How football journalists are using the tactics of extremists to manipulate readers

by Tony Attwood

I’ve been dwelling on the perfidious nature of newspaper and blog commentaries on Arsenal for a while, because although on their own mostly they are fairly trivial and pointless, combined they can add up to a feeling of doom, gloom, desperation and incompetence; which it appears is their main purpose.

Take this headline from the Daily Canon which was the most read article on News Now’s Arsenal service a couple of days back when it was published

“Exclusive: Arsenal forward set to miss up to ‘4 weeks’ with hamstring injury”

All things considered it is an interesting headline, not least because I wasn’t able to find any other blog or newspaper running the story.  Well, you may say, yes it was an exclusive, but normally exclusives are then repeated by other media.  On this one nothing.  And it carries the implication that the forward in question is one of our main up front attackers from the first team squad.  But actually it was about teenager John-Jules.

What’s more the “up to” in the headline makes it meaningless.   “At least two weeks” would give us a clue but “up to four weeks” makes it sound really serious when it could be anything but.

Now my prime thought here is not so much about the fact that the player was a promising youngster – and as we know youngsters do tend to get more injuries, because their bodies haven’t yet hardened up to the stresses and strains of football, nor have they learned how to get out of the way of situations that can lead to serious injury.   Rather it is that it should be run in this form to suggest that another disaster is hitting Arsenal.

And above all, the number of readers, making it the most popular article of the day, shows once again that if all the site wants is readers, then it got what it wanted.  If it wanted to inform the author might have written the story in some other way.  “Promising youngster John-Jules injured” would have been more to the point.

Football journalism is thus not about informing or entertaining.  It is about manipulation of the perception of the readership.  Yet it could also be about informing people – either with newly found facts or with commentary that is based around a certain number of facts which can then be expanded with some speculation, which is clearly shown to be speculation.

But if we have speculation all the time (which is really what opinion pieces are) and all the opinions are pointing in the same direction (at the moment, as for the last 90 years, Arsenal is in chaos) it is more than likely that some people might start to believe it.   Which is by and large what seems to be happening.

To show how this works, take a look at a few of the other stories of late…

  • Arsenal board ready to take drastic action to force Mesut Ozil out of the club (Mirror)
  • Arsenal enter ‘advanced talks’ for signings of two players (Red London)
  • From Spain – Arsenal set to sign attacker after agreeing to meet £14m asking price (Football-Talk)
  • Denis Suarez transfer: Arsenal move takes fresh twist as Barcelona name latest squad (Mirror
  • Arsenal have suffered a fresh blow in their pursuit of Barcelona’s Denis Suarez. (Mirror)

Now these all appeared around about the same time, two days ago.   And in reality we are no further forward with any of the stories because by and large there was nothing there to take forward.

The Suarez story, for example, with its “fresh twist” centres totally on the fact that the player was named in Barcelona’s squad for a Cup game with Levante.   And that was it.  Him being in the squad gives a “fresh twist” and puts the transfer in doubt!  And that revelation was followed by “The news will come as a disappointment to Arsenal, who were hopeful of signing the player on an initial loan deal this month.”

But just in case any readers had not got the message by then that everything around Arsenal was bad news we had stories such as…

Opinion: Emery cannot afford to make same suicidal decision against Chelsea he made vs West Ham (FootballFanCast)

Arsenal hero Emmanuel Petit launches scathing attack on old club, defends Arsene Wenger Daily and (Sunday Express)

Gary Cahill next club odds: Fulham and Arsenal joined by top flight rivals in race for defender (Football.London)

James Rodriguez blow for Arsenal as Bayern boss breaks transfer rumour silence (

‘We don’t have £3m’ – Arsenal fans question club’s finances for James Rodriguez loan move (Football.London)

It is all doom, doom, doom, we are all doomed.  And why?  Because giving negative stories to the population is the easiest way to manipulate the population.  The consequences of a mad dictator telling the populace that they are under threat from an identifiable religious group are far worse of course – I am not comparing the two in terms of the result – but the tactics are just the same.

11 Replies to “How football journalists are using the tactics of extremists to manipulate readers”

  1. ‘Trivial and pointless’ you said, Tony, yes. I’ve given up on newspapers, bigoted TV pundits and many blogs. The sound is off for televised games, our music is on. Every time there is an Arsenal mention, it usually follows, ‘X slams Arsenal’ or ‘Y blasts Arsenal’ and these are mainly ex-players. Until something appears via the official site, nothing is real.

  2. @genorm Glad to know I am not the only one who turns the sound off.

    Wouldn’t it be good if TV companies had an additional soundtrack with just the crowd noise – no “experts” to tell you what to think.

    One can but dream

    Why are ex players such poor “experts”. It is hard to believe they actually played the game given the dearth of their knowledge

  3. Sky did run just the crowd noise channel for a while, but stopped it because its numbers were going up while the numbers listening to the commentators were going down.

    I don’t think their tech allows them to see how many people listen with the sound down quite a few I suspect.

  4. Indeed very little on the 5-2 beating of the sacred Spurs youth team in the youth cup other than ‘Keown slams Per for going to Basketball’ can imagine the headlines if the result was the other way.

  5. My stream for the FA cup tie with Blackpool was crowd noise only…quite nice.

  6. I think if Arsenal beat Chelsea in the PL at the Ems tomorrow Saturday, the beating could see the football journalists applying the break to their football journalism manipulations that are seeing Arsenal fans in particular and the football world fans in general being manipulated to break-stopped in their knocking and bashing of Arsenal at least for the time being.

  7. I think if Arsenal beat Chelsea in the PL at the Ems tomorrow Saturday, the beating could see the football journalists in their football journalism manipulations of the Arsenal fans in particular and those in the football world in general to forced break-stopped in their knocking and bashing of Arsenal at least for the time being.

  8. Am glad to see the legions of Arsenal fans who have cotton on to the dispicable behaviour of the media , experts and commentators, and have ‘silenced’ their infuence by avoiding their toxic giberish.
    They are all agents provocateurs of the crappish level.

    While we wile away the hours, here’s some humour, to bring back that smile .

    My wife sat down on the couch next to me as I was flipping channels.

    She asked, ‘What’s on TV?’

    I said, ‘Dust.’

    And then the fight started….


    My wife was hinting about what she wanted for our upcoming anniversary.

    She said, ‘I want something shiny that goes from 0 to 100 in about 3 seconds.’

    I bought her a weighing scale.

    And then the fight started….


    When I got home last night, my wife demanded that I take her someplace expensive.

    So I took her to a petrol pump

    And then the fight started….


    My wife was standing & looking in the bedroom mirror. She was not happy with what she saw and said to me, ‘I feel horrible. I look old, fat and ugly. I really need you to give me a compliment.”

    I replied, “Your eyesight is perfect.”

    And then the fight started….


    I asked my wife, “Where do you want to go for our anniversary?”

    It warmed my heart to see her face melt in sweet appreciation.

    “Somewhere I’ve not been in a long time.”

    So I took her to my parents’ house.

    And then the fight started….

    Dedicated to all married couples. But don’t send to all

    I sent it to my friend. He sent it to his wife and then the fight started.

  9. A wife replies…..

    We come from dust.
    We return to dust.
    That is why I don’t dust.
    It could be someone I know !

  10. Talking of food, I went to a Chinese last night and ordered from The Specials menu.
    I really stuffed myself.
    Too much foo young

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