There’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.
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