By Tony Attwood
On the most general level, if one sees something that one feels is wrong in any way (be it corruption, deliberate lies, something that harms some people, criminal acts or anything else) one has a choice. To turn away and do nothing, to do something once and then let it pass in the future, or to campaign.
We all of us make this type of decision every day. I know there is a footpath near where I live which has highly dangerous barbed wire set in a manner which could cut out a child’s eyes. Do I do nothing, report it to the local authority and leave it, or report it and report it, and then if nothing is done publicise it on local media, until the authority is shamed into action? Such questions might not overtly spring to mind but they are there as I form a decision on what to do.
What’s more, mostly these questions come and go in a flash, because most of us settle into modes of behaviour. The world is too complex not to let most things pass – we can’t individually sort out the world’s (or even our village’s) problems. In response some focus entirely on one issue and let other matters slip by. Others just complain. Others say nothing.
In a sense this where we were when Hector Bellerin was asked about ArsenalFanTV, and he replied, “It’s so wrong for someone who claims to be a fan and their success is fed off a failure. How can that be a fan? There’s just people hustling, trying to make money their way, which everyone is entitled to do.”
So he made his linguistic judgement: it is wrong to claim to be a fan, but to generate personal success from failure. This is linguistic because such a person can’t be called a fan in the normal sense of the word, because being a fan means supporting and being in favour of.
The general view of those who study such things is that “fan” originates from the Latin, fanaticus, which means “insanely but divinely inspired” from which we got “fanatic”. Fan entered the language in the 16th century, to mean “marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion”.
So yes, in both historic, and normal contemporary uses of the word, a person who constantly criticises a football club is not a fan of that club. ArsenalFanTV is a misnomer, because in the normal sense of the word they are not fans.
But if Arsenal Fan TV is not run by fans who is it run by? Hector suggested they were just a commercial organisation, which is possibly true. I have no idea how much money they make from what they do, and maybe they are successful financially. What I can say is that Untold Arsenal makes money from the advertising that appears around these pages but it is only just about enough to cover our expenses in keeping the site running and protected from interference – no writers get paid. (The problem in case you are interested is ad blockers – so many people use them that the income we get from people clicking on any advert surrounding this page has declined – if you want to help us you could ensure you see the adverts and then if you spot one of interest, click on it – but please never click over and over, only when genuinely interested, and only once).
An alternative would be to argue that ArsenalFanTV is not run for commercial motives, but is in fact run by zealots. A zealot, as you may recall, is generally defined as a person with very strong opinions about something and who tries to make other people have them too.
This word comes from of an ancient Jewish sect which had its own view of what Judaism meant which they wished to expand across the world – it is clearly related to the word “zeal” which comes from an ancient Greek word.
“Zealot” today is not restricted to propagating religious ideology but rather to something closer to the “fanaticism” end of the use of the word fan. The zealotry thus would be the removal of the manager and perhaps the board and maybe quite a few players and replacement by… well I am not sure.
However the commercial element could also be there with ArsenalFanTV – obviously I don’t know. Certainly the commercial element is present in the newspapers and blogs which endlessly criticise all things Arsenal. The writers in the mass media, and those who follow their style and approach on blogs appear not to want reform in the way of zealots, but rather they find that by writing negatively about Arsenal they make money.
But there is one other point.
What we see in ArsenalFanTV and on many blogs is what many psychologists would call the Toddler Brain Habits. These habits include self-obsession and repeated action and are found in adults increasingly in recent decades as our lives have grown far more complex than our brains have evolved to handle. Neuroscientist Daniel Levitin is an expert on this if you want to go further, but in essence the argument is that advances in technology create information overload and over stimulation. This in turn causes ever more frequent retreat to the Toddler brain. Such people (like toddlers) have no foresight or ability to think through the consequences of what they are saying or what they are doing.
Of course I don’t know the people who run ArsenalFanTV, any more than I know the journalists and blog writers who I regularly criticise, but this does seem to me the most realistic explanation for their behaviour. Toddler Brain Habits and a bit of making money on the side.
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