How to tell if that transfer story is Fake News

Thanks to the President of the United States (and lifetime self-appointed President of Twitter) the term “Fake News” has become something of a throwaway concept, used to deride reports that you don’t like and to latch on to the reports that you do (“Real News”). Sadly, Fake News is a real thing and has been around since the first newspaper owner realized he could make a quick buck with sensationalism – publishing heart stopping headlines, attention-grabbing pictures, and tabloid reports full of salacious details that the public devoured. Despite the death of the newspaper, this phenomenon has only exploded in the modern era where everyone with a microphone or the ability to type can now be a “journalist”.

Sports is also a ripe ground for Fake News. For example, yesterday there were reports that Granit Xhaka had suffered a major injury and could miss the World Cup and substantial parts of the season. It was later revealed by named sources that he has a bruise. “It’s just a painful bruise on the knee,” Swiss team doctor Pierre Etienne Fournier said.

Note the contrast here between the Fake News (sensational headline, no named source) and the Real News (boring bruise, direct quote from the team doctor). These are two major clues to discerning whether an article in question is real or fake.

The first step is to take a look at the headline. Does it sound realistic? This can be hard in the modern world because we live in a timeline that seems so unrealistic at times. But headlines like “Tofu gives men breasts” sounds about as realistic to me as “How Arsenal are going to use amortization to spend a lot more than £50m this summer.”

Another trick that’s often used are mismatched headlines and content. Often the reporter will throw their hands up and say “I don’t write the headlines”, which is true, but it should throw the entire publication into question if this is a tactic that they use regularly.

Using the Granit Xhaka example above the Daily Mail ran with the headline “Granit Xhaka suffers knee injury in Switzerland training” with the author listed as “Press Association”. That’s a very definitive sounding headline designed to provoke a reaction. However the content of the article was (rightly) more subtle, saying that he had not been taken to the hospital.

Think of these headlines as “heartbeat inducing.” The point is to provoke a reaction and get you to buy* the article. Once inside they keep you engaged in the article with more innuendo supported by unattributed quotes “Xhaka sustained an injury to his left knee in a challenge while training in heavy rain with his international team-mates in Lugano, the Swiss Football Federation said.” The report then adds a line about how Xhaka has “struggled to win over the Arsenal fans” which is an irrelevant piece of information but again is provocative, especially if he’s a player who has won you over but also if you feel like he’s a player who hasn’t won you over. The point of including that sentence, which has nothing to do with the story, is simply to provoke.

Another thing to watch out for is anonymous reporting or unattributed reports. They aren’t all bad, the AP and the BBC post anonymous (staff) reports like the Xhaka one above but on major news stories you have to be careful to check who is reporting this and what their sources are. Unnamed sources and anonymous reporters are a particularly toxic combination because they don’t allow you to dig deeper into the story yourself or to verify the claims. Unnamed sources are a favorite tactic of transfer stories – usually under the guise that they are protecting their source – but really these stories are just used by agents and clubs as part of the transfer/re-sign strategy. If a player can look more valuable in the market (by being linked to several big clubs through his agent placing stories in the press) he can demand higher wages, higher transfer fees, and so on.

Also check the reporter’s credentials. Alex Jones, the InfoWars guy, often has pseudoscience “experts” giving reports. What are the credentials of the guy writing this story about Xhaka’s knee? Was it the Swiss doctor or was it an unnamed source in the Swiss team? There’s a major difference between the two.

You should be asking yourself right now why you should listen to me about Fake News! My credentials are that I have been working in a Library for 20+ years and we have courses on evaluating sources all the time. I have also been writing this blog for 10 years. That doesn’t make me an expert on Fake News! In fact, I got most of my information on source evaluation from webinars like this one on the ALA web site.

Be wary of even original sources. I hear fans say “I won’t believe it until I see it reported on the dot com (meaning” but the Arsenal is a corporation and their web site is the news interface of that corporation. They don’t have an editorial board, they don’t have strict rules about sourcing their stories and verifying facts, and they certainly don’t have an obligation to present you with all sides of the story. A good news site will do those things. give us wonderful content but it’s agenda is to make Arsenal profitable, not provide balanced coverage of the news.

Getting all of your news from presents another problem; it becomes an echo chamber where people only talk about the world in narrowly filtered ways. This is particularly problematic phenomenon on self-selected group web sites like Facebook, Twitter, and even on many content providers where dissent is often met with derision from the ruling class. Groups tend to “self-police” with dissenting opinions often shouted down using “local facts” or internal narratives.

This one is harder to do but we should all try to be a little patient. The BBC didn’t even report the Xhaka “injury scare” until this morning, when they reported that it was just a bruise. Some news sources have editorial policies which prevent them from just publishing provocative articles in order to get “the scoop” on their competition. They want to be right, rather than first.

When it comes to transfers and injuries, I often double-check the story. For example, how is this being reported on (as stated above they too can be an unreliable news source), the Independent, ESPN, or on the BBC? And I always check the Guardian with a simple “(search term)+Guardian” Google search.

This can be especially difficult during the transfer season (“silly season”). This is an interesting time of the year, an almost Purge-like time where regular fans turn off their normally critical brains and simply allow Fake News to reign supreme. Almost all of the papers get in on this fake news feeding frenzy and the Guardian and even publish composite “reports” of all the transfer Fake News out there.

There are also people on twitter who literally deal in almost nothing but Fake News. These accounts are called “ITK” which stands for “in the know” and reached a fever pitch a few years back with some accounts tweeting out things like “Benzema came into my bank today to take out a loan on a house he’s buying in North London. I’m not saying he’s definitely signing for Arsenal but he’s definitely signing for Arsenal.” Some of the big accounts are still around. and can even have followers in the 150k range despite getting things wrong recently like the Unai Emery appointment.

That appointment and the Fake News leading up to that appointment are a great example of everything that I have written above. Gazidis on announcing Emery stated: “I know that came as a bit of a surprise and perhaps there were one or two rewrites necessary. But as I said at the beginning of the process, those who know won’t speak and those who speak, won’t know.” This is being widely touted as having ended all “ITK” news reporting and is used by people in an offhand way to discount any reports unless they comes from Ivan Gazidis. It’s a cute phrase but it’s a completely self-serving statement and also verifiably false.

First, it’s an English-language quote from the Tao-Te-Ching. Second, the Express reported that Unai Emery was the surprise front-runner on May 12th (article was amended on the 13th). He spoke to le Parisien that same day and was asked about his links to Arsenal, which he cooled by giving an anodyne answer about weighing up his options. That was just two days after his interview and two days before Arteta’s interview. That means that someone did actually speak. Someone who knew.

That was all blown over, however, when David Ornstein got “ornery” and published a rather uncharacteristically question-filled piece on the 18th naming Mikel Arteta as the front-runner. In this piece, on careful reading, you see a reporter deeply uncertain as to who the next manager will be and left guessing at whether Arsenal had even interviewed Emery, saying “Arteta and Vieira were definitely spoken to and – whether directly or indirectly – Allegri was too. In this tightly guarded process it is unclear if – and to what extent – there was contact with Julian Nagelsmann of Hoffenheim, Belgium assistant Thierry Henry, outgoing PSG boss Emery and Monaco’s Leonardo Jardim.”

Yet despite that uncertainty, Ornstein also clearly states in the piece, “Arteta is the frontrunner – he wants the job and there is a feeling among staff that he is set to get it.” What happened next is exactly the echo-chamber effect I warn about above. Since Ornstein is a respected reporter, working for a paper that rarely prints unsubstantiated speculation as fact and almost never just looks to scoop everyone, his statement that Arteta was the frontrunner was taken by almost everyone (myself included) as fact.

It wasn’t.

In retrospect this story had many of the elements that we should have been wary of.

Unrealistic headlines: one of the richest clubs in Europe offer a job of this magnitude to a former player, who has zero experience managing a team? That sounds far-fetched and even some of the Arsenal supporters who trusted the Orn, sounded that alarm.

The reporter had great credentials but his sources were anonymous. Perhaps they were being fed some misinformation in order to make Ornstein look foolish or to even out the Mole? Perhaps his source was Arteta, who felt like he had “nailed” the interview? We don’t know. Ornstein never said.

Competing sources (the Express) were simply discounted and Ornstein’s article wasn’t properly read with caution. Most of us didn’t follow up, dig deeper, or question the source. We simply jumped off that lemming cliff together, holding hands in our little bubble.

The lesson here, and the final takeaway, is to question everything. And to especially question the things you thought you already knew and trusted.


*You pay for these articles with your attention. You time is valuable to them. It should be valuable to you.


  1. I’m pretty convinced Ornstein’s “mole” is an off-the-record Ivan Gazidis. Gazidis liked Arteta and let Ornstein know that, and Ornstein was clever enough to understand that Gazidis was only stating his preference and the process hadn’t been completed, so he was careful how he reported it. But of course now we find out it wasn’t the consensus pick – that turned out to be Emery once Sanllehi and Mislintat chimed in. We lack nuance in how we digest information unfortunately.

    I however have just heard from a very reliable source (a guy in my office) that we’ve agreed an Ozil + 60m deal for Ousmane Dembele. Totally buying it.

  2. Thanks Tim. Luckily, I have learned through hard won personal experience that following “The News” only upsets me for no reason because I can’t control any of it. So, I modified the one thing I can control: My attention. I’ve stopped following “The News” and that includes the transfer market.

    Unfortunately, not even the strategy of selectively curating my news sources diminished my helpless frustrations with the goings on in the world, and fact checking is a full time job I don’t have time for. So, no news for me. No confusion between fake/real. You hear about the major stuff whether you want to or not, and the rest probably doesn’t matter too much anyway.

    Even the best news outlets are guilty of slants and following the bouncing ball. It used to drive me nuts when I perceived bias in reporting even at high end sources. No more! I don’t read it and I am so much more level headed and happier.

    1. I forgot to add at the end of my post that we should all do whatever makes us happy when it comes to transfer stories. If you like reading toilet paper rags like the Daily Mail, full of stories designed to “trigger” you, then by all means, do!

      I have taken an approach closer to yours because it makes me more sane.

      Have a great summer!

      1. Cheers, you too! I’m hellbent on trying to enjoy the world cup without cynically condemning the corruption at FIFA the whole time. It’s going to be an uphill battle.

    2. Read as much as you want, but apply a filter. I read a ton of transfer speculation, and duly check out the linked layer on YouTube. But I sure as hell take all of it with truckload of salt, until we get something concrete, from a source like the BBC.

      Transfer fantasising is fun. Ive lost count of the number of times I mentally put an Arsenal shirt on William Carvalho. I don’t click on anything that the Daily Express publishes, and some sites like Bleacher Report, make a potful of soup out of a single potato.

      One big tell is the absence of a pretty basic ingredient of a story… an attributed quote. The serial speculators just SAY stuff, i.e. that Arsenal are monitoring/looking at/interested in Draxler etc etc.

      1. Same.

        Except I never fantasized about putting an Arsenal shirt on a presumably shirtless William Carvalho. I think you’re giving us too much of a look into your weirdness in the last two posts.

  3. Sure.

    The only quibble I have is with your take on Gazidis’ “those who know” line, which I actually quite enjoyed as a rebuke to the ITK nonsense.

    First of all, I hardly think Emery’s anodyne response of weighing options is a sign that someone spoke that knew. Managers and players get asked all the time about things like this because journalists want to trap a sound bite rather than confirm inside knowledge. It’s the job of the former to be as diplomatic as possible, because even if there is no truth behind the question, you don’t want to irk potential suitors or risk your words becoming a hostage to fortune. We were linked with any number of available managers last month, and just because Emery’s name was in that list at the time means very little in terms of what was actually happening. Basically, the rumor mill was generated by a list of managers who fulfilled the following criteria: available / youngish / at a decent European club.

    The other thing is that if the whole point of this piece is to increase our wariness and perhaps cynicism about what we read in the news (which I can appreciate), why use a news source to claim with certainty that someone spoke who knew?

    There’s a difference between knowing you saw Arteta or Emery or whomever entering Gazidis’ office for an interview (then leaking this knowledge to the press) and knowing who will actually be appointed or the ranked shortlist. Gazidis, I imagine, was referring to the latter kind of knowledge.

    Either way, it’s strange to dismiss what Gazidis says as a lie, while at the same time granting truth to any source that would indicate leaked knowledge.

  4. Some years ago, you (?) provided a list of names of all the players (and links) that we were “linked” with. That was the last summer I clicked on any transfer rumors.

  5. Spot on. All of it. Well stated. Timely cautionary tale.

    Seems like years ago that one of the more argumentative members of our community was asserting (on the basis that HE was certain that it was going to be Arteta), that some last-minute fix or change of heart went down to deny Arteta and insert Emery. And doing so quite heatedly, at length and vehemently. He even accused Gazidis of deceiving us, the fans, on the timing of the Emery announcement. This is where the proclivity for fake news has led us. To surefire certainty about things that we couldn’t possibly know about, or, in the age of Trump, things we want to believe.

    It’s kind of scary how these unsourced and sometimes inaccurate things harden into certainty and conventional wisdom.

    We’re going to get a lot of this until the transfer window shuts. Sometimes we should do the old-fashioned thing, and wait for an announcement.

    Very good walk through on Ornstein, who, as you point out, simply put out raw intel that was variously interpreted. All he was doing was practicing his craft, journalism. It’s not an exact science. At the BBC (where I used to work) and other good journo establishments there are the belts and braces reporters — X happened in Y place at Z time. And then there’s a whole army of analysts — in sports and in politics — whose main traing resource is their contacts book. 95% of the time they get it right, and they make calls — either in print, or in radio or televisual “two-ways.”

    You’re not reporting hard fact… you’re assessing and analysing a landscape. News would be served dry, brittle and and without context without these men and women. We need them, and their insight. But a worryingly large number of folks don’t seem to know the difference between reporting, punditry and analysis.

  6. Also, want to add: Your post is timely, and appreciated. Unfortunately, we live in an age where we actually need to coach people on how to read the news. Ugh. Thanks a lot postmodernism! If right and wrong is determined by positionality (i.e., subjective) instead of an appeal to objective authority (e.g., the court of reason), then one’s agreement with a headline is enough to grant its authority. This is why fake news actually works nowadays, and partly why the right and left are so divided.

    1. But as Tim pointed out, fake news always existed/worked. There’s just a lot more information out there now, meaning you need to filter through a lot more of ‘fakeness’ before you can determine the ‘truth’.

      Also, I’m a bit weirded out by the whole left and right divide these days. I’m not sure there is a ‘real’ left or a ‘real’ right represented in the news anymore. Or maybe everyone’s just become more twisted these days.

      1. Left and Right– weird?
        Know an acquaintance who would have ‘seen your bet’ with The Illuminati, and re-raised you 3 Rothschild’s.

        The real danger isn’t so much in sports– as it is with politics. When those who can be fooled– are convinced they are right. Why– there’s a nasty piece of work in the White House.


        1. I’m a bit infamous on this site because I changed my mind and wanted that nasty piece of work over the other nasty piece of work. The context was not of personal like or dislike of the candidates. I believed that Trump coming to power would at least delay any outright war in Syria, and I think that that has happened. Despite the events taking place there.

          The other thing is, you can hate Trump, but not everything is his fault. I mean blame him and abuse him all you like, it’s even fun to see, but the issues with America, both at home and abroad, are only exacerbated by him at worst. He didn’t create them. Obama was great. But his coolness allowed people to ignore the issues and revel in his and their nation’s greatness. I hoped Americans, because of Trump’s yuckiness, would end up questioning and introspecting on the issues and events that brought them here. But unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be happening. It’s Trump or Russia or other groups to blame for this while they themselves are absolved. No one seems to want to look beyond.

          1. Give it up already. There was nothing on which to base your oft asserted notion that Trump is more peace-loving than Hillary. Well done, though. You got yourself John Bolton whispering in his ear. Everyone on team trump is for more muscular engagement, and a continuation of policies like torture. Arguing that Trump is a peace candidate made no sense then, makes no sense now.

          2. Not a peace candidate Claude. Obama was a peace candidate and was at war every day of his presidency. So I hold no stock in peace candidates being allowed to actually be peaceful. But didn’t the Washington Post recently call Trump a ‘reluctant hawk’ in their headline? Clinton meanwhile has a track record of pushing for war. Libya was a major ‘mistake’, and showed an immoral and illegal use of R2P provisions, and created (the room for) IS, who were winning in Syria and would have spread further were the Russians not invited in. Clinton also wanted no-fly zones over Syria as I recall (before the Russians came in though). Trump is not for peace, but Clinton was for war.

            And I did nothing to get him John Bolton (I don’t really know US political figures though I understand he’s the hawkiest hawk) It was the American political system that put forth Trump as a candidate, and Clinton instead of Bernie as the other. I didn’t force Flynn out (Though no idea if he would be better eventually)

            But anyway, war is inevitable. I didn’t say it would end with Trump. The President doesn’t have that type of power. I said it would delay it/keep it low key. Which I think it has done.

            By the way, torture should have been an issue well before Trump’s elevation of the CIA person. Why no prosecutions or International Court charges for the Americans who participated in this? Let alone the Commander in Chief who were it a third world country would be held directly responsible and condemned. That’s what I mean by issues. Trump is nasty. But that should just bring America’s nastiness out in the open rather than left confined to him. As I said before, Trump is America. (But America should be better.)

          3. Oddly Shard, with me it’s had the opposite of the effect you’d hoped for. I’d been deeply involved over 17yrs with one of the more objective left-leaning political news sites (as both commenter and moderator).

            Propaganda, not electioneering, was at the heart of the spoiling of the election (Facebook the most influential provocateur, enriching itself through ad buys by bogus accounts with Russian influences). America’s own political ‘Ornstein’– Nate Silver ( had never before ‘blown’ a prediction of such a wide margin– as in this one.

            But where I was convinced the results were not going to go to Clinton– was just in advance of the election. A face-to-face conversation with a good friend, 15-years my junior– with whom I’d not spoken with personally in years. A man whose ability to sniff bullsh^t from a mile off– was spouting shopworn talking points in debating me the differences of the two candidates.

            This was someone whose opinion I’d long held high.
            And he’d been swallowed whole by the nightly news and social media. Brainwashed.

            I had worked in and at Democratic politics for 40 years. Working for social and environmental causes, access to baseline medical care, for equality for minorities. The country was on the cusp of acceptance of so many aspects– made so by law. By the canny politics of Barack Obama.

            And the current generation I was to hand my baton off to– that I had accepted and run with since the 70s– dropped it– in the most important election of my lifetime.

            So. Since the election? I’ve retired from the scene of political opining. Cold turkey. The things I’d worked toward my entire life? Won’t occur for another political generation at the least. I’ll be long dead by then.

            I’ve decided to quash my stress levels. Bottle my rage.
            Make sure ‘I’ve got mine’ — so I can survive my better-half, living as comfortably as we can.
            Always working hard. Enjoying the time I have left.
            (Doing more things I enjoy– like talking Arsenal with those who live it.)

            But those generations of American voters following me?
            They’ve degraded institutions beyond repair in electing this nasty piece of work.
            F^ck’em. They own this now.
            Not me. I’m out.


          4. Don’t get you all on this. You are a devotee (no other word) of Arsene Wenger who famously said that passport doesn’t matter, then you support the most racist and nativist US president in modern history. I’m always amused that people are fine with Trump’s racism towards his own people, in the belief that he won’t kill brown people in the middle East.

            I’m not even going to engage in John Bolton. No one suggested that you personally put him there.

            As for the wish to for peacenik Trump, every Republican candidate is beholden to their special interest supporters, including gun makers, the NRA, and armaments manufacturers. Trump is, above everything, a businessman. On tax, on war, you name it… he understands whose bread to butter. So your peacenik pres will continue to make record arms sales to the nation whose citizens carried out 911.

            Contradictions, contradictions

          5. jw1, very much in agreement with you about the political situation, especially how the country seemed “on the cusp of acceptance”.

            One of the biggest clues that Democrats were going to lose that election hit me when I was saw a clip of Newt Gingrich on a Fox news Sunday show about 10 days before the election. He was talking about how the election would hinge on the economy and saying Republican voters were ready to vote for Cadet Bone Spurs because they “felt” the economy wasn’t doing well and he was a “businessman, not a politician”.

            The interviewer interjects with “actually the economy has made a great recovery under Obama’s leadership” and without flinching Newt Gingrich said something like:

            “It doesn’t matter. That’s how Republican voters feel. And they’re going to vote accordingly.”

            Gingrich knew that the GOP and Fox News had successfully indoctrinated their people. Facts, reality and evidence be damned.

      2. Yes, bias in news has always existed, but the consumer has changed. In this postmodern zeitgeist, how you judge right and wrong has (increasingly) very little to do with reason, fact-finding, seeking an objective understanding, and more to do with whether it accords with your subjective position. Many decades ago, you would call a report ‘fake’ if you could demonstrate that it was fiction. Nowadays, you would call a report ‘fake’ if you didn’t like it.

        As for right and left divide in the news, it does exist. You don’t think there’s a difference between how CNN and Fox News report? NYT and Breitbart?

        1. Oh that! Sure. There is a divide. I just don’t think it reflects the left and right accurately. At least not what I would recognise as those terms really. But I think that’s because the more fringe views get the most coverage (Sensationalism)

          The term fake news is certainly used as a throwaway phrase now> I agree with that. I’m not sure I disagree with the fact that it’s worse now, but I have a feeling it always existed. Though I think the media have also contributed to people losing faith in them, maybe because many people’s views were not captured/reported enough or at all. And I don’t mean this in a political left/right sense. Just that when there’s a growing divide between your real world experience and what you are being told is true, you tend to start rejecting it all.

  7. Long posited that we are nearly past the point, where there are any of us left ‘of a certain age’ who are versed in receiving information of an analog nature. Where just a glance at how a piece is composed, usually in the lede graph or certainly by the time you’ve read two graphs. If you’ve gotten that far without a name being named or detail(s) unique to the topic having been given up?

    Leave. Never go back.

    I use NewsNow to aggregate my Arsenal news. Their ‘Hide Publication’ feature is my source management tool. Currently, there are 114 sites hidden from view. Not that my taste is involved making decisions to ‘hide’ a site, but sometimes, yes.

    Usually it’s a spate of news-less or conflict-related echoing on a topic. Or a revisitation to dredge up a topic by following other sites in doing so.

    Any site that is taking profit from your visit to their site– and shows a preponderance of regurgitating content– solely to ensure they slice off their share of clicks?

    Leave. Never go back.

    My NewsNow feed delivered just 47 headlines in a 24-hour period for yesterday (Friday). I clicked through on five. Read as much as I have time for– or squeeze in as much as I can when something piques interest.

    Do keep a list of links and regularly visit about a half-dozen Arsenal-specific sites,(Tim’s being high on my list. Here, almost as much for the commenters. Take the high praise guys, and roll with it. 😉 ).

    Headlines– are an opiate for sports junkies. Much of it of the lowest-grade.
    If you can skim past those that you know cannot deliver?
    You can beat being hooked.


  8. It (Orns’ Arteta mishap) must have been a little embarrassing for the guy who usually gets it right, and I think it’s correct to say that he has a direct line to Gazidis. It won’t knock my faith in the Beeb as the most reliable of all the external agencies, because waiting on news from the dot com can be so frustrating; especially as they have a reputation for parsimony.
    For genuine non fake news (about current events etc) I would recommend TheConversation.

  9. I think Ornstein was completely correct in his reporting. He told us what he had reason to believe, without saying that it will happen. Contrast with how he reported on Emery, where he made it clear that Arsenal will make that appointment. That most of the media ran with the Arteta appointment as decided is..not great.. but it’s ok. They just jumped to a conclusion that wasn’t correct. What I disliked about it is that their erroneous reporting then became a fact, or the ‘truth’, to judge current reality on.

    Unfortunately, you see this a lot of times with the news, and not just related to football. Even when they go back to events in the distant past, it is not seen as reporting, but the truth of what happened. Which over time, and with broad coverage, becomes accepted fact.

    1. Exactly.

      One certainty of the business is that even good journalists get it wrong sometimes. That’s not a biggie, Shard, as you’ve said several times. What was, was that some took a while — too long — to say that maybe we read that wrong. And, bless their hearts, they actually seemed irritated with Gazidis for not following the script! 😀

      Last week’s Arsecast chat between Andrew and Ornstein should be required listening.

    2. True. He published as the situation being unclear and the other outlets just went with their imaginary views on the issue based on his article.

  10. I get my news from Twitter and Facebook because all other media are corrupt.
    Except Fox News of course and especially the Fox and Friends morning show where they give it to you straight with no spin.

  11. Fake news doesnt affect me so much with respect to Arsenal. I know what the clickbaits are and still read them. Its fun and material for buddy discussions. is the most disappointing of all. They do clickbaits and censor almost everything that might show them in bad light. I use them to confirm transfers, press conference excerpts (their version unfortunately) and nothing else.

    Major problem is in real world news. I hope the fans can learn a thing or two from this and use it to fact check the news that really matters.

  12. jw1
    I’m an outsider, so I do not know about the things you claim were improving. I sympathise and I think I get what you mean with your reaction. My country is going through the same thing with destruction of institutions. What’s worse is that we aren’t even kicking up as much of a fuss. (We don’t exactly have the broad First Amendment rights though) The rise of the Far-Right is happening in a lot of places around the world. It’s disheartening. And see, even with me, it doesn’t make sense. I would be called leftist in most of my views, but I preferred someone like Trump to win. Don’t think I don’t see the contradiction in that. But not sure many others do in their position.

    My hope is that you can recover from the damage, but my interest in American politics is largely in the global arena. Taking a view zooming far out from specific issues. I think the upheavals are basically due to the American empire being in the initial phases of ‘decline’. In the sense that we’re moving back towards a multipolar world.

    PS. When we, and I mean me included, say propaganda won the election, aren’t we saying that people aren’t smart enough to decide who to vote for? Isn’t that an argument against democracy as it is practiced now?

    1. The rise of the far-right is disheartening? You mean those “very fine people” who’s vote Trump courted and who he could not bring himself to criticize (in contrast to black athletes engaged in peaceful protest)? THAT far right?

      Sorry, i had to nibble again. I destest DJT. He’s a poison. Especially because of his courtship of far right extremists.

      1. his courtship of far right extremists


        In my opinion the worst thing about him. Absolutely.

      2. Yes, I understand all those contradictions. You might be aware, they exist in the real world. If they didn’t, there really would be no debate. I’m not denying Trump is poison. I’m saying it’s maybe a poison that was necessary, or inevitable?? given the circumstances as they were. I’m arguing in favour of changing those circumstances. Cure rather than treatment.

        “then you support the most racist and nativist US president in modern history. I’m always amused that people are fine with Trump’s racism towards his own people, in the belief that he won’t kill brown people in the middle East.”

        Why do you keep saying I support Trump. I am not FINE with Trump’s racism. I’m saying America has a race (and gun) problem, and Trump’s blatant use and abuse of this should make this an issue that is combated. Personalities only change the course of history so much and no more. Trump didn’t make America racist. He just made this an issue no one can ignore now. And that can be used to fundamentally change things for the better.

        Also, even on this site Trump’s racism was made an issue, while ‘foreign policy’ where hundreds of thousands die, and millions have their lives uprooted was said to be ‘it is what it is’. It’s fine. We all have causes we care about more than another. But yes, if you want me to choose between America confronting their issues because they have no choice, or the Middle East being rearranged for geopolitical reasons, then yeah, I’d take the former. Trump may or may not kill less ‘brown people’. But at least America can’t hide behind their ‘values’ because instead of the charming Obama, or First Female President Clinton, you have the racist, obnoxious, vile Trump. (And this was an argument I made at the time too)

        Except, as it turns out, they can. And that is equally disappointing to me as the rise of the Far right. Because America, and the left/liberal or whatever, refuse to introspect.

        See, you only brought up torture as relevant and outrageous because Trump is there and promotes it. Because Trump is bad. Otherwise it was convenient to just let it lie silently, still working in the CIA all these years. Or where Hillary argued for a no fly zone or her history and US history in Libya with R2P and IS in Syria pointing to more immediate war. Because this is a contradiction you seem to not want to face. You are simply content with saying Trump is poison and going no further.

        1. So you advocate for Trump but then say you’re not fine with something SO core and central to who he is, as his rank racism. That doesn’t make you a bad person. But you did weigh up everything and think, despite that, he should have the power of that office. So is it far to say that thatwasnt high on your list of disqualiciables? Still, you didn’t have a vote, so I guess it’s fine to look at a Trump presidency in abstract. But a lot of people who did vote weighed things up like you did, and still determined, in effect, that they are fine with his bigotry. Oh, and Trump supported Marine Le Pen in the last French election. And the love is reciprocated. His very presence in office is a boost to the far right whose rise you dislike.

          1. Yes, fine you disagree with my reasoning. But let’s just assume I am right about the choice between heightened racism in the US vs all out war in Syria between the US and Russia, essentially World War. What would you choose?

            It’s like with the Us embassy in Jerusalem. I don’t agree that it’s right. I think it will cause more upheaval. And yet, I agreed with someone (Greg?) that it is a positive/necessary step (made for the wrong reasons) because it moves on from the current sad situation which seemed to bother no one enough to end it.

            The upheaval bothers you. But that upheaval is just coming at you now faster than it would have eventually. Because it is a problem which created Trump rather than the other way round.

            Well yes, Trump does boost the Far right a little (We had our ‘religious’ Far Right ‘Hindus’ praying for Trump’s well being because of his Muslim ban) But it really is not about him. If it weren’t Trump it would be something or somebody else. It isn’t like he’s the figure or theme they rally around.

          2. Don’t know whether you noticed, Shard, but Republicans have strated all the wars in which the US is currently entangled.

            The administration of which Hillary is a part went to great lengths, at some cost to their credibility, to avoid war in Syria. Your premise is very weak, so the choice is a false one.

            Can I mention John Bolton one more time?

            That said, Trump is unlikely to engage Putin. The past year’s developments make it a pretty good bet that Russia has some kompromat on him. That one way to avoid war! 😀

    2. Yes, I think it is an argument against democracy. Sorry, I know you were asking jw1.

      Btw, you’re not the only one on the left who voted or would have voted for Trump. I don’t think Trump occupies a ‘right’ position, necessarily. Many conservatives, for example, are repulsed by him. He’s really his own thing. Maybe it’s time America moved to a three-party model!

      Oh, and since I’m a podcast junkie, I have to give a shout-out to Malcolm Gladwell’s “Revisionist History.” Just listened to an interesting episode on the grammar of the US Constitution and why it means that Texas can and should split into five states, immediately.

      1. That sounds interesting. I might give that a listen.

        And yes. I really think the two party system isn’t good enough. Even knowing the sorts of issues that come up with multi party systems. Actually I don’t get the system of two parties coming up with 2 people and THEN the public gets to choose. Why? Even if you have two parties, let people vote for whoever stands for President. Have multiple rounds of voting if needed, and let the popular choice come out on top. I think Bernie would have won if that happened.

        1. In a nutshell, what it had come down to for me was some form of universal healthcare of upwards of 150M people who can’t afford basic access to care in the US.

          Electing a Dem President, regardless of whom, would have left the veto pen in the hand of someone sane. Now, Obamacare (which, incidently saved my life, and me/my wife from medical bankruptcy) is being dismantled piece by piece.

          Brown people in Puerto Rico (US territory) are dying now because of draconian relief efforts following Hurricane Maria that are marginalized in our press.

          Regardless of political persuasion, regardless of geopolitical boundaries? IMHO? More people of all hues, everywhere, will die sooner because of the result of this election.

          Shard? In all honesty, your view on this is inconsequential in the greater scheme. You didn’t have any effect on the outcome– just pontificating the aftermath.

          Doesn’t change my enjoying your other perspectives– on those things I now focus upon. Like Arsenal.


      2. “Just listened to an interesting episode on the grammar of the US Constitution and why it means that Texas can and should split into five states, immediately.”


        Long been the cry here from the more dim state citizenry. You see the bumper stickers fade then renew from time to time here in Texas.

        Actually we (Texas) can’t do so without a majority of the remaining states ratifying the secession. Though somewhat more likely now with Stepford Repubs holding all three branches of government (probably until November). But unlikely in that the minority might be able to trigger some requirement for a super-majority in order to ratify.

        Although? If it did occur? Texas would likely build The Wall along the Red River instead of the Rio Grande– in order to keep Okies out. I’d be good with it going up just south of Dallas actually.

        In most corners of Texas– Mexican culture is ingrained within the Anglican. Less problems here regarding immigrants– likely than anywhere else in the country– where more homogeneous cultures have been impacted most in the last 20 years .


        1. I would be really curious to hear your thoughts after you listened to the episode I mention (Revisionist History is free on iTunes, and it’s Season 3, Episode 1, “Divide and Conquer”). From what I could gather, splitting up the state now would give Dems a big lift (basically it’s gerrymandering at the state level, but completely within the remit of the Constitution), and it would require only the approval of those within the prospective states rather than the rest of the US. So it’s not a secession argument.

          1. I’ve downloaded the MP3.
            Might be tomorrow morning before I listen.

            First, though, I’ll state up front, that I’m going to have a skeptics ear while listening.

            Second? I’ve given a quick scan to abundance of graphical representations — of how the state might be split. None look to be more than ‘one man’s/woman’s idea. Saw not one that made me think: ‘That could work!’

            Third? The Big One. No way Texans would be convinced to give up the culture of being Texas– diluting that persona into smaller mini-states. I mean our (American) football team here are the Houston Texans (boringly true!).

            I’ll check in with you tomorrow BB!


          2. BB–
            Very entertaining piece (semi-colon) considering it involved delving deep into a pair of law-review articles (comma) and hinging on an interview with a former New Yorker copy-editor/grammarian.

            First, you have to know that the ‘Quorum-busting Democrats Incident’ was the most exciting event in Texas politics– well, since I’ve been here anyway. It was also the beginning-of-the-end of pest exterminator-turned-congressman Rep Tom (The Bugman) Delay’s political career (and out-sized influence on our national politics). Thanks to overreach by Homeland Security feds sticking their noses into a state’s business on his behalf, at his urging. Delay ended up (unrelatedly) sentenced to 3 years in prison for money-laundering; later reduced to 10 years probation. Possibly the worst person ever to serve in Texas politics. That’s a very low bar he squirms under.

            There are two items in the discussion that are at play politically and legally. First, that it would require the Texas Governor’s assent to trigger the action of breaking Texas in to two or more states (Nothing in the verbiage expresses that Texas ‘must’ be split into 5 states.). The possibility of a Democrat being elected as Governor is next to nil at present (Possibly further now than prior to Trump’s election.). There is no possibility a Republican would pull that trigger now. Possibly back in 2004, but not now. Texas is turning ‘more purple’ (combining Red/Blue indicative of Repub/Dem parties) by the year. More and more (high-percentage Democratic) Latino voters come of age in Texas as time goes by. Last number I knew was approx 18k each month. Latino students now outnumber Caucasians in the Texas public school system.

            The prevailing idea is that Texas goes ‘Blue/Dem’ within the next 5 years. If a Dem Governor were to be elected– he/she is likely to be Latino. For that Dem Gov to recommend splitting Texas into multiple states would no doubt be portrayed as handing the territories back to Mexico. Sorry. But Texans are frustratingly proud and traditionally bull-headed (nee, irrational).

            The legal aspect? Is how the move would be tied up for years (or decades!) in the courts at the state or federal level. Where Gladwell, et al, feel the state could more swiftly enact the move before the federal congress might act? I believe just the opposite. Imagine how quickly the US House of Representatives and US Senate would rush through a change to this constitutional amendment– just to eliminate the possibility of Texas effectively multiplying their seats in the Senate from 2 to possibly ten. You’d have Repubs/Dems in the other 49 states agreeing on something, in many cases, for the first time.

            Most everyone else in the US? Hates Texas. Because we’re Texas.
            You’d think breaking us up might be popular. But the idea of giving Texans even more political power? Would override the initial urge to break us into pieces.

            BB– I had one other thought while listening to the podcast.
            Where I’d mentioned this might have been more possible in 2004? I’ll double down on that in 2018.
            Today with SMS/text punctuation nonexistent? That amendment would be texted as:

            “New states may b admitted by d Congress into this union but n new states shall b formed or erected within d jurisdiction of ne other state nor ne state b formed by d junction of two or more states, or parts of states w/o d consent of d legislatures of d states concerned as well as of d Congress.

            That was fun. Thanks BB! 😉


          3. Hey, thanks jw1. Great to hear a Texan’s perspective on that, and all really well put.

            Yeah, it’s often the case that Gladwell’s work gets us thinking about possibility rather than suggesting or predicting what will really happen. It’s fun to imagine, however unlikely.

  13. The presidential elections are usually decided by a small block of swing voters often referred to by the media as “undecided” and often put on pedestal as something worthy of a praise. When typically in most cases these people are low information voters , or simply put ……political morons.

    What else do you call a woman married to an illegal immigrant who thought Trump would only deport “ bad hombres “, so casting a vote for him seemed like a good idea to her at the time.
    Six months after Trump took office her hard working husband with no criminal record got deported back to Mexico.
    That’s one way to save money on expensive divorce lawyers I guess.

    Or a landscaping company owner whose workforce mainly consisted of immigrant seasonal labor ,who also thought switching his vote to a Republican Trump this time around was a swell idea.
    He’s reconsidered now after losing contracts worth hundred of thousands of $ due to being unable to fill open positions due to Trumps administration H-2A and H2B visa cut backs.

    What in Trumps platform made him think his business would prosper better if Trump were elected is a mistery to me.
    Tax cuts I suppose.

    Or thousand of less well off who bought the idea of cheaper , better health care on day one in office.
    Perhaps the same folks who enrolled in Trump University.
    At least they got the $25 m settlement to wipe their tears with, for others
    like them …..tough luck.

    So to your point about having basic knowledge and smarts to participate in a democracy to make it work, yea, I’d say so.

    1. Oh I really think it’s disgusting the lives that are being destroyed with deportations. And it is the way where government and judicial functionaries start following a political line with ever increasing vigour. It’s ugly and dangerous.

      As to the smarts. Both Bunbury and you agree, as do I. But then what is the solution? Is there any?

    2. Did Trump have a ‘platform’ though? He kept saying anything that would appeal to the people he was speaking to at that time. It didn’t have to make sense. He just realised that people hear what they want to hear.

    3. Tom, you can’t believe the number people I know who are stalwart Repubs who refuse to believe that when a person without coverage goes to a hospital for hyper-expensive ER care for minor medical issues? That their health insurance won’t get more expensive. Or their taxes won’t go up.

      Honestly, I’ve asked rational Republicans face-to-face that very question. And they don’t believe that it’s the people with coverage, who pay more in taxes, who cover the difference. Nope. Unh-uh. That would burst a bubble.


  14. On a lighter note, that LeBron and JR Smith meme is hilarious. The expression on Bron’s face is just perfect.

    Don’t take it out on me by revealing a Game 2 spoiler Claude 🙂 I’ll probably only be watching Monday evening.

    Who are you rooting for there?

  15. Shard, I’ll do even worse than that I’ll give you a game 5 spoiler. Warriors win series 4 -1.

    Watched every minute big the opener. That loss was spirit crushing, and they’ll not recover till game 3. Cavs will have sleepless night thinking about what could have, should have been. Golden State will win quite comfortably on Sunday.

    I’m surprised that we’re not asking who shot JR all over again (hope that doesn’t gross you out 😊)

  16. Interesting thread guys and kind of inevitable whenever fake news comes up that the orange one should rear his head.

    I would never have gone as far as Shard as putting forward an argument in favour of Trump (I couldn’t vote in the US but I bought a Sanders mug and T-Shirt on the day he announced), but I certainly don’t think anyone should be angry at him for it, especially given he’s coming at things from an international perspective. The entire US political system, including both parties, is utterly corrupt and has been captured by antidemocratic money-and-power oriented forces that are mostly indifferent to people’s wellbeing or quality of life, and that increases to utterly indifferent when it comes to anybody living outside US borders.

    It’s possible to believe that Trump’s election would heighten the contradictions, the gap between rhetoric and reality, and thereby have a long-term net positive effect. It’s possible to believe and hope for that outcome, even while feeling sickened by the man himself and the short- and long-term damage he is doing. You could say this position is contradictory and naive, but IMO both criticisms also apply to the idea of defending the neoliberal status quo in the form of Clinton, as though it was something good, rather than the lesser of two evils.

    Yep it was me who thought the Jerusalem embassy thing was in itself not a terrible idea, but that would have relied on diplomatic moves to support it, which of course in hindsight were never going to happen. What happened instead was that there was another big protest at the Gaza fence and the IDF shot 62 people dead and wounded over 2700 more, so what do I know…

    As for Syria I’m not sure whether Trump made any kind of difference to US policy – the country is fractured, and the US has its client state now in the form of the Kurdish Self-Administration, I think the State department will view that as a success. It might have been smoother under Clinton.

    By the way, I’m not US-bashing here, lordy knows we are all equally dysfunctional and venal when it comes to this stuff.

    1. Thanks Greg. I don’t think anyone’s been angry. I just think they don’t get how I could not like Trump but still prefer he won, and they disagree with my reasoning. And I can understand that. It’s not a problem. But as you say, I am coming from a different perspective to this.

      I don’t think anything would have been smoother under Hillary. Even if we take Claude’s division of Republican and Democrat governments, it seems to me the US war machine keeps rolling. The Democrats create conditions for war, and the Republicans declare it (Except in Serbia and in Libya I guess)

      Assad must go was an Obama and Hillary refrain. True they made an effort to get rid of Syria’s chemical weapons. But you can’t tell me the response to the alleged chemical attacks would have been the limited strikes they had.

      Though, really, they would have hoped to have no need for that. They’d already armed and created ‘moderates’ in Syria and before that in Libya. So I guess they hoped that their proxies would win the war for them. Their plan as I see it, is to redraw the map of the Middle East once again. Get IS, AQ, Nusra and whatever groupings there are to destroy governments and infrastructure. Then you get to choose some of these guys are ‘moderates’ if they will do business with you, ie do your bidding, and you get them to form the new ‘democratic’ government. While the rest give you the excuse to go in to ‘save’ people and occupy the lands, in effect, if not in law, whenever convenient.

      Unfortunately for them, Russia was invited in and turned the tide of the war. The proxies are losing and so they now are stepping up direct involvement (US, France troops, and Israel strikes)

      The Kurds will not be allowed to form a state. Turkey will never allow it, and there is little support for it in Iran, Iraq and Syria anyway. And they’ve been abandoned by the US before, when Saddam (and the US) was fighting Iran. I think it’s most likely Kurds go back within Syria with some autonomy, rather than face Turkey. Also, Russia cannot allow Syria to be split, because they cannot have the alternate pipeline from Qatar (who have their own issues with the Saudis and aren’t exactly playing ball) and they can’t afford to let it become a staging ground for attacks into the various Stans and Russian territory. Iran likewise cannot allow the Wahabbis in, nor the loss of the link with Hizbullah. Which is exactly why Israel and the US want it. But they lack the boots on the ground.

      1. And of course, there is also the rather large issue of China and their interests in the region.

      2. thumbs up!

        obama totally got syria wrong and i respect that clinton would likely follow the same mold, hence you were hoping for trump to provide a different direction. that’s what i’ve always understood with your position; you always prefaced the situation in syria. do i understand why obama did what he did? yes. problem is it’s been tried before and never works. add to that, asad called his bluff. as president of the united states, you can never allow that. this is, clearly, obama’s biggest error of his presidency.

        however, donald trump is a clown. the office of the president is one of public service. donald trump may be a business man but he’s never served anyone but donald trump. all of his contributions are self-serving. he doesn’t care about the american people or the people in india, pakistan, syria, or anywhere else. he’s not presidential and he doesn’t hide it.

        1. I still don’t understand people who voted for Trump because they saw him as a successful businessman.

          His father gave him millions and even then he’s declared bankruptcy 6 times!

          His business history showed a dude who’d been given a mountain of money and had lost most of it through bad investment.

        2. In blatant terms, Hillary’s call for a no fly zone was to provide air support to the terrorists. The attack on Libya (Syria is a direct extension) had other effects. It led to the problems in Europe. Both of terrorism and the political backlash because of the influx of refugees. Additionally, the misuse of the R2P provisions to provide weapons, ensured Russia would never vote alongside any such resolution again. Not that international law has prevented US and Nato invasions before, so maybe it is a good thing that the positions have become so outwardly obvious. But it does reduce diplomatic options.

          Of course Trump doesn’t care. Why would anyone think he does? I think Obama cared and I think he is a good person. It doesn’t count for much at all though when it comes to something like this.

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