This summer is seeing a plethora of spectacular events. First we have had the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, we are currently experiencing the Euro 2012 football contest and shortly we will be forced to endure the Olympics, made even worse by the fact that it is held here in Britain.
I say 'endure' because quite apart from the fact that none of these events interest me in the slightest, they are complimented by what Noam Chomsky describes as 'training in irrational jingoism'. The flags and the faux 'pride' in ones country are the perfect antidote, from the perspective of the ruling class, to the resistance to austerity and the sense of a lack of legitimacy of our rulers that is building in this country and across the world. Strikes, demonstrations on the one hand and the revelations about phone-hacking and the corrupt links between politicians, the police and the press on the other are doing immense damage to people's consent to be ruled in this way. We must strengthen and deepen this sense and not be knocked of course by these spectacles.
Noam Chomsky discusses this in his book 'Manufacturing Consent'. He argues that whereas totalitarian regimes use force to control what people do, in 'democratic' countries, the ruling class has to use propaganda, what the Italian revolutionary Antonio Gramsci called 'bourgeois ideology', to control what people think.
Chomsky says the media plays two main roles in society. One is to filter out news that the ruling class does not want us to hear. This might include positive news of strikes and protests but also negative news such as atrocities caused by the army abroad. One example he gives is the relative coverage of two atrocities around 1975 on. One, involving the Indonesian genocide of Timorians in East Timor, armed and funded by America, was hardly reported on at all in America and if it was, the US government was whitewashed. The other, involving the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia was discussed in shocking detail. Naturally Americans were outraged about events in Cambodia and entirely ignorant of events in East Timor.
The other role the media has is to keep people preoccupied with other things. This is the 'circus' part of what the Romans called Bread and Circuses (Panem et Circense). This is the idea that if people have enough to eat and enough spectacles to occupy them, they will not resist the nefarious practices of the regime.
Chomsky describes the role of sport as the ruling class 'reducing people's capacity to think'. He argues that it diverts their attention away from doing something about the issues that negatively affect their lives. He also argues that it creates 'irrational attitudes of submission to authority'. In other words it turns people into flag-waving morons. We need to resist these diversions and get back to fighting the government's programme of austerity, cuts and privatisation.
Here and above is a fim called 'Manufacturing Consent - Noam Chomsky and the Media' which outlines these ideas in an easily accessible way. Go to 1:04:39 for the section on sport.