by Tony Attwood
Prelude: If this article looks to be in a strange format, my apologies. We are trying to get rid of a bug in the system to ensure that Untold looks ok on all devices, and for the moment there appear to be problems throughout the site.
I live in a country in which the majority of the newspapers support one political party, and spend a fair bit of time telling anyone who cares to read that another political party is dangerous, full of idiots, and liable to rob readers of their rights and their money while enslaving their womenfolk.
OK I may have exaggerated a trifle, but the reality is that right-wing newspapers in England greatly outnumber left-wing newspapers. But we have a democracy, and so within the laws of libel and incitement, one can slant the daily news in whichever way one wants.
But you might think that in football there would be a more balanced spread of opinion on any particular matter – after all the game is the game and simply needs describing. And yet curiously this is not the case.
Now this lack of a balanced view not come about because of some sort of political bias, but rather through a process of most blogs, newspapers and broadcasters, all doing three things.
First they go for simplicity of message. Keep it short, keep it simple. “What Arsenal need is a new defence” – that sort of comment. You hear it so often it becomes true.
Second they often tend to go for maximum clicks above originality of content, which means a buzzy headline – but one that is often unrelated to most of the copy that follows.
Third they tend to stick to the three or four general points over and over again, which then implies that this is all there is. Arsenal need a new defence, a new manager and a to give the kids a chance. You hear it so often it sounds like it must be true because… well, you’ve heard it so often.
Thus what we get is the same, simple message repeated and repeated – and that means repeated not just by one blogger, or one newspaper, but by loads of bloggers and multiple newspapers and all the broadcasters.
To take the Arsenal situation, the idea went about that Arsenal needed a lot of new players, despite having spent over £100m in the summer. All the media jumped into this idea. Then came the notion that Arsenal needed a new manager. Again everyone writing and talking about Arsenal joined in.
And now along comes the idea that the new manager will need to buy another load of new players. That becomes obvious because we know we needed new players before.
What no one did was to recognise that this talk about needing more players earlier this season, despite all the buying, could itself affect the psychology of the team. Or maybe that it was a tactical issue. Or maybe Arsenal are once more having referee problems. Or maybe the booing of the team by the fans was the problem.
In other words no one breaks ranks. No one considers that there might not be money made available. No one considers that some managers or players might not want to come to Arsenal because Arsenal fans are always moaning.
There is no doubt that the media has its own agenda, and few publishers and journalists are willing to experiment with stepping outside of this. This is as true of newspapers, TV stations and bloggers as it is of football supporter groups. There is a central ideology and most stay within that – irrespective of any hard evidence that might be presented to the contrary.
The herd instinct dominates and it is the story many supporters come to believe.
The story is simple: the media have an agenda, not for nefarious purposes, but because if they all follow the same straightforward tale, it cuts down on the cost of any research and enquiry and makes life simpler because quite quickly everyone will believe that this is THE story and there is no other tale to tell.
But it does mean we are not getting any real insights into what might be going on. Only the same old suppositions all the time.
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