Friday, May 28, 2010

The 'siege mentality' of nationalism

The tabloids are unable to deal with patriotism without turning hysterical: the equivalent of an aggressive pisshead unable to handle his drinks, convinced that they're all looking at him funny.

Why can't people just be proud of their country and their flag without having to turn their nationalism into a brain-dead Neanderthal-like fetish based on paranoia and "siege mentality"?

Like clockwork, with each World Cup or Euro Championship comes the urban myth based on some grand anti-English design or some hollow conspiracy theory whipped up by tabloids for the populace to consume.

The fact is, an alarming number of Brits are happy to be treated like imbeciles the moment there's a whiff of international football in the air.

And so you may have heard of the current uproar surrounding the myth that police are trying to ban England football shirts and flags in pubs and public places during the World Cup.

The rumours appear to have been kickstarted by (make a wild guess) the Sun when they published an article under the header "Bid to ban England tops in World Cup pubs".

Anyone with more than a brain cell would have detected that the headline had nothing to do with the facts. The article itself refers to none other than "suggestions" sent by the Met to a few pubs in Croydon with a history of football-related disturbances. Just a couple of non-compulsory tips about hiring security staff and introducing dresscode restrictions (see Tabloid Watch for a better analysis).

Yet the frothing at the mouth took no time to kick in. Several Facebook groups (see here, here and here for a sample) were set up before you could even utter the word "idiot" and, like dogs who've just been ordered to sit, lie down, bark and run, people started spewing up disturbing amounts of online rage, working themselves up against not just the "PC brigade" and "elf & safety" killjoys, but also immigrants (see this delightful group called "if our england tops am banned your sari should b2")!

And yet police forces up and down the country have been stepping forward to dispel the myth. Staffordshire police said that "there is no truth in [the rumours] whatsoever", while West Midlands Police denied that there is any directive whatsoever about a ban. A spokesperson dismissed the rumours as "nonsense".

But, no. That's not enough. The Sun seems to be unable to show its "patriotic" credentials without having to whip up more imbecilic siege mentality. They just can't do it, can they?

And so the tabloid decided to produce the headline Ooh-arr ya? Cornish ban England flags. Except that no such thing ever happened in Cornwall or elsewhere. The Sun just concocted the headline on the basis of a Facebook group comprising 55 people and a quote from a man representing the minute Cornish separatist movement. That became Cornish ban England flags. You can only imagine the outrage amongst Sun readers.

Today the Daily Mail joined in with the words "Clampdown: Workers are increasingly being banned from flying England flags", based on two stories about a private refuse collection firm in Liverpool and taxis in Canterbury not being allowed to wave flags for visibility reasons. Nevermind the taxi firm made it clear that "[they] have been fully supportive of [taxi drivers] wearing England shirts", the Daily Mail insists it's a "clampdown on public patriotism".

Again, siege, threats, bans, enemies, paranoia: the equivalent of an aggressive pisshead unable to handle his drinks - as he works himself up that everyone's looking at him funny.


Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

A fine post that documents the fiction that was and still is (indefensibly) being perpetuated. I think a vox pop of people in the street would lead to an alarming number believing it to be true that such things has been banned.

Johnny T said...

For someone like me who has never grasped footballmania this is even more puzzling.
I understand a sense of pride, but getting het up over football? I thought patriotism was more than playing a World Cup!

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Woah there Johnny, getting het up over footy is all fine and good, just cuz you don't dig it don't mean it's daft, sure there are plenty of things you get het up over that may leave others unmoved.