Is protest without any kind of sacrifice or effort meaningful? I personally don’t think so. The type of protest that can most accurately be called virtue signaling or slactivism or better yet, both, just doesn’t mean anything to me. An example would be wearing a “One Love” armband when you know the only consequence is a fine you can well afford and the support and affirmation of peers and journalists.
This was demonstrated in the last few days. European soccer captains said they would take the terribly brave step of wearing an armband during their games to show support for LGBTQ people. OK, sounds good. Then FIFA said they’d give people who did this a yellow card. The captains can only wear and “anti-discrimination” armband instead starting in the quarterfinal. Now, in soccer, if you receive two yellow cards, you get kicked out of the game and your side is left with ten players instead of eleven. This is a huge disadvantage. In addition, the captain also tends to be one of the best players on the team, sometimes the best full stop. So yes, accepting a yellow card is in fact a big disadvantage since that player must now play more carefully to avoid getting a second. But here’s the thing, instead of a meaningless virtue signal, wearing the armbands became a meaningful sacrifice that actually required the participants to show genuine commitment to the issue they claim to care so much about. So what happened? They all sorrowfully declared they wouldn’t be able to participate in the “protest” after all.
Now, if you don’t happen to be a soccer captain on an international team, you can still show how much you hate those nasty Qataris and their unpleasant views on LGBTQ people. The Atlantic encouraged brave Americans to forego their beloved game of soccer and skip watching the World Cup. I could hardly roll my eyes any harder. First of all, most Americans barely care about soccer. Not many will watch in the first place, regardless of their views on Qatar. Our team more or less sucks as a general rule and will likely struggle to dispatch Wales in the first round. If this were England or Brazil, not watching the World Cup would be a meaningful sacrifice. But in the US? Come on.
For what it’s worth, I fully agree that Qatar wasn’t the right choice for this event, though apparently the country stopped flogging women for adultery since they were awarded the tournament. So maybe it’ll be a net benefit in the end. Probably the award followed by protest and criticism is all part and parcel of the potential benefit to Qatar’s citizens. My understanding is the whole thing came about due to bribery, though, not wise people weighing the pros and cons and making a well-deliberated decision with ideals of sport and virtue in mind.
ETA: I feel like I am becoming incredibly cynical. I am even more cynical on this blog than elsewhere, but I’m kind of cynical in general. It’s not a great way to approach the world. Maybe a brave soccer captain will take a stand or FIFA will back down. Maybe for Thanksgiving, I should resolve for at least a while to be more thankful and less cynical.