Why having an opinion should absolutely not be the life blood of football.

By Tony Attwood

One of the most fascinating aspects of being involved in the running of Untold Arsenal is seeing the way that some readers of the site like to tell the editorial team what to publish and what not to publish.

I can understand the need to control what we publish both in terms of the articles and the comments.  Many of the comments we receive are beyond the pale, and we do manage to delete most of these before they get out.   But some get through, and some people complain that we’ve let through a dubious comment from A but stopped B.  I know that happens.  I can only plead the size of Untold as an excuse.

Meanwhile there are others who regularly write in and complain that we have published a particular article when we shouldn’t.

But the fact is, if Untold publishes an article you don’t like, you don’t have to read it.  And everyone does get a warning as to the true nature of the article is revealed through

a) It’s title

b) The name of the author (in the sense that an article about transfers written by Sir Hardly Anyone is probably not going to be a completely serious review of a player who is about to join Arsenal.   Anyway, his brother, Lord Hardly-Likely is joining us soon, so that should make matters clearer.)

c) The opening few lines

By writing this I am not trying to persuade any reader not to read something, but I would refer anyone who feels we are sometimes going off track that I’ve often mentioned that I will publish anything that fits in with the slogan “Football news from an Arsenal perspective” which uses evidence and/or logical deduction, or otherwise makes a serious contribution to our knowledge of or understanding of football and all that surrounds it, without being abusive.

In this regard this blog has always been the opposite of the Daily Mail sponsored blog that claims that it is “where you can have an opinion not get one”.  Opposite in the sense that Untold has always been against stand alone opinion, and opposite because you will get opinion here, although mostly backed up by logical deduction and/or evidence.

Quite probably if I had studied philosophy in my younger days I might have made the rule “you are only entitled to what you can argue for” (on the basis that most opinions are not constructed in any meaningful way, but are simply statements of belief).   But I didn’t, so I won’t.

So we have two sides of the argument going on here.  On the one hand there are the people who express annoyance at at the fact Untold publishes an article that they think isn’t relevant or reasonable or on message.  On the other hand we have the people who say, “I’m entitled to my opinion” which means “I can say or think whatever I like.”

And yes of course you are entitled to an opinion and you can express it too, as can as long as it does not break the law of the country you are in.  But in my view there are tens of thousands of football sites where you can express an opinion, so why should we clutter up Untold with more and more opinions without evidence?

As I started writing this, I did in fact pause to take a look at a bit of basic philosophy and found the idea that one of the big problems with unmitigated opinion giving is that it leads to the “false equivalence between experts and non-experts that is an increasingly pernicious feature of our public discourse.”

Quite so.  That doesn’t mean that “experts” are always right, and does not imply that we should not examine closely what experts say, and exactly where their level of expertise lies.  But by and large, given the choice, if the question were raised about what I should do about the pain in my right wrist as I write this, I’d be more inclined to take note of a qualified wrist doctor, rather than a six year old child.

Likewise I tend to take more note of writers in New Scientist on the issues of climate change than I do of Donald Trump.

But there is another issue in all this and that comes up with “everyone is entitled to an opinion.”

Yes of course that is true – I don’t want to stop you thinking anything you like, not that I ever could.  And I am sure that you have friends and family who are interested in your opinion because they are interested in you.   But for your opinion to be of interest to Untold readers it needs to meet a different criteria.

Let’s try this example: Untold sets out the opinion that seeking a change in the management of the club by getting rid of Mr Wenger is silly.  I argue this by noting the statistics of what has happened when Premier League clubs get rid of their managers in recent years, and noting also that the claims that Mr Wenger should go normally do not include details of any manager who might be likely to accept the job to replace him, if he were to leave.

Now it is argued sometimes that the “Wenger Out” movement is sizeable, and therefore to have a fair debate people should be able to argue for the Wenger Out cause on this site.  But for that argument to be valid the Wenger Out argument would need to have some sort of basis in logical deduction or evidence.

Since we can’t see the future we can’t actually show what would happen if someone else managed the club.  But that doesn’t mean that saying Giroud is useless and we have bought too many players who have underperformed is a valid counter argument.

It is a bit like the arguments between the people who claim that MMR vaccinations cause various awful illnesses.  That is a viewpoint, and so is the viewpoint that MMR has no link with these illnesses.  The “everyone is entitled to an opinion” line of thinking balances these two sides and says each deserves an airing.  But my argument (along with philosophers and scientists generally, I think) is that just because there are two arguments, it does not mean both are valid and equal.

If one argument is just an opinion with no backup in terms of facts or logical analysis, and the other one draws in evidence that has not been refuted, then they are not equally valid.

Now at this point I can be said to be engaging in censorship.   But I really don’t think that not publishing commentaries that are opinion without evidence is censorship in the normal use of the word.  Censorship is defined in the Oxford dictionary as “The suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security.”  Choosing not to publish opinion that is not backed up by evidence or logical deduction is not censorship but simply a publisher exercising a choice in terms of a set of established principles.



Anyway, the other day I saw this cartoon from When Saturday Comes.  I think it more or less sums up where I am at the moment.

353 Arsenal TB600

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And elsewhere… on this day in history

27 June 1900: the Central line between Bank and Shepherds Bush was opened.  It is reported that a number of city bankers misunderstood the name of the station at the other end of the line and took to the train for a “pleasant trip into the country”.  Only a handful survived to tell the tale, but the event was commemorated in the famous London saying, “A bird in the Strand is worth two in Shepherds Bush.”

42 Replies to “Why having an opinion should absolutely not be the life blood of football.”

  1. You are right tony in that unless a poster just posts facts their opinion is only that ,an opinion!!

  2. I think I should point out that SHA and LHL are clearly ‘Half Brothers’, otherwise their surnames would both be the same… 😀

  3. Sorry I come on the site because of the ENG vs ISL match.

    What happens to England defenders to have allowed the Icelander no6 to score a cheap goal like that.

  4. Rooney delays the acceleration of the England’s game in the midfield as he doesn’t pass the ball quickly forward to the England attackers but pass backwards or sideways. Now England are on the receiving end of the game as they’ve conceded a 2nd goal to Icelanders.

  5. That Icelanders’ 2nd goal that beats Joe Hart should have been stopped by him. But is the surface greasy?

  6. Can you imagine the adjectives which would be used to describe Joe Hart if he played for Arsenal.

  7. It’s an observation that Rooney’s passing has been woeful.

    Can’t imagine that he’ll be getting the Giroud treatment on MOTD

  8. If Greg Dyke (try not to laugh) thinks that Harry Kane is the answer then what is the question?

    He’ll score the winner now.

  9. Rooney was awful

    Kayne was awful

    Hart was awful

    But it will still be our Jacks fault.

  10. 2 ‘Brexits’ in one week. Who’d of believed it.

    I Know which one was the easiest to predict !!

  11. Dyke out!!!
    Hodgson out!!
    Shake it all about!

    Just don’t mention the coaching, the funding, the sweet FA etc.

  12. They’re already focusing on the 2nd half as THE embarrassing half.

    Funny enough that’s the half Jack played in.

    Here we go.

  13. Finsbury

    Untold mentioned it once, but I think they got away with it !!

    Crouch said:

    “Rooney gave the ball away a ‘couple of times'”

    “The first half was okay”

    Apparantly we fell apart in the second half.

    Here it comes !!!

  14. As you so rightly say, facts are not always the best evidence especially when they are doctored to promote an agenda.

    I just saw an article about the health drinks one makes in the blender. It started out that “are they really healthy”?
    So i checked out(again even though i know) the benefits of raw foods to the human body, a clear plus. The article then went on to say that drinking these “may” make one neglect other food. That was the sole premise that they are not healthy.

    See how the title has nothing to do with the article? Clearly designed and sponsored by “crap” food companies is my thought.

    This is the world we live in, deceit and lies all across the board.

    How are we ever to find “truth”?

    Well, everyone has to find their own truth, that is, what is best for them at that particulat moment.

    Hence the saying “nothing is ever as it seems”.

    How do we manage?

  15. Did you see Jack chasing the Iceland player back and preventing a goal without giving away a penalty? Why did he have to do it? Where were the defenders?

    Did you see Jack’s inch perfect pass? And unlike some of the other players he kept calm and kept playing.

    Nobody will say all that of course.

  16. Gord

    He was okay.

    Attempted some difficult passes, one of which, the best pass of the match, landed on Kaynes head and he fluffed it.

    he had a volley that went wide, Tough but probably should of hit the target.

    He hardly gave the ball away, certainly not as much as Rooney or most of the others.

    But, despite losing the first half and drawing the 2n the guys in the studio seem hell bent on blaming the 2nd half performance.

    They haven’t blamed Jack yet, but they will, but neither have they mentioned the good things he did.

  17. One of the reasons that mankind could (supposedly) evolve higher intelligence, is because we started cooking our food, and hence increased its biodigestibility and/or energy content (more net Calories per gram of food). A person also needs to consider that some foods that people eat, are at best of no use unless they are cooked (some are harmful).

  18. Pat

    Got to agree. The players let him down badly, especially Rooney. But will we hear that?

  19. Blimey 2 things didn’t get mentioned.

    1) Jack was to blame.

    Surprise surprise, but there’s always the highlights later.

    2) Where’s all the coaches, and I don’t mean the ones heading back to Calais ?

    No surprise there then.

    Nope, it will still all be those pesky foreigners fault. Still, we wont have to worry about them for much longer will we?

  20. Dont worry guys.After the final it will be all about the wonderful Premier league.Too many foreigners in the league.Thank god we have them.Can you imagine watching that all the time.
    This hurts.I am pleased Neville has gone.Too many clipboards around.Next England Manager, Hoddle.

  21. Behold Tony’s wonderful article has almost gone unnoticed due to the turn of events.

    The same people praising the 3 lions after defeating Wales are now slagging them for losing. Someone picked Italy and Iceland to win this morning. Fine prediction.

    As for England, return home. Despite you impeccable qualification, you were never really in this tournament.

  22. The post of England manager can be likened to a poison chalice.
    He has to collect a squad of the best players in the land and coach them to reproduce their club form, using his tactics. All within the strictly limited time he has with them between matches.
    A near impossible task.
    Personally, I hold the view that the escalating wages and massively improved life-style of the top players has diminished the one-time determined ambition to succeed.
    In boxing circles it was once said that “A good boxer is a hungry one”.
    The same could be said for a professional footballer.

  23. As far as I can make out (from the newspapers I’ve read) there was no criticism of Jack (other than a remark in the Mail which said he did no better than the player he replaced), and Hoddle said it was a fantastic pass to Kane, (the one he put straight onto his head). 7amkickoff said Jack made 3 of England’s 6 through balls, which was worth a media mention The papers only give him a five out of ten though, which is higher than most of his team mates & manager.

  24. Leon

    Thanks for the feed back.

    Although it seems faint praise, and is no doubt through gritted teeth, praise is praise.

    A 5 when the others are getting 3’s and 4’s is probably about right, but he got neither praise or a 5 from the BBC marks reproduced by Walter in the next thread.

  25. It was hard for Jack to play key passes when there was almost no movement ahead of him. Same as in previous game – watch closely if you can bear to recycle.

    As for the philosophy piece, I particularly enjoyed “false equivalence between experts and non-experts that is an increasingly pernicious feature of our public discourse.”

    The referendum campaign was a particularly good example of that. All the economic experts were dismissed and then people seem surprised at the economic, political and social carnage…

    The whole of Europe is laughing at us (England) – and not just for the football.

  26. I see in the news headlines at Google, that Shearer is “of the opinion” that this is the fault of Wilshere (in that he should not have been involved”.

    I didn’t open the article, I don’t speak Neanderthal.

  27. Gord
    I got the impression from how I heard Shearer say it that he thought Jack should never have gone in the first place because he wasn’t fit, which is what most of us here said before he went.

  28. Okay, I can believe that. Here I thought he was slagging Wilshere because that is the thing to do.

    Inside World Football has a report, on a change of opinion.

    The US Supreme Court has apparently widened the scope of what defines RICO offences. So, the USA can pursue FIFA and UEFA executives for banking frauds, and now for RICO offences. Twice the opportunity to put these low lifes away.

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