A few days go, Paul67 over on CQN invoked the spectre of the Reverend Jim Jones, in an article about the situation facing Sevco. I found it fascinating, and I wanted to explore the analogy in a bit more detail, as well as looking to the future.
What made me want to do this is that, oddly enough, I had watched a documentary about Jonestown not long before, after I’d seen a few moments on it during another shocking documentary, which I’d aired for a number of friends, called The Killing of America.
Jones was a nut-ball, and there’s not much doubt about that. But as cult leaders go, he was the Daddy of them All, leading over 900 of his followers in a mass suicide, after his people had murdered Congressman Leo Ryan and a bunch of others, on a remote airstrip on Guyana, where Jones had led his people to their destiny.
He was charismatic, a brilliantly effective speaker and highly intelligent.
He was also a hypocrite and a charlatan, a snake-oil salesman par excellence, and an egomaniac who quite literally told his followers to treat him like a God.
He would have understood the hubris of sitting in front of a slavering hack pack and telling them “for every fiver Celtic spend we will spend ten.”
We live in interesting times, times in which another one of these characters is currently sitting in the boardroom at Ibrox, making extravagant promises, creating enemies, talking like a mad fantasist on one hand and an acute paranoid on the other.
As with Jones, his past is littered with enough debris to make anyone who isn’t bedazzled want to run a mile.
And it dawned on me.
A lot of this is to do with language and perception, and how the madmen who lead others into disaster start to change, because they begin believing their own hype and thinking they are what others keep telling them.
Celtic and other clubs have “directors”.
Sevco has “saviours.”
It implies a certain blindness, a certain susceptibility, on the part of those who write, and read, this kind of crud.
Their lives are about the Ibrox club, and it clouds their judgement just as surely as if they were star struck lovers and not hardened hacks.
And so it happens that a guy with a string of failed businesses and dodgy dealings behind him is spun as a “billionaire” by a media that couldn’t tie its shoelaces, and a guy who openly brags about how his “big Yorkshire hands” were made for grabbing money can be elevated to the status of heroes before either had ever done a thing to justify that.
The press feted Murray until his ego was so enormous that he really did believe he could conquer Europe from Glasgow.
Charles Green misses this city because he’d never had such adulation as was poured on him by our press in the early days when it was all so glorious.
Dave King, who’s shimmering star on the horizon was what eclipsed Green and his people, has been hailed so much that it’s a wonder he doesn’t drip with the goo from all the slobbering the press has done over him these past three years.
In his own country he’s a convicted tax cheat.
Here, he’s the man tasked with saving the greatest institution since Octavian won the Roman Civil War …
If you believe what you read in the papers anyway …
From outside of it, this all looks pretty crazy.
For openers, future generations will be aghast that Sevco fans fell under Charles Green spell so soon after Murray and Whyte, and they will be stunned as to how easily he led them to the clifftop and got them to take the fatal leap with him.
Jones got a lot of his power from the way he talked, and Green did too.
He knew how to sound like one of the Peepil, like a fanatic, and that’s what gave him the edge, the ability to beguile them.
To have stood in front of the media, on the day the club played its first ever game, and to accuse the rest of Scottish football of “bigotry” … well that was like music to the ears of their lunatic fringe.
You knew then that they would all get in line.
When he said he had “Rangersitus” even the saner members of their support suddenly changed their tune.
The wallets came out then, much as the People’s Temple members parted with their own cash to fund the project where nearly a thousand of them were to later die.
Sanity dawned on Sevco fans eventually, but not before season tickets had been bought, shares had been purchased and the club passed on to the next bunch of chancers.
The chancers who have the keys now are as slippery as any of them has ever been, because they come from the Murray School of Thought and have his language down cold.
Have you noticed, for example, that the latest incumbents of the boardroom seem awfully focussed on the club behaving with “dignity” all of a sudden?
You know, except when they are contemptuously talking about how they’ll be ruling football here within three years, trying to unsettle players at other clubs and spinning stories about how Danny Wilson “snubbed” Celtic.
For the chroniclers of human misery, suffering and debasement the recordings which survived Jonestown, made from the days in the run up to what happened until the events themselves … well they are a case study not to be forgotten.
In them you can hear people cry, and Jones hectoring them to stop behaving like children.
And what’s his advice to them?
“To die with some dignity”.
I find that particularly amusing at the present time, although it wouldn’t have been too great if you’d been there on that horrendous day.
I’m willing to bet that when the next “version” of “Rangers” dies, it’ll not go quietly, and dignity will be in short supply.
Nevertheless, the audio and visual testimony is shocking, and upsetting, and it’s pretty scary because it is still the most dramatic demonstration of how people can be affected by charismatic leadership and the power of cults.
I had a friend who used to refer to Rangers as a “cult”.
He was partly talking about what was, then, the religious element to the club but it was about more than that; it was about the whole atmosphere that surrounded the club at that time, with Murray playing the Jim Jones role to perfection.
But as much as we mock, we should never forget that for those locked in its grip this was deadly serious stuff.
Serious enough to die for … and to kill for.
Ask Neil Lennon.
He knows as well as anyone that some of these people are not messing about.
Jonestown, and Ibrox, I guess, were once filled to the rafters with people who thought they had no place else to go, who thought the world view on offer was as near to perfect as they would get in this life.
You can’t have watched the scenes from The Killing of America – or even better, the PBS documentary on Jonestown – and doubt that these people believed, and when OrangeFest was held in Glasgow a few weeks ago I went past George Square in a taxi, chuckling to myself at the wee huddled groups of Peepil under their Union Jack brollies.
Then it dawned on me; these people are fanatical about this stuff.
To have gone out at all in that downpour … they weren’t kidding around, pretending to just to fit in, or wanting to sample the atmosphere.
These were true zealots.
See, there’s a need in all of us to believe in things, to have faith.
The world would be one Hell of a bad place if we didn’t have that.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a religion, a political party or even one individual person.
People need to have something in their lives around which they build their existence and their time.
In most circumstances it’s healthy.
I would dispute that their obsession is healthy.
I would dispute that a superiority worldview tinged with racism and weighed down with bigotry is healthy.
It’s also going to get expensive, and I wonder how many of the Peepil, glad that one of the “Real Rangers Men” is at the club, are going to troop up to the season ticket office, like the people of Jonestown walked to the Kool Aid cups.
A lot? A little?
Either way, it won’t be enough, because this is a club that behaves like it is not engaged in winning football matches or trophies or anything like that, but in something else, something intangible, a great psychological exercise in overreach.
In many ways, they are like one of those guys who climbs high buildings just to look down, and tantalises himself with the fantasy that if he jumps and lands just right he won’t be scraped off the pavement with a shovel.
They are dancing cheek to cheek with The Reaper, knowingly or not.
Some people, myself included, keep looking at what King is doing, waiting to see the outlines of a plan.
There are people who are adamant that there has to be one … otherwise none of what we’re seeing makes any sense at all.
And you know what?
It doesn’t. It doesn’t even remotely add up.
Who said the world has to make sense?
At Jonestown, women and men poisoned their children, firing shots of cyanide into their mouths with a syringe, in the way Magda Goebbels did in the Führerbunker after her own glorious leader had gone ahead of her.
To them, it seemed like the most logical, rational, thing in the world at that time.
The historical verdict is always different.
The future looks at the past and wonders “What the Hell were they even thinking?”
Ask the Jonestown Survivors.
Not everyone walked to the Kool Aid cups, but they don’t get off because of how they felt that day.
They uprooted their lives to follow a madman, and who knows what would have happened in the end, had that day not come?
Few can explain what drove them to that, just as some don’t know why they purchase season tickets as they do, almost religiously, year in year out.
Their grandkids won’t get it.
If they ask, I wouldn’t be surprised if all they get is the survivors shrug, that embarrassed look.
“You had to be there, or you wouldn’t understand …”
Maybe we’re not supposed to.
Some just can’t live with seeing the object of their adulation brought low.
But if they start selling Kool Aid at Ibrox in the near future … I’d advise the more cerebral of their supporters to stay away from the kiosks.
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