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Racism, Abuse & Social Media – an interview with Clive Palmer

toxic-twitter

 

We’re living in difficult times, yet there is hope.
Hope that the next generation will make the right calls; hope that high-profile social media companies will better understand their role in our society and embrace the need for change; hope that the most popular athletes in the world will drive that change.

I spent 45 minutes talking to Clive Palmer (@Clivepafc) about social media abuse, racism and the need for change related to those hot topics.

Before that, we talked about the Arsenal and the story behind his links with the Club, which date back to the 1971 FA Cup final against Liverpool, won in extra-time courtesy of a goal from Charlie George. Yeah, that goal. That celebration. Clive’s got off to a perfect start as an Arsenal fan.


“This is where I belong”, Clive told me with reference to his first trips to London to watch an Arsenal game, “there was no racism, no bad chants, nothing that would make you feel embarrassed”.
Although football was predominantly a white working class universe, as a young kid he felt included rather than excluded, something that unfortunately is no longer happening these days.

Something changed. Everything changed in the past couple of years.
“Society has revealed itself on what they really feel” to use Clive’s words.

That’s the maddening part: the extreme views and polarized debate around systemic racism, the denial, the protests around the world and the way people seem to camp on their opinions no matter what.
Clive told me that “the only way to change opinions is to be a better version of yourself” and I couldn’t agree more, but that requires a constant effort that not many seem able (or willing) to make.
The next generations are key to get out of this vile, abusive world, they will save us.

hamilton-end-racism

“They’re not having any of it” he said when we were talking about the news, the political agenda-driven narrative on traditional and modern media. I really hope Clive is right so I asked him how we can make sure that the youngest ones out there, who rely massively on Facebook or Twitter to gain access to information, don’t become victims of the careless approach of these giants, when it comes to spreading fake news, extremize the debate or push for polarization to make their profit from the engagement generated.

“That’s how it is out there. People don’t change their minds anymore and that’s very dangerous” Clive said, before offering his idea of change: “We need to apply education. Learn about yourself and about your history. Learn about things that made sense. I think it should be freely available. It should be a much more balanced sort of education from the youth upward to tread that normal line. And then, once you get into your adulthood, then the world is open to you.”

There’s always this feeling of mindfulness when Clive speaks, there’s no arrogance in his words but the assertiveness of a man with clear ideas and principles.
He told me how Emile Smith-Rowe was indirectly told to “remember he is white” in relation to his south-London accent, emerged during an interview, and how shocking it was, although pretty standard these days on whatever social media.

Speaking of social media, the Arsenal launched the #StopOnlineAbuse campaign, which adds to the other initiatives promoted by players, by Clubs, by Associations to fight online abuse, whether it is related to racism or not.

We talked about players taking the knee before the game and players stopping doing so: who is right?

It is a wider issue, it’s not only about taking the knee. It’s a culture problem and Clive cares a lot about culture.

“Can we look at football and make sure football is right? That we are balanced. We are looking at ourselves, looking at how our game is being led, looking at how we are developing young men, looking at how we are developing young scholars in their education. Look at our culture, within our academies and within our Clubs.”

It starts from there and could lead to greater things but we should not expect football to fix all the problems in the world. Football can draw attention to a problem, though, and this is why taking the knee is still very important and very relevant: “It [taking the knee] starts being questioned and it gets diluted and when it gets questioned, the original reason that brought it is getting lost, which is a shame”

Among those who keep taking the knee before the game and those who won’t do it anymore, someone took a different path: Thierry Henry.
The King decided to disable his social media accounts in protest with the lack of reaction to the abuse and threats, which are becoming too toxic to ignore.

Henry quits social media

Is it a good move? Is it giving up to bullies? Could it make a difference?
Similar to Wilfried Zaha refusing to take the knee, Thierry Henry decided to do something different to remind people that the problem is not solved, at all. There’s not much he can do alone but what if other footballers follow his lead?

“I think it could [make a difference] and it needs to be because what will happen there? It will then go to basketball. It will then go to American football. It will go, it will start to travel.” Although Thierry Henry only has 3 million followers, Clive reckons that this trend could become very sensitive if it reaches global athletes: “If you get a LeBron James with 80 million followers and he goes, “we want social media to be better” everyone follows that that’s a massive blow to revenue.”

“Look how things will change quickly then! it’s money. I’m afraid it is money. All of this traffic, all this data movement allows people to understand more about people and sell them more products. It’s money. Yeah, we go back there, you know.”

We wrapped-up the conversation with some thoughts about the upcoming Europa League tie against Slavia Prague, a Club historically involved in racist incidents on and off the pitch.
Will Arsenal do something? Will they use this particular moment to reinforce the message they started with their recent campaign?

aubameyang-black-panther

Photo credit: EPA/NEIL HALL


It’s up for debate, I definitely expect Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to pull the Black Panther mask, while Clive feels that the Arsenal will wear a special t-shirt during warm-up, say something on the Programme but doesn’t expect anything bold: “I’m not sure what that would look like, but I imagine they’ll do a number of things and make it absolutely clear where they stand and that may be enough”

Mind – “it may be enough”, that’s an important nuance. What will be enough is the next generation learning what is right and what is wrong and get the concept that actions have consequences, like the 10 years-old boy getting an earful and having his parents called-in for having used a racial slur during a game.
A teachable moment, shared by Clive, that will make the difference in his education and make him a better adult, a line clearly drawn between what is acceptable and what is not.

Education is key, culture is key, accountability is key.

There is hope.

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6 Responses to Racism, Abuse & Social Media – an interview with Clive Palmer

  1. Fed Rafael April 1, 2021 at 6:22 pm #

    FAO: Paul Hepker & Dave Seager, Principals, Gunnerstown

    We are a football club, we are not a political party. Our club represents the entire Arsenal family. Once you allow posts like this -virtue-signalling, sloganeering, politicising- then I am afraid you are giving voice to one part of our family and opening the door to sectarianism. Years ago, AFC banned national flags in the stadium as this might have given rise to tensions between certain groups of fans and yet we have uncritically, indeed without any consultation with the fans, allowed the BLM flag and the taking of the knee and the general politicisation of our club. I believe this is a mistake. Just as it was a mistake at the time, in my view whether Spanish or not, for Mancester City to allow Pep Guardiola to use the club as a platform for his personal political views.

    Abuse on social media is widespread, it respects no colour, no ethnicity, no gender, no social standing, no religion – whether rich or poor, nobody is immune and everybody is a target. By writing this reply I am raising my head above the parapet and so inviting a pot shot by a keyboard warrior out there. That is, sadly, the nature of the beast.

    Yet even the debate on social media abuse in football has taken a sectarian turn, as if only part of our squad is a victim. It only takes one player to have a bad game and he or she will get an earful, no matter the colour of their skin, their religion or their gender.

    My beloved Arsenal, the greatest football club the world has ever seen, is not going to resolve the problems of the world – not today, not tomowrrow not ever. And it is not, I believ, our place to do so either. As I said, we are a football club, not a political party. We live in a democracy, it is not perfect, but we have representatives to do the job. I’ll defer to our representatives and our imperfect democracy to deal with the providers of social media and I’ll defer to our footballers to get on with playing football.

    In light of the above, I would kindly ask you as moderators of this forum to not allow contributions like this (not because it is not worthy or not concerning or not interesting but because it is simply not the place). If you feel , on the other hand, that Gunnerstown is a platform for politics and for social issue virtue-signalling, please let me know so that I may stop receiving your emails (and I would ask you to remove all my personal details so that this may happen). I love this site but want to read about Arsenal not the world’s problems.

    COYG

    • Dave Seager April 1, 2021 at 8:47 pm #

      My friend, if we all took the view, whether as individuals or organisations, that doing something in the face of problems or ills in our life’s or in society, was pointless, the world would be a poorer place.

      Gunnerstown has always been an open forum and Paul and I have never censored writers on this platform and we will not begin now. As for the Arsenal aspect, I am not sure how it can be anything other then Arsenal related when the club and one of it’s finest ever players have both publicly spoken out on racism and social media this past week.

      I cannot think of a better time or subject during an international break for an interview between two individuals who are part of the GT family and who we all highly respect.

      Best

      Dave

  2. Federico April 1, 2021 at 10:33 pm #

    Hello Dave
    thank you for your reply. I am not your friend and I am not your enemy, I am simply a fan with a shared passion – Arsenal Football Club, the greatest club the world has ever seen.

    I did not say fighting injustice was pointless. I said that a football forum should not, in my view, be a political platform. We live in an open society where there are many other fora – podcasts, radio & TV, newspapers, magazines, social media, the list is endless – where the social issues of the day can be, and are, debated and discussed, dissected and analysed. You cannot compare todays cornocupia of choices with the very limited media avenues open to say African-Americans back in the 1960s when Mohammed Ali or Tommy Smith at the 1968 Olympics used their sport to give voice to their grievances. Sport then was vitually the only channel open to them.

    With respect to the present, our club has, without consultation, taken a sectarian position in its support of BLM. Believe me, as a Latin growing up in England I do not need lessons on fighting racism and injustice. Like Wilfred Zaha, I find virtue-signalling (in his case “taking the knee”) patronising.

    It also begs the question why if AFC is so concerened about injustice, the club has not put out a statement for the Kurds in Syria/Iraq/Iran/Tukey (take your pick), the Uigurs, the Shias/Hindus/Christains in Pakistan, the Shias/women in Saudi Arabia, the Muslims in Jammu & Kashmir, the Rohinga in Myanamr and… I can go on (and on).

    I think I know the answer: BLM is flavour of the month and the club doesn’t want to upset the apple cart. As neither, it seems to me, do you given your reply. above.

    If you or the club were so passionately for social justice where were your voices when the Uigurs were being set upon years ago? Ozil, to give him credit, spoke up for them (although he said zero-nothing about the suffering of the Kurds in Turkey). I do not know why you kept quiet, perhaps you didn’t know about their plight, but it is well documented why the admin at AFC kept quiet: it was losing sales and TV money in a very lucrative market. Social justice, it seems, has a price.

    I may or may not support BLM, that is not the point. The point is: 1)politics and sport should not be mixed otherwise you generate bad feeling, divide the fan base; 2) if you are going to take a political position, at the very least consult the fan base; 3)if fighting against injustice is your mantra, make sure your advocacy is universal and not sectarian as in AFC’s unstinting support for BLM and, also, be consistent (don’t fight for one part of the community but blatantly ignore the other parts).

    Dave, fellow fan, be assured you will not hear from me again. Keep your sectarian Gunnerstown. I’m heading for light refreshments.

    Regards

    Fed

    • invinciblog April 2, 2021 at 8:44 am #

      Federico – thanks for your comments. You write very well. and I appreciate the effort you have made in making your point(s). I am not going to attempt to respond to all the accusations and insinuations you make in both of your lengthy comments, since I believe the following critical observations make that unnecessary.

      It seems to me, firstly, that your grievances are actually unfounded when it comes to the particular article upon which you are commenting. Regarding relevance/appropriateness:

      * The article is an interview, as Dave points out, between a current writer on our platform (Andrea), and a previous one (Clive), who has gained a lot of respect – not only for his football insights, but also for the nature of his critique.

      * At the centre of the interview is a reference to recent actions by our beloved Club’s all-time top scorer, Thierry Henry. – who deleted his Twitter account to protest the apparent unwillingness of social media companies to meaningfully regulate their platforms and address online abuse.

      * Gunners Town itself is a blogging platform, part of the social mediaverse, and very active on Twitter – in fact, most of our interactions with our readers occur on that platform.

      * The football club at the centre of this site’s existence – the mighty Arsenal, the club you claim to support – recently initiated a campaign to #StopOnlineAbuse.

      * Arsenal faces Slavia Prague next in the Europa League quarter-finals – a club embroiled in accusations of racism – as recently as in their Round of 16 clash with Rangers. Clive and Andrea discuss the upcoming game, and how Arsenal and its black players (including Club Captain Aubameyang) may respond. At the same time, they enter a nuanced discussion about ‘taking the knee’ – whether it is appropriate, effective or even relevant, in a manner that is in no way virtue signaling or prescriptive.

      Regarding your following comment…

      Once you allow posts like this -virtue-signalling, sloganeering, politicising- then I am afraid you are giving voice to one part of our family and opening the door to sectarianism.

      … I challenge you to quote sections of the actual article where you feel the interview participants have displayed any of the above.

      In fact – with the greatest respect – you seem to be the only party in this discussion remotely guilty of the accusations you level at us… The sad irony is that your reaction to the article appears to be a sugar-coated example of the inflexibility Clive bemoans in the article.

      Lastly, as Dave said to you earlier – as owners of the site, we do not censor our writers. We do, however require them to justify and support their opinions.

      If you feel as strongly as you do about the many injustices you perceive – I invite you to combat the ’sectarianism’ of which you accuse us, and write an article about them. We will happily publish your considered response.

      Personally, however, I remain unswayed by the many logical fallacies you present, as well as the central stanchion of your argument, which seems to be a broad expansion of the flawed “All Lives Matter” argument, rebuked here:

      Thanks again for engaging.

      Paul

    • Dave Seager April 2, 2021 at 8:29 pm #

      Good. I am an affable chap, hence the ‘my friend’ greeting, but you are correct you are not and are never likely to be.

  3. Clive Palmer April 2, 2021 at 10:30 am #

    Wow – just seen the comments

    In some ways this is exactly why I wanted to chat to Andrea. Just to engender respectful conversation. My words were just to highlight how difficult a topic this is. I actually said football can’t fix this but it can improve the equalities and environment of football. As individuals we can go against the tide, try just to be better towards each other and not get involved in hate and abuse.

    Arsenal are not immune to changes in society. I know for example our players who have suffered abuse have had to engage in counselling to help them cope.

    I really feel as Dave alluded we must keep talking about abuse racism, abuse and in turn the effects into mental well-being. It’s a form of the divisive world we live where we pick sides and won’t listen to each other

    It feels important to me – I can’t fix it but I can make sure I’m sensitive to others around me and behave the best I can.

    Thanks and keep talking
    Clive

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