By Tony Attwood
Over their past two editions both New Scientist and the Economist (two of the most respected and serious weekly magazines published in the UK) have both run editorial comments on the fact that we are now in the era of Post-Truth.
In the era of Truth, the truth was the fundamental from which those (most notably politicians and journalists) who wanted to mislead us, would wander in order to make a point. Truth was known because it could be proven – because we had data, logical construction of argument, the scientific method and evidence.
Now we are in Post-Truth, the era in which the populace in general has caught onto what used to be the preserve of politicians and journalists. Worse, in all discussion it has become a starting point. Make up a statement, say it a lot, claim it is true. Evidence, data, logical construction, who needs them?
Of course we have always had rumour, fairy stories and make-believe but generally in the past these were kept well out of the way when debating more serious matters.
So what made all this change? Quite simply the dramatic growth of the news media and its need for cheaper, simpler sensational stories, and the advent of social media, where anyone can play the post-truth game. Make it up, say it is true, and wouldn’t you know it, people start to believe you.
Football of course has been swamped with post-truth illogic for a number of years, and in publishing Untold I’ve tried to show this with little ventures like the Transfer Index (collecting over 100 transfer rumours about Arsenal in one window which were all just fantasy).
What we found was that while stories that have been untrue in the past come back for another round, others just play with the language deliberately to mislead. I keep banging on and on about Amy Lawrence’s comment about Arsenal being so poor they only had two players who scored in double figures last season, not just because it misled (Arsenal were among only five clubs who had two players in double figures) but because it was Amy Lawrence and in the Guardian. I had hoped they they would stay out of this drift. Sadly no.
To fight the battle I started to call those propagating the myths that swirl in the post-truth era the AAA (until Blacksheep suggested the capitalisation gave them too much prominence and we changed it to the aaa). Sir Hardly Anyone made fun of the transfer market, Dr Billy the Dog pointed to the misuse of journalism and logic and Brickfield Gunners regularly shows us that the old notion that there are three physical dimensions is simply a fallacy of number theory.
But we have failed to stop the march towards insanity in football – for what we now need is to find a phrase to mean post-insanity which does not reflect an era of waking up to reality, but an era of diving ever deeper. Post-modernism is dead, welcome to Post-Truth. (Hell we even recruited the Witchfinder General (Matthew Hopkins back from his grave – he died in 1647) to have a poke: #CurseTheStar #CurseJackWilson).
So whould we just leave them to get on with it, to make up stories and innuendo? I think not.
In psychology there is a term called “identity fusion” – something that brings and holds together members of gangs and other groups. It is something so powerful that it can make groups and organisations that are beaten and humiliated cling together even more than they did before.
It is something that Arsenal don’t have, largely because the club has continued to have top four finishes for so long. There has been no relegation, which is the normal process following the building of a new stadium and which is a powerful source of “identity fusion”. Instead we have what to me (biased as I am of course) looks and feels like the best – or at least one of the best – stadia in the League. I’ve been to most, and in many cases have been not just in the tucked away, away support section, but in the home bits too, as a guest of a supporter of the home club.
And much as I try to set aside my Arsenal support, the Ems still seems the best league ground there is.
OK, I moan about the catering, but to be fair catering is awful at all grounds. At Leicester for example, they had a range of beers available, so you could choose one, and they could deliver it, but when you got it, it turned out it wasn’t the beer mentioned. They actually only had one beer, and all the taps delivered it. But they forgot to change the labels. Or tell customers. Then, on hearing our complaint, they tried to do staff training while the fans queued and waited… Not very clever, and a clear breach of the Sale of Goods Act, but it was an interesting adaption of post-truth. All beers are one even if not.
Anyway, we have quality at the Ems, except for the catering, and the leaking roof, and the fact that two guys openly smoking at the last game were not stopped by the stewards. Oh and the flares… but even with all this I state rate it. But as a result of the quality stadium and no relegation, we have lots of in-fighting and bickering because the identity fusion didn’t kick in, because we didn’t have real big problems.
As Martha Newson, at the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford, pointed out recently when writing about football fans, “Our research suggests it is the intensity of emotion that counts, so their history of shared painful losses is as important as the joy of winning the league in creating “self-shaping” experiences. These experiences lead fans to fuse their own identity with that of their club and fellow supporters.”
- That you can’t move a player from one position to another with success. (Thierry Henry anyone?)
- That Arsenal dither in the transfer market. (Granit?)
- That there is no problem with refereeing. (Just read the thousands of reviews here).
- That every other club is better run than Arsenal.
- That the level of money spent in the transfer market is an indicator of how well you will do in the coming seasons.
- That revolution in football is better than evolution even when looking at the average tenure and success rate of incoming managers.
- That buying youngsters doesn’t count – only spending big counts. (So it is right that players like Iwobi, Bellerin, Coquelin etc don’t get included when transfer window sums are done.)
- That a player who makes one mistake should never be played again. (Ospina v PSG?)
- Because everyone else does it we have to do to (actually everyone else doesn’t do it, but for the sake of the argument we pretend they do).
- A new manager will automatically improve the situation because no one can be worse than this manager.
- That anyone can see how to improve a club without having had any experience of running one, sometimes without even going to games.
- That seeing one or two things and not analysing what is seen and looking for possible explanations is “evidence”.
- That buying a very expensive centre forward will make everything ok. (Only two players in double figures Amy Lawrence?)
- That journalist commentators who have no experience of running a club at any level can have insights into the way a club is running which those experienced at working in the game don’t have.
- That if anything is of any value it can be said in one sentence. (Try that with entanglement!)
- That we can tell what is going on in someone’s mind even if they try to hide it. (“You obviously believe that…”).
- That criticising a club very strongly is actually going to make things better.
- That if you want to buy a player in the transfer market of course you can get him irrespective of whether he wants to leave, whether he wants to come to Arsenal, whether the club that owns him wants him to go.)
- That the actions of critics has no effect on how others see the club, and thus do not make it harder to buy players.
- That all arguments lasting more than five words can be justifiably dismissed as “clever-clever”, and as we have so often been asked, “Do we really need all these clever-clever arguments? Surely (these people say) the truth is obvious.
As they used to say on the X Files, the truth is out there. The trouble is, in the post-truth world, most people seem to be looking in the wrong direction.
- #CurseTheStar #CurseJackWilson. It is time for fans to fight back.
- NEWER AND LATEST MEDICAL CONDITIONS AND TREATMENTS DISCOVERIES
- When does commitment cross the line? Eccentric refereeing in the PSG v Arsenal Champions League match.
Anniversary of the Day
- 16 September 1937: Arsenal v Arsenal Reserves was the first live game ever on TV.
- Arsenal v the team that will present a giant toothbrush to our captain
- Arsenal squad for Europa League game
- The abuse of female footballers is appalling, but there is a wider context
- Why Arsenal v Glimt might be tougher than the game against Tottenham
- Is the team that passes the most, the team that gets the best results?