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A pigeon flies across the sky. Why the media employs vegetables as experts.

By Tony Attwood

“It shows well the state of our society that, when people are generous, we are surprised,” Mr Wenger said after the match. “We are even more surprised when it is footballers and strikers.”

He was speaking about Aubameyang giving up the chance of a hattrick with the final penalty, to help Lacazette get back on the game trail before Thursday.

People follow their own beliefs and habits, and it takes a huge nudge to get them out of that mode of thinking.

While I was thinking on this, one of our friends in Europe who feeds in to the Untold Bunkers (we used to be in Untold Towers but the drones got too intrusive) articles of interest from the world’s press a piece the title of which translates as “It’s all about thought control.”

The article is about the way the internet is censored in China, and a study published by Stamford University (who, if you know your universities, you will know does not publish anything in its name without it being checked, re-checked and then verified again a dozen times) of how a group of 1,800 Chinese students resident in Beijing responded when the government allowed them to view the whole internet, not just the Chinese censorship allowed part.

The researchers provided participants with tunnel software for 18 months free of charge. Result number one: even after six reminders only 53% of the students activated the software.

The researchers were particularly interested in this question: how many students would end up taking the opportunity to surf on foreign news websites blocked in China such as the Chinese-language edition of The New York Times? It was not even five percent of those who had even activated their tunnel.  And this in a group of students who visited one of the most famous and liberal universities in China.

Censorship, this study suggests (and it is something that social scientists in the west have verified time and again in experiments), does not work because the regime makes access to free information difficult – “but because it creates an environment in which citizens do not even think about asking for such information,” according to the authors write the study.

But when the students do see something exciting and valuable hidden outside the wall, interest is rapidly increased and the students began to consume regularly the information they could find that was not available in China. In the end, the researchers in China reported “substantial and sustained shift in their knowledge, beliefs and attitudes”. The students’ confidence in China’s government had dropped significantly. They became more pessimistic in their assessment of economic development. And many expressed the conviction that China’s political and economic system needed fundamental change.

I mention this at length because absolute control over news is only one way of controlling the consciousness and awareness of others.  Another is to have a free and open news media but to have the majority of the media always follow one line, not matter how clearly it is false so that people come to believe it is reflecting reality, because all the media says much the same.

An example was yesterday’s “he touched the ball” incident in the Stoke match.  Everyone says it, the majority believes it must be valid.   In the larger scheme of things it is not important, but it showed us how all the “experts” and pundits and indeed even a so-called manager could all trot out the same untruth (that he touched the ball therefore it was not a penalty) and actually believe it.   They, like the majority of Chinese students, had no interest at all in checking with any broader reality (in this case the laws of the game).

Yesterday the referee got the matter right, it was a penalty, and Blacksheep and I considered this matter on the train away from Finsbury Park in relation to Type III match fixing.  This was the approach repeatedly used in Italy in their 2006 Calciopoli  scandal in which the owner of club A asks a referee to help ensure club B draws when it might otherwise win, or lose when it might otherwise draw.  It is very hard to spot since club A is fixing matches that it is not involved in to keep its rivals.

If Type III fixing were present in the PL (as Untold has suggested could be the case) then we would not expect any Arsenal matches to be fixed now, since Arsenal’s results are not going to affect the top positions, and the bottom clubs rarely have enough money or power to influence referees in such a way.

Just as the actual rule about whether “he touched the ball” is relevant or not the media don’t care – they go on repeating it.  Not because they are trying to warp our minds, but like the Chinese students like they are not interested in going beyond the barricade.  Because the notion that Type III match fixing exists in the PL would undermine their vision of football, they don’t ever mention it.  Again like the Chinese media.

I started by quoting Mr Wenger saying, “It shows well the state of our society that, when people are generous, we are surprised.”  We are surprised because while we all like to think we are free thinking and open to all arguments and possibilities, most people will carry on behind the barricades thinking along Party lines, even when the Party keeps prodding them to look beyond the wall.

A pigeon flies across the sky and drops a present which hits the referee on the face distracting him so he can’t see if a goal is scored or not.  What does he do?  He asks his assistants for help and gets a towel and sponge with some antiseptic to wipe around his face.   The rules don’t say he should do this, but we don’t have rules for everything.  However we do have some, and it is helpful if those who set themselves up as experts and who endlessly pontificate know what those rules are, rather than act as vegetables.

If they don’t know the rules – as was clearly shown yesterday – we might begin to wonder about the strange stories we are being told about the nature of football in England.  And why.

Put another way: they don’t know the rule about “he touched the ball” which is pretty important.  Why else don’t they know?

7 comments to A pigeon flies across the sky. Why the media employs vegetables as experts.

  • PTO

    Tony
    Pleased to see that you’re now acknowledging that all the media were in involved in this ‘he touched the ball’ mantra, and not just the one Guardian journalist who was as incorrect as the rest of them, but being unfairly singled out. IMO.

  • Vivek Arulnathan

    You keep mentioning the law. Maybe your criticism should be about how vague that law is, how much room it leaves for interpretation and be happy that generally, referees follow a standard guideline as to whether the defender gets the ball or not.

    Instead of criticizing journalists, criticise the law. That’s the first problem. Maybe in your campaign against media standards, you are missing what the problem is to begin with.

  • Maybe Vivek, although at the moment I don’t think so. But as our guidelines say, if you want to contribute an article for the site which covers the area we are missing, I shall be delighted to consider it for publication.

  • chris

    IMHO, Auba redeemed himself in my eyes. I was left with a strange feeling with all the balooney around his circus to leave Dortmund.
    I’m impressed by the guy, on the human side.
    His decision was a free gift to a fellow plyer he’s known for what ? 8 weeks ? 10 weeks, with whom he must have trained for half that time at most.

    Not sure Alexis Sanchez would have acted the same way, and definitely Neymar would have not.

    Being a team player is part of football and to me it is a real positive to have someone like him on board.

    Talking of transfers, where has Alexis gone ? Not hearing much about him… and about Giroud same thing – which I feel very sorry for him.
    The grass is always greener….

  • porter

    Not sure that Giroud wanted anything else than to play and if we believe certain reports he was told that he would not here, I can’t blame him for moving on.
    Sanchez was however a different thing altogether.

  • Nitram

    Porter

    I feel the same about Giroud. I think he just wanted to play to give himself the best chance possible of going to the World cup.

    I think he and Wenger were honest with each other and decided it was best for Giroud if he went to Chelsea.

    I really liked the guy and I think he really liked Arsenal and definitely would of stayed if he could.

    I hope he gets his World Cup place.

  • Giroud left because it made sense for us and him! He wante to stay, Wenger did likewise, but he required us to play to his strengths and without runners beyond and a goalscoring 10 it was a tough ask.

    Aubameyang is perfect for us, 5 in 6 for panic buy!

    I missed the live game as I fell asleep, but the lack of law, allows intentionally the vague interpretation of the law for its intentional abuse.

    The abuse is actually the intentional and encouraged or given legitimacy, by fools and the media, the media have a responsibility and thus we see that something is amiss, when a false statement isn’t given and repeated, you begin to consider collusion, that is what any match fixing would involve.

    I think the Giardian always deserves special mention, few other outlets proport to be something they clearly are not, BBC, Channel4 don’t half get it wrong sometimes, as with ITV, but over the last decad I do, was the sameness guy running all of them!

    Good article! How does Pierre have to redeem himself? What did he do wrong? He thought for the club an. That would have been quick hat trick since debut and in the league.

    Alexis jumped ship wrong time! Prob wouldn’t have done likewise, but not many woils!

    Toby, cross capital! Max come on mate, Jack I liked it!