Following England’s latest premature exit from an international tournament the usual circus of blame has begun. An inquest has started, the search for a new manager has begun and the sacrificial scapegoat has been chosen for slaughter. This time it’s Raheem Sterling. The City winger looked low on confidence after the England fans spent all season booing him up and down the country and now has a target on his back.
Sterling is a popular punching bag for the papers after daring to move to City, but the hatred recently seems extreme. The Sun especially seem to be going out of their way to disturb my daily routine of working in the day and drinking myself to sleep at night to demand I hate Raheem Sterling. Why is this?
The country may be in disarray but it's nice to see The Sun have got their priorities straight. pic.twitter.com/giMxK00Ycg
— Typical City (@TypicalCity) 30 June 2016
Much like almost everyone else my first instinct is to say that The Sun hates Sterling because the Sun is a racist rag which is good for nothing. This is true, of course. Indisputably so. The people who run this disgrace of a paper have traded in the dog whistle for a megaphone of late, becoming increasingly brazen in their attacks on the social order of this country.
But for a campaign of sustained personal bullying it has, at times, felt rather impersonal. Sterling is the scapegoat, but if it wasn’t him they would have scapegoated someone else.
It was interesting to note before Euro 2016 started that there was more than one candidate for national scapegoat. Daniel Sturridge was presented as an odd sort of weird loner who was in it for personal glory. That picture of Chris Smalling dressed as the Jäger Bomber began to surface again.
But those stories proved to have no staying power. Smalling was generally pretty ok throughout the tournament. Sturridge gave a good interview and scored against the Welsh, reason enough for a knighthood. Oh, and that incident when Sturridge was on the phone rather than crying tears of joy when Marcus Rashford scored in that friendly? It turns out he was taking care of some charity business and the papers can’t really cane him for that as they’ve not yet managed to demonise the word “charity” like they have words such as “intellectual” or “progressive”.
So Sterling was the last one still dancing when the music stopped. But why am I being asked to hate him? To despise him? Why are we analysing his lifestyle and family life rather than his lacklustre performances? Why is it all about him personally?
Well, the answer is that it’s not about him at the end of the day. It’s about what glorified propaganda leaflets like the Sun use Sterling or any of the other minorities or poor people they hate for.
When a star begins to wind down and die it burns heavier and heavier elements to stave off the final collapse and flicker brightly in the night for just a bit longer.
When a newspaper industry begins to wind down and die it feeds us a steady diet of less and less meaningful “news” in order to get us to click one last time or pick up one last issue and help stave off death for another day. The Sidebar or Shame? Misleading URLs? Endless click bait? All just nonsense, isn’t it. Incredibly successful nonsense though.
The Sun asks us to be outraged at Raheem Sterling for the sake of being outraged. It’s not really about Sterling, it’s just today’s thing to be outraged at. Tomorrow it might be the latest thing on Love Island which we will be informed is a “scandal”, or perhaps someone off Corrie will do something which the moral censors deem inappropriate.
The fact they have a scapegoat is the most important thing. The fact it is Sterling is incidental to them as long as it works.
"You came from a difficult upbringing, and now you're rich so I hate your guts and will write this out of jealousy" https://t.co/hR7Jo1IaVj
— Ben Wills (@_BenWills) 30 June 2016
Football is disproportionately represented in the outrage dailies because football is massively popular and I would hazard a guess that more people read about it than any other single subject, with the possible exception of “Brexit”.
And on the flip side, other sections of the media benefit too. As The Sun continues its campaign of bullying against Sterling, other news outlets and websites will pile in on the other side, all outraged that The Sun can just go about its continued campaign of racist persecution and target a young man like this. It’s a noble goal, and a fight which has to be fought, but at the end of the day it all feeds into the same thing, and between these two tidal waves of click-generating outrage there is a young man and his remarkable sounding mum being drowned through no fault of their own.
Tellingly The Sun has not edited their original story (at the time of writing) even though we all know that it wasn’t even Sterling’s house or video or anything to do with him. This is because it’s not about him personally. It certainly feels personal, but Sterling is just grist to the mill of outrage that is keeping the lights on in press rooms across the country for just a bit longer.
I don’t know what the solution is, but I do know that rather than clicking on their links or posting furious missives on it we have to keep asking: Why are they demanding I hate something?
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Written by Alex Timperley