Sunday, April 07, 2013

Did Macklemore & Lewis sell out to the NBA?

You may have heard of this hip-hop duo, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. They are all "anti-consumerist" and shit, but they just made a promo for the NBA with their song "Wings". This has lead to accusations of selling out, with them  responding that it is all part of their grand strategy to bring their message to the masses. I'm not going to criticize their professed strategy, but I couldn't let stand their assertion that the NBA is tangential to the problematic thinking that is targeted in the song.

Basically, they say that the song is about the idea that you are defined by what you wear, and therefore their beef is with Nike but not the NBA. They excuse the NBA on the grounds that it is just an industry that exists within the capitalist/consumerist system. However, the reality is that the NBA (and pro-sports in general) are the epitome of the consumerist pathology. At the one extreme are companies that provide us with simple commodities that provide a simple utility; at the other extreme are the brands that manipulate our perception of society in order to convince us that we have to give them money in order to be accepted. This is just sick, and it is all pervasive in sports fandom.

At some level, the sports leagues are selling us entertainment -- the spectacle of high-performance athletic competition. But as with the Air Nike, the product is only part of what they are selling. In fact, sports may be the industry that sells us the least real product and the most image. We watch sports because our friends are doing so. We wear logos to show solidarity with our neighbors. Our emotions are ridiculously affected by the outcome of the games (and it's not simply a matter of whether the playoffs will include the team whose performance we appreciate most). Pro sport leagues have managed to tap into our primal social impulses, and claim them as their own property.

They have stolen our own society from us. They are making us pay just to participate in our own community. Other industries do similar things (e.g. the music industry and software firms such as Facebook and Microsoft), but pro sports is particularly gratuitous about it.

To top it off, they have special anti-trust exemptions from the Federal Government. What a bunch of pigs.

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