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The dangers of the retreat into mediaeval journalism in football

By Billy “the Dog” McGraw.

Abuse levels on Untold seem to on the up, which is a bit of a shame, so I thought I would pop in with a couple of comments on a post that was sent in the other day, but not published.  (It is printed below exactly as submitted).

“Calling people who have a different opinion on Wenger to you mentally deranged,how laugable.YOU are not in possession of the facts any more than the supposed AAA,unless,of course,you are employed by the club.Everything you write is JUST AN OPINION,no better or worth more than any other Arsenal fan.Despite what you try to tell yourselves your blog is neither important or influential as far as Arsenal football club is concerned,same as Legrove.Its just somewhere where like minded Arsenal fans go to chat.Why so dismissive of those who are not happy with how the club is being run,or how the team is performing on the pitch? Stick to what you are good at and lose the arrogance”

Now there are a number of issues here which I’d like to pick up.

The writer was of course quite correct, in that calling people of a different opinion, “deranged”, is ludicrous.  I wish we could find a way to stop it, but with the resources at our disposal it is hard.  As we have noted before we do try to moderate this site, but it is tough going, because of its popularity and because the software we have is not accurate enough to cut out what we don’t want, without also cutting out stuff we do want to publish).

So a person who thinks the world is flat or that apples fall on the ground because they do, or that there is a God who told us how to behave through The Book of Leviticus, are all of a different opinion from me – but I would (I hope) never be so abusive as to call a believer in the truth of the Old Testament Book of Laws “deranged”. Indeed I would always encourage anyone writing to this site, to be more considerate.  And apart from anything else, such name calling never does any good.

But beyond this opening point there is another that is more interesting – the notion expressed in the statement “YOU are not in possession of the facts any more than the supposed AAA,unless,of course,you are employed by the club.”

This takes us back to an issue debated over and over again and one on which Untold will not give way.  The very essence of the Untold approach is to try and gather evidence and then publish it.  The evidence, and the conclusions that are drawn from the evidence, can then be challenged for itself, and in such a debate there is no need for any abuse.

It is, for those of us close to Untold, a vital component of what we are writing about – vital because journalists seem to have turned away from the Enlightenment, and reverted to a sort of Mediaeval view of the world in which what we can see (Wenger didn’t sign enough defenders) is all we need to know.

Indeed on the rare occasions that the question as to “why?” is asked, a simplistic answer (“he’s an idiot” or “he’s tight with other people’s money”) are given – without anything other than circular arguments (he didn’t sign enough defenders, so he’s an idiot – we can see that because he didn’t sign enough defenders).

If you don’t like the scientific approach of sampling, building a theory and then testing it, then fine.  There are, as we all know, many sites for which the niceties of Enlightenment and the existence of Isaac Newton (in his non-alchemic days) are by-passed in the interest of instant (if nonsensical) answers.  And that’s fine – everyone can go and debate elsewhere.  This site is intended for debate which encompases the Enlightenment, the Renaissance,  and other elements of contemporary thought.  Indeed post-modernists are also welcome.

Indeed the abuse hides the fundamental difference between Untold and most other blogs, and indeed the newspapers.  We use evidence.

So when we look at the recent issue on injuries, for example, we looked at all possible reasons for injuries and then tried to work out, logically, which of the many possible explanations could be true.

This was very different from the two newspapers we cited (the Guardian and the Telegraph), in which both took suppositions about possible causes, and both referred to the work of one man who came up with a very dark explanation for the injuries without much evidence or supporting information.

Now that one guy – Raymond Verheijen – is a coach, so he ought to know what he’s talking about, but he is prone to making publicity gaining comments without giving much detail as to how he is drawing his conclusions.

Verheijeen has been very outspoken over the fitness methods not just of Arsenal, but of Chelsea, Tottenham, Man City, Feyenoord, Manchester United, and others.  He has claimed that a number of managers are “dinosaurs” including David Moyes and Roy Hodgson, and has often said that some players have been “overtrained”.   He also claimed, two days after the funeral, that it was the wish of the late Wales team manager Gary Speed that he (Verheijen) be appointed manager of Wales.   He then condemned the FA of Wales saying they had “destroyed the legacy” of Gary Speed.

Now, in trying to draw our conclusions as to what is going on in terms of injuries, what Untold does it try to take account of these sorts of comments, plus the statistics, plus the issues that we find in our own statistics, and those of Referee Decisions.  We find that Arsenal do suffer more from certain types of challenges than other clubs and we put that in the mix.

This to me has nothing to do with the accusation “YOU are not in possession of the facts any more than the supposed AAA,unless,of course,you are employed by the club.”   

Maybe it is true.  Maybe our mediaeval journalist colleagues are also in possession of the same facts.  But then if that is so, they are not introducing them into the argument – probably because they just don’t fit with their world vision of football.

What Untold would say of Verheijen is, “here is an expert, but he seems to blame a lot of other people for faulty tactics – but this alone can’t explain the differentiation in the levels of injury – because if he was right, the teams that followed his generalised methods would get fewer injuries.  And those that he criticise, would have higher levels of injury.  But the evidence doesn’t concur.”

In the end the difference between Untold and the aaa is twofold.

One is the general view that it is always better to support the club than to try and tear it apart through criticism.   There is a strong chance (as we can see from all sorts of psychological studies of athletes) that constant criticism reduces the ability of players to perform well.  And it would seem quite logical for players to take a look at the aaa and think, actually I don’t want that kind of abuse.  I’ll go and play somewhere else.

The other is that rather than look at one explanation in the mediaeval way (“we have had a bad harvest, we have displeased God, let’s kill more witches” – which is akin to “we have more injuries – it must be Wenger’s fault, let’s get rid of Wenger”) we try and look for all sorts of explanations, and then try and weigh them up based on the evidence and the application of logic.

This difference of approach makes the explanations of the journalists and their aaa allies very short, and ours somewhat longer – and as a result it is clear, looking at many of the comments that come in, that some commentators don’t actually read what we are saying, but simply jump in with their contrary, much simpler views.

We do try and accommodate commentators as much as possible, but one change has happened of late.  Increasingly Untold is starting to delete comments that just say the same thing over and  over again – because it is getting rather boring.

We’ve heard the aaa and journalistic argument that Wenger is to blame for our injury crisis, without any back up of evidence or consideration of contrary points, so many times, that it is getting dull.  We know the aaa and their journalist allies will ignore the evidence of differentiated behaviour by referees and that is the choice of those who choose to follow the non-evidential path.

Anyone who comes in with a view that was new would of course be welcome, but in the end, any publication that says the same thing all the time will lose readers.

There’s more to say, of course, but I will leave it here for a moment.  I hope you found my thought of interest.

Untold Index

37 comments to The dangers of the retreat into mediaeval journalism in football

  • Pete

    I take issue with the quote above that everyone’s opinion is of equal validity. That is patently untrue when one is looking to establish the reality.

    As a matter of interest, approximately what percentage of comments are stopped?

  • Governor

    Pete, really, whosoever wrote DAT thing about d right to opinion is correct. Even if u r trying to make a point or rather let me say saying the right thing, people still have the right to disagree. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinions.
    About d injury problems, I think I have an explanation [which am not saying is correct ] that will be when we have a debate on that. But I think our injury problems is as a result of d accumulation of a bit of different errors. Its complicated. Thanks

  • ClockEndRider

    Everyone’s opinion being of the same validity is patently untrue. That everyone has the same access to broadcast media is though undoubtedly true. However those wishing to mislead simply equate having to say something with having something to say. The two are most definitely not the same. Those with developed critical faculties filter out the chaff. The rest simply repeat what they hear on various media, untruths and half truths wick are endowed with believability simply as a function of their incessant repetition. These people are not necessarily to be blamed. However neither are they to be listened to.

  • ron

    All of this is opinion, all of it. It all depends on mitigation, do you believe we have not had the rub of the green. Fat bald loud men shouting does not make it d/ so. Opposing sides think they care more, they dont. Stupid van drivers shouting will not alter the owners mind. If wenger is a spent force then at least support till the summer. Aggressive intimidating attitudes just harden mine. I think this has more to do with lack of control in life rather than football. Wenger till henry is ready for me.

  • I find the rudest people on the net are a small amount of the Untold regulars , the arrogance is sometimes astounding , which is a shame because you do such great work.

  • Gord

    Some people read, listen to or watch data sources which are not robust, others follow robust sources or a mixture of both. Some people do research. If a person does research, you need to recognize where a source is copying from some other place without providing a reference. Taking the same data point from 10 different versions of the same document is not the same as taking the data from 10 different and unique documents.

    Even when a person looks at a source, you need to analyse the contents for yourself. Are there mistakes in spelling or grammar? What is the intended audience? Is the source you are getting this from, in the intended audience?

    All that notwithstanding, unless you know otherwise, you should treat all other information sources as equally valid. At least until you have reason to change their rating. There are people who stick their foot in their mouth at the earliest opportunity, and to follow them is a waste of time.

    If a person is listening to the radio or watching TV, you can change the channel. If you come to Untold, and you find many comments that are just nonsense, you still have to wade through the crap if you want to see if there are any comments worth reading. And this difference is something that drives Untold Arsenal regulars to being less than civil.

    A fair amount of the time, I am providing comments that are not intended for shallow reading. And I think I leave a lot of people in the dust. I wish people would put in a note, asking me to expand on something. Mind you, if an aaa twit asks me to expand on something, I will probably ignore them because they are not at Untold to read content provided by me. They are here to cause trouble, or do something that is contrary for this blog existing in the first place.

  • Jammy J

    Rudest people on the net are on Untold? Really? Are you attempting satire? Sorry, but that comment really blew me away. Yes, i would agree that at times some can be a tiny bit on the arrogant side, but to say ‘the rudest people on the net’ is so so off the mark its ridiculous. If you truly believe that, then i would love to live in your little corner of the internet. One of the many reasons why i (and i assume others) is because of the generally friendly atmosphere here. Its a nice change compared to some of the viper pits on other websites

  • Laos gooner

    I liked the article and it citing again that this is a supportive group of fans, which is different to some other sites we may read. Possibly we should maybe amend those thoughts to everyones opinion has a right to be heard. How are we to change opinions if we do not listen to them? To listen does not give credence, it does however allow us to interact and discusss. In an ideal world abuse would not occur but there is no escaping that it does. I certainly feel that it is quite normal to enter into discussion about opinions expressed and that there is, by the fact that we may contibute, a forum through which we might influence changes in the opinion of others, or vice versa. I find that I do like the presentation of facts rather than medieval media mantra regurgitation, but that is just my opinion. Keep up the good work Untold. Thanks

  • Jammy J,

    Ignore Shoot. All he does here is post sarcastic comments mocking the writers without ever putting forward a contrary point of view. His comment about Untold writers doing a great work just doesn’t gel with his usual comments after such “great work”.

    As one of those Untold regulars that apologetically give it back to those who come here to insult the regulars or post falsehoods, I chuckled at the title of “rudest people on the Internet” and this particular claim tells you everything you need to know about this Shoot character.

    What is very clear is that Untold Arsenal is upfront with their point of view and in the current world of perverse dishonesty, I consider this a very honourable thing which honest people everywhere should respect whether they agree with Untold’s contents or not.

    I conclude with the famous quote of Professor Paul Krugman: “When the going gets tough, the people losing the argument start whining about civility”.

    I don’t give a fuck about tone and civility. I care very deeply about evidence, logic and honesty. Freedom of speech is reciprocal: Just as we have the right to say moronic and dishonest shit, other people have the right to tell us how stupid and full of shit we are. The true enemies of freedom of expression are those who whine because other people have the temerity to vigorously challenge their opinions.

  • Gord,

    “If a person is listening to the radio or watching TV, you can change the channel. If you come to Untold, and you find many comments that are just nonsense, you still have to wade through the crap if you want to see if there are any comments worth reading. And this difference is something that drives Untold Arsenal regulars to being less than civil.”

    BINGO!!!

    The only thing that I will add here is that many of these commenters are not mistakenly filling up space with bunk; that is precisely their mission. Look at comments after an Arsenal win and all you see are regulars celebrating with each other. After a poor result, we also want to congregate and give each other hope for the next game but this is seldom possible because the thread would usually be filled with new commenters posting AAA crap all over the place.

  • 4evered

    I agree that Untold is on balance an interesting Site that tries to provide another view from the frequent negativity on other sites regarding the club and in particular Mr Wenger .
    However if as I have, you come on and try to offer a differing view from the regulars you soon find that there is little real debate and quite quickly you are subjected to abuse from certain regular posters who are given a great deal of latitude by moderators despite being regular offenders and if you dare to fight fire with fire you will not last long .
    The so called “Evidence” which is always cited as a failure of non regulars often is no more than the themes the site promotes such as the refs conspiracy against (only) Arsenal – but this opinion is presented as research due to the fact that the incidents have been counted and logged by one of the sites trusted servants but really only amount to no more than “did he , didnt he ” incidents such as Giroud’s red yesterday .
    I know you will receive my comments with your 2 standard responses of 1 – condescending ridicule and auto moderation or 2 – regulars dismissive abusive – which is why I gave up posting and mostly just read and smile now .

  • Jammy J

    Ive never understood why people would come on to a obviously pro-wenger/pro-arsenal blog, just to spout their inane shit about how the manager/players/the board/ the fans are ruining this club. The biggest problem i have with them is that 99% of the time, they didnt even come to the conclusion themselves; they will just read it from justarsenal, LG or some other awful blog and come on here and shout it as if its gospel. Luckily for the most part these trolls/idiots will come and go, but the regulars who truly support Arsenal will stay for good, passing around the positive attitude, regardless if we have just lost a game or won.

  • Mandy Dodd

    If this RV character knows so much, how come he is not employed at an elite club…..a bit like Stewart Robson? I hadn’t heard that Gary Speed stuff, really quite shocking he should plunge to such depths in the name of self promotion.
    Love it when the aaa accuse untold of being employed by the club, it brings to mind comments on this site, and other sites by our old friend mr R Jaggar, a man who obviously can’t get no satisfaction, unless he is slagging off Mr Wenger, but he should remember , you can’t always get what you want. Ok his last name is spelt slightly differently, but you get the point!
    But if you are employed by the club, any chance of free tickets for the Monaco game?

  • Gord

    Bootoomee.

    I was trying to be polite. 🙂

    You, and many others here, are better at handling the crap messages than I am. I wish they weren’t here, but there is not a lot I can do about it.

  • Va Cong

    Shoot should change he’s name to shot

  • Va Cong

    he should close his mouth and choke on his own verbal diarrhoea

  • omgarsenal

    Shoot is a classic example of the pot-shotters. My uncle, a WW2 veteran told me about them. They were the ones who popped up, took a wild shot at the enemy and then you never heard or saw them in real combat again. They usually were huddled in a bunker, hidden well behind the lines or last seen running away to safety. A guy or gal like him/her is as I maintain about almost all the AAA, cowards and reprobates….and this isn’t arrogance speaking, its hard personal experience with these types, who always pop up to whine and criticize but never are there when the heavy lifting begins.

  • omgarsenal

    By the way another superb article Billy!!!

  • AL

    I’ve to admit I have been a little guilty of using abusive language myself lately. Not proud of it, but some individuals have shown a tendency to just want to come and bash the club and manager at every opportunity without really offering any evidence to back their arguments. While I used to engage everyone in the beginning, my patience has worn thin with certain persons. As has been queried already, what kind of fan is it that disappears after a win, only to resurface after a perceived bad result? It does seem to me they’ll be pushing another agenda.

    I apologize to Untold for using language that may not be to everyone’s palate on a few occasions, but I’ll NOT extend that apology to those individuals that made me use such language in the first place.

  • Menace

    Nice article Billy – sometimes I wish my verbal reactions remained untold!

    AL your not the only one who has used abusive language. I too have got so angry with the PGMO that only foul language seems quick enough to express the passion. I believe that a lack of vocabulary causes one to use foul language. I also think that time required to formulate fine language into abuse sometimes is not sufficient.

    Shoot has often been used as an expression of foul language & it is so appropriate that it is used as ‘its’ name.

  • Menace

    Did anything happen after Costas off the ball kick on Shawcross shown on Star Sports in India? It was ignored by the PGMO officials in the game as were several other Chelsea fouls – but hey this is Stoke so only hospitalisation fouls draw cards.

  • Will

    Love this site and agree with 90% of what is said but the two things i take umbbrage with is:

    1) calling anyone an AAA if they have an opinion that is not 100% alighned with the Untold ethos and yes, regulars have been known to insult those (me included) who dares to suggest Wenger or Arsenal may have made a mistake somewhere

    2) Doing nothing with all the evidence and facts found. Why isn’t someone taking this to the authorities or the press? I am sure there is one Arsneal friendly journo out there who would love all this evidence and would run with it.

    that said, this is the only Arsenal site (after Arsenal.com that I visit as it is run and frequented by adults (mostly ;-))

  • 4everred – I do think that telling us how we will reply to your posts is odd – that is true. But you omit key areas of our research – such as the Referee Decisions series in which referees who supported many other teams did the research, and the analysis of such things as the secrecy of PGMO as we ask the simple question “why?”

    Indeed there is probably more “why?” asking from us than anything else – and that is a fundamental starting point of research.

  • TommieGun

    @ Billy, thanks a lot for this. I mean it, I’ve been waiting for this for quite some time.

    I know that personally I am not very mindful when using obscenities*, so my position here might not seem very clear cut, but –

    There is, an my opinion, a difference between using swear words or obsecnities, at specific moments, and just being intentionally unfriendly and arrogant towards posters with opinions which deviate from the Untold standard narrative.

    * (although I am making an effort to cut down on swear words)

    So yes, I find it very encouraging that such a statements goes out. There is no need to call people rats (or any type of vermin), to call them delusional, stupid, or accuse them of some sinster motives. I really think that most of them just have the wrong opinion, influenced by the media and their own wishes for the club to do better (and coming up with the wrong conclusion which is “Wenger is to blame”). Which shouldn’t make us accept them or their opinions – but rather try to convince whoever can still be turned around.

    Anyway, shitheads are shitheads, whatever they believe in the right things or not.

    @ Don – yes, your uncle was right. My guess is that it was always the same and will always be the same – some soldiers are cowards, make a lot of noise, and disappear when the heat is on.

    What pisses me off is that people claim that they are entitled to their own opinion when clearly it’s not the case – I reccomend watching this guy:

    http://www.iflscience.com/brain/no-youre-not-entitled-your-opinion

  • bob mac

    UA is an excellent site for those who like both Arsene and Arsenal………..allowing us to give our appreciation via the written word.

    It would be nice if this negativity and lambasting of the team and manager could be ‘edited out’, but constructive and well thought out and balanced criticism still be included.

    Surely the media is enough of an ill informed lake of negativity for anyone, and to have a small island of basic positive remarks can do nothing but good.

  • TommieGun,

    Thanks for the link but I gotta disagree with you on this: “… but rather try to convince whoever can still be turned around”

    Since you’ve been posting on Internet forums, how many times have people with opposite point of view ever admitted to being wrong and changed their position because of your better use of logic? I am not talking about people who are generally on your side but hold a different opinion on a single issue. The latter would usually concede once you provide them with evidence. The former on the other hand are immovable.

    Regular Untolders disagree with each other all the time (especially on topics like why Arsenal get so many injuries) but the difference is that we have rational debates which lurkers would often post to commend the site and its contributors for. The problem is that from time to time (and on some types of stories) we have the AAA posting bunk all over the thread. These guys don’t come here to be convinced; they come here mostly to abuse the club and mock Untold for being pro-Arsenal when the fashionable thing to do now is bad-mouth the club.

    I appreciate your optimism but I just don’t see any evidence of any AAA ever agreeing that they were wrong when presented with evidence or better argument. There is no harm in continuing to try though 🙂

  • blacksheep63

    my trade is as an historian so like Tony I use evidence to reach my conclusions. But the problem is that we have to a) agree what is evidence and b) agree how we interpret it.

    I am currently writing up my interpretation of the evidence in the ‘Jack the Ripper’ case and will posit a theory towards the end. My thesis will be based on a sound research methodology but I suspect that many other researchers will take issue with my findings. I am not arrogant enough to argue I will have solved the case, merely put forward a very plausible suspect and explanation.

    I think UA operates in a similar way: Walter, Andrew and Tony have offered evidence based theories on Arsenal’s injury problems and on the state of refereeing (and other issues). Tony knows (because we travel to and from games together each week) that I am not always entirely convinced by the arguments but I am becoming more convinced – because the alternative explanations have become less credible.

  • Governor

    It is very important for you people to know that people who post their comments here do not just talk because they read something from any site. For goodness sake we all watch football. The problem in the squad and the game is so glaring DAT even a blind man can see it,but it is sure DAT if we all see something, we cannot always interpret it in d same way. So which brings me to the conclusion that we are all entitled to d same opinion. People only believes one opinion is superior to the other because they want others to see it from their own point of view.which is impossible.
    in my own view, players have come and gone,but still the problem of the squad remain the same.so that Has made me believe that the problem of our club is the constant people there I.e the Manager and staffs

  • insideright

    Fans, as a group, are generally too emotional about ther club to come to reasoned explanations or to have reasonable debate. That’s why its often the case that, to understand something thats happening in football, its often better to look at the travails of other clubs in order to get get a less emotional interpretation.
    Take Newcastle for example. In the first part of the season they were rubbish and the manager was being publicly pilloried by their fans. Then things turned round. One or two players came back from injury, luck turned their way and the manager suddenly becomes a hero and is said to be ‘back from the dead’. The critics either went quiet or claimed glory for having pressured the manager into some sort of action which they probably couldn’t quite put their finger on anyway.
    Now Newcastle are rubbish again and maybe that is their natural state. But what is certain is that sacking their manager would have had no lasting impact (it rarely does) and maybe wouldn’t even have brought about the good run that they did have.
    The key to success is consistently delivering to reasonably arrived at expectations. But reasonability, as the acticle so eloquently points out, is in short supply when emotions are high or when click-bait is required as the currency of success.

  • Gord

    Governor

    Fine, you can have a different opinion. An opinion opposite of the intent of this blog. Why do you feel you have to share that with us? Why can’t you go share it with people more in line with your opinion? They may enjoy your opinion.

  • TommieGun

    @ Boo – UA is the only internet forum I’m active on and one of the very few I read (the others are snowboarding forums). I don’t read any of the other Arsena forums, they are not interesting to be honest.

    I am not expecting anyone to admit anything over the internet. From my experience, people don’t admit even when faced with embarassment or worse, and in the internet there is no risk at all so I think that it’s safe to assume that you will not get a written admission.

    But if we were successful in changing someone’s point of view, or even make them consider an alternative – I am content with that. I don’t care about getting the credit with convincing someone – I am more concerned that the same person will not write vile shit about Arsene in another site. If we could help with that – then we are doing something right.

  • TommieGun,

    As I previously concluded, no harm in trying. Good luck my friend.

  • insideright,

    Great comment! I agree with every word.

    Just like every other team in competitive leagues in the world, Arsenal have their ups and down but we’ve always met or exceeded our financial position under Wenger. This is why it can be very difficult to be polite to people who don’t possess 0.1% of our great manager’s acumen but criticise him with lines like “any idiot can see what is wrong with Arsenal”.

    Only an idiot would write such a line because if the job can be done by any random idiot, teams wouldn’t be paying £millions to top football managers. The clubs’ willingness to pay top cash to managers should at the very least indicate that the job is not as easy as assumed. Those (usually ex-players) who dabbled into management but lack the ability were soon showed up as incompetent buffoons. Interestingly, they are quickly snapped up by the media to be pundits and shout instructions at their betters from TV studios. They still suck at punditry but fortunately for them, the job lacks accountability and as long as they are not making racist or sexist remarks, their job is secured no matter how terrible they are at it.

  • rantetta

    Good Article. Superb comments, (bar the usual).

    The “Mediaevals” inc. Raymond Verheijen, say things like, Wilshere has weak ankles.
    Jack says something else:

    http://instagram.com/p/v724UOCz8p/

    The aaa suck it up.

  • Gord

    Newsflash – ManU feel they are the best team in the EPL

    > No, there is no need to have further games in the EPL. To any intelligent football fan, we (ManU) are the best team in the EPL. Besides, the current season is injuring too many of my players.

  • Gord

    Addendum – ManU has paid to be the best team in English football for 30 or more years.

    Newsflash – ManC feel they are the best team in the EPL

    > No, there is no need to have further games in the EPL. To any intelligent football fan, we (ManC) are the best team in the EPL. Besides, the current season is injuring too many of my players. And we paid for this title.

  • Gord

    Newsflash – Chelsea feel they are the best team in the EPL

    > No, there is no need to have further games in the EPL. To any intelligent football fan, we (Chelsea) are the best team in the EPL. Besides, the current season is injuring too many of my players (can’t you hear them crying?), and I am being forced into training my players in how to dive. Besides we paid for this title.