From The Super Bowl To The State Of The Union
Imperial Rome’s rulers used bread and circuses to distract the masses from the high price they paid for the social system. U.S. rulers have pro sports to help create a similar distraction. Case in point is the Super Bowl, which called some public attention away from the economics of U.S. foreign policy, a subject sure to be spun in the president’s State of the Union address.
According to the Scripps Howard News Service, over 125 million people in the U.S. were expected to watch Super Bowl XXXVII. That’s six of every 10 people over the age of 16. I wonder how many of these people have decent health care, and secure, well-paying jobs.
Scripps called the experience of the masses watching the game “sort of a national campfire.” As the Oakland Raiders and the Tampa Bay Bucs prepared to play, much was made of fans’ spirit. Take some Oakland fans known as “Raider Nation.”
News media headlines spoke of them invading San Diego, site of the game.
After the final whistle, the victorious team and its fans would be on top of the world. From “Raider Nation” in San Diego to “Raid On Nations” in Iraq?
U.S. corporate news media humanized coaches and players for the Bucs. Fans were encouraged to invest emotionally in the battle for pro football supremacy. Here was a super scene of sorts.
Meanwhile, U.S. elites took sides on behalf of Team USA versus members of the U.N. Security Council about if/when to attack Iraq. Defense secretary Rumsfeld chided the antiwar stance of "old Europe" concerning a U.S. invasion to depose Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. What’s at stake and was underreported in America was U.S. corporate control over the Europe of old’s future contracts for Iraqi oil.
As good capitalists, European oldsters seek to expand profits and market share in the global economy. In particular, French and German elites have billions of reasons to oppose full U.S. control of Iraq’s oil if/when Saddam Hussein is disarmed and deposed. At the same time, greater U.S. control of Iraq’s oil would also feeds the super size American appetite for this nonrenewable energy source.
While corporations such as AT&T Wireless paid nearly $7 million to sponsor the half-time festivities at the Super Bowl, the Bush administration pounded the U.S. public with war talk. The military oratory reached new heights as policy makers claimed that the “smoking gun” of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was for Hussein, not U.N. weapons inspectors, to uncover. A Jan. 27 interim report by chief U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq, Hans Blix, on the past two months may (not) matter much in the decision to launch a U.S.-led military campaign against Iraq, said deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz.
A cowed U.S. news media had helped the White House make its public case to attack Iraq with or without a U.N. resolution by poorly explaining why the most recent New York Times/CBS News poll showed that many Americans are more concerned about the economy. Surprising? It shouldn’t be.
A recent Federal Reserve report showed that U.S. economic growth from 1998 to 2001 widened wealth inequality. This gap revealed the color line. The nation did begin, after all, with the legal theft of black labor-power and indigenous people’s land.
On Jan. 18, antiwar protesters across the nation united against this backdrop of a widening wealth gap. Contrast the corporate news media reporting of hundreds of thousands of ordinary people across the U.S. publicly protesting the White House’s war drive with the saturation coverage of Super Sunday. The matchup of the players involved took on heroic proportions that more accurately described the antiwar movement’s massive public statement for peace.
Modern communications played a big part in the Jan. 18 U.S. turnout against war. Internet activism surely sparked the International ANSWER coalition’s galvanizing of so many regular people in the streets. So did putting anti-racism at the center of the antiwar movement while Washington’s war hawks planned to bomb nonwhite Iraqis whose humanity has been crucially absent on the TV screens of the American people.
Meanwhile, political circles of power offered little to the U.S. public as millions of people’s lives grew less stable. For example, getting a job that pays well is getting more difficult as the national treasury is depleted to line the pockets of corporations and rich people, and to expand the U.S. military machine. The latest tax-cut proposal from the president for the top one percent of income earners is to national economic stimulation what leeches were to the bad blood circulation for the sick of yesteryear.
At the same time in the U.S., profit rates and interest rates are low. Businesses are cutting back. Where is the end to this downward trend?
The Bush administration isn’t offering much help to the nearly 50 states in fiscal distress. In California, Governor Gray Davis recently spoke about making a priority of "jobs, more jobs and even more jobs." Perhaps he’s referring to the future contracting out of public jobs to the private sector to address the state’s $34.6 billion deficit.
The morning after the Bucs became the top NFL team, the wobbly economy remained for the U.S. majority. That is one factor affecting the persuasive ability of the president in his State of the Union address to make a case that a foreign threat requires a preemptive war. There are certainly other factors.
Yes, U.S. military power is supreme, but public consent still matters.
Global hegemony still begins at home. The reemergence of this reality may well be the most relevant political development of 2003.
Nothing is inevitable. The politics of that view is only now becoming a part of people’s consciousness.
Seth Sandronsky is an editor with Because People Matter, Sacramento's progressive newspaper. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org