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12 Jul 2010

Society of the Spectacle 1 - Frankfurt School 0, the real World Cup result

I can't better the Stuff White People Like parody of people who don't have a TV, but suffice to say that we all know self-important people like that who feel very smug about opting out of consumer society and popular culture, despite the fact that it makes them more boring. But one thing to note is that this anti-TV tendency, like so many self-congratulatory middle class ideas, derives from a crass vulgarisation of Frankfurt school ideas, in this case Adorno's and Horkeimer's critique of mass media and culture. This high-brow, but wrong, critique of mass media is now articulated in the form of banal statements like "TV is junk food for the mind", essentially agreeing with Adorno that people are not active subjects who can make their own decisions but they are helpless victims being manipulated by The System.

What was interesting during the World Cup, was how even the most ardent Frankfurt School advocates and TV refuseniks couldn't resist watching the football and getting excited about it. Aside from the question about how did they watch it if they didn't have a TV, this was particularly interesting because the World Cup is the epitomization of Debord's Society of the Spectacle, which was a further elaboration of Frankfurt School concepts also masquerading as Marxist, when in fact it's old-school misanthropic conservatism hiding behind fancy language. Despite the fact that the World Cup is a global staged event, those people couldn't resist taking part except, perhaps, for the most miserablist among them who will always find a way to turn their misanthropy into high-minded moralism.

So, once again, it seems that the Global Spectacle has emerged victorious over the petty self-congratulatory antics of the Frankfurt School adherents. Who but the most miserable of souls wouldn't get excited when Gyan scored against the USA?

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Karl reMarks is a blog about Middle East politics and culture with a healthy dose of satire.

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