Turkish (Retro-Fascist) Olympics

Event Scenes

Turkish (Retro-Fascist) Olympics

Turkey wants the 2000 Olympics. It’s just the thing to give pan-Turanism a shot in the arm. Now that Lenin’s in ruins a great sphere of Turkish influence opens up along the rim of Russia in the territories of the former Soviet Union. Turkish encirclement. What will Russia do about that?

The “Olympics” is a recombinant-cynical sign. It contains the cloying piety of internationalism (sport as the moral equivalent of war) and humanism (sport as the celebration of the body), New Age and popular worship of the (virtualized) body(-image), bitter nationalist (fascist) competition, and pan-capitalist promotion. The body that it fetishizes has been trained and engineered to be virtualized as an image on the media-net: the Olympic athlete is a resource base for imaging technology, shot through with chemicals and impregnated with training disciplines. And not only a body-to- be-virtualized, but also a body to be challenged forth to sacrifice for group, a weapon-body. Also an animated mannequin in the promotions mounted by pan-capitalism (the “cash value” of the image). Finally, a cheap fetish to be idolized, tossed away, and revived as scandal for the “viewing public” (image receptors). And maybe even something beyond that — for any surviving (cynical) idealists it’s still the last best model of man: Greek-revival fascism.

The sublimated fascism of the modern(ist) “Olympic Idea” gives way to the liberal/retro-fascism of the televisual Olympic event- scene. The “Olympic Idea” was a hybrid monster composed of the romantic cult of the hero and humanist-internationalist pacifism (or at least Europeanism) — one of the compromise formations between aristocratic nostalgia and democratic pretense that burst like pustules on modernist culture. It is not necessary to insist that all this haut-bourgeois/populist rotgut has been tossed down the historical drain long ago. The “Olympic Idea” is a dead idealism, whose putrefying remains are the host medium for the tumorous socio-cultural growths that make up the televisual Olympic event- scene.

The Olympics are haunted by the inconvenient fact that they have to be held somewhere. Ideally they should be held nowhere, anywhere, and everywhere always. (Don’t you like the idea of endless Greco-Roman wrestling matches?) It’s the old tragic romance on the instantiation of the Idea.

I’ve got an idea that I wish somebody’d listen to: Let’s create a sovereign state of Olympia where (the) Olympics would be held perpetually. It could be financed by frequent issues of commemorative coins, sale of TV rights (maybe there’d even be an all-Olympic channel on cable), and a World Olympic Foundation that would receive a fixed portion of the revenues of the leisurewear, junk-food and beverage, and athletic-equipment industries (other industries might also be included). Do you think we might be able to convince the Bosnian Croats, Serbs, and Muslim Slaves to allow a fourth party — the Olympians — into negotiations on division of the (quasi- )state? That would solve the problem of where we put Olympia. But the Olympics really don’t even belong in Olympia — they belong on the media-net: it’s an embarrassment that actual, presenced bodies are needed as image resource-bases.

The Olympics should all be done from the media archives. By the way, going back to Olympia, I think that only its citizens should be able to compete in the Olympics. And here’s my idea of how it gets its citizens. The Ottoman Turks had a great practice (the Janissary System) of stealing healthy babies from subject peoples and training them up for military-administrative duties, leaving them in ignorance of where they came from. Why can’t we take good, healthy babies from all over the world and bring them up to be the Olympic athletes for the World?

They wouldn’t be allowed to breed, so that we could always have every country participate in donating Olympia’s (sacrificial) population. I leave open the question of whether or not to tell Olympians where they came from. Meanwhile we should also get to work on what we really want: bionic athletes with proper names.

This comprehensive proposal presented in sketchy form here might deserve a book; there are so many things to figure out.

Without Olympia we’re stuck with the Olympics having to be territorialized, to materialize in some particular, already existing state. This imperative sets in motion the truth-telling of the Olympics: the site-selection process.

On the other side of virtuality a retro-fascist/pan-capitalist puke-ball war goes on for what country gets the “honor” of “hosting” the “games.” This time the big contenders are two great paragons of internationalism: China and Turkey. Turkey thinks it’s got the better chance (watch for the results on September 23) because China’s “human-rights” record is worse than its own. Who would you rather be, a Tibetan or a Kurd? I wonder if there’ll be a Kurdish team or a Tibetan team in the 2000 Olympics. So much for the humanitarian-pacifist-moral-equivalent-of-war Olympic Idea. Choose your terrorism. Choose your retro-empire.

A couple of newly emerging retro-empires want the Olympics. Well, they’ll have to buy them because the Olympics are first of all a commodity. I won’t go through all the things that the Turks have promised to do to get the Olympics, like paying athletes’ travel costs and building the first Olympic Village since World War II where all the athletes can stay at once (a simulacrum of Olympia). They figure they’ll get it back and more, to the tune of $200,000,00 in profits. They’ll go ahead and sell TV rights to the media-net. Then the media conglomerates will sell time to consumer pan- capitalism, and the leisure industries will buy endorsements from Olympians.

But there’s more than the money in it for the Turks. What they really want from the “games” is recognition of Turkey’s role as protector of and conduit to and from the Turkic peoples on the rim of Russia. The Olympics not only make big bucks; they validate retro-fascist expansionary projects.

The Olympics are a recombinant commodity — exchangeable on heterogeneous bases — and anamorphic — always oscillating and changing appearance.

The Olympics are a monstrous bi-modern hybrid of liberal fascism (the Olympic body as a terrorizing fetish to discipline wired populations through visual intimidation) and retro-fascism (the Olympic site as the hyped-up staging base for imperial projects).

The Olympics have abuse value: athletes are abused by the mobilization of guilt and shame (“you are representing your people”), not to mention torture regimens (training); fans are abused by the athletes’ (impossible) bodies.

The Olympics: a sacrificial cult of humiliation. Let’s have some Greek-revival fascism in Turkey.

8/30/93

Michael A. Weinstein is a professor of political science at Purdue University, and is the author of 19 books including, most recently, with Deena Weinstein, Postmodernized Simmel (Routledge, 93).