Dear Arsenal Supporter, you are being brainwashed

By Tony Attwood

From the off Untold has argued that football reporting via the mainstream media is warped.  Broadcasters agreed with football authorities not to cover certain issues, such as the quality of refereeing.  Under pressure from the authorities all agreed and only one or two rocked the boat.  Alan Green on BBC radio, and journalists on some local papers, continued to do it but Green eventually and suddenly dropped all his criticism.  Local papers were regularly banned by clubs from occupying a seat in the press box.

Meanwhile, from the 1970s onward, newspapers reduced their criticism of football coverage on TV (before then having commented that TV companies were carefully editing games to make them appear more exciting than they were and thus boost their audience for the next game) and gradually a general consensus arose about the reporting of the game.

When the blogs came along they of course had the freedom to challenge the newspaper-broadcaster duopoly and a few did, but mostly the response was to copy the general approach of existing broadcasters with the aim of making the blog appear to be mainstream rather than a one man show.

However the blogs needed a reason to be read, and so they focussed more and more on the negative side of the reporting.  It was easy and quick to write, and grabbed attention. As they started to get an audience so the newspapers copied them (an interesting reverse) in order to hold their audience.  For fear of appearing out of touch with their audience broadcasters joined the move.

That was all bad enough but now we are in a new and even more sinister phase of manipulation.  This come with machine generated blogs which can publish up to 40 articles a day on a single club like Arsenal, each with a new headline but primarily with the same story save for the last couple of lines.

The effect of this is ultimately to control the agenda – to hit the reader so often with the same sort of story that anyone writing a different story will appear odd and out of step.

To give an example of this latest movement consider the blog Football London owned by the Daily Mirror newspaper, which has separate feeds for each of the main London clubs.

In one short burst of a few hours they came up with these (I’m leaving the links in not because I want to promote the site, but just to prove, should you wish to check, that I am not manipulating the report).

Is there any news in that blast across a few hours from Football London?  If there is it is well hidden and I couldn’t find it.  Just look at the last headline – the one about Ramsey.  The “update” is there is no update. 

Now anyone who studies the media and its effect on people will tell you that when asked, most people say that advertisements have no effect on them.  They are individuals and they make up their own minds.  We all do that; it is part of our self-esteem: “You can’t manipulate me!”

But examine the sales of products before and after advertisements and it is totally clear that some advertising does have an effect – sometimes a huge effect – which can be readily traced back to a single advertisement.  Believe me, I know.  I write adverts for a living and would have lost my job 30 years ago had I not been able to create adverts that radically changed sales.

So in general terms, with advertisements people read, deny they are influenced, but are influenced. If the advertising does not have an effect the advertisement or the whole approach is changed.  Here, the Daily Mirror clearly sees an effect – people read these nonsense stories, and (and for the Mirror this is the most important bit) they then click on an advert or go on to another story and click on an advert there.  So the Mirror makes money – for advertisers pay only per click the site generates.

But also, there is an effect on the reader.  The reader is ceaselessly disappointed but like a gambler on a one-armed bandit, goes on using the site over and over, hoping against hope that this time there will be a jackpot, a real story.

Arsenal rejected the player because they had someone better lined up, Arsenal have screwed up yet again and let Tottenham in, Arsenal could benefit in some way from rule changes and so on. 

Perhaps the prime example of this manipulation of the reader for the sake of another click comes with the wholly invented Monreal transfer.  As far as I can see, and as far as I can ascertain from the handful of sources that Untold has, there never was a Monreal transfer.  He has no interest in going and the club want to keep him, there was no expression of interest in buying him.  It was wholly invented, and now to squeeze every last drop out of it, they now have a “transfer update” which says, “nothing is going to happen.”

All of this is powered by the prime belief people have (except perhaps those of us who work in advertising) that we are not affected by adverts, by the way news is presented and by the way news is manipulated to keep the reader reading.

And to be clear, I am not saying that I am not influenced by advertisements. Of course I am, even though I spend my working day writing them.

There is no doubt in my mind that these new sites churning out story after story (often – although this is not a point that I have time to explore in this article but have written about elsewhere) by taking the same headline and then applying it to different teams across multiple articles, are doing us all a disservice.

We are all being manipulated, but most of us believe we are not.  It’s not a very healthy state of affairs.


Seven fantasies, 11 nightmares and Ramsey’s agent tweets “keep making the stuff up”.

All the things we didn’t learn from the world cup.

Arsenal to sign 15 year old and flagrantly break all international rules according to reports.


13 Replies to “Dear Arsenal Supporter, you are being brainwashed”

  1. Thank you for that piece. You have aptly described why you should be very careful where you tread on the interweb thingy, and should always assume that what you read on about 80% of the sites are complete bollocks. There are a few trustworthy sites, such as Untold, Goonerholic, She wore a yellow ribbon, Arseblog and Le Grove, and possible one or two more. They may not necessarily put forward a view I agree with, but they are properly written. The vast majority take 2+2 and get 5, and the mere fact of publishing the crap, means that others take that and multiply it further, perpetuating gargantuan myths (and other peoples agendas).

  2. I try to stay away from news sites or watch any news. If tomorrow the world would come to an and… I probably wouldn’t know it 😉

  3. Walter……….the world has indeed come to an end. Belgium beat England!

  4. Well just look at the WC final. Lovren and I seem to be just about the only people incensed.

    An own goal resultant of an ncorrectly awarded free-kick for an Antoine dive.

    Then a penalty that was given, not at all in line with the rules, simply to undermine VAR and assist the France win.

    The same thing happened in Belgium v France.Co-operative incidents.

  5. Sorry I just cant get all uppity about this. And as for all the talking heads wailing and whining.

    Dele Alli ?

    Any number of United players over the years ?

    Non of them are shameful diving cheats are they, because as far as I can remember what they do is ‘WIN’ Penalties.

    I remember Vardy ‘winning’ quite a few penalties a couple of years back and the media loved it.

    A bunch of sickening hypocrites the lot of them.

    They was the same with the Henry hand ball goal many years ago when they also conveniently forgot Robbie Keane doing something very similar not long before that and funny enough, no outcry.

    Nothing to do with it being France at all wonder?

    As for the penalty.

    There is just one decision to make. Was it deliberate or wasn’t it. It’s a subjective decision so neither is right or wrong, it is just a matter of opinion.

    How is that ‘not it in line with the rules’ ?

    As I’ve said, I think it was deliberate, as did the referee. Many don’t.

    Well done France. The best team in the World.

    Some people need to get over it.

  6. Tony – Truer words, etc. Marvin Gaye said “believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.” When it comes to most of the media and blogs, none and none would be the watchword. But it was an entertaining World Cup and England’s performance was great to see. Seems there’s a new order. Refreshing.

  7. goonersince72

    Which performance was ‘great to see’ exactly?

    The last minute win over 21st ranked Tunisia. Population: 11.5 Million. Hardly a feast of football.

    The beating of 55th ranked Panama, a country with a population just over half that of London, who had never even scored a world cup goal before meeting us? Wow.

    The defeat of our reserves to Belgiums reserves?

    The defeat of our first team to Belgiums 1st team? A country with a similar population to that of Tunisia ?

    Why is such a small Country so much better than us.

    The turgid win over an off colour Sweden ? Sweden are ranked 24th and have a population of just 10 Million. Yes, a well deserved win but we hardly set the World alight with exhilerating football did we?

    The win on penalties over 20th ranked Colombia, a match in which we managed a staggering 2 shots on goal in 120 Minutes?

    Or the defeat to Croatia, another Country with a population just over half that of London. A game in which we managed a mind numbing 1 shot on target.

    How many goals did we score from open play?

    I’m sorry gooner, there was nothing ‘great’ about England at all.

    The luck of the draw gave us a massive chance to fluke even winning it, and we still blew it.

    The only reason it was a ‘feel good’ World Cup for some was because the media wanted it that way, and praised every single thing the team did, even the defeats.

    And why was that do you think?

    Nothing to do with the fact the team was cram packed with players from the Clubs they love so much such as Spurs, Liverpool, United and City ?

    Nothing to do with how stupid they would look critisising certain players after telling us how wonderful the likes of Kane (£100 Million), Alli (£100 Million) and co were ?

    Golden boot or not, Kane was a massive let down. So was Alli.

    Now the dust has settled and the hype subsided some what, it was interested to hear some of the lads reflecting in the mess room today.

    It seems reality was dawning and in fact we wasn’t quite as good as the hype had made us out to be.

    Sorry gooner but the only thing ‘great’ about Englands World cup was the hype.

  8. As I have mentioned before , I don’t read any newspapers nor any other blogs , and probably dependent on this site to give ME the highlights and low down on the Arsenal and the EPL.

    While I don’t normally don’t click on to other sites , I do check out the interesting links suggested by our UA regulars . Most of them are justifiable relevant or humorous .

    I was nonetheless totally entertained with the many witty and wicked memes, alleged quotes and jokes regarding the World Cup. Likewise I was shocked with the level of abuse from the fans of the team that under performed . Many of them who not citizens of that particular country.

    I do admit that I had gleefully passed on some funny shit about the England team and the ‘Its coming home ‘ clips and memes. In my defence , I don’t follow any of the other leagues , so I am only aware of those who ply their trade in the EPL . Which in it self is a joke !

    I was taken aback by the abuse I got from a guy who I don’t personally know , but who is in a group of the ex-footballers of my medical college and who is my countryman.

    He seem to be terribly offended when I posted a meme that showed a British Airways plane , with the words ,’Flying failures since 1966 ‘, on it, after England was knocked out of the WC . Was it wrong ? Was it an outright lie ?

    Maybe he was a shareholder in the airlines , or maybe he may have family members working for them . I just ignored him ,seeing that he had posted way after 1 AM in the morning- probably either drunk or pissed off after a bad day at the hospital !

  9. Maybe this would have probably more politically correct and less offensive , but then again , why should I care a shit ?

    Likewise I absolutely love all those photos and memes about the Croatians, especially their president !What about this : ‘Just heard that Victoria’s Secret launched a new bra called “Croatia “. It has a lot of support , but no cups !’

    Does sound very much like that lot that play near us !

  10. Unnecessary exaggeration or well structured lies to belittle the achievement of the English team?
    1. 1 shot on target against Croatia? Off head I can mention 3. The goal, the shot from Kane blocked by the goalkeeper in the first, follow up offside, hit the bar and rebounded off the keeper, as well as the header that was nodded off the line in extra time.
    2. So England beat countries its more populated than, that doesn’t count until they beat the most populated countries in the world, step forward China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, USA, Nigeria. Beat any of those and win Nitrams respect I guess

  11. EMA, as this site has shown so many times with all the statistics needed – the key issue is the number of people playing football and the number of qualified coaches. That is what determines success over time, but of course all countries with great traditions can have off times – just like Man U going down to the second division, and Arsenal almost going down under Bertie Mee.

  12. EMA

    If Englands performance earned your respect that’s fine.

    I’m sorry but they did nothing, I repeat nothing more than the absolute bare minimum they should of done against the opponents they faced.

    If you believe the hype in so much as they should be hailed as ‘heroes’ then more fool you.

    As for lies and exaggeration? I did neither. I took all my stats from respected web sites. If they were the odd shot on goal out I apologise but if you honestly believe upping shots on goal from 1 to 3 turns a terrible stat to a good one then you are easily pleased.

    Due to a favourable draw we had the best chance of winning, or just getting to a WC final, we could possibly of hoped for and we blew it.

    If you believe those performances were ‘heroic’ (even if you dumb it down to footballing parlance) then you and I have a vastly different interpretation of heroism.

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