Annual Fundraising Appeal
Over the course of 21 years, we’ve published many unflattering stories about Henry Kissinger. We’ve recounted his involvement in the Chilean coup and the illegal bombings of Cambodia and Laos; his hidden role in the Kent State massacre and the genocide in East Timor; his noxious influence peddling in DC and craven work for dictators and repressive regimes around the world. We’ve questioned his ethics, his morals and his intelligence. We’ve called for him to be arrested and tried for war crimes. But nothing we’ve ever published pissed off HK quite like this sequence of photos taken at a conference in Brazil, which appeared in one of the early print editions of CounterPunch.
100716HenryKissingerNosePicking
The publication of those photos, and the story that went with them, 20 years ago earned CounterPunch a global audience in the pre-web days and helped make our reputation as a fearless journal willing to take the fight to the forces of darkness without flinching. Now our future is entirely in your hands. Please donate.

Day12Fixed

Yes, these are dire political times. Many who optimistically hoped for real change have spent nearly five years under the cold downpour of political reality. Here at CounterPunch we’ve always aimed to tell it like it is, without illusions or despair. That’s why so many of you have found a refuge at CounterPunch and made us your homepage. You tell us that you love CounterPunch because the quality of the writing you find here in the original articles we offer every day and because we never flinch under fire. We appreciate the support and are prepared for the fierce battles to come.

Unlike other outfits, we don’t hit you up for money every month … or even every quarter. We ask only once a year. But when we ask, we mean it.

CounterPunch’s website is supported almost entirely by subscribers to the print edition of our magazine. We aren’t on the receiving end of six-figure grants from big foundations. George Soros doesn’t have us on retainer. We don’t sell tickets on cruise liners. We don’t clog our site with deceptive corporate ads.

The continued existence of CounterPunch depends solely on the support and dedication of our readers. We know there are a lot of you. We get thousands of emails from you every day. Our website receives millions of hits and nearly 100,000 readers each day. And we don’t charge you a dime.

Please, use our brand new secure shopping cart to make a tax-deductible donation to CounterPunch today or purchase a subscription our monthly magazine and a gift sub for someone or one of our explosive  books, including the ground-breaking Killing Trayvons. Show a little affection for subversion: consider an automated monthly donation. (We accept checks, credit cards, PayPal and cold-hard cash….)
cp-store

or use
pp1

To contribute by phone you can call Becky or Deva toll free at: 1-800-840-3683

Thank you for your support,

Jeffrey, Joshua, Becky, Deva, and Nathaniel

CounterPunch
 PO Box 228, Petrolia, CA 95558

Monday Night in America...

Football: An American Social Construction

by ANDREW SMOLSKI

It was a Monday night. In America, during the right time of year, football is on the television. I sit on a couch next to a few friends. The game hasn’t started yet, but ESPN has rolling commentary until it does. Five men sit on an immaculate set, each with a crisp suit and an idiosyncratic tie. They begin discussing who will win, how the teams operate, and which players they see as really “showing out” this season. My friends respond in kind to the commentators, to each other, and typically I have no clue what is being said. The jargon is complex. The amount of information necessary to even be “in” the conversation is overwhelming. But, I realize this is what a historically constructed social institution and subsequent organization is.

Football begins in 1869 as an adaptation of rugby. From there a whole social system is built around human created rules to a human created game. A whole culture operates around it; fans form collectives to support teams, they have rituals and traditions, myths are built up, and even heroes are chosen. A political economy operates as well; tax laws and leases for stadiums, a professional football players union, funding to universities, and tourism dollars from grand tournaments. Football has become a part of society, operating as an inextricable sub-part of our American social system. This historical social construction is amazing for how far it reaches into the American psyche.

I sit on that couch thinking of all this, of how football became an institution with a powerful organization, and I think about politics. Politics is a word seldom heard from those people who know the outcome of the World Table Tennis Championship. For these people an intellectual is one of those men who sit on the immaculate set, with the crisp suit and idiosyncratic tie, who talk all day and all night about sports.  They set the contours of the debate, oddly manufacturing consent for their opinions and what the debate can even be, as if reminiscent of Herman and Chomsky’s propaganda model. They dictate what information about sports the viewers have or will have. And politics is quite out of the question.

Football is removed from the rest of the world. It sits on a shelf above society. It’s only a game. Entertainment others would say. The game’s intellectuals treat it as such, except for the occasional break in the ranks to make a point; singular, of course. So, a whole system of knowledge exists as if outside of our society, a place unto itself. My friends discuss it as if it is absent a context. Football for them creates its own context. So, would it be wrong to say it is a social system unto itself? I think not. Football for many is society. It peppers every conversation, each day devoted to it, and family and friends gather to enjoy it.

So, I sit on the couch and do not know what to do. Should I break protocol and offer these insights about football’s social construction? Highly unlikely they would care. Do I state that the commentators create boundaries to their conversations? They would never see this as nefarious, stating that of course the commentators focus only on the game. “That is what they are paid for, Andy.” As if they are no longer a part of society, as if they can abdicate ethical duty, because that is what they are paid for by Disney. Yet, maybe that is how people want it. A sport disconnected from society, but playing a crucial in society, is all the people ever wanted. An escape, a way to be “smart” without doing science and be on par with your intellectuals who concur with your sentiments on player such and such and team A, B, or C.

And this all shows at bottom how little social scientific knowledge has penetrated into the public mind. For most, this is all a matter of opinion. Sport, as a societal question, is considered to be just a question of whether or not you can enjoy it as entertainment; not a serious intellectual question. But, is it an opinion to say football is a social construction? This seems clearly to be a fact, at least a social fact. I personally blame the social scientists. They ceded their glory to the new intellectuals, the sports commentator. Or maybe they just lost out, because we want to be entertained. No matter, we must find a way to reconnect sports to society, to break down sport’s pedestal. Otherwise, I fear, their intellectuals will beat out ours for deciding the debate. Schaub or Keenum anyone? What dreary questions we have to look forward to. At least there is Dave Zirin.

Andrew Smolski is building his own micro-politics of desire little by little and brick by brick doing his part to rebuild the dreams of the oppressed, such as himself, for multiple better worlds. He can be reached at andrew.smolski@gmail.com