Before I start, I want to share a story with you.
Back in the 1980’s, Italy was being riven by violence as the heads of the Cosa Nostra, many of whom were in prison or awaiting trial, unleashed a war on the state in an effort to back off the many prosecutors and judges who were attempting to bring them to justice.
It was a bad time to be one of that handful of brave men, much like those who were fighting a similar battle, at the same time, against the growing power of the Colombian drug cartels and facing similar unrelenting terrorism.
On two continents, the self-same chaos was being unleashed and at the root cause of it all was money and the corruption that was rampant.
In Italy they had a word for it; pizzo, which is a derivation of pizzu, a Sicilian word literally meaning “beak”, as in “letting me wet my beak”; i.e giving someone a taste.
The Pizzo – the protection money – went both ways; local businesses paid it to the Mafia and they in turn spread it up through the political system so they wouldn’t be targeted by the judges and politicians.
It was a sweet deal for those who took the cash. For those who didn’t, who took their responsibilities seriously, it meant death.
In Colombia the same system was in operation, where it was called Plata O Plomo, “Silver or lead”. You either took the Cartel’s money or you accepted their bullets instead.
It created chaos and it made life exceedingly dangerous for the men who refused to be bought or cowed.
In Colombia they were soon being gunned down and blown up in spectacular acts of violence.
In Italy, where Cosa Nostra was altogether more sophisticated and their penetration of the system more acute, the killings happened in due course but the psychological warfare came first.
It manifested itself in various ways; for example, prosecutors would be sent funeral cards inviting them to their own wake. Wreaths would be delivered, hour on hour, to their judicial offices. Coffins would be left outside their homes.
This was nothing compared to the reaction of their colleagues.
Like an animal cut from the herd, the brave few would find themselves isolated and alone, shunned by their peers, snubbed by the establishment they were sworn to defend.
One described it as walking in a crowd and then watching people drift away from you one at a time until you were standing there in empty space; the “clear field of fire” which would send a very obvious message to the gangsters.
The point of the story is that these criminal elements drew their real power from the corruption of the state.
Without that they would have been the ones standing alone on a killing ground.
In Italy, in particular, the killing of high level individuals usually only happened at the point when the state itself turned its back on them and gave the assassins their cue.
I’ve always been fascinated by that, and by the way other governments and other organisations with influence over the actions of others have, from time to time, sent them subliminal messages urging action or caution, sanctioning certain things or letting them know it was time to stand down.
Which brings me to the point.
Earlier this week, I got an email from a friend of mine drawing my attention to a brand new website promoting an organisation called The Bears Fightback.
I read their editorial with much amusement, all the while recognising the menacing tone in which it had been coached.
I’ve seen similar missives before.
I’m not even terribly ashamed to admit that once, back in my intemperate days, I got in trouble at the University of Stirling for posting a similar article on an official Student Union messageboard, wherein I “invited” a certain right wing organisation to visit the campus, even offering to organise a “welcome party” for them at the train stration.
The Bears Fightback site didn’t really hide what it was all about; it had been created for the same reason as the Italian Cosa Nostra sent wreaths and funeral cards to the offices of prosecutors.
It was intended as a “frightener”, albiet one mysellf and most others in the Internet Bampots didn’t find very frightening.
I mean, just on a personal level how seriously am I meant to take nonsense like that? Targeting my employers? I am self employed, supported in part by you, the readers, especially those who are able to make a donation.
So what are they going to do?
Grass me up? To you lot?
I don’t know this for sure, but I have a sneaking suspicion many of you already know how I feel about Sevco and Rangers and that section of their support which refuses to join the rest of the world in laying aside hate and 17th century attitudes.
The “threat” to inform my family, friends and loved ones seems, to me, equally absurd. I have a vague inkling that they just might be aware of it too.
If I’ve been hiding it under a bushel up until now, I should maybe spell it out; I don’t like these people very much, which, I dunno … wasn’t exactly a secret.
As for the notion that they will “investigate” me, what’s there to investigate?
Again, I’m not exactly leading a secret life.
I post under my own name, my Facebook page is an open book, I’m on Twitter, Amazon Authors, I’ve been in a couple of newspapers and I have an active social life which doesn’t require disguises or an assumed identity.
The notion that such people might one day “come after me” is pretty ridiculous as well. In terms of “action within the law” I’m more than happy for them to try because I’m perfectly prepared to sue anyone who steps over the line in that regard, and the money would pay for a lot of tins for the Green Brigade’s annual food-bank appeal.
Such action would also, very quickly, pull back the veil of secrecy these cowards choose to hide behind. That probably hasn’t twigged with them yet.
As to other action, the very futility of it is reason enough not to bother.
It absolutely would would not stop me.
I would simply write down every detail and publish it, shaming them and “their club” further by exposing their behaviour to civilised view.
At some point they have to realise the embarrassment and shame they heap onto the thing they profess to love. At some stage the circuits have to fire in their tiny, infinitesimal brains and they have to comprehend that nothing damages it more than they do, because no sane person who values their own reputation would want it associated with an organisation which attracts such people like flies around fresh shit.
And you know what?
At some point that organisation has to realise it too.
Which is the real point of the article, of course.
As I said earlier, the Italian prosecutors who went after the mob knew the hammer was going to fall the minute their colleagues started to desert them. That official “nod and wink” isn’t exactly subtle, in the way some of the “dog whistle” politics we see here in the UK is clearly about pandering to ignorance, fear and hate.
Equally unsubtle, coming in the same week as “Bears Fightback” rears its head, was the “nod and wink” to the wise which came out of Ibrox, in the shape of another ban on the BBC journalist Chris McLaughlin.
In my opinion, there is a causal link here.
Am I suggesting that someone inside Ibrox, or at their PR firm, is responsible for the sudden emergence of “Bears Fightback”?
Of course not.
My God, how stupid would that make them?
An organisation which did something like that would deserve everything coming to it.
The matter is currently being investigated by Police Scotland. I suspect they will very quickly establish who the “authors” are, and that’s their cards marked.
So whilst I’m sure neither the club nor its PR arm are reckless enough to have been involved in the creation of this horrendous site, I am in no doubt at all that they were fully aware of its existence.
As such I find myself marvelling at the coincidence of it appearing, and the notorious petition targeting McLaughlin with it, in the same week we get news that he is, once again, persona non grata within Ibrox Stadium.
And I ask myself; am I imagining things here?
Because if I’m not … well, isn’t that appallingly dangerous?
Couldn’t it be seen as a de-facto endorsement – by the club itself – of that site, and its not-too-subtle threatening tone?
The BBC has reacted properly, by giving McLaughlin its full support.
As a result, he’s not standing in a free fire zone.
He has the support of his colleagues (that some of his former ones had been given the same) both in journalism and in the blogosphere, and I write that having openly called for people like Keith Jackson to be banned from Celtic Park.
As I’m fond of saying, people can criticise and slag you all they want … but they ought not to be surprised if you ban them from doing it in your front room.
What makes the difference, at least in my view, is that Jackson and others are opinion piece writers, like me, who’s ability to do the job and earn a living isn’t impacted by such bans and who’s writing is designed to provoke a response.
You only have to look at the reactions of those who get banned to see how little it bothers them; Hugh Keevins wore it like a badge of honour for years.
I’ll tell you what though; I would have a very serious issue with our club if it decided it would ban a journalist simply for reporting facts.
I also might wonder what we were trying to hide.
What Chris McLaughlin did in this case – and in the last case where he was banned from Ibrox – was he reported the news.
He simply laid out the facts, and we all know exactly what facts they were and how inconvenient they were for the club; that during the Hibs game at Christmas a large number of their fans sung a song that UEFA and Scottish criminal law considers not only offensive but sectarian and thereby criminal too.
The decision to ban him is an attack on journalism itself.
It’s saying that the reporting of facts is to be discouraged, and that does impact on the ability of these people to do their jobs as well as on how they do them.
And, especially in this case, that has wider implications.
Because to me, and to others, this looks in many ways, like it could be a co-ordinated effort between a website which has threatened “the enemies” of Sevco and the club.
It looks, in some ways, like a nod and a wink.
Other journalists and news outlets were named by this site, all for having the temerity to have reported facts the club, and the site, would rather they’d not. That, in itself, should have every writer out there asking who these people are and where they sprung from.
This obsession some Sevco fans have with the way the world views them, and with trying to “protect their image” – such as it is – appears paranoid verging on hysterical, but it has a serious point to it for an institution which is rattling the tin cup.
What makes it especially hilarious to me is that all their conduct does is heap further disgrace on them, something that appears not to have dawned on them at all.
They’ve made their club famous for this, and brought further – and even more widespread – attention to the stuff McLaughlin and others have been trying to highlight.
I’ll be frank; had I wanted to cause the maximum negative publicity to the club playing out of Ibrox, and in turn eroded their ability to raise external finance … Hell, I might have created Bears Fightback, and written that inflammatory editorial, myself.
For all that, it wouldn’t exactly shock me to find out some within Ibrox were wholly in favour of this latest example of counter-productive stupidity.
After all this wouldn’t be the first time the nuttier elements of the Sevco support have been given a steer by someone from within the club.
Both Craig Whyte and Charles Green were very quick to court those elements from the moment they took over, and the Yorkshireman gave them one of their most famous soundbites when he accused the SFA’s member clubs of “sectarianism” following the decision to make Sevco start in the bottom tier.
And who can forget McCoist’s snarling demand for the names of an SFA investigative panel, and the subsequent targeting of those individuals in the aftermath?
Or his spiteful – and wholly wrong – suggestion that the burning of a garage and the destruction of the club’s new bus was something “rival fans” might have done?
Many of us aren’t surprised by this kind of conduct, but that doesn’t make it any less worrying.
So yes, this does feel like a red letter day for those who chronicle the hateful behaviour of certain elements in their support.
It feels like a new low, and the coincidence of the club’s action in the same week as this website appears, with McLaughlin very publicly in the cross-hairs, is clearly something that needs more than the standard media response.
This is a broadside against their whole profession.
The club itself has serious questions to answer here.
Let’s see if anyone dares to ask them … and if not what else are we to conclude but that these people are winning after all?
They must not be allowed to do that.
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