The first was to “play the man and not the ball”, to make it personal, to rattle the other person, to throw them off their game and have the discussion put aside as things nosedived into the gutter.
The second was to play the stats game. It didn’t matter, back then, if you were making stuff up as you went along, because by the time the other person found out that your assertions were nothing but the metaphorical bulls bum there’d be no point getting back to it.
There was no Wikipedia back then, no stats central, no place to quickly check it up and although you could still fit a mobile phone in your hand some of them were the size of a modern day tablet, which, needless to say, was a device yet to be envisioned far less invented.
Those first two, I had some respect for them. To get down and dirty and start levelling insults or even throwing fists, well you had to be pretty invested in the argument to let it get that far and the ability to just make up stuff on the hoof is one I never underestimate and have a good deal of admiration for when there’s nothing heavy at stake.
The third one bothers me, and it always has. It is, even more than the second, fundamentally dishonest in every way. It is lazy too, both in terms of effort but also intellectually. It requires no thought process at all. It is simplistic to a fare-thee-well and every time I hear it, or read it, I want to scream my contempt for what is a meaningless case.
You know the one I mean. It’s the one that starts, “Oh well, everyone’s entitled to their opinion …” and usually ends with “Let’s just agree to disagree …”
Oh really? Let’s not. That particular opinion should be outlawed. If you were contesting the finer points of particle physics with a ten year old whose case was based on Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber would you accept that particular conversation closer?
Of course not. It’s not even schoolyard level debating.
See, not everyone’s opinion is valid, because some of them are based on sheer ignorance or idiocy. The motto of every radio talk show is “it’s all about opinions” and the same applies to those ghastly write-in or phone-in “discussion” segments in newspapers like The Record, where any fool who can afford the call in charges can have his “view” taken seriously.
But, like believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden, some “opinions” are based on nothing but fantasy.
In the days since the Celtic fans full page ad was published in the Herald, every single hack in the country has gone out of his way to find a former player or manager to go on the record and tell the world that, in their opinion, Rangers lives on.
Whilst they were at it, why didn’t the media just ask them their opinions on the laws of thermodynamics, or the theory of evolution or the gravitation phenomenon? If every opinion is valid, you can refute the first, doubt the second and sit on the fence with the third until someone provides you more evidence or information to help you make up your mind.
Look, this is simple.
Football clubs exist as specific legal entities. They hold contracts, pay wages, hire staff, generate income, they own stadiums and training grounds and car parks and other things that are required to stage matches and win points. They hold licenses in associations, without which none of these other things would matter. When their players misbehave the clubs impose fines. When the fans misbehave the football associations fine them.
I could spend all day and all night explaining this, joining the dots, demonstrating the irrefutable fact that football clubs and “holding companies” are the same thing, but it would be futile when you are going up against people who could deny the shape of the Earth and still get a hearing in the Scottish media on the basis that they are “stating their opinion.”
I don’t give a toss how many ex-Celt’s the press can conjure up to state their “opinion” on this. I don’t care how many spineless hacks tell us we are sad individuals for continuing to want the silly thing called “application of the rules” to apply. I feel the same way about them, and the way they’ve debased a proud and noble profession to become steno-clerks and repositories for PR fluff.
I find the majority of them contemptible, especially on this issue where they spent months telling us the CVA was the only way to save the club and then ran banner headlines telling us Rangers was dead when it was rejected, and have spent every day since pretending they didn’t.
I’m not taking lessons in “reality” from the people who have spent the last couple of years blatantly denying it, and feeding fantasy and fiction to a gullible support until it’s now choking them.
They can wheel out every footballer or manager who’s still in the game, or who wants a career in the media – and therefore might, someday, have a vested interest in their own version of the Survival Myth – and they can roll along a parade of has-beens and never-weres, and get them on the record with how wrong headed some Celtic fans are … but there’s a very good reason that the question they’re all asked is as loaded as a Motherwell born billionaire.
Did you notice that the way the answer is framed is always like, “So and so says that, in his opinion, Rangers is still alive”, or “In the opinion of such and such, Rangers history continues”?
The answer is framed like that because the question is framed like that.
Not one of these people was asked hard questions, or encouraged to steer the conversation into grey areas where they might contradict themselves. None of them were asked to defend the claim, or consider any of the issues the ad explored.
As a result, not one fact from the Celtic fans statement has been refuted. Not one of its points has been addressed or its central tenants challenged.
The media simply pretends that it was the work of a group of obsessives who don’t want to live in the real world, but they will not engage us on any level because to do so would risk ridicule and reminding them of their own past statements and remarks, which were unequivocally black for the former Ibrox club.
They won’t even acknowledge the merit that attaches itself to the fact that people paid for this out of their own pockets.
Tired of waiting for someone, anyone, in the press to put these facts – and that’s what they are, facts – in the public domain, these guys risked exactly this kind of opprobrium and ridicule, and they put their money where their mouths were.
That deserved a debate, at the very least. All it’s had is this line of people with “opinions.”
Some have offered loathsome rebukes, asking the fans why they didn’t give their money to charity.
I could ask the same about whatever each of them spends on booze of a Saturday night, but it would be irrelevant and nonsensical, just like their point is.
The funds were raised for an explicit purpose, and spent on that purpose. Furthermore, the guys got such a good deal, and raised such a decent sum, that there was a nice overage, which went directly to those very charitable purposes.
Nearly every report, furthermore, has lacked a grasp of the basic facts, as is evidenced in how almost every one of them has run the same ludicrous figure of £3000 for the ad.
They’ve also conveniently chosen to omit that the police, the ASA, the Herald’s lawyers and even Sevco itself, were given a copy of it well in advance … and that they themselves had the story, and a version of the text, a week before it ran.
And nearly every newspaper published quotes from the wrong draft.
How can you even begin to take criticism from these people seriously?
In doing this, by the way, in placing the ad, the Celtic fans have done nothing various individuals and organisations, everyone from the BMA to Coca Cola, haven’t done before them, and more often than not those people and companies were forced to do it after enduring an avalanche of distorted facts and even outright lies in the press about their own affairs or issues they felt were important.
Using the media’s own tools against them …. It’s not exactly new.
The media’s vested interest in guarding its own turf here is easy to understand but impossible to respect.
Another simple truth is that the Celtic fans wouldn’t have to do this if the media had done it instead, but they had no interest in doing it and instead were busy fuelling the paranoia and anger of a support that already believes in the Victim Myth like an article of faith.
The most responsible thing the media could have done here was help us defuse this bomb by, at the very least, stopping with their endless referrals to “the return of the Old Firm game.” Only a select few people outside of Ibrox actually want the return of that horrible fixture.
The police, who’ve spent the last few days trying to keep a lid on the pressure cooker which the media continues to heat up, don’t. The rest of the emergency services don’t. The majority of neutrals, especially those who live in Glasgow and would rather be anywhere else on the planet come Sunday, certainly don’t.
Some of the pub chains don’t even want to show it, which means not even financial incentives can detract from how ugly it is.
The ad was, in part, an effort to stamp out the hateful Old Firm tag once and for all, and the best, and most obvious, way to do that was to remind the world that this will not be the continuation of that ghastly rivalry but the start of something new, which we can make whatever we want if only those with some interest in raising the dead would give us the floor.
See, people like Tom English can sneer all they want, but what they’re really doing is sneering at us because it’s easier than sneering into the mirror, where that gesture is better directed. The media depends on this fixture because they really do, deep down, believe Scottish football is a dead end without it, and if that’s the case their own jobs are a dead end too.
I like to read the English sporting press, who are, at times, insightful and brilliant and sharp.
They cover a bloated, millionaires playground of a league, but it has the glitz and glamour that the Scottish game doesn’t, and they can walk with a swagger alongside their counterparts in France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
The Scottish sports media is, by definition, wholly inferior to that and this is why there’s barely a brain cell rattling up here. They all go south, to London, to cover big stories. What’s left behind is the dreck, the guys too stupid to go somewhere else because on a bigger stage, having to rely on a reporter’s guile and guts, they’d be found out and bagged in two seconds flat.
And you know what? They know it too. It scares them witless, and so the resurrection of this dead fixture and this dead club is important to them, because it’s their one chip in the big game, their one credible card to play when they meet the boys from London.
“You cover the biggest league in the world … we cover the biggest game in the world.” You can hear the pride in their voices, can’t you?
But it has an edge of desperation these days, because they know it simply ain’t true … and once it’s gone, they’ve got nothing. The inferiority complex kills them. It eats them like a parasite, and so they jam their fingers in their ears and they promote something they know is gone forever, as if it were still around.
So yes, without respecting it I do understand it.
I understand the Sevco fans, and their club’s, reluctance to face the truth even more. I also know that the promotion of the Old Firm myth is essential to their financial future, as they try to scramble together a business model. This is why their own website has been hammering out the phrase for nearly a week.
As I’ve repeatedly said, Rangers was nothing more than a West of Scotland football club and Sevco is even less than that, so there is an imperative for them, as much as there is in the media, to be part of something larger than themselves.
When you break down what they’re doing, this isn’t really defending an opinion at all; it’s defending a way of life, and there’s no end to what people will do to protect that.
Plato was one of the great thinkers of history. He said “Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance.”
I agree with him, but I have a pretty clear view on which end of the spectrum opinion most usually falls.
As the long line of “supporters” of the Survival Myth grows around the block, it’s probably a good time to ponder what Bertrand Russell said;
“The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatsoever that it is not utterly absurd.”
I am also with Orwell’s finest creation, Winston Smith, on this one; sanity is not statistical. It does not matter how many people keep repeating this lie over and over again … nothing will make it true, and they can disseminate it and all the nonsense that goes with it as far and wide as they like in addition to this cycle of repetition because that won’t change the truth either.
Rangers Football Club is no more. When it collapsed into the pit of its own debts it took everything with it, history and all.
That some of it has been raised from the far bottom and cobbled together to resemble what was lost is perfectly valid, as it’s perfectly valid for a kid growing up to have an imaginary friend. Invention can be healthy.
But we live in the real world, and if it was after one in the morning and the kid was playing the TV too loud and you went in and asked him to turn it off, and he told you that his imaginary friend needed it on and the volume up like that because he was deaf in one ear … well, you wouldn’t lie listening to it blaring all night just to indulge him.
I am tired indulging this.
Nonsense is not a matter of opinion. It’s exactly what it says on the tin.
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