Spiers “Apology” Heralds In Dark Days For Scottish Journalism

hqdefaultThere’s a moment during the film Nuremberg, starring Alec Baldwin, Brian Cox, Christopher Plummer and a host of other top stars, when Hermann Goering is relaxing in his cell awaiting the next phase of his trial, when he is visited by a young American soldier named Tex.

Goering, played to perfection by Cox, greets him warmly, as the two have formed an unusual bond during the course of his imprisonment. The kid is impressionable, and Goering knows this.

Goering starts to tell him stories of the Reich, and of the Fuhrer.

At one point he starts to hum a tune, and then he begins to sing the song, whilst tapping his feet and waving his arms. It sets the mood he’s trying to evoke quite brilliantly.

Tex is now completely caught up in the Nazi leader’s memories of watching thousands of men march in front of the Glorious Leader. When Goering suggests the remnants of the despotic regime should be freed, and that both sides should “unite to fight the Communists” Tex agrees with him wholeheartedly.

I’ve always wondered if Tex went away humming the song.

If he did, he would quickly have found himself in trouble with the brass.

It’s a catchy enough tune, and one that predates the Nazi Party’s usage of it. In fact, it’s an ancient German folk song, but it’s one I strongly suspect isn’t heard anymore. The modern incarnation has closed off all avenues of revival.

We now know it as the Horst Wessel Lied.

I would never describe it as “a great song.”

Because it’s not.

Don’t get me wrong, the lyrics contain nothing explicit about bigotry or hate; it’s about a shoot-out with Communists where Wessel, a Nazi Youth member, was killed – other songs dealt with the racist stuff – but it was the Nazi Party’s anthem and if you played it at parties you’d run out of friends quickly and if you sang it walking down the street you’d get a sore face shortly thereafter.

This isn’t about musical appreciation.

I have eclectic tastes and listen to everything from country rock to classical.

I am big on lyrics, above all else, and whilst I think, for example, the Spitting Image song I’ve Never Met A Nice South African is one of the best (and most hilarious) that biting, satirical show ever turned out I would not play it, far less sing it, in a public forum because it would be staggeringly offensive in a modern context.

It is hard to think of any setting – outside a dingy back street boozer in Glasgow or the Six Counties, or, of course, at Ibrox – in which there wouldn’t be people who found The Billy Boys not only to be offensive but bigoted with it.

Yet a director at Sevco, a current director, apparently described it as “a great song” whilst talking to a journalist.

There is no context in which that is anything other than a shocking statement.

That journalist, Graham Spiers, a guy this site has criticised as well as praised, rightly decided that this was a news story.

On 30 December, he told the tale in a piece he wrote.

In fact, I would go much further than just to say it was newsworthy. It ought to have been the headline above the piece.

It was a massively important news story; current, informing public debate, challenging officialdom, suggesting that a football club that perceives itself as a tremendously powerful social institution had, on its board, someone who had sympathies with people engaged in criminality and sectarianism.

The enormity of that cannot be overstated, especially as the debate over the issue has blossomed since the piece was run.

Now football’s governing bodies, the police and non-governmental organisations such as Nil By Mouth are pressing for Strict Liability rules to be implemented inside Scottish grounds.

We also know that the SFA is also seeking public funds for facial recognition software to be installed in stadiums.

Current rules, which the SFA believes are not robust enough, mean that clubs have to demonstrate that they’re “taking all possible measures” to keep discriminatory chanting out of their stands.

The Ibrox club is currently under investigation by the football authorities, with a decision due based on that criteria.

In other words, the importance of that story has only grown since publication.

This is what good journalists do, and good newspapers are supposed to stand by them when they do it.

Here in Scotland, of course, that doesn’t always happen.

A number of journalists have, in the past few years, been targeted for daring to deliver the news and in some cases their employers have not done enough to lend them support in the face of it.

Jim Spence was just one case in point, but there are others.

With respect to Jim, I think what has happened to Graham Spiers, in this case, is of a far worse, and much more sinister, nature. He has been well and truly hung out to dry by The Herald, and he knows it. Whilst his independent statement is coached in conciliatory language, for the most part, his anger is plain and his disillusionment is clear.

They could not make him apologise or retract the story, although it’s clear they tried to make him do both. When he stood by his piece their one and only question – if they even had to ask – should have been “Is this true?” When he answered in the affirmative that should have been that.

They should have stood by their man, and resisted the “pressure.”

Instead they apologised for him, and “clarified” things in his name.

It is beyond scandalous, gutless and embarrassing for everyone at the paper who isn’t up in arms over the way the top brass have behaved.

Frankly, I’ll never trust a word I read in The Herald or any of its sister papers again. Because if they can be spooked into retracting a news story on the basis of pressure from a second tier football club or a rabid pack of its followers then nothing they say can be relied on when it comes to challenging those who have real power and influence.

Their credibility as a journalistic vehicle is shot, pure and simple.

As far as I’m concerned they have joined the tabloids in pandering and sucking up, in framing “the news” so as not to offend certain people, people who, these days, are offended by everything anyway.

It is cowardly, and corrupt, almost beyond comprehension.

I am amazed he’s not already tendered his resignation, because his statement makes it pretty clear just how pissed off he is.

I hope he’s taking the matter to the NUJ and making it clear that he’s not going to stand for it.

In addition, he might want to take a look at the Rangers Supporters Trust website and their article on the Herald’s craven crawling, because there are things in that statement that are unmistakably libellous, such as the assertion that he has “made a career out of fanning the flames of sectarianism” and numerous examples where it calls him a liar.

I’ve written about the way that organisation behaves before; if I were a Sevco fan reading some of their press releases I would be cringing with embarrassment and shame and this one is as base ignorant and deliberately provocative as any I’ve had the misfortune to read, and it crosses a line in the sand that it should not be allowed to get away with.

These people, the conduct of their club and those who run it, and the assortment of idiots, cretins and vile bigots who swarm around in the vortex, never cease to amaze me with the level of their bile and intolerance.

These things are probably to be expected in those with 15th century attitudes still fighting the wars of their grandfather’s forefather’s ancestors (and without really understanding them), but the level of bullying and intimidation they get away with is what really takes the breath away.

I’m not even remotely afraid of these people, and it stuns me that senior editors on national newspapers are.

On the days when my inbox fills with invective and my Twitter feed oozes with their slime, in the moments when my Facebook page is crawling with trolls, all ending their posts with some kind of reference to child abuse or closing off with their standard statement of racial and religious “supremacy”, I don’t despair or get spooked.

I am emboldened.

Because I know I’m doing it right.

Chris McLaughlin was “doing it right” when he reported the outbreak of sectarian singing at the Hibs game.

For this he was banned by the club itself.

Jim Spence was “doing it right” when he called out the Survival Myth for the aberrant fantasy most rational people know it to be.

For that, he was harassed and bullied and his employers threatened until they offered a ridiculous apology simply because he stated the facts.

Angela Haggerty was “doing it right” when she called time on the way she’s been treated by these appalling bastards and their sickening level of hate.

She no longer lives in Scotland, and has been forced to seek redress in the law courts because of what she’s endured.

Other journalists have suffered similar persecution for behaving in a way that’s consonant with the job description, and what the Herald has done to Graham Spiers for “doing it right” is dangerous, and an affront, to every single one of them and every single person in Scotland, whether at a mainstream publication, a local paper, or simply blogging online and who is dedicated to telling the truth.

The last article I published on this site was on this very thing; about the way certain Sevco fan sites and organisations are forming an “orchestra of hate” against anyone who dares to offer any criticism, however justified, about their club.

I asked at the end if these people were “winning.”

That question is more pertinent than ever.

Does the Herald’s editor even have the first clue what he’s done here? What the significance of this decision actually is, beyond the impact it has on his own shitty circulation figures? Beyond even sport?

Does he even care?

This is a sad, dreadful, tragic day for “journalism” in this country, and I mourn it like a death because myself and others care deeply about this profession and the important role it plays in our world.

The Herald has pissed all over that.

They have betrayed one of their own, but the betrayal is felt by more than just Graham Spiers himself. It is felt by every one of us.

It makes “doing it right” more important than ever.

Today, “I Am Graham Spiers.”

We all are.

(This site depends on your support. If you like what I do, and are able, you can make a donation at the link. Many thanks in advance.)


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.

24 thoughts on “Spiers “Apology” Heralds In Dark Days For Scottish Journalism

  • 28 January, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    Great article mate,
    I said in 2012 that the game in Scotland is broken, everything that has happened since, in court rooms or in the media, merely confirms my own suspicions.

    Scottish football is dead in the water.

  • 28 January, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    The straw has finally broken the camels back for me….Fuck Scottish football and fuck the MSM…From tickets to Celtic Park for myself and Fir park for my Kids to Scotland games…I’ll spend my money elsewhere. I’ve had enough.

  • 28 January, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    Is it any wonder why everyone hates the club that is playing out of ibrox and their fans. ? They are scum and the lowest Vernon known to mankind and the sooner the world is shot of them, the sooner the world will be happy.

  • 28 January, 2016 at 6:03 pm

    I always liked Spiers but he is part of the pompous pretentious brigade who are entrenched in political correctness. PC language has gone too far. Its lost the plot. Insults and banter are becoming obsolete now because people are scared that they might be accused of “Hate language”. I’ couldn’t care less what songs Sevco sing. They sing songs to annoy us and we sing songs to annoy them. Whats the fucking problem with that? The only arseholes making correlations with such songs and violent crime in Glasgow are the very people who live nowhere fucking near the poorest council estates. And there indeed is the real problem. Poverty. People don’t fight over religion or nationality. They fight over jobs. Everything else is incidental. We need to stop wasting time on bullshit laws like the “Offensive Behaviour at Football Act”. I mean, c’mon get a grip, seriously man, its fucking pathetic. Ofcourse most honest Sevco fans will love the Billy Boys including their directors. So what, so fucking what. Who cares Graham. Does it mean they hate Catholics, they hate Irish bla bla bla. Naw. Its just a song man. Chill the fuck out. Man up, stop being a nanny pansy overly sensitive little prick. Besides, lets not forget the hypocrisy of these journalists. When it comes to religious hate speech of a different type i.e. Anti theism and in particular the mocking hateful anti muslim and anti Christian hate jokes and cartoons done by the likes of Charlie Hebdo or indeed the likes of comedians such Michin who sings ” fuck the fucking Mother fucking pope”. Why is it that one persons hate language is another persons satire or banter? Is it because comedians and journalists are a little less direct and football fans are straight talking. I think Dr Stewart Waiton sums up the SNPs so called banning of “sectarian songs” (which btw there is NO LEGAL DEFINITON) as “snobs law”.

    Read his book Criminalising Football Fans in an Age of Intolerance.

  • 28 January, 2016 at 6:04 pm

    Great piece, James. Mr Spiers should resign immediately and confirm to the world just how certain people with no backbone can be spooked by these appalling bastards. Nothing but Nazis the lot of them. I wonder which Sevco director said it was a great song ??

  • 28 January, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    Great read as ever James. I\’d even go as far as saying it\’s one of your best. Surely this all has to come to a head? How can a national newspaper really hang their own journalists out to dry basically giving the offended the right to police the contents of their paper. The whole game stinks.

  • 28 January, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    The sad thing is that every time a publication bows to their intimidation and demands they lose readers but I can\’t imagine that the morons issuing the demands are necessarily buying their products. Whereas if they stood strong and reported the truth then they may win back the customers who have went to look for unbiased reporting elsewhere. It would also send out the message that their methods aren\’t working and leave them out in the cold looking like the imbeciles that they are. It would also send out the message that their vile and bigoted agendas have no place in today\’s civilised society. So I would like to thank yourself and the rest of the so called Internet bampots for the sterling work you do in giving us the real news stories. Whether we agree with the points you raise or not we can see the truth in them and will always come back for more. Keep up the good work and thank you. HH ????

  • 28 January, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    The sad thing is that every time a publication bows to their intimidation and demands they lose readers but I can\’t imagine that the morons issuing the demands are necessarily buying their products. Whereas if they stood strong and reported the truth then they may win back the customers who have went to look for unbiased reporting elsewhere. It would also send out the message that their methods aren\’t working and leave them out in the cold looking like the imbeciles that they are. It would also send out the message that their vile and bigoted agendas have no place in today\’s civilised society. So I would like to thank yourself and the rest of the so called Internet bampots for the sterling work you do in giving us the real news stories. Whether we agree with the points you raise or not we can see the truth in them and will always come back for more. Keep up the good work and thank you. HH ????

  • 28 January, 2016 at 6:15 pm

    The Banner that was rolled out saying”Scotlands Shame” was the best one for me,so so true,whatever is coming to them they deserve it all and more.

  • 28 January, 2016 at 6:17 pm

    What organisation ? or who in this country we live in, will stand up and be counted in the face of media oppression ! The courts so far seem somewhat reluctant to give a verdict against them.Sporting bodies big and small are corrupted by them,……………could some one share some information with me !.is there or is there not a shadowy, secret,(we don,t talk about that stuff here) group of peepil ! to whom they may owe a (debt of gratitude)………and if there is why are they in that position ? is it because they are so much better than the rest of society,it surely could not come down to the fact said group of peepil are of a different religion than the rest of us……….say it aint so !

  • 28 January, 2016 at 6:25 pm

    I have to say I admire your courage James these are vile and evil people we are up against. It appears people like you are getting no help whatsoever from the authorities. Sad indeed.

  • 28 January, 2016 at 6:38 pm

    40 years ago there wouldn’t have been a newspaper in the shops if a title had treated one of its journalists like this. But sadly the combined efforts of Thatcher and Murdoch have emasculated the NUJ and now “commercial sensitivy” and not journalistic integrity is the mantra.

  • 28 January, 2016 at 6:48 pm

    Stop buying all newspapers. I used to buy around 3 a day and now don’t buy any.

  • 28 January, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    Next season sevco will be back in the top division, in a couple of years they will be challenging for a European place, this will come about because of the corruption in the Scottish game, there\’s no point in any other supporters of any other team, including Celtic, there\’s no point in buying season tickets, buying merchandise, better to just take up another sport to follow or participate, there\’s no point in supporting Scottish football anymore, the game\’s a bogey, the cheats have won, corruption and cheating is and has been swept under the carpet for the benefit of one team, there is no level playing field in Scottish football !

  • 28 January, 2016 at 8:32 pm

    Good piece James. I love football and have followed Celtic all my life but I am becoming so disillusioned I’m really considering walking away (can I use that phrase).the Msm and hierarchy narrative is sucking the life out of my soul and making me question why I bother.the ball is well and truly burst

  • 28 January, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    Well said Paul (Morgan). The Edinburgh dinner party set despises football because it is the game of the common man, it is desperate to subjugate the game to its middle-class politically correct dogma. Football is popular because it presents an opportunity for spectators to indulge in ritualistic, territorial tribal rivalry, a fundamental part of the human condition. I love being a ’90 minute bigot’ on a Saturday, it’s a crucial outlet, but for the rest of the week, like 99.9% of others, I am an ordinary civilised respectful member of the community. Politicians want us to believe that such a thing is not possible because otherwise they could not portray themselves as statesmanlike and important. Fuck ’em!

  • 29 January, 2016 at 12:40 am

    Your article is rather predictable You have a view on Rangers FC Their fans have a view on you. Another dead end Im afraid where both sides retreat but not to a neutral corner more a place where they can gather and keep their prejudice warm. To amend MacAulay \’There are few spectacles more ridiculous than Old Firm fans in their period fits of morality\’

  • 29 January, 2016 at 12:42 am


    I am having difficulty donating to this great site!

    Great article, can you help!

  • 29 January, 2016 at 9:58 am

    Indeed! Amen to that..soo wel put again and again, by JF and Fields of Green…Never, Never, Never give up on fighting this Vile and Poisonous activity, that has no Place in any context or Semi_Civilised Country in 2016..or Ever!..
    and \”Je Suis Graham Speirs\”! GBRJ (God Bless Real Journalists +)

  • 29 January, 2016 at 11:52 am

    I am not looking forward to next season if they win promotion, we are going to get more intense singing and Scottish Law will allow it,
    We have seen SFA/SPFL Courts afraid to judge these people because they fear any backlash from THE MOB, media in scotland are a disgrace why don`t we just lie down and let them walk all over us, yes they have cheated all and we must stand up, but what has our club done about it or any for that matter they sold out for money well if our fans stop going you deserve what you failed to do stop them in there tracks you had the power but never fought for Scottish Football

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