But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.
George Orwell, “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, 1948.
1984 is probably one of my favourite books of all time. The story is so well known that some of the main concepts from the book – for example “Big Brother is watching you” and “Room 101” have made it into popular culture. However, the book is also a study of how people can be controlled by careful use of propaganda, psychology and language.
The book introduces the concept of doublethink – “the acceptance of contrary opinions or beliefs at the same time, especially as a result of political indoctrination.” For example, doublethink is being able to accept that 2 + 2 = 5 because you are told that is so by the people in charge despite knowing that it’s complete bunkum.
As the quote above describes, it’s about the destruction of the self to become an adoring subject of a powerful leader.
Where am I going with this?
While it almost feels wrong to be writing this piece right now following the victory over Fulham I’d been wanting to put into words some thoughts about communications from the club. Ironically, I was struggling to do so but the match report posted on bcfc.com following the victory crystallised things for me.
“Lukas Jutkiewicz’s 75th minute goal gave Blues’ new era of entertaining and attacking football the kick-start that it needed – and it was thoroughly deserved.”
I mentioned on smallheathalliance.com at the time that the match report read like something out of “Pravda” and that it was a touch, well, embarrassing. Clearly, I wasn’t the only person to agree because while Colin Tattum appeared in the thread to defend himself, the line got changed by the time I went to write this piece on Sunday morning.
I know some people want to blame Tatts for this sort of thing – however I don’t. Tatts is someone who I would class as a true blues fan – cut him in half and he’d have Birmingham City stamped through him like a stick of rock. I can’t imagine he would have wanted to have written such a cringeworthy first line without being told to do so.
This is where the doublethink comes in.
I honestly believe that there is pressure on the comms team from somewhere to report things in a positive manner – even when things have been less than positive to say.
I think the continuing winless streak under Zola just made it more difficult to be positive and yet the pressure probably grew greater – and thus there was greater revision on Gary Rowett’s contributions as Blues manager as the pressure grew greater from fans as to why the change was made.
To paraphrase another Orwell work, it had almost become “Zola good, Rowett bad”.
For me this pressure could only have come from one place – above. While I think it would be only natural for Panos Pavlakis to put pressure on to defend his choice of manager and TTA’s timing of changing managers, I think it actually goes deeper than that.
I think we might be seeing the next power struggle at the top in Birmingham City.
We’ve seen them before – when Panos originally came in there was some defensive remarks from Pannu in the press about his appointment as he saw his position come under threat. This time Panos is the incumbent – and the threat has come from two directors of the club put into place by TTA, who are now permanently based in Birmingham.
One in particular – Edward Zheng Gannan – I understand is much more involved in the day to day work at the club than people from the Chinese end have been previously. I also understand Zheng reports directly back to Hong Kong rather than to Panos.
I think Panos has to be seen to be connected to success at the club – hence his picture from the dressing room post-match – and thus I think we will see more of this triumphalism whenever Blues get a positive result.
Like Big Brother in 1984, I think it will be important for Panos to be seen as the all-powerful, all-knowing leader at BCFC who smiles down upon us, occasionally gracing us with a pithy #further #forward tweet emphasising how much better Blues are now. Whether we’ll see him rail against his Emmanuel Goldstein, his faceless enemy who is looking to supplant his position remains to be seen.
I don’t think this is the last we’ll see of the “Pravda” style news from Birmingham City.