If you want an image for the future, imagine large institutions harnessing the power of social media to self-publish propagandistic nonsense without having to worry about being held to account, forever. Barcelona have today decided that Lionel Messi, recently found guilty of tax fraud and given a suspended 21-month jail sentence, now requires the support of football fans across the world to get through this difficult time.
Barcelona have posted the following statement on their website, as part of a plan to "express its sympathy for the FC Barcelona striker":
FC Barcelona has set up a campaign in support of Leo Messi following the sentence issued this week against the Argentinian and his father.
Using the hashtag #WeAreAllLeoMessi while posting a photo or message with both hands open, the campaign is encouraging all Barça fans to express their sympathy for the greatest footballer in the world by voicing their unconditional support on social networks.
By making it clear that #WeAreAllMessi, we want Leo to know that he is not alone. All members, supporters clubs, fans, athletes, media and everyone else are invited to participate.
It was accompanied by this tweet by Barca's president:
In many ways, the tweeting of a hashtag to establish your similarity to Messi is very effective in the sense that it's in no way taxing.
It is an act of propaganda by Barcelona, in the knowledge that fans on social media are more likely to engage with a picture, a hashtag and the idea their hero has been victimised rather than read the nuances and truths of a full news report. It is the stage-managing of what Stephen Colbert calls "truthiness": things that feel that they ought to be true, even if they actually aren't.
Perhaps it is a way of keeping Messi happy at the club, but the corollary of it all is Barca exploiting the modern systems of communications to take ownership of a story as best they can.
This easily beats out Liverpool's Suarez effort as the most ludicrous club campaign ever. https://t.co/QZqxxYwHiX
— Kieran Canning (@KieranCanning) July 9, 2016
It's a ridiculous idea by Barca, bordering on risible. Because, at this stage, ridicule is the only honourable weapon we have left.