When each Arsenal story is a speculation published as the truth where can we go next?

By Sir Hardly Anyone

Much of the fun of visiting the Toppled Bollard, (public house of choice for the London based journalists and bloggers), is the feeding of invented stories to half baked reporters, knowing these self-same bonkers comments will instantly turn up on blogs and in newspapers, and even on the radio, the following day.

Being the poor saps that they are, these gin-soaked media oddbods have come to believe that these stories that I, and those with a similar bent sense of humour are making up, are what actual real live supporters are talking about.

And so, what then happens is that one of the residents in the Bollard texts the story over the blog or newspaper, which publishes it.  That gives the tale (no matter how crazy it may seem) a sense of being true.  One commentator copies another, often using the hilarious phrase “according to reports” and before you know it, our little invented tale is your actual real live news.

Now if you want to spot such a tale, the use of the phrase “according to reports” is a key marker – a bit like the grading of movies as “not suitable for children.”   Yes the stories are “according to reports” because it starts to appear in all the media.   But the source is not reality; these are the stories of those of us who like having a laugh at the expense of reporters.

Of course I fully admit that this has now got utterly out of hand.  It was meant to be a joke at first, and none of us who play the game ever thought anyone would be crazy enough to take what we were making up as true, but it seems no matter how wild our tale, some will believe it, and publish it.

As a result the tall tales invented by a bunch of mischief makers (of which I sadly must confess I am one) and supplied to the news hounds who are instructed by editors to have a new Arsenal story every day (or in the case of Football.London every 30 minutes) have come to dominate the news.

“Join in the debate” has become the call from blogs and phone ins – although the word “debate” has largely been a misnomer.   One person putting one point of view while the next says something quite different isn’t actually a debate.  Nor is one person saying that others know nothing about football.   Especially when both are being fed invented tales that were given to journalists in a stupor earlier in the day.

In short, the subject matter of the great football debate is fixed.  And the great irony of that is, that is exactly like football (at least according to Uefa).

Now I would not like you to think that I am part of the conspiracy to give lunatic nonsense to drunken journalists in the sure-fire knowledge that they are going to publish it.  No, for if I find myself in the Toppled Bollard for a restorative quick one, and I hear what is obviously a wholly untrue tale planted by a scurrilous youngster, I tell the sodden scribbler that his tale is untrue and that “I wouldn’t touch the project with a bargepole.”

And thus it was when that I met Donethat Beenthere, a regular imbiber at the Bollard and found him slobbering over what he clearly felt was a scoop.   His eyes were shining like twin stars and there was a sort of Awakening and Revelation expression on his face, and as befits a man who feels he has an exclusive, and is ignorant of the fact that once again he has been fed a pup.

“Unai Emery begins to lose belief of Arsenal squad!” he told me, adding the exclamation to the comment as only regular imbibers and journalists can.  I could see at once that in the background, a humourist had quietly slipped the lead into the boxing glove that was coming straight to Donethat’s face.

I shook my head at the poor sap and advised him to drop the tale.   “But look,” he cried, lifting his laptop as best he could and showing me the headline, “Jose Mourinho’s classic Arsenal digs revisited as Gunners consider Unai Emery axe.”

“Everyone’s got the tale,” he said.   “And here,” as with a flourish he fell over before directing  my attention to, “Report: Arsenal squad have reservations over Unai Emery methods.”

Now nobody could be more anxious than myself, for instance, to prevent Doublechin Oldtimer of the Express making a fool of himself and his newspaper while breaking his neck as he slipped to the floor, even as I read with enjoyment the fake news he writes and they publish as the truth.

But I felt a degree of sorrow for the blighter.   “The flaw in all these ideas of yours,” I said, “is that they are based on the premise that the Arsenal manager and the board of directors are half-witted donuts who having made every mistake imaginable in the past will now place themselves in the silliest of positions just to give you another story.”

“No!” he shouted, and then again, “No!   Look here!” and at this point he waved the Metro at me.   “Arsenal identify top two candidates to replace struggling Unai Emery” it announced.

“Another one of mine, I’m afraid,” I said and for once the old boy’s manner became meek and conciliatory, like that of a black-beetle which seeing the lady of the house reach for the insect powder does its best to show that it fully realises that it has brought this on itself.

“But is there no true news?” he asked.   “What about ‘Arsenal star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang influencing Unai Emery sack decision’,” and here he waved a copy of the Express at me.

“There is a theory,” I said, “which is widely seen as the gospel truth in the newspaper industry, that if you want really stylish writing, the preliminary noggin is essential. Unless pie-eyed, this vision says, you cannot hope to grip.”  Being a follower of that advice, he nodded vigorously before I added,  “I fear, however, it is the opposite of the truth.”

I prepared to take my leave, as he gave me a sad and desperate look, downing the rest of his pint and waving at the barmaid for another, tears of disbelief in his eyes.   But sad to say he still used the tale, and the Express did indeed publish it.

Will they never learn?

5 Replies to “When each Arsenal story is a speculation published as the truth where can we go next?”

  1. This piece reminds me of a newspaper-story which came out the other day. They started it off by saying that there’s no source or it’s an unnamed source. Then they said that the AFC players were doing impressions of their boss, having a laugh basically, but because the paper told fans that this is very bad, fans are supposed to believe it’s bad. They (Fans) were told it was a rumour, they were then told that players, mocking and jabbing is majorly disrespectful, they believed it without any hesitation. News guys must find Arsenal fans to be some of the easiest targets, and not needing much leg work to stir them right up.

  2. Even if there was a hint of truth in the story about players taking the p—., that is hardly so remarkable. I have worked in organisations where it is usual for such things to occur in an affectionate way which was not at all an indication of a lack of respect. It can indeed be a sign of a happy collective atmosphere.

    It probably happens in a number of clubs, in the same way that Mr. Wenger was himself was regarded in his early days – eg the Clouseau remarks and imitations of his French speaking.

  3. Well, we got rid of Wenger, and now Xhaka…so…who’s next on our hit list? It’s been a while since we’ve had a go at Mustafi…how about a piece on his choice of poodles being anti-British?

  4. I would go with a fake story of a possible managerial candidate who is so appalling,of whom every thought is disgusting and distasteful , and so very un Arsenal that both sides of the so called divide would holler in unision , “NO!” .
    While genuflecting continously and feverishly; with much rending of clothes and sad lamentations

    Anyone come to mind ?

  5. Q.When each Arsenal story is a speculation published as the truth where can we go next?

    A. We can pass into the realms of sheer and unbridled fantasy where every wish and desire is granted; all imagined sense and hopes of entitlements are fulfilled.
    Where every billionaire wants to buy into your dreams of greatness and illusions of grandeur.

    Well, at least till they (finally) realise that there are no knights in shining amour , no sure fixes , nor anyone caring two hoots for their wants .

    But don’t let me stop you from your incessant whinings ! Somebody must be enjoying your compamy !

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