader enriching himself and his supporters at the expense of the average citizen. No, it is not about Mr. Erdogan. It is about the structure of the entire globalized economy. Even Hillary Clinton can even claim (incredulously) that “Democrats rescued the American economy”. Globalist figures like this have such little respect for their people that they lie to them day in and day out; globalist figures like this are also why it is imperative that people put identity politics aside and truly come together in order to take back their countries from the globalist abyss.

Football Shirts and Nationalism

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As an avid collector of football shirts, the headline “How a soccer jersey sparked the latest Germany-Turkey spat” of a 15 May 2018 article by Siobhan O’Grady in The Washington Post immediately caught my eye. As a dual citizen of a Western country (the United States) and Turkey, I felt the tensions that the footballers in question—both Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan—must have been feeling themselves. Especially because I study the intersection of football and nationalism in Turkey, I know that this event is about much more than just football shirts and Turkey’s fraught relationship with Germany; in fact, this small event is indicative of both the failures of globalism, as well as the crisis of modern—and “Western”—liberalism.

On the surface, the decision by Manchester City’s German-Turkish footballer Ilkay Gundogan to present a jersey to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with the inscription “With great respect for my president” seems to be a minor issue. In years past it may have been but a footnote in the day’s news. Yet, in this age—when it seems as if most people are all too willing to be “offended”—something as innocuous as the gifting of a football shirt has become grounds for outrage. Indeed, as French Sociologist Michel Foucault said, “modern society is perverse”.

 

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From Left Mr. Gundogan, Mesut Ozil, Mr. Erdogan, and Cenk Tosun. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/05/15/how-a-soccer-jersey-sparked-the-latest-germany-turkey-spat/?utm_term=.c36280ce21f4

 

And it is this event which so clearly demonstrates just how perverse modern society has become. Should Mr. Gundogan have called Mr. Erdogan “my president” while playing for Germany’s national football team? The president of the German football association (DFB), Reinhard Grindel, did not seem to think so, and politicians from both the right (Beatrix von Storch of the Alternative for Germany Party) and left (Cem Ozdemir, a former leader of the Green Party and himself of Turkish descent) seemed to agree. As a representative of the German national football team, Mr. Gundogan would have done well to recognize that it is the German—and not Turkish—football system which built him into the world star that he is today; as such, he should have recognized that his president is German (and that his country) is Germany. Had Mr. Gundogan wanted to embrace his Turkish side wholeheartedly, he could have rejected Germany (and all of the privilege that comes with playing for one of the best national sides in world football) and chosen to play for Turkey, similar to Manchester United’s talismanic Ryan Giggs who rejected England in favor of his native Wales despite the corresponding lack of international prestige that went with choosing the Red Dragons. In Giggs’ words:

 

It still bugs me when people ask if I wished I’d played for England. It’s the question that’s bugged more than any other over the last 10 years. I’m Welsh, end of story. My parents are Welsh, my grandparents are Welsh. The mix-up came from the fact that I played for England schoolboys. That’s what confuses people. But I’d rather go through my career without qualifying for a major championship rather than play for a country in which I wasn’t born in or one that had nothing to do with my parents. That’s just stupid.

 

Had Mr. Gundogan been as straightforward as Mr. Giggs—and perhaps sacrificed fame and fortune for family ties—it is likely that there would have been very little backlash as a result of his actions.

Yet, in the globalized world, it is not so simple; indeed Mr. Gundogan—as discussed above—owes much of his sporting pedigree to the German system. During my childhood I myself often toyed with the question of which country I would represent in international football (thankfully, I was never a good enough footballer to actually have to make this decision) and I am aware that this is a difficult choice for anyone to make. Having not grown up in the (extreme) globalized age, however, I was able to make my own judgements and have been able to wholeheartedly embrace both of my nations. In the modern world, however, the push for “diversity” and “multi-culturalism” has attempted to create a meaningless mélange of cultures; far from making people “multi-cultural” or even “bi-cultural” it has instead made people confused, and Mr. Gundogan’s case is a perfect example of this confusion.

Judging by this case, Mr. Gundogan still identifies with his Turkish background. This may be due in no small part to the fact that—as the 15 May 2018 article notes— “many German Turks say they still face discrimination because of their ethnicity and religion”. Indeed, the German state might not have been as successful in assimilating its sizable Turkish immigrant population as it would like to believe. And this is the main point. There is nothing shameful in Mr. Gundogan’s inscription to the Turkish President itself, and it is not helpful to applaud—or disparage—Mr. Gundogan’s choice without being cognizant of the fact that many factors outside of his control likely went into his decision to call Mr. Erdogan “my president”. As an individual citizen, Mr. Gundogan has every right to express his admiration for any political figure that he desires. This is because footballers are not robots; they are human beings with very real human emotions. Despite the rationalizing tendencies of the modern world (in Weberian terms), emotion still plays a major role.

Many scholars of nationalism recognize the deep emotive bond created by national identities. And despite the emphasis on means-end rationality in our societies and the growing importance of capital interests in modern football, nationalism remains a major force in our world. There is no “global village”, despite what post-modern globalists may believe. If national bonds and cultural identities were as unimportant as the proponents of globalization claim, then it is likely that Germany might have been more successful in integrating its Turkish community. By the same token, it is also likely that the German FA would not have expressed their concerns with Mr. Gundogan’s actions in such overtly nationalist terms. For instance, the president of the DFB, Mr. Grindel, said that “football and the DFB stand for values that Mr. Erdogan does not sufficiently respect”. Similarly, the coach of the German national team, Joachim Low, said that “when you play for Germany you represent German values”. Were it not for Germany’s distaste for Mr. Erdogan, it is unlikely that the jersey would have been an issue; indeed, it is the two-faced nature of modern liberalism which has caused this event to become overblown: according to modern liberals, multiculturalism is good to a degree…but when it begins to threaten the nation’s values, it becomes a problem. Yet these are two irreconcilable positions.

Just as Edward Said noted that “orientalism” said more about the West than it did about the East, so too does this small event tell us more about Western “liberalism” in Germany than it does about Turkey and its supposed Eastern “despotism”. We see that the utopian visions of “multiculturalism” and “pluralism” in the West are—in reality—very difficult to achieve in practice. Despite the continuing attacks on nationalism throughout the world, the emotive connection that individuals feel towards their national identities, cultures, and values are shown both by Mr. Gundogan’s actions, as well as by the DFB’s response to those actions. By bringing in the concept of values, the DFB is making a judgement on Mr. Gundogan’s moral character which may be unwarranted; Mr. Gundogan could have been merely expressing his affinity for the Turkish nation rather than for a leader specifically. Yet this alternative interpretation is not provided by the main(lame)stream media which prefers to spread messages of division.

 

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Mr. Gundogan, Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place in the Midst of a Geopolitical Struggle. Image Courtesy of: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/05/15/how-a-soccer-jersey-sparked-the-latest-germany-turkey-spat/?utm_term=.c36280ce21f4

 

In short, ignoring the emotive aspects of national identity may be doing the world more harm than good by encouraging divisions and the creation of a dangerous double standard. The world would do well to recognize that, as scholars like Anthony D. Smith and Walker Connor have noted, nationalism will not be going away any time soon.

 

Beware Mass Media: The New York Times’s Coverage of Turkish Football and Politics is a Veritable Disaster

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The New York Times Looks to Portray Hakan Sukur as the Aggrieved Victim in His Upscale Cafe. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/03/sports/hakan-sukur.html

 

U.S. President Donald Trump has been much maligned for his criticism of mainstream news outlets like the New York Times; he has indeed repeatedly criticized them for being “fake news” and has described them as “failing”. Of course, as is to be expected, the main (lame)stream media—like CNN—have hit back at Mr. Trump’s criticism with columns like Brian Stelter’s; that this particular column should carry the heading “Reliable Sources” is almost as absurd as the name of the Soviet Union’s main newspaper, Pravda, which was translated as “True”. Interestingly, Mr. Stelter’s claim that the New York Times (NYT) is not failing is based on purely economic concerns; Fortune reports that Mr. Trump’s opposition to the NYT has only served to bolster the periodical, whose stock was trading at a nine year high as of July 2017. Reuters corroborates this claim, as the globalist news outlet reported profits of over 15 million dollars in the second quarter of 2017.

 

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Mr. Trump Tends to Criticize the New York Time’s Poor Reporting. Since Turkish Football is a Subject I Know A lot About, I Have To Agree Here. Image Courtesy Of: http://money.cnn.com/2018/01/02/media/new-york-times-president-trump/index.html

 

What is surprising is that CNN and Fortune do not seem to understand that the “success” of a news outlet is not defined in terms of profit; rather its success is defined by its service to the people. Norwegian-American Sociologist Thorstein Veblen pointed out long ago that the commercialization of both media and education would have negative consequences, since it would mean that both would write for profits and—by extension—for the interests of those who would be providing investment. Taken in these terms, it should be clear that the main (lame)stream media is most certainly failing; they are writing in the interests of the global capitalist elite, but not at all in the interests of the millions of middle and lower class citizens at large.

A recent piece in the New York Times—written by John Branch about famous Turkish footballer Hakan Sukur—is a perfect example of the failing New York Times and, indeed, the failing main(lame) stream media in general. The 3 May 2018 piece makes Mr. Sukur out to be an innocent refugee, escaping an “authoritarian regime”; it is a portrait of an immigrant “trying to build his own American dream for his family”. While this, of course, follows the pro-immigrant and pro-victim narrative of globalism, the truth is a bit more complicated than Mr. Branch admits (or, perhaps, even knows—after all, journalism in the modern era has become a refuge for surface level analyses which often lack knowledge of deeper details). While many of my fellow Sociologists mock “the American Dream”, it is interesting that the NYT is so eager to bring it up—especially when looking to legitimate a famous figure who is being described as an innocent victim.

The reality is that Mr. Sukur was once a close ally of Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan—indeed, he eventually resigned from his position as an MP in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and came under attack from Mr. Erdogan himself, mainly because of his support for the shadowy Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen. While it is likely that Mr. Sukur did not have full knowledge of Mr. Gulen’s plans for Turkey, his support for the cleric is undeniable. He was likely a pawn, whose celebrity status could be used in order to sway public opinion in Turkey (similar to the way Lebron James is used in the U.S.), but that does not excuse the New York Times’ atrocious reporting.

 

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A Bizarre Triangle…Mr. Erdogan (Left), Mr. Sukur (Center), and Mr. Gulen (Right). Image Courtesy Of: http://kaanil.blogcu.com/hakan-sukur-fethullah-gulen-le-ne-konustu/18008146

 

In Mr. Branch’s story, he seems to insinuate that the attempted coup of 15 July 2016 was a good thing (after all, authoritarian regimes are “bad” and need toppling). Please see the passage in question:

It was his [Mr. Sukur’s] first interview since he left Turkey in 2015, nearly a year before the 2016 deadly coup that tried, and failed, to topple the authoritarian regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a former friend and political ally.

This kind of framing—a topic I have written about in the past—would lead the uninformed reader to believe that a coup deposing an “authoritarian” leader would be a “good” thing. Of course, this is far from the truth—a successful Gulenist coup in Turkey would have been disastrous. Still, this is the kind of shoddy reporting that has come to be the norm in the United States, a place where famous political commentators like Bill Maher openly call for coups to depose leaders they don’t like (such as Mr. Trump).

The most insidious passage—indeed, the most repulsive portion—of Mr. Branch’s reporting, however, comes in his description of Mr. Gulen’s Hizmet movement:

Gulen’s Hizmet movement has, for decades, infiltrated Turkey’s institutions with a moderate strain of Islam, trying to nudge the country from the inside toward democracy, education and cultural openness more associated with Europe than much of today’s Middle East.

I have bolded the most important parts since they are, in my mind, absurd. That the New York Times—one of the leading news providers in not only the United States, but the entire world—should describe a movement which attempted to subvert Turkish democracy by attempting a military coup as one which tried to “nudge the country toward democracy” is a gross misrepresentation of reality. The New York Times seems to think that they can shape public opinion by using catch phrases and catch words like “moderate Islam”, “cultural openness”, and “democracy” in order to shape public opinion. This is, very clearly, an egregious example of an attempt by the media to support a very dangerous man in the name of progressive politics.

Observers should be aware of the duplicitous nature of the globalist mass media which prefers to play on emotions rather than report on facts. Mr. Gulen is no democrat, nor is he a champion of any kind of Islam; rather, he is a capitalist who looks to transform Islam into one more amenable to capitalist ideals (as the sociologist Cihan Tugal masterfully explains in his book Passive Revolution: Absorbing the Islamic Challenge to Capitalism). That the New York Times would support a man who quite possibly ordered the bombing of his own nation’s parliament—and whose purported actions killed almost three hundred innocent people—as a supporter of “democracy” is both absurd and extremely troubling. For those of us who expect veracity from our news media—and despite the fact that ABC news thinks “The Colbert Report” is legitimate news (it is not)—this kind of reporting needs to be called out. It has no place in a country which prides itself on “freedom of the press”. We should all strive to take back our countries, and our free press, in the process.

 

 

 

 

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