NBA star Enes Kanter embodies the dangers of American exceptionalism rhetoric. Support for oppression around the world is always the end result of this pernicious belief system.
Upon receiving citizenship status in the United States, National Basketball Association (NBA) player Enes Kanter quickly changed his surname to “Freedom.” This article will not refer to Kanter in his new name and give credibility to the cartoonish display. Nevertheless, the Turkish center went on Tucker Carlson’s FoxNews program shortly after the name change to boast about the U.S.’s inherent greatness, “People should feel really blessed and lucky to be in America. They love to criticize it, but when you live in a country like Turkey or China or somewhere else, you will appreciate the freedoms you have here. I feel like they should just keep their mouth shut and stop criticizing the greatest nation in the world and they should focus on their freedoms and their human rights and democracy.”
Such a blatant display of American exceptionalism is in keeping with Enes Kanter’s overall political agenda. The choice of “freedom” for his new name indicates featly to empire. Of course, this has been apparent from the beginning for anyone who has been paying attention to Kanter’s recent behavior. While Dave Zirin claimed that Kanter’s political activism has only begun to seek the embrace of the far right, Kanter has spent the last year meeting with John Bolton, Marco Rubio, and Jared Kushner. These are strange bedfellows for someone who claims to care about “human rights” around the world.
Kanter’s antics offer a useful lesson on the pathology of American exceptionalism. American exceptionalism is a bi-partisan ideology of the ruling class. Its definition is broad but simple: the U.S. is synonymous with the virtues of “democracy”, “freedom,” and “civilization” itself. Kanter’s equation of freedom with U.S. citizenship is nothing but a brazen public relations stunt meant to please his ruling class handlers. His message to critics of the empire is the political variant of “shut up and dribble.”
American exceptionalism erases criminality just as much as it projects the interests of U.S. imperialism. While Kanter has been busy waging a propaganda crusade against China, he’s ignored human rights violations that are verifiably proven to exist in his country of residence. This includes the mass incarceration and police terrorism of Black people. Kanter received harsh criticisms from Black Twitter for only speaking of Black people when condemning Michael Jordan or Lebron James for their business practices. Also left out of Kanter’s human rights mission is the mass deportation and detention of so-called “undocumented” immigrants or the fact that the U.S. is currently waging a war on journalism through the attempted assassination and extradition of Julian Assange.
It is clear that Kanter’s politics have nothing to do with human rights but rather humanitarian interventionism—the truest expression of American exceptionalism in the realm of U.S. foreign policy. Kanter’s crusade against China mirrors entirely the propaganda arm of the U.S.’s New Cold War on China. NED-funded organizations such as Students for a Free Tibet that promote lies about “human rights” to further the U.S.’s expansionist agenda have found a high-profile friend in Kanter. Kanter’s political advocacy sends the message that the U.S. has the right to dictate China’s internal affairs because it is superior to China. This assumption places the Chinese people and their overwhelming support of the Chinese government outside of the realm of humanity and squarely within the annals of barbarity.
The disease of American exceptionalism does its damage by shaping the ideological struggle in service of the powerful. Ideology is not simply a set of ideas that arise from nowhere. American exceptionalism offers a key example of how ideology forms the superstructure, or the values and laws of a particular social order. Ideology is ultimately an expression of class politics. And it is the ruling class of a given social order which decisively sets the parameters for acceptable and unacceptable thought within a society.
Enes Kanter is mouthpiece of the U.S. ruling class who has demonstrated deep devotion to spreading the most naked form of American exceptionalism for personal and political gain. Anti-China propaganda is profitable. The U.S. is deliberating on a bill, the Innovation and Competition Act, which possesses hundreds of millions worth of potential funds for anti-China propagandists. Weapons contractors and their beneficiaries such as Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing-Wen have a material interest in saber rattling with China. In this way, Kanter has operated as a loyal ideological mercenary to warmongers and profiteers.
Recent U.S. attacks on China reek of desperation. The ongoing Peng Shuai fake scandal and Kanter’s crusade are part and parcel of a U.S. campaign to denigrate China ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics in February 2022. China’s massively successful campaign to control COVID-19 has allowed the once destitute nation’s capacity to hold a fully renewable energy-powered Olympic games while taking the lead in COVID-19 vaccine distribution and economic cooperation around the world. The U.S., on the other hand, has yet to pass meagre spending plans or gain control of a pandemic that has killed 800,000 people. In the age of U.S. imperialist decline, the pathology of American exceptionalism has nothing to offer but ideological discord and immaturity. Its lies, along with the system that produces them, must be replaced root and branch with a superior socialist system driven and directed by the needs of humanity.
Enes Kanter’s name change optics are but another attempt to redirect the masses in the opposite direction.
Danny Haiphong is a contributing editor to Black Agenda Report and co-author of the book “American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People's History of Fake News- From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror.” He can be reached at [email protected] . Follow his work on Twitter @SpiritofHo and on YouTube as co-host with Margaret Kimberley of Black Agenda Report Present's: The Left Lens. You can support Danny on Patreon by clicking this link.