The assault on the importance of language and facts continues apace. Propagandists are not new to our world, but their capacity to spread their message is now much greater than before.
The old wine of invention and spin is rebottled and distributed for free day after day on social media and in traditional media also.
Trump and Putin and Boris Johnson are the poster boys of a new politics in which truth is increasingly irrelevant.
A study of Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign has revealed that 78% of his ‘factual claims’ were actually false. But he won — reality pales beside a fictional world where what people want to hear is more important than what actually is true.
Ultimately, of course, the age of Trump and Brexit will pass. The damage that will be caused to the lives of millions in the meantime has yet to be revealed, but what is already apparent is that respect for the meaning of words has diminished.
That will be one definite legacy of this decade — the relationship between language and truth has been strained past breaking point.
And as the brilliant American historian Timothy Snyder recently wrote: “If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.”
Inevitably, sport cannot remain immune. On one level, what happens in sport pales in importance beside what is carried on at the higher level of politics. There is obviously no equivalence between the hideous conduct of Trump and the actions of sports administrators. It would be hysterical to suggest otherwise.
But on another level, it absolutely matters what happens in sport. When the actions of the global political elite are so outrageous week after week, the temptation is to shrug at the small stuff and just walk on.
This is a mistake. All across society, the use of language and propaganda to cloak deeper motives fits within the context of its times.
This cavalier approach to using words and propaganda is what happens when people think they can say what they want, spout any guff, and sail on blithely.
For example, this month has brought the announcement of the inter-county Gaelic Players Association’s latest wheeze in
The hurling teams of Galway, Clare, Tipperary, and Dublin are to play a short series of matches at the home of the Boston Red Sox, the iconic Fenway Park stadium, on November 19.
Because of the size of the stadium, teams will play 11-a-side and will only shoot for goals.
They will compete for what is called (apparently without irony and with no respect for accuracy) the Players Champions Cup.
Ultimately, this is a brilliant event for the sponsors and for the merchandisers of Fenway Park.
And if this trip was just acknowledged as a glorified holiday or a bonding session for a load of players who were off to have a big bag of fun in a great city, there could be no complaints about it. After all, the players will enjoy themselves and the crowd will have a grand afternoon, filling themselves with beer and hotdogs.
Instead, however, the launch of the ‘event’ indulged in the increasingly familiar exercise of spouting lines with a straight face.
Take this from the official press release: “Playing our games in iconic sports venues like Fenway Park further promotes the growth and interest of our games in the United States and worldwide.”
This is nonsense on so many different levels. Firstly, what does “growth and interest” mean? Does it mean local children taking up the game? To believe that playing a game (any game) in a city and showing that game on TV will lead to the game growing there in any meaningful way requires a complete denial of reality. It ignores everything that is known about the reasons for the geography of participation in sport.
Secondly, why go to Boston again? Was there not, as the GPA claims, “an immensely successful” event staged there in 2015? If the ambition is actually to spread the game across “the United States and worldwide”, why would you go again to the same stadium and the same city?
It doesn’t require much of a leap of intelligence to link the choice of Boston to the GPA’s burgeoning corporate interests in the city.
When it advertised its ‘Inaugural Boston Friends of the GPA Dinner’ last April, they reportedly looked for as much as $50,000 a table. The annual dinners in New York are also enormous money-spinners where wealthy Irish-Americans and emigrants who have made good are relieved of large sums of money.
This begs an obvious question. Given its capacity and determination to raise money in America (amounting to several million dollars over the past two years alone) and the fact that the GAA turns over more than €6m a year to the GPA and its membership under its new deal, why exactly is the state also giving an annual grant of taxpayers’ money to the membership?
In all of this, naturally, the words GPA and GAA are routinely interchanged. Emboldened by the weakness of the GAA’s hierarchy and its own success in gathering cash, the GPA understandably feels at liberty to do more or less as it pleases.
Indeed, at the launch of the jaunt to Boston, the GAA hierarchy’s representative, Feargal McGill, noted that the GAA was “delighted to be involved in this event”. It is the kind of supine response to the activities of the GPA that leaves the handwringing around the Colm Cooper testimonial look like a whole load of grandstanding.
Why are the GAA now on board with this? What has changed? Why is this nonsense now part of the core business of an association which is bringing ‘hurling’ to Boston, but can’t even bring it to any number of Irish towns?
Naturally, pointing out the absurdity of the Boston junket, and the general GPA cash-harvesting capacity, will be dismissed as the moans of a begrudger who is anti-progress.
The army of pro-GPA tweeters — and indeed some of its membership — has form in attempting to silence or to attack those who dissent from their self-professed elitist worldview.
That, too, fits neatly with the spirit of the age.
But rather than indulging in self-serving rhetoric or shaking the can in emigrant communities, they should just celebrate their junket for what is: a free trip and loads of fun.
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