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Politics & Current Affairs

Bob Costas and State Terrorism

Bob Costas’ Sunday Night “perspective,” his celebrated half-time denouncement of American gun culture, wasn’t just dissonant hectoring. It wasn’t just a burlesque of Murrow or Cosell (USA Today‘s forced, but mewed association). No, it was an accidental breaking of the fourth wall of State Terrorism. The televisual lecture was no different from an innocent child stating an obvious and inconvenient fact to his mother in polite company.

Sports media propaganda is targeted at the portion of our population whose role is to follow orders, not think, and to not pay attention to anything. I take this observation from Chomsky, whose Manufacturing Consent is instructive in these times. Watching paid entertainers play a child’s game serves the valuable pro-state functions of dissipating popular anger and frustration, and teaching irrational attitudes of submission to authority, and group cohesion behind leadership elements.” Why is Costas, the sweet face of irrational jingoism, the happy helper of power’s need to show off its muscles in the worldwide war games that are the Olympics, asking rhetorical questions of the inert audience of tv land?

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Bob speaks from the authority of that green and emptying field. Those stands. He forgrounds himself sharply, immediately. This is visual intimidation. You must suffer the spectacle before the field can be un-Costas-ed. Note the distant, fading wail of “God Bless America” in the background. The stadium was just finishing getting its dose before Dr. Costas was to broadcast his. Baudrillard wrote that in the absence of an original political strategy (which is no longer possible in this modern moment)- as a real signal of the impossibility of rational management of the social realm- the State becomes desocialized. It works on the basis of intimidation, dissuasion, simulation, provocation or spectator solicitation. 

Costas’ visual intimidation blends quickly into provocative dissuasion. Self-important simulation- This is Journalism. This is Politics. This is Representation. And especially with that wonderful rhetorical dig to the televised-upon: WANT SOME ACTUAL PERSPECTIVE ON THIS? One can see the question echoing in an empty airport lounge. This is spectator solicitation as direct abuse. Abusive because at least the simulated, chauvinistic agonism to follow on the gridiron demands participation in a more subtle way. Costas forgets himself, holding the mirror to our own disappearance as political actors- a disappearance that the NFL and sports media try desperately to hide with the constant recreation of the political pseudo-events that are professional sports games. 

It is television itself that increasingly precipitates the violent event. The rolling downtown riot is increasingly the sign of a successful event. Yes, let’s celebrate Costas’ lapse. How else to appropriate it? Just don’t mention that if they had the tip in advance, NBC would have been first on the scene to capture Belcher in action.


Cody Wilson is the founder of Defense Distributed and a student at the University of Texas School of Law in Austin. He is a student, too, of Bastiat, Hoppe, and Anthony de Jasay, and in all things works toward realizing a private law society.

Look out for Cody’s new blog System D – soon to launch right here on Big Think. 

Follow Cody on Twitter at: @Radomysisky


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