World Cup Teams Protest and Elon Offers Amnesty
Fox’s New Attitude on Crime, Georgia GOP Wants Fewer Voters, Push for Law Allowing Medical Misinformation, Antisemitism Invades Reality TV, and More!
How do I choose the stories for my newsletter? How do articles about protests at the World Cup and voter suppression share the same space with articles about reality TV, movies, and music? My mission statement is that I investigate the intersection of popular culture and politics. Sounds fancy, but what does it mean?
Trying to understand pop culture is like a cat trying to catch a flashlight beam on the floor. We see it, we experience it, but it’s all happening so fast and it keeps moving that it’s hard to know what it means and how it’s affecting our culture and values in the long run. But to me, pop culture is the Lewis and Clark, Magellan, and Ponce de Leon of society—explorers charting new worlds, taking us to undiscovered countries, whether it’s in art, language, fashion, or social activism. As with any bold explorers, there are missteps (a reality TV star became president!), but there is also amazing innovation that evolves our culture toward who we want to be.
It’s all so wonderfully exciting. I’m glad we’re on this adventure together.
Sports: A Tale of Two World Cup Protests
Germany Protests FIFA Decision That Blocked Rainbow Armbands (The New York Times)
Summary: Two days after FIFA told Germany and several other European teams that if they chose to wear OneLove armbands supporting LGBTQ+ rights, the teams would be punished with yellow cards during their games. The armbands were meant to highlight Qatar’s criminalization of homosexual conduct.
In response, when the German team lined up for their team photo in Khalifa International Stadium, they covered their mouths to show how FIFA tried—in vain—to silence them.
My Take: The German team’s tweet is an eloquent moral line in the sand: “It wasn’t about making a political statement — human rights are nonnegotiable.” The team’s defiant photo has already become so iconic that we will be seeing it for many generations to come as a symbol of athletes who don’t leave their consciences in the locker room or at the bank.
When the German team lost against Japan, a lot of social media complaints were about how the team lost because it was distracted by their commitment to social justice. These comments show a lack of understanding of how elite athletes perform—and how human beings should act.
At that level, their stance on social justice isn’t a distraction but rather a bolster to who they are. Bill Russell and Muhammad Ali publicly stood up against racism and it never diminished their dominance. But even if it did, they would rather be complete human beings with loyalty to others rather than vapid sportsbots who must win at all costs.
Germany’s team captain, Manuel Neuer, explained after their loss to Japan: “We said they can take our armband, but as much as Fifa might want to, they will never silence us. We stand for our values and for human rights. We wanted to show that.”
Now, those are true sports heroes.
In Related News: “Iranian Soccer Players Refuse to Sing National Anthem at World Cup” (The Daily Beast)
Summary: “The Iranian national soccer team refused to sing their country’s national anthem before their first game of the World Cup in Qatar on Monday in an apparent sign of solidarity with protesters at home. All 11 starting players in the team playing against England remained mute as their fans at the Khalifa International Stadium booed and jeered while others wept and applauded. Iran has been roiled by months of protests which began when a young woman, Mahsa Amini, died in the custody of so-called ‘morality police’ after being detained for not wearing her hijab correctly. Violent regime crackdowns on street demonstrations have seen hundreds killed and over 15,000 arrested, with at least one unnamed ‘rioter’ being sentenced to death for his part in the protests.
My Take: It is one thing for athletes to protest when they come from countries that support free speech, but a very different thing when they come from a restrictive country like Iran, where publicly expressing anti-government sentiments can lead to prison and even death. Seeing these athletes risk so much to make their country free is what true patriotism is about. Their solidarity to the cause is inspiring—a lesson we could all learn from.