By Tony Attwood
One of the most fascinating aspects of being involved in the running of Untold Arsenal is seeing the way that some readers of the site like to tell the editorial team what to publish and what not to publish.
I can understand the need to control what we publish both in terms of the articles and the comments. Many of the comments we receive are beyond the pale, and we do manage to delete most of these before they get out. But some get through, and some people complain that we’ve let through a dubious comment from A but stopped B. I know that happens. I can only plead the size of Untold as an excuse.
Meanwhile there are others who regularly write in and complain that we have published a particular article when we shouldn’t.
But the fact is, if Untold publishes an article you don’t like, you don’t have to read it. And everyone does get a warning as to the true nature of the article is revealed through
a) It’s title
b) The name of the author (in the sense that an article about transfers written by Sir Hardly Anyone is probably not going to be a completely serious review of a player who is about to join Arsenal. Anyway, his brother, Lord Hardly-Likely is joining us soon, so that should make matters clearer.)
c) The opening few lines
By writing this I am not trying to persuade any reader not to read something, but I would refer anyone who feels we are sometimes going off track that I’ve often mentioned that I will publish anything that fits in with the slogan “Football news from an Arsenal perspective” which uses evidence and/or logical deduction, or otherwise makes a serious contribution to our knowledge of or understanding of football and all that surrounds it, without being abusive.
In this regard this blog has always been the opposite of the Daily Mail sponsored blog that claims that it is “where you can have an opinion not get one”. Opposite in the sense that Untold has always been against stand alone opinion, and opposite because you will get opinion here, although mostly backed up by logical deduction and/or evidence.
Quite probably if I had studied philosophy in my younger days I might have made the rule “you are only entitled to what you can argue for” (on the basis that most opinions are not constructed in any meaningful way, but are simply statements of belief). But I didn’t, so I won’t.
So we have two sides of the argument going on here. On the one hand there are the people who express annoyance at at the fact Untold publishes an article that they think isn’t relevant or reasonable or on message. On the other hand we have the people who say, “I’m entitled to my opinion” which means “I can say or think whatever I like.”
And yes of course you are entitled to an opinion and you can express it too, as can as long as it does not break the law of the country you are in. But in my view there are tens of thousands of football sites where you can express an opinion, so why should we clutter up Untold with more and more opinions without evidence?
As I started writing this, I did in fact pause to take a look at a bit of basic philosophy and found the idea that one of the big problems with unmitigated opinion giving is that it leads to the “false equivalence between experts and non-experts that is an increasingly pernicious feature of our public discourse.”
Quite so. That doesn’t mean that “experts” are always right, and does not imply that we should not examine closely what experts say, and exactly where their level of expertise lies. But by and large, given the choice, if the question were raised about what I should do about the pain in my right wrist as I write this, I’d be more inclined to take note of a qualified wrist doctor, rather than a six year old child.
Likewise I tend to take more note of writers in New Scientist on the issues of climate change than I do of Donald Trump.
But there is another issue in all this and that comes up with “everyone is entitled to an opinion.”
Yes of course that is true – I don’t want to stop you thinking anything you like, not that I ever could. And I am sure that you have friends and family who are interested in your opinion because they are interested in you. But for your opinion to be of interest to Untold readers it needs to meet a different criteria.
Let’s try this example: Untold sets out the opinion that seeking a change in the management of the club by getting rid of Mr Wenger is silly. I argue this by noting the statistics of what has happened when Premier League clubs get rid of their managers in recent years, and noting also that the claims that Mr Wenger should go normally do not include details of any manager who might be likely to accept the job to replace him, if he were to leave.
Now it is argued sometimes that the “Wenger Out” movement is sizeable, and therefore to have a fair debate people should be able to argue for the Wenger Out cause on this site. But for that argument to be valid the Wenger Out argument would need to have some sort of basis in logical deduction or evidence.
Since we can’t see the future we can’t actually show what would happen if someone else managed the club. But that doesn’t mean that saying Giroud is useless and we have bought too many players who have underperformed is a valid counter argument.
It is a bit like the arguments between the people who claim that MMR vaccinations cause various awful illnesses. That is a viewpoint, and so is the viewpoint that MMR has no link with these illnesses. The “everyone is entitled to an opinion” line of thinking balances these two sides and says each deserves an airing. But my argument (along with philosophers and scientists generally, I think) is that just because there are two arguments, it does not mean both are valid and equal.
If one argument is just an opinion with no backup in terms of facts or logical analysis, and the other one draws in evidence that has not been refuted, then they are not equally valid.
Now at this point I can be said to be engaging in censorship. But I really don’t think that not publishing commentaries that are opinion without evidence is censorship in the normal use of the word. Censorship is defined in the Oxford dictionary as “The suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security.” Choosing not to publish opinion that is not backed up by evidence or logical deduction is not censorship but simply a publisher exercising a choice in terms of a set of established principles.
Anyway, the other day I saw this cartoon from When Saturday Comes. I think it more or less sums up where I am at the moment.
- Alexis once again the best! A review of Arsenal players and injuries in the summer games
- Untold Arsenal offers a total, absolute and unreserved apology
- Arsenal Ladies v Sunderland – the match report
And elsewhere… on this day in history
27 June 1900: the Central line between Bank and Shepherds Bush was opened. It is reported that a number of city bankers misunderstood the name of the station at the other end of the line and took to the train for a “pleasant trip into the country”. Only a handful survived to tell the tale, but the event was commemorated in the famous London saying, “A bird in the Strand is worth two in Shepherds Bush.”