How supporters are being weaponised by the media; we’ve become their playthings

By Tony Attwood

“I hate how they ‘weaponise’ us against each other with lies… Stadiums are now more hateful for it.”

Paul Ogden, a Manchester City fan, took a moment to write to Untold yesterday, and he made a point that hit me between the eyes.  Now he’s made it, I find it obvious, but before he wrote it, I’d missed the point.

And this despite the fact I’ve repeatedly criticised the media for trivialising football, for reducing it more and more to simplicities. The most notable of which is the ceaseless focus on transfers and non-stories of the “Arsenal fans noticed…” type.

But Paul took it further noting how the media now ‘weaponise’ us against each other with their lies.  As he pointed out, as a result, stadiums are now more hateful than ever.

I utterly agree – it is the decision by the media to reduce all football stories to simpler and simpler tales which more often than not contain anger.

Guendouzi, a young lad who presumably left school at 16 and spent much of his time at school playing football, makes a comment saying the fans expect more from him, and four Arsenal fans then ludicrously (and presumably for their own self-aggrandisement or because they were put up to it by the firm that ran the story) poke fun at the player on Twitter.  It’s nothing. It is a bunch of dopes with nothing better to occupying their lives putting down a young Arsenal player.  And Transfer Tavern turn it into a story on their website.  Suddenly it is anger and fury.  Next it will be “get out of my club.”

How insane is that?

And yet it happens all the time.  What makes it worse is that when this anger, actively reported by the media (who are, after all the people who decide what is a newsworthy story and what is not) feeds back into the fans and the fans stoke the flames even more, the media in mock shock horror are aghast and say how appalling fan behaviour is.

“Nothing to do with us,” they say with a knowing sigh.  “We just report the news, we don’t create it.”

Just consider the Mail’s response to the recent attack on the home of a director.   They ran the headline, “‘It can’t be condoned but it will get WORSE’: Gary Neville slams Manchester United supporters for attacking Ed Woodward’s house – but warns frustration will grow if they do not appoint a director of football soon.”

Frustration grows primarily because it is stoked up by the media.   But not just in relation to big events like fans attacking a director’s house but in terms of the whole trivialising way the media treats football and football fans.

We are not seen by the media as regular, ordinary people who happen to have an interest in watching football and feeling an affiliation with one club.  Through the endless stories of childish twitter comments, through the treating of vague ramblings of inarticulate fans on radio phone-ins as “talking points”, through utilising ill-informed ex-players as opinion formers and predictors of what will happen, the “debate” as they like to call it, is reduced to the level of four-year-olds squabbling over a toy.

Fans are encouraged to complain about their own team all the time, unless they are top of the league, and since only one club out of 20 can be top of the league 95% of fans are negative.

In fact, it can be worse than that, for I can recall on each occasion Arsenal has won the league in my supporting life, fans were complaining that certain players were not good enough and the squad would have to be seriously strengthened if we were going to have any chance of retaining the title.

And ok, it can be argued that this was true since we haven’t retained the title since the days of Chapman Shaw and Allison, but that’s not the point.   What the media is doing endlessly, ceaselessly and remorselessly is stoking the flames of negativity and anger.

Virtually all commentators are negative most of the time, although they are all (quite reasonably) praising Liverpool’s current run, a few slips and the negativity will return.  It seeps into the fans and transmutes itself into anger.

Yes, we are being weaponised by the media large and small.  Whereas the real story is the clubs, and their owners, managers and players, the media have found a much cheaper source of stories – the fans.  We become the stories, and if we are not creating enough stories then three or four idiots are picked out and as Paul Ogden put it, weaponised.

Then, when any fan dares protest – like the WHU fan who wore a t-shirt protesting at the board, and who is now barred from the taxpayers’ stadium – we get hit.

We are now like rats in a lab experiment, tempted by the cheese at the end of the maze, but then given an electric shock if we dare head towards it.   We pay the clubs our money, are taunted by the media, and when we react, we become the new headline for the media that makes fun of us.

We are unable to understand the game, so we need reporters to interpret it for us.  We are fed stories 97% of which are utterly untrue, and expected to come back for more.

We are the actors in the game the media plays for its own profit and aggrandisement.  And the worst thing is, the journalists are then expecting us to read or listen to what they say and go on their phone-ins, never once daring to blame the journalists – because if you do, you’ll be cut off the phone in, and not reported in the media.


6 Replies to “How supporters are being weaponised by the media; we’ve become their playthings”

  1. “We are now like rats in a lab experiment, tempted by the cheese at the end of the maze, but then given an electric shock if we dare head towards it.”

    We have been for a long long time.

    The agitation and irritation of society is happening constantly with search algorithms that return searches that get reactions from people.

    People react to negativety quicker and a lot more than positivety, everyone likes a moan and the Internet and comment sections are a perfect place for this.
    It is like having a mate that is a shit stirrer constantly by your side stirring the pot. It will not end well and the world in general is heading for a rude awakening as feeding more and more negativety in all aspects of society can only lead to bad consequences.

  2. Tony
    So true!
    We need to educate ourselves, it’s difficult but there are hundred of millions of people
    who are aware of these issues, so we have to be positive and continue to report on this important media-issue.

  3. omgarsenal

    Thanks for the link.

    Amazing stats showing a sharp decline.

    Is it the players? Was it the coach? A combination of both?

    How much has confidence? PGMOL? Luck? Got to do with it, if anything?

    I wish I knew.

    One point I do want to pick up on is the decline of Ozil, because I think it has relevance regarding this idea of fans being ‘weaponizing’ by the media.

    Almost from day one the media were on his back. As time went by every little slip, every little shrug of his shoulders, real or perceived, was jumped on.

    It was either ‘Ozil isn’t good enough’ or ‘Ozil doesn’t care’.

    A relentless tirade of discontent from the media clearly aimed at stirring up the natives, and stir they did.

    As far as I can see the media quite blatantly agitated our fans to expect miracles from Ozil, if not miracles, far more than he could of ever realistically been able to deliver, because as those statistics show, he was already delivering at a quite remarkable rate anyway, but it was still never good enough.

    In line with the theme of this article, Arsenal fans have been consistently ‘weaponised’ by the media, not to ‘hate’ other teams, or to hate other fans, but to hate our own team and to hate our own players, and sad to say, far to many of our fans have been ready, willing, and able to take up arms at the medias behest.

    Weaponised indeed.

  4. Thanks for the article OMGArsenal.

    I wonder, if one looks at a time series of Mesut’s stats, what that shows? Surely it isn’t constant, or a stair step. Can we see the affects of negative press?

    Not volunteering, too many things to do. 🙂

  5. Gord

    “Can we see the affects of negative press?”

    I think that is an absolute certainty.

    That is why I highlighted Ozil as I believe he is a perfect example of how ‘weaponizing’ has taken place.

    I believe his decline can at the very least be partly attributed to how the media constantly critisised him and in turn how some of our ‘Zombies’ latched on to that, and how the constant critisism gradually wore away at his confidence.

    Of course some of it could just be form, age, team tactics, all manner of things, but I truly believe loss of confidence, on the back of constant critisism and unrealistic expectation, has had a massive impact on his performances, as it has on other players both past and present.

    Although I never gave it this great label of ‘weaponization’ I have been saying for years that the media and their constant critisism of Arsenal, and the resulting agitation (or weaponization) of our fan base, has had a massive overall negative effect on our players, and our club as a whole.

    As an example of the exact reverse of ‘weaponization’ take Liverpool for example.

    No championship title for 30 years yet it was hardly ever mentioned. Compare that to Arsenal, when once we hadn’t won the title for a couple of years, it was mentioned every time we walked on the pitch.

    During our 10 year trophy less stretch I doubt their was a person on the globe that didn’t know about it. We were critisised every day.

    Liverpool on the other hand were pretty much left alone. Liverpool didn’t have an endless stream of ex players deriding everything and everyone at their ex club.

    Of course the odd grumble but can you imagine Tommo and co abusing Liverpool and trying to turn Liverpools own fans against his past club as ours have done?

    In other words, quite the opposite to ‘weaponizing’ the Liverpool fans against Liverpool, they actively ‘pacified’ them.

    ‘Yes it’s not great today, but lets look at tomorrow. Keep the faith lads’

    Similarly Spurs.

    Every season there was going to be a ‘powershift’ in North London, yet year after year after year we just kept on celebrating st.Tottering day. Oh if only !!!!

    Again it was a message from the media ‘Keep the faith’.

    And in the mean time, despite maintaining average league finishes above both of those 2 and winning 3 FA Cups, it was our fans that were constantly told by the media that we were failures. Your players are crap. Wenger cant coach. Your owners couldn’t run a bath. etc etc.

    Rise up rise up they screamed.

    And rise up they did. And just look what it’s done.

    Liverpool fans did indeed keep the faith and have been duly rewarded, and some.

    Spurs fans kept the faith and despite failing to win anything, given their financial situation, actually did pretty well, in a similar way to what Wenger did in his 10 year trophy less period.

    The difference being Spurs were praised where as we were slaughtered.

    What ever you call it, and ‘Weaponising’ is a great description, our fans certainly seemed to enjoy taking shots at their own club, and I see no sign of this toxic relationship between the media and our fans stopping any time soon.

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