Wenger’s red herrings?

中国日报网 2015-01-13 11:27



Wenger’s red herrings?

Reader question:

In this headline (Arsène Wenger’s red herrings cannot disguise Arsenal’s failings in defence - TheGuardian.com, January10, 2015), what are red herrings exactly?

My comments:

After reading the article, I’ve come to the conclusion that Arsène Wenger’s red herrings refer to a few of his misleading theories about his team’s worsening defense.

Misleading because that’s what red herrings are – they’re there to distract, to direct you to a wrong track.

First of all, Wenger is the French manager of English Premier League side Arsenal. He said the other day that his team’s lack of defensive qualities was due to, among other things, the gentrification of society in general. He said, for example:

“I believe as well that young boys practise well on quality pitches, whereas before it was muddy and you could tackle and throw your body in – it created opportunities for defenders to work naturally on their defensive techniques. Today it’s all more standing up. There is less physical commitment because the quality of the pitches is much better.”

In short, the pitch is so sparklingly clean that players are reluctant to launch one of those flying tackles lest any grass is uprooted – dirtying their shirts and shorts in the process.

That’s a simplification, of course, but you get the point.

Wenger may have a point, broadly speaking. But the author of the article disagrees, suggesting that the Frenchman threw up these misleading theories in order to cover his team’s and, perhaps, his own failings.

Perhaps he simply didn’t work the team’s defenders hard enough during training.

That’s another simplification on my part, just to make the author’s point straightforward. And it is easy to make such a simplified point, too, considering Arsenal once had formidable defenders, to say the least. One time, a long while ago to be sure, the Arsenal defence was so strong that the team went a whole season undefeated.

A whole season?

Yeah, in 2003-04, that’s 38 games going undefeated, playing 19 teams, each twice, one at home and one away.

Anyways, the author of the article says Wenger’s theories are meant to cover up his team’s own failings.

That’s why he called them “red herrings” in the first place.

Red herrings, you seen, are preserved herring fish. They are called red herrings because they look red, and are stinky. Due precisely to their strong smell, red herrings are believed to have originally been used as bait to train hunting dogs, who are supposed to be able to always follow that strong scent.

Actually, no real hunters are believed to have ever done this – (Dogs are so nosy it makes no sense to entice them with such a strong scent – so overwhelmingly strong it may impair their sense of smell and thus prove counterproductive) but the story, first told by the Englishman Nicholas Cox in A Gentleman’s Recreation (1674) somehow caught on.

Now, red herrings are synonymous with anything meant to mislead and distract, drawing one’s attention away from the basic issue.

The basic issue here in Arsenal’s case is how to play better defense and Wenger perhaps should stick to the point.

Anyways, that’s Wenger’s red herrings and that is that.

Lest non-soccer fans be bored to sleep, let’s read a few media examples of red herrings deployed by people in other walks of life:

1. George Osborne’s plans to get the rich to pay more tax are nothing more than “red herrings”, according to a London-based chartered financial planner.

The chancellor told The Daily Telegraph he was “shocked” at how little income tax the very wealthiest people paid after he personally studied “anonymised” copies of their tax returns.

The 20 biggest tax avoiders in Britain have used three major loopholes to legally cut their income tax bills by a total of £145m a year, according to a report. Now Osborne has vowed to take action.

But Jonathan Davis, managing director of Jonathan Davis Wealth Management, has serious doubts as to whether Osborne will actually ensure the richest people pay more tax.

Davis said: “If he was serious about going after the rich he wouldn’t have reduced the tax rate from 50 per cent to 45 per cent. And also, he would move from taxing income and wealth creation to taxing property and assets.

“The reality is the rich largely keep their income out of the UK, but their assets are here and are largely untaxed.”

Osborne used the recent Budget to announce a stamp duty of seven per cent would be charged on homes worth more than £2m. Some 2,059 properties worth in excess of £2m have been sold in London in the past two years, according to Zoopla.co.uk.

But Davis doubts the stamp duty increase will help boost the economy.

“It is definitely a slight move to taxing assets, but slight is the operative word and it doesn’t get to the root of the issue,” said Davis.

“We still tax wealth creation with income and corporation tax, whereas we should be taxing non-productive assets. That way we could equalise our society and it would help get the economy going.”

He continued: “I hasten to say that George Osborne is not acting different to any other chancellor in the last 100 years. He is just tinkering with the system. There is no transformative action or policy, they are red herrings what the chancellor is doing.”

- Osborne’s plans to limit tax relief are just "red herrings", LondonLovesBusiness.com, April 10, 2012.

2. Complete with a Big Tex and a Tyrannosaurus rex, Texans from around the state rallied once again to keep the theological concepts of creationism and intelligent design out of school textbooks.

‘I want to make sure only the science facts go into our science books,’ said one participant, who told KVUE he traveled from San Antonio for Tuesday’s demonstration outside the office of the Texas State Board of Education.

‘The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that you can’t teach creationism as science in public school classrooms, so the new strategy is kind of death to evolution of a thousand cuts,’ said Kathy Miller, president of Texas Freedom Network, which organized the event.

‘What you have is folks appointed to the official review teams who have an ideological perspective and they’re recommending debunked arguments to kind of water down the teaching of evolution and climate change in our books,’ said Miller.

‘Presenting Darwin as facts would be nothing more than junk science,’ a creationism supporter testified inside the board hearing Tuesday to consider potential changes to instructional materials, including biology textbooks. Many creationism supporters argued that instructional materials should question Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

‘You will strike the final blow to the teaching of evolution,’ said former board chair and outspoken creationist Don McLeroy, who aroused confusion among board members in his argument in favor of the current textbooks. Written under his watch, McLeroy says the instructional materials already weaken the arguments for evolution.

‘Your position is that these books prove that evolution doesn't happen and you want us to adopt them?’ asked board member Thomas Ratliff, who replaced McLeroy in 2010. McLeroy answered in response to Ratliff, ‘No. I did not say prove, I just said the evidence is weak.’

After his testimony, McLeroy said creationists are unfairly labeled as anti-science, and insisted the facts can’t prove Darwin’s theory, despite peer-reviewed scientific evidence which overwhelming supports evolutionary principles.

Most of the arguments the other side presents are just red herrings. They attack us ad hominem, that we’re science deniers, that we’re anti-science extremists or whatever you want,’ said McLeroy. ‘I’m sick and tired of their rhetoric. Give them the facts, why don’t they give me the facts of evolution? Let me see the facts.’

- During public hearing, Texans battle over role of creationism in textbooks, WFAA.com, September 18, 2013.

3. With cybercrime on the rise, it is no wonder that IT administrators are walking around with a glassy-eyed look of fear, wondering if their companies will be the next target. Although IT can build extremely secure internal networks, they still face a critical problem. Files must travel outside of that secure, internal data center network for external collaboration with partners, customers and other employees. When hackers and data thieves are lurking around every corner, how can the IT director say yes to unlimited sharing?

You cannot build an 8-foot wall around your company to lock in all of your data. For one, employees will find a way to circumvent those walls and take data off-site, likely on mobile devices to work from home or on the road, and data loss will still occur. Secondly, your company is not a self-sufficient fiefdom. Information must be shared with customers, partners, investors and other outside parties. Each time a file leaves a company’s secure internal server, it is at risk of being stolen, shared with an unintended recipient or just lost. So, can a file ever be securely shared outside of the company's four walls?

There are numerous solutions that claim to secure and track files for auditing purposes. However, many of these offerings are just red herrings. They may look secure and sound secure, but in reality not all file storage and sharing solutions are created equal. What is acceptable for an individual, may be insufficient for business.

The fact is: the word “secure” is a misnomer in the industry. It is not enough to just know that the file is secure while stored on a box service; enterprise security must encompass the entire lifecycle of the file and its various renditions. This is where the struggle lies for enterprise IT – it is recognizing that the term "secure" has many variations, knowing what it means for each product, and identifying what additional security measures they must put in place to protect their firm. In other words, IT must remove the big red bulls-eye attached to its company.

- File sharing’s red herring: secure, external communication, TechRadar.com, June 28, 2014.




About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.


(中国日报网英语点津 祝兴媛 编辑)


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