I can't help thinking that there's a whiff of "news is sport, sport is news" about the Obama-bashing in the papers, especially in the run-up to the England v USA World Cup match at the weekend. You might think that the Express's effort
was the worst of the bunch - it's certainly less mature than the little fella in the St George flag on the right of the page - but it bears comparison with the Telegraph's fear-dripping bogeymanification of Obama yesterday
Really? Really Obama's boot on the throat of British pensioners? Is it really his fault that BP and their subcontractors created an enormous oil disaster? Should we all just forget about it because BP has (had) the word "British" in its company name, even though a rather large proportion of its shareholders are not British, and actually - well what do you know? - American.
But no. This must be about the big evil American bogeyman battling against our brave British BP boys. This must be "news is sport", so there can't be anything remotely complicated or nuanced about the situation. Therefore: Obama is the villain of the piece, wrecking 'our pensions' because he's a nasty man; and poor old BP were just trying to do their best, and if they created a massive slick that's wrecking wildlife, well who cares about that; these are OUR PENSIONS for God's sake!
This, to me, is the kind of patriotism I feel uncomfortable about. As you know from previous posts here I'm made up and excited about the World Cup - I love seeing the England flags everywhere and even as a bleeding heart liberal-left do-gooding bastard I feel excited about the prospect of people getting together and enjoying the forthcoming World Cup, particularly the support of my home country. I know that patriotism is a daft an inexplicable thing; but then the feeling of joy when your team scores is something incredible, even if you just happen to follow them through an accident of birth, with your national side or club you love. It's all about a shared feeling, and nowadays I feel football is much less about the chippy little thugs chucking coins as it is about families and mates meeting up and sharing a fun sporting event together as part of a community.
If you've ever been to a large sporting tournament - as I have, lucky enough to attend a World Cup and a European Championship - you'll know the exhilarating feeling of people of different backgrounds and nationalities all mingling together, all wanting different results, all hoping for different outcomes for all of their teams. But no nastiness, not that I've ever seen - no trouble and no hostility; it's even in a place nowadays where you can feel quite relaxed as an England fan in that you're not seen as being the scum of the earth any more, and you're not expected to throw tables around a town centre square and be watercannoned into oblivion. Those days are, I think, pretty much gone. And good riddance.
That's the kind of 'patriotism' I can find myself a part of - a benign sporting event that brings people together in friendly rivalry. Not taking sides between BP and Barack Obama, because one is apparently British and because my pension might be a little bit better off if a giant multinational corporation were not to be clobbered too severely for fucking up the ocean. But it would appear that I'm out of step, on this one, with the press. A lot of them seem to be backing the "Barack vs BP" idea:
Is that really what I want from David Cameron - that he should "stand up" for "my country"? No. Not in this instance. BP isn't my country, and yes, one of my pensions probably might suffer a bit if it invested too much in oil (the other fund I have is 'ethical' so I'm feeling quite smug about that, ho ho); but then that's their fault for investing too much in oil, and, at the risk of wearily repeating myself, the oil company concerned for being responsible for a massive environmental disaster.
This is the simplistic level at which newspapers appear to be operating. It's England v USA in the football, so it's Britain v USA in the oil spill. Boo hiss nasty Barack Obama, daring to hold a (partly British but privatised and actually multinational) company responsible for creating havoc! How dare he! Doesn't he know OUR PENSIONS might be KILLED? Why should he put HIS BOOT onto THE THROAT OF OUR PENSIONERS? Of course, it's a distraction from the world of pain that Cameron & chums are about to inflict on Britain, so it's understandable that his cheerleaders might want to portray our nation as being under attack from outside, rather than within.
It's a funny old world in which the sports pages reflect a sense of national pride that I can identify with, whereas the news pages reflect an outdated, ridiculous notion of patriotism towards a faceless environment-wrecking corporation. The England team and BP are both a bunch of millionaires, but at least the footballers don't do very much harm to anyone. I know who I'm supporting, and it isn't BP.