Failures To Communicate

the_mouth_of_sauron_18At times I find it easier to start these things by weighing in with an analogy. Please bear with me on this one. The Geek-a-thon won’t take long.

Midway through the third volume of the Lord of the Rings, the Men of the West lead their army to the Black Gate of Mordor in a complex and dangerous ruse, designed to convince the Dark Lord Sauron that one of their number has taken on the Ring of Power and seeks to become the undisputed lord of Middle Earth.

The Men of the West have just won a stunning victory at the Battle of Minas Tirith, and Gandalf, the wizard and leader of the alliance, has advised this course of action to keep the real threat – the quest of Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee, to take the ring itself to the fires of Mount Doom and cast it into the volcano – hidden from view. The Men of the West set up camp outside the vast black iron gate that guards the way into the dark lands. Every day, they blow their horns and declare that the Lords of Gondor have come to bring justice to Sauron and all of his followers.

They sense the eyes of many, many enemies watching them, but for a long time there is no answer from within.

Finally, however, the Black Gate does open, and a single emissary comes forth. It is a man, on a horse, and the book recalls that he has been in the service of the Dark Tower for so long that all have forgotten his real name.

The West knows him as the Mouth of Sauron.

The Mouth of Sauron is an interesting figure in the book, one who looms over the second half of Part Three, The Return of the King. After he has demanded the surrender of the armies of the West he offers Gandalf a gift; a vest of silver chainmail, of incalculable value for more reasons than one. It had been worn by the Hobbit Frodo Baggins when he set out on his quest to destroy the One Ring.

At that moment, in the book, the reader has no idea as to the fate of Frodo, and it seems as if the quest must surely have been lost.

Yet the Mouth of Sauron makes a crucial error in judgement when he makes his demands, and Gandalf sees through them almost at once. “Tell me,” he says, “why should we hand your master a victory that otherwise he would have to fight many a war to claim?” asks the wizard, snatching the artefact from the Mouth of Sauron’s hand.

I am paraphrasing, but you get the gist. Gandalf knows in that moment, you see, that if the dark power in Mordor did possess the ring – as the Mouth of Sauron’s gift would seem to imply – there would be no need for these sham negotiations. The “offer” to surrender is rejected and battle is joined there, outside the Black Gates.

The Men of the West’s parlay with the Mouth of Sauron is a nice analogy, and it echoes through much of Rangers’ media strategy. The bluff, the threats, the arrogance … it all chimes. We saw it at work the other day from whoever it was in the Ibrox press room who released a petulant statement calling out the bloggers and hammering threats at the national newspapers. The fury doesn’t impress anyone. It’s a tactic born of weakness, not of strength.

I’ll sum it up quickly. I read that statement and I laughed. And everyone I know who read it had exactly the same reaction to it. We all laughed. Now, I don’t know what went through the heads of the people who authorised it, far less the demented mind of the person who wrote it, but I’m willing to bet you all the money in your pockets against all the money in mine that laughter was not the emotion they were looking to inspire.

But what other reaction can there be to something so blatantly stupid? Did they expect us to be cowering in fear? Afraid not.

Even more ridiculous was the preening, strutting Keith Jackson piece in today’s paper, which I see Roy Greenslade has already thoroughly ripped to pieces. Good. I dislike people who bang their own drum. Oh, I’ll promote these blogs, and the magazines, and the other stuff, like a crazy man, but I don’t enjoy it, and I never will, but I don’t mind saying that it was our guys, the bloggers, the Internet Bampots, who led the agenda to expose Whyte, and then Green.

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It’s our guys who are looking with great interest at the names being touted for the next big Ibrox boardroom bloodbath. While Jackson shills for one side and The Sun shills for the other, the advice of this website and of other Celtic blogs is simply this; Rangers fans, don’t trust any of these people.

Very few on the Rangers side will listen to that. The supporters are in the middle of a full-on battle, which they think is for hearts and minds, but is actually only concerned with the contents of their wallets. One Rangers blog wrote today that whilst they don’t trust the press the writer, personally, would never trust a Celtic blog, as he sees all of them as attempting to “destabilise” their club. This is the kind of attitude that sometimes makes me think they deserve every damned thing they get.

When Celtic blogs broke the story of Craig Whyte, when we dismantled his character, his background, the stories about his wealth and when we predicted, accurately, what was going to happen to the club, was that destabilising?

Let me put it another way; would these things have happened without our sterling work? Of course they would. We predicted a course. We didn’t set the club on it.

The people who destabilised Rangers were the people inside the club who let this man take control, the media which refused to properly investigate him until it was too late and, yes, the Rangers fans who refused to listen, and fabricated enemies all around them instead of looking in the goddamned mirror. You destabilised your own club, because you didn’t listen, because you refused to believe warnings because they came from people you didn’t like.

Let me tell you a secret, okay? It’s one some people learn with bitter tears, and it’s one I always try to remember. Most of your friends will never tell you the stuff you don’t want to hear. Most people around you will do anything they can to avoid hurting your feelings or avoid an argument.

Those with a vested interest will never tell you anything that makes you go against what it is they’re seeking to get, and so you cannot trust them either. There is no greater vested interest in this country than the media, and I try never to forget that either.

Sometimes the only people you can trust – the only people you can really trust – are your enemies, because they will point out your failings, they will make you confront your weaknesses and they will laugh at your instances of myopia and stupidity. Those people will teach you more than all the well-intentioned soft soaping in the world.

I’ve been asked a hundred times why I do it. Why I continue to write warning after warning to the Rangers fans about the goings on inside their club, and there’s a simple answer, and it has nothing to do with hate, and it has nothing to do with obsession. I care about Scottish football, and I understand the plight of the ordinary supporter, the one who pays no heed to the religious or political side of the game, and just wants to get on with watching their team.

I’m also in the media business, as a publisher, editor and writer, and it offends my sense of professionalism when I see our press abrogating its responsibility to investigate and inform, and become a cheerleading party instead.

It’s not what they are supposed to be for.

It’s not what this website is for either. We’ve had a bit of criticism in some quarters recently, for writing stories which don’t sit well with some sections of the Celtic support. And then there’s the Rangers support, some of whom fling terms like “hate filled” and “bigoted” around regarding some of our pieces. There’s that old standby of theirs now “obsessed”, which I always enjoy reading, as though taking an active interest in something is obsessive.

People ask me why I don’t write about Celtic as much as I write about Rangers. There’s an easy answer to that too; Celtic are a boring club by comparison. On the field, they are the biggest club in the land, but off the field they are stable and secure. For those who say I won’t focus on the problems at Celtic Park, well I say they’ve not been paying attention in class. Two of our articles in the last seven days have been extremely critical of the club’s transfer policy, and lack of ambition on the bigger stage. This website will actually be critical of our team, its board, and where necessary even those amongst our support who fall below the usual standard.  

Tonight, for example, we’ve fallen way below the standard, supporters and club together. We’re walking into the unknown tomorrow, with a Champions League qualifier – a huge game, a vastly important match – and no recognised goal scorer in the team. The complacency of sections of our support here is staggering.

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The scandalous failures in our boardroom, especially those of the Chief Executive Peter Lawwell, ought to see him under severe pressure no matter what the result in tomorrow’s game. The manager is out on a limb, in a way which is disgusting, and I would be furious on his behalf if I didn’t think he personally was partly to blame for not fighting his corner and getting what he needed.

If the result goes against the club the complacent will “settle for” Europa League football and try to ignore the attendant consequences to our prestige and our finances. The rest of us will be demanding answers.

I know exactly how a lot of people view criticism of Celtic, and of Rangers. As heresy. I personally believe we have a media which is more inclined to write an anti-Celtic story than they are to write an anti-Rangers one, but as a media graduate I’m well aware that this is a demographic decision, born out of economics. I understand it on that level, as the press catering to their majority audience, even if I think it’s pathetic in terms of what their job should be. One of the worst insults a Celtic fan can hurl at another – and I see it all too often – is to label a critic as “someone who reads the Daily Record”, and it infuriates me because it’s exactly the simple minded nonsense they’re accusing the critics of. Theirs is just a different type of blindness.

Even a broken clock is right twice a day. The hacks who, this weekend, slated the club for letting down the manager, have it right on the money. It is shameful, and I would know it, and say it, whether the press was writing it or not. I would know it, and say it, even if the press was praising the “strategy” to the heavens. I will know it, and say it, whether we go through to the Group Stages or not. It has been a shambles, and people should not be allowed to forget it.

Scottish football has survived the turmoil of last summer, and has actually emerged stronger for it, in my personal opinion. Yet some amongst us have still to learn the crucial lessons from it. That sometimes those you dislike talk sense, whether you want to hear it or not, and that sometimes those supposedly on your side talk to you with forked tongues.

Celtic’s media strategy has changed in recent months, as they’ve appointed a fans liaison. Perhaps he can explain to us why we didn’t sign a readymade replacement for Gary Hooper, or a midfield general to replace Victor Wanyama?

Perhaps that’s not in his job description.

Yet, Celtic’s way of dealing with things is most often than not to remain silent. The club’s position on any number of issues has to be inferred from what we see in front of us. We know they did nothing to stop the election of Campbell Ogilvie, as he was unopposed. We know they provided cover to Neil Doncaster when almost every fan site last season was calling for his dismissal. We know no striker has been signed, and we can infer from it that the club would not pay the going rate.

But most of the time what we get out of Celtic Park is silence.

Is silence better than the blood and thunder of the Rangers official website? Oh yes, a thousand times yes, at least in its current form. The Green Brigade will say that the Celtic official site has lied about the reasons for the closure of Section 111, and most fans are bewildered by the allegation and have no idea whether it’s true or not, but the Celtic website is generally not used to mislead far less outright lie to the supporters. It helps that, internally at least, the club speaks with one voice.

Celtic, whether I agree with the policies of the club or not, is run professionally, and not like a three ring circus. Not so the club across town.

The Rangers site, in this instance, and not for the first time this season, has been used to wage war. War against those asking questions. War against the enemies outside the walls. War against the people “seeking to do the club harm.”

Yet what is this club they speak of? Which version – and which faction – does the official Rangers site now speak for?

Take the clarification on the bottom, for example, about Jack Irvine no longer speaking for the club. It’s clear that the writer was having a dig not at Jack Irvine but at two members of the board of directors, who are represented by Irvine’s Media House team, and were, that same day, promoting their own cause through the national newspapers.

This was an obvious slap down to them, and to their PR hired guns, but I ask you what other club would allow such a shambles to play out in a public forum? To follow that up by telling the fans that the official site was the only one they could trust was like a bad joke, especially when one considers that if the fan groups get what they want the whole club could be run by someone else this time next month.

These people simply cannot be believed.

The article’s attack on the Daily Record was equally amazing, because it slammed one of the papers which defended Green until it was impossible to do it any longer. More amazing still, of course, was Jackson’s staggeringly ill-judged response, which defended a shameful record of complicity with outright nonsense about the paper blazing an investigative trail and then turned the guns on a rival paper, in a way that was crass and stupid, when one considers that it was this rival paper which beat them to two of the biggest stories of the Rangers saga.

The longer the Rangers saga rumbles on the more clear it becomes that the boardroom is not where this battle will truly be fought . It will be fought out in the press, it will be fought on the official website, it will be fought on the forums and by supporters groups.

The majority of the fans are lining up against the people who resurrected their football club, in favour of a group that has risked nothing, given nothing, and offered no plan as to how they intend to run things differently. The media has once again jumped on the bandwagon of a potential Rangers saviour, having done no homework on these people at all, and the fans appear to be going along with it.

When do they start asking questions? Real questions?

The manager is spending money the club doesn’t have, taking full advantage of the chaos going on above him to bring in players he surely doesn’t need. He has recently said he will stay out of the boardroom war, knowing full well no further comment is necessary after he’s slated Green and told the fans who he’s backing.

They shouldn’t trust any of them, not that it matters. Their refusal to take action before the season ticket sales were made removes any influence they might have in what happens next. When the supporters groups came out earlier today and demanded Green be fired tomorrow there was an obvious question that arose in my mind; or what?

What, exactly, are the fans going to do at this point if their demands aren’t met? The one language the finance people understand – withholding income – is already moot, because the money is already in, and in the final act Green and his people can threaten to close the doors for good should the fans not continue to fund them.

We read the words on the Rangers official site and know full well they are being used to hide the truth from the fans. The rallying call to believe no-one else is not surprising. What would be more surprising is if anyone believed it anymore.

A US military intelligence officer once made a presentation at Langley, on the Soviet state press, which had two main outlets.

One was called Truth, and the other was called News.

“There is no News in the Truth,” he said, “and there is no Truth in the News.”

 That sums it up nicely.

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James Forrest

James Forrest is a writer and blogger from Glasgow, and the author of two books, Fragments and Believers, which are available on Amazon.

4 thoughts on “Failures To Communicate

  • 19 August, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    It’s slightly false to say the fans are powerless. They can cancel their season ticket and they’ll be due a refund for all the unplayed games minus and administration fee. At least that’s how it used to work at CP.

    It might be worth the Rangers fans checking their Ts & Cs.

    My other comment is where you state Neil Lennon is partly to blame for not “getting what he needed”. Perhaps he feels he has what he needs to get into the CL group stages. If you know for a fact that’s not the case then I’ll bow to your contacts.

    That’s not to say that I wouldn’t have like a goal scorer in the team by now as well, but I think sometimes we need to be careful not to project our own disappointment in a situation onto somebody else more closely involved.

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