I got an email:
Glen , you may or may not be aware of the big fight last night, Danny Green (Wa boy) V s Anthony Mundine(Redfern boy) , any way, an interesting pnenomana occurred around Australia , in that after the fight their were mass outbreaks of pub and street fighting, ie in Perth , Adelaide & Brisbane. Seems like similar to rev heads getting carried away after watching drags or street racing ..any comments on this from the cultural studies view point??Â
I was aware of it. I was interested in the construction of the media spectacle and the awareness between the fighters and their promoters of the ‘staged’ aspect of it all. They didn’t want to win so much as ‘have a good fight’ for the purposes of strip mining the event as a resource for media distribution companies. Both ‘sides’ knew that whoever ‘lost’ was going to need a substantial payout as such a ‘loss’ would probably spell the end of their fight-spectacle career.
Not sure about a cultural studies viewpoint, there would be many viewpoints within cultural studies. From my perspective, that is, the perspective of the theoretical and social issues that concern me, what happened during and after the fight seems to be a very good example of the transmission of event-potential (see below). But, first, what actually happened?
Report from the QLD Courier Mail:
A MAN has died following brawls around the nation that took place after the Anthony Mundine-Danny Green super middleweight fight.
Fuelled by alcohol, and possibly Mundine’s win, pub patrons in Queensland, Western Australia, and South Australia were involved in fights in pubs and hotel carparks, police said.
One man died following a violent brawl at a Perth hotel where boxing fans had gathered to watch the televised fight.Â
However the Sydney Morning Herald has reported a different interpretation:
[P]olice said the fatal fight was not related to the result of last night’s boxing bout in Sydney, won by Anthony Mundine.
A 45-year-old man died after being punched by another man in the car park of the Coolbelup Hotel as patrons emerged following the screening of the fight, police said.
Oh, but back to the Courier Mail for a police spokesperson’s views on why the post-bout brawls occurred:
Police said a number of hotels had failed to put in sufficient crowd control measures but the behaviour of pub patrons remained very disappointing.
“Maybe, had the result been different, things wouldn’t have got so out of hand,” she said.
“But people were just fuelled by drink, disappointment and aggression.”
If the result had been different? Disappointment? What, that the anglo working-class male from a peripheral mining-town city didn’t properly bash the shit out of an indigeneous working-class male from the inner-city of Australia’s biggest city? What, was there not enough of a spectacle to satiate the bloodlust of an excited masculine television audience/pub crowd? So, in other words, to ensure there is not a repeat of this behaviour, next time make sure to have a fight with an outcome that placates the meatheads who want to see someone get really hurt.
There is another layer of identity here between their ‘stage names’: Danny “The Machine” Green and Anthony “The Man” Mundine. For me it invokes a kind of Rocky IV situation of the fighter who is a product of an advanced sporting practices and lifetime commitment versus the fighter who is more a singular, organic development of talent. Another dimension to their stage names is the propensity of Mundine to ‘talk the talk’. He is ‘The Man’ in the cool urban masculine sense from which the recent ‘pimp’ craze evolved. Similarly, ‘The Machine’ is a fantastic extrapolation of the ‘working man’ being a ‘working machine’ full of commitment and sacrifice. Guess who the largely anglo masculine punters support?
What is this ‘transmission of event potential’? In Parables of the Virtual, Massumi uses the example of an increase in domestic violence over the Superbowl weekend in the US to explain it:
The point of view of the television audience is different. Its individuations do not fold directly back on the field of play. Quite to the contrary, through the TV audience the play folds out of its own event space and into another. The televised game enters the home as a domestic player. Take for example American football. Super Bowl Sunday, the peak event of the football season, is said to correspond to an increase in domestic violence . The home entry of the game, at its crest of intensity, upsets the fragile equilibrium of the household. The pattern of relations between househeld bodies is reproblematized. The game event momentarily interrupts the pattern of extrinsic relations generally obtaining between domestic bodies, as typed by gender. A struggle ensues: a gender struggle over clashing codes of sociality, rights of access to portions of the home and its contents, and rituals of servitude. The sociohistorical home place converts into an event-space. The television suddenly stands out from the background of the furnishings, imposing itself as a catalytic part-subject, arraying domestic bodies around itself according to the differential potentials generally attaching to their gender type. For a moment, everything is up in the air-and around the TV set, and between the living room and // the kitchen. In proximity to the TV, words and gestures take on unaccustomed intensity. The home space is repotentialized. Anything could happen. The male body, sensing the potential, transduces the heterogeneity of the elements of the situation into a reflex readiness to violence. The “game” is rigged by the male’s already-constituted propensity to strike. The typical pattern of relations is reimposed in the unity of movement of hand against face. The strike expresses the empirical reality of the situation: recontainment by the male-dominated power formation of the domestic. The event short-circuits. The event is recapture. The home event-space is back to the place it was: a container of asymmetric relations between terms already constituted according to gender. Folding back onto domestication. Coded belonging, no becoming. (pp. 80-81)
Discussion continues in the associated footnote:
The link between the Super Bowl and domestic violence is itself violently contested. […Brief discussion of the debates…] The point of bringing up this issue is not to enter the debate on whether there is an empirically provable causal link between professional sports and violence against women. The outpouring of verbal aggression provoked by the mere suggestion that there was a link is enough to establish the theoretical point in question here: that what the mass-media transmit is not fundamentally image-content but event-potential. A mediatized event has the potential to transfer into new domains, and when it does it repeats its eventfulness, with a change in its nature. The intensity of the Super Bowl debate alone shows that the transmission of certain sports events potentializes them for a qualitative change from infra-gender competitive play to an inter-gender battle around issues of dominance. (fn 5, p. 269)
The relation between the broadcast of hyper-masculine sporting contests and the increase in domestic violence is not lost on the satirists at The Chaser:
Following the victory of Redfern boxer Anthony Mundine over WA rival Danny Green last night, police forces and refuges for battered women have reported busy trade, as the economic spin-off benefits are felt all across the nation.
So far, according to media reports, it appears as if the violence (actualized event-potential) has largely been felt in homosocial contexts. Perhaps this is a minor positive to the synergy of the pub/alcohol consumption- + -only subscription cable broadcast/spectacle- + -masculine practices/spaces/energy, that is, the manifest violence triggered through the transmission of event potential largely manifests itself in those hypermasculine spaces of the ‘suburban’ pub.
The last point, just to problematise the above a little, in relation to identity as event. Green and Mundine are both transmissions of event-potential of their ‘home towns’: Perth and Redfern respectively. This is something that Levy doesn’t take into account with his example of an election, but a certain aspect of this was raised by Rob in comments here (to this post of a quote from Deleuze). That is, the circulation of event-potential is only ever partially captured by the circuits of the ‘media’ as we would normatively think about the networks of media content distribution.