4A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, March 11, 2002
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Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the majority of the Daily's
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necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.
Since we intend
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result of Operation
- Marine Brigadier General Michael
Lehnert, as quoted yesterday by CNN, on
the approval of the construction of 408 new
modular jail cells at Guantanamo Bay.
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Sports, Part 2: The great diversion
JOHANNA HANINK PARLANCE OF OUR TIMES
I went to my first
Michigan hockey game
this weekend. "Yost is
the greatest place in the
world," the friend I went
with told me. "I love it."
I loved it too. And I
wasn't surprised. In my last
column I wrote about how
people's sports loyalties are
often, on some level, arbitrary. We don't usually
know the players. We may live in the right city
or go to the right school, but beyond that, there
isn't much else that makes us decide which color
jerseys we'll be cheering for and which color jer-
seys we'll be swearing at. But, despite the reality
that these sort of decisions are grounded in
chance, that doesn't necessarily invalidate them.
At Yost on Saturday night, I wanted Michigan to
win. I liked it when the crowd told the other
team's players that they were ugly.
It's a sad thing that sports had to be the insti-
tution that I wanted to make an example of.
Athletics push the human body to the extremes.
They provide entertainment and beyond that a
culture that everyone feels like he or she can
have some part in. Sports bring people together.
Sports, indeed, are a good thing.
What scares me, however, is not the athletics
or the culture that athletics as a cultural institu-
tion entails. What is disconcerting is what that
culture tells us about what we're not paying
These columns are not about sports. They
are about the media and what the media tells us
to pay attention to. The average sports fan on
the street, as I wrote in my last column, has an
unbelievable amount of sports esoterica that can
be tapped in an instant. Batting averages, yards
rushed, dates, numbers and names - it's all
there, processed, organized and analyzed.
And the American media loves it. It loves
that there is some appeal that sports have to the
primal in all of us. Last night ESPN's first
movie debuted, "A Season on the Brink," the
story of the infamous 1985-86 Hoosiers basket-
ball season (infamous in no small part due to a
conference championship loss to Michigan) and
the legendary coach Bobby Knight. The subject
material of this movie holds an enormous
amount of interest for millions of people.
But while we're counting Knight's exple-
tives, we're inevitably missing out on something
else going on in the world. We're diverted. And
this is what it comes down to: Sports as the
great diversion. Nothing wrong with sports, per
se, but something wrong with what it seems to
Noam Chomsky, in a talk at the Z Media
Institute in June of 1997, made my point much
better than I can (and he did it in one para-
"The real mass media are basically trying to
divert people. Let them do something else, but
don't bother us (us being the people who run the
show). Let them get interested in professional
sports for example. Let everybody be crazed
about professional sports or sex scandals or the
personalities and their problems or something
like that. Anything, as long as it isn't serious. Of
course, the serious stuff is for the big guys. 'We'
take care of that."
So while we're counting touchdowns or tab-
ulating field goal percentages because the
"agenda-setting" media (The New York Times,
and what grows exponentially scarier, Fox
News) tells us that is what we should be doing,
someone else is doing what we could just as
easily be doing with all of that natural intelli-
gence that we've got. They're paying attention
to the world.
Call it conspiracy-theorist. It wouldn't be the
first time that Chomsky heard that epithet hurled
in his direction. But he makes a strong point:
We're diverted. We want Olympics on the front
page of the Times. We want sports. We want
scandals. We want sports scandals!
Perhaps no other example is more com-
pelling than this year's Super Bowl. The event
illustrated Chomsky's point perfectly; a point
that he also makes in the Canadian-produced
Chomsky-biographical film "Manufacturing
Consent:" "(Sports) is a way of building up irra-
tional attitudes of submission to authority and
group cohesion behind leadership elements, in
fact it's training in irrational jingoism ... That's
why energy is devoted to supporting them ...
and advertisers are willing to pay for them.
In the case of the Super Bowl, it was the
American government. It was ads that told us
that if we did drugs we support terrorism. At no
other time in this nation's (or the Super Bowl's)
history would that sort of government advertis-
ing had such a chance to work. They fund the
diversion (sports) and manipulate our energy
and submission to that diversion with ads that,
taken out of context and examined rationally,
are ridiculous and base manipulations of the
Sept. 11 tragedies.
Sports themselves are not the problem
(unless you're a soccer dad in Cambridge, Mass
- a whole different story). How they're used to
manipulate us and what we sacrifice in our
unapologetic devotion to what is, unmistakably
a diversion, is what should make us reevaluate
not necessarily the athletics of a culture, but a
culture of athletics.
This was the second of a two-part series. Johanna
Hanink can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
YAF not composed of 'dark,
evil, right-winged overlords;'
God bless America
TO THE DAILY:
As a proud member of Young Ameri-
cans for Freedom and next year's Chair-
man, I am greatly disappointed by the
recent malicious attack on this organiza-
tion. The Daily's editorial (Right-wing
rhetoric, 2/8/02) willingly obfuscates the
truth about YAF especially when compar-
ing YAF to the Coalition to Defend Affir-
mative Action By Any Means Necessary.
YAF is an activist group based on free
market ideas, traditional value, and some
other generally American ideals. We do
not use militancy and unlike other organi-
zations like BAMN, we are composed
entirely of students - science majors,
even engineers, humanities majors, etc.
We are patriotic Americans who share
similar views and beliefs, and we are a
reasonable voice on campus. We do not
hunt down and attack students for being
different - contrary to how the editorial
The editorial further accuses YAF of try-
ing to "limit the boundaries of dialogue and
undermine the activist spirit of this campus."
Can someone please explain to me
how an activist group engaged in activism
actually undermines activism? I sincerely
hope the Daily would get its facts straight
about YAF and not portray us as an orga-
nization composed of dark, evil, right-
We're students too and we want to use
the University to express our points of
view as well. Is that too much to ask? God
The Michigan Daily welcomes letters from all
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off in person or sent via the U.S. Postal Service.
VIEWPOINT -PART 1 OF
BAMN responds to the Daily's "negative coverage"
BY AGNES ALEOBUA
The main theme of the Feb. 13 Daily editori-
al attacking the Coalition to Defend Affinmative
Action By Any Means Necessary (By reasonable
means: BAMN polarizes, hurts affirmative action
dialogue) was that BAMN's "divisive rhetoric"
has weakened the defense of affirmative action.
The editorial implies that BAMN has alienated
moderate allies, marginalized the defense of
affirmative action to a "radical fringe" and
thereby harmed the defense of affirmative
None of these accusations is true. This view-
point is an attempt to get out the truth of what
we have done and the significance of the strug-
gle which we find ourselves leading.
With the two affirmative action lawsuits cur-
rently under consideration by the Federal Court
of Appeals in Cincinnati, the University is under
the direct threat of resegregation. This reality is
a wake-up call for students on this campus.
Either victory or defeat in Cincinnati leads to
Washington D.C. and the United States
Supreme Court where national law on affirma-
tive action will be made by the high court's
decision in the two Universitv cases. Our cam-
mative action and have done everything we
could to mobilize support for the University's
affirmative action policy.
The necessity of BAMN's legal intervention
can be understood from several different angles.
First, the University administration, follow-
ing the supportable and important but too nar-
row standing legal precedent, has focused on the
defense of affirmative action as a means to
achieve educational diversity. For BAMN and
the new civil rights movement, this defense,
while absolutely necessary, is also inadequate.
The real motivation for affirmative action both
in history and in the minds of the overwhelming
majority of people who support it, is not diversi-
ty - which, in its most conservative interpreta-
tion dovetails with tokenism - it is the struggle
for integration and equality.
Affirmative action is the practical social pol-
icy that aims at lessening the institutional
inequalities that structure life and opportunity in
America; it must be defended on that plain basis
if it is to win in the court of public opinion and
in the court of law. Affirmative action measures
are desegregation programs in higher education
and employment. BAMN entered into the law-
suit as intervenors to raise these basic arguments
in favor of equality and the robust integration
that is the only means to achieve equality in
action litigation. Our case included extensive
expert testimony on segregation, education poli-
cy, standardized testing and a whole range of
issues put forward by some of the leading schol-
ars in America: John Hope Franklin, Eric Foner,
Gary Orfield, Walter Allen, Eugene Garcia,
Frank Wu and more. Despite this, District Court
Judge Bernard Friedman, in an ideological and
intellectually dishonest decision that ignored
that great weight of evidence put forward at
trial, ruled against affirmative action in the Law
School case. The fact of BAMN's having
fought for and won a trial means that the Law
School case has the most developed legal and
sociological record of any case of its kind. Our
trial and its record have become touchstones in
race and gender litigation and scholarship in the
year since we organized it. (Recently, the Daily
referred in an editorial against the SAT to the
expert testimony of Martin Shapiro and Jay
Rosner, two of BAMN's trial witnesses who
addressed questions of bias in standardized test-
ing-having brought forward these two witnesses
is part of the "harm" we have done to the affir-
mative action dialogue.)
The third and most important reason for our
intervention into the Law School case has been
to link the legal cases to the growing civil rights
movement. It is BAMN'S contention that litiga-
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