Untold Updates videos
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.
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