About Frank, gay footballers and a TV trailer

Though I grew up an Ajax fan, when I met twins Frank and Ronald De Boer (by then they had joined FC Barcelona) I was unable to tell them apart because they weren’t wearing jerseys to tell me which one was which. And while both brothers were (and are) unmistakenly skilled and knowledgeable when it comes to football (← understatement) neither has ever had the gift of the gab (← even bigger understatement).

For all the media training Frank De Boer might have had throughout his career(s), now he’s the (successful) coach at Ajax he is no better at speaking to journalists than he was all those years ago as a player. Not that it’s ever stopped anyone with a microphone or voice recorder in hand from pursuing De Boer to try and get him to speak, regardless of what little sense anything he says might make. Perhaps the latter even makes him a more popular subject (or perhaps even an easy target) for media folk.

In anticipation of the the Dutch FA‘s plan to use ‘Coming Out Day’ on 11 October 2012 to launch its strategy to make football ‘gay-friendlier’, Dutch broadcasters BNN have scheduled a specially themed broadcast in August named “FC Gay”. Yesterday they launched the show trailer, which appears to be (a section of) an interview with Frank De Boer:

If the below translation doesn’t make sense, that’s because what Frank De Boer says doesn’t appear to make much sense anyway. It’s hard to make out where a sentence starts or finishes (if it even does), or if things like the double negative are intentional or accidental (making it unclear what he actually says or intends to say)… all typical De Boer:

Interviewer: “We’re making a program about homosexuality and football…”
Frank De Boer: “..Right..”
Interviewer: “..And now we wondered, one in twenty men is gay, but we don’t see any in the Eredivisie. How come?”
Frank De Boer: “Well, erm, how I sort of see it, anyway, if you look at the gay man, I think, he’s not so much not into playing sport, if you say the motor skill, normally, that often shows in gays, I think. Perhaps that’s what it is, I think…”

If feelings of outrage are burning up inside you, take a breath. Or a few breaths, if that’s what you need to calm down. Or at least give me time to go to my local bookmaker’s to place my bet. I’m on a winner here – I’m betting this is a hoax. No need for outrage, then.

You see, the folks at BNN are not averse to controversy; in fact they’ve actively sought it by way of stunts (“cannibalism!”), hoaxes (“donor show!”) and cons (“burqa!”). You may even remember a post I made last year that touched on the fakery on BNN’s Dutch equivalent of Embarrassing Bodies

And for all the verbal bumbling Frank De Boer has been known for – BoJo eat your heart out! – on this particular occasion Frank even outbumbles himself to the point that it’s just no longer credible. That’s probably because the “interview” (comprising of nothing more than clichés wrapped in vagueness and double negatives) has been carefully scripted in order to ensure that however outrageous Frank’s utterances may seem, he literally – yes, literally in the actual meaning of the word – doesn’t say anything that actually attacks anyone… because he literally talks nonsense.

It’s all part of the game BNN plays to attract viewers for its theme night in August. And however important the chosen theme is, BNN unfortunately have a habit to keep things light and accessible – which is a nice way of me saying that in my opinion their broadcasts tend to lack depth to really deliver something of substance. Even the way of promoting this upcoming broadcast is so old and tired that I suspect the Dutch tabloid editors are entirely aware of the game and just play along by headlining it on a day that was expected to become an otherwise slow news day.

The Netherlands’ leading LGBT organisation (no doubt involved in the upcoming broadcast as well as in helping the Dutch FA develop its strategy) perpetuated the charade by “feigning outrage and demanding an apology” which was followed by a tweet from brother Ronald (“I don’t know what exactly is going on but my brother has nothing against gays and is definitely not the type to hurt people #storminateacup”) and then a tweet from Frank himself (“Football belongs to everyone, gays too. I regret the upset. Didn’t want to hurt anyone. Statement was taken out of context”). (Frank and Ronald De Boer share a Twitter account.)

The person to alert me to this story (before Twitter did) was a non-Dutch journo who phoned me this morning because he couldn’t make out something from a Dutch source he’d read via Google Translate; he was expecting a slow news day and wanted to figure out if anything newsworthy was going on here. I expressed my doubts about any of it being genuine. “Would the De Boer bros. lend themselves for this sort of thing?” he asked, and I reminded him of the “bound by a contract” mobile telephony commercial the brothers did in their playing days, back when Ajax refused to release the twins from their contracts so they could go to FC Barcelona (I didn’t manage to find the commercial online but it wasn’t too dissimilar from Kate Moss’s ad for Vodafone on the rebound from her cocaine controversy).

While still on the phone, we learned that today was going to be anything but a slow news day. More than just the headlines were swiftly taken over by horrific reports in relation to senseless violence brought upon people who set out for a fun social event.

Thinking of the living hell those involved must be going through, I would like to write here that it put things in perspective to the point that I no longer cared about what is essentially a non-story involving a football coach and a bunch of attention-seeking broadcasters. But I find myself feeling even stronger about it now because I realised why it bothered me in the first place: It’s the deceit I can’t stand.

However big a reason the broadcasters of BNN may have to try and grab people’s attention for their upcoming TV special(s), in my opinion nothing justifies deceit. From time to time I use this blog to call BS as and when I see it, but deceit is the absolute worst form of BS out there. For all I care, anyone purposely using deceit to ‘make a point’ or ‘serve a purpose’ might as well shout from the rooftops: “Don’t trust me! There’s no way for you to know whether I’m telling the truth or not!” The moment any serious news outlet (e.g. a newspaper, news channel or news website) allows itself to be used for whichever form of deceit (even if it’s relatively ‘mild’), that news outlet denies space and attention to real, relevant matters and squanders its own reliability and credibility in the process (after all, how can you trust them to get anything else it features right?).

Ignorance and intolerance towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are no laughing matters, nor issues in which you can hoax or ‘trick’ people into changing their attitudes. If you want to really try and make a change, I suggest making serious, persistent efforts rather than lazily repeating outdated, tired concepts.


When truth gets in the way of a good story

Funny how we hardly ever hear “what happens next” on tabloid-type stories.

A couple of weeks ago, when a 12-year-old girl gave birth while on a school trip, tabloid editors worldwide blissfully ignored the worrying details and warnings issued; instead they went for the shallow stories accompanied by sensationalist headlines (which no doubt gains the greater readership required to generate the desired advertising revenue). Subsequently, their readerships did not hold back on their responses, either. So it wasn’t long before a 12-year-old girl few people actually know became an oversexed slapper and slut to many, and the embodiment of everything that’s apparently wrong with young people, (sex) education, society and/or the world as a whole today… supposedly.

Now that it has been confirmed that the 12-year-old girl was in fact the victim of sexual abuse, and her newborn baby the product of rape, I don’t see any editors taking back or even catching up on their previous publications, nor do I see any self-appointed social commenter take back or even apologise for his or her judgemental words in response.

Yes, I did notice that a few cowards made everything right (not!) by setting fire to the perpetrator’s house-that-wasn’t-really-his-house-anyway — yah, that’ll teach him and make up to the young girl for all the blame and disrespect previously levied on her, right?
I think not.

It would be easy to ‘blame the media’ here, and although I am not a fan of that cliche,
I would certainly like those in charge of media outlets to take at least some responsibility here: the warning signs that this girl was a tragic victim were there well before it was confirmed that she indeed was — in fact, they were right in the editors’ faces from the moment the story broke — so why did they not treat the girl and her newborn daughter with more respect, by either covering the story differently or not covering it at all?

And why, whenever anything like this happens, does no editor ever seem to decide on his own back to publish corrections and/or follow-ups (something which is so much easier these days when much is published electronically, allowing for later edits/addendums)? Why do they only ever appear to do this when someone — presumably with the means to afford lawyers and legal proceedings — forces them to take such action?

That said, as much as I would love the media powers that be to take their responsibility and act accordingly, this post is definitely not about riding the populist blame-the-media bandwagon. After all, they are not solely to blame. One may even defend their (at times questionable) decisions and actions in that they have to work to serve and please their audience, or they’d be out of a job. That audience is (or may be) us, the public, particularly those members of the public with computers, smartphones and goodness knows what other devices to access the internet and post our thoughts and opinions.

We’re all adults here, right? So what about the ‘adults’ who deemed it appropriate to post the comments they did when this story was first published? Does anyone ever go back and remove their previous commentary and/or post apologies for previous statements they made?

The most common cliche to pop up in the public/interactive section on any new media platform includes the words ‘freedom of speech’; the context in which that cliche is used may differ from post to post, but essentially the people using it tend to contest they should be allowed to say/write whatever they want, whenever they want to, wherever they please… while I may ponder that particular subject and its surrounding myths on another occasion in another lengthy blog post, allow me to get on my proverbial high horse for a second and wave my moralist finger here at whomever it concerns (such as the aforementioned media folks and keyboard warriors):

With freedom comes responsibility.

Most importantly, I would like wish the young mum and her daughter all the best of health and goodness in life, and hope that she will never (again) let anyone or anything get in the way of her as she works to give herself and her little girl the best possible life — regardless of whatever anyone has said or written about them.

Aside from that, I would love to witness more maturity and common sense wherever I go or look, in both the real and virtual world.

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