So we’re in the midst of the best, most exciting, unpredictable World Cup in generations. Happy days, right?
Nearly. On Tuesday during a match between Italy and Uruguay, an event occurred, which allowed a cultural malignancy to mushroom further.
To characterise the event itself, or rather to attempt one, is disingenuous and on my part hypocritical. It does however lead straight to the core issue, how and why we need to label it, and events like it. To some Luis Suarez either bit, or attempted to bite Giorgio Chiellini on the shoulder, others saw nothing untoward, while some just weren’t sure what had happened.
Afterwards social media, ever the bastion of reasoned and balanced thought, became a cesspit of faux moralisation and outright tribalism. The mainstream media just moralised, because they’ve never done anything remotely immoral of course.
Accuse me of playing devils advocate here if you must, but there is no conclusive evidence one way or the other as to what happened between Suarez and Chiellini, and that’s the problem, this allowed people to see what they wanted, they saw the version of the truth that suited their pre-existing bias or biases. We had people steadfastly declaring that they knew one way or the other, better yet was the derision shown towards those who didn’t see it their way. The hubris and myopia on all sides was staggering.
We’ve come to accept this sectarianism as inevitable when unexplained and or inconclusive events occur. And this time Twitter isn’t to blame. It’s a free-for-all of self-loathing, self-aggrandising and vainglorious self-promotion, that much is clear, but the only alteration it’s made to how we construct our thoughts is procedural. Now these thoughts are instantly evacuated and published, instead of being consigned to a larger conglomerate of festering resentment that would otherwise likely remain sublimated.
The media helped to stir it up further, most reported that Suarez ‘appeared to’ bite Chiellini. The tone was certain, albeit the language still legally vague. However, broadsheets like Telegraph delivered a clearer verdict. Suarez was guilty. Once again the curse of news reporting masquerading as opinion prevailed. And why not? As a style of reportage it cannot fail. It attracts the attention of either those who agree with its message, or those who disagree. Views, clicks or a share of viewership and therefore ad revenue is the priority here, not facts. Luis Suarez and Giorgio Chiellini had a coming together and the referee took no action just isn’t a sexy or exciting headline.
It’s time to accept that this shift is a result of a decline in education, and therefore critical, independent thinking. This has also caused a heightened first world hysteria that became pervasive and accepted as the norm in the aftermath of 9/11’s carnage. And it has shown no signs of abating since. Add in social media and the internet, and it’s exacerbated our obsession with seeing our own opinions and theories informing the prevailing groupthink. That means we’ll do and say anything to justify them, even skewing our perception of physical reality to fit a narrative that transcends it.
Using 9/11 as a starting point for it all is inaccurate, but that was the escalation. In the modern media age the first media scrum around an event that, for a time, was unexplained, was the car crash that killed Princess Diana. Do you remember the media coverage during the twenty-four hours after it? I was in my mid teens and I’d never seen anything like it. The window was small, but during it facts were sparse or non-existent, and (almost) everyone wanted to know what had happened. Instead of reporting the facts, they offered an odd mixture of facts with associated guesswork for us, and then we joined in, albeit mostly confined to private spheres.
A decade later and we find an equivalent to the Luis Suarez/Chiellini situation. The presumptive essence of the language used, ‘appeared to’ immediately reminded me of Madeleine McCann’s ‘disappearance’. Eventually over the days, weeks and months the word ‘disappearance’ somehow became the de facto euphemism for media people and media to project, with the use of surrounding, insinuated language, what they suspected had happened. Speculation, with very little or no facts at all, became the vogue, because there was nothing else to report.
I’m not looking to cast Suarez as a sympathetic figure. While he’s a victim of herd like hysteria, he’s allowed it to become focused on him. I’ve not denying that Luis Suarez could’ve bit Chiellini, he certainly could’ve. That’s not my issue.
None of the pictures are conclusive that he did. That is.
And yet the prevailing and consensus opinion is that he did. It leads me to ask, is having an opinion, no matter what and how it’s informed, all that matters these days? If so, that worries me.
FIFA’s disproportional ban, handed down today, and the confusing and contradictory legalese that supported it, was no surprise.
Why? Not knowing the outcome of something intriguing or unexplained can place people in a desperate state. Because then it becomes about them. Speculation is a form of introspection, part of which means that they have to analyse if their perception, and the subsequent belief as to what happened based upon that perception, is arrived at through rational and critical modes of thought.
The prospect of being faced with something which questions whether your critical faculties are compromised by inherent prejudices and therefore myopia is a frightening prospect. Deflecting that reality by interpreting something as a fact and believing it is crucial to obfuscating the flaws in one’s psyche.
There’s a saying, in fact, it’s actually a belief, that people are incapable of change. Whether it be changing their nature, or the way they think.
If you believe that Suarez bit Chiellini, then you believe that he can’t change and hasn’t, that supports the assumption that because he bit someone before, as he has, twice, he’s done it again.
But, be careful, the accusation can just as easily be made that this belief is indicative of an inability to perceive evidence independently and fairly, which would make you just like Suarez.