Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Civil Religion and the Seventh-Inning Stretch (Updated, 7/8)

"Love it!
Love it! WE COMMAND YOU TO LOVE IT!!!" Jingoism rears its head at a post-9/11 Major League Baseball game.

“There is … a purely civil profession of faith of which the Sovereign should fix the articles….

While [the State] can compel no one to believe them, it can banish from the State anyone who does not believe them.

The Subjects … owe the Sovereign an account of their opinions only to such an extent as they matter to the community….

Whoever dares to say, `Outside the Church there is no salvation,’ ought to be driven from the State, unless the State is the Church, and the Prince is the Pontiff….

If anyone, after publicly recognizing these dogmas, behaves as if he does not believe them, let him be punished by death; he has committed the worst of all crimes, that of lying before the law.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, excerpts from The Social Contract, Book IV, describing his totalitarian concept of the “Civil Religion.”

(See the update at the bottom of the essay.)

All that Brad Campeau-Laurion wanted was to use the bathroom.

The beer he had consumed an hour earlier had completed its tour of his digestive tract and was impatient to leave. So when the Seventh Inning Stretch arrived, and the crowd at Yankee Stadium arose to sing “God Bless America,” Campbeau-Laurion quietly excused himself to attend to this biological imperative.

He wound up being assaulted by two off-duty New York police officers and dragged from the stadium – in humiliating fashion, in full view of tens of thousands of people – for desecrating a recently minted “patriotic” tradition.

In years past, when the Seventh Inning Stretch was marked with the singing of the tune that should be our National Anthem (“Take Me Out to the Ballgame”), furtive visits to the lavatory were expected and even encouraged. But this was before The Day Everything Changed.

After the 9-11 attacks, the corporate leadership of Major League Baseball directed its franchises to replace that traditional sing-along with “God Bless America.” By the beginning of the 2002 season, MLB’s ruling junta relented somewhat, requiring the song to be played on Sundays and holidays and allowing local owners to decide whether to play it more frequently.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that the Yankees, a franchise that seems to embody the worst traits of the imperial culture, have a fan-base drawing heavily from a cohort of people who really enjoy compelled conformity. Lonn Trost, the team’s chief operating officer, told the New York Times in 2007 that during the month following 9-11, the team had received “hundreds of e-mails and letters” from fans complaining that others in attendance were not displaying sufficient “respect” during the mid-inning nationalist benediction.

“The fans were telling us it was a disgrace that when the song was being sung people were not observing it with a moment of silence,” Trost explained.

So George Steinbrenner, the corporatist despot who baneful influence and example have all but ruined baseball, devised what the Times called “a plan to restrict movement”: Reverent participation in the “God Bless America” ritual would be enforced by “off-duty uniformed police officers, ushers, stadium security personnel and [use of] the aisle chains….”

At least eight other teams (the Marlins, Padres, Rangers, Twins, Astros, Athletics, and Red Sox) have enacted similar, if less onerous, policies. But apparently only the Yankees combine performance of “God Bless America” at every game with a full-spectrum effort to force participation by fans.

Campeau-Laurion is an ardent baseball fan for whom the August 26, 2008 game was a special experience: It was the last game he would attend in the old Yankee Stadium. After the music began, Campeau-Laurion was stopped by an off-duty police officer en route to the bathroom.

“He informed me that I had to wait until the song was over,” recalls Mr. Campeau-Laurion, who describes himself as an atheist. “I responded that I had to use the restroom and that I did not care about `God Bless America.’ As soon as the latter came out of my mouth, my right arm was twisted violently behind my back and I was informed that I was being escorted out of the stadium. A second officer then joined in” – ah, yes: the Heroes in Blue ™ always prefer the gang-assault method – “and twisted my left arm, also in an excessively forceful manner, behind my back.”

Mr. Campeau-Laurion and a friend were sitting at the “tier level” in Yankee Stadium, which meant that he was dragged painfully by his assailants down the entire length of the stadium. When at one point he complained that he wasn’t resisting and that it wasn’t necessary to hurt him, one of the armed mouth-breathers grunted something to the effect that the victim should shut up or be hurt even more.

As the two thugs and their victim reached the exit, Campeau-Laurion was rudely thrown out, with the first officer sneering, “Get the hell out of my country if you don’t like it.” They then returned to the section where Campeau-Laurion’s friend was still sitting and began propagating falsehoods about their victim, in one instance – within earshot of the witness – telling a fan that Campeau-Laurion had said “This country sucks.”

In similar fashion, when the NYPD was queried about the matter, they did what police consistently do in such matters: They lied with sociopathic composure.

“The officers observed a male standing on his seat, cursing, using inappropriate language and acting in a disorderly manner while reeking of alcohol, and decided to eject him rather than subject others to his offensive behavior," insisted the NYPD in an official statement.

Campeau-Laurion could not have been “reeking” of alcohol, since he had consumed a total of two beers during the entire game, a fact corroborated by credit card receipts and the testimony of his associate. The same testimony confirms that Campeau-Laurion’s conduct was not “disorderly” in any but the familiar, self-serving sense the term is usually employed by law enforcement officers – that is, to describe any statement or gesture of protest displayed by a victim of unwarranted police violence.

It’s important to dismiss right away the notion that the New York Yankees organization has a “property rights” claim that covers its Seventh Inning Jingo Devotional. It’s impossible to frame a legitimate contract in which a paying customer to a sporting event can be compelled, through the threat of violence, to participate in a religious ritual.

In this instance, the ritual is not one rooted in Christian or other monotheistic tradition, however debased, but rather in Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s abominable “Civil Religion” of the State. The mandatory moment of “patriotic” conformity, and the means used to enforce it, are an amazingly precise enactment of Rousseau’s dictum that once the State prescribes the tenets of its “civil profession of faith,” it may not be able to compel belief, but has the power to banish or otherwise punish “anyone who does not believe them.”

As a lawsuit recently filed on Campeau-Laurion’s behalf by the New York Civil Liberties Union observes, the police officers who assaulted him were part of a “Paid Detail” program in which armed police in official uniform are hired out to private – or, at least, nominally private – entities in the city.

“Officers assigned to the Paid Detail are acting under color of law and are acting as agents of the private businesses that hire them,” notes the lawsuit. This is a splendidly concise description of a “public-private partnership” – which is to say, a fascist arrangement, albeit on a relatively modest scale.

The Yankees franchise itself, like most major league sports franchises, is a corporatist entity on a rather larger scale. The lawsuit doesn’t exaggerate one whit in noting that since 1970, when the City of New York bought Yankee Stadium, “the New York City government and the Yankees have been closely intertwined.”

The franchise, which oddly enough is actually a “foreign limited partnership under the jurisdiction of Ohio,” leases the Stadium from the City, and when other interests seek to rent the facility for concerts or other events, they rent it from the City, not the team.

In his book Free Lunch, David Cay Johnston points out that New York taxpayers – both city and state-wide – paid more than $119 million to refurbish the old Yankee Stadium. Building the new Stadium, which began operations this past Opening Day, cost an estimated $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies.

The Yankees have the largest media market in Major League Baseball. An entrepreneurial owner would be able to make do without the subsidies. But as things stand, the New York Yankees are a purely corporatist operation – one in which the risks and losses are subsidized and the profits are privatized.

But then again, the same is true of nearly every significant major league franchise in any of the “Big Four” professional sports (baseball, basketball, football, and hockey). And as Johnston observes, the profit margin for professional sports is coming not from sound management of successful teams, but through corporatist wealth redistribution.

“From 1995 through 2006, local, state and federal governments spent more than $10 billion subsidizing more than 50 new major league stadiums and countless minor league facilities,” Johnston notes. In 2006, Forbes magazine reported that the aggregate revenue of the Big Four sports was $16.7 billion; their “operating income” – which is to say, profits – were a mere $1.7 billion.

This is to say that “while some teams are profitable, overall the sports team industry does not earn any profit from the market,” Johnston contends. “Industry profits all come from taxpayers.” (Emphasis added.)

Bread and Circuses, as provided by the Imperial Roman State.

It hardly seems an exaggeration to say that the contemporary version of panem et circenses, like its ancient Roman counterpart, is a State-sponsored enterprise. Accordingly, it’s hardly a surprise to learn that – at least for those attending Yankees home games -- failure to perform the equivalent of burning a pinch of incense at the Imperial Shrine will prompt a violent response from those tasked to enforce the corporatist civil religion.

Those acquainted with the bloody history of Rousseau's cult know that the adulteration of baseball with state-worship is merely the mildest possible foretaste of horrors to come.

UPDATE, July 8:

Mr. Campeau-Laurion has extracted a $10,001 settlement from New York City -- the entity that owned the old Yankee Stadium and owns the new, taxpayer-funded version.

The settlement (.pdf), which includes a tidy $12,000 in attorney fees for the New York branch of the ACLU (which profits handsomely from cases of this kind), includes a stipulation from the city that it has "no policy prohibiting fans from moving about" while "God Bless America" plays during the Seventh Inning Stretch, or that it intends to "institute" such a policy, reports this morning's New York Times.

What this would mean, were these words written by people in whom resided a particle of respect for the truth, is that Mr. Campeau-Laurion was assaulted by two police officers who acted on their own volition, apparently inventing a non-existent policy to justify their criminal behavior.

A quick apology --

In the comments section below, I entirely misinterpreted the remarks made by the "Anonymous" who posted at 8:17 a.m. today (July 7).

I'm slow on the uptake even on my best days, and mornings that follow very late working nights find me even more torpid and dim-witted than usual. My exasperated comments were as much a product of distraction and fatigue as anything else, and they misled several other contributors about what I'm now sure was the intent and substance of "Anonymous"'s post.

Since my offense was public, I now publicly apologize to "Anonymous" and beg his or her indulgence for what was an honest -- albeit foolish -- mistake on my part.

Don't forget to tune in to Pro Libertate Radio on the Liberty News Radio Network.

On sale now.

Dum spiro, pugno!


Spook, RN said...

Mr. Grigg,

Are you aware of this blog/website?


It also features a twitter feed with a near dizzying rate of updates about police misconduct across the nation...

liberranter said...


Thank you for shedding some long overdue light on one of the sports world's most unpalatable features. Before my "conversion" to the cause of libertarianism, I never gave the ritual of the national anthem before first pitch any thought. Since that personal epiphany, and especially since the introduction of the practice of singing "God Bless Amerika", the corporate state's unofficial anthem, during the seventh inning stretch after "the Day That Changed Everything", attending my favorite sport has become nearly intolerable. Fortunately, at least at local games of the unaffiliated minor league team that I regularly attend, the habit of singing the unofficial anthem during the stretch seems to have fallen largely by the wayside as Boobus's memory and attention span fade and the singing of baseball's proper anthem is back in vogue as it should be.

As far as the state-corporate "partnership" is concerned, there is an almost hilarious situation unfolding here in Tucson, a city that likes to imagine itself as "Baseball's Spring Training Capitol." Despite massive subsidies extracted from the citizenry to bribe three major league teams (the Diamondbacks, the White Sox, and the Rockies) into keeping their spring training facilities here, all but the Rockies are in the process of breaking their local leases to move 100 miles west to Phoenix, which, while not offering these corporate welfare queens any more taxpayer-funded largesse than Tucson, apparently offer better facilities and a more dedicated "Cactus League" fan base. This hasn't stopped Tucson from attempting to increase the size of the bribe (even as city government essentials are shutting down due to budget shortfalls), but the MLB teams aren't biting.

I wish Brad Campeau-Laurion luck in his suit against the Yankees. My advice to any liberty-loving baseball fans in the Bronx is to boycott this state-corporate monster. Unfortunately, the population of "liberty lovers" in the Tri-State area is probably too small to have the desired impact.

Anonymous said...

Throughout childhood I detested organized sports of all kinds. Now as an adult little has changed. Group think and actions are dangerous. Ill stick to hunting by myself for a recreational pursuit.

Anonymous said...

Get the hell out of my country if you don't like it. Good advice and I predict you will see those with the ways and the means to get out doing so.

William N. Grigg said...

Are you serious, Anonymous?

Anytime you're feeling all hairy-chested and ready, pay me a little visit (I'm easy to find) and try to make me leave my country.

Better bring your lunch. And plenty of help.

liberranter said...

Anon 8:17, I assume from the tone of your post that "your" country is the United Fascialist State of Amerika, that monstrous entity hellbent on devouring what little remains of the nation established by the Founders. Far from "getting out", I think that most of the readership of this blog will be dedicated not only to staying right where they are, but to putting the brakes on "your" country's belligerent encroachment upon our lives, liberty, and property. To echo Will's sentiment, come on down and TRY to make us leave!

Anonymous said...

Tax eaters (cops) working for tax eaters (major league sports) to force those from whom the funds are extracted (taxpayers) to bow down before a tax eater decree that has no weight of law (seventh inning benediction of the glorious state), replete with the inevitable sneer of "love it or leave it", foretells of things to come.

I know, I know: it can't happen here. What can be said to that? Put it on your tombstone when the state plants you.

These are dangerous times for those who want to be left alone in freedom. As the empire crumbles, the situation described at the tax eater stadium will be repeated countless times, of greater significance and size.

"We are different" is what I have been told all my life. This is true. The "difference" is that we are much more hypocritical in describing our actions than thugs in other places are. Beyond the hypocrisy, there is not much difference.

Molon Labe said...

Anonymous said...
Get the hell out of my country if you don't like it. Good advice and I predict you will see those with the ways and the means to get out doing so.

8:17 AM

I took this to be a poorly-punctuated prediction, not any species of threat. If so, I agree: those with the means may very well hie them hence, tho' I'm at a loss to imagine where they fancy they might find a more agreeable living situation.

Otherwise, I'd have to agree: get to jumping, frog boy.

Chris Mallory said...

I don't want to speak for Anon at 8:17. But with the proper punctuation, notably quotation marks around the first line, his post does make some sense.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, those pesky atheists . . .

The state and religion share a natural codependents - religion lusts after the power of the state and the state lusts after the blind belief in a 'higher' power (the higher power being the state of course). Even Marx recognized the social anesthetic value of religion and its group-think rituals.

What is amazing to me is how people get so caught up in the group-think that they would feel they have the right to demand the non-conformist comply or leave. I think anon 8:17 would find you would have an awful lot of folks standing with you . . . this non-conformist atheist included.

Sic Semper Tyrannis

Anonymous said...

I know Anon 8:17!
He/She/It comes to our medical clinic in Denver all the time to pick up its hormone injections. It's always coming in and complaining about its boyfriend not spending enough time with him/it. Today it came in raging against some "anti-American" blog by someone named "Grigg". After a little search, lo and behold, I found Grigg's blog! What a small world! BTW, your blog is great Mr. Grigg.
-LPN Kathy C. DeWitt

Anonymous said...

Everyone calm down for a minute. Enough of the chest thumping.
It think the quote from anon 817 was a statement made by the NYC cop to the guy they were throwing out of the stadium. Mr anon was repeating it sans any quotations to make a point that people are leaving of their own volition to escape monsters such as those at Yankee stadium .

I Hate Bobby Flay said...

I think Anon @8:17 was just quoting from the article to “get the hell out of my country if you don’t like it,” because he then said that was good advice and those who can afford to do so will be leaving.

Why are the police even at every baseball game and state fair and grand opening and boating event, why are they everywhere we go with their smothering, ominous presence? Has it always been like this and has just gotten worse since That Day? They are not there to prevent or deter “crime” which they can’t do anyway, but only to intimidate and God forbid you should somehow get their attention by making a “sudden movement” or “reaching up your hand” or “staring at them.” I saw a photograph of over 500 people gathered in some sort of street celebration and I kept staring at it: what’s wrong with this picture? Oh, yeah, they were not surrounded by dressed-for-war cops wielding semi-automatic rifles. I don’t remember what country it was where people could gather in such a way, but it certainly was not here.

Anonymous said...

will and all others,

the anon comment...

it's his fault for not putting his statement in context. a man should mean what he says and says what he means. i'm glad others picked it up, but even after reading will's apology, i can see how he came to the conclusion he arrived at.

i mean, put it this way. write down his comments on a sheet of paper and hand it to a random person and wait for the response you get. i think with 100% certainty i could predict your letter will not be well recieved.

oh well.


i guess you should expect with a name like the "yankees" that they would be state worshipers.


frances snoot said...

"So-called systems have often been characterized and challenged in the assertion that they abrogate the distinction between good and evil, and destroy freedom. Perhaps one would express oneself quite as definitely, if one said that every such system fantastically dissipates the concept existence. ... Being an individual man is a thing that has been abolished, and every speculative philosopher confuses himself with humanity at large; whereby he becomes something infinitely great, and at the same time nothing at all."
– Johannes Climacus, alias Søren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript I (deconstructing Hegel)

Hegel drew from Rousseau: the system being enacted is distinctly Hegelian in the translation of state as being and being as state:
"The state is the actuality of the ethical Idea. It is ethical mind qua the substantial will manifest and revealed to itself, knowing and thinking itself, accomplishing what it knows and in so far as it knows it. The state exists immediately in custom, mediately in individual self-consciousness, knowledge, and activity, while self-consciousness in virtue of its sentiment towards the state, finds in the state, as its essence and the end-product of its activity, its substantive freedom."

The way I see it is that the state, those of whom the state forms substance, see dissension in the same way the body sees antigens. Hence the violent and abrupt defense against the man who would just get permission to use the toilet.

Anonymous said...

'I Hate Bobby Flay' (interesting moniker) askes "Why are the police even at every baseball game and state fair and grand opening and boating event, why are they everywhere we go with their smothering, ominous presence?"

The answer is simple - money. With all things gov't, follow the money if you seek the truth.

Sic Semper Tyrannis

Anonymous said...

The local AM blowtorch reported at 0045hrs that Mr. Laurion recieved settlement. 10,000 from NYC and 12,000 for legal fees it sounded like but the reception was fuzzy.

Anonymous said...

No offense taken. What a meant was that I wouldn't want to live in "their" country where the state and various other false idols require worship round the clock. The second part was that people with in demand degrees and disciplines will be able to leave if it gets too Sovietski.

MoT said...

I can't even begin to count how many times I've goofed when it came to putting things in context. Unfortunately once the send button is pushed its too late. And I have to agree with them that if you have the means and the will... and more importantly at decent place to land, then more power to you. I'd be right with you as soon as I can.

parabarbarian said...

Wow! Anyone else find the references to Anon 8:17 amusing. Like you all found another book in your Bible. Paul's Letter to the Anonymous Church of Neverwhere or The Gospel of Anonymous the Uncounted Apostle.

I think it is time to get some sleep.

kirk said...

Good Afternoon, Will -

I live in Fruitland and wanted to know which radio station in our area carries your radio show so I can tune in and listen.

William N. Grigg said...

kirk -- unfortunately, the Liberty News Radio Network doesn't have an affiliate in the Treasure Valley yet (although talks are underway with a local Christian station).

So if you're interested in listening to the program it's necessary to do so on-line at present: Go to
libertynewsradio.com and look at the "on air now" box on the right hand side of the screen, and choose the format that's most convenient (there are a half-dozen from which to choose). Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, they have the same forced patriotic nonsense at the Yankees' minor league games in Staten Island, NY. When the announcer intones about our troops "defending our freedom," I usually shout "us from" between "defending" and "our."

I usually head to the bathroom during the seventh inning stretch for this reason, without any problems.

BTW, I lost someone close to me on 9/11/01 and I got tired of the fascist crap a long time ago.

Sans Authoritas said...

Aye. Make a stand on the Nationalist Anthem: don't stand while it's being played.

Disclaimer: not standing during the Nationalist Anthem may get you physically assaulted by State-worshippers, incensed by your refusal to burn incense before their god.

Spook, RN said...


Anyone out there who still believes that the Taser's true purpose is something other than "to enforce compliance through pain?"

Don Cordell said...

Wait until the day the cops are at your local church making sure you worship correctly, then at the local theater, at McDonalds, at your kids Little League ball game, and everywhere else to make sure you conform. You blindly believe the cops are there for you, they are there for you, to make sure you follow orders, that you submit, that you shut up and give them 100% power to control you.
What are you going to do, when the Muslims take over this nation, and you follow orders or they may kill you, if you do not stop this loss of Freedoms now, you have only yourself to blame. My ancestors came here for Religous Freedom on the Mayflower, others who were Quakers were abused for trying to believe differently, in 1776 brave citizens of this new nation fought a battle to give us perpetual religous freedom, and you want to end that?
Shall we have only one correct belief, decided on by you?
Do you think the Muslims in America would sing God Bless America now? Fools you are.