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Troubling Times for Democracy All Over the World: A Few Thoughts from a Marginal Sociologist on the Budding Hobbesian War of All Against All in the Field of Culture and the Threat It Poses to Democracy

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When I wake up in the morning my usual routine consists of a cup of tea and a cursory search of “news” on Google so as to get as varied of a perspective that I can. The very fact that the vast majority of news outlets available to American readers are extremely biased towards either end of the ideological spectrum is concerning in and of itself; this type of polarization does not bode well for the future of “democracy” (in “quotes” because it is, itself, a debatable concept) in the United States, or the coherence of American society.

 

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A Useful Graphic With Which to Navigate the Culture Wars. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/check-political-bias-media-site/

 

That some news outlets are so questionable (to an unprecedented degree) is extremely worrisome. Yet, sometimes, even the “questionable” outlets can call out other “questionable” outlets in the form of a Hobbesian “war of all against all” in the media field (Bellum omnium contra omnes in the Latin for those readers who, like me,  slaved away studying Latin in high school). The Rightist Breitbart media (rightly) called out the false reporting of “Left” leaning Time Magazine in a very surprising—and sports related—story. Time Magazine Tweeted that Olympian Fencer “Ibtihaj Muhammad was detained because of President Trump’s travel ban”, and a subsequent story by  Motto, a Time publication, failed to rescind their earlier statement even though Ms.Muhammad explicately tweeted—four days after her original post—that her detention occurred in December (during previous President Barack Obama’s administration, and not during President Trump’s).

 

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Time Magazine’s Poor Journalism and Why We Should Always Question Media. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.breitbart.com/sports/2017/02/14/muslim-american-olympian-claimed-detained-trump-travel-ban-detained-obama/

 

While Breitbart provides a portion of Ms. Muhammad’s interview (where she misleadingly insinuates that she was directly affected by Mr. Trump’s “ban”) The Washington Examiner quotes a customs official who, confirming that she was detained for less than an hour, said “She comes and goes many times. She travels quite extensively. She has never been stopped before. She wasn’t targeted. The checks are totally random; random checks that we all might be subject to.” And this is the issue. People have been detained at U.S. airports long before Donald Trump became President. The supposedly “totally random” checks are not all that random—I myself have been detained upon returning to the United States from Turkey and treated extremely disrespectfully by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (this happened under Mr. Obama’s administration, I may add); my only fault was coming from Turkey and being half-Turkish. Clearly, these checks are not so “random” and these are things that the Leftist media would be better served addressing; as I myself have noted before the dystopian nature of American airports is alarming. But to blame it on a specific President—without looking at the bigger picture—is worrisome and brings into question the very existence of an independent media.

In my mornings I also focus on Turkish news. Unfortunately, in the past few months, the news coming from the two countries has—surprisingly—become more and more similar! Since the attempted coup of July 15, 2015 more than 33,000 employees have been dismissed by the Turkish Ministry of Education; on 7 Februrary 2015 it was announced that more than 4,400 civil servants—including police and 330 academics—have been purged in the crackdown following the attempted putsch. Even Turkish diplomats are fearing for their lives in this authoritarian climate. The Turkish state is exercising its power to the fullest extent; emphasizing a Weberian “monopoly on the legitimate use of force”. Interestingly, the situation is not very different in the United States and it is something that should be worrisome for those concerned about the state of democracy worldwide.

In the United States there seems to be a power struggle between the intelligence agencies and President Trump (no doubt if it happened elsewhere it would be covered with a much more critical eye by the U.S. state media). The Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. intelligence officials are withholding information from the President of the United States; this is clearly worrisome, since it would seem—to anyone—that this would hinder any good faith attempt for Mr. Trump to actually do the job that he was democratically elected to do. I put it in italics to emphasize a point that, clearly, many in the U.S. seem to not understand. One such pundit, Bill Kristol, went so far as to say “Obviously strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics. But if it comes to it, prefer the deep state to the Trump state”. For the uninitiated, “The ‘deep state’ is jargon for the semi-hidden army of bureaucrats, officials, retired officials, legislators, contractors and media people who support and defend established government policies”. Any of those familiar with Turkish politics will know how dangerous the deep state is for democracy, and it is something that I have mentioned before.

 

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The Insulting Words Of a Woefully Uninformed Man Who Has Only Lived The Privileged Life of the United States. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2017/02/15/bill-kristol-backs-deep-state-president-trump-republican-government/

 

While the dismissal of Mr. Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn may not be the worst thing in the world (according to the Economist who are known for their sober analyses; please see here and here) , it does raise other questions—but not the type The Economist raises. Surprisingly, it was Bloomberg News’ Eli Lake who provided a useful analysis:

[F]or a White House that has such a casual and opportunistic relationship with the truth, it’s strange that Flynn’s “lie” to Pence would get him fired. It doesn’t add up […]

It’s very rare that reporters are ever told about government-monitored communications of U.S. citizens, let alone senior U.S. officials. The last story like this to hit Washington was in 2009 when Jeff Stein, then of CQ, reported on intercepted phone calls between a senior Aipac lobbyist and Jane Harman, who at the time was a Democratic member of Congress. Normally intercepts of U.S. officials and citizens are some of the most tightly held government secrets. This is for good reason. Selectively disclosing details of private conversations monitored by the FBI or NSA gives the permanent state the power to destroy reputations from the cloak of anonymity. This is what police states do […]

[A]ll these allegations are at this point unanswered questions. It’s possible that Flynn has more ties to Russia that he had kept from the public and his colleagues. It’s also possible that a group of national security bureaucrats and former Obama officials are selectively leaking highly sensitive law enforcement information to undermine the elected government. Flynn was a fat target for the national security state. He has cultivated a reputation as a reformer and a fierce critic of the intelligence community leaders he once served with when he was the director the Defense Intelligence Agency under President Barack Obama. Flynn was working to reform the intelligence-industrial complex, something that threatened the bureaucratic prerogatives of his rivals.

 

These words—particularly the bolded portions—should deeply upset any American who cares for the semblance of “democracy” that they currently enjoy. Regardless of one’s political position, one should be concerned when a state begins to attack its citizens for doing nothing that is actually illegal (especially after rumors have come from both the “Right” and the “Left” that former President Mr. Obama is planning a “challenge” to Mr. Trump). Were Mr. Flynn’s actions questionable? Sure. But they were not illegal. And when the state’s intelligence agencies—ostensibly neutral—begin to undermine an elected government it is a slippery slope. Rather than celebrate these attacks on an elected government Americans would do well to realize that they risk surrendering their own “democracy”—with their own hands—to a nebulous, anonymous, and (most alarmingly) unelected group of individuals in the intelligence community. As alarming as Mr. Trump may be for some people, he is still—ostensibly—at least accountable to the people. That is something that cannot be said for the “deep state”, and this may be one of the biggest threats to democracy in American history (in the same way the totalitarian ideology of globalization represents a threat to democracy worldwide: just look to Turkey for an example).

Sports Stars and Extreme Capitalism from Necati Ateş to Stephan Curry: The Continued Atomization of Extreme Capitalist Society

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Necati Ateş in Action For Galatasaray. Image Courtesy Of: https://alchetron.com/Necati-Ates-145199-W

 

The other day a friend sent me a picture of himself with Turkish football star Necati Ateş. In and of itself, this small “event” is not very significant; a friend had a random interaction with a famous footballer in a restaurant—itself a democratic space since everyone has to eat. Yet, for me, it was indicative of the fact that extremely wealthy celebrities, like footballers, do not have to be distant from the very people that support them: the average fan. I was moved especially by Mr. Ateş’s smile; he seemed genuinely happy to be in a photo with my friends. For me a simple picture—while maybe not telling one thousand words—did show that 1) celebrities can be accessible and 2) that celebrities can also be normal people. That this kind of interaction took place in Turkey is not insignificant.

 

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Some Beautiful People in a Beautiful Picture. Mr. Ateş is Pictured Third From the Left (In the Middle, So To Speak). Image Courtesy of E.C.

 

The extreme capitalism of the United States is based upon a belief in the supremacy of the individual; in advanced industrial capitalist societies the individual is effectively subordinate to the system. As an American-born kid growing up in Turkey I was often asked if I saw famous people on a daily basis. Of course I didn’t, I lived in Providence, Rhode Island (a beautiful city yet hardly a destination for A-List celebrities). And even if I lived in New York City or Los Angeles, celebrities—in the United States—often frequent such exclusive places that a normal, middle class citizen would be unlikely to even interact with such people. The country is simply too big (and too stratified) to be conducive to such interactions. But in Turkey it is different—the country is smaller, and people are—generally—more ready to interact with their community than people in the United States. And that is one reason that Turkey is such a warm and inviting country.

Mr. Ateş seems to show, in this small interaction, that there can be a place for humanist interaction in societies that are negotiating the relationship between capitalism and “extreme” capitalism. In the United States, it is difficult to get the autograph—let alone a picture—of a star athlete. This difficulty is exacerbated by the fact that often-times athletes (and celebrities) come to believe (due to encouragement from the culture industry) that they are somehow “above” normal society—Beyonce’s self-beatification during the Grammys is a good example of this process.

 

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The Beatification of Beyonce; Celebrities as Above the People. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/beyonce-grammy-goddess_us_58a203d0e4b0ab2d2b17d4ce

 

Similarly, some athletes completely disregard the people that support them. NBA star Steph Curry’s comments regarding Donald Trump are an example of this process. After the CEO of the sportswear company Under Armour called President Donald Trump “An Asset to this country [the USA]”, Steph Curry (who is himself sponsored by Under Armour), said “I agree with that description if you remove the ‘et’”. While I would not go so far as conservative commentators who called for Under Armour to “rip up” their agreement with Mr. Curry, I would say that Mr. Curry’s comments are ill-informed; he evidently did not realize that many normal people—including parts of the middle classes in the United States—indeed voted for Mr. Trump precisely because they felt forgotten by mainstream America’s celebrity culture. It is a process that has characterized the neo-liberal era in the United States; even in 2000 a University of Wisconsin sociologist noted how ignoring middle-America was problematic. Evidently, no one listened.

 

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Steph Curry In Action for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. Image Courtesy Of: http://clutchpoints.com/steph-curry-deflects-question-about-kevin-durants-comments-about-his-defense/

 

A society divided between rich and poor cannot sustain itself and, sadly, celebrities are perpetuating this divide in the United States currently. While I agree that sports stars should speak their mind (since they are a large part of the public sphere), they should do so in an informed way. By succumbing to blind ideology, they send the wrong message to their fans. Mr. Curry would have been better off taking Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s path, who attempted to bridge the gap in American society rather than widen it further. In so doing, Mr. Johnson showed that he is more in tune with his society than Mr. Curry and—coming from a celebrity—this is something to be commended. Money, and the search for it, need not distance us from our own humanity. Unfortunately, extreme capitalism in the United States tends to glorify the celebrity. I appreciate Mr. Ateş’s actions for showing a side of Turkey that current news stories tend to miss: it is a beautiful country with extremely kind people, struggling to stand up to the ravaging forces of extreme neoliberal capitalism. If only more American celebrities could recognize the dangers of their own disconnectedness from wider society.

A Marginal Sociologist’s Take on Globalization as Seen Through The Hypocrisy of Starbuck’s Coffee: A Modern Day White Man’s Burden?

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All Aboard the Train of Cultural Imperialism? No Thanks, I’ll walk. Image Courtesy Of: https://news.starbucks.com/news/all-aboard-the-first-starbucks-on-a-train-with-sbb

 

Since I wrote about the sports world’s response to US President Donald Trump’s move to suspend immigration from seven majority Muslim countries the furor has not subsided. Indeed, in discussions with fellow sociologists, I have been able to see first hand the anger that Mr. Trump’s poorly-executed policy has spurred. Such discussions are usually fruitless since—as I have also written about in the past—many Americans do not have a clear sense of the world because they have not travelled. This kind of “international ignorance” may well be one of the biggest shortcomings of modern American society; it is a society that has continually fostered this kind of ignorance while not encouraging what I would call “international competency”. It is unfortunate, and the problems it creates are wide-ranging.

In the piece I wrote earlier I used Sociologist George Herbert Mead’s conception of the “self”: essentially one defines the “self” in relation to how one perceives others see them. It grows out of an acknowledgement of the “other”. Most Americans—having never left the country—do not have any conception of an “other”; this leads to the kind of extreme individualism that I wrote about in the context of American sports. Of course, emphasized individualism is a product of extreme capitalism since modern industrial society encourages individualism; having fewer communal ties makes one more likely to wholeheartedly accept the culture of competition which is necessary for capitalism to flourish.

This may be one reason that so many in the American public have been ready to make the immigration cause their own without thinking about other issues; in their mind “American” society is the best there is. Ready to encourage this kind of sentiment the media have featured South Sudanese NBA Star Luol Deng’s message prominently. Mr. Deng explains: “It’s important that we remember to humanize the experience of others. Refugees overcome immeasurable odds, relocate across the globe, and work hard to make the best of their newfound home. Refugees are productive members of society that want for their family just as you want for yours. I stand by all refugees and migrants, of all religions, just as I stand by the policies that have historically welcomed them”. Of course, Mr. Deng is right: we must humanize the experience of others and recognize that people are just trying to make the best of the perils that globalizing society has produced.

 

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Mr. Deng’s Words Should Be Recognized. Especially the Emphasis on “Humanizing” as opposed to Corporatizing. Image Courtesy Of: https://twitter.com/LuolDeng9/status/826186188650221568/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

 

Unfortunately, the media fail to realize one crucial point: The American model may not be the only model for world society; in fact, there are many functioning societies around the world that are much less individualistic than America’s and which still maintain their stability. We must keep this in mind, lest we push a form of imperialism that borders on societal engineering and is eerily similar to the “white-man’s burden” of colonial times. What works in America works fairly well—but that doesn’t mean it will work everywhere and it certainly doesn’t mean that it should work everywhere. The media fail to realize that all of the countries President Trump suspended immigration from have been victim to some degree of American intervention in the past (as the President himself admitted, the United States is far from innocent); the more this kind of imperialism is pushed the more unstable the world becomes.

Starbuck’s Coffee—themselves guilty of the kind of cultural imperialism that globalization encourages—decided to take action following Mr. Trump’s order. It amounted to an extremely hypocritical move. Starbuck’s announced that it would hire 10,000 refugees for its stores, sparking ire from Americans. Starbuck’s’ PR department seemed to have smoothed things over as their hometown newspaper the Seattle Times reported that veterans were already well-represented within the Starbuck’s community, and Business insider noted that “The coffee giant responded with links to a press release on its recent work to open stores in lower-income communities and a website on its veteran outreach” (Author’s Note: I have retained these links for readers who are interested). Even more hilarious is that Starbuck’s—despite their unending cultural imperialism—don’t even have locations in any of the seven countries Mr. Trump chose to temporarily stop immigration from. I wonder why?

 

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Locations of Starbucks Worldwide Are Colored In Green. I Guess The Seven Muslim Majority Nations Were Deemed Too Unsafe Even For Starbuck’s (!). And What About Africa? I Guess Starbuck’s Might Be A Little Racist Too (!). Image Courtesy Of: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starbucks#Locations

 

The issue here is that Starbuck’s, in their bid to be “inclusive” and “progressive”, are merely painting over their own questionable past. Starbuck’s in Turkey (and I imagine it is similar in other countries that have an existing “coffee culture”) has emphasized a form of cultural imperialism; traditional coffee houses are pushed out by the ubiquity of Starbuck’s’ locations. In addition to their imperialism, the company also has put the demands of international capital before the concerns of human life. As someone who closely followed the 2013 Gezi Park protests in Istanbul, I know that Starbuck’s closed their doors to protestors affected by tear gas and attacks from the police; it was such an affront that many in Turkey wanted to boycott Starbuck’s wholesale. Starbuck’s—again through the mouthpiece of a hometown Seattle news source—tried to cover up their deplorable actions and Christian Leonard’s piece for the Seattle Globalist carries the headline “Starbucks lends a hand (and a toilet) to Turkish protesters”. The truth is far from it; they in fact had closed their doors (and toilets) to protesters. This kind of “alternative reporting” is a result of Starbuck’s’ propaganda machine, as one Canadian source points out:

 

In a world where millions are instantly united by social media, political actions can be quick and effective in situations like this. Starbucks has been criticized by protestors, who claim that when the police tear gas attacks began, Starbucks was one of the only shops to close its doors and refuse to allow in those injured and seeking shelter. Starbucks has since been scrambling to regain its credibility amid calls for boycott: Tweeting images of its staff helping protestors, and posting notices around campus denying that it failed to provide assistance.

 

The aforementioned story is an example of Starbuck’s’ attempt to “regain its credibility”. Unfortunately for Starbuck’s, anyone who knows about the company should know that it is morally bankrupt.

Current CEO Charles Schultz sold the NBA’s  Seattle Supersonics, allowing the team to move to Oklahoma City and alienating many basketball fans in the process. The company also turned a blind eye to insults directed at NASCAR fans after the company attempted to enter the motorsports world. The company even sparked a controversy over Christmas (I italicize it because it is so ridiculous) in order to keep with America’s obsession with political correctness; for the company “Merry Christmas” was deemed offensive.

Those who think that Starbuck’s is standing up for refugees might want to look at the situation from a different perspective. They might be looking for cheap labor from desperate sources (if so they really represent one of the more reprehensible forms of extreme capitalism) or they may just be looking to glorify their own moral standing, championing the consumerism of America while reaching out to the “less fortunate”. In any case, those searching for virtue in Starbuck’s would best be “served” going elsewhere for both coffee and virtue.

Sports and Politics in the United States and “Sir Charles” vs. “King James”: Spat Between Former NBA Star Charles Barkley and Current NBA Star Lebron James Is Representative of Some of the Issues in Current American Society

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Since the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States sports and politics in the USA have become more and more intertwined; it is symptomatic of a nation divided by ideology, one where people are supporting their political positions as they would a sports team: unwaveringly and unquestioningly. ESPN, the leader in American sports media, has taken to using one of their websites to spread political messages (from one side only, it should be noted) while ESPN writer and vice president Roxanne Brown was solicited by CNN to provide her opinion on President Donald Trump’s inauguration:

 

No day in our nation feels more patriotic than Inauguration Day — the Marine Marching Band, the past presidents, politicians and power brokers braving the cold to flock to our nation’s capital. But it was hard not to look at the sea of white faces in the crowd, gathered for President Donald J. Trump’s swearing-in, and not see represented a shockingly different America than we saw on this same day eight years ago when President Barack Obama was sworn in. In fact, this was the whitest inauguration I’ve witnessed in my lifetime.

 

Apparently, judging by the last sentence, she was unaware that most African-Americans boycotted Mr. Trump’s inauguration. This absurdity aside, of course, it is notable that a sports reporter should be given such a space in mainstream American media. It shows just how sports has become a space of contention within the cultural civil war that the United States is experiencing.

 

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ESPN Now Sells Politics With a Side Of Sports. Image Courtesy of: http://www.breitbart.com/sports/2017/01/21/espn-offers-social-media-sites-platform-leftist-activists-womens-march/

 

ESPN, for so many years a channel devoted to sports programming alone, has recently completed a turn to the field of culture. The new SC6 (the 6pm/18:00EST) edition of ESPN’s flagship highlights program Sportscenter will debut on 6 February 2017. Senior vice president of Sportscenter and news Rob King had this to say about the show in an interview:

 

This show will be unique because it is an opportunity to look in on a conversation among close friends, colleagues and the people who they bring into their orbit by virtue of the topics they choose and the interests they have. Since we launched the midnight show with Scott Van Pelt, it’s been really clear that SportsCenter can be distinguished when it’s built around unique personalities and unique conceits, especially those ideas, personalities and conceits that work for specific audiences.

 

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The Anchors of ESPN’s Newest Show. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.espnfrontrow.com/2017/01/expectations-excitement-permeate-kings-view-sc6-michael-jemele/

 

The focus on “conversation”, “unique personalities”, and “unique conceits” [Author’s Note: An odd choice of words] suggests a larger role for the personal element than the traditional sports program would present. Sports reporter Andrew Bucholtz adds that

 

there seems to be less and less interest in straight news and highlights, and both ESPN and Fox are adapting to that. Fox went with the drastic move of killing the news-and-highlights version of Fox Sports Live and turning it into more of a comedy-focused late night show, while ESPN has focused instead on making highly identifiable and individual versions of SportsCenter, from Scott Van Pelt’s show to SportsCenter A.M. and more […]

 

Most importantly, Bucholz notes the change that this program represents; for him it “is interesting because in some ways it seems to be trying to walk the line between a debate show and the traditional SportsCenter. Smith and Hill certainly have backgrounds in opinion programming too (in addition to their journalism and reporting backgrounds, which King also notes)”. The fact that sports programming in the USA is moving to a “late-night show” or “debate show” format means that the personal opinions of hosts will come more to the fore, replacing the traditional format of the sports show which presents the “facts” in the form of highlights. Inevitably, this will allow for more discussion regarding the field of culture; it would be naïve to think that ESPN—a large part of the American “culture industry”—would refrain from putting politics into their new show as well. This type of format allows ESPN to seem apolitical while being just the opposte. French Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu explains how this works in his book “On Television:

 

Pushed by competition for marketshare, television networks have greater and greater recourse to the tried and true formulas of tabloid journalism, with emphasis (when not the entire newscast) devoted to human interest stories or sports. No matter what has happened in the world on a given day, more and more often the evening news begins with French soccer scores or another sporting event, interrupting the regular news […] the focus is on those things which are apt to arouse curiosity but which require no analysis, especially in the political sphere […] human interest stories create a political vacuum. They depoliticize and reduce what goes on in the world to the level of anecdote or scandal.

(Bourdieu, 1998: 44-56)

 

Here we can see that ESPN may be attempting to use an ostensibly apolitical program so as to insidiously—and indirectly—send political messages in a way that a traditional news program would not be able to. After all, a sports program is—usually—just a highlights program, presenting “facts”. SC6 strives to be much more, and it is important that we—as consumers of the culture industry in modern industrial society—are aware of what is actually happening.

My favorite American football team, the New England Patriots, has not been immune from this newly emphasized connection between sports and politics. (State) media’s New York Times profiled the close relationship between President Donald Trump and Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady, calling it an “uncomfortable love affair”. To further drive home the message, The Huffington Post published an article by Professor David Dennis Jr., who made one of the more ridiculous claims I have ever read (or heard): “Tom Brady’s Politics Are More Un-American Than Colin Kaepernick’s Have Ever Been”. I have written before about Mr. Kaepernick’s protest against the American national anthem (which cost the NFL millions of dollars because—shocker here—the NFL has many fans who actually like the United States). Professor David Dennis Jr.’s piece—due to its sheer absurdity—deserves a little bit of air time here. First the New England star Tom Brady is quoted in his own words regarding President Donald Trump:

 

“I have called him, yes, in the past. Sometimes he calls me. Sometimes I call,” Brady said. “But, again, that’s been someone I’ve known. I always try to keep it in context because for 16 years you know someone before maybe he was in the position that he was in. He’s been very supportive of me for a long time. It’s just a friendship. I have a lot of friends. I call a lot of people.”

 

Here, Tom Brady’s words seem pretty normal. Like say, something someone would say about their friend. And, since the United States is a free country, it would seem normal that one is allowed to choose who their friends are. Apparently, Professor Dennis Jr. doesn’t agree, adding a gratuitous racial comment by invoking “white privilege” in his commentary:

 

Brady was confused as to why his relationship with the president was even a relevant topic of discussion.

“Why does everybody make such a big deal? I don’t understand it.”

Brady’s obliviousness reeks of white privilege and dismissiveness; a #MAGA trait if there ever was one. But what’s most troubling is the way Brady’s Trump endorsement has been treated compared to Kaepernick’s political statements.

 

Professor Dennis Jr. then drops his bombshell claim:

 

Brady’s Trump endorsement, however, has been largely ignored when, in fact, supporting Donald Trump as President of The United States is far more threatening to America than taking a knee during the National Anthem.

 

I have no idea why merely voicing support for a candidate who was supported by almost half of the country could be “threatening” or even comparable to insulting all those who believe in American nationalism, but such is the absurd climate in the United States currently.

 

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A Picture of What State Media’s New York Times dubbed “the uncomfortable love affair”. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/01/magazine/the-uncomfortable-love-affair-between-donald-trump-and-the-new-england-patriots.html

 

At least former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka offered some choice words defending Mr. Brady telling the country to “grow up” and adding “Dammit. I thought this country was a country of choice!” On a separate show he called journalists “assholes” and criticized former President Barack Obama for “showing no leadership at all”. I can agree with Mr. Ditka’s last claim, seeing as how the United States—under President Obama—dropped on average a staggering 72 bombs a day in 2016 on foreign countries, leading to the odd situation where Mr. Trump is called a racist while Mr. Obama’s imperialism goes ignored.

 

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The Indomitable Mike Ditka, Sweater et al. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.pbtalent.com/blog/speaker/mike-ditka

 

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Sorry, I just Couldn’t Resist. Image Courtesy of a Friend Via Social Media.

 

Mr. Ditka’s point, regarding the need for Americans to “grow up” is one that is directly relevant to the spat between basketball analyst Charles Barkley and basketball star Lebron James. A longtime NBA analyst and former player, Mr. Barkley criticized Mr. James for his comments regarding his team’s front office when he asked for another player to help his team win the championship (they won last year while—somehow—managing a loss of forty million USD). Barkley said Mr. James’ comments were:

 

Inappropriate. Whiny. All of the above. The Cleveland Cavaliers, they have given him everything he wanted. They have the highest payroll in NBA history. He wanted J.R. Smith last summer, they paid him. He wanted [Iman] Shumpert last summer. They brought in Kyle Korver. He’s the best player in the world. Does he want all of the good players? He don’t want to compete? He is an amazing player. They’re the defending champs.

 

Mr. James responded with personal attacks on Mr. Barkley, calling him “a hater” and asking the rhetorical question “what makes what he says credible? Because he’s on TV?” Mr. James here seemed to forget that his open endorsement of U.S. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and insult directed at those who voted for Mr. Trump (Mr. James called them “goofy” even though the majority of voters in Mr. James’ state voted for Donald Trump) were only made credible because he is on TV himself! Mr. James’ diatribe, however, continued (for video, please see nba.com):

 

I’m not going to let him disrespect my legacy like that. I’m not the one who threw somebody through a window. I never spit on a kid. I never had unpaid debt in Las Vegas. I never said, ‘I’m not a role model.’ I never showed up to All-Star Weekend on Sunday because I was in Vegas all weekend partying.

All I’ve done for my entire career is represent the NBA the right way. Fourteen years,      never got in trouble. Respected the game. Print that.

 

Later Mr. Barkley laughed it off, saying “I was laughing, clearly he did some homework … he Googled me and found some things … He was young when I was playing, so I appreciate that, but I’m not upset about it. … My criticism was fair, and I’m good with that … Some of the stuff he said about me is correct — doesn’t make the message I said about him incorrect. Some of them are intimidated about LeBron, [but] I’m not intimidated at all.”

A day later Mr. Barkley added that “It’s a different generation. If we don’t say everything positive about them all the time, we’re a hater. But I’ve gotten more support than I saw coming. To be honest with you, it’s been great. Especially the guys in the media who are like, ‘Thank you. I can’t say it because I need to talk to him.’ ” Here Mr. Barkley touches on a very important point, one that makes this odd exchange indicative of the current state of culture in the United States.

Lebron James really is of “a different generation”. It is one that, for starters, clearly has no respect for those that came before them. If it weren’t for players like Charles Barkley making the NBA popular in the 1990s, it is probable that Lebron James wouldn’t be the star he currently is. It is the same kind of lack of perspective that allowed Colin Kaepernick to take a shot at the United States…even though the sport he is paid to play is mainly played in the United States. Secondly, Lebron James’ generation is one that also has no self-respect. It is a generation that is all about “Me, Me, Me” and never “We, We, We”. It must always be praise and compliments; criticism cannot be accepted. Unfortunately, the current culture in the United States has become a culture of being “offended”, where comments one doesn’t like are deemed to be “offensive”. It is the same culture that does not accept the outcome of a presidential election because…the candidate they wanted did not win. Its an odd state of affairs, but the spat between Mr. Barkley and Mr. James goes some way to explaining how deeply engrained the cult of the individual has become in American society. If the country—and its culture—is to move forward we must at least attempt to move outside of our own personal selves and try to understand other perspectives. Otherwise, we are doomed to living in a fragmented and rudderless society where criticism—and therefore debate (whether about sports or politics)—is impossible.

 

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Sir Charles, Pictured With the Classic Phoenix Suns Jersey. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.casino.org/news/charles-barkley-says-lost-millions-gambling-dozens-occasions

 

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King James Looking a Bit Perturbed. Image Courtesy Of: http://ftw.usatoday.com/2016/03/lebron-james-could-leave-cleveland-says-stephen-a-smith

America’s Immigration Policy Prompts Response from Footballer Michael Bradley as Terror Hits Quebec

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When American footballer Michael Bradley was asked for his thoughts on President Donald Trump’s executive action banning travel to the U.S. for citizens of seven Muslim countries for 90 days, he didn’t mince words on his Instagram account:

A few hours ago ago I gave an interview to Grant Wahl. After 15 minutes of an interview that was centered around soccer and our national team, he asked me my thoughts on President Trump’s ban on Muslims. [A very fair question. But one that caught me totally off guard. Uncomfortable giving such strong thoughts without really being able to think them through,] I gave an answer where I tried to make it clear that while I understand the need for safety, the values and ideals of our country should never be sacrificed. I believe what I said, but it was too soft. The part I left out is how sad and embarrassed I am. When Trump was elected, I only hoped that the President Trump would be different than the campaigner Trump. That the xenophobic, misogynistic and narcissistic rhetoric would be replaced with a more humble and measured approach to leading our country. I was wrong. And the Muslim ban is just the latest example of someone who couldn’t be more out of touch with our country and the right way to move forward.”

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Michael Bradley. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/jan/29/michael-bradley-donald-trump-travel-ban-sports

 

Of course The Guardian’s article missed the portion [in brackets] but that is to be expected; Mr. Bradley did the best he could in a difficult situation. Indeed, Mr. Trump’s actions have been problematic for the American sports world, as the National Basketball Association (NBA) has been scrambling to understand how the order will affect their players. While Yahoo’s sympathetic portrayal of the NBA shines through in this article, the NBA’s neo-colonialism should not be ignored; the culture industry of American sports cannot be both “pro-immigration” and exploitative at the same time (despite how much American media tries to emphasize the former while downplaying the latter):

The NBA has several global initiative programs, including Basketball Without Borders, that recruit, develop and invest in Sudanese players. Several top Sudanese players are attending American high schools and colleges on visas and could become NBA draft picks.

There can be no denying that the implementation of Mr. Trump’s executive order was flawed. After all, you cannot turn away those who have had visas approved—and those who have received green cards and permanent residency in the United States—without warning. This is the kind of off-the-cuff policy that leads to the embarrassing chaos experienced in airports across the United States. Yet, at the same time, Mr. Trump is merely doing what he promised to do (which is normal, since he is—in a democracy—accountable to the people, theoretically). And there is also a very real conflict going on in the world despite what people want to claim. Just one day after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced (on 28 January 2017) that Canada would take the refugees banned by the United States, there was a shooting at a Quebec Mosque on 29 January 2017 that left six dead and eight injured. Either this is some sort of a twisted coincidence, or it is the kind of event that should show the Western world that there clearly is a problem that must be addressed.

 

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Is Learning that Talk is Cheap. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/trudeau-canada-refugees-banned-u-s/

 

Of course the media aimed to spin it in different directions (another reason we should be skeptical of all media) with some claiming the attacker was a Muslim and CNN describing the attacker as a White student. As a Turk, I am more than aware of the dangers of radical Islamic terrorism and am therefore not concerned with the media’s attempts to shape public opinion (the head of general security in Dubai also had no problems with Mr. Trump’s policies): I repeat that there is a very real problem and I am also happy that Mr. Bradley, Mr. Trump, and Mr. Trudeau have at least started to talk about it (regardless of their positions on the subject). After all, without talk there can be no progress. Unfortunately, the fake news and odd fact-twisting stories proliferating on the internet only serve to create more problems; former President Barack Obama’s weighing in on the issue—after it was his flawed policies that created the problem in the first place—is even more ridiculous but that is for another time.

 

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Odd fact-twisting at its best. Although refugees as a group are certainly not mass murderers by any means, it would be erroneous to argue that there have not been problematic attacks perpetrated by refugees, as “uberfeminist” points out in this impassioned tweet. I will also agree that CNN could do a little better with their reporting, although I will not use the same kind of language. Image Courtesy Of: https://twitter.com/uberfeminist/status/825963414316937216

 

In the end, the Western world must realize that the root cause of “refugees” or “migrants” does not really have to do with any qualities inherent to “Muslim” countries. The truth of the matter is there would be much fewer “migrants” or “refugees” had the Western countries not meddled in Syria (and the wider Middle East) and stoked (created?) a civil war in the first place. I also believe that, having spoken with Syrian refugees in Greece last year, such people would prefer to live in their own countries and not in the United States or Canada. And I can understand the sentiment; both the United States and Canada are (like most industrialized countries) societies that emphasize the individual over the collective. It is the kind of society that can be alienating to people who come from more collective societies (such as the type found in many Middle Eastern countries). In light of Mr. Trump’s poorly-implemented policy we must recognize that the current crisis is one almost single-handedly created by the West (even if Senator Mr. Chuck Schumer’s pathetic crocodile tears tried to show a modicum of “compassion”). Despite what proponents of globalism and globalization might say, I don’t think any one truly wants to live outside of their country and away from their families, friends, culture, and language. Instead of looking to create a homogenous world we would be better off recognizing—and most importantly respecting—a heterogeneous world. Regardless of where we are from we are all people who want to live in peace; this does not, however, mean that we must be forced to live together or in the same way. Respect for different cultures is important, and any policies aiming for homogenization are doomed to failure since they are inherently disrespectful of difference.

We must realize, as Robert Kaplan does, that the United States’ strength is rooted in its geography. The fact that it is separated from the rest of the world by two oceans means that it need not be engulfed in the conflicts of the world. At the same time, as Kaplan notes, the United States cannot fully disentangle itself from the globalization it itself created. But it can, I argue, negotiate the flows of globalization on its own terms; the sooner we recognize the perils of globalization, by taking a critical position on it, the better off we all will be.

Race, Sports, and Politics in the United States: The Case of College Football

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As my “About Me” page states, I attended the University of Texas for my Master’s degree. As is the case with many of those who attended UT, I too was indoctrinated (!) into following the Texas Longhorns (American) football team—Hook ‘em Horns. Since my days at UT, I have continually followed my team’s fortunes. These days they aren’t doing so well and could be headed for a third-straight losing season, something unheard of in Austin, which has led to rumors that the coach, Charlie Strong, could be fired. Since this is a football blog and not an (American) football blog I will not go into specificities about sport; rather I will focus on politics.

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As the Article States, Charlie Strong Is Undoubtedly a Good Man. Unfortunately, The Bottom Line Is What Matters in (Extreme) Capitalist Sports–and Societies. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.texasmonthly.com/the-culture/want-texas-keep-charlie-strong/

 

Mr. Strong is an African-American, and for an (American) football coach that is a rare quality. But it is also a quality that can lead to a lot of—perhaps—undue controversy. The Houston Chronicle, on 20 November 2016, came out with a story claiming that the low number of African-American coaches in college football is due to racism. This is an interesting assessment of the situation, but the president of Texas A&M University said, in reference to the lack of minority coaches, “I don’t think anyone would deny that it looks like a significant under-representation”. The Houston Chronicle’s story says that 11.7 percent of the Football Bowl Subdivision (the highest tier of college football in the United States) schools have African-American coaches. According to another story, however, this figure is close to U.S. Census data that says 13.3 percent of the American population is African-American. The 11.7 percent of African-American coaches, then, means that the number of African-American coaches is actually nearly proportionate to the number of African-Americans in U.S. Society. So…where is the problem?

Unfortunately, the problem is historical since the heinous history of institutionalized racism in American society looms behind many aspects of American culture, sports included. What’s worse is that it creates an inequality that fails to address the true problems, and a troublesome double standard emerges. When, in late October 2016, a fan at a college football game in Wisconsin depicted current president Barack Obama in a noose state media (the Washington Post) called it a “racist incident”. On the other hand, following Donald Trump’s election victory, when protestors in Los Angeles burned President-elect Donald Trump’s head in effigy and a Houston haunted house showed Mr. Trump hanging from a noose and when, in New York, Mr. Trump was hung in effigy outside his residence there was no similar outcry. Even when, in the New York incident, American flags were burned there was no outcry—state media didn’t even report it! To a neutral observer this is very odd and it begs the troubling question: Is it because Mr. Obama is African-American but Mr. Trump is white?

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Uproar In Madison, WI. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2016/10/29/fan-in-trump-mask-holds-noose-around-fan-in-obama-mask-at-wisconsin-game/

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But None In New York. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2016/11/hillary-supporters-hang-trump-effigy-outside-his-nyc-home/

 

Given the uproar at a simple college football game in the small town of Madison, Wisconsin—where fans of the University of Wisconsin heaped shame upon the (admittedly) poor taste of the fans who disparaged the current President of the United States—it is interesting (not to mention shocking) that the burning of the American flag on 5th Avenue, the heart of “America”, was not similarly condemned.

It is the product of a society that has been—continually—unable to come to terms with its racist past which creates a worrisome double standard not only in society, but sport as well. Sage Steele, an anchor for America’s largest sports network ESPN, sent a good message to America when she said:

As a self-proclaimed, proud bi-racial woman — my father is black and my mother is white — the word “diversity” is fascinating. These days, I call it “the D word”. Why? Because everyone likes to say it. At work, at home, at the podium, at colleges and universities. Diversity. EMBRACE DIVERSITY! Fortunately, millions of Americans of all races, religions and cultures do just that. But, how many of us actually mean it? Specifically, how many people of color actually mean it? Or is it simply a socially acceptable, politically correct term that just sounds good, and feels good to say, or to demand? Unfortunately for way too many African-Americans and people of color, I believe it’s the latter. I’ve actually believed this for years and have spoken publicly about it a few times recently, contemplating when the best time would be to fully “go there”. In light of recent events around the country and personally, I feel the time is now.

[…]

 You don’t get a hall-pass just because you’re a minority. Racism is racism, no matter what color your skin is.

 […]

Believe it or not, we can disagree and still be civil. Respectful. Kind. Accepting of our differences. Isn’t that what DIVERSITY is all about? EMBRACE DIVERSITY…but mean it. All the time, not just when it’s convenient for you. I pray that we can all begin to have more open-minded, non-judgmental, healthy conversations to ensure that diversity applies to ALL Americans, all of the time.

I could not have said it better myself, and it is remarkable that we miss out on how counterproductive this refusal to embrace diversity really can be. The reason for the dearth of African-American coaches in college football is just one small example of the issue. As the article states:

Given the history of major institutions hiring black coaches, the problem is not a resistance to hiring, but rather that a black coach is extremely difficult to fire because groups such as TIDES and people such as Ty Willingham might call you a racist.

The only color that college boosters and alumni care about is green, the color of money that flows into the school as the result of a winning program with sustained success over a long period of time. Schools such as Texas and Texas A&M have given the “power” to black coaches they believe will deliver that kind of success.

If the media and former head coaches-turned-activists wouldn’t launch inquisitions and hurl accusations of racism, more would do it [coach college football teams].

As is the case with industrial football, money is all that matters to those in charge of sports teams; all they want is success on the field so as to line their pockets. Understandably, that means having the power to hire people who can bring success. Unfortunately, the flip side of that means having the power to fire people who don’t bring success and teams will become more reluctant to hire African-American coaches if firing them leads to controversy. To cloud such issues with race only serves to miss the point entirely, and it unfortunately supports a dangerous and divisive double standard in society that helps neither whites nor African-Americans. Rather than fomenting race-related controversies where none exist American society would be better served focusing on how to alleviate the poverty and violence in African-American communities, the kind depicted in ScHoolboy Q’s poignant video for the song John Muir. Just a bit of perspective from a marginal sociologist with a multi-cultural background.

The Offended States of America: Is The Intolerance in American Higher Education A Product of The Culture Industry? Kanye West and Internet Memes Might Help Us Find an Answer

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Image Courtesy Of: http://imgur.com/gallery/13HUEao

In addition to what my “About Me” page says, I am a PhD student in the department of Sociology at a University in the southern United States who grew up bilingually in both the United States and Turkey and carries two passports. Racially—a category Americans obsess about but something that I cannot understand—I look phenotypically “white” (although I have, on occasion, been mistaken for being Hispanic). That’s me. Just another human being trying to make sense of the world, combining my experiences to reach a cogent understanding of the chaos around me. I give you this information because—due to my background—I do not feel safe in President-elect Trump’s America. But it is not the kind of “unsafe” most “educated” people on college campuses would assume.  In this climate of rising intolerance, it is impossible to feel safe. It is like trying to stay dry in a Florida hurricane. It is chaotic, it is loud, it is unpredictable, and…it is wet. Really wet. Like the rain, the intolerance surrounds you until you can barely keep your head above the water. They say that the rain will wash you clean, but what if it only makes the dirt cling to you more?

I was sitting in a gender sociology graduate seminar last week as students vented their frustrations at the election. In a country where campuses have organized cry-ins and professors have cancelled tests, we have seen education—one of our most vital national resources—be sacrificed in the face of fear. That is why it is a good discussion to have, and a necessary one at that. But only if it is, actually, a discussion. I emphasize it because Merriam-Webster describes the word as “the act of talking about something with another person or a group of people; a conversation about something” or “a speech or piece of writing that gives information, ideas, opinions, etc., about something”. Both definitions describe a process of a dialectic—exchanging opinions and ideas is the goal. As critical theorist Jurgen Habermas said, we need communicative action, where “participants are not primarily oriented to their own successes; they pursue their individual goals under the condition that they can harmonize their plans of action on the basis of common situation definitions”.

I didn’t experience that kind of communication last week. When a fellow student told the class that we, as educators, need to tell the students what is happening and that we are here for them she said that she told her class that she rejected the President-elect and expressed an opinion that, unequivocally, supported one side of America’s political debate.

I had been silenced all year in this class, by nature of being a “white” (in quotations because I am unsure as to what it even means) heterosexual male in a gender Sociology class. I was told that “fathers didn’t matter” and that [white] males are to be blamed for everything that is wrong with our world. I bit my tongue all for three months. It was difficult, because such divisive essentialist statements that reek of sexism and bias are disgusting but I didn’t really care for the discussion; my research focuses on nationalism and national identity—not gender identity, so I let those with more knowledge of the topic have their say. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t speak. I was a male in an environment where males were tolerated but not wanted. I could only be savaged if I ever dared open my mouth. So I didn’t. I was complicit in accepting the seminar’s fascistic atmosphere. I was scared and certainly didn’t feel safe. But I let it all go—it was just three hours of a 168-hour week. I could deal with it.

This class was different. When I heard this student—who is also an instructor, working within the purview of the exploitative nature of higher education—explicitly advocate bringing politics into the classroom I could not hold back any longer. I had been asked before by fellow instructor/students if I brought politics into the classes I teach. I said absolutely not; it is unfair to the students. My fellow instructor/students were incredulous, which—in turn—made me incredulous. The job of higher education is not to indoctrinate but to present facts; the troubling result of such indoctrination were made clear this election. So I decided to test the waters—I told the student she should follow the rule I follow, the “Max Weber” rule. He said that politics does not belong in the lecture-room,

the prophet and the demagogue do not belong on the academic platform […] speak where criticism is possible. In the lecture-room we stand opposite our audience, and it has to remain silent. I deem it irresponsible to exploit the circumstance that for the sake of their career the students have to attend a teacher’s course where there is nobody present to oppose him with criticism. The task of the teacher is to serve the students with his knowledge and scientific experience and not to imprint upon them his personal political views” (Max Weber, Science as a Vocation. Emphasis Added).

Had more academics followed this line of thought, we wouldn’t be in a situation where universities have arguably systematically indoctrinated students, thereby creating a situation where those who hold certain political views come to see themselves as “more intelligent” and “morally superior” to those who hold opposing views. To conflate a political position with “intelligence” is dangerous, and leads to a situation where one side continually ignores the other. I want more critical debate and less shaming. Sadly, I didn’t get what I was looking for.

After my comment suddenly, like a thunder crack, all hell broke loose. The student asked me if I was aware that Max Weber’s close associates joined the Nazi party. I was taken aback—I couldn’t believe it was happening. A harmless comment made her liken me to a Nazi. It was amazing. But it was also as American as Apple Pie and Chevrolets unfortunately. When in doubt, call the other person a Nazi or a racist and you win the argument, no questions asked. Admittedly, as someone accused of being something they are not, I gave an emotional response. If someone calls me something I am not I will give an emotional response; the response to being called a racist will be the same as it would be if someone called me a Yankees fan (I’m from Providence—Red Sox all the way) or a Fenerbahce fan (I bleed Galatsaray’s yellow and red). I asked her how she could compare me to a Nazi. She raised her voice and it all just fell away into a haze, one of those heated moments when the heart is beating and its tough to keep composure. As her voice rose I tried to calm her down—just “relax” I said, because (after all) its just politics. She berated me. She yelled. My telling her to relax apparently belittled the fact that she didn’t feel “safe”. When I told her I was the one who didn’t feel safe and that I would leave the class she didn’t mince words: “GO! JUST GO! GET THE F**K OUT!”. It was surreal. I was being kicked out of a graduate seminar by someone who couldn’t see things any other way than her own. It certainly wasn’t healthy. But it needed to happen if only to—maybe—wake people up. The toxic environment on American college campuses does not affect just one end of the political spectrum. It affects both. And that is something we need to—in fact, we must—change if we want to have a semblance of a functioning educational system and, ultimately, democracy.

In this environment free speech is only good if someone thinks the same way as you think. Just like democracy is only good if your candidate wins. Those protesting Mr. Trump’s victory feel the same way; the same people who were worried his supporters would not accept the election’s outcome are the same people taking to the streets today—even assaulting those who they think voted differently. They are those that cruelly savage a Muslim woman for daring to explain why she voted a certain way. This climate creates a situation where people fabricate attacks on campuses which only serves to mask the fact that there are real attacks, perpetrated by supporters of both sides. This is a product of a society that promotes “Me” over “Us”: More selfies, more Tweets, more “ME”.  It is symptomatic of a society left rudderless, with no ideology other than “MY” ideology. There is no concept of what America is supposed to mean. But that is not what I am here to write about; I am here to point out that lumping almost 50 percent of the population into the categories of “racist”, “sexist”, “homophobic” and who knows what else, people really miss the point.

People miss the point that there are points of convergence which, if seized upon, could actually improve our democracy. People miss the point that the working class is divided along racial lines. People miss the point that institutionalized slavery has been replaced by “political slavery”; the rich are coopting the vote of the poor by appealing to racial difference and are really failing black Americans. People miss the point that—in most of the world—one faces deportation for entering a country without proper documentation (or, to put it more simply, “illegally”) and that allowing it to continue is unfair not only to Americans, but those immigrants who wait years following the legal path to citizenship. People miss the point—perhaps most importantly—that America’s interventionist foreign policy is based on “American Exceptionalism”, an ideology that could be construed as racist and fascist by promoting an idea that the United States is inherently “better” than the rest of the world.  Many innocent (and other not so innocent) people have died at the hands of this ideology, yet some people are fighting for a continuation of this flawed ideology and lamenting its (possible) passing.

The world we live in is no longer the immediate aftermath of the second World War, when America had to fund the world through the Marshall Plan. Other countries have advanced economically. This is not the Cold War era, when capitalism had to be forced on the world through the barrel of a gun. Capitalism has been accepted as the dominant economic philosophy, the United States doesn’t need to continue driving it through neo-liberal policies and ignoring human rights in the process. The national mission must evolve with the times. Francis Fukuyama’s end of history has not materialized, its time policies recognize that. I’m not unaware of the oddity that it is a billionaire espousing some of these positions. Of course it’s odd.

But, it’s a necessary shock to the dominant ideology and may actually be a chance to return to true American values of liberty and freedom for all. I wish slavery hadn’t happened; it destroyed the fabric of the country. Now we all must deal with the repercussions. Political correctness has only put a band-aid on people’s true racism by silencing them. Now some bigots are coming out and spewing hatred and promoting racist attacks. By lumping all such misguided individuals together as “Trumpists” we again miss the point. Because these hateful people are coming out and expressing their views we now know who they are, they have been uncovered, and law enforcement can take care of them so that—instead of band-aiding racism—we clean it up and get such people off our streets. Indeed, when I spoke up about political correctness in another class, arguing that the policy of “language policing” actually exacerbates racism rather than solving it, another student dared support my position and was savaged by an African American student because he was “a white male who couldn’t understand”. It was a racist statement. But, it was accepted because it was within the purview of political correctness. This kind of behavior can only divide people further.

Just twelve years ago, back when I was in college, “left” minded people would have been voting in droves for a candidate who was against foreign intervention and who was against the exploitation of workers (foreign and domestic) through free trade agreements and outsourcing that promotes child-labor. They would have been jumping for joy at a president-elect who promises to work for free, eschewing the presidential salary of a not insignificant 400,000 dollars and who is interested in scaling down the funding for transnational security agreements like NATO so as to free up money to spend at home in social services like healthcare, education, and infrastructure. Instead, people only look at the surface. “Racism” and “sexism” are the buzzwords, no criticism is focused on policy at all. This is why it is important to move towards a post-ideological society. Less left and less right and more critical thinking about the issues, and about society is what is necessary. Respect our values and traditions, positive nationalism that is not fascistic. Foreign policy that leads by example, not force. And an understanding that, in modern society, the “left” and “right” might have more in common than we realize.

 

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A Libertarian Celebrity’s Graphic Tries To Bridge The Gap Between Ideologies; Less Spending on International Military Alliances Might Mean More Money Can Come Home. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bigskywords.com/uploads/1/2/8/0/12804055/military-spending-meme.png?605

 

Shockingly, some perspective was offered by—of all people—Kanye West (the rapper whose “Famous” video is worth watching) who proclaimed that, had he voted, “he would have voted for [Mr.] Trump”. Of course, this offended most of the (ostensibly liberal) crowd at Mr. West’s concert since, as an African American, such support for a Republican is unexpected—and we have America’s racialized politics to blame for this. The Tweets in response to Mr. West show an inability—indeed a refusal—to see things from any other perspective, similar to what I have experienced in my own university.

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Kanye West Is Savaged by “Supporters”. He Is my Musician…Only If he Follows MY Politics, Just Like Free Speech Is Good, But Only If You Think What I Think. Images Courtesy Of: http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/18/entertainment/kanye-west-donald-trump-trnd/

 

Mr. West’s words in Sacramento, California, seemed quite sober to me in pointing out the failure of America’s “free press”:

It’s a new world, Hillary Clinton, it’s a new world […] Feelings matter. Because guess what? Everybody in Middle America felt a way and they showed you how they felt […] A lot of people here tonight felt like they lost. You know why? Because y’all been lied to. Google lied to you. Facebook lied to you. Radio lied to you.

Mr. West continued to hit out at the corruption in the corporate music industry, something akin to the corruption of sport by way of Industrial Football. Passion has fallen victim to money, and this means that in the world of extreme capitalism independence (in both art and sport) is hard to come by. I quote Mr. West’s passage at length below, taken from (state media’s) New York Times:

Turning his focus on the music industry, Mr. West questioned gatekeepers for promoting songs by Drake but not Frank Ocean, and wondered once again why he is often overlooked at awards shows. Referring to this year’s MTV Video Music Awards, Mr. West pulled back the curtain on what he said was the political behind-the-scenes dealings that go into booking celebrities for such events.

“Beyoncé, I was hurt because I heard that you said you wouldn’t perform unless you won Video of the Year over me and over ‘Hotline Bling,’” he said.

Sometimes we be playing the politics too much and forget who we are just to win,” he continued. “I’ve been sitting here to give y’all my truth even at the risk of my own life — even at the risk of my own success, my own career.”

However, Mr. West said, such truth-telling was necessary for real progress. “Obama couldn’t make America great because he couldn’t be him to be who he was,” he said. “Black men have been slaves. Obama wasn’t allowed to do this” — the rapper screamed — “and still win. He had to be perfect. But being perfect don’t always change” things.

What Mr. West says is not insignificant. As a musician that represents the Culture Industry—in which an “enlightenment” is produced that actually amounts to mass deception—Mr. West has a mass following. The fact that even his deviance from the dominant “narrative” sparks anger in fans is indicative of a society that has become sheep-like. No one can think for themselves, since they have been force fed beliefs from a culture industry that is, in fact, far removed from the masses of society due to a combination of money, power, and status (to borrow, again, Max Weber’s terminology). This is why we, as individuals who embrace democracy and freedom and equality for all, must fight against this kind of intolerance and resist being blinded by ideology.

I ask student and educators across the country to resist this culture industry in which “consumption of the easy pleasures of popular culture, made available by the mass communications media, renders people docile and content, no matter how difficult their economic circumstances” and give it a break. To realize that this message is not directed at my institution is very important. I have met some of the best—and I stress, the best—faculty in the world at my university. They have been nothing short of extremely supportive—not just “supportive” but “extremely supportive”, I cannot stress this enough. They are the epitome of what graduate faculty should be. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for some of the students and to them—and students across the country—I have a message. Give your political process a chance before passing judgement. I cannot predict the future—I am, after all, just a marginal sociologist who knows more than to trust a politician—but I can see the present. It is one driven by hate and by vitriol, characterized by paroxysms of rage on both sides. And that is definitely no way to treat your fellow human beings. Politics is not a sport, it is not a zero-sum game. Have some respect for democracy. Have some respect not only for others but, probably most importantly, have some respect for yourselves.

As a bonus, please enjoy the memes below which—I believe—go some way to showing the problems in America’s higher education. Sometimes, it takes the unexpected to challenge the status quo; just look at Hoffenheim’s 29 year old coach Julian Nagelsmann who is taking the Bundesliga by storm!

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This One Is For the Students. Image Courtesy Of: http://thefederalistpapers.org/us/every-college-student-needs-to-read-this-genius-message-meme

 

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This Is, Sadly, a Fascist Strategy Embraced by Many American Graduate Students. Unfortunately, It Merely Ends the Conversation Meaning That No Constructive Debate Can Take Place. Image Courtesy Of: http://dirtyconservative.com/the-liberal-argument-methodology/

 

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Another Sad Way of Silencing Debate In the United States’ Academic Community: Invoking Hitler. Image Courtesy Of: http://imgur.com/gallery/SjQclIQ

 

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More Free Speech and More Critical Thinking Is What We Need in America, Regardless of Ideology. Image Courtesy Of: http://world-visits.com/2011/12/flag-of-the-united-states

 

 

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