Sunday, July 6, 2014

Dave Zirin on the ‘sporting shock doctrine’ and the World Cup as a ‘neoliberal trojan horse’

by Rania Khalek on July 6, 2014


On this week’s episode of Unauthorized Disclosure, Kevin Gosztola and I discussed the World Cup with Dave Zirin—sports correspondent for The Nation, author of Brazil’s Dance with the Devil and all around badass.

(Download the episode here or subscribe for free on iTunes here)

International sporting events have been hijacked by disaster capitalists, says Zirin, transforming the games we love into engines for neoliberal “shock doctrine” economics.

“Events like the World Cup and Olympics allow states to push through agendas that people would otherwise protest or object to…under the cloak of these mega-events,” explains Zirin. “And the sporting shock doctrine is like, instead of people being paralyzed by trauma, which is what Naomi Klein writes about, instead it’s people more paralyzed by the prospect of hosting these events and the responsibilities that go into it and the lies frankly that go into the selling of it to the people like, oh, this is going to greatly expand our tourist economy and turn us into the pinnacle of the world.”

For Brazil, hosting this year’s World Cup has come at a high cost: the mass displacement of the poor and the proliferation and normalization of a militarized surveillance state.

“Some of the things that the neoliberal trojan horse brings into a country are things like the creeping surveillance state, the normalization of drones flying overhead, the expansion of gentrification in the cities, the growth of real estate speculation and the expansion of the tourist industry as well, which I would argue generally is very negative for workers because it tends to be seasonal work. It tends to be very low wage and it tends to really depend on the kindness of tourists, which doesn’t put the workers in a tremendous position of power. So, this is all what goes in to these mega-events.”

Zirin also discusses Israel’s role in training and arming the Brazilian police in methods of control and suppression, warning of what he calls the “exporting [of] Gaza” to other parts of the world.

Despite all the bad, Zirin insists it’s okay to enjoy the World Cup and advises against boycotting.

“Nobody inside of Brazil is asking for an international boycott, and I think that’s very important particularly for those of us in the global north, the United States what have you, who are thinking about solidarity to remember that those calls need to come from the people who are the most affected,” argues Zirin.

He added that “We shouldn’t be alienated from art. We should try to engage with it even with all its contradictions to understand what’s so beautiful about it.” More importantly, “it just seems like the World Cup is really pissing Ann Coulter off. Anything that does that is frankly worth investigation.”

In the discussion portion of the episode, Kevin and I talk about America’s inhumane response to child refugees at the US-Mexico border, the US government dropping charges against Sami al-Arian and the lynching of a Palestinian teen by Israeli extremists.

See also: The Human Cost of the FIFA World Cup