America’s Struggle Session Comes to College Football - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
America’s Struggle Session Comes to College Football
Kirk Herbstreit of ESPN GameDay breaks down in tears last Saturday (YouTube screenshot)

Any study of 20th-century history would be incomplete without at least a passing understanding of the Cultural Revolution in China, the events and tactics of that decade-long bonfire of one of the world’s longest-lasting and richest traditional patrimonies illuminating so much of what kinetic socialism wreaks upon a society.

The social-justice Left, which ruins everything it touches, has its hands on pro and college sports like Joe Biden on a 12-year-old.

It’s beginning to look like no study of 21st-century American history will be complete without also studying the Chinese Cultural Revolution, as so much of what Mao’s Red Guards let loose upon Chinese peasants and intellectuals seems to be descending on Americans of every class.

And one of the hallmarks of the Cultural Revolution, both in Mao’s China and in Antifa/BLM America, is what the Chinese called pīpàn dòuzhēng, commonly translating to the “struggle session.”

Here’s what it looked like during the Chinese version:

You Xiaoli was standing, precariously balanced, on a stool. Her body was bent over from the waist into a right angle, and her arms, elbows stiff and straight, were behind her back, one hand grasping the other at the wrist. It was the position known as “doing the airplane.” Around her neck was a heavy chain, and attached to the chain was a blackboard, a real blackboard, one that had been removed from a classroom at the university where You Xiaoli, for more than ten years, had served as a full professor. On both sides of the blackboard were chalked her name and the myriad crimes she was alleged to have committed….

The scene was taking place at the university, too, in a sports field at one of China’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning. In the audience were You Xiaoli’s students and colleagues and former friends. Workers from local factories and peasants from nearby communes had been bussed in for the spectacle. From the audience came repeated, rhythmic chants … “down with You Xiaoli! Down with You Xiaoli!”

“I had many feelings at that struggle session,” recalls You Xiaoli. “I thought there were some bad people in the audience. But I also thought there were many ignorant people, people who did not understand what was happening, so I pitied that kind of person. They brought workers and peasants into the meetings, and they could not understand what was happening. But I was also angry.”

Another, perhaps more monstrous example:

the Cultural Revolution began and I was transferred to another labor camp…. Two years after I had been in this new camp, I received a parcel from my family. Immediately, an inmate accused me of giving something out of it to another prisoner. I was dragged to the office. Without any investigation, the officer assembled the entire camp to start a struggle session against me. In the session the officer suddenly asked me whether I had committed my alleged original crime leading to my 8-year sentence. I was stunned. It then dawned on me that this session was in fact prearranged. The parcel was only a pretense. Their real motive was once again to force me to admit all my alleged crimes. “I did not commit any crimes,” I asserted firmly. Immediately two people jumped on me and cut off half of my hair. The officer screamed again: “are you guilty?” I replied firmly again, “no.” Two people then used a rope to tie my hands back tightly. It was connected to a loop around my shoulder and underneath my armpits. It was knotted in such a way that a slight movement of my hands would cause intense pain. This struggle session lasted for two hours. Afterwards, they untied me and handcuffed me instead. The handcuffs became a part of me for the next one hundred days and nights.

Of course, there was more torture when Mao turned his lackeys loose on the public than anybody can get away with now. This is a democratic republic where people have rights, or at least so far it is. Which means in order to get the bourgeoisie to participate in the struggle sessions, you need to get them to volunteer. Which, outside of brain-dead white leftists on college campuses or poor honkies trapped in diversity training, they generally won’t do. At least not in person.

Plus, the Chinese communists didn’t have mass media and the internet, where the modern-day struggle sessions really take place.

What the ChiComs did have, that they earnestly wanted to be rid of, was the Four Olds. Namely, Old Customs, Old Culture, Old Habits, and Old Ideas. All four of those elements, in the parlance of Mao’s fanatics, had to be scrubbed out.

Is any of this sounding familiar?

Many of our own Four Olds have been whittled away over the space of the last two decades. Remember when the rules of chivalry were fairly meticulously observed and their absence in practice was noteworthy? Open a door for a female under 30 now in certain parts of America and you might get your head bitten off.

So much for old customs. Ditto for Old habits — thrift and manners certainly aren’t cool anymore, and neither is working your way up from the bottom, respecting and learning from your elders, or even keeping your mouth shut. Silence is violence, or haven’t you heard, you racist?

Old ideas? One of our two major political parties boos God at its convention, and such things as intellectual curiosity, ingenuity, individualism, natural law, binary gender identity, and even mathematics are now considered evidence of “systemic racism” and “white privilege,” and non-white Americans employing them for their own benefit are “Uncle Toms” or “enablers” of the awful bourgeois America, which must be destroyed.

We don’t even need to get into the campaign of bowdlerization of historical monuments, which began with icky Confederates and soon progressed beyond any imaginable limits.

Which leaves Old Culture, which our leftist tormentors have had one hell of a long run at trying to destroy.

In film and TV, they’ve largely succeeded. It’s funny, because when Hollywood does make a mistake and release a movie or TV series that celebrates traditional western or American values, that property more often than not becomes fairly highly successful. In such cases, though, you can count on sequels that turn the story on its head and impose the leftist cultural zeitgeist on the audience, often at a high cost at the box office. Take, for example, the stupendous Zack Snyder movie 300, which celebrates traditional masculinity perhaps like no other film so far this century. Its predictably much less successful sequel involved the comely but half-emaciated Eva Green carving up seemingly dozens of men twice her size.

Until now, the last redoubt of traditional American culture — radical meritocracy, toughness and grit, glory and valor, and objective truth on display — resided in college and pro sports. Before the Black Lives Matter scourge descended on America and turned its corporate marketing departments into bastions of woke loss-seeking, football, basketball, and baseball in particular stood apart as places where society was truly color-blind, or as close to it as anyone could expect to get, and “privilege” counted for little.

We now know that isn’t true anymore.

We saw it in the NBA, where the idiots in charge of the league painted “Black Lives Matter” on the neutral courts where its truncated regular season was completed and playoffs are taking place. Players are adorning their jerseys with Mao-reminiscent social-justice slogans like “Say Their Names,” “I Can’t Breathe,” “Power to the People,” and “Sí Se Puede.”

And audiences have abandoned the NBA in droves. TV ratings are down almost 50 percent.

The same has happened to Major League Baseball, which opened its delayed season with players kneeling for the National Anthem and social-justice messaging ubiquitous in its broadcasts.

Everyone knows the NFL is going to suffer a similar fate when its season opens. All you had to see was the pīpàn dòuzhēng Drew Brees was subjected to for the sin of defending the flag his grandfathers fought for in World War II. Brees’ media-driven struggle session was so brutally effective that he and his wife issued forth apologies kowtowing with the best of the Chinese intellectuals under the boot of the Red Guards. Before long Brees was wearing Jacob Blake’s name on tape across his helmet in practice, in a full and stunning reversal of type. We know there will be something Red Guard-worthy painted in the NFL end zones, and the league has already said the national anthem will have to share time with “Lift Every Voice And Sing,” otherwise known as the black national anthem, before its first game.

The audience is likely to flee to backyard barbecues and home improvement projects on Sundays. If NFL ratings aren’t down a minimum of 30 percent it’ll be a surprise. Everybody knows this.

Which leaves college football, a product with perhaps the most loyal fans in all of sports.

And while only a few teams opened the season over the weekend, on Saturday when ESPN opened its GameDay broadcast with a panel discussion focused on anything but football, and specifically with a discussion of the George Floyd/Jacob Blake “mostly peaceful” protests and how America is such an awful country, the struggle session wasn’t just part of diversity or sensitivity training or the public flogging of wayward figures for impure comments.

It was on for all of us.

Kirk Herbstreit, the network’s prime college football analyst, delivered the indictment — a weepy, juvenile homily aimed at shaming college football fans, most of whom tune in to ESPN in a vain attempt to escape politics for just a little while, into jumping aboard the Black Lives Matter bandwagon:

I was talking to David Shaw, the head coach of Stanford…. he shared a quote to me and it reminded me, from Benjamin Franklin: “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as to those who are.” …

The black community is hurting. If you’ve listened, [you’ve heard] the word empathy and compassion over the last four months. How do you listen to these stories and not feel pain and not want to help? You know what I mean? It’s like … wearing a hoodie and putting your hands at 10-2. Oh god, I better look out. I’m wearing Nike gear, like what? What are we talking about? …

You can’t relate to that if you’re white but you can listen and you can try to help because this is not OK. It’s just not.

We gotta do better, man. We gotta, like, lock arm and arm and be together. In a football locker room, that stuff is gone. Those barriers are gone … We gotta do better.

How embarrassing.

Herbstreit could have defended college sports as a means for underprivileged young adults, disproportionately black of course, to escape those disadvantageous circumstances in crime-riddled neighborhoods and acquire the skills, athletic or otherwise, to turn professional in high-paying occupations. College sports is one of the best vehicles for bringing Americans of all colors and creeds together behind common purposes.

He could have said that. He could have said if America was a little more like the example its college sports programs set on their best days, there wouldn’t be the need for riots in the streets.

But he didn’t. Instead he made millions of Americans miserable with his emotionalist micturation all over our TV screens and turned an attempt at entertainment and escape into an involuntary pīpàn dòuzhēng for one of the last bastions of traditional America.

Those millions will turn into hundreds of thousands. College football fans will head for fishing holes and hunting leases. College sports is, as Ben Domenech noted, a luxury item. Not a necessity.

And the social-justice Left, which ruins everything it touches, has its hands on pro and college sports like Joe Biden on a 12-year-old. All that’s left is to watch the stadiums empty and the advertisers drop out.

Herbstreit killed college football on Saturday. Americans have no patience for struggle sessions. The Cultural Revolution is one thing Americans simply won’t buy from China.

Scott McKay
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Scott McKay is a contributing editor at The American Spectator  and publisher of the Hayride, which offers news and commentary on Louisiana and national politics, and, a national political news aggregation and opinion site. Additionally, he's the author of the new book The Revivalist Manifesto: How Patriots Can Win The Next American Era, available at He’s also a writer of fiction — check out his three Tales of Ardenia novels Animus, Perdition and Retribution at Amazon. Scott's other project is The Speakeasy, a free-speech social and news app with benefits - check it out here.
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