A text about football, the World Cup 2014, etc.
a podcast by CrimethInc about Brazil includes a reading of this text
( the World Cup discussion is from 29:23-1:01:20, and this piece appears from 49:25-59:20 )
French translation: nous avons les moyens de vous rendre heureux (juillet 2014)
German translation: „Wir haben die Mittel, dich glücklich zu machen“
There’s also a Lithuanian translation of this text
published 18th June 2014, a complement to “brazil against the world cup”
the goal of a goalless world, of a goalless life…
…the opium of the people
What began a long time ago as a primarily working class sport played and developed on the street or other unsurveilled places by the poor has now become a method of turning those workers into spectators, controlling those streets and places and making the life of the poor worse.
The seemingly endless spectacle of sport has as its base the repression of communities of struggle. In the wake of the repressions of class struggle communities from the mid-80s up until just a few years ago, football increasingly became the surrogate “working class” connection to the world; the participatory compensation and consolation for the repression of these struggles, for the repression of a real connection with history. People pay exorbitant amounts of money to travel to and consume these events in order to say, “I was there!”. An ersatz history mediated by sports heroes and team support clothes etc History as a commodity..History as conspicuous consumption.
But with Brazil the contradictions of the show are becoming transparent: sickness and shacks for the poor – health and mansions for the rich. The commodity spectacle has its priorities, and investment in image and diversionary entertainment has become more profitable than production of the bare necessities. Today, the rulers present method is a slight variation of the standard “bread and circuses” method since Roman times: geneticallly modified crumbs and football played by millionaires.
…let them eat football
John Dennis (see this), a radical miner during the strikes of the 70s and 80s, said once to me that when he was a teenager he was a Sheffield Wednesday fan. But he always felt that it was a role he felt obliged to play – to put on a show of joy when the team won, to be sad when they lost; it was something he felt obliged to play as an unwritten rule of his friendship with the other fans.
Nowadays that role, the face painted in national colours that the fan puts on, most obviously supports the terror of FIFA and the Brazilian cops. “We know this world is shit – let’s just enjoy what it’s got to offer” shrugs off critique and critical self-reflection with a conventional mixture of naivety and cynicism. A taxi driver In Fortaleza, said on June 16th “There has been some mindless violence with the protests, but now it’s time to enjoy soccer.” (here). The brute violence of the cops and the state and all the forces supporting this sick show turns against the conscious violence of the opposition to dismiss them as “mindless killjoys”. The desire to belong, separated from the struggle for a community against this world, becomes simply a suffocating duty to conform. It’s expressed in the form of the fans’ exaggerated pretence of brashly affirming what they have been told must be affirmed. Regardless of what people genuinely feel, invent or initiate, one must keep up appearances. That which appears on Facebook is good, that which is good appears on Facebook.
When people dress up in colourful masks and funny clothes and take endless selfies, life and the self has grown old and cannot be rejuvenated with dazzling colours. It can only be evoked as a photo posted on the internet. The greatness of this costume drama increasingly flourishes at the dusk of life, and the impending midnight of the planet.
“…a social relation among people, mediated by images.”
This banal display quite consciously supports the positivism that capital tries to turn into an obligation in the face of all this positivism’s very evident miserable negative consequences (occupation of the favelas, evictions, gentrification, intensified poverty and sickness, sex tourism, tear gas and bullets, deaths on the construction sites, murder of many of the homeless, etc), which the movement of proletarian subversion in Brazil over the last 12 months has made it impossible to not be aware of.
We can hardly blame FIFA and the rest of the Borgiasie for acting in their own chronicly sick brutal class interests – but the spectators who want to remain spectators, the willing collaborators, those complicit in their own misery – these are the cowardly enemy within, always playing safe, always faking it, always avoiding the depths and staying on the surface, always flowing with the tide until it eventually drowns them.
The World Cup is a subtler version of the Thai ruling class’s method of recent hierarchically organised forms of leisure consumption:
“Are you in need of a pick-me-up? How about a free haircut or hot meal? A dance show by women in PVC miniskirts? Perhaps a chance to pet a pony?
All this – and more – is now available to you courtesy of the Royal Thai Army’s “Happiness” campaign, which is staging free festivals across Bangkok to “bring back happiness” to the Thai public following last month’s military coup.
A bizarre combination of an army-controlled street party and a music festival, the “parties” have been taking place in parks and squares, where the public is showered with free food and drink and given an opportunity to watch the army sing and dance — and take selfies next to trussed-up soldiers….
The campaign is by order of Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, who took control of Thailand two weeks ago in a military coup ….Prayuth has said the coup should be celebrated as an opportunity for Thais to feel good after a long stretch of political in-fighting left the country deeply divided. “The Thai people, like me, have probably not been happy for nine years,” he said last month. “But since May 22, there is happiness.”
(from here )
“don’t worry – be happy!” – thailand-style
The goal of the spectacle of the World Cup, as of the leisure spectacle as a whole, is to be seen to be above politics – it insinuates itself into a community of false friendship mediated by what this society has defined as “happiness”: “There’s a predominant climate of fraternization,” Rousseff told reporters in Brasilia late yesterday. .Rousseff said the mood shift reminded her of when she watched the 1970 World Cup while imprisoned by Brazil’s military dictatorship. The advance of Brazil’s national team in that event began winning over fellow inmates who had refused to support the squad because they expected victory would only strengthen the military regime, she said. “Brazil’s team represents our nationality,” she said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. “It is above governments, political parties and interests of any groups.” (here) . Even prisoners under a brutal dictatorship can appreciate the positive value of the nation, and football as its ambassador, as long as they give up their silly notion that football strengthens military regimes (and certainly not then to go on to recognising that these militarised regimes can take both a dictatorial and democratic form.). But in being overpowered by the show of football and its ideologies of fraternisation, even a prisoner can give up his angry point of view and be turned into the pliable self that enables this society crush people more easily.
Given this extreme fragility – that of each individual’s sense of self in a world that destroys all individuality and the community of solidarity that enables individuals to recognise each other, positive affirmation of situations totally outside of the individual’s participation/control becomes a pathological need, a desperate way of connecting with someone, in this case through sport (though cultural mediations are usually just as alienated). The fans try to delude themselves into believing they are somehow participating in all the decisions by acting like would-be managers of “their” team: “we should put X in Y position and concentrate more on Z, and that bastard Q should have been sacked years ago”, blah blah blah. They compete with each other by showing off their expertise, learning all the minutae of the history and gossip of their and their opponents’ teams. Community by proxy, a vicarious form of decision-making, the only kind capital produces, and produces en masse the more genuine community and the taking of significant decisions it represses. All that frenzied passion and exuberance towards the unpredictable unrehearsed unscripted suspense of the game is all focussed on the pitch, a mediation totally outside the control of the fans, whose eyes never meet. As always the spectacle – whether of sport, politics or culture – is a substiltute for lived reality – the only game really worth playing. This is the game which is everywhere repressed with distractions, lies and stun grenades: the unpredictable unrehearsed unscripted suspense of the revolutionary adventure.
PS Of course, given the general conditions of acute isolation, people find pretexts for getting together with people. And sometimes fans go beyond their allotted role as fans – for instance here, here and here.
A friend just wrote the following excellent insights:
Yes I think that sums up how I see the whole thing – like Titus’ 100 days of games to placate a restless Rome. I also totally recognise the description of being a fan – mouthing out the learnt mantras about so-and-so’s long pass and thingamy ought to have used four-four-two against whatitsname. And then the compulsory “come on my son!”. Its a powerful thing – a sense of both belonging and power that comes from a unified crowd. Sadly, as you have said, its a false opposition, supporting a completely manufactured team with an equally manufactured identity.
I guess the working class love affair with football stems from the industrial towns – or more often districts within towns – fielding teams made up of their own kin, and pitching them against rival districts and towns. The industrialists probably saw the status, the money and the easily garnered loyality of working men to be had and poured money in, the sport ( or rather the spectacle of the sport) quickly developing into the number one pastime for working men. They in turn took their sons as a kind of rites of passage and perhaps also because the whole experience of a unified crowd of working men offered glimpses – or perhaps a mirage – of something other than the toxic squalor, crowded and often sexless homes and short and brutal working lives within the industrial towns. And of course it often ended with drunken benders and scuffles with the police.
Whatever and however that all came about, what I see now is a charade of that mirage. The unity of the crowd having given way to the atomised rants at tv sets or the fake crowds rammed into pubs, screaming at ‘the big screen’. The price of tickets ratcheted up to both squeeze the maximum from the crowd and exclude the more unruly elements from the poorer estates and neighbourhoods. etc etc.
I think it’s a multitude of things, but that notion of John’s – of belonging and loyalty rings very true. Also of acceptance, and of perhaps the chance of experiencing something extraordinary in an age of banality.
A few world cups ago I went to the pub with some mates into football. I realised that they had the same conversation every game. I decided to learn the lines and despite knowing nothing about football, found my comments – all mimicked – were totally accepted. There was no truth other than the truth we were all into the same lie.
Another friend, from the States, writes:
“Friends here have been watching the world cup in a very critical way, but also enjoying the game, the sport of it. I usually prefer when
everyone entirely avoids sports spectacles, but I’ve been appreciating how my friends seem to like watching the games and are also really excited (indeed, more excited) about the idea of the Brazilians burning the stadiums down. A strange mixture. I’ve been trying to take into account more lately (as I get a little older) how we can hate the world and also enjoy or appreciate elements of it–like a dance party with shitty pop music. Of course, while also struggling to create a genuine human community of resistance and opposition.”
I’ve got no problem with that at all – the critique here applies to those who are stuck in the role of fans, who are into everything but are never true to themselves, who are colonised by what our enemies want us to be colonised by.
At the same time, we can’t be purist or absolutist. I quite like some of Dali’s paintings, even though he was a disgusting guy who, amongst other things, supported Franco, and proudly proclaimed that in his 20s he’d beaten up a tramp (whether he did or not is beside the point). I also like James Brown’s music, but it would be stupid to ignore things like his support for the Vietnam war, his putting on a show just after Martin Luther King’s assassination in order to calm down the blacks, and other really shit behaviour (see the section “the soul of money” here: http://dialectical-delinquents.com/?page_id=176). There’s a world of difference between quite liking a film, for instance, and being a cinephile, endlessly going into all the comparative details of this or that aspect of the cinema in order to sound profound and sophisticated. The point, however, is to look at the social relations that make up that cultural commodity or the sports commodities, and to strive for a world which both abolishes these things in their present form and abolishes the misery that makes us need these alienated forms. Which is another way of saying what you said.
Just thought it might be worth adding a few ideas on football riots. This, in the wake of several mini-riots in France after Algeria’s win (no reports on these in the national media, only the local ones and the internet):
Grenoble: after Algeria’s football victory against South Korea, clashes with cops lead to a dozen cars and an empty bus being burnt…http://www.ledauphine.com/isere-sud/2014/06/23/grenoble-apres-la-victoire-de-l-algerie-des-incidents-eclatent-en-fin-de-soiree
Lyon: several clashes with riot cops and a shop looted after Algeria’s win …http://civilwarineurope.com/2014/06/22/breaking-news-live-de-tres-nombreux-affrontements-a-lyon-entre-crs-et-supporters-de-lalgerie/
Similar scenes in Roubaix near Lille (20 cars burnt, shop windows smashed, bins burnt, supermarket on fire) …..http://www.lavoixdunord.fr/region/victoire-de-l-algerie-scenes-de-liesse-a-lille-ia19b0n2227461?xtor=RSS-2
Maubeuge and Feignies also….http://www.fdesouche.com/478455-mondialalgerie-voitures-brulees-projectiles-et-interpellations-a-maubeuge-et-feignies
What I think (for what it’s worth):
Football riots, when they attack the cops or other aspects of this society, rather than opposing fans or bystanders, are fine, even if they are usually pretexts, symptomatic of a hatred for the organisation of this world. The fact that a previous loss by Algeria’s team also sparked a mini-riot or two in France, shows how much it’s a pretext. Nothing wrong with pretexts (almost every social movement involves those who use it as a pretext to express their rage against the real enemy, and I’m often one of them) but we obviously have to go beyond them. Sports’ riots too are historical: in reactionary epochs the more miserable viciousness of fans’ rivalry tends to dominate, but when social conflict is being expressed in other areas of life more openly in times of more general contestation, sports riots also tend to express themselves more clearly against our real enemies as well as liberating a more positive partying friendliness(e.g. the Stanley Cup riots in Vancouver in 2011) . But rarely do they see themselves, in even some limitedly explicit manner, within some social context and only very unusually do they involve some kind of development, some sense of advance and retreat (though there have definitely been significant situations globally when football fans have joined in social movements and supported them, including instances in Brazil in 2013, but most notably in Turkey 2013 where normally viciously rivalirous opposing fans quickly joined together against the real enemy – the cops). This might seem a rather “politically correct” judgement, but , for instance, it’s very rare to hear of sports’ riots being followed by some solidarity actions for those arrested, which would indicate something going beyond the need to explode in some largely healthy but limited nihilist moment. Necessary, but we know from experience, that nihilism – like most ideologies – can develop as much in horrible anti-life directions as they can progress in directions that affirm something human.
Part of the origins of football as a means to distract male workers in large industrial concentrations in Britain lie in the growth of relative surplus value and the fact that for the first time since the lengthening of the working week brought by the industrial revolution, people had Saturday afternoons off.
Sundays still belonged to the church, but Saturday afternoons…hello entertainment in the stadia.
The bosses were ahead of the working class radicals. They brought large numbers of workers together. On their terms. And ONLY on their terms. When the big war came, this was such a solid basis of pseudo-community they even used it to recruit soldiers for the “pals’ battalions”.
Similarly radio and television are partly about the reduction in the length of the working day on weekdays.
And consumerism, looked at not from the point of view of this year or that year, but over a longer time period, say the 1950s to now, is to a great extent not just about the intensification of labour but about working class debt. You’re encouraged everywhere you fucking go to buy buy buy. Are capitalist profit-makers competing among themselves when they advertise? Well to some extent yes. But to a greater extent, no. It’s rare you get told to buy this rather than that. They want you to buy this AND that. Can’t afford it? Well they can “help” you…
Nice site, by the way. Great you’ve still got the energy! Long may you thrive!
Tens of thousands of people watching two teams of 11 guys kick a ball about, and hundreds of thousands or millions watching live images of it. How do you abolish that shit “in its present form” rather than just abolishing that shit?
A friend (P) emailed me this in response to some of Neil F’s comments:
Tend to agree with you, but it’d take some research to verify it, and it doesn’t seem worthwhile putting in the effort. On the other hand, it seemed like a fair point Neil F. was making (admittedly in a mechanistic sort of way) as something that came to be recuperated, but not as something that immediately happened as soon as the working week was shortened.
P. emailed the following:
My point is things can look like they followed an evil plan in retrospect. Had football turned out totally differently, we could equally point to its different characteristics as conforming to the logic of the current social reality.
Reading some research would be interesting, but guessing… football’s meteoric rise may explained simply because of the appearance of large urban areas regardless of the wicked intentions of mill owners (a bit like the games held in large Greek or Roman settlements) or because of new social bonds centred around workplaces, or because of the fracture of ancient bonds and ties caused by the migration of the population from the countryside created a tendency to seek new ties. We do know that football rose to dominance in the industrial north of England and was quickly followed by London so is tied in directly with the development of capitalism, but any number of explanations would work in terms of what actually happened. Football was not alone – local mills and collieries around here had running teams, rowing, brass bands, choirs, you name it. Football (and rugby) were obviously great to watch as well as to play and the opportunity for making money out of a crowd would not have been lost on those who were also building fairgrounds, dance halls, picture houses, theatres, seaside resorts, zoos, etc etc. I am certain there would have been an element of proactive planning in the development of sports, but equally an unplanned cause and effect shaping events.
I would have thought a more likely scenario was that these working class pastimes would have appeared as creating seemingly dangerous situations rather than helped maintain social order? Hasn’t the football crowd always been a bit unruly?
Another side to the football story is that is can and is played in streets and school yards with no facilities at all. Most other team sports are much harder to accommodate, so footy was something directly experienced and enjoyed by thousands – millions – of boys and men in a way that no other sport could be. Old villages provided a green for cricket. In that sense, it was the physical conditions of the poor that shaped modern football?
I am sure there are many books on the formation of football leagues (and the treachery of the London teams) and we can probably guess that it was a mixture of enthusiasm for the sport and a following the smell of money that shaped it. A plan to distract the workers or use up their free time to as to secure the class system? That seems less plausible.
Who mentioned a conspiracy? 🙂 Large-scale social change brought about in capitalists’ individual interests serves to further the capitalists’ collective interest. If that weren’t so, I wouldn’t want to call them a class. They form themselves as a class in struggle against us. The way Saturdays changed in working class people’s lives could only have happened if the working week got shorter as it did. There was a strong push by workers for reducing the length of the working day, which was a central demand of the workers’ movement at an international level, but I’m not aware of any big push for being allowed Saturday afternoons off or any resistance by industrial bosses to the idea. It sounds more like a forerunner of Henry Ford raising wages a couple of generations later so that workers could buy cars and car fuel than a concession to workers’ power. That in the 1890s sizeable gatherings of industrial workers happened more often for passive entertainment purposes than for purposes of combining in struggle is a fact. It is also interesting how entertainment ideology with its democratic lie modernised what used to be achieved by the church with its lie that may have recognised in a sense the worth of the individual person and family but was always more overtly hierarchical. No cheering in church! (But no paying for entry either.) The rhythm of the week is important here, which on typing this I realise I should think about even more.
Nowadays, with Google and Facebook working with the CIA from an early stage (In-Q-Tel is a known arm of the CIA), and in Google’s case also with the NSA, it is clear that consciousness is involved on our enemies’ side at the top. The way the direction of change is determined today is much more centralised. Marx or no Marx, there does seem to have been a dynamic in capitalism towards ever more centralisation on our enemy’s side.
In contemporary times, there’s more and more passivity and more and more delusional ‘freedom’ – a terrifying schizoid mix – both in the content of mass communications and in the form of the massified technologies used. It would take great mental contortion to view as accidental the uniformity and the power of the overall historical current.
Twenty years ago there was a court case between Apple and Microsoft over Microsoft’s rip-off in Windows of ideas they’d taken from the Apple Macintosh operating system. There was also trouble over whether Microsoft should be allowed to package the Internet Explorer web browser together with Windows. Media scribes were prompted by their opinion formers to ask whether that was an “unfair” use in one sector of an advantage held in another, blah blah. Now look at Google. Pretty different. Nobody asks that sort of question today.
Google is big in techno-futurology (they employ a large proportion of the researchers working in that field) and their spokesmen are on record as looking to a future of mass microchip implantation and microphones in every ceiling. (No shit.) In the case of mass chip implantation, the same is true of Oracle, the world’s biggest maker of business software. Please don’t shoot the messenger.
I am unclear as to what linkage you are drawing between, on one hand, working class boys and men having a bit of fun kicking a ball around (either one team against another or in a teamless and less competitive or non-competitive way, which latter way of doing it is more likely to involve girls and women) and them going in large numbers to form audiences of spectators in stadia. If there’s a grey area here it’s not with the big teams but with the smaller teams where watching and ‘supporting’ merges a bit with the more active involvement of playing on teams or (just as active) giving real personal support to friends and especially family members who are playing on teams – which used to be pretty big until the 1950s or 1960s, but only happens on a small scale today.
Hi there DD and P and FIUS (friend in US),
Greetings from here in England, big-debt-and-snotty-sarcasm land! 🙂
This is just a quick question in response to how DD and P are throwing out terms such as “conspiracy”, “evil plan” and “wicked intentions” in response to what I said about the rise of mass-spectator football about 5 generations ago. It’s also a response to the first paragraph by P quoted at 5.28pm on 10 Apr, which I consider to be full of waffle and vague concepts, used defensively.
(When I read DD’s words on Aufhebengate elsewhere on this site [“This is how ideology develops. It’s not that anyone can be totally free of ideology in a world dominated by lies and false choices, but one can take an anti-ideological perspective that strives to root out one’s ideological tendencies, by putting oneself in a situation which tests out these unearned ideas, that strives to unearth the nuances rather than seek the security of dogmas…”] I thought how well this applied to P’s anti-conspiracist response to what I wrote, and to his knee-jerky and seemingly patronising “I doubt football was quite the conspiracy it is made out to be”, but there you go…)
First I note, though, that I didn’t get an answer to my question, “Tens of thousands of people watching two teams of 11 guys kick a ball about, and hundreds of thousands or millions watching live images of it. How do you abolish that shit “in its present form” rather than just abolishing that shit?” I didn’t mean to ask that in a nasty way. I asked it in response to DD’s statement that “(T)he point, however, is to look at the social relations that make up that cultural commodity or the sports commodities, and to strive for a world which both abolishes these things in their present form and abolishes the misery that makes us need these alienated forms.” As I read it, that statement by DD was in response not to what anyone had said about having a knockabout in the park, but to what FIUS had said about watching the “World Cup” on the television, which is a very different kettle of fish. I do not see any good content in such behaviour whatsoever (whether or not people get excited from afar about riots), good content unfortunately expressed in an alienated form at present but which could be expressed in an unalienated form in a more human society. Liking some of the paintings by the fascist scumbag Salvador Dali is one thing. I’ve got not problems with that – although if I encountered someone who liked some of those paintings without knowing what kind of person Dali was, I might well point it out. But watching sport on the television? You’re not getting to the root of it if your attitude is best explained by comparison with your attitude towards Dali. Do you really want only to abolish in its “present form” the behaviour of watching shit like that on the television (I can’t bring myself to all it an activity)? If so, I would like to know what non-alienated form you could imagine its content taking.
OK, now to my main question, with which I hope to do something to bring out our respective attitudes towards an important reality for millions of working class people in Britain today and towards the whole issue of who shapes this and why and with what aim and consciousness, with a further hope of possibly learning from each other and sharpening those attitudes.
My question concerns direct debit. You know the way so many utility companies “give” a “discount” if people pay bills by direct debit, i.e. grant authorisation to the companies to take unspecified amounts of money from their bank accounts on unspecified dates. If you stand in a queue at any bank branch where most clients are from the poorer part of the proletariat, you will know that many people who come in to the branch do so to enquire about when exactly a supposedly regular payment went in or out of their account, and often they will also be told that because it went out on this day rather than the day they expected (whoopsadaisy!), this means the bank put them into debt, for which there is a charge, which used to be £35. Obviously for many people this increases the likelihood that they will get into debt the next month, or not be able to pay a bill for an indefinite period of time, or both, and the moneylending scum make a packet out of this, as people’s faces are ground further into the shit. As most poor people – some of the people near the very bottom, living on the street, etc., excepted – it’s very expensive to be poor, and all sorts of scum are there to rip you off.
I would like to know whether you think the policy of the utility companies regarding direct debit and lower up-front charges for those who pay by direct debit indicate that the people who control such companies are in it with the people who control the banks.
Or do you think that that question (which to me should patently obviously be answered yes, and moreover, is the sort of question that those who want to be critical of social conditions should already have answered, whereas those ‘revolutionaries’ who attack and deride people who ask it are, to use a quaint phrase, part of the problem and not part of the solution) shouldn’t be answered until the implication in it is supported by further research, and that until that time it smacks of saying Elvis Presley is on the moon, or whatever other associations you make, intentionally or otherwise, when you use such terms as “conspiracy” and “evil plan”?
Two quick observations on the matters of how so many football fans (and those who aren’t particularly fans but watch a lot of football) relate to each other as if they’re managers or advising the manager, saying so-and-so should do such-and-such etc.; and how many of them amass large amounts of (usually quantitative) information about past results etc., as is also true of many bettors on horse-racing.
1) Role-playing that you’ve got control over something you haven’t, while presumably fooling yourself that people who’ve really got control over it would give a tinker’s cuss for what a scumsucking dirty smelly oik like you thinks about anything whatsoever (except in relation to how it gets you to hand over your money), is essentially how a lot of people consume the political spectacle too – which is similarly brought to people by celebrities and by commentators on the decisions of celebrities.
Lives of the stars. The latest news. Cameron should sack Hague. Cameron will tell the EU what to do. If there’s a hung parliament, Shit Face should offer Fuckwit the Full Fiscal Autonomy package. Blah blah fucking blah. Obviously many middle class people are into the same thing, from the point of view of controlling things that are a bit above the level of the oiks – he should play up this talking-point or that one, or win votes by doing this, or encourage this section of the electorate to switch from X to Y, or balance the budget, blah blah. Ooh on Question Time he answered Shitty’s point about the euro by saying Arse Arse Arse… I can’t even mimic its content very well, because I rejected this kind of crap so many decades ago. Watching the political news every day for long periods of time isn’t much better for someone’s mental health than watching the footie.
2) The massing of quantitative information: this isn’t just memorising stuff over the years, as some people do who can tell you the form of hundreds or thousands of different racehorses. It’s also performing feats such as taking in several dozen football results as they’re read out on the television on a Saturday afternoon. If you picked 5 at random and asked what they were, many people who just listened to the complete list would be able to tell you. There’s quite a lot of brain activity going on there, and I certainly wouldn’t be able to do anything like it. WHAT A FUCKING WASTE! They’re doing themselves down, their friends down, their families down and their class down. No fucking apologies for making this observation.
Watching sport on the television for a big proportion of someone’s life is lazy, submissive and passive and it’s self-betrayal. I shit on it. It’s got little in common with other hobbies that working class people engage in, many of which also involve massing information, but information that is won, sought out, amassed through activity and exploration and interest, through field trips, reading and adventurousness. For example, if you go out hunting different kinds of mushrooms, or watching different kinds of birds, you will be bound to meet working class people who have put a lot of effort into what they do, whose minds are very open to learning new stuff, who enjoy sharing information and stories with you about it all, etc. This is good. Lard-arsing in front of the television watching celebrity millionaires is bad and stupid.
And to the person who said that some of his mates had the same conversation every game and that he (I assume it’s a he) learnt the lines and was totally accepted… Yes, this is totally spot on and this bloke has obviously got his wits about him. Whereas working class mushroom hunters often know a huge amount about mushrooms and are very interesting to talk with about the subject, lardarse televised football watchers, even if they TALK loads about football, very often know fuck all about it of any DEPTH, the stupid boring bastards. They just amass titbits and stack them up and don’t think about them, because their whole relation to it all is PASSIVE, completly UNLIKE the mycologists and birders in our class. (Chris Anderson and David Sally’s book ‘The Numbers Game’ is supposed to be a good place to start if anybody actually does want to find out something about football. But it’s a book, so first turn off the telly.)
OK, that’s it. I should have upset almost everybody by now…
No, wait a minute – is someone around here going to mention the, er, male-female thing some time in relation to sport on the telly? Just askin’.
Have only just seen these posts – my site doesn’t automatically tell me there’s a post from someone I’ve already approved to post stuff here. Too busy today to reply – will try tomorrow or the next day.
A quick response to your response to my response… I’m sorry if you felt patronised by my comments or that I was writing defensive waffle! I was speculating about the origins of football as a spectator sport in the 1860s/70s, not about contemporary capitalism, and of a tendency to see things through a Twenty First Century lens rather from a more parochial and far less sophisticated 1870s perspective. I was probably reading too much into your first post, but I did take it as meaning you saw football as a planned contrivance of the bosses to against the workers (“Part of the origins of football as a means to distract male workers in large industrial concentrations in Britain… the bosses were ahead of the working class radicals”. I also took your point “They brought large numbers of workers together. On their terms. And ONLY on their terms.” in the same vein.).
I don’t really want to go into a point by point response as I think we are probably on the same page. Needless to say, football has subsequently developed within a developing capitalism. It has both shaped and been shaped by developments in everything from policing, psychology & sociology to mass consumerism, marketing, culture, media, etc etc. and is completely integrated into modern capitalism and all that means.
I haven’t read your later posts yet.
From here: https://architectsforsocialhousing.co.uk/2021/02/19/cui-bono-the-covid-19-conspiracy/
“For a glimpse of what new ‘meanings, values, practices, relationships and kinds of relationships’ are being produced by the coronavirus crisis, we might look at the coronavirus-justified changes to the dominant cultural form in the UK over the past quarter century and the flagship of multiculturalism — professional football. In addition to the vast profits being made by the multinational corporations, particularly in the USA, East Asia and the Middle East, that buy the wealthiest clubs in Europe in order to clean up their public image for new markets, it’s long been recognised that association football is also a spectacle that creates a sense of community within the increasingly fractured, isolated and divided society we call the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. One of the most curious consequences of this is that, with the Government’s response to the coronavirus crisis progressively banning all forms of community outside the nuclear family — a residual but still functioning form of the reproductive bed of capitalism — the absence of community from what was the dominant form of our culture under neo-liberalism is now being artificially simulated.
We haven’t gone as far as South Korea, where crowd sounds in response to games are played over the stadium’s loudspeakers during the match itself, but the viewing of football games in the UK, which for the past 30 years at least has been for most viewers on television rather than in the grounds in which they are played, recreates crowd reaction and plays it over the televised footage of the games. Of course, football programmes have been doing something like this for some time. Even on matches that are televised live, the highlights are shown over a background sound of crowd ‘murmur’. Now, though, that background has been recreated with greater veracity. The swearing and abuse that occasionally filtered through the television has gone; but the increase in crowd reaction as a player runs down his wing or enters the opposition’s penalty box is now reproduced, and the cheers and applause when a goal is scored, and even the boos for a bad tackle, are carefully synchronised by the programme director. Some stadiums even have representations of the crowd, with generic images of smiling fans standing in for the unruly human reality. In Germany and Italy, clubs have reproduced life-size photographs of season ticket-holders in their club colours to occupy their empty seats, tokens of their ongoing financial commitment to club and sponsor.
What is being done here, I think, is two things. First, reality is being augmented for what has come to be called our ‘viewing experience’. Indeed, the companies screening this footage in the UK — Sky Sports, BT Sport, the BBC and Amazon Prime — have said they are augmenting the crowd reactions to make the deeply un-normal and meaningless sight of 22 players running around in an almost empty stadium while being yelled at by their coaches ‘a familiar viewing experience’. The second thing this is doing, therefore, is replacing the absence of community from this spectacle with a virtual community; and, by normalising this on televised programmes, which under lockdown restrictions are most of the country’s primary access to the world outside their home, it is accommodating us to the so-called ‘New Normal’.”