By Sir Hardly Anyone
My little job on Untold, as you may have noticed over the past few years, is to write about what the media say about Arsenal. Some people then write to the site saying we have far too much coverage of the media here, and others suggest I am an idiot, but I usually send the lads round to visit and then quickly change their tune.
But I do look at how the media treat other clubs, and so I wondered what the media might make of Liverpool’s match yesterday. Here are a few headlines
- Loris Karius: Liverpool goalkeeper receives death threats after errors
- British media spares Loris Karius after “career defining” blunders
- Gary Neville mocks Liverpool with song lyrics about their Champions League final defeat
- Absolute scenes on Twitter as Liverpool fans tear Karius apart after a disastrous CL final
- German theory emerges: Sergio Ramos also injured Liverpool keeper Loris Karius
- ‘It was disgusting’ – Liverpool players blasted for what they did after Karius horror show
- Photo: Liverpool winger celebrates yesterday’s trophy win
- Jeremy Clarkson sends hilarious Instagram message to Liverpool after loss v Real Madrid
It’s a mix as you can see and there are many more representing these various points of view. And before going on I should explain that when the Liverpool keeper made his error, none of the Liverpool players went to him to show support, they just left him to stand alone. And the “Liverpool winger celebrates” story is about a ‘Pool man who is on loan to Fulham and who played in the play off final.
Anyway, a fair old mix of reports I’d say, some that you would have expected had Arsenal been playing in a final and suffered such a defeat, but some much more supportive. The one saying that the British media spares Liverpool is particularly interesting for me as that was my view too – really had it been Arsenal I suspect we would have been pilloried, both by journalists and reports of “Twitter goes into meltdown as Arsenal fans turn on players”.
Indeed the mix is a little refreshing because for much of the time it is not so much a case of reporting the news, as promoting a vision of reality that attracts readers, that we find in the media. They have an image of the club, certain players, the management, and reality is bent to reflect that vision in all the stories. If the news was still made on tapestries Arsenal defenders would be shown making errors.
But what I have often wondered is: does the promotion of this vision really change anything, or does it just reinforce existing prejudices?
Although it is not ever discussed in the media – they would never ever admit to changing the emphasis to reflect their standard view of the world – it is something that is discussed in depth in the advertising industry where changing people’s perception of reality is of course what advertising experts do for a living.
Indeed the latest topic of growing interest to advertisers (who really are not so different from reporters – for both just take reality and twist it to fit the vision they are paid to propagate, it is just that people in the advertising industry are generally much more intelligent) is known as “neuromarketing” and it is what fast food, soft drinks and snack companies do all day long on social media and online games as they interact with children.
And although what the media does with football fans is far less sophisticated but it is becoming more sophisticated as the battle for readership in the digital world continues. But we are not yet at the level that advertisers are at as they pay to gather information through brain scans about how unconscious decisions are made to eat one snack rather than another and in relationship to the targeting people’s susceptibilities.
The results from the food industry about how people feel guilty pleasures from eating or drinking certain products does reveal that most people can be manipulated into doing certain things and thinking certain thoughts by constant refinement of the message. In the case of the snack Cheetos (note the name) brain scans have shown that people derive a guilty pleasure from eating a snack with that name and ending up with having their fingers coated with orange dust. An advertising campaign called the Orange Underground, featuring a group of snack-food anarchists who covered their faces with scarves made of Cheetos has been a huge success.
It is easy to dismiss this sort of research, and indeed the general response of non-scientists is that “I am not influenced by the media.” But companies don’t spend billions of pounds on things that don’t bring profits.
Of course the food industry has vast amounts of money that is thrown at this sort of research, and virtually no one with lots of money researches the way that media treatment of news events affects readers and viewers’ attitudes. But there seems little reason to think that the effect of reporting and advertising is any different.
The mixed messages about Liverpool’s match yesterday allows people to stay in their own chosen focus and see what they want to see. When all the messages about a club head the same way, that is when it gets dangerous.
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