Rightbloggers Look Back in Anger at the Anti-American World Cup
"It's hard work, politicizing your whole life," read the subhed of Matt Labash's article in the rightwing Weekly Standard. At last, we thought when we saw this, they're going to own up to it! We can stop writing this accursed column -- and, freed of their delusions, conservatives can begin to live a normal life! It's win-win!
Alas, Labash was merely employing P.J. O'Rourke's "He Who Smelt It Dealt It" journalistic method -- that is, acting like an asshole and blaming it on someone else -- to show us that liberals are big dopes as played by Matt Labash. e.g., Labash asks some librarian if she has ever heard anyone request The Nation or Mother Jones. "'Can't say that I have,' she says. 'Wrong,' I say, 'You just did.'" The librarian rolls her eyes. Liberals suck!
The cream of Labash's jest is that he found a book, 538 Ways to Live Work and Play Like a Liberal, which when taken as a hard prescription proves absurd: To be a perfect progressive, one would have to exclusively consume ecologically correct products, worry about goods made in sweatshop economies like that of China (unlike Labash -- "Who wants China practicing capitalism, providing us affordable goods while raising their standard of living?" Slash-sarcasm!), tell one's kids not to use "gay" as a slur, drink Fat Tire beer instead of Coors, and other such foolishness.
No wonder nobody wants to be a liberal or use their stupid corkscrew lightbulbs and warm beer. Surely the conservatives' lot must be easier. They don't care about anything!
And they have their own strong feelings about "culture" -- which, in their usage, is always on a little teeter-totter with the word "war." They are particularly exercised by pop culture, as that is easier and more fun than the other kind, and come up with all sorts of interesting theories about movies, TV shows, and even crap like the Miss USA contest.
If liberals are driven to examine at the labels on their pouches of frozen vegetables, conservatives obsessively inspect, and pass judgment on, the alleged ideological contents of the most innocuous artworks and pastimes.
Take the recently-concluded World Cup matches. While people around the globe were innocently excited by them, conservatives were glumly explaining to one another why soccer was either unAmerican or unAmerican with an explanation.
"Every four years," bitched NewsBusters, the liberal media "strive to bring the good news of 'the beautiful game' to the ignorant American masses." This, they said, is because "the liberal media have always been uncomfortable with 'American exceptionalism'... and they are no happier with America's rejection of soccer than with its rejection of socialism."
By anti-Americanizing our precious sports traditions, said NewsBusters, liberals hoped to return Aztlan to Mexican illegals: "They are confident, as America becomes more Hispanic, the nation will have to give in and adopt the immigrants' game." ¡Gasp! Also, soccer players sometimes pretend to get hurt to draw a penalty, which "runs counter to every impulse in American sports."
Less credulous media outlets began to make fun of this jingoistic nonsense, to which some rightbloggers responded: We're not stupid, you're stupid!
John Hawkins of Right Wing News announced that he didn't give a damn about the World Cup, but hoped Team USA would win it, "because it would be TRULY DELICIOUS to pull off a victory in a sport we don't care about, while the rest of the world is frothing at the mouth over it." (Nice, but we don't understand why he didn't also wish for fireworks, getting the girl, and AC/DC playing "Stiff Upper Lip" at his birthday. We mean, why not?) "What kind of stupid game doesn't let you use your hands?" groused Michael Walsh of Big Journalism.
"Hysterical blather," sniffed NR's Jonah Goldberg at an NPR republication of a pro-Cup, anti-conservative story. "You have to wonder why an outfit that tries so hard to dispel the widespread perception it's leftwing would bother reprinting this stuff."
Later, claiming that readers had "complained that I didn't take the paddle to author as vigorously as warranted" (rather than writing in, "Huh what?" as reasonable people might expect), Goldberg expostulated: Liberals, he said, "assume that if conservatives dissent from liberal affections and priorities, it must be because conservatives are evil," while "a far more plausible and good faith explanation for the conservative reaction to soccer can be found in the liberal overreaction to soccer."
In other words, it's just like rightbloggers' professed attitude toward state-sponsored torture -- they wouldn't be in favor of it if liberals hadn't pissed them off. Your snooty soccerism left them with no choice!
Goldberg has been a fountain of edification on the World Cup over the years. In 2003, through the agency of an alleged "reader" letter, Goldberg notified his readers of an exciting international conspiracy involving Libya's Moammar Khaddafi. "Khaddafi's son will either play on and or coach the Libya team and it will signal to the world that Libya has arrived," read the breathless communique. "In soccer it is the ultimate stage and as you know soccer is king in about 98% of the world. It is far bigger than getting the Olympic Games... [Khaddafi] might be afraid of ending up in a hole but he also wants to be seen as the leader of Africa. Nothing would help that status more than getting the World Cup." "Interesting theory," said Goldberg. (The 2010 games were played in Johannesburg.)
But when press attention on the Cup swelled sufficiently that even subsidized conservative journalists got hungry for a piece of the traffic, some rightbloggers stepped up to write sympathetically about the event. For some reason -- maybe because many in their subscriber base still believed any game more sophisticated than Beat The Possessed Child might be demonic -- they were compelled to eat a little shit first.
"I am not a soccer snob," cried David Freddoso, waving a white flag. "I'm not telling you to love soccer, just to stop dissing it.... Europeans' love for the game is no reason for you to dislike it."
Losing the crowd and palpably terrified that he would be made to eat the biscuit, Freddoso begged readers to note the conservative aspects of the game. "There are no committee meetings or 'huddles,'" he said -- those are collectivist! "Think of the game as a metaphor for the free market at work, with its constant ebb and flow, its rare opportunities and its creative destruction."
Also, the French didn't win! "[They] got their just deserts in the form of defeats at the hands of hard-working Mexican and South African teams. You won't see that happen in a game of baseball." Yeah, the French are always kicking our ass at baseball -- now it's payback time! No, no, not the biscuit...
National Review's lead dork was John J. Miller. Early on Miller proved the real-Americanism of his soccer love by expressing outrage that Time writer Michael Elliott was rooting for the underdog North Korea team. "Elliott apparently lives in a moral vacuum," roared Miller. "... He seems either not to know or not to care that a successful soccer performance by the Norks would enhance the prestige of tyrants -- and at a moment of unusually high tensions with South Korea..." This is almost as bad as rooting for Sophia Loren to win the Best Actress Oscar in 1962 -- when the Italian Government was riddled with Socialists!
When the US team showed some sign of finishing in the money, Miller became sufficiently interested to complain about the rules. "If this morning's Group C World Cup games finish a certain way," he noted with outrage, "the United States will advance to the next round only if its name is on a ball drawn from a bowl." When a reader reminded Miller that "the final tie breaker for the NFL to get into the playoffs is a coin toss," Miller sputtered that the NFL "resorts to a coin toss only after a long season and a series of tie-breaking possibilities. In World Cup soccer, the drawing-lots option arrives after three games that frequently end in tie scores."
As if to preempt any attempted protest that this was not, strictly speaking, an argument, Miller suggested that the World Cup be settled by "shootout after regulation." (His concerns were, happily for him and us, mooted when Team USA folded in the Round of 16.)
After the US left competition, most of the brethren relaxed -- but Andrew Breitbart's Big Journalism remained on fire-watch to explain the real crime of the World Cup.
"I thought this was our year," said author Ron Futrell. "The world was supposed to love us. We were told that during the 2008 Presidential election that all we had to do was put Barack Hussein Obama in office, and the world would love us. Instead, what do we get? We get horrible calls where goals are being taken away from us by World Cup officials who are either blind, or they haven't heard that Obama is now our President."
One scans desperately for signs that this is a joke. There are parts that are clearly meant to at least to rouse the barking simulations of laughter with which one might identify oneself around the bonfire during a night rally -- e.g., "We can't blame Obama though, he's had a lot on his mind lately. Those are tough putts on the 9th green at Congressional." But any pretense of actual humor has been jettisoned in favor of the plainest possible signifiers of Goddamned Obama. It's clear that when Futrell says, "sports and politics cannot be separated," he's serious.
By the time Spain won the final Sunday, only some bottom-feeders continued to denounce the World Cup ("Guess what? LeBron can score and that's what makes sports interesting and profitable! So, again, I say: Keep your 0-0 World Cup silliness and the zillions of vuvuzelas"). That leaves the field open for whatever culture war nonsense is next up in the rightblogger rotation.
So what'll it be? Will they squeeze LeBron James for a little more ink? ("Obamatron LeBron's scoreboard is clear: Reaganomics 1 Obamanomics 0" ) Explain that the "Twilight" films are rightwing? ("Young girls confused and frustrated by the pop culture and media institutions constantly pressuring them into the counter-intuitive idea that the road to virtue is through the loss of their dignity... are told by 'Twilight' that they're not weird or alone.") Whatever it is, we can be sure of one thing: We'll be told, even as they're telling us the politically correct way to appreciate some game or time-waster, that liberals are the ones whose lives have been warped by ideology.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.