Does the Sun Have an Editorial Bias Against Arsenal?: A Look at “Talking Points”
In recent comments on this blog, a great deal of discussion has centered on whether or not certain media outlets have a “bias” against Arsenal. As a result, I, along with some of my fellow commenters, have agreed to take a closer look at this issue. The following article represents my first attempt to do so, and is focused on the Sun’s coverage of Arsenal.
In general, a good way to begin determining whether any particular media outlet is being used to conduct a “propaganda campaign” against Arsenal is to look for the symptoms. Specifically, if such a campaign is indeed occurring, one telltale sign will be the frequent repetition of certain “talking points,” which appear over and over again in articles on unrelated topics.
As summarized by Wikipedia, a “talking point in debate or discourse is a succinct statement designed to persuasively support one side taken on an issue.” As anyone who has a passing familiarity with politics will be aware, the use of these “talking points” is an essential strategic component of any political or marketing campaign. The strategy is deployed as follows:
A person seeking to influence public opinion will “strategize the most effective informational attack on a target topic and launch talking points from media personalities to saturate discourse in order to frame a debate in their favor, standardizing the responses of sympathizers to their unique cause.
When used politically in this way, the typical purpose of a talking point is to propagandize, specifically using the technique of argumentum ad nauseam, i.e. continuous repetition within media outlets until accepted as fact.”
Keeping the above definition in mind, let’s turn our attention to the media coverage of Arsenal. Is it possible that certain media outlets could be using this same “argumentum ad nauseam” tactic to influence public opinion about Arsenal? Specifically, as it relates to my analysis, is there any evidence that some unknown party might be using the Sun to conduct a “talking points” campaign that attacks Arsenal?
Well, the short and easy answer to that question is : “YES, they most certainly are.” Fortunately for us, this type of tactic is something that’s fairly easy to spot if you know what you’re looking for. Also, in this particular case, it’s made even easier by the low quality of the Sun’s journalism. In fact, their reporting about Arsenal is so repetitive that it’s difficult to NOT notice that their coverage sounds like a broken record, and just repeats the same points over and over again.
So, without further adieu, here’s a short (and very paraphrased) list of the “talking points” that the Sun is currently using when reporting about Arsenal:
1) Cesc wants to leave
2) Nasri wants to leave
3) Arsenal needs to win titles (with emphasis on 6-year trophy drought)
4) Arsenal needs to splash big cash in the transfer market and sign big-name players
5) Arsenal is in trouble
6) Arsene Wenger is in trouble
7) Arsenal’s fans are angry with them
Even without further effort on my part, all of you should already be familiar with every “point” on that list. However, what may be less clear is the REASON that these things are repeated so often. Well, it would appear that someone is, in fact, using the Sun (and other media outlets), to conduct the “technique of argumentum ad nauseam,” involving the “continuous repetition within media outlets until accepted as fact,” that I mentioned at the beginning of the article. Below, I’ll provide you with several case studies that further highlight how this is occurring.
CASE STUDY ONE: Arsenal’s “Wantaway Captain” Cesc Fabregas and his “agonizing” desire to return to Barcelona.
In this case study, I’ll focus on the repetition of the same words and phrases throughout different articles. If you note my emphasis on certain words, you’ll see how certain words and phrases (i.e. “talking points”) are being repeated over and over again. The following are excerpts taken from different Sun articles that appeared in the last couple of weeks:
Arsenal’s “WANTAWAY SKIPPER is DESPERATE not to leave [for Asia on Sunday]. Cesc is “AGONIZING over whether he should take a firm stance and refuse to go on tour in order to force through a sale.”
“Fab’s AGONIZING WAIT to seal a switch back to his boyhood club is set to continue with neither giant willing to budge. “ “Arsenal’s WANTAWAY SKIPPER was at their training ground yesterday for a series of tests.”
This “war of nerves means Fabregas faces a NAIL-BITING WAIT to find out if his dream to play senior football for his hometown club finally comes true.”
“The Gunners face a NAIL-BITING WAIT to see if their skipper turns up for the first day of pre-season training a week today.
“Cesc Fabregas is DESPERATE to seal his £37million switch to Barcelona before Arsenal return to pre-season training on Tuesday. “
“The Gunners are WAITING ANXIOUSLY to see if Barcelona up their £31million bid for Fabregas.”
As you can see from the above, the Sun is actually repeating virtually the same “points” over and over again. Also worth noting is the fact that all of the above articles (with the exception of the last one, which was unattributed) were written by a single reporter, Antony Kastrinakis. Additional research would be needed to determine the full implications of that fact. However, further examples of this same practice abound, if anyone wishes to follow up with their own research.
CASE STUDY TWO: Arsene Wenger “splashing out” in Europe.
In this case study, I’ll demonstrate the way in which the Sun will forcibly insert “talking points” into articles to which they have no relevance. In the following article, which appeared as a “news” report, the only basis for the article is a photograph of Arsene Wenger on holiday, in which he’s sliding down a water slide. However, from that one photograph, the Sun somehow managed to extrapolate the following report (note my emphasis on the “talking points” taken from the list above):
Is Arsene Wenger splashing out in Europe?
Photo caption: “SLIPPERY SLOPE … Arsene Wenger”
Some DISGRUNTLED ARSENAL FANS have thought it for a while – boss ARSENE WENGER IS ON THE SLIDE.
The long-serving manager, ATTACKED BY CRITICS FOR NOT SPLASHING OUT ON BIG NAME STARS, zoomed down an inflatable chute off a yacht in the Mediterranean.
Photo Caption: “Hand bawl … ARSENE WENGER RECALLS LIFTING A TROPHY”
An onlooker said: “Arsene seemed to be having fun. He can’t think THE CLUB IS ON A SLIPPY SLOPE.”
Arsenal, who have gone SIX YEARS WITHOUT A TROPHY, have YET TO DIP INTO THE TRANSFER MARKET. But defender Gael Clichy has left for rivals Man City – while STAR MIDFIELDERS CESC FABREGAS AND SAMIR NASRI ARE BOTH REPORTED TO WANT TO SAIL INTO THE SUNSET.”
So, in the above article, the only actual “news” to report was that Arsene Wenger slid down a water slide. However, in a somewhat illogical manner, the Sun stretched the story to include EVERY SINGLE ONE of the talking points mentioned in my list above. (Note: this article was written by Rhodri Phillips).
CASE STUDY THREE: Editorial by Ian Wright
This particular article is interesting, simply because virtually EVERY single sentence hits on one or more of the talking points that I listed. In fact, the entire article reads as if Wright could well have drafted it from a “talking points memo” listing the exact same points (which is certainly possible). (On a slightly unrelated note, this article is also noteworthy for being one of the most audacious anti-Arsenal hatchet jobs that I’ve seen in newsprint). However, moving on to the case study… What I’m going to do here is break down Wright’s entire article, and divide it into the appropriate category of “talking point”:
1) Arsenal’s fans are angry with them
“On Tuesday I was stopped… by an Arsenal fan, who asked me…’What the hell is going on with our club?’ … it sums up the mood of the supporters as this summer lurches from frustration to despair.”
“I get accused of having a go at Arsenal. But I’m only putting in bold black and white the problems that the real fans are deeply concerned about.”
“Real fans don’t give a hoot about debts. They pay a lot of money to come through the gates and they don’t want to see their heroes passing them on the way out.”
“Make the rest of English football sit up and take notice for once – not just Arsenal fans who can see the lights going out on their club.”
2) Nasri wants to leave
“Now it looks like Samir Nasri is set to join [Clichy at Man City].”3) Cesc wants to leave
“With Cesc Fabregas looking a goner to Barcelona…it’s very, very sad to see.”Cesc “has been loyal to [Arsenal] and played his best but now he can see what’s going on and looks set to go. “
4) Arsenal need to win titles (with emphasis on 6-year trophy drought)
“Clichy feels Arsenal is not good enough for him anymore [because] he can see that Man City is going to be challenging for top trophies next season.”
“Fingers crossed doesn’t work anymore. It hasn’t worked for six years since the Gunners last won a trophy.”
“Man Utd have…been in three Champions League finals in the last few years and have won Premier League trophies”5) Arsenal need to splash big cash in the transfer market and sign big-name players
ManU, Man City, Liverpool, and Chelsea are making it “clear they mean business [by] being bullish in the transfer market, and “Arsenal are being left behind.”
“Serious teams need established world-class players.”
“Arsenal should be courting the star players before they move to other big clubs. But they’re nowhere to be seen.”
Cesc is leaving because he “has clearly recognised the fact that Arsenal will not be competing with their rivals in the transfer market.”
“What I’d like to see are some bullish signings.”
Arsenal should sign Essien, Kompany, and Joe Hart.6) Arsenal is in trouble
“Since when did Arsenal become Manchester City’s feeder club?”
“How on earth will Arsene Wenger attract any top players to Arsenal?”
“It’s come to something when a player like Clichy feels Arsenal is not good enough for him anymore.”
Man City “won’t have to go through Champions League qualification, unlike Arsenal”
“Arsenal are being left behind. And the trouble is, when all the top-class players have gone, it becomes extremely difficult to lure other top players to your club.”
“The whole transfer thing is like a house of cards. Once one big name wants out, the rest see it and it all comes tumbling down.”
If ManU “went on the market, it would be sold within a week. Would that happen with Arsenal? I’m not so sure.”
“Right now, I can’t see Arsenal challenging for the Premier League title next season, which is seriously depressing in July!”
7) Arsene Wenger is in trouble
“Wenger has put his faith in picking up little gems from abroad, little-known players who he can nurture and develop. All very well. But he has filled the dressing room with players who ‘owe’ him. It’s a nice cosy arrangement.”
Wenger has “been asking too much of the young players he’s brought through.”
“What’s Wenger doing?…Downing, Jones, Henderson. Even Young. They might not be the sort of players Wenger likes but at least those other clubs are having a go.”
“I’d love to see Wenger being given the same sort of transfer pot [as Mourinho]…But I have my suspicions that he would still dither about, take too long to make up his mind and then plump for someone in France or Spain hardly any of us have ever heard of.”
“Wenger is still the right man for the job but…I do feel that sometimes he needs a good shaking.”
So, there you have it. If you follow the above link and look at the actual article, you’ll see that there isn’t a SINGLE sentence (aside from a few transitional ones) that does not fall into one or more of the above “talking point” categories. Is that likely to happen by accident?
In addition to the case studies above, the following articles provide some additional examples of other ways that the Sun has made use of these same talking points:
“Paul Scholes has told SAMIR NASRI to join Manchester United. Scholes said: ‘Arsenal play the best football to watch at times. But WHAT IS THE POINT IF YOU ARE NOT WINNING ANYTHING?’”
“SAMIR NASRI claims a LACK OF SUCCESS could force him out of Arsenal. “
“Walcott is desperate to see both FABREGAS and NASRI stay as well as BIG NAMES COME IN to help end a BAREN SPELL for the club that has left FANS FROTHING AT THE MOUTH . He declared: ‘I don’t know what is going to happen with CESC. He WANTS TO WIN things and it’s difficult for him. ‘”
“If Wenger does not BRING IN BIG NAMES, Van Persie might reject a new deal. ..Van Persie will be reluctant to commit his long-term future unless there are signs of real progress. That means TOP-DRAWER ARRIVALS.”
“Following Arsenal’s end-of-campaign COLLAPSE IN FORM, FRUSTRATED FOLLOWERS screamed at both the board and WENGER demanding MAJOR SUMMER SIGNINGS be made.”
(Note: this article is by Antony Kastrinakis AGAIN).
So, anyway, the above concludes my analysis of the Sun’s “talking points” campaign targeting Arsenal. If anyone feels that I have not provided sufficient evidence that such a campaign exists, the amount of additional evidence that can be found in the pages of the Sun is ample, to say the least.
Although many of the articles I cited are actually attributable to a single reporter (Antony Kastrinakis), I believe that there is still sufficient variation in the authorship to display an editorial bent as well. Remember, every single one of these articles has to go past an editor’s desk before it is published. In fact, it’s possible that Kastrinakis is just the reporter covering this particular beat, and that the talking points are being inserted by the editor after the fact. More research will be needed to get to the bottom of this issue.
Also, before I conclude, I would like to highlight one additional issue that arises with regard to the Sun’s coverage of Arsenal. Specifically, the paper also appears to have a tendency to throw cheap insults at Arsenal players without apparent provocation. For example, the following article was based on nothing more than a picture of Bendtner asleep on a sofa:
“ARSENAL fans have always known Nicklas Bendtner was a dozy so and so… and finally here’s the proof. The Danish striker, 23, is usually caught napping in the box but needed 40 winks at training yesterday – on the Gunners’ first day back after the summer break.” (note: this article is unattributed).
Similarly, the following one-sentence report, accompanied by a picture of Denilson, appears to have had no factual basis whatsoever, and to have just been thrown in for spite (as far as I can tell):
Photo Caption: “MISERY … Arsenal flop Denilson”
Again, if you wish to find additional evidence that this trend exists, you need look no further than the pages of the Sun.
- Why is it becoming so difficult to find a sponsor for new football stadium?
- Corruption flares up again in Italy, as Premier League figures don’t look too clever
- How much does a club have to spend on transfers to get a trophy?
- Does the team that is top after 14 games usually go on to win the league?
- How the Taliban infiltrated the World Cup and used it to maintain its war on women