Search

Random Ramblings

My Occasional Thoughts About Stuff…

The Demands of the Throat

In the course of one of his many escapades, the tortoise, that lovable rogue and scoundrel, pauses to reflect on the fact that he may have just pushed his luck a little too far this time, and it is perhaps time to wrap up the gig before it falls apart. However, he decides to continue, musing, “There is no god like the throat. It demands sacrifices daily.” Of course, the scam blows up in his face shortly after and ever since he’s been thinking, “Should have gotten out when I could.” This is why the tortoise walks so slowly. Or has a cracked shell. I forget which particular facet of the tortoise’s nature the tale sought to explain.

There is no doubt that among the local deities, the throat would have been considered an especially demanding god. After all, the other gods didn’t demand an offering from you every day, only when you wanted something. Even then, their demands could be exceedingly specific. For instance, one could be faced with a request for a pregnant brown and white spotted she-goat, for example. Or a black and green cockerel with a red and white crown. Either of these could take weeks to locate or, just coincidentally, happen to have been sitting in your backyard all along. It was no coincidence that priests weren’t poor men.

Accordingly, when the white man showed up with his god, it would have been something of a relief. Here, at last, was a single deity who claimed kingship over all others, and granted direct access to his supplicants. No more inconsiderate demands for that she-goat you’d spent the last two years rearing, just your worship and prayers. No more priests only willing to meet you in the dead of night, this god wanted his worship done in the bright sunshine. And his priests, oh, such humble fellows, simple of raiment and undemanding in their care. And how the people flocked to him.

Over the years though, the white man’s god has gradually taken on some of the characteristics of the gods he so unceremoniously shoved aside. He has grown to like being addressed in the dead and dark of night, sometimes, all night, whereas his predecessors would rarely demand more than an hour of your time, maybe half the night where your problem was deemed grave enough. His demands have grown and grown. He could ask for your car, your house, or a certain amount of money based on how many years he has suffered you to live on his earth. His priests are no longer the humble advocates of self-denial they once were, oh no. Now they tell the people that salvation lies in wealth, and their god requires as much of yours as would be uncomfortable to hand over to them. That new car you just acquired? The lord requires it of you as a seed. Last time I checked, metal, glass and plastic don’t grow out of the ground, but what do I know. Also, no longer does their god offer his services gratis, his chosen “anointed” priests inform sadly. Their god requires a small consultation fee, depending on how dire your situation is, of course. Somewhere along the line, their god changed from a benevolent and kindly deity into a benevolent and kindly mafia boss. And just like Don Corleone, when he makes you an offer, you would be wise to accept it.

Somewhere, the throat is wondering just how the tortoise got it so wrong. Should be easy enough to catch up with him and have that conversation. Unless the tortoise is racing the rabbit this week…

Advertisements

The Media and Narratives in the Age of Trump

Now that the Americans have elected themselves a President who is inclined to declare all media coverage he doesn’t like to be “lies”, “false” and evidence of dishonesty, the media finds itself in a rather strange position. It is suddenly imperative that editorial errors be hunted down and eliminated. In this era of speed being more important than accuracy, that poses a problem. President Trump will amplify any error, no matter how benign, as evidence of bias and dishonesty. Take for instance, the story about a bust of Martin Luther King being removed from the Oval Office by Trump. It turned out to be wrong, and the administration hammered on it over and over. The reporter apologised for the error, but the damage was already done.

Now, if your contact with the media comes through the sporting press, then you have seen first-hand the bias and dishonesty Trump only imagines he sees. The sporting press love to use the “narrative”, and this means that every new story has to fit into the ongoing saga as determined by the editorial staff. What this means for stories is easily determined: where the facts do not fit the narrative, those facts are ignored. As a sports fan who eagerly devours content related to his favourite team (Arsenal FC, by far the greatest team the world has ever seen) it is quite easy to notice when there is an agenda against your team in the press. What this means for the coverage of events is that certain events get left out of the reporting as including those events would defeat the narrative.

In 1989, there was a stampede at a football game, and 96 people were killed. In the aftermath, The Sun newspaper ran the now infamous headline “The Truth”, and claimed that fans had pissed on the brave cops and looted the bodies of the victims. At the time, the prevailing narrative about football fans and stadium trouble was that where there was any incident, the fans were to blame. So, The Sun ran the official police story under that headline, and never questioned what the police said happened because that was what fit the narrative. It took 23 years of fighting by the families of the victims for the truth to emerge. And it was that the police, rather than the fans, were responsible for those deaths. In fact, the fans tried desperately to help victims, 45 of whom died needlessly. You can ask the families of the 96 if the media is dishonest.

In 2009, Arsenal striker Eduardo da Silva dived to win a penalty against Celtic FC in a Champions League qualifier. He dived, no question. What followed was a frothing witch-hunt carried out in the press against this dirty, diving foreigner and his enabling club of foreigners, Arsenal. Arsenal had defeated Celtic 2-0 in the first leg in Scotland, meaning that Celtic hadn’t a prayer in hell of winning the tie, but Eduardo was branded a diving cheat and ought to be punished. You’d expect that English players, being good, honest lads, would require a gunshot in order to fall over in the penalty area. You’d be wrong, as the likes of Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, and Jamie Vardy have proven time and time again over the years. Do you know what the British press call it when one of their darling English players dives to win a penalty? “Being clever.” So, a foreign player does it once and he’s a despicable cheat. An English player does the same thing multiple times, he’s a clever lad, they say with a chuckle.

It is also a common theme for commentators to say whenever an Arsenal player is sent off, “That is the Xth red card of Arsene Wenger’s tenure.” Naturally, this gives the impression that under Arsene Wenger, Arsenal went from a clean team of gentlemen to a bunch of thugs and leg breakers who are barely restrained by the rules of the game. For example, against Burnley FC, Granit Xhaka received a red card which, the commentator gleefully informed us, was the 114th red card under Arsene Wenger. Dirty team reflecting a dirty manager, yeah? The number of red cards which have been ludicrously harsh or completely wrong is never discussed. For instance, Xhaka was sent off by the same referee in a match earlier this season for a foul which was universally described as being worthy of only a yellow (he tripped an opposing player to stop a counter attack well short of goal and with team mates all around him). Dennis Bergkamp was once sent off for pointing at (not touching, not striking, or even grazing) an opposition player who had fouled him. Patrick Vieira was once sent off for doing nothing, prompting Wenger to remark that the referee was so eager to send him off, he should have given him the red card in the tunnel. Similarly ignored in the “x red cards under Wenger” narrative is the fact that Arsenal’s opponents are allowed to foul Arsenal players with zero action taken by the officials, while Arsenal players are regularly booked for their first offences. Also, there is no other team for which the media keeps a running count of red cards.

In 2002, during a Champions League match, Aldo Duscher of Deportivo La Coruna tackled David Beckham of Manchester United, leaving the United man with a broken bone in his foot. The English press went into a frothing frenzy. Duscher was labelled a butcher, pieces were written claiming he had injured Beckham on purpose to keep him out of the World Cup. He didn’t belong on a football pitch if he couldn’t learn how to tackle an opponent safely. Beckham recovered in time and had a starring role in the World Cup and continued his very successful career. In 2008, Eduardo suffered a badly broken leg (compound fracture and dislocated ankle) after a wild tackle by Martin Taylor of Birmingham FC. Immediately after the game, the same press which went insane over a broken toe bone for David Beckham, was full of piece after piece about what a nice man Mr Taylor was, and how he didn’t have a malicious bone in his body, and what a terrible accident it all was. Eduardo was just a little too fast/clever for him, they all said. Eduardo’s career never quite recovered, and he was certainly never the same player. Two years later, Ryan Shawcross lunged wildly into Aaron Ramsey and broke his leg in two places. Again, the media came out with stories about what a nice lad Shawcross was, despite him having broken another opponent’s leg earlier, and once chasing Emmanuel Adebayor off the pitch in order to tackle and injure him. In the press, it was somehow Arsenal’s fault for being better at football than their opponents.

Arsenal defeated Burnley 2-1 after the aforementioned red card. Burnley equalised from the penalty spot before Arsenal were also awarded a very late penalty to grab the win. During the match, with the score at 1-0, Arsenal defender Mustafi was brought down in the box by a Burnley player. The referee stared at the incident, and despite seeing clearly that Mustafi had control of the ball, which did not change direction to indicate contact by the opposition player, waved play on. Later in the game, Koscielny was kicked in the face by a Burnley player. It is instructive to note that it was the assistant referee, not the centre referee, who signalled for the foul and penalty. The centre referee was happy to ignore another foul on an Arsenal player in the box until the assistant raised his flag. The consensus in the press was that plucky Burnley had been denied a point by a ludicrous display of refereeing. There was no mention of the foul on Mustafi, or the serial elbowing by Burnley players which should have earned them two red cards.

The narrative is king and must be allowed to rule. Whether it be that foreigners are cheats, Arsenal is a dirty team accumulating red cards like they’re going out of fashion, or that underdogs are plucky and not at all reliant on astounding officiating incompetence. When Arsenal are the victims of serious fouls which lead to injuries and them losing a game, the press trumpet that “Arsenal don’t like it up them” and encourage other teams to “get in their faces”. When an Arsenal player suffers a career-threatening injury as a result of such tackles, the perpetrator is immediately described as “not that type of player”.

So, when President Trump says the media is dishonest, even if they’re being 100% accurate about him, it resonates because we can all remember at least one instance in which the media set a course and then absolutely refused to let the facts get in the way of the chosen narrative. That so many people are skeptical of the media now is entirely the media’s own fault. In the lead up to the Iraq War, the media failed or refused to question the Bush and Blair administrations’ insistence on Saddam’s possession of WMDs. Even when the UN weapons inspectors said there were no WMDs in Iraq. The lies of those governments were amplified by the media and repeated over and over. Those who questioned the narrative were shoved aside. So, when Trump says the people who claimed Russia hacked the election were the same people who said Iraq had WMDs, he’s 100% correct, especially seeing as those agencies have never come out and apologised for the war that those lies enabled, or the spike in international terrorism which followed and led us to ISIS, Boko Haram and similar terror groups.

As a football fan, I can see evidence of dishonesty and bias in the media on a daily basis. They edit match highlights to leave out key incidents and act like they never happened. Sometimes, during the game, you’re listening to the commentary and wondering if the game you’re watching is different from the one the commentators are watching. Hell, during the last World Cup, they edited the live feed to insert a shot of a fan crying, and made it seem that she was devastated by the scoreline, when in fact, she’d been overcome by emotion during the national anthem, before the game started. The broadcaster apologised for it later, but the message had already been sent out.

Perhaps they do these things to drive debate, generate comments, clicks, page views and all, and I get that the landscape is tough and the competition is fierce. The problem is that they’ve been sacrificing their credibility to do it for so long that Trump kind of has a point.

Post-Fact

It has been said that given the continued buoyancy of the candidacy of one Donald J. Trump, that we are living in the “post-fact” era. This means that a candidate for high office, like Mr Trump, can lie all he wants, be called out for his lies, confronted with clear evidence of his lies, continue to repeat them, and suffer no serious consequences. Indeed, this has been borne out by almost everything that has spewed forth from Mr Trump during the course of this campaign. They are almost too many to list in one post, but I’ll take a wee swing at it.

  1. “I opposed the Iraq war.” (He didn’t until 2 years after it started. In fact, he was for the war prior to its beginning.)
  2. “Hillary Clinton started birtherism. I ended it.” (Not only did Mrs Clinton not start birtherism, Mr Trump loudly championed the “cause” for five freaking years!)
  3. “I can’t release my tax returns because I’m being audited.” (The IRS has said nothing about being audited precludes you from releasing your tax returns. If anything, the words of Donald Trump Jr give a much clearer insight into why the said tax returns are not forthcoming. Hint: they don’t want to create 300 million tax experts.)
  4. “I never said not paying taxes makes me smart.” (In his first debate with Mrs Clinton, he interjected into her comment that perhaps he wasn’t releasing his tax returns because it would show he hadn’t been paying federal income tax, “That makes me smart.” Then, literally 15 minutes later, in response to a question in the “Spin Room” he flatly denied saying so.)

In any event, Mr Trump’s most egregious lies are well-documented elsewhere. What is important is that none of these flat out lies have dented his standing with his “base”. If anything, the more he gets called out for lying, the more vociferously he is defended. It is mind boggling.

However, nowhere is the post-fact era more keenly seen than in the United Kingdom. During the Brexit Campaign, it was claimed by the “Leave” side that the UK was sending £300 million per week to the EU, which would be better put to use in the NHS. This claim, which was debunked during the campaign, but somehow still played a role in making up the minds of some “Leave” voters, was spectacularly abandoned the morning the results came in and the “Leave” side was declared the winner. And, not only have those responsible for this high-profile lie never been punished, Boris Johnson (one of the key architects and promoters of this lie) was made Foreign Secretary! Think about that for a second. A man who says Africans have “watermelon smiles” is in charge of the UK’s foreign policy.

However, perhaps it is unfair to lay the blame for the post-fact era squarely at the feet of Donald Trump and his ilk. We need to go back a bit further for moment telling big lies to the public became mainstream (and was rewarded). In the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, the world was reassured by the United States and United Kingdom that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and the willingness to use them. There was the famous CGI presentation of Colin Powell to the United Nations Security Council. There was the British claim that Saddam could launch a full-scale chemical weapons attack in mere minutes. Both countries were adamant (despite all the evidence to the contrary) that Saddam Hussein had a stockpile of WMDs somewhere in the country. 13 years on, and not only did they never find these fabled weapons, enquiry after enquiry has concluded that they had no actual evidence of the weapons existence in the first place. Saddam Hussein did have mustard gas once upon a time, but that was sold to him by the Americans.

Now, how did the American and British voting public react to being so cleverly played for fools by their respective governments? They re-elected George W. Bush to a second term, and Tony Blair’s Labour Party also won the next UK elections. Mr Blair himself only left office after a palace coup in his party.

It would be fair then to say that it was at this moment that the seed took root. If you lie, and lie big, and have the guts and gumption to stick the lie out to the very bitter end, it’s probably not going to do you much damage. All you need to do is make sure the people who don’t care about your lies outnumber those who do.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

Sonia's Beauty Blog

makeup . hair . lifestyle

Pencil Goddess

My Occasional Thoughts About Stuff...

Red Lips Win

Lifestyle curator

Gorgeous Brown Skin

A lifestyle, beauty, health and fashion blog

amandarylee's Blog

4 out of 5 dentists recommend this WordPress.com site

Dame's Caucus

Romance... Erotic... Naija Erotica.

The World Of Pootermobile

Spreading Joy One BlackBerry Theme At A Time

Mickeymoye's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

KANAYO'S VOICE!

LINKING THE LOCAL TO THE GLOBAL AND THE GLOBAL TO THE LOCAL!

A Monk's Words

My opinion, my thought process..a valve for the bedlam in my head.

Didicola

Musing... Brooding... Educing

7am Kickoff

An Arsenal FC blog from an American perspective

zindzi

The best way to become acquainted with a subject is to write a book about it. - Benjamin Disraeli

Sonia's Beauty Blog

makeup . hair . lifestyle

Pencil Goddess

My Occasional Thoughts About Stuff...

Red Lips Win

Lifestyle curator

Gorgeous Brown Skin

A lifestyle, beauty, health and fashion blog

amandarylee's Blog

4 out of 5 dentists recommend this WordPress.com site

Dame's Caucus

Romance... Erotic... Naija Erotica.

The World Of Pootermobile

Spreading Joy One BlackBerry Theme At A Time

Mickeymoye's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

KANAYO'S VOICE!

LINKING THE LOCAL TO THE GLOBAL AND THE GLOBAL TO THE LOCAL!

A Monk's Words

My opinion, my thought process..a valve for the bedlam in my head.

Didicola

Musing... Brooding... Educing

7am Kickoff

An Arsenal FC blog from an American perspective

zindzi

The best way to become acquainted with a subject is to write a book about it. - Benjamin Disraeli

%d bloggers like this: