The Surprising Origins Of Those Racist England Soccer Posts
Within hours of the crushing defeat of the English national soccer club (yeah, we're calling it soccer) at the feet of Italy in the belated Euro 2020 title game, the negativity had snowballed, taking the form of racist posts on social media. And just as quickly, the reactions were unequivocal: England is an unbelievably racist cesspool.
Now, England has a spotty history ranging from colonizing most of the globe to … just everything with Meghan Markle. But, based on all current data of offending social media posts, the vast majority of those ridiculous comments originate from outside of the UK. English soccer is a huge global spectacle attracting worldwide attention, and soccer is a global phenomenon within Europe and abroad. The consensus among commentators immediately after the incidents was that the UK is a uniquely bigoted nation that is singlehandedly ruining the beautiful game because of its history. That only makes sense if you ignore literally every other country England plays on a regular basis.
Spain and Italian crowds take pride in their blatant racism. The press isn't much better. Even the attempts at anti-racism posters in Italy are racist. So while there are definitely racist fans in England, it's not quite to the point where English fans are chanting for Arabs to be murdered, giving Nazi salutes, or hoisting banners honoring genocidal war criminals.
Either that or it's a sport with a lot of coincidental arm cramps.
The belief in a nationwide racist outburst in England hinges on the presumption that all the racist English soccer fans had the knowledge and foresight to obtain and activate a VPN in the heat of the moment following the nail-biting defeat. Of the deluge of racist posts on Instagram, only five people in England have been conclusively detected, according to the Centre for Countering Digital Hate.
The English Premier League's own experts on digital abuse estimate only about 30% of the average derogatory comments Premier League players receive on a regular basis can be definitively traced to British people. Outside analysts evaluating abuse in European leagues find far more abusive posts in Spanish or French, and many are linked to "inauthentic accounts," suggesting the possible work of astroturfing shit posters looking to whip up panic with the help of bots purely for the fun of it while keeping their real identities anonymous. Now, who does that sound like?
The framing of the story has been fairly sloppy. When one of the players facing online abuse had a mural of his likeness sprayed with graffiti attempting to find the precise obscenities scrawled on the mural was practically impossible. Outlets covering the story were explicitly implying it was racist, yet according to the few who have seen the graffiti – and as the police admit – it was "not racial."
The reality is that a defaced mural is the typical shitty treatment a sports star who bungles a huge play will receive across the globe. Bill Buckner was forced to hide out in Idaho after death threats for botching an easy out in the 1986 World Series …
… while reporters took to asking his wife if the Red Sox first baseman planned on killing himself. Graffiti is pretty minor for a hooligan culture that once hung an effigy of David Beckham for pub-goers to drunkenly treat as a piñata and sent him bullets in the mail after his poor outing at the 1998 World Cup. The press merely printed a dartboard with his face in the bullseye. Columbian player, Andrés Escobar, who scored on his own goal in the '94 Cup was assassinated in the press, then literally by the people that murdered him.
This mentality sucks. But it isn't atypical. Sports fans often suck. Soccer fans live to hate somebody, even their own team. Sadly, the soccer world never did embrace the cherished NFL tradition of the sardonic brown-paper-bag hat.
So why bring all this up? Because the creepiest part is that this is fueling a truly insane movement to force every person in the UK to surrender their digital rights and personal information (in essence, forcing all users to prove their identity to get a blue checkmark) to a third party in order to maintain the right to social media accounts.
Remember the Centre for Countering Digital Hate, the research group that showed that the vast majority of the bigoted Instagram posts didn't actually come from England? They're pushing a public agency in the UK to decide who has the right to communicate online. Which anyone familiar with a VPN can tell you will do absolutely nothing to solve the problem.
This is an important issue. Racism and online douchebaggery should be tackled (no pun intended). But you definitely do not want to appoint Mark Zuckerberg nor Boris Johnson the supreme global arbiters of truth and morality on those issues.
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