By Tony Attwood
Football has a problem. A very simple problem, and like all very simple problems there is a simple solution – if only those in authority didn’t actually prefer the problem.
The issue here is the reporting of Mikel Arteta’s response to the VAR events in the Newcastle game – in particular the repeated use of the word “rant” in multiple publications. As in… “Mikel Arteta’s rant was went too far but Premier League referees are a laughing stock” says the Telegraph [and no that “was” is not my mistake – that is what the headline says, at least at 1106 today. It has since been changed.]
The article begins, “There is no doubt that Mikel Arteta overstepped the mark by labelling the officiating “embarrassing” and “disgraceful” following Arsenal’s defeat to Newcastle….”
As they say, “The second part of the Var review, the push by Joelinton on Gabriel, should have ruled the goal out. The Newcastle midfielder has his arms outstretched and straightened which alludes to a clear and obvious shove, “
The only conclusion one can reach about why Arteta’s response was wrong is that Arteta failed to shut up and accept his punishment as if he were a child who had been hauled up in front of the headteacher in a school.
But this is not school, and millions of pounds are at stake here, and there’s no doubt VAR was wrong. Indeed as the Telegraph says, “The decision to allow it to stand was a clear case of Var not performing to the standard it should be and failing to advise Attwell on numerous occasions.”
Which raises the question, why then focus on Arteta, calling his statement a “rant.” And in what way did it go “too far”? How can one go “too far” when officialdom gets it wrong and millions of pounds are potentially at stake?
But “rant” it was. And not just in the Telegraph. Football.London, anxious as ever to knock Arsenal put up the headline “Every word of Mikel Arteta’s furious VAR rant after Arsenal’s ‘disgraceful’ Newcastle defeat.”
And the Mirror also uses “rant” as in “Arsenal news: Mikel Arteta launches incredible rant as David Raya questioned once again.”
The Daily Star says “Mikel Arteta goes on epic rant over ‘embarrassing’ Newcastle goal after three VAR checks”
TBR come in with, Alan Shearer issues two-word verdict on Mikel Arteta’s rant …
Football 365 comes in with “Arteta rant revealed.”
And so it goes on and on – always that same word when in fact one might expect independent writers with some basic grasp of the language at least to express their own opinion by using other nouns and phrases such as “tirade”, “pontification”, “bluster”, “harangue”, “diatribe”, “broadside, “onslaught” … But no, all we get is “rant”, “rant” and then again “rant”.
So what does this imply?
One might suggest a lack of imagination by journalists of course, but the fact that this word “rant” was used to describe Arteta’s expression of annoyance in mutiple publications, which suggests a certain implicit agreement among journalists as to how the events were going to be described.
But why would they do that?
Quite simply because if most people writing about an event describe it in the same way, then very quickly in the readers’ minds the story becomes established as factual. The story is “Arteta’s rant” not the fact that VAR made an absolute pig’s ear of the situation and got it totally wrong.
And that matters because if most media outlets portray a situation in the same way then the readership tends more and more to believe in the media. After all, if they are all saying the same thing, then surely it must be right!
Indeed if everyone says that the earth goes round the sun, then we accept that to be true, even though the passage of the sun across the sky each day suggests the opposite.
But there is an important point here. First, we are not getting independent journalism and reporting here; we are getting an agreed way of portraying a set of events – agreed by the journalists and their copy editors (the people who write the headlines). In short we get no suggestion even of doubt – let alone an expression that Arteta was right in what he said. We are getting a unified view from the media – even down to an agreement on what word to use to describe what happened.
This shows how determined the media is to influence how we think about situations. It also shows why nothing is being done to tackle the problems within PGMO. The media agree, this is not an issue. So, it’s not an issue.
Because virtually all the media agree Arteta’s comments should be described in the utterly negative word “rant” (meaning a person talking in an impassioned way without any logical basis or accuracy in what they are saying) that now defines Arteta and Arsenal. Whereas in fact the people who are actually ranting are the journalists and copywriters. They are, in this unified manner, telling us how to think about Arteta and Arsenal while removing all attention from the referee and VAR.
Why the media do this is of course a matter of a different debate which we’ll come to that later. But for today perhaps we should just note the unified way in which the media is projecting Arteta negatively, while protecting the referee and VAR assistants rather than examining their actions.
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