And You Dare To Call Us Sectarian?

133605071-c2bc15dd-b8a9-4c80-ab0d-7e6454f88526-1“No, no, no, it’s not ok, it’s not going to be ok, and I’ll tell you why.

Because you’re fair game, so I hope your knickers are clean because every seat-sniffing little shi@bag that’s ever filed a by-line is gonna be questioning you!

Because now it’s in the f@@@@@@ public interest, isn’t it? And they are gonna hit you with any sh@t they can find and you’re gonna be spread out in front of them like a trollop in the stocks!” – Malcolm Tucker.

They say people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. We’ve all heard that expression, right? I am amazed at the number of times you catch folk out doing just that.

Supporters do it all the time. This week is the first time – and it ought to be the last time – that a football club does it. Sevco’s statement on the behaviour of our fans was disgraceful, but it was also kind of amazing, in that way watching a posing twat walking into a lamp post is. Being lectured on sectarianism by their board of directors … it is jaw-dropping.

You could write an entire dissertation on the shameful baggage that clubs at Ibrox have carried everywhere with them, from a sectarian signing policy to UEFA fines for the song-book. But you don’t have to go as far back as that, all the way to the OldCo to find scandal and hate wafting down the Marble Staircase at you. You don’t even have to dig as far as the on-pitch outrage at Linfield just over a week ago, although that’s an excellent case in point.

No, you only have to look at the day itself to realise that Sevco’s sanity smashing statement about what their fans had to “endure” stank like a week old corpse. It takes formidable brazenness to point that self-righteous fury at another club’s fans when your own behaved, on the same day, like the lowest order degenerate scum.

I’ve written about the behaviour of a small number of Celtic fans over on The CelticBlog, so as far as I’m concerned anyone who wants to accuse me of whatabouttery here can bin it. This isn’t about that. Did some of our fans let us down? Damned right. This is about not wanting – not being willing – to be lectured by anyone who’s double standard is quite so pronounced.

These people aren’t even hiding their own hatred; they wear it front and centre.

Some of them have said the effigies were a reference to suicide, timed to offend their fans and one of their former players, on a day which sought to raise awareness of the issue. I’ll tell you right now that I had no idea Saturday was Suicide Awareness Day and the vast majority of our supporters would have been equally clueless about it.

But of course, they will believe what they want to, that our fans learned this and timed their actions accordingly.

Well it was also the anniversary of Jock Stein’s death. I don’t know whether their fans knew that or not, but there were at least two banners on full display referencing a certain scandal. Did their fans time that well, or was it a coincidence?

I’m happy to accept the coincidence explanation, and not because I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt or because I think the milk of human kindness runs through their veins, but simply because some of these gutter rats fly those banners everywhere they go and have been smearing the great man’s name for years.

So they don’t get to talk about hate, or targeting individuals who were at their club.

They don’t get to make that accusation whilst there are scum amongst their number flying those flags.

We’re not standing for it, not putting up with that.

And I’ll go on, because the National Famine Memorial Day – commemorating the victims of the Great Hunger – was the day after the game, and our club wore a logo on their shirts in recognition of that fact. Did their fans know that? I neither know nor care, but they spent much of the game singing the sectarian, illegal, bigoted dirge entreating us to “go home.”

Coincidence? Who cares?

They’ve been doing it so long no-one even notices anymore.

On top of that we were “treated” to various renditions of The Billy Boys, with its expressions of joy about being up to their knees in our blood. That song is also illegal, and for a while it wasn’t being heard in the Ibrox stands. Now it’s back, as ubiquitous as it ever was, part of that “unique Ibrox atmosphere” Warburton and others go on about so much.

The sight of those effigies at Celtic Park made my skin crawl, but no more than those Sevco fans themselves once brought to Ibrox, one called Green and the other Whyte.

They can spare me the sermon on how vicious the image of the hanging dolls was, because as horrendous as they were their own had names, and wore suits, and did not represent an impersonal generic “they” but were specific, targeted, like one I saw once of “Neil Lennon” and those you see on the top of the Loyalist bonfires every year in July, like the one in the picture at the top of this article, the hanging effigy of Gerry Adams.

And what’s that he’s wearing?

Oh yes, it’s a Celtic top.

“But that didn’t hang from the stands at Ibrox ..” is doubtless the refrain I’ll hear on that, but it doesn’t take much imagination to draw the line from the people who hung that ugly thing and those the club’s players and officials – including some of the hypocrites who okayed that statement – were photographed posing with in Linfield the weekend before last.

Club 1872 can bite me as well; their own foaming at the mouth statement contained an oblique reference to our fans’ support for the people of Palestine, and what do you know? They’ve got a new logo, the six pointed star, so similar to the one on the flag of Israel.

I shake my head at the lamentable nature of that, and marvel at the mind who came up with it.

They will appropriate anything to score cheap points, but this one’s espcially delicious considering their history of Nazi salutes and the undercurrent of far-right, fascist sympathy that runs through their support like a virus. And let them wail about how it’s a Red Hand Salute instead, as if commemorating the killing of Catholics is somehow a better proposition than celebrating the murder of Jews.

Because as they and their media acolytes like to remind us, it’s the visual image that reeks; it’s not what people intend something to be it’s what other people think it is.

See? I too can utilise that particular weapon.

I’ll tell you what; their club and its shareholders group can give us the big talk when they get their own house in order.

They can point their fat ignorant fingers at Celtic Park when they’ve pointed them into their own stands first and said, with loud voices for everyone to hear, “You lot … clear out.”

But that will never happen, because as Rangers was built on the back of barely legal bank largesse, the NewCo, from the moment of its inception, from the moment Charles Green stood on a pitch in front of the media and said that Rangers had been targeted by bigotry and hate – birthing the Victim Lie in all its unholy splendour – was built on bile and hatred, all the better to spoon money out of gullible fools simultaneously preaching their supremacy whilst lamenting the reach and the influence of their myriad, fictious enemies.

Talk about an exercise in doublethink.

This lot are so far outside the margins of reasonable behaviour now that it makes your head throb trying to imagine what they are thinking inside that crumbling ruin of theirs, but see, that crumbling ruin is the point, that wreckage of a football club is the real issue, because if their supporters weren’t all focussed on this kind of nonsense they might instead be focussed on that, because there are real issues there and real problems looming.

But this board knows its audience.

They know its fans.

They know they can get away with anything, anything at all, if they blame every failure on somebody else.

They can blame us for what they like, as they tried with Motherwell fans, as they attempted to do with Hibs supporters. Aberdeen fans will be next, you wait and see, after they leave Pittodrie with a hiding and the gap is even wider than now.

They could go round the block for the whole of this season, hitting every club one at a time or all in one shot, throwing blame hither thither and yon. The media can get behind it, or ignore the double standard, as they like. But sooner or later a reckoning will come, with their own supporters if not with the governing bodies or the legal system.

Until then, this whole country – and their club too – would benefit from a long, enforced period of dignified silence over there. I don’t expect it, because dignity is another word they simply don’t understand any longer … if they ever did.

At a time when the mainstream media can’t even be trusted to cover the biggest sports story in the history of this island sites like this one are more important than ever. If you are able to, and you want to help real Scottish football journalism, and not the sort you get in the tabloids, you can make a donation by clicking the link below.

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A Union Jack, A Six Pack & Away They Go

England-fans-during-Euro--012If you’ve been watching the news over the last couple of days you’ll know that there’s been trouble in Marseilles, as England fans fought running battles with Russians, local supporters and the police.

Yesterday’s violence inside and around the stadium appears to have been caused by black shirted neds from the Moscow clubs, but in running into the square where white shirted EU sceptics had been holding court for days, telling everyone who’d listen that they’d taken over the city, the hooligans found willing participants for a right good rammy.

Sure, many of the wide-boys of yesteryear regretted it soon afterwards; after all, these are the “large donner kebab and a chicken pakora” sons of cities like Birmingham and Wolverhampton who perhaps thought holding court of a Saturday afternoon down in the Duck & Lion public house meant that they were hard.

As unbelievable as it sounds, Russian hooligans actually train for violence and most of them have the tools for it, as they’re all ex-national service lads. You’d do well to find a flabby gut amongst them. These guys weren’t the least bit intimidated by the “pride of the isle.”

In fact, they’ve been looking forward to meeting these folks for many years.

Nevertheless, whilst the white shirted louts were able to remain upright (a state of being that ended shortly after that first moment when an English fist met with an incoming face and said Englishman was shocked not to see fear in the others eyes but a steely kind of amusement) the Assorted Nutjobs of Bristol were game enough to stand their ground and give it a go.

The media has called this The English Disease; this arrogant booze fuelled lunacy best summed up on a TV documentary I saw where Darren Wells, a former member of Combat 18 and now a police informer, told the film-makers that it was all about being an “island race”, about how England once conquered the world, and how his kind of people wanted to make sure that when they visited a foreign city the people there remembered it for years afterwards.

One suspects he wasn’t talking about the way people in Seville remember Celtic fans.

What might not be as well know to some of you is that Northern Irish fans were also involved in violence over the weekend, fighting with Polish fans, police and locals in Nice. There’s no word to suggest that Welsh supporters were involved in similar with Slovakians or anyone else and I guess I don’t need to tell you that this never happens with Ireland fans and the notion that Scotland supporters would go abroad and riot is frankly ridiculous.

England has a peculiar problem, but as the behaviour of Ulster’s Finest proves it’s not one that is limited to them, and we don’t need to look too close to home to find another set of fans who have many of the same issues. Sevco supporters – and Rangers fans before them – have a similar disturbing tendency and without turning this into a sociology paper I’m going to take a stab at the reason why, and it’s relatively simple; it’s the Union Jack.

Now, England fans are rarely seen with it; they prefer the St George flag.

Northern Irish fans prefer their own take on the same, with their red hand in the middle.

Only a very few of them fly the old flag of blood and war, which some of us call the Butchers Apron.

But that’s part of the problem, you see, because the crazier elements amongst those two supports – and amongst the Sevco one – have their whole sense of nationality identity wrapped up in it.

Note that the Northern Irish and English fans sing God Save the Queen (as do those of Sevco of course) whereas Scottish and Welsh fans sing their own, entirely separate, national anthems.

Note, too, that the whole sense of rank nationalism which you get from the media down south during these tournaments is a peculiar muddle of Old English history and the collective one of this island.

The French are the enemy, because of wars that took place hundreds of years ago, but so too are the Germans and the Argentines, two countries Scottish fans have no animosity towards but who’s countrymen certainly killed more than a few of ours. Yet those wars – the Second World War and the Falklands War – were both fought under the Union flag.

England claims them as its own, and in the way in which they can’t stop talking about them and celebrating them – and I use that word deliberately; this is not commemoration, this is celebrating – they are welcome to them. It makes entire swathes of the population seem bloodthirsty at best, and it is one of the contributing factors in the distrust of foreigners and the casual racism that forms the core of the Leave campaign for the EU referendum.

There’s an unhealthy amount of this coursing through the British bloodstream and it has its dark heart in the West of Scotland, Ulster and in certain parts of England. It manifests itself in many ways, but foremost amongst them is the arrogance that led to drunken yobs in white tops swanning around a city in another country as if they owned the place.

Calling out ISIS, in France, following the two terrorist outrages which have happened there, was every bit as loathsome as the Nazi salutes Rangers fans once made in Tel Aviv, and they can prattle on about this “red hand salute” pish all they like, but even that excuse asks you to forgive the murder of Catholics instead of the murder of Jews, and I don’t really care what goes on in the mind of someone who makes such a distinction with a straight face.

Give these people their flag, give them a six pack of beer, turn them loose in any public setting and wait for the explosion. They always react true to type, and as we’ve seen in the press coverage over the last day or two, and as we saw following the Scottish Cup Final, there’s always somebody else to blame. So people rioted, attacked the police, fought with rival fans … but hey, they were provoked. Normal people don’t react that way to provocation though, but this appears to have slipped their tiny, infinitesimal minds, just as normal people aren’t moved to mouth foaming madness by the sight of an Irish flag or the Sign of the Cross.

We have a quaint little law here, of course, which criminalises behaviour that would “offend a reasonable person” but so many of these cretins simply don’t apply to that description and so much offends them these days that we may as will criminalise everything.

So this weekend, Marseilles joined the ranks of cities set upon by the Little Englanders. But what that really means is that it joined the ranks of cities which fell prey to a warped form of Britishness, and you don’t even have to go abroad to see it work. It was on full display, after all, in Manchester and all the excuse making with it.

Violence like this isn’t the “English disease” any more than paranoia is now the “Irish disease.” Because this is a British thing, a peculiar strand of Britishness, but actually that which is truest to the national nature.

Paranoia and the feeling that everybody hates them is one of its strongest and most obvious traits. Yet perhaps there are reasons why much of the civilised world can’t stand the sight of these people and it doesn’t matter whether there are tens of thousands of them, mob handed and tanked up, wrecking the town square or simply a handful of them in a Tenerife bar singing of how Britannia rules the waves; people automatically move the other way.

I am frankly sick of them, of the embarrassment and shame they bring to everyone on this island, of their sense of entitlement and their smug superiority.

I am sick of people making excuses for them, as if nothing done under the Butchers Flag was ever less than wholesome and pure; it didn’t get that name for nothing though.

Its adherents founded the slave trade. They brutalised all the known world. They subjugated countries beyond count, and only released their grip on those who offered the fiercest resistance and fought for their freedom. It flew over the first concentration camps and those who marched under it practically invented ethnic cleansing.

The outriders of the Empire were well and truly scudded yesterday, but the caravan of hate and loathing (most of it for the self) is already on the road and heading to the next French city, where easier pickings await. Welsh fans will share the town with them, and but for a handful of halfwits who follow Cardiff and who’s mentality is also of a peculiarly British kind – but who care not a whit for their own nation – I expect them to behave impeccably. Whilst most English fans will too, that section will be out in force, as ever, and ready to give it large.

Not satisfied with appropriating every war ever fought by the collective parts of these islands, these people simply can’t wait for the next one to present itself. As long it’s not lean, fit and wearing black. As long as it runs from the sight of a fat git in a Union Jack hat. As long as it can’t stand its ground under the Charge of the Shite Brigade.

For this is England. This is Britain.

It’s why I said Yes in one referendum and why I’ll vote Remain in another; because this bubble of poision has to be punctured once and for all.

If the EU as a whole had a vote in this one, I swear to God they’ve vote for us all to leave in an instant, just so they never had to listen to these whiny bigots ever again, and I cannot blame them for that at all.

At a time when the mainstream media can’t even be trusted to cover the biggest sports story in the history of this island sites like this one are more important than ever. If you are able to, and you want to help real Scottish football journalism, and not the sort you get in the tabloids, you can make a donation by clicking the link below.

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The Offensive Double Standard

Brussels - March 03: Twitter Hit By Hackers.There’s a lot of joy, an awful lot of it, on social media today over the fate of a West of Scotland Primary School teacher who posted some pretty heavy stuff on Twitter and is now facing disciplinary action for it.

I’m not going into detail; if you follow the news at all you can’t have missed the story.

She might yet keep her job, but that couldn’t matter less as far as the wider impact goes.

The media, both old and new, has spoken, declared her guilty and branded her a bigot.

They’ve hung that tag around her neck like a rank piece of dead flesh and that, as they say, is that.

Career cancer. Game over.

What appalling hypocrites some of these people are.

I debated with myself about whether to make this a piece for this blog, but ultimately I decided it belongs here and not over on Comment Isn’t Free, my politics one, because there’s a lot of overlap between the grave dancers online and the issues this site occasionally covers.

For one thing, she’s been reported to Police Scotland, presumably under the auspices of that deplorable piece of legislation the Offensive Behaviour Act, an act any number of those rejoicing at her current fate might be hauled up for contravening themselves based on their remarks.

I’m not advocating that. I’m simply pointing it out.

A lot of these people crawled out of a sewer.

Any number of them have made this an issue about Catholic schools, Catholicism as a whole, Irish expression, Scottish nationalism (there’s a photo of her with Nicola Sturgeon) and, of course, Celtic.

(She was pictured with Tony Stokes too, and it’s not hard to guess which team she supports.)

One guy posted on one of the many articles about this on a newspaper’s website – in almost orgiastic delirium – about how overjoyed he was to find a story that gave him a chance to take a shot at all of those targets at once.

And of course, he called her a bigot for good measure.

This is the level at which these people operate, and others still decided the gutter was too good for them and posted the sort of comments that are simply unprintable here and really do belong in the province of the courts.

If she has good lawyers she could sue enough of these people to put her on easy street for the rest of her natural life, and she should.

Let’s be clear; this isn’t a piece defending her, although I’m moved to suggest that someone who decided to pursue a career working to develop young minds and had to have grafted like mad towards that goal, and who’s record in doing it is probably as clean as a whistle and who has, doubtless, made a huge and positive difference in her community probably deserves better than the witch-hunt she’s currently facing, and maybe a chance to keep on doing her job.

Added to that, I can’t help but wonder about the kind of regulations which intrude into someone’s personal beliefs, and what that has to do with her place of employment.

She wasn’t sending those tweets out on an office computer, after all.

None of this stuff intruded on her lessons to the kids, did it?

I’m fairly sure the tabloid muck-rakers would have mentioned that.

But Hell, those are issues for another day.

No, this is a piece calling out those who’ve forgotten one of the first, and most important, maxims of the Christian faith, which I don’t think is an out-of-order subject at this time of year; not even forgiveness but the one that goes “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

Yes, a lot of people forget that one.

Let me give them an example of the sort of things that do my nut in.

For a start, calling someone a bigot in the same sentence as she’s subjected to a sectarian slur is not going to get you into the Quiz Kids.

Ad hominem attacks in the same tweet that question a person’s character … well that demonstrates a high IQ for sure, one that might even hit room temperature when they’re straining all the brain cells.

The Illiterati of the internet are bad enough, but we’ve got media outlets busily destroying her as well, and they are far worse.

I don’t need to give anyone a refresher course on how they’ve behaved over the years.

They’ve excused the inexcusable, and ignored what suited them. Journalists chortle over people like John Brown and his dislike of anything remotely connected to Celtic which goes all the way to not wearing the colour green, but scream from the rooftops whenever supporters express similar views. It would be funny if it wasn’t so serious.

Real bigotry is a subject they’ve kept at arm’s length for as long as I’ve been alive, but that would have been difficult to tackle, and this is an easy target they’re going after, and their relish at the task oozes from every editorial.

This doesn’t even stop with the kind of stuff they routinely ignore.

Most of them clap their hands with undisguised glee at the idea of what they refer to as the “return” of the Old Firm game, the brand built on hate which they’ve spent the last four years falling all over themselves to rebuild and promote anew.

They also think nothing of seeking the opinions of men like Hugh Dallas – who one paper put on the back pages this very week, even as they lambasted her on the front – and radio stations and the evening news channels still go out of their way to seek the opinions of “supporter reps” who’s own social media postings raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

Graham Spiers, writing in The Herald recently, even suggested that Scottish football should “rehabilitate” Craig Thomson, who’s own behaviour on the internet was about a million times worse and more extreme than anything this girl did.

You tell me; what’s wrong with this picture?

In the meantime, his newspaper has its reporter’s door-stopping this girl and circling like vultures, which of course does nothing good in terms of her discipline case, making this into a national issue and pretty much leaving her bosses with nowhere to go … something else I hope her legal people are all over, and planning to highlight when the time comes.

And all this is to say nothing, of course, about their political coverage, which has created more “out” groups – everyone from social security claimants to immigrants – than Goebbels’s propaganda ministry would have dared dream about.

Our media as moral guardians?

Give me a sodding break.

They can keep their phony outrage and hysterical commentary, but that’s easy for me to say as someone who’s not been directly in their crosshairs. The stench of their own double standards reeks out their offices, but I understand that they’re simply playing to their traditional audience and this is a story that, as I said above, simply has everything for those retrograde scum.

I posted a piece on this site just last week about the number of their fan sites, and supporter reps, who spend their days trawling the net for information they can use to damage anyone whose opinion doesn’t merge with their own.

I was inspired to write that by a tweet from Jim Spence, about how he’d heard a story about another journalist whose job was under threat by these people.

I now think I know who he’s talking about it, and it wouldn’t be the first time this particular person has been targeted by these folk.

One website in particular has editorialised on this writer at great length, and much of the content is libellous and ought to be pursued.

This story is another case in point.

It’s not difficult, I’m sure, to imagine how this is being greeted on those same forums and websites.

This is like something Santa dropped down the chimney.

It’s the potential ruination of somebody’s life and what it brings to them is great joy.

I don’t know what else to say about that other than it makes my skin crawl.

These same people, emboldened by this action, are now frantically trying to select a target for the encore, and Jeanette Findlay’s name has been bandied about as she, too, works in an educational environment and has views they don’t happen to agree with.

Jeanette has already made her disgust at the hate-mob – old and new media both – known as regards this issue, and I applaud her for that and thank her from the bottom of my heart for reminding us all that there’s still a spark of humanity out there in the world, and those who are intelligent and compassionate enough to look at the bigger picture.

But of course the “big picture” doesn’t matter to the pitch-fork wielding horde, some of whom can’t wait to moralise against anyone and others who have more specific targets in mind and think of this story as a God-send.

Their anger is the phoniest kind there is, and it makes me retch and it ought to make all decent people feel the same way.

Their own hatred is palpable, and even a little scary.

They are a different species.

Someone’s career hangs in the balance here. Someone’s life is quite literally on the cusp of being destroyed, and at Christmas time too. In their attitude towards this lies the truth about their own rancid characters.

Their overriding emotion isn’t regret or sadness … it’s glee.

This is the Festive Season in Scotland, eah?

Goodwill, and all that.

Aye, right.

(Writing these blogs is my full time job, and I couldn’t do it without the support of my readers. If you like what I do you can make a donation at the below link. Thanks to those who have.)

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The Ingratitude Of Sevconians

JS56340180Today saw another court battle between Mike Ashley’s people and those of Dodgy Dave King.

It wasn’t as explosive as yesterday’s, but it was instructive nonetheless.

The headline story from it will be that Sevco hasn’t actually paid back the £5 million Sports Direct loan, as their legal counsel claimed in court yesterday; in fact, according to them, they’re still trying to get the money together to do so.

They’re £500,000 short … what Ashley would regard as petty cash.

I laughed reading that, partly at my own naivety in so readily accepting that claim yesterday. This was, after all, made at the same hearing where King claimed to have amnesia on so many issues I would not have been surprised if he’d momentarily forgotten his own name.

But all that is to digress. The reason for this piece is the dollops of abuse being heaped on the freelance journalist James Doleman, who’s covering the story from the courtroom, and tweeting back to all those who’re interested.

And for that, he’s being singled out. He’s being labelled a hater.

He’s also being called out for the crowd-funding campaign he ran in order to cover his expenses. I’m going to talk about that briefly for a minute before I go on, and I hope you’ll bear with me.

It may shock some of these people to realise this, but what James Doleman does, what I do, what Paul67 does, what Phil does, it’s time consuming and it’s difficult. This is my day job; it’s not a hobby that I spend an occasional five minutes on.

Yesterday, I wrote and published four different blogs, an article for a magazine, a third of a chapter of a novel and started re-designing a digital magazine. This is a full-time gig, and James is the same, a freelance journalist and blogger of some repute.

Neither he nor myself, or any of the other bloggers with Donate buttons on their sites, is asking for charity. If people like what we do they can support it, or not.

The notion that this is rattling the tin cup is ludicrous, and I don’t feel any sense of embarrassment about it.

I know what rattling the tin cup looks like.

It’s a football club that claims its finances are the “envy of world football” asking its own fans if they can carry out maintenance work at the stadium to save the club money, and the attendant consequences when bits of the roof are falling off.

It’s King going to his own directors for soft loans to keep on the lights.

It’s the club going cap in hand to the supporter’s own “Fighting Fund” singing a chorus of “Brother, can you spare a dime?”

It’s organising a football match for charity, then sloughing off part of the proceeds to pay the bills and feeling no sense of shame at all about it.

I’m surprised they don’t recognise it themselves.

So yes, James asked for help meeting his costs, and I’ve done the same and my own work depends on the steady trickle of support I get from good people who like what I do. So we have Donate buttons and fund raising appeals … and every penny is declared to HMRC.

But let’s be clear; we’re not putting up paywalls and asking for subscription fees. There are a few sites which have online shops, but none of us is making a living selling, for example, unbranded tat ostensibly in an effort to screw a major retailer.

James is a big boy, and he’s batted back easily enough at those who’ve labelled him as some kind of scrounger. It’s those who’ve tried to label him a hater that I want to talk about.

This guy has been working as a freelance court reporter for years. I’ve been following his stuff for a while. His blog is interesting and engaging and he knows what he’s talking about. He covers any matter he thinks there’s a public interest in, and say what you like about Sevco but it’s a circus that never ends and is the subject of much attention inside and outside Scotland.

James is probably not used to the abuse he’s had in the last week, not like some of us are, but the Goon Squad now have him firmly in their sights and I fear he’ll have to tolerate it a while.

An example of the garbage he’s had to put up with:

One tweet called him a “bead rattler”. James threatened to block the guy.

And what response did he get for that?

More abuse, and the guy calling him a bigot.

How do you even begin to respond to that?

Where do you start?

You’re not dealing with ordinary, well-formed individuals here; you’re conversing with the institutionally stupid, people so dense light bends around them.

Their favourite refrain, of course, is to say we’re “obsessed.” James got that one thrown at him more than a few times in the last week. Today he posted a link to his blog to demonstrate the extent of this “obsession” … and I’m sure you can guess what it reveals.

I know why they use that word so frequently, and I’ve blogged on it several times in the past; this is their self-image talking, this idea that the reason they’re still “current” is that they’re a massive football club with wealth and power, and not an impoverished wreck still floundering in the lower leagues. They’re missing the big picture, because all they see is their own narrow view.

And in the big picture they’re nowhere.

All this attention we’re paying to events there isn’t even wholly about them; the larger issue is the governance of Scottish football. The Ibrox freak show is amusement for some, schadenfreude for others and simply banter for more. But to those of us who take the game seriously, and care about it, events at Ibrox are a microcosm of a wider problem; the cancer eating away at our national sport, rotting it from within.

But there’s more. Their attitude stinks not just because it’s the product of unbelievable – and grossly misplaced – arrogance, but because it’s fundamentally unappreciative.

At the helm of their club is a notorious liar, a man who has no qualms about gilding the lily whenever he pleases, a man a judge in his homeland says will alter his narrative to suit whatever audience he’s in front of at any given time.

Yesterday he sat in a courtroom and feigned amnesia for most of the proceeding. Then, in violation of a judge’s orders, he went outside and told a subservient media that he had won some great victory, when, in fact, he had simply avoided jail.

To me, that seems like it ought to be an occasion for relief.

For this guy it’s business as usual, and that ought to trouble these people more than it does.

The media, which today proclaimed his great win, are not going to dig deep into what’s really going on at their club.

They never have before.

Theirs is now a cut-and-paste profession; every major story they’ve “broken” in the last five years was on the forums and blogs first.

They contributed nothing to the cause of “saving Rangers” and their habit of jumping into bed with anyone who claims to want to “invest” and give a manager a “war chest” long ago ceased to be embarrassing and has been a major factor in creating the circumstances that let men like Whyte and Green in there.

King is no better than those men, and I would have thought Sevco fans would have had a great deal of interest in those proceedings yesterdays and those still to come.

But their intolerance keeps getting in the way of their common sense. James Doleman now joins the ranks of “the enemy” when all he, and others, have done is try to keep them informed about events surrounding something they claim to love.

Yes, but he’s just “an obsessed Tim with an agenda.”

If more of them had given a damn, if more of them had focussed their own meagre intellects on events at Ibrox they might not be in such a godawful state.

And they know it. And they hate it.

And that’s why they’re so pissed off all the time.

Nevertheless, their behaviour and ingratitude is shameful.

It says a lot about who they are.

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Can You Hear The Peepil Sing?

rangers-bannersAs some of you might be aware, when I’m not writing about football I like to blog on politics, and at the weekend there, I released a magazine on the subject for my site Comments Isn’t Free.

When the Charlie Hebdo attacks rocked the world last month, I wrote a big piece on free speech, defending the rights of people to say, sing or write anything they like, without limits and without restrictions at all.

To me, that’s an article of faith, something I believe in religiously. Free speech is the most important of our freedoms, because without it, the rest wouldn’t matter a damn as the government could do what it liked with them and we’d be unable even to protest.

Lately, this is a subject that gets me into trouble, because one of the things I’m doing online right now is aggressively promoting the election of as many SNP candidates to Westminster as possible, and I’m often asked how I square with that with my vociferous opposition to the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act, to which I devoted fully one third of my free speech piece.

It’s quite simple, really. I’m not a single issue voter; I consider more than just one plank of the party platform before I put a cross on a ballot paper, and right now we’re faced with a ghastly choice of horrors.

Only one party which stands a chance of holding the balance of power down there wants the things I do.

That answer doesn’t go down well with some people, people who’re happy to bang the free speech drum as long as they like what the other person is saying. I find it a bit rich when they try to denigrate my view by hiding behind that, and it’s caused more than a few arguments.

Why am I telling you this? It’s simple, really.

I can’t get to the point of this article without covering the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act first, because it’s the elephant in the room.

For the record, it’s a disgusting piece of legislative over-reach that should never have been put on the books. Unlike some people, I do not regard it as an anti-Irish or anti-Catholic law – indeed, a large number of Sevco fans have been charged under it, along with supporters of Hibs and Hearts – but on almost every occasion that it’s been used against Celtic fans those prosecutions clearly fall under the rubric of attacking political expression.

That makes it even more scandalous and indefensible.

Let me elaborate on that for a moment, and why it’s important.

For one thing, this law accomplished precisely nothing that other, existing laws, couldn’t have done fairly easily and comfortably. When Sevco fans, who sing stuff like The Famine Song and The Billy Boys are prosecuted under this law, they might just as easily have been charged under a ream of legislation that was already in place. Those legislations were specifically created to tackle hate speech, and those songs certainly qualify.

Celtic fans singing about Ireland would not have been prosecutable under those laws, which is part of the reason many of our supporters believe the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act was created in the first place. As I said, I think they are wrong … but it is a dangerous law nonetheless and one with which needs to be repealed at the earliest opportunity.

With that said, I can tell you that even writing about this makes me highly uncomfortable, because I’m forced to defend things I abhor.

There seems to be a lot of anger amongst Celtic fans tonight about the SPFL’s decision to take no action in relation to the League Cup semi final. I understand that anger, and I agree that the decision reeks of cowardice.

But you know what? It’s for the best, and I’m coming down on the SPFL’s side. I hate that too.

This nonsense about removing politics from football has had its day, and it doesn’t matter to me whether it’s UEFA or FIFA trotting out that hypocritical line or if it’s the SPFL and the Scottish Government.

Equally, I find the notion that people should have some right not to be offended to be ridiculous. The world doesn’t work like that. If you start introducing it in football stadiums, how long before no songs are being sung at all?

How long before the scoring of a goal becomes problematic? Players aren’t allowed to properly celebrate them anymore, so that’s not as farfetched as perhaps it at first sounds.

The SPFL could have taken action today, and many people are going to say they should have.

For months now we’ve heard about how “Scotland needs the Celtic – Rangers game”, and without going into all the various arguments surrounding Sevco, to all intents and purposes the world thought that’s exactly what it was watching.

And you know what? The deplorable behaviour of the Sevco support was a shocking, embarrassing, throwback to a dark era which makes Scotland look like a laughing stock and makes the media hype look demented, because it was.

This game is everything our society can do without, and that does make the SPFL’s decision today seem absolutely ridiculous.

Furthermore, as I’ve said, I disagree with the Offence Behaviour at Football Act on the basic principle that it criminalises free speech.

But right now, like it or not, it’s the law of the land, and the SPFL are today saying that they’re perfectly alright with the law being broken.

Amongst the songs sung by the Sevco fans were a number that appeared on the Police Scotland press release of “unacceptable” ones … and whilst I have some sympathy with the argument that the police couldn’t very well have arrested 10,000 people, the SPFL were, and are, in a position where they can take action against clubs who’s fans engage in mass criminality.

They haven’t, and so yes, that decision is cowardly.

Here’s the problem though.

Had the SPFL decided to take action today Celtic fans, who didn’t break the law, would have ended up in the dock with the Sevco supporters who did. If there’s one thing Scottish society understands it’s this “moral equivalence” crap that says both sides are as bad as each other. Try as they might, a lot of people can’t shake it. They see no difference between anti-Catholic singing and songs about the Irish war of independence.

Normally, I wouldn’t give a monkeys about opinions based on such ignorance, but this is Scottish football, where the governing bodies only go after Rangers and Sevco if they’ve got no other choice or if they can find a way to drag Celtic into it to.

Let’s not beat around the bush here. We know full well that’s what would have happened.

There are people reading this who probably think both clubs should be hammered. I have no doubt about that at all, and as difficult as it is for some people to wrap their heads around the idea that sectarianism at football games should be tackled by the courts is supported by, according to recent opinion polls, nearly 90% of the population in Scotland.

Many people do believe we’re as bad as each other, and trying to argue the toss with them does no good whatsoever. Those people, like many of us, would rather the so-called “Old Firm game” was never played again.

We have more in common with those folk than they would like to admit.

They can’t wrap their heads around how Celtic fans feel mostly the same way.

So today, fellow Troops in Hoops, be careful what you wish for. The SPFL has decided there’s no case to answer, and as grisly a picture as that paints of Scotland – a country where genuine bigotry and sectarianism is the accepted norm – I can’t even pretend to come down on the other side of the case, because first I support unrestricted free speech and second because I know that even if we’re operating according to the “letter of the law”, whether I like it or not, that law is written in such a way that we would certainly have ended up in the dock too, although our fans did nothing wrong.

The vagueness of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act is one of the many, many things wrong with it. It’s too open to interpretation.

I honestly, genuinely, hate writing about this subject because I know full well I’m going to upset nearly everyone, but as a writer that’s part of the job description and I can’t lambast the media for not speaking out when I’m self-censoring.

I find much of the media reaction to this decision to be scandalous and inconsistent. A very few of our journalists – like Ewan Murray – get pass marks because although I disagree with them in principle, they, at least, were demanding action from the day of the game itself and thus have earned the right to call this decision a joke.

Others are just leaping onto a passing bandwagon, after years of silence on the issue.

Anything to have a whack at an easy target.

I despise the sectarian filth that inhabits parts of this country. They embarrass us, they paint a picture of our society which is badly skewed and their hate is as catching as a deadly virus. I wish to God they could be educated out of their arsehole views … but whilst they hold those views I’ve got no choice but to defend their right to express them.

I don’t like the way a small section of the Celtic support can’t get a grip of itself either, in particular those who thought it was alright to disrupt the last Remembrance Day silence with a “protest.” The right to unrestricted free speech carries responsibilities too, and they gave no consideration to the club or to their fellow fans, which is just disgraceful.

I also wish to God so-called neutrals would get over their irrational tendency to lump both clubs together in the same cesspit. It is intellectually dishonest and lazy, and it makes enemies out of people with whom many of them actually have common cause.

Political expression is what it says on the tin, and whether you like it or not is irrelevant.

If you ban The Roll of Honour you’re going to wake up one day and find yourselves unable to sing Flower of Scotland. If you’ve not wised up to that yet, this is the time to start.

Today’s decision was a fudge. We all know it. But it was a necessary one because once this can of worms is open there’s no closing it. When we start punishing clubs for the songs fans sing we are well and truly on the slippery slope … and it only goes one way.

I’m glad this article is finished. Defending the rights of trash who sing The Billy Boys is exhausting and makes me want to take a shower. Defending the SPFL for lacking the balls to actually separate songs of hate from songs commemorating a revolutionary struggle is infuriating and makes me want to hit something hard.

Today’s decision is the right one, for the wrong reasons. It casts a dark shadow on the game here, but that was the inevitable consequence of all the hype that surrounded this fixture, and which a lot of us felt deeply uneasy about beforehand, knowing this was coming.

Thank God for Raith Rovers knocking Sevco out of the cup.

Thank God for the incompetence of Ally McCoist, Kenny McDowell and the Sevco board.

I am no hurry – Scotland is in no hurry – to go through this shaming experience again.

This is a horrible place to live at times, because a small minority insist on keeping it that way.

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A National Outrage?

neil lennon 1When is it going to stop? When does this thing end? What is it going to take before this thing runs its course? Will it take Neil Lennon seriously injured? Maimed? Dead, God forbid? What will it take before a halt is called to this persecution? To this irrational hate?

What has happened to the Celtic manager – what is still happening, what continues to happen – is an outrage. Yet all too often, it seems to me and to others that the expression of that outrage is limited to ourselves, to the Celtic message boards, to our voices in the stands.

Scandalously, the rest of this country barely trembles. It barely rouses itself from apathy long enough to either notice or care. Attacks on Lennon were once front page news. They still are, but in a different way. Now the press gleefully reports that the thugs might force him out of the country.

The truth is, most other people would have walked away long ago. Attacks on this man are commonplace now, almost routine, almost an annual event. First it was assaults in the street. Then it was bombs. Then it was an actual physical attack whilst he was standing on the touchline, doing his job. I guess we should be grateful that this time it was only some spitting, some coins thrown, a badly aimed Bovril that hit a journalist instead.

It stinks that this is something we should find consolation in.

It stinks that we are pleased that it was only spitting, as if we, as well as Lennon, have got off light.

You know what? We did. All of us did, and we’re dimly aware of it on some level. Because, deep down, we know we’ve all dodged a bullet here. Deep down, in our heart of hearts, we know that if something calamitous does one day happen to Neil Lennon that it will ignite something even more dramatic, something without a name, something hateful and evil, and awful, that it will rip this country in two, that it will create the kind of divisions which might never be healed.

I often think there are people out there who want it that way. Oh I don’t mean the crazies and the sickos and the whack-jobs who inhabit the dark swamps of the net and hang out in dingy bars where you know you could pick up anything for the right price.

No, I mean people in plush rooms, in nice offices, people who wouldn’t soil their own hands or their own reputations by giving in to their own prejudices to quite that extent, but who’d happily stand on the side-lines and watch, and then make hay from the aftermath.

People like the hacks who have waited a lifetime to cover something on that magnitude, to pour their fake outrage out, to unleash their own irrational hate and fury. To act, finally, and with abandon, like the true apex hypocrites that they really are, blaming the rest of society for forces they have helped to unleash.

The truth is, and we know it for a fact, that they have done everything they can to stir the soup. Their column inches, their ludicrous radio statements, their ill-chosen – or perhaps carefully chosen, who knows how their minds work – comments about Lennon “bringing it on himself”, about how he should “learn to keep his head down”, give license to dangerous people to do diabolical things. These are not stupid people, or at least they are not that stupid. On some level they must realise this, they must understand what they’re helping to promote. Yet they still do it.

So too do the politicians, who’s own fake outrage has already been unleashed, to devastating effect, with the passage of un-necessary, restrictive and dangerous laws, which pick on easy targets instead of tackling the real problem. They made it into an issue about football fans, rather than confronting the truth; that this is an issue with its roots in wider society.

These are the people who called a summit meeting, and elevated a football match into a national scandal because Neil Lennon had the temerity to go nose to nose with the darling of the radio shows and newspaper offices. When the same man was sent bombs and bullets, and attacked in the street, they expressed half-regret and then walked on by and did nothing.

On top of this, the justice system that was supposed to protect him has failed, utterly, and in ways which defy belief. The same criminal courts which threaten to destroy the lives of dozens of young men because they sing certain songs allowed the two men responsible for those outrageous acts to escape serious charges, and sent them down, instead, for conspiracy to commit assault. With bombs.

Where were the prosecutions under the Terrorism Act, which would have been more appropriate? Lennon was not the only target; bombs were sent to the QC Paul McBride, and even to a Member of the Scottish Parliament. That is, by its very definition, an act of domestic terrorism.

Let me pose a question to you, a very simple one.

Had the manager of another Scottish club been sent bombs, had another QC, with his own involvement in football, been sent bombs, had, say, a Scottish Member of Parliament who’s constituency includes Ibrox, been sent a bomb in the post, and furthermore, had the perpetrators, and not the victims, been of Irish Catholic descent, do you think the justice system would have allowed such phony charges? Would the Crown Prosecution Service have acted so without teeth?

Of course not. The full weight of the system would have been brought to bear. As it should. And as it wasn’t in this case, a case which attracted global headlines.

Even more alarmingly, in the case of Lennon’s being attacked at Tynecastle, an assault which took place in view of the Sky cameras and was seen by every man, woman and child in the country, and by millions across Europe, a jury could not bring itself to deliver a guilty verdict.

This goes beyond football. This goes beyond anything society should accept.

Yet this society does. This country continues to tolerate this cancer at its heart. It continues to allow this man to be persecuted, and terrorised, and it seemingly will not stop until he is longer here.

And where does that leave the rest of us? It doesn’t seem to matter at all. Because the outrage one would expect, the outpouring of national revulsion, it just isn’t there. People can say that those who’re doing it are a small minority, and this is undoubtedly true.

Those people are not the ones who concern me any more than Nigel Farage concerns me with his Walter Mitty persona, and his rag-bag party of small minded bigots and deranged idiots one bad night from being sectioned. I am more afraid of those who can’t see past the good suits, to the clown costumes underneath, the people who think this guy and his circus tent freak show are the answer, and are worth voting for.

In Lennon’s case, what scares me is not the hate-filled songs, the occasional acts of violence, the whistling and the jeering, the sounds of the lynch-mob. It’s the silence of the rest. It’s the failure to condemn. It is the absence of outrage which troubles me most, that and the way some members of the press still want to blame the victim for his suffering.

When I published my first book, Fragments, in February of last year, I wanted to pay tribute to Lennon, and so I mentioned him at the end of the intro, with the words “You stood tall against the bullets, you stood fast against the bombs. As a manager, you take the criticism that goes with the job. As a man, you are an inspiration”, and I meant it then and I mean it now.

It is hard to think of a braver man in this whole country than the manager of Celtic.

He has had to be. But there comes a time when every man decides the game isn’t worth the candle, when he realises he has to put his family and his personal safety front and centre. If Lennon is driven from our club, and from our country, as the press today suggests, it will be an unrivalled disgrace, and a stain which will never be erased from the national sport.

Yet I sometimes think it’s better ending like that than in the other ways it could go.

Once upon a time, it might have been possible to dismiss that kind of talk as overly paranoid, as exaggerating the seriousness of what faces him. The bullets, the bombs, the attack on Lennon during the Hearts match, they should have dissuaded us from any such notions.

But we know that certain followers, of certain clubs, a small sub-sect of Scottish society, has all the reason it will ever need to hate Neil Lennon because of his nationality and his religion. If the hate were confined to them then it would be a less troubling matter.

We now know what we have long suspected; that the hate for Lennon is broader, and deeper, and more ingrained than that. That it takes many forms, that it inhabits many more minds than those disturbed followers “of God & Ulster” who believe this man is the enemy of their blood.

This was not those. This was supporters of Aberdeen, by Christ.

A club with no connections to, and no love of, the jackbooted thugs of the Scottish far right.

What reason could such people possibly have for hating Neil Lennon so? Some of the hacks today have gone out of their way to assure us that this was not the anti-Irish, anti-Catholic hatred which has seen Lennon targeted by the fanatics. So what was it?

It was common, garden variety, irrational hate. The media should recognise it. They’ve helped to foster it. One article, published today, dismisses in its headline the anti-Irish sentiment as being part of this, but then goes on to list what are, in the writers opinion of course, the reasons why Lennon has it coming anyway. It’s a flagrantly disgusting, shameless piece for which the writer should be ashamed.

Well, when a guy “brings it on himself”, do you need to be exclusively Loyalist to hate him? Or is this a party where anyone can join in? To get into this lynch-mob do you need to come with your burning cross and your white robes, or can you show up in your club colours, whatever they might be?

I return again to the “explanation” pushed by the press, the one that gives license to the haters, that gives them permission to hate, that Lennon is an abrasive personality, a man who’s reaping what he has sowed, who, in a manner of speaking, is getting what he deserves.

If this isn’t stirring up hate, I don’t know what to call it.

The game in Scotland has been full of “abrasive personalities” and none were subject to this. Lennon was a “difficult player” on the park, but so too was Strachan, was McCall, was Butcher.

None of those three men, all managers now, who all ply their trade here, who visit different grounds week in week out, have ever been sent bullets, have ever been sent bombs, have ever been attacked on the touchline as they did their jobs.

The media which condemned Lennon for his “touchline behaviour” offered none of that criticism to other coaches who’s touchline antics show passion or commitment. They have allowed character assassination on a hitherto unseen scale to go on, even insofar as they have ignored or excused stunning acts of hypocrisy. They allowed former Scottish National Coach Craig Brown, a man who history has conveniently forgotten was once allowed to sing sectarian songs down a telephone, (and he kept his job afterwards to) to lambast Lennon for conduct unbecoming just a few weeks before he, himself, was involved in a touchline altercation where he physically attacked someone.

The press reaction to that? A few humorous pieces, and then a coat of whitewash. Contrast it with Lennon’s nose-to-nose five second flare up with McCoist, and the treatment it received in our gallant sporting press. This is not simply one rule for one man and a different rule for another. The judgement heaped on Lennon and the lack thereof heaped on Brown speaks volumes as to the level at which these people play their little games. Blame the victim. Make him the aggressor. Lay the blame at his door … and wait until the next lunatic acts according to the subtext.

What happened at Tynecastle this weekend was a national scandal, and the real scandal is not that it happened but that nothing but the usual happened after it. The Celtic fan sites erupted. Aberdeen FC apologised, the SPFL released a statement, certain members of the press blamed Lennon himself, and the rest of the country didn’t give a damn.

If Lennon leaves Scotland, I will understand and sympathise, and part of me will mourn that it came to this. Yet part of me will be relieved that it didn’t come to something much darker. And I know who I will hold accountable for it, either way.

What a shocking indictment on them, and their so-called professions, that is.

Hack journalists who stir up hate, cowardly politicians who ignore it … you are the real national disgrace.

You are the true oppressors of Neil Lennon.

Wherever he goes, whatever he does, he will be in our hearts, and in our thoughts.

As will you. Never forget that. Because we won’t.

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