In 1886 William Stead (the campaigning editor of the Pall Mall Gazette – one of the very first ‘tabloid’ style newspapers) declared that:
“Nothing can ever get itself accomplished nowadays without sensationalism. In politics, social reform, it is indispensable”
What Stead realised was that the press (the only media available in late Victorian Britain) had tremendous power. And Stead used that power to push through reforms he believed in. But he knew also that if he exaggerated and manipulated news he would also ensure that more and more people chose his paper over that of his rivals. In this Stead was a very modern newspaper editor, and he introduced headlines for dramatic effect, transforming the way in which papers looked and were read forever.
As one academic put it in the 1880s journalism became the ‘art of structuring reality, rather than recording it’.
At the moment you are probably thinking…what has all this got to do with football, let alone Arsenal? Bear with me…
The tabloid press has been developing (I won’t say ‘evolving’ because that suggests improvement) since the 1880s and many of those that cut their teeth as early editors and newspaper pioneers consolidated their power in the early twentieth century.
So, for example, Alfred Harmsworth (who published a paper called Answers to Correspondents from 1888 onwards) earned enough money from that to launch the Daily Mail in 1896 and the Daily Mirror in 1903. Harmsworth was elevated to the peerage a year later and effectively dominated the press like no man had before (or arguably since).
Boring…get on with the Arsenal bit!
Sorry, but the background matters. This country’s papers are owned by a small and select group of people and they have always been as interested in influencing public opinion as they in representing it. We buy papers to find out what happens (or we used to) but the news that papers tell us is highly selective.
More importantly the way they present news (the ‘spin’) reflects the personal agendas of the owners of the newspapers and their political allegiances.
During the interwar period (1919-1939) Northcliffe’s papers ostensibly backed the British fascist Oswald Mosely and argued that Hitler was someone we could do business with. How ironic that just recently The Mail chose to vilify Ed Milliband’s father (someone who fought for this country during the war Hitler caused) as unpatriotic.
So throughout the late 1970s the Tory press laid into the Labour government and helped propel Mrs Thatcher into power. Once there it championed her each and every action.
But the casual way in which the tabloid boil complex issues down to base headlines has also been a feature of sports journalism.
Who can forget the hatchet job the press has done on anyone daft enough to take the England manager’s job?
Or more recently the Sun’s amusing take on Roy Hodgson’s speech impediment.
Lest we place all the blame on the Current Bun we are all too aware of how these hatchet jobs have been used against our own team, players and managers by a variety of journalists some (like John Cross of the Mirror) who even claim to be Arsenal fans!
After the Munich game the Mail Online published this article by so-called journalist Neil Ashton accusing Mesut of being lazy and challenging M. Wenger to ‘rescue’ him. The Mirror followed suit with this in which Cross (affectionately known as ‘Crossy’ by some Gooners) referred to Ozil’s ‘humiliation’ at being substituted, notwithstanding the FACT that the midfielder had suffered a hamstring injury.
But the press aren’t interested in facts, only in stories. Much of this is fabricated, exaggerated, manipulated, and distorted to fit THEIR agenda. Tony and Walter have written about this many times on Untold.
Just like their ancestors in the late 19thth and early 20th centuries the press is a machine that grinds the life out of anything good. It belittles, it crushes the spirit and it does so out of pique, for financial gain and simply because we have given it the power to do so (buy buying its papers and swallowing its content).
So here’s the thing, I’ve had enough of all this bullsh*t from the press (more often but not always just the gutter press) and for the last six months I’ve stopped buying papers. Not even the dear old Guardian. Moreover, I don’t read the freebies on the tube or borrow my mate’s copies.
I am engaged in a one man boycott of the British press.
And do you know what? I’m fine. I survive. My life has not been materially affected for the worse.
Amazingly I still have opinions.
My own opinions; opinions based on what I see with my own eyes. I watch Ozil week in week out, I see Wenger’s tactics before me, I hear the crowd at the Emirates and I talk to fellow supporters.
I don’t need pond life like Ashton to tell me anything. His opinion is slightly less interesting to me than the opinion of the bacteria currently developing in the dark recesses of my fridge.
And if you feel the same I invite you to join me.
Sod the papers, sod the sad little journos, sod their anti-Arsenal agenda, don’t let them poison your minds.
Boycott them: don’t buy them, don’t read them, don’t follow them online or listen to their opinions on the TV and radio.
You will (I guarantee) feel a whole lot better for it.
And if we all collectively ‘switch off’ (so to speak) they will go away, go out of business and the likes of Cross and Ashton et al will have to get proper jobs. Just like us.
Thanks if you have read this far
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