When it comes to all things Arsenal – playing style, team selection, ticket prices, who should start, who should be sold, who should be manager – Arsenal fans come at things with a variety of differing opinions.
There are two things though that each of them have in common – 1.) they are important to all Arsenal fans and 2.) depending on your view on any of them you will likely be labeled as either an “Arsene Knows Best” or “Wenger Out Brigade” type of fan.
However, these kinds of labels are ridiculous and lose sight of the fact that at their core, ever one is an Arsenal supporter. And to many who chose not label anyone with AKB or WOB, those monikers run counter to what they think an Arsenal fan should believe.
Being a supporter affords you the right to have an opinion on your team. It’s what we do. Before the advent of social media, you bitched and moaned, celebrated and laughed at the team’s ups and downs with your mates at the local pub, at home, or work but for the most part it was left there. The level of vitriol and false bravado was confined to those locations but usually wore off when the effects alcohol diminished.
Introduce social media and it’s all gone awry. Now arguments linger. Old statements of support or frustration are dug up and slung back in a fans face by someone who has taken an opposing view and repeatedly slammed back at someone but now with veracity and amplification that is joined by an online posse of like-minded sycophants.
Social media has made being a football fan, in this case an Arsenal supporter a maddening affair. In the Arsenal world that means being painted with the broad bush of being AKB or WOB.
No matter where you may fall in the AKB or WOB divide, there are overarching values that inform both sides of the debate. But when you try the rational approach of attaching, nuanced, issues to these broad arguments it becomes problematic. Simply put – broad labels discourage thoughtful debate in favor of vitriolic groupthink.
Simply chime up about any of the primary talking points around Arsenal and you are likely to be labeled either AKB or WOB in any social media discussion you participate in.
Does it really have to be like that? Why should a single opinion on a single issue make anyone think that you suddenly fall too far on one side of either spectrum of the debate? When did it become unacceptable to think for yourself and form your own opinion without having to be linked to such black and white choices as either Wenger is the greatest or Wenger is the worst?
The acrimony surrounding Arsenal has reached fever pitch and hyper-polarizing levels. Today when you bump into a fellow Arsenal fan, many have been “programmed” to fall into one side of the argument or another so much so that the first thing you are asked is – “Wenger in?” or “Wenger out?”
It’s no longer acceptable – at least to those that drive these arguments – to see anything through an all-encompassing yet nuanced Arsenal lens. No, you are immediately pigeonholed and forced to pick one side or the other.
And woe be unto you should you pick the wrong side of the argument. Because you are branded immediately and the tone of the debate (if you can call it that) becomes markedly hostile
The worrisome point about this type of debate is that it can trick those who are easily led by these arguments to believe everything that they read or hear has to be viewed through the myopic idiocy that is a one-sided argument.
We have to stop seeing things as AKB or WOB. We have to get back to thinking of everything as Arsenal. Anyone who tells you that is how they view but insists on making an argument that falls clearly on one side or the other is not viewing it with any nuance to it. We must read and listen to everything with a level of discernment.
Stop being led by an argument of one level or another. Start looking into everything and drawing conclusions on your own. When you make it so base to just place everything and everyone painted with such broad swathes of one side of the argument or another, you lose any moral ground you might have.
Debates about Arsenal don’t fall into anyone specific ideology.
Take my view on things –
I believe Wenger hasn’t changed with the game that he brought so much innovation to. I believe that 20+ years at one position can get stale and predictable. However, I also fully recognize his significant achievements and what he has done for this club – no time out of the sun can diminish that. Wenger is our manager and as such should be backed accordingly however, he is not void of criticism and criticizing him doesn’t mean you don’t want him to succeed. If the club management want him to fulfill his contract so be it.
I firmly believe that there are equal parts blame when it comes to the missed opportunities for Arsenal and that everyone should be bear the brunt of the blame equally. I also realize that there are things going on at the Arsenal that I could never know what is going on and to use some “narrative” made up on social media to beat the manager or club with is both idiotic and ill-informed.
I could go on. The point is supporting a club like Arsenal shouldn’t be based on whether you want Wenger in or Out and how you choose to express that. People shouldn’t be afraid to be attacked for an opinion or to get involved in debates. But, while forming our judgements or opinions, we can’t be a slave to a label that we lose sight of what brought us all together in the first place – a love for Arsenal.
Make no mistake each side of the argument has people aligned to that make you shake your head and wonder if that is what they are truly like in everyday life. With the anonymity they can say or do something and since many wouldn’t know who that person is they can troll others and slide back into the unknown that is the real world. Secure in the knowledge that their AKB or WOB trolling identity is safe.
AKB or WOB – they are labels. Stupid labels. They are now (on both sides) associated with a level of online-bullying that were they said in public would get them excluded and shunned or worse. But social media supports a dystopia for either of this labels and affords them the opportunity to thrive as they are supported by like-minded trolls.
Fans who think of Arsenal with something other than the lens of AKB or WOD are slowly staying off of social media. Good people who aren’t swayed by such pettiness as these broad strokes perpetuate feel that social media is so base it doesn’t support being a sport fan any more.
And that’s a shame.
When social media rose to prominence, it was unifying allowing supporters from all over the globe to connect. Now, it is a device for trying to pry supporters apart all because of the stupidity of being labeled AKB or WOB.