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10 years of Untold: the shock of the comment

By Tony Attwood

When I started Untold ten years ago I didn’t have any particular thoughts about the comments the site might receive – my main concern was in putting out a point of view that I felt was either unrepresented or at least very under-represented at that time.

But as the audience grew, and with it the number of comments, I realised I had an awful lot to learn about people, and the way they see the world.

Maybe I was just living in a bubble, having had a very sheltered life, but I wasn’t really ready for the fact that so many people either didn’t understand what I meant by the word “evidence” or genuinely didn’t understand the benefit of using evidence in what I would consider the normal way.

Abuse, death threats, ok I expected those, and the latter get referred to the police.  But the straight contradictions I found extraordinary.   I say x with some evidence, and people write in and say “no you are wrong”, without any evidence and that’s that.

What I also found strange was that people would write in, without having any idea of what sort of website they are writing to.  I mean, the site says that it supports the club, the players and the manager, and then people write in to abuse the the players and the manager.  So I very quickly put up a guidelines page on comments – and found that most people ignored it.

And then I found I was getting emails of abuse followed by complaints that the email of abuse had not been published.  Indeed there are, it seems, people who actually think they have the right to demand to be published on the site.  In fact, to take it to a higher level, I had an email recently that both demanded that this be published and was abusive towards me at the same time.  (I also introduced a rule that said that I wouldn’t publish comments that said “you probably won’t publish this” but I still get loads of comments with exactly that phrase in it.  Fortunately most of them are removed automatically, although one person did try to get round the phrase in French.  10 out of 10 for initiative but I didn’t publish it).

This was perhaps only beaten in oddity by the person who wrote in and told me that I had received a lot of evidence from readers to counter my view on referees, but I had refused to publish it.

Perhaps we might pause for a moment to think about that and take it from two possible angles.

First, let’s imagine that I did receive a lot of emails providing evidence that our referee reviews were repeatedly wrong and biased, and I had hidden that fact and continued to write to the effect that the 160 game review (for example) had not been shown to be biased.   Is it likely, in that scenario that I would publish an email saying that this counter-evidence had been received and that I had deliberately hidden it?  If I was hiding evidence, why would I suddenly admit it?

Second, let’s imagine I did not receive such emails, and that there was very little evidence suggesting we were wrong.  Would I then publish an email saying that I was hiding such imaginary counter-evidence?  Again, I can’t imagine that.

In short, I’ve got to the stage where I just don’t understand the motivation of many of the abusers and detractors.  I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with them, it is just that we exist within different logic systems.

What I’ve always been certain we would not do is what one Daily Mail supported blog did and that was take the comments of a reader and then change them in order to try and make the reader look foolish.  Actions like that just reflect on the web site and its owners, and I deplore such an approach.

I guess therefore the fundamental of Untold has been lost on many people, which was that there are many, many websites that publish criticism of Arsenal, so I set up a website to focus on the areas that other websites miss, and which would use evidence as its base point.

Time and again I get people arguing that I should allow all opinion here, but I still don’t see why I should.  I don’t expect the Mail to publish an article that says Jeremy Corbyn’s policies are worth pursuing.  I don’t expect the myriad of bloggettas that criticise Mr Wenger every day suddenly to publish a piece in praise of him.  I don’t expect the Metro which clearly doesn’t know logic from a log of wood to publish evidence based stories, so why should Untold have to follow a rule of “balance” which no one else follows?

There is also the view that because I have not published comment x because it contained abuse then I am some type of biased moron because comment y which also contained abuse, was published. I don’t have the resources to check everything in real time all the time.

So when I started I was naive, believing that people would understand that I was pretty much running the publishing side of this on my own, but no, some don’t make allowances.  I’ve coped by introducing automatic systems that get rid of many of the comments that come in which are in breach of our rules, but it seems that’s not enough.  For some people the right to rant seems to be something enshrined in an imaginary constitution that exists in their heads.

Over 10 years I’ve learned a huge amount about supporters of Arsenal and other teams.  The bile, anger and bitterness that emanates from some, contrasting with the logic, understanding and gentleness of others.  It doesn’t make me want to stop, but it leaves me feeling a bit sadder.

What I am left wondering though is why people bother to send in abuse.  Everyone must know the abuse and the contrary pieces without evidence are very unlikely to be published, so what’s the point?

It beats me.

10 Years of Untold Arsenal: the issue of referees, corruption and non-reporting

10 Years of Untold: trying to change football by being different

28 comments to 10 years of Untold: the shock of the comment

  • Sam

    Good work Mr Tony, Please check the way your blog is diplaying on mobile phones. The dont come out well. Pleae work on that please.

  • Simeon Low

    Keep going, it’s really refreshing to read your blog when most of the others on offer have the logic and intelligence of a drunk arguing with his own reflection. Even in the face of yesterday’s debacle (I was there – for my sins) I will not abuse the team or management for a bad game. I want improvement but firmly believe we would be 2nd in the league if officials could do their jobs. What I did notice yesterday was how toxic the atmosphere was in the away end, surrounded by people spouting 2nd hand opinions from pundits far and wide. Not an individual thought amongst them, our misery is money in the bank for pundits media alike and sadly we are like shooting fish in a barrel when it comes to wind ups.

    Here’s hoping Wednesday is good but even if it’s a stunning success many will find fault and twist the outcome to fit an agenda. Just like all those who spent their time bemoaning why we couldn’t playing like that every week after the NLD win, instead of enjoying the well won bragging rights.
    ‘Never happy’ will be our fanbase’s epitaph.

  • rupert cook

    Evidence, that’s a tough one. An awful lot of comments on here aren’t fact-based, they’re just opinions. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that if the person commenting says it’s just an opinion.

    For instance in the post by Simeon Low he firmly believes we’d be second if the officials had done their jobs properly. There’s no evidence for this, he just declares he believes it. So it’s a rather flimsy belief. But that’s fine, I wish we were second too, well first actually but I think we will probably have to accept as a fact that Man City are a better team than us.

    And evidence can be rather fantastical at times. One season, I think it was the 15/16 season, Andrew Crenshaw calculated that if the refs had been proficient at their jobs we’d have had 107 pts. Now I like positivism as much as the next man but to do that we’d have had to have won 35 games, drawn two and lost one. Even Man City probably won’t manage that this year. I mean that squad was a decent one but I don’t think it was that good.

    All this leads one to wonder where opinions cease and evidence begins.

  • AFC Nemesis

    Tony.

    I am afraid the onset of social media has provided an anonymous way to bully, intimate and abuse. Sites like Facebook, twitter and of course blogs like this, are great vehicles for cowards and social failures to be nasty. These are people who have an air of self importance and the deluded belief their opinion is the only opinion that is right.

    Unfortunately, the media has a lot to do with this. You only have to listen to Talksport to see the way their presenters snarl and abuse while encouraging their listeners to reciprocate. Sunday Supplement is no different, they spend their entire time criticising and making fun of someone. Its horrible but it’s the modern world. Its not nice.

    There is a blog I once read where I was stunned by the comment section. Seriously shocked. A recent Arsenal defeat had resulted in a wide variety of nasty individuals t wishing death, ill health and worse (yes, it is possible) on the Arsenal Manager. To my knowledge he has not been convicted of mass murder or some other hideous crime, yet he was being abused as if he was. Quite incredible really.

    There is nothing you can do about society’s ills or the people who aren’t intelligent enough to debate sensibly.These people are morons, nothing else.

    Keep writing, if people don’t like what you write then you are probably doing something right.

  • I disagree. Evidence in scientific subjects is gathered and analysed and there is near universal acceptance of what evidence is and what is not evidence and how to measure it.

  • John L

    Tony, I congratulate you for your work on this site and I believe that your analysis of much of the mainstream media is spot-on.

    Today’s Guardian article considering how VAR might impact on the game had only one reference to any actual incident, which turned out to be a snide insinuation that Jack Wilshere is a diver. They might have made similar reference to Hazard, but didn’t do so. They might have mentioned the deliberate leg- breaking foul on Jack, committed by the Manchester United player, McNair, under the nose of Mike Dean, which was not even considered a foul, but they didn’t – and so on and so on.

    Thank you and keep up the good work.

  • Yommex

    Congratulation Tony. I think I stumbled upon the Untold Arsenal site shortly after you started ten years ago. I have thoroughly enjoyed most of the articles and more often than not read through all the comments. I can relate with your shock at some of the comments and noticed your immense improvement at responding/ reacting to some idiotic comments. Some will say your skin has grown thicker.

    You and your team have simply been terrific over these years. I commend your doggedness for staying true to your vision. Keep it up.

  • omgarsenal

    Tony…..as AFC Nemesis rightly points out, the anonymity of the Net allows any Tom,Dick and Harry (or Tomasina, Dale and Hariette) to spew whatever filth and hate they want without fear of recriminations or punishment. However there is another set of parameters that encourages these people to hide their true agendas and motives:

    1)Anonymity protects the COWARD from having to face reality, so they indulge in behaviour (verbal)that is bullying, gross and offensive because they don’t have the courage of their convictions.
    2) There are quite a few people out there who suffer from serious emotional and affective issues, yet who can function in the real world because they profit from the NET to vent their frustrations and evil fantasies indiscriminately.
    3) Feelings have now become the new truth so these souls present their feelings as proof and evidence. Trump and his followers do this and are experts in denying reality based on their conviction that they are right because they feel they are.
    4) Your average person cannot take the time or the energy to research like UA does and really don’t want to either. They throw the cat among the pigeons and see what feathers get ruffled….it is a vicarious pleasure for them and very rewarding emotionally.

    I recently wrote an article about how Trumpists use 3 basic techniques to deny reality. These 3 approaches are a perfect example of what the NET allows to prosper.

  • JJGSOL

    Can I also thank you for your efforts.

    Before I started coming to this blog, I avidly followed another one. The main articles were well thought out and interesting, as were the comments and good tempered debate was the norm.

    However, as time went on, and, I suppose, the team’s success, or lack of it became more of an issue, and, as is usual now, finger pointing became the standard, with it aimed well and truly in the manager’s direction.

    A friendly and pleasant atmosphere slowly turned into the opposite, with abuse aimed at the few, like myself, who disagreed with the majority and refused to join in with insults and abuse, or even tried to counter them.

    It became worse as the writer of the blog started to join in himself and I knew it was time to leave.

    I came here where I feel I am with like-minded people. Supporters of the club, who have seen the bad days and who have appreciated the good ones and for whom winning everything in sight is not the be all and end all of life.

    I occasionally have a look there, but, although the main article is till of good quality the comments are simply more regurgitation of the rubbish that I saw before.

    I have supported the club for a long time and want to see and hear positive things about it. I am simply not interested to]spend my time reading negative and abusive matters against the club and its manager and players.

    The well researched articles here clearly show how much love and effort you and your colleagues put into them. I may not always agree with everything said, but I have not done the research, and above all I have not even one millionth of the knowledge and experience of AW to be able to criticise him.

    Thanks again.

  • tope

    Couldn’t have said it better. Well done man

  • Mandy Dodd

    Keep it up for another decade and more.
    If some people are that sad, bitter, angry, that’s their problem, just feel for their family members if they are that unhinged

  • tope

    Tony, nobody asks you to publish articles from dissenters, however censoring comments to remove those that don’t agree with the party manifesto? 🙂
    It’s strange when serial abusers (like menace, Omg) get their abuses across, you claim your resources are not enough to catch them , but when other posters follow suit, suddenly you have adequate resources to do the job. Frankly I think as long as your abuse is for a “good cause”(in support of lord Wenger), untold is okay with it

  • doc

    You are true to your mission! I salute you, sir!!

  • Pat

    Untold is a haven of sense and rationality in this strange and illogical anti Arsenal world. So glad I found it. Thank you Tony!

  • Va Cong

    Keep up the good work! can’t believe its been 10 years since I followed your amazing website

  • omgarsenal

    tope……………another unsubstantiated claim from a sniper hiding behind their internet anonymity. Show me ANY examples of abuse I have directed at anyone,including you. Unless you consider rational argument and evidence based facts as abuse,then we can’t help you. Better still, write an article for us outlining what you consider abuse from UA or tolerated by UA and we’ll see how our readers react….but I am certain you aren’t interested in backing up your rhetoric with facts. Sorry If you feel abused!

  • Menace

    dope -nice to know I am remembered. I do have some issues with spelling.

    Thank you Tony for a wonderful blogg & I hope I have contributed in some ways by my fishing skills. Incidentally I throw tope back into the sea. 😉 😉 😉

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Keep up the good fight , Tony . We are with you on this quest for truth and justice. No matter how long it takes . We are not quitting this fight.

    To those who disagree , why don’t you do the right thing by leaving gracefully and not by fouling up the place ? After all what harm could one lone blog do?

    Unless of course we are NOT deluded , but are right in that there is something not quite right with the EPL and its attendant associates.

    Up the Gunners !

  • Well done Tony for staying the distance, quitting is not an option, for I don’t think you have achieved your desired targets yet. Anyone can start a blog but staying the course is a different kettle of fish. Those who choose to abuse in order to score a point miss it. Perhaps they could set one up in order to counter Untold Arsenal in their own ways without evidence or logic and see how they fare. The EPL is still not yet delivering a wholesome package. Keep it up.

  • Arsenal_62

    here’s to another 1600 hours’evidence of Wenger Against the World. Cheers!

  • rupert cook

    @Tony Attwood, in scientific subjects evidence is easy to obtain but football isn’t scientific. A foul is often difficult to establish, for instance that kick on Hazard’s foot. Was it intentional, did Hazard milk it? It was debated by various punters and some said it was a foul, others didn’t. Even VAR can’t solve it all but it’s an essential step forward.

    And as I’ve said before one man analysing a foul in his armchair at home with numerous different angles to help him come to a decision is very different from a ref actually dealing with an incident in real time.

  • MickHazel

    Nobody forces you to read it Arsenal_62.

  • And as I have said many times before Rupert, if the PGMO said that, I could easily accept it. But they make their claims about 98% accuracy, and so I want to see the evidence. And I keep coming back to this because the PGMO is running refereeing in a way that is quite different from the rest of Europe. On the surface that looks dangerous because it makes it much easier for Type III match fixing to operate. So I really would like to see an analysis by them which is equivalent to our 160 games with video clips.

    The fact is that they won’t publish such evidence, but they do publish their 98% and similar figures, so I am asking where that comes from.

  • Gooner S

    I’ve been reading this blog/site for a long time. Has it been 10 years of me reading it? I hadn’t really thought about it until this article but I guess so. It is now the only one I read and has been for some time. All others have been discarded which incidentally includes me deciding, long ago, to stop buying fanzines such as The Gooner on match days.

    Anyway, to your question about why people don’t get the purpose of the site. I think there are two pieces to the answer here:

    1: Your site is pretty unique. Most (all?) of the others seem to be a ‘me too’ blog. Consequently when someone sees one of your published articles, probably from a feed of some sort they are already approaching the article in the way they would do with others published elsewhere. I fear that few people (including me) read guidelines on sites.
    2: The tag line of the site. “Supporting the club, the manager and the team”. It’s a subtle point including “the Manager” and “the Team”. Too subtle for the world that football supporters inhabit? Also the word “Supporting”; many of the critics and abusers no doubt feel that they support the club in a better way than you or I.I wouldn’t bother justifying yourself or the site anymore.

    Keep up the good work. The content published here is never boring and often fascinating.

  • Gooner S

    How are PGMOL measuring accuracy? This implies some sort of method, guidelines and a set of business rules. What are these? What examples do PGMOL have that support their methods and rules that would demonstrate their validity?

  • Menace

    Gooner S – It appears they use the blind method. They choose what to see & how to see it.

  • Florian

    Tony,

    You got me in trouble numerous times for defending the club, players and the manager against the trolls on some Facebook groups, using facts and logic reasoning to counter the venom that has become quite ubiquitous here too, on the other side of the Atlantic as well as in my home country. Been fighting them for days sometimes, almost got banned, but always prevailed in the end, thanks to the power of the hard evidence. I will always thank the day I discovered your blog, some 7 years ago. The world is a bearable place thanks to people like you. I know nothing lasts forever, but sometimes I wish Untold could continue forever. Until then, as Whitesnake used to sing, Sail your ship across the sky!

  • Kenneth Widmerpool

    Its important the site keeps running,and thanks to you Tony and Walter,and everyone else. Im not sure any site, even those with tough door policies are places of pure harmony on their forums. I dont know what it is about the internet but even on forums about comics and graphic novels, and forums on classical music people are at one anothers throats, of course the world of twitter and its “peoples court” is the worst.
    The oddest arguments I saw over the last few days are re Wenger losing his legacy years ago, (eh?)and how the FA cup now means nothing.
    In my 40 years Arsenal have never dominated like Liverpool did or Man U did in recent years, and AW was the man who transformed the club, taking us to place like nobody before (in my time).
    If the FAC mean nix and then take away the AW trophy years, and the league cups which if the FAC is nix, then that is-what are we left with? A legacy like PNE or the Royal Engineers-and take away the FAcs from the 30s and 50s what then?
    If GG or Terry Neill would have won three FACs in four year they would now be Bunyanised beyond all recognition?
    Lets face it,even the league cup now means something as much as top four,it always did, always has.
    I wonder if Arsenal outside of singular moments will ever be united again?
    Im just hoping for a win tonight and in the second leg and then for us to beat City. The Europa league seems far away, but even winning that would be a massive help.

    COYG!