It grieves me to say it, but my newspaper has an exceedingly silly leader today about England’s exit. It concludes:
The consolation, if there can be any, is in the performance that brought us so close to victory. When the squad come back from Germany, for all their flaws, they deserve to be greeted as heroes. We salute them.
In the old days, one would be left fuming at this fatuous sentiment. But there then follows a long stream of critical comments from readers (and this is at 10am on the morning of publication) taking the editorial apart.
“Are you on the same planet as me?”, inquires Grazman. “We should salute these underperforming, overpaid, useless brats? What are you thinking? The only player with any credit is Owen Hargreaves. The rest should be ashamed of themselves.”
How on earth do they deserve to be greeted as heroes? They were absolutely rubbish. Limped out of one of the weakest groups in the tournament, just about got past mighty Equador, then fell at the first proper test: a depleted Portugal squad without one of their key players. Utterly embarrassing performance. With one or two exceptions, the entire team should be absolutely ashamed of themselves. Beckham’s time is up, Gerrard & Lampard looked a shadow of their club selves etc etc etc. Absolute rubbish…
There’s a lot more in the same vein, and of course outbreaks of the usual infighting that goes on in Blog comments — e.g. a Scotsman complaining that the Observer, as a UK newspaper, should talk about “England” not “us”, followed by people taking the Scot to task. But what’s interesting about this is that it is happening. Newspapers used to be one-way channels of communication. Journalists rarely knew what their readers thought. No longer.