It is incredible to me that so many unintelligent people work in our media.
It must be incredible to Ange Postecoglou as well, but what must be more shocking than that is their obvious bias.
He might have come across stupidity, we all do in various places in the course of our lives, but I doubt he ever came up against anything like this before in his managerial career.
And when he moves on from Celtic, whenever that will be, and wherever it is he ends up, I can safely say that he will never experience anything like it again.
Kheredine Idessane did the after-match interview yesterday and to say that he acted stupidly both strips him of credit and lets him off the hook. I don’t think some of his questions were in any way stupid and neither did Ange Postecoglou.
The trouble for Idessane is that Ange recognised them for what they actually were.
Prior to Ange’s interview there was a discussion about whether or not the penalty decision was justified; even after the BBC anchors clarified the laws of the game and realised that it was fully compatible with what was in the rulebook they still wanted to debate whether it was fair. But what could be fairer than doing what it says in the book?
Those rules should be clear. They should not be open to interpretation and yesterday those decisions didn’t require any. Still the media wanted to push, however obliquely, the idea that there might have been an injustice done.
This is just part of the game being played against us, and it’s clear when you look at it that this is not an accident but by design.
I use a word a lot here that I got from politics; narrative.
In politics it’s used to talk about how you frame a debate. The way you do it is that you promote your ideas through a story, something easy for the layperson to grasp, but something that also sets the outlines of the discussion. You do that by using certain words.
Let’s say you want to debate whether people should get unemployment money.
Now, the right will frame that as a “benefit.”
The language is deliberate. They call it “the welfare state.” That’s a right-wing term.
Welfare. Benefits. Think how poisonous those words have become.
But the actual name for what the media now uses those expressions for – and the whole of the media uses the same expressions – is, and used to be called, “social security.”
But the connotations are different.
Benefits are things people get by entitlement.
Welfare equals handouts, and the average voter who works for a living doesn’t think people who don’t’ should get handouts.
The whole of the debate has come to be framed around that narrative, that story, about the “workers and the shirkers” and that story really started to become prominent in 2001 when the government agency that used to be called The Department of Social Security was amalgamated with several others to become The Department of Work and Pensions.
You notice the change? Not the words, but the deeper significance of the words.
And that’s something you can feel deep down. It’s visceral.
The Department of Work, for people who go out and earn a living.
And Pensions, for the people who have “worked their whole lives.”
The rest were tagged “welfare claimants” and the structure re-named “the benefits system” in order to turn people who weren’t “claiming benefits” against those who did.
That has stuck like glue ever since and the whole debate has been poisoned by that seemingly modest alteration.
When it was the Department of Social Security people grasped, reflexively, that the system existed to support you if you fell on hard times. The word’s right there; security.
They even called it “the social security safety net.”
Different language, and because it was different language the discussion around it was different as well.
That’s “constructing a narrative”, that’s how you tell a story in politics and that’s why media organisations, in particular, should pay more attention to the way that politicians use words.
And it is why journalism schools teach this stuff to graduates.
The media’s narrative on how games in Scotland are refereed has an objective which is brazenly political … they want to control the way we talk about officials and the decisions they make, and so they promote their story on the basis that every club gets the same number of decisions, that it all evens out.
That this is blatantly untrue to the extent that one club is now 50 matches and counting without conceding a penalty kick is ignored. If you dare raise that at all you are branded a nut … although it’s a documented fact.
That’s what makes it dangerous. That’s why it has to be excluded from the conversation.
That’s “framing the narrative.”
Where else does the slightest criticism of officials and the slightest suggestion that we change some things and bring in some common sense measures get you branded a “conspiracy theorist”?
Yesterday a couple of questions from Kheredine Idessane sparked the manager’s ire, and no wonder.
But in doing so it gave us a clear sign that Ange gets all this, and he knows what game they are playing, and he has no intention of allowing them to do it.
“I wonder … if the VAR decisions are starting to come back in your favour? That’s a couple in the last couple of cup ties …” Idessane asked.
For those who haven’t heard it – and you can listen to it here, it’s about 24 minutes in – the long pause between the question and Ange’s answer was that of a man struggling to hold back anger or deep frustration at least.
“That’s an interesting take,” Ange said to him.
It was clear from his voice that he was not in the least bit impressed by the suggestion.
“I don’t know if there’s a favour barometer, I’m just thinking they’re making decisions. I had my say about VAR a few weeks ago and everyone came at me that I was fuelling conspiracies, so I’ll let the other managers now run the race. I had my say on it. I assume the result of the decisions today were correct. If they weren’t correct and as you say they were ‘favourable’ to us, whatever that means, let others judge.”
You’ll notice that Ange slapped back at the idea that he had pushed a “conspiracy theory.”
He clearly recognises that such emotive language is deliberate, and designed to suggest that anyone making the kind of points he did back in January is not to be treated seriously, and this guy isn’t going to let the media get away with that.
Idessane incredibly tried to put the same point a different way. When he used almost exactly the same phrase, Ange pounced on him and hammered back the point hard enough for it to hurt.
“When you talk about a favour, that means we get a decision we’re not supposed to, which has not happened to us,” he said and you could imagine the shock in the BBC studio.
If this guy was in charge of Prime Minister’s Questions Rishi Sunak would have quit already.
Right after the interview, Kenny McIntyre no less – a self-confessed Ibrox fan – had to point out that “every decision made today by the officials was correct.”
Look, I work, in a sense, in the same business as these people and I’m certainly aware that in this business everything hinges on the use of language.
We all know what certain words and phrases mean, or at least we should know what they mean and I can tell you that when the national broadcaster frames a question that way that it’s leading and biased and these guys are trained explicitly on this stuff..
Ange knows this, because he is one of savviest media performers that the game here has ever seen and it gladdens my heart that he is so good at this because I worried what the media might do to this guy if he was some kind of babe in the woods.
But from the moment another BBC journalist said to him on the night of the Copenhagen game at Celtic Park that it was a “catastrophe” that we were out, and Ange suggested that he look up the meaning of the word I knew we had nothing to worry about there.
He knew what they were all about that night when they tried to suggest that the club was in a deep crisis because of one result and he pointedly refused even to entertain the premise of the question.
He knew what the game was yesterday, and so when Idessane had already been taken to task over the first point he should have known better than to try and re-frame it within the same context.
Ange saw through that right away.
He reminded Idessane about the meaning of words.
About the use of language.
A clear understanding of that … well, that’s an important skill for a broadcast journalist to have; what the Americans call a “mission critical” skill in fact.
Because how can you do a good job in broadcasting if you don’t know what words mean and how to use them in context?
This is usually the place where I call these people idiots.
You’ll notice I’m not doing that here.
I’m not even going to say that Kheredine Idessane is bad at his job.
This isn’t some former player with a room temperature IQ here, this is a trained, qualified person who works for what was once the most credible and respected media organisation in the world.
And because of that I can only conclude that he used that language and asked those questions in a way that was very deliberate and designed to further a narrative that is fundamentally dishonest.
Ange did not miss that and he let him know it.
What’s more, Idessane’s own colleagues realised that he had gone too far, which is why McIntyre offered the clarification at the end of Ange’s interview about how every major decision taken by the officials was correct.
They knew Ange had tripped him up and they knew that his questions couldn’t be defended, and that’s a major victory for our manager, and for the truth and for how we continue this debate.
Ange did something important yesterday; he kept this discussion where we want it to be.
Once again, I’m reminded how lucky we are to have this guy.