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How the news is framed & how it affects your brain

Media on Racism: Part 2 – Framing

Media on Racism - FramingJan 23, 2012Top Gear’s “lazy Africans Mexicans” routine was broadcast to millions. It made minor news, with no repercussions. Luis Suarez’s dialogue with Patrice Evra was heard by nobody and unrecorded, but it led to a media frenzy of blaming ‘n’ shaming – with many journalists mistaking their own carelessness for a moral high horse.

The different outcomes can be explained partly by the N-word and partly by a confused application of “zero tolerance” framing, both of which featured in the Suarez coverage, but not in the Top Gear case.

Racism framing & the N-word

No word is racist in itself – it depends on context/frame. Conceptual “frames” for racism include:Top Gear - "lazy Mexicans"

  1. Racial stereotyping/abuse
  2. Ironic slang
  3. Comedic mockery of stereotyping/abuse
  4. “Quoted” use in reportage, novel, film, etc

BBC and Ofcom initially dismissed the Top Gear incident as category #3 – but a later BBC investigation effectively placed it in category #1 (assuming that “Mexicans” connotes ethnicity – see part 1). That’s supposed to be serious – but you wouldn’t have thought so from the media coverage, or the lack of penalties for Top Gear’s producers.

The Suarez case was different, as it involved the N-word. In English (current usage), both “nigger” and “negro” imply a racist frame. “Negro” in Spanish is a different story, particularly in Latin American usage. The linguistic experts brought in by the Football Association (FA) stated that:

“The term can also be used as a friendly form of address to someone seen as somewhat brown-skinned or even just black-haired. It may be used affectionately between man and wife, or girlfriend/boyfriend, it may be used as a nickname in everyday speech, it may be used to identify in neutral and descriptive fashion someone of dark skin” (para 172my emphasis)

And the FA’s experts went further, pointing out that Suarez was innocent of racial abusiveness if his account of his use of “negro” was accurate:

“…the use of ‘negro’ as described here by Mr Suarez would not be offensive. Indeed, it is possible that the term was intended as an attempt at conciliation and/or to establish rapport”. (Para 190)

Of course, this assumes that Suarez’s account (eg that he said “negro” only once) was true. Evra claimed he used the word multiple times, and in a way that the FA’s language experts agreed would be considered offensive. The initial reaction to Suarez’s defence, from some commentators, was that whatever meanings the word had in Suarez’s country, there was “no excuse” for it in the United Kingdom“…

“Ignorance no excuse”

The Spanish word sounds different – and has different meanings – than the English version. Is it widely known that friendly use of the Spanish word may be mistaken for its racially-offensive use? Is it widely acknowledged that the friendly usage should therefore be avoided? The “ignorance is no excuse” objection doesn’t quite capture the logic – since the speaker might be aware that “negro” is usually offensive in English-language use. A conversation in Spanish is different. A whole cultural/linguistic can of worms is opened up (see “Whose Ignorance?” section below).

The FA’s panel effectively had two choices for “finding” Suarez guilty – they could accept Suarez’s claim of inoffensiveness, but punish him anyway (based on the “ignorance is no excuse” reasoning), or they could accept Evra’s version – ie direct racial insult. By choosing the latter, they effectively freed themselves from entanglement in cultural/linguistic issues – but they also gave themselves a seemingly impossible burden of proof, given the lack of evidence corroborating Evra’s account.

I say seemingly impossible – we shouldn’t forget the media’s role in making extraordinary things possible. (Let’s see… A war with Iraq based on zero evidence of WMDs, a single uncorroborated source and a dodgy dossier?)

Media distortion

Guardian's Stuart James on SuarezSo, how did the “quality” press report the crucial matter of Suarez’s use of the Spanish “negro”? First, here’s Stuart James in the Guardian (on the FA panel’s 115-page report):

And then we come to Suárez, whose own statement screamed his innocence and flew in the face of everything the linguistic experts told the FA panel when they analysed what the player said to Evra at Anfield, the context in which it was said and how his comments would be interpreted in his homeland and beyond. The experts’ conclusion, lest it be forgotten, was that Suárez’s remarks would be “considered racially offensive in Uruguay and other regions in of Latin America”. (Guardian, 3/1/12)

This is wholly misleading. Stuart James presumably didn’t read the section of the report which describes how the FA’s linguistic experts agreed with Suarez about non-racial use of the Spanish word “negro” (eg paras 190, 194). The line from the report that’s quoted by Stuart James (taken from the summary, para 453) refers not to “Suarez’s remarks”, but only to Evra’s uncorroborated account of them. The report is quite clear about this. The FA’s experts concluded that:

‘If Mr Suarez used the word “negro” as described by Mr Suarez, this would not be interpreted as either offensive or offensive in racial terms in Uruguay and Spanish-speaking America more generally’
(para 194 – my emphasis)

The question that Stuart James and his media colleagues should perhaps be asking is: why was this important part of the report not cited in a single newspaper report or commentary?

Meanwhile, here’s James Lawton commenting in the Independent:

You cannot do what Suarez did – as proved by video evidence and confirmed by linguistic expertise, including a knowledge of the nuances of references to race in the player’s native Uruguay – and get away with some implausible argument that you were innocent of the charges against you. Not when you have been found, irrefutably, to have said, without the interruption of any other word, “black, black, black…” (Independent, 2/1/12)

This is disturbingly inaccurate and misleading. Three falsehoods in one paragraph (the “confirmed by linguistic expertise”, “proved by video evidence” and “found, irrefutably [...] black, black, black” claims). Lawton not only makes the same mistake as Stuart James regarding the “linguistic expertise”, he also seems unaware that the crucial Evra/Suarez dialogue is not on any video recording. His use of the phrase “found, irrefutably” seems bizarre in the extreme, referring as it does to one man’s unsupported, uncorroborated claim (para 378).

Sadly, this was typical of most UK media coverage. The important point about the FA’s language experts agreeing with Suarez over N-word usage (thereby reinforcing the stance taken by Liverpool FC) was lost beneath the misleading statements and moralising.

Framing wars & PR

In the days following the FA’s Dec 20th verdict (minus reasons, which came later), various news frames jostled for dominance. John Barnes was widely quoted, labelling the case a “witch hunt“. Ian Wright (in the Sun) criticised the FA: “I think the punishment – on all public evidence – is ridiculously harsh…”. (Some reports had already alluded to a previous FA hearing which decided that Patrice Evra’s evidence was “exaggerated and unreliable”). And, of course, there was Liverpool FC’s statement (critical of the FA verdict), which most media described as “strongly worded“, “forceful“, etc.

The coverage was mixed. But this appeared to end after the Guardian pushed hard with a framing of Liverpool’s “shameful” handling of the issue – triggered (it appears) by a seemingly trivial piece of non-news (T-shirts – more on this below). As an outsider, with no affiliations to Liverpool, fan-wise or otherwise, I observed the “respectable” media’s outpouring of vitriol (over nothing very much) with puzzlement. It was almost as if there were some kind of PR/lobbying going on behind the scenes.

Backlash against T-shirts!“Backlash” against T-shirts!
(& other faux “news”…)

In a match warm-up on 21 December, Liverpool players briefly wore T-shirts printed with a picture of Suarez. This reinforced the message of Liverpool’s earlier statement – and said nothing that wasn’t already articulated in the statement.

The Guardian constructed a “news” story around the T-shirts. In an article headed with the word “Backlash”, it cited a total of three people who objected to the T-shirts. It was a three-person backlash! The Guardian then ran another piece (headed with the word “shameful”) which cited the same three people (footballers Paul McGrath, Jason Roberts and Olivier Bernard). Bernard, now an anti-racism campaigner, offered his reasoning:

“I really didn’t think it was fine to wear the T-shirts. I can understand the club’s side of it, but in society we can’t accept racism and give support to a player who has used racist words” (Guardian, 22/12/11)

Which, of course, makes a pretzel out of logic. The T-shirts (and statement) were to indicate precisely that Liverpool doesn’t accept that Suarez used “racist” words.

The Guardian also ran a tabloid-style “poll” titled: “Were Liverpool’s Luis Suárez T-shirts distasteful?”. Other media ran with the T-shirt story, soon creating a perception that there was “widespread” condemnation of Liverpool’s “handling” of the issue.

Too Much Doubt

Troy Davis T-shirt campaignI’m reminded of another T-shirt gesture to protest a man’s innocence. It’s a different type of case, but the underlying logic (of protest) is exactly the same. Amnesty International published a statement about the flawed evidence against a man (Troy Davis) convicted of murder. There was a campaign (‘Too Much Doubt’) to raise awareness of problems with the evidence and the legal process.

The Guardian supported the campaign (T-shirts and all). Nobody, to my knowledge, argued that, in so doing, they were supporting the crime (rather than the man and his claims of innocence). The logic of protesting wasn’t drowned out with cries of “shameful” or “beyond the pale” – at least not in the UK’s “liberal” media.

“Zero Tolerance”

“Zero tolerance” on racism has been cited as justification for harsh criticism of Liverpool’s “handling” of the Suarez case. For example, the Guardian’s “Backlash” article stated that:

‘The T-shirts provoked criticism that the gesture conflicted with football’s anti-racism campaign Kick It Out, confusing its zero tolerance message’ (Guardian, 22/12/11)

The “zero tolerance” message has certainly been confused. It’s supposed to be zero tolerance of racism itself, not of the right to dispute somebody’s verdict. “Zero Tolerance” can be a dangerous thing when it’s used to stifle dissent and nullify claims of innocence – it diverges from civilised notions of justice, if one isn’t careful. Instead of being alert to such dangers, media commentators (as usual) seemed in thrall to “official” “authority” (in this case the FA and its “independent” 3-man panel). Unquestioning churnalism resulted.

Whose ignorance?

A cultural/linguistic can of worms is sometimes opened when a word is mistaken for a racial insult. How does one apply “zero tolerance” in these – often ambiguous – circumstances? There are several cases (mainly in USA) of the word “niggardly” being interpreted as a racial slur. In one incident, an aide to the mayor of Washington DC resigned after a complaint that he’d used the word “niggardly” when speaking with two African American employees.

Although this sounds like one of those absurd “political correctness” stories which the Daily Mail likes to make up, it’s true – and it has interesting implications. “Niggard” means ”miser” – it’s unrelated to the racial N-word. But it can be used as a racist code-word. (In March 2010, a billboard appeared in California that referred to President Obama as “niggardly”).

Steven Pinker, the linguist and best-selling author, comments:

‘… it is impossible for anyone to hear “niggardly” without thinking, if only for a moment, of the ethnic slur. [...] Worse, the context is of little help in squelching the wrong meaning. [...] After the various associates of a word light up in the mental dictionary, the rest of the brain can squelch the unintended ones, thanks to the activity that psycholinguists call “post-lexical-access processing” and that other people call “common sense”.’ (New York Times, 2/2/1999)

The ambiguity of “niggardly” among English speakers is different in kind to that of “negro” among Spanish speakers. But ambiguity is ambiguity, and the same question applies in both cases: if offence is taken mistakenly, does responsibility lie with the speaker or the offended party? In the case of the Mayor’s aide who resigned (he was later reinstated), most US media commentary suggested that the offended person’s ignorance was to blame (ie ignorance of the dictionary meaning of “niggardly”). But the reverse seems to be the case with the Suarez incident, even though Patrice Evra initiated the conversation in Spanish.

Conclusion

I’ll now attempt to answer a question posed in part 1 (“Is national stereotyping necessarily less serious than racial stereotyping”). When people are perceived as mere units of a group stereotype, dehumanising horrors can result (as history shows) – whether the stereotyping is racial or national/ethnic. So, I can think of no good reason why the Top Gear case should be seen as less serious than racial use of the N-word in a football match. But the point was probably best made (as Steve Coogan suggested) by imagining the Top Gear presenters doing a routine about “lazy Africans” rather than “lazy Mexicans”.

‘If you are arguing for racial equality with a man who
keeps using the word “nigger”, you will eventually discover
that you are making no headway and that some barrier
prevents clear communication’
— Robert Anton Wilson

Written by NewsFrames

January 23, 2012 at 1:54 pm

48 Responses

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  1. Very solid criticism. What baffles me is the way the media can give unqualified acclaim to the disciplinary process even with the Department of Culture, Media & Sport raising questions over it’s fairness & independence.

    Brian C

    January 23, 2012 at 3:06 pm

  2. You are wasting your time. The media cycle has moved on. The media or sports journalism, where I have worked for many years, is not malicious per se, biased or even stupid, but just plain lazy. A 115 page report to go through, one clear narrative to pluck from that and hey presto, you get the same coverage from one rag or media outlet to another.

    From a PR point, LFC had an impossible narrative to present: the truth; something which is always lost in the media fog. Plus ca change. They did try though. In the months before they attempted to get their revenge in first, shape the story, but who ever was charged with handling the ‘PR crisis managment’ did not manage this case as a political one. The t-shirts stunt was misjudged PR too. Never do anything where the blowback is likely to burn your message.

    Nerina Scott

    January 23, 2012 at 8:03 pm

  3. an ingoprant society feeding off a biased media overload of rubbish…the systematic removal of people empowerment replaced by “commercial propaganda” is not far away from the fascism of historical horror..in the year 2011 we have more communication technology and less individualism, there isnt a case for intelligent life on tHIS planet!

    REd AlieN (@RedAlieNeT)

    January 23, 2012 at 8:38 pm

  4. Excellent article.

    The ‘papers remain the main source of ‘opinions’ as far as I can tell; God help us all.

    John

    January 24, 2012 at 1:39 am

  5. It’s very interesting how you have completely ignored other, more pertinent parts of the report. For example:

    Para 179:

    “When the noun is used in the way described by Mr Evra, it is NOT a friendly form of address, but is used in an insulting way: it is given as the rationale for an act of physical aggression (the foul), as if the person deserved such an attack since they are black. The term is NOT being used as in paragraphs 172 and 173 above, but in the sense of paragraph 171.”

    [my capitals]

    With this in mind, let’s look at Para 171:

    “Thus, the word CAN be employed with the intent to offend and to offend in racial terms; often the word would be appended with further insult, as in the example “negro de mierda” [shitty black].”

    [my capitals]

    So, essentially, the word can be used in a friendly or insulting way, depending on how you say it. Partly because of the very clear video evidence, the FA deemed Suarez to have meant it in an insulting way, not a ‘friendly and concilatory way’, as he claimed.

    So, this entire article is dishonest and incomplete, omitting pertinent parts and quoting only those that claim the word ‘negro’ to be completely inoffensive.

    It’s only what I expect from Liverpool, who have been dishonest and clumsy about the entire issue from the start, being, as they are, utterly unable to accept that anyone in a red shirt or indeed anyone associated with their city can ever do anything wrong. From Heysel to Michael Shields to Suarez, this outrage at the very suggestion they may have something to apologise for has persisted. What’s different now is that they’ve pushed it too far, as the rest of the country simply doesn’t buy the idea of innocence based entirely on being scouse.

    Paul

    January 24, 2012 at 10:25 am

    • Paul, you say I’ve “completely ignored” those sections of the report, but I’ve been perfectly clear (in both parts 1 & 2 of this article) that if Suarez said what Evra claimed, then the FA’s experts would consider that to be offensive. Here’s what I wrote in part 2, above:

      “Of course, this assumes that Suarez’s account (eg that he said “negro” only once) was true. Evra claimed he used the word multiple times, and in a way that the FA’s language experts agreed would be considered offensive.”

      The point, of course, is that the case comes down to one man’s word against another’s. There is no direct evidence corroborating either man’s version of the crucial dialogue. I’ve quoted in detail the parts of the report where the FA’s experts agree with Suarez about friendly/inoffensive use of the word “negro”.

      I’ve quoted these sections at length because they’ve not been cited in a single newspaper report or commentary.

      NewsFrames

      January 24, 2012 at 10:39 am

    • Paul, from what I know, Liverpool never denied that hooliganism was a huge factor in the Heysel disaster. Yes the stadium should never have been used, however, the state of the stadium was no excuse for the behaviour of those fans, and LFC paid the price.

      Forgive me if I’m wrong here, but Michael Shields was proven innocent was he not? Nothing to do with being Scouse, and everything to do with the fact that he didn’t do it.

      Not a case or being innocent based entirely on being Scouse, more a case of fighting for what you truly believe in and achieving justice.

      Just my opinion – and no, before you assume so I am not Scouse!

      Lisa

      January 24, 2012 at 11:01 am

    • According to some experts, it is entirely possible to use “negro” in Rioplatense Spanish as a descriptive noun even in heated circumstances.

      This makes it debatable whether context is even relevant.

      Seemingly, “Negro” can be used in a friendly, insulting or descriptive way.

      Joe

      January 24, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    • Paul, the whole point of this article and others like it, is to show the mistakes in the report. The whole report is flawed and full of contradictions. Its unbelivable that a man was found guilty on something so full of inconsistancies!! The fact that you and I can pull the report apart and show these inconsistancies is proof alone that the verdict should never have stood. If Evra said he said it 5 times then where did 7 times come from? How on earth were language barriers not taken into account? (5 different languages spoken that day, one with 2 different dialects and none spoken between 2 people from the same country) Some peoples statments stood, others were dicredited. Even to say that Suarez might have lost control and said something without thinking and that was out of character is crazy. He didnt even swear at Evra in the “altercation”. Now, I don’t know about you but I know myself that i would sooner go on a rant of swear words at somebody before i would completely lose my cool. Not once did he say anything like “F**k you” or “You f**king w*****r” yet they think he could have repeatedly racially abused somebody, which is completely out of character?!!!!!They picked and chose what they wanted, its ridiculous!!
      I started reading the report with a sense of dread, by the time i was finished i was laughing but when the news reports came out i was angry…

      Id say 99% of people (and a lot of reporters) went directly to the conclusion of the report and based their decsion on that. Some more happily than others to find that their initial idea was correct and a lot of them being fans of opposition teams jumping for joy to see Suarez condemed not caring at all that a mans reputation lies in ruins.

      This article too points out the flaws in the media handling of certain cases. Just now in the last few days we hear of Chelsea fans chanting racist songs on the bus home from the Norwich game. It took 6 hours for a report to come out in any papers internet site…yet half an hour after the Oldham incident (when there wasnt even proper knowledge of what happened) 3 papers had an article up and the biggest w****r of them all Ollie Holt had an article up saying that tribalism had caused the Kop to all be racist!! Lazy, Lazy, Lazy journalism……

      The difference between the Suarez – Evra case and the Terry – Ferdinand case is glaringly obvious. I cant wait to see what the media have to report when he has his day in court. I wonder too will the FA even charge him???

      Sul

      January 24, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    • Also, I dont know why people constantly bring up Heysel as a point of arguement against Liverpool. Football hooliganism was rife in the early days of football. It could well have been ANY club in England whos fans caused that horrific disaster. Being from Ireland i remember all too well when English soccer hooligans rioted at Lansdowne Road during a friendly between Ireland and England in ’95 .They absolutely wrecked the place. There was something like 100 injuries and they had to be escorted out of Dublin by the Irish Army. And that was just a friendly…

      Are you going to tell me they were all Scouse????
      Get down off your high horse….

      Sul

      January 24, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    • What a biased anti Liverpool load of drivel.In fact I personaaly find your comments and comparisons offensice.
      What you have also failed to mention is that EVRA instigated the situation and EVRA verbally insulted Suarez and his family. I am more than aware ot the “sticks and stones” phrase, but surely the person “EVRA” who started the debacle is as much to blame ,if not more at fault than the person who was attacked and who retaliated.Wake up man. resorting to dispicable unwarranted attacks are actually far worse than any name calling,get a life,fool.

      paulh

      February 8, 2012 at 8:56 pm

  6. In relation to the above comment, the use of the academics report, in the 115 page FA report is shamefully selective and frankly distorted. The panel have picked up on one caveat, that some people in South America sometimes object to the term, although note it is not claimed to be offensive at this point in the experts testimony (pp.45-46). This caveat is used to drive the entire case. But the other caveats attached to this, that do indicate a ‘perjorative’ usage, are dismissed by the panel, such as (‘shitty’) or the plural ‘los negros’ (p.46), and yet these appendages are most often applied to indicate negative usage (p.46). Suarez did not use such appendages. Three sentences, in the experts evidence, outline the negative connotations and 10 sentences outline the positive or neutral connotations of the term, but the three negative sentences are accompanied by qualifications and caveats, that the panel dismisses, ruling that a negative and offensive usage is not just possible, but actually ‘probable’. Meanwhile, the main thrust and sentiment of the expert evidence is completely rejected by the panel – that negro is being used as in para 172,173,175 (neutrally to establish rapport) and this would not be offensive or offensive in racial terms in Uruguay or Spanish speaking South America (p.50) Meanwhile Evra’s evidence is questioned by the experts as ‘slightly unusual’ in relation to the wording of the phrase“porque tu eres negro” . In this instance, a direct racial slur would more likely have been something like “porque eres un negro de mierda” [because you are a shitty black].p.48.
    However, the part of the report that is least credible is on p.87-88. This contains the reasoning for dismissing Suarez version of events, which go little beyond an entirely arbitrary assertion about human nature, how people react under pressure and use racist language, which is frankly plucked from thin air, has little grounding in any literature of which I am aware, and is little more than an assertion on the behalf of QC Goulding. On this point, the whole justification for disbelieving Suarez and essentially branding him a liar, hangs. This is arbitrary to say the least. What is particularly remarkable at this point is that we are asked to believe that the mixed race, anti racist campaigning (he goes to South Africa every summer to work for an anti racist charity)pp.86-87, Luis Suarez, suddenly loses his mind in a high pressure situation p.87, and engages in a torrent of racist abuse in which he uses the word negro seven times. But not once during this dialogue as reported by Evra, and as confirmed by the panel, does Suarez swear, showing remarkable restraint during this abusive period in which he loses control, unlike Evra who swears throughout, according to his own testimony. Suarez might be capable of racially abusing another player but apparently does so calmly without recourse to swear words, even though the panel claims he is acting out of character in a high pressure situation, despite the fact that we know he is not averse to such language or gestures, as his raised middle finger on leaving the pitch at Fulham recently, indicates. This account is simply implausible as is the reasoning on which it is based.
    In the summing up, the panel conclude that they agree entirely with Evra’s account – the exact wording (word by word). This seems to be based on their viewing of the footage, although it is not clear why they reach this conclusion, because the footage provides no clear evidence that Suarez says ‘negro ‘ once, let alone seven times. Rather the reason appears to be because Evra is consistent and credible (p.95). Ultimately the first 3 charges in accordance with Evra’s evidence are simply asserted on pp.98-99. However, the panel goes further and asserts in point 4 (p.99)that Suarez used the term negro before the referee spoke to them for the first time, although they concede they do not know what Suarez said at this time, presumably because there is no allegation made by Mr Evra. It is not clear how the panel made this judgement (p.99) as it is merely asserted. The one time that Suarez did admit to saying negro is then added to the charge sheet in point 5 (p.99). Through some creative maths therefore, the eventually running tally the panel arrive at for use of the word negro is seven, thereby surpassing Evra’s alleged total of five by two. How probable this figure is and how it was arrived at is unclear, other than that Evra has been believed, they have discounted everything Suarez has said (he maintains he used it once in the context of ‘porque negro?,’ ‘why black?’ as a literal translation, but more accurately why pal, why mate or why bro), until it comes to calculating the total times negro was used, when rather conveniently the panel finally decide to believe something Suarez actually said. And just for good measure they throw an extra one into the mix. 5+2=7.
    Ultimately Goulding QC has taken it upon himself to act as prosecutor as if he were acting on behalf of CPS in a trial, not the chair of an independent panel, and on those grounds and by those criteria he’s put together a very effective case, but it is by no means fair to Suarez, for him to behave like that given what is at stake here. He has now been publicly vilified, will have to carry the ‘racist’ by inference tag for the rest of his career and has no means of redress. His reputation is essentially destroyed – a heavy burden for any man to have to carry, and to have had it done on this basis and on this evidence is shameful. He literally is the sacrificial lamb, at a time the FA needed one to hammer home points about it’s tough stance on racism. The whole 115 page document is cleverly put together, but even that cannot hide how precooked all of this is and based simply on Evra’s say so, which in turn becomes the ‘balance of probability’ because of the very questionable subjective judgement that he is ‘credible and consistent’.

    APB

    January 24, 2012 at 10:58 am

  7. An excellent article and most of the posts above are likewise.

    I swear that anti-Liverpool prejudice is a key factor (like with Paul’s post above) in the media storm about the Evra incident. Note how little attention is now being given to the Chelsea fan who racially abused a Norwich fan and compare that to the Liverpool fan who did so to the Oldham player. To add to that, we have the case whereby a dark-skinned player becomes the subject of ire (an ire which Diane Abbott also faced, but John Terry didn’t). Of course, John Terry doesn’t come from South America. It’s OK to say prejudicial things about them.

    Czarny kapturek

    January 24, 2012 at 12:01 pm

  8. Penetrating, insightful article. Thanks again.

    When I was reading the Guardian’s coverage at the end of December, I noticed they had *scores* of comment pieces about the Suarez issue – published over the course of a few days (Dec 21 – 25) – and nearly all attacking Suarez and/or Liverpool. I tried to list them from the search facility, but they don’t all show up that way. You have to read a piece and then follow links to “related articles”, and so on, and then you discover just how many pieces the Guardian ran re Suarez.

    Alec Gerrard

    January 24, 2012 at 1:00 pm

  9. APB, what an honest and brilliant assessment of this debacle. Whoever you are, thank you. I wish you could be involved in defending Suarz legally and showing this case for the miscarriage of justice it is.

    CB27

    January 24, 2012 at 2:33 pm

  10. By LFC accepting Suarez’s punishment, they have found him guilty in the eyes of 99.9% of the public.
    They have basically ruined his reputation and he will probably leave within a year.

    LFC should have appealed.

    Dan Glover

    January 25, 2012 at 2:22 am

    • Liverpool didn’t accept Suarez’s punishment though and he was already guilty in the eyes of the public.

      The decision not to appeal was a case of Liverpool picking their battles wisely. The report was so emphatic, there’s no way the appeal would have succeeded. And the press and public response to the report was so emphatic, the club’s reputation was at stake along with Suarez’s.

      Vindication is in the hands of the DCMS. Liverpool will hopefully get their chance to “appeal” at the racism in sport inquiry and if the flawed Suarez case accelerates reform of the FA disciplinary system, that’s as close as he can hope to get to clearing his name.

      Joe

      January 25, 2012 at 3:09 am

    • Any appeal to the FA can not appeal the verdict, it can only appeal the length of the sentence, therefore there is no way of overturning the guilty verdict.

      Liverpool have not left him out to dry because they had no option to overturn the guilty verdict no matter how flimsy the evidence or lack there of.

      Could they have appealed to a higher authority? The answer to that is also no. In sport related cases it is possible to take things to CAS however as part of the rules of engagement with the FA, the FA have stated no club is allowed to take things to CAS without the say so of the FA. These rules, signed by Liverpool FC, have to abide to otherwise they, as a club, could face further sanctioning.

      colmbritton

      January 25, 2012 at 3:29 pm

  11. Paul: I live in Uruguay and I have never heard the use of the word “negro” in an insulting way. “Negro de mierda” (shitty) yes, that would be a racial offense, but not “negro” alone. The word is widely used in a friendly way, so employing it with intent of offend would sound ridiculous.

    On the other hand, Suarez could never had said “porque tu eres negro”, because that is just not a way of speaking in the Rio de la Plata area. As it has been pointed out, that strongly suggests Evra made the whole thing up.

    Juan Vazquez

    January 25, 2012 at 2:16 pm

  12. Excellent work, NewsFrames & APB.

    Sameer Mohamed

    January 26, 2012 at 2:25 pm

  13. “porque tu eres negro”? hahaha That is not “slightly unusual”. Nobody in Uruguay would say that. Anybody with a very, very basic knowledge of the Spanish we speak in Argentina and Uruguay should know it. Just watch any movie from Argentina and you’ll see. What kind of “experts” do the FA hire?

    Javier Garcia

    January 26, 2012 at 10:11 pm

  14. Excellent analysis.

    I think the attitude of the 3-man commission & the media can be summed up as follows – the possibility that an innocent man was being punished was more acceptable than the possibility of a guilty man going unpunished.

    As much they might protest and dress it up, there was no real evidence & it was simply a case of one man’s word against another’s. It’s a troubling precedent and I fail to see how this kind of summary justice serves the anti-racism cause in the long term.

    BMACO

    January 28, 2012 at 10:22 am

  15. Yeah, you’re spot on.

    It wasn’t Suarez who used a bad word, though he may very well not have understood the consequences in a different culture : the entire FA, Premier League, and every other team and club conspired to ban your best player and he’s totally innocent and it’s all so unfair and I want my ball back.

    How about understanding a very simple concept : whatever your thoughts and feelings about the case, and looking at Suarez’ body language in the video, it’s very clear he’s not describing Patrice Evra as black and complementing him on his dress sense, that the constant arguing of the finer details and your manager and team’s overt support for Suarez instead of, say, Kick It Out, that Liverpool FC are putting the cause of anti-racism back about 20-30 years as we can see given two recent incidences of visible/audible racial abuse in your own FUCKING STADIUM?! How about you engage with this issue instead of the minutae of Uruguayan semantics and dialect? There’s a bigger picture here, and the mighty Liverpool Football Club, generally still a highly impressive element of the English footballing canon, are quite overwhelmingly missing it, and that’s really dangerous.

    Jimmy Ainsworth

    January 28, 2012 at 10:06 pm

    • Rubbish. The linguistic experts clearly stated that if Suarez’s version of events occurred, then it simply could not be considered offensive or racially offensive. Evra’s version of events is offensive, but there’s no corroborating evidence whatsoever to support it. Only by very carefully selecting which inconsistencies to ignore and those to highlight could the panel reach its verdict, and that’s a very dangerous precedent to set. LFC support Suarez because they believe him to be innocent, and in the complete absence of evidence to the contrary, they are perfectly entitled to do so. Making some vague claim about Suarez’s body language doesn’t mean he was being racist.

      As for the two incidents, has anyone been charged? I’m not aware that anyone was found guilty of racially abusing Adeyemi. Correct me if I’m wrong. It also seems the lad in question said Manc bastard. As for today’s incident, why not wait and see? Thanks to this trial by media/twitter, everyone’s guilty until proven innocent. Sad state of affairs, but I guess it suits your narrative.

      RedSun

      January 28, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    • Nobody is arguing about the word. He said it, we know he said it but we believe he said it ONCE. Not TEN TIMES or SEVEN TIMES or was it FIVE TIMES?! We do not believe he said ‘ blackie, blackie,blackie’ or ‘I dont talk to black people’ and to find someone guilty of doing so with NO REAL EVIDENCE and on A PROBABILITY is ludicrous. The whole report is flawed. Why was Hernandez’s statement discredited? Why was only half of Kuyts statement taken into account? How on earth did Marrinor not hear or understand Evra making his complaint twice? Why was ‘Concha de tu Hermana’ changed to mean ‘fucking hell’ when (and I would ask you to ask any South American) it means ‘fuck your sister’?
      I find it so amusing to that ive read countless bits from opposition fans stating that concha de tu Hermana is an exclamation of shock!!! Hahahaha good luck to you in Brazil should you make it to the world cup…you will encounter many Spanish speaking Latin Americans and if thats your grasp of their language I see many a black eye…
      Cant wait for the press reports then…

      Sul

      January 29, 2012 at 5:37 pm

      • Of course, “concha de tu hermana” is a direct insult, widely used in Uruguay. There is no way it can be considered an exclamation.

        Juan Vazquez

        January 30, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    • Here is an analysis of the day in layman’s terms using yesterdays game as an example….Cut out the garbled and inconsistant report and see it for what it is….

      ‘The FA have awarded yesterday’s FA Cup tie to Manchester United, accepting Patrice Evra’s claim (after the referee had blown for full time) that his team had in fact scored at least ten goals and not just one. The fact that NO PLAYERS, SUPPORTERS or OFFICIALS, nor TV CAMERAS were able to confirm the other ten or more goals, did not mean that Mr. Evra’s claim was false. When interviewed (through an amateur interpreter) immediately after the game, the accused Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina admitted conceding one goal. This damning confession was enough to convince the FA panel that he must have conceded the other ten or more as claimed by Mr. Evra. The FA found Mr. Evra to be a very convincing witness on account of the fact that he is such a credible bloke, has never been in trouble before, and claims to be fluent in several languages. Mr. Reina’s testimony on the other hand was found to be totally unreliable in that he is Spanish and spoke mainly in Spanish through an interpreter. As Mr. Reina had admitted to conceding one goal, the FA panel concluded that the PROBABILITY was that he had conceded more than one. Mr. Evra would not have been so adamant if he hadn’t. The FA has therefore settled on Manchester United winning by a margin of 7 goals to 2 as the true final score. Pepe Reina and Liverpool Football Club have the right to appeal the score within the next 24 hours, but not overturn the defeat. If they do decide to appeal and lose the appeal, they will be immediately kicked out of all FA competitions for the next 50 years.’

      Thats what it all boils down to in the end. One mans word against another…
      Liverpool had no choice but to take the ban because an appeal wouldnt have made a difference.
      They didnt accept the verdict so it is not an admission of guilt…

      And also if you look at video footage of Evra from start to finish on that day HE was the aggresive one to ALL players and had to be told REPEATEDLY by his own players to calm down….

      For me as well the big issue is not just between Evra and Suraez. It is about how the media whip us all into a frenzy by playing one set of fans against another. It is about how the FA govern their house. You want to blame somebody for putting football back 20 years blame the media and the FA. I thought the English Premier League was supposed to welcome various cultures and backgrounds, yet they have completely alienated an entire continent by this verdict. Look at the many Uraguayian players (some black too) who have come out in complete and utter disgust against the FA. If i were a foreign player i would certainly think twice about joining a team in a country where my culture would be flung out the window and completely disregarded….

      Sul

      January 29, 2012 at 6:18 pm

      • Also just so you know i came across that piece on a different site, I didnt write it myself. Im sure it was intended as a joke but i think it pretty much breaks down the whole thing as easily as possible…115 pages was too much!!!

        Sul

        January 29, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    • You see Jimmy you are another one who believes what they read in the press. To use your words “given two recent incidences of visible/audible racial abuse in your own FUCKING STADIUM?! ” – Can you advise us of what these two incidents were as no-one has ever been charged with racial abuse. One person was arrested at the Oldham match but has not been charged with racial abuse – if he had it would have been on the front page of all the gutter press. So, how about you engage with this issue instead of the minutiae of what you choose to believe. God help anyone if you were on a jury.

      alex

      February 15, 2012 at 10:36 am

  16. Reblogged this on Sports Analysis and commented:
    Just a wonderful breakdown of the whole media narrative on the issue of Luiz Suarez. If you haven’t read this yet, and you’re interested in how the sports media works in the UK, then read this, now.

    georgeallwell

    January 29, 2012 at 6:13 pm

  17. [...] and part 2 which looks at the media framing of report and the ‘churnalism’ that ensued: https://newsframes.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/media-on-racism-framing/ [...]

  18. Great pieces. Thank you for taking the time to write what the mainstream “churnalists” couldn’t be bothered to (or didn’t suit their agenda).

    The 115 page contains only six words of truth: “Mr. Suarez is not a racist.”

    “To accept a simple solution to a complex problem is simple-minded.”

    McrRed

    January 30, 2012 at 8:22 am

  19. Couple of minor points;

    Firstly, the panel’s descriptor of the clash between the two players as acrimonious and angry was accepted without demur by all sides and provoked no discussion whatsoever. So why, when I watch all the video do I see no such evidence to support this critical claim, which was the cornerstone of the theory that Suarez’s use of ‘negro’ was insulting?
    Suarez had run Evra ragged the entire game, nutmegged him twice and is seen repeatedly smiling during their spats. He has no reason to be angry at all. His pat on Evra’s head seemed friendly and the panel interpretation it was aggressive and even borderline racist is utterly baffling.
    The linguistics experts, from the University of Manchester no less, were later found to be non-native speakers and did not have any speciality in Rioplatenese Spanish. In a dispute where regional linguistics were so important would it have been so difficult for the FA to find some actual native Spanish speakers?
    Why were there no questions to the linguists on the consecutive use of ‘negro,negro,negro’ in a conversation, which seems unnatural to say the least.
    And why no French linguistics aid to question Evra’s claim that “at least 10 times” is a French phrase. So many holes and inconsistencies in this case with the media seemingly leading a witchhunt against the club – witness today’s reports (Jan 30th) about LFC accidentally including the ‘monkey gesture’ fan in it’s match highlights. Lead story on BBC Sport and elsewhere in the papers for something that one person had picked up.

    Twadomikwadios

    January 30, 2012 at 8:29 pm

  20. [...] https://newsframes.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/media-on-racism-framing/ – for analysis on media coverage of Suarez-Evra affair in [...]

  21. excellent work

    jar

    February 8, 2012 at 6:25 pm

  22. Inconsistencies in the hearsay, second-hand, accounts of what Suarez told LFC management team and fellow players (all of them not native-Spanish, let alone Rio De la Plata area Spanish, speakers) he told Evra were used by the Commission, and still today by some members of the media, to undermine the credibility and reliability of Suarez’s testimony. The use of the terms/phrases “conciliatory’ and ‘defuse the situation’ were made a lot of effectively to trick Suarez into appearing inconsistent. Finally, refusal to accept that the Spanish term ‘negro’ can be used as NEITHER an offensive nor an endearing form led the Commission, on top of some logical gymnastics, to conclude that Suarez could not possibly have used the term ‘negro’ in anything but an offensive manner.

    GrkStav

    February 13, 2012 at 8:06 pm

  23. [...] -          [5]https://newsframes.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/media-on-racism-framing/ [...]

  24. In conclusion, if anyone had said that about my sister, I would have firstly called him every name in the book and not cared if it was racial or otherwise and thereafter I would have clocked him.

    The case should not been brought before a panel of morons of whom have inconsistencies in their own establishment on the very subject of racism. How can such an establishment pass judgement with a straight face?

    David

    February 15, 2012 at 1:22 am

  25. Terrific article that at last has highlighted the one-sidedness of the media dribble we have been fed. Fortunately, most of us neutrals not emotionally linked to either Evra or Suarez could use our logic to see this case for what it was – a biased witch-hunt. The analogy of Pepe Reina was spot-on! Thanks also to the South American contributors that have confirmed the true meaning of what was said by both Evra and Suarez. Considering the “capabilities” of the “linguistic experts” it is not surprising that the FA reached their unsupported conclusions. Next time there is a case like this, you would be well-advised to spend a few quid and fly someone in from the relevant country of origin to explain the linguistics properly, before you destroy someone’s reputation.

    Perhaps the most amusing comment in the report has to do with Evra’s “state of shock” following a foul by Suarez five minutes earlier that led to his little goal-mouth tantrum. I have played football for more than just a few years and have taken many hard tackles, but I cannot say that I have ever been in a “state of shock” for anything more than a few seconds after one. Considering how innocuous Suarez’s challenge on Evra was, I would hate for him to really have to take a proper hit. Poor guy wouldn’t be able to give an interview after thei game, being in an extended state of shock! Poor thing. Football is a physical sport, Mr Evra.

    Lastly, to Paul, a muppet par excellence. You are probably a Manc fan so there is no way of getting through to you. You say “Partly because of the VERY CLEAR VIDEO EVIDENCE, the FA deemed Suarez to have meant it in an insulting way, not a ‘friendly and concilatory way’, as he claimed.” What “VERY CLEAR VIDEO EVIDENCE”??? If this was the case don’t you think that these clips would have been shown by Sky Sports and other media at every possibly opportunity, as has been the case with John Terry (just with his lips blurred out…)?? The whole reason that this case is based on hearsay is because there is NO CLEAR VIDEO EVIDENCE supporting the idea of a racially-based confrontation. What video we have seen has shown no signs of Suarez using the word “negro”, and certainly not of Suarez being aggressive or confrontational. In constrast, Evra appears to be the aggressor… Indeed he was the instigator of the whole confrontation. Had he said that to me, he would have received more than just a few words, a la Suarez… Credit to Suarez for being the bigger man and not letting his emotions run away with him after what Evra said.

    Rabobie

    February 15, 2012 at 9:32 am

    • You obviously have not read the report.

      1. Suarez’s lawyer (and therefore Suarez) accepted the testimony of the language experts (para 196).
      2. The language experts testified that using the Spanish word “negro” to someone in a hostile exchange would be considered insulting in Uruguay (para 175).
      3. The video footage of the exchange between Evra and Suarez included clips that were not broadcast. Both Suarez and Suarez’s lawyer conceded that the exchange had been hostile after they had seen the footage (paras 247 and 250).
      4. Because it was a hostile exchange, it follows that even if Suarez said “negro” just once – as he claimed – it would have been an abusive comment even in Uruguay .

      Harry

      February 18, 2012 at 6:41 pm

      • Nice try, Harry, but incorrect.

        2. Para 175 doesn’t state what you say it does. Not even close.

        3. Paras 247 & 250 are in the summary and refer to the “pinching” gesture. All that is “conceded” (by McCormick) is that the pinching gesture wasn’t an attempt to “defuse the situation”. Evra wasn’t even aware of this “pinching” when it happened. Other gestures made by Suarez include the classic palms-up gesture of conciliation. This “palms up” image has been widely published – there’s absolutely no way it can be interpreted as “hostile”: https://newsframes.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/suarez-gesture.jpg

        4. It doesn’t follow that it was a hostile exchange on the part of Suarez (for the reasons given above). And it doesn’t follow that if there *was* an element of hostility, that the term “negro” must have been offensive. On the contrary, the language experts pointed out that it would usually be combined with other terms (such as “shitty”) to indicate offensive use. It would not necessarily be offensive as part of the phrase claimed by Suarez, even if it wasn’t made in friendly way.

        One of the interesting aspects of the FA report is the way they try a little too hard to convince you that Suarez was acrimonious, hostile, etc, throughout – based on very feeble evidence indeed. They don’t mention the footage showing Suarez as merely calm, bemused, making supplicating gestures, etc. At the same time they play down the evidence that Evra was in an angry state throughout the match (his teammate Giggs described it as “red mist”). Inconsistency from the FA panel.

        Anthony P

        February 18, 2012 at 8:02 pm

  26. What I don’t quite understand is Evra admitted saying to Andre Marriner – After a bookable challenge on Dirk Kuyt, moments after his bust up with Suarez – “You’re only booking me because I am black.”

    Surely, if this is the case, Evra has admitted to believing the Referee is a racist also.

    The FA also had the footage of Evra calling Jimmy Floyd Hasslebank a nigger but deemed it not necessary for consideration. This is ‘video evidence’ of Evra’s character. It couldn’t have relevence on it’s on but rather considered as part of a profile describing Evra’s character.

    Given they’ve based their verdict on Evra’s opinion of the events, then aren’t they are admitting he is of a fit and proper character?

    Ej

    February 16, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    • You’ve made all this up! You obviously haven’t read the report.

      Evra did NOT admit saying that to Marriner. Kuyt claimed Evra said it, but the commission did not believe Kuyt because MARRINER denied that Evra said that to him!

      Again what you say about footage is totally untrue. Suarez’s and Evra’s legal teams both agreed no reference would be made to either player’s past at the hearing. The footage of Evra you refer to was therefore never presented to the commission. Just as videos of Suarez diving (i.e. faking evidence to try to con referees) were never presented to the commission either.

      Harry

      February 18, 2012 at 6:35 pm

  27. Reply to Anthony P February 18, 2012 at 8:02

    Nice try, Anthony, but not convincing I am afraid.

    I notice you do not deny that Suarez’s lawyer (and therefore Suarez) accepted the testimony of the language experts. This means they accepted that in Uruguay:
    170. The word “negro” can have pejorative connotations
    171. The word can be employed with the intent to offend and to offend in racial terms
    175 (the para I cited). If the term were used with a sneer, then it might carry some of the negative connotations referred to above.

    The video footage (and countless published images too) clearly show Suarez sneering at Evra. As you admit, McCormick conceded that the pinching gesture wasn’t an attempt to “defuse the situation”. But of course that moment has to be put into the context of the whole exchange. This is done here in para 263 (the underlining is my emphasis):

    263. The whole episode in the match starting with Mr Suarez’s foul on Mr Evra in the 58th minute, and continuing with their encounter in the penalty area in the 63rd to 65th minutes was confrontational and hostile. In the goalmouth, Mr Evra fired the first verbal assault and Mr Suarez responded in a hostile fashion judged by his demeanour as shown on the video footage and his pinching of Mr Evra’s skin. When the referee blew his whistle to stop play, it was less than 10 seconds after the pinching in the goalmouth. This is when Mr Suarez claimed to have used the word “negro” for the one and only time. The players’ demeanour, as shown in the video footage, showed that the exchanges continued to be confrontational. This was followed, after the referee had spoken to the players, by Mr Suarez putting his hand on the back of Mr Evra’s head in a way which, in our judgment, was intended to aggravate Mr Evra.

    The report rightly adds:
    264. The whole tenor of the players’ exchanges during this episode was one of animosity. They behaved in a confrontational and argumentative way. This continued at all times during their exchanges in the penalty area. Whilst Mr Evra is partly to blame for starting the confrontation at that moment, Mr Suarez’s attitude and actions were the very antithesis of the conciliation and friendliness that he would have us believe.

    Anthony, it is ludicrous that you claim Suarez was calm in that exchange. It is also ludicrous that you claim the panel downplayed Evra’s anger. The panel said in 264 that BOTH players “behaved in a confrontational way and argumentative way”. Evra indeed admitted he had started the conversation with an offensive phrase (para 234). Suarez’s problem was that he had claimed initially that he was trying to defuse the situation even when pinching Evra – and changed his story when confronted with the video (para 248). This of course helped to undermine his credibility.

    Harry

    February 18, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    • Harry, (paras 170, 171, 175) – your own words here are “can”, “can” and “might”. Not good enough, since, equally, the Spanish term negro “can” and “might” have non-racial, inoffensive meaning. This, too, was part of the language experts’ testimony.

      And I find totally unconvincing any appeals to what the FA panel decided based on a lack of evidence. There is no video evidence – or witness evidence – for the crucial dialogue between Evra and Suarez. So much for the unsupported conjecture that Suarez was hostile throughout.

      As for the panel playing down Evra’s anger, see para 333: “We reject the submission that Mr Evra was unduly wound up such that he was tipped over the edge to pursue vengeance against Mr Suarez”.

      The panel’s opinion contradicts the evidence from Ryan Giggs, who described Evra’s mental state in terms of a “red mist”, of someone who “did not seem quite with it”. (Para 114)

      Anthony P

      February 19, 2012 at 12:44 pm

  28. Can somebody, please, explain to me why the referee distroyed his notes at the end of the game and why it wasn’t investigated. I heard that he wrote something incriminating to Evra.

    Gus

    February 19, 2012 at 1:20 pm


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