Sports and Racism

For all the talk about “culture,” it’s still pretty rare that the stuff actually gets studied with any care. In this vein, the brouhaha about racist football fans in England revealing themselves seems like a bit of a microcosm.

The team manager says “It’s just not what we stand for.”

Well, what all do you stand for, sir? It’s not sufficient to pick and choose. You have to own up to the whole package.

As Chomsky always says, for all the positive aspects of sports, it remains true that part of the effect of being a sports fan is strong irrational attachment. From a power-elite perspective, there’s more than a little beauty in having huge swaths of your underlying population give themselves over to that.

As for race, one aspect of the more recent formulations of racism is the hypothesis that those whom we call “black” are mentally and morally inferior yet athletically superior. Hence, one major irony of the cessation of white-supremacist segregation in sports is that the subsequent diversity burnishes this neo-classical racist assertion.

And, for once, this English thing might provide a small bit of consolation for those of us laboring under the ultra-capitalism of the American Way of Life. At least here, our sports loyalties are mostly tied to somewhat harmless collectivities — mostly schools, colleges, and the businesses known as “teams” or “franchises.” For all the importance of public enterprise, sports + nations is not better than this.

The Reagan Catastrophe: More Evidence

trickle down cartoon

The Reagan Revolution (h/t Thatcher and Huntington) was a set of assertions about how to make life better for people. Despite possible cracks in the ice, TPTB in the United States have not yet come close to renouncing this still-regnant framework.

Meanwhile, the evidence is absolutely mountainous that the Reagan Revolution has been one of human history’s most catastrophic failures. All of its core claims about the benefits of allowing capitalists to return to their pre-WWII level of comfort and command have proven to be utterly wrong.

The most recent piece of evidence showing this trend pertains to media ecology. Here is what the Reuters Institute discovered in its latest survey of trust in news media in 92 countries:

Trust in the news has grown, on average, by six percentage points in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic with 44% of our total sample saying they trust most news most of the time. This reverses, to some extent, recent falls in average trust bringing levels back to those of 2018. Finland remains the country with the highest levels of overall trust (65%), and the USA now has the lowest levels (29%) in our survey.

This is major evidence.

Of course, given the problem it expresses, it will not be treated as such here in the market-totalitarian United States.

Instead, our pundits will make up silly explanations, to the tiny extent they mention it. Like, for example, this:

One explanation, though not necessarily the only one, is the extreme political polarization in the U.S. This study, like many others, found extremely high levels of distrust — 75% of those who identify as being on the right thought coverage of their views is unfair.

Yes, not necessarily.

Would we have the burgeoning crisis of an increasingly anti-rationalist “conservatism” if we hadn’t so completely surrendered our media to the lords of commerce? The thought never occurs, of course.

Neither does appreciation of the basic fact that the evidence shows that letting “markets” dictate media form and content is proving to be a complete and total disaster.

Harvard Sells “Consumerism”

Louis Menand‘s new book is, despite having its moments, deeply strange. For one thing, despite being about the meaning of freedom in America, it lacks a central hypothesis.

Along its weird, almost pointless way, it also promotes this claim, with very close to no shading:

This period I’m writing about is the great triumph of consumerism. And consumerism means consumer choice, what they used to call consumer sovereignty. So when I go online to buy a pair of headphones for this interview, I can immediately comparison shop every available headphone on whatever company I’m buying it from. And there’s all kinds of ratings and so forth to enable me to make the best choice.

And that’s something that you see starting in mid 20th century and these economies is consumer choice. People experience that as a good thing. They experience that as freedom. I get to decide what kind of car I want and what kind of a washing machine I want, what kind of headphones I want. And the economy is giving me more and more choices.

Louis Menand interviewed by Ezra Klein, The New York Times, June 15, 2021

The book contains not one word about either the institution of marketing or the corporate power it serves. Not one word.

Neither does it come close to questioning the word “consumer.”

The great triumph of consumerism!

With Harvards like this, who needs ITT Tech?

Platinum Waters?

TCT, of course, is the giver of the much-uncoveted Golden Hicksie Award. The candidates for said trophy abound, of course.

But what of those who cling to human values and reject Mammon? There are such people.

One is Roger Waters, of Pink Floyd fame.

Here he is not only turning down the bribe, but reading out how it was proffered. This is a major public service!

Consumerism?

These days, it remains a dominant hypothesis among people alarmed by current ecological trends that the real problem we face is “consumerism,” which, in this familiar formulation, is the individual-level mental disorder that adds up, at the collective level, to “consumer culture.”

If this “consumerism” hypothesis is the best one available, how, then, are we to interpret this “nationally representative sample of 2,003 U.S. residents interviewed between April 13-16, 2021”?:

graph from CBS News
Source: CBS News, April 2021

The answer, of course, is that you can’t. This evidence is not compatible with the “consumer culture” hypothesis. Even here in the good ol’ US of A, people are not a pack of intractably stupid shopaholics who insist on preserving the status quo.

Will this basic point penetrate the environmentalist community? Almost certainly not. They themselves are pretty wasted on their own dangerous mix of social-scientific laziness and “I’m green” hubris.

But one can still say it: Physicians, heal thyselves. “Consumerism” and “consumer culture” are phantasms.