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Racism? What racism? The media denies any responsibility.

By Tony Attwood

It is one of the themes I write about a lot – perhaps beyond Arsenal itself it is the theme I write about most of all: that the way the media reports issues affects the way we see the world.

For it is hard to argue that a particular topic is of fundamental importance if the media is not reporting it at all.  Indeed if one tries to do so, one is called a conspiracy theorist. But even when the media does touch on an issue of importance it can still minimise its importance just in the way that it presents the report.

As when the media focuses on isolated details and so creates some sympathy for the moment, but then move on.  For at such a moment it can do far more harm than good, giving as it does a feeling that this matter has been dealt with, it’s over and there is nothing more to see.

Or it can look at the whole issue and miss out many of the details, and as a result leave the readers less connected with the issue and less sympathetic to the issue and its effects.

Stan Collymore in the Guardian has touched on both of these points in his comment on the Raheem Sterling claims where he writes the player “has kicked up a storm but as ever the outrage will pass.”

The argument here is simple: that that black and white players are treated differently by the media.

Thus, as I have argued, it is suggested that the media has an agenda and this agenda decides what is in the news and what is not.  What’s more it decides how the news it does select as “news” is then treated: it can take a line which incorporates stereotypes and trivialises, or it can dig deep and question.  Or indeed it can ignore the issue totally.

Thus we might at this moment quite reasonably ask, how are the newspapers in England reporting Sterling’s claims that black players are reported in utterly different ways from white players?

The Telegraph deflects any notion that this is an issue in which the media must accept any responsibility with the headline, “Football has cultural problem with fans thinking players, like Sterling, must accept personal abuse.”   Not a media issue then, but simply a football issue then. It’s the fans’ fault.

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However elsewhere it has also run the story “Sterling responds to abuse suffered at Stamford Bridge and says newspapers ‘fuel racism’.”   But it runs this story as if reporting an oddball point of view. Look at what this embittered black man is saying: it is all the fault of the media.  How oddball can you get?  Indeed it is a report that proves the original point.  Newspapers are racist in their selection of stories and portrayal of those stories.

To get a clear statement that it is the media that is causing the problem we need to turn to the New Statesman magazine with its headlines, “Racism in British football is clear in our newspapers as well as the stands” which opens with the point thatEthnic minority players are often upbraided for behaviour that sports journalists ignore of white people.”   That was published in January 2017. You may have missed it – the rest of the media tended to ignore that piece.

However I was surprised to find that The Star did tackle this issue with the headline on its website “Newspapers help ‘fuel racism’, says Man City’s Sterling” but less surprised when I found that they were just running a Reuters report in their online edition.  There is no engagement in the issue by the newspaper and I don’t think the story turned up in the print edition of the publication at all.

The Sun has dealt with the allegation of racism but as far as I can see, not at all with the issue of it being the media that is fuelling it.   The Mail does the same but includes pics of the fans abusing Sterling probably hoping that they are by and large Sun readers. The Sun might have the same worry as rather quaintly it has removed their faces, and so publishes a picture in which all the emotion is removed from what is a highly charged emotional issue.

Thus we have the same old problem: the news the media selects and the way it presents it, warps reality and endeavours to change the way people think.

And yet there is a spot of light in the tunnel.  The Daily Mirror has this

Raheem Sterling hasn’t drawn a line in the sand for snap TV and radio debates, Twitter polls or to drive “content”.

He isn’t after preferential treatment. He doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder and he isn’t playing the so-called race card.

Sterling is changing the game.

He is showing players that, just as black athletes across the Atlantic are using their voices to rewrite the narrative, the same can be done here.

It is entirely justified for him to question whether the negative media towards him is empowering the kind of neanderthals caught on camera straining every sinew to abuse him at Chelsea on Saturday evening.

Unfortunately the rest of the media is focussing not on this issue but on transfers – and not just transfers, but (at least going by the last three summer windows) transfers that will never happen.  Even the Mirror’s own 40-a-day blog Football London hasn’t touched on the issue of racism as raised in the newspaper.

Instead we are fed a daily diet of pure fantasy.  And if you want to know the logic behind that, you only have to go back and read a classic written 80 years ago.  “1984” by George Orwell.

The original title of that book was “1948”, reflecting the year of its creation and making the point that news manipulation was what the media did.  The book’s publisher however apparently felt that title would hinder publicity for the novel in the newspapers, and so insisted on a different title.

Nothing it seems is changing.  

The media decides.

1 comment to Racism? What racism? The media denies any responsibility.

  • John L

    Much of the media narrative also encourages the normalisation of Islamophobia, which has the effect of giving an audience to Stephen Yaxley Lennon and his followers.