The 2022 Qatar World Cup is just three days from kick off and the Qatar authorities have done an about face on selling alcohol, announcing that beer will not be sold inside the grounds of the stadiums. This announcement may come as a shock to some, especially the sponsors – Budweiser, who have traveled to Qatar and expected to be able to buy beer in the stadiums on game day. But it shouldn’t be a surprise that a country with literally unimaginable wealth which is run as an autocracy would just suddenly change their minds about anything that they previously “permitted” to happen on their home soil.
Qatar is a country where money means nothing to them since they can just pump more of it out of the ground, so they have the money to pay off the sponsors. This is especially true since they are sitting on the third largest Natural Gas reserves and with the Russian invasion of Ukraine putting a pinch on Natural Gas in Europe – and with Germany halting new Nuclear power after the Fukushima accident – the EU is more dependent than ever on fossil fuels from the Gulf. Qatar doesn’t care about money. As long as the West remains dependent on fossil fuels for energy and plastics they have an apocalyptic amount of wealth.
And what about shame? Up until now, it seemed that the Qatar authorities were operating as if shame might matter to them. After all, the point of buying this tournament is or was sportswashing their image. But in recent weeks we’ve seen a counter-offensive in the Western media. They have started calling criticism of this World Cup “racist” and deploying “whatabouttery” at every opportunity. “I think it’s racist to say Qatar can’t decide not to have alcohol. And as for gay pride, did you criticize the Russian World Cup?”
I guess it needs to be said – because so many people have brain worms these days – it’s not racist to point out that you disagree with some of the laws and actions of Qatar, just like it’s not anti-semitic to disagree with some of the actions of Israel, or racist to disagree with North Korea shooting missiles at Japan and South Korea. Of course, there could be some who do those things because they are racist or anti-semites but it’s not inherently the case.
And yes, dingbat, tons of us criticized the Russian World Cup for their anti-gay stance, violence, and slavery. It’s quite simple to google these things these days. If you’d like a detailed account of the slavery, torture, and murders in the Russian World Cup, Human Rights Watch has conveniently compiled it. Also, before you go ahead and ask, I was very critical of the Brazil World Cup and the way that country just removed people from favelas and wasted billions on stadiums in the middle of nowhere. And when those things happen here in the Americas for the next World Cup, I’ll be critical of them too.
The problem is that we live in the post-shame era. For most of my life extremist right-wingers often said one thing out loud and did something very different behind the scenes. Being outed as a fascist or supporting Nazi policies used to be a disqualifier for office in the West. But since Trump showed the world that just doing and saying whatever you want wouldn’t get you punished (much) if you’re rich and powerful, the rich and powerful have decided that they will just do and say whatever serves them. I know that it has been this way for a long time in much of the world but it seems to have finally come home to much of the rest of the world.
And so what does Qatar have to lose by anything that they do during this World Cup? Will people stop buying oil and natural gas from them? I suppose, maybe? But given the world’s dependence on those resources I wonder what promises they would have to renege on before we enacted meaningful sanctions? It’s already a brutal autocratic surveillance state in which people are imprisoned for speaking out against the regime. It’s a country where gay people are jailed and “reprogrammed” if they are outed. This time it’s just beer but what would happen to them if, say, they decided to go back on the promise that LGBTQ+ people were “welcome” in Qatar? What would people do if they suddenly jailed anyone they decided was “acting gay”? After all, FIFA and the world has turned a blind eye to literal slavery and perhaps thousands of worker’s deaths and told us that we “need to respect the local traditions and customs of Qatar.” So I wonder what’s next?