The Herald Sacks Angela Haggerty As Journalistic Freedom Hangs By A Thread

Angela Haggerty 1 SAToday, as the bulk of Scotland’s journalists keep a low profile and say nothing in support of Graham Spiers, a second columnist at the Herald has been carpeted after pressure from Sevco.

This time it’s Angela Haggerty, and this time the paper didn’t stop with embarrassing her.

In fact, they sacked her.

To call this a crisis for the profession is an understatement. Its entire reason for being is hanging by a thread. No-one working within its ranks is safe today if they collectively allow this to happen, without comment, without criticism, standing idly by as they currently do.

One organisation – and it’s a skint West of Scotland football club; we’re not talking about a multi-billion pound transnational corporate behemoth with unlimited funds and a legal department that would make Coca Cola’s CEO piss his pants – has decided it will not tolerate any negative press, at all, and it is now set on threatening any media outlet which doesn’t play ball.

And most of Scotland’s press has fallen shamefully silent.

I have never had less respect for them than I do today. I have never felt this much contempt for those who work within its ranks.

They are cowards almost to a man.

The rare exceptions are hung out to dry and made twist in the wind for the amusement of a mob.

There’s no excuse for it.

If their business is really all about money – and commercial considerations appear to be high on the list of factors in what The Herald has done – then they’re essentially putting a price tag on their integrity.

And in this case, that appears to be around £40,000.

So an entire generation of real journalists, of writers of conviction, decades of breaking big stories and a proud history of bringing truth to power, it’s all been flogged off and betrayed, for less than the half the price of a one bedroom flat in the drug addict part of town.

What price a free press in Scotland, eah?

In England, Peter Oborne resigned last year from The Telegraph, after he said their entire coverage of the banking industry and the politics surrounding it had been slanted by the advertising fees paid by organisations like HSBC, who were under investigation for multiple counts of fraud, money laundering and other offences … none of which his paper wanted to write about.

This is where we are now in Scotland, it seems, only a smaller scale.

A much smaller one.

An embarrassingly small one.

There’s no such thing as a free press; now you, too, can buy it for the price of a family car.

For some at these papers, the stench must be overwhelming.

Oborne wasn’t a man working alone, as Graham Spiers isn’t. Yet Angela was the first mainstream journalist working in the media here in Scotland to stand up for him, and based on what’s just happened to her certain people will be calculating that she’s going to be the last.

She better not be.

Everyone who can hold a pen should be behind her.

You know, when the Charlie Hebdo attacks murdered so many of that publication’s journalists in Paris, it brought forth a wave of support for journalist freedom that filled me with enormous pride.

I now realise how phony that all was, because it’s easy to express support for the dead when you’re not personally in the gun-sights. It’s easy to take a stand, or to look like you’re taking a stand, when you’re not being put under pressure. What we saw wasn’t courage; it was calculation. An entire industry lathered itself up in self congratulation for its “courage”, and all the while it buried child abuse allegations, government scandals, allowed criminals to escape justice and corrupt corporations to escape scrutiny … out of fear.

Fear of less than a bullet.

Fear of losing a few quid.

Here in Scotland journalists fold the hand because they get some abuse on Twitter. Editors refuse to let plainly true stories run because the Blue KKK might organise a dozen or so unemployed yobs to protest outside on a Monday morning. And God knows how much gets buried because advertisers issue veiled threats about pulling their copy.

Can you imagine these people ever doing anything so serious as to warrant the attention of real fanatics, and not just the Saturday afternoon variety?

No, me neither.

A collection of cowards, that’s what we have instead of a press.

The only people with guts in all this are the Bampots, of whom Angela is a shining example.

She’ll continue to write the truth, no matter what it costs her, because she gets it. She understands. She takes the job seriously and she knows that, in the end, she herself is a cog in a big wheel and her voice is important, and maintaining it through this kind of shit is what will keep the nature of what she does going long after those who sold it out are dead and gone.

Those of us in the blogosphere don’t do it for huge rewards.

I work for limited advertising and donations, and entirely without regrets.

The bills get paid (most of the time) but I’m not driving a sports car.

I have a media degree and could have pursued a career in the press, but I never wanted it.

On a day like today I’m glad of that.

Because I couldn’t do as Graham Spiers may have to.

I couldn’t go into the offices of an organisation that just shafted me.

I couldn’t call myself a journalist and have my livelihood dependent on the whims of the advertising department.

And that’s not a criticism of Graham. I’ve read his work, and I know he has balls. I also understand where he is right now. The guy probably has a mortgage to pay and a wife and kids to support; he’s not in a position where he can spit the dummy out of the pram and walk away.

Which is exactly the point.

No newspaper worthy of the name should ever put one of its writers in such a diabolical, heart-wrenching position.

It makes me sick. It makes me physically sick.

Graham knows now what his lifetime of work has been worth, and what it means to the bean counters. That has to hurt like a bastard and to say I feel enormous sympathy with him, and with Angela, and with every other writer out there who’s facing similar pressure … well words don’t do justice to how absolutely scunnered I am for them all.

Here on the blogosphere, we operate entirely without those concerns.

But we also work entirely without a safety net.

The media is fond of telling their readers that there are no restrictions on what we are allowed to write – as if the libel laws and contempt of court laws don’t exist on the internet. In truth, our every article is a walk along the tightrope. Our every utterance has to be weighed against the possible consequences, and I’m not just talking about legal ones.

We know what’s out there.

We know those people exist.

Some of us deal with their abuse on a day to day basis.

But we’re big boys and girls, and we can take it.

We have to, because on days like today it looks as if no-one else will.

But I could be wrong.

Maybe every journalist in Scotland is furious about this. Maybe they’re organising industrial action in support of their colleagues even now. Maybe they get that to walk away from Graham and Angela is to paint a target on their backs. Maybe they get what an enormous moment this is. Maybe.

And then again, maybe some of them just don’t care.

Hell, the money is good, it’s steady, and you get to see your name in print.

What’s not to like?

Like career politicians, with not one iota of political conviction, maybe that’s what really matters to them.

And if that’s the case, hey, fair play to they.

But they ought to stop pretending to be journalists.

This is the third article in a row I’ve written on this site, on this subject, and that is depressing and infuriating in equal measure.

Yet it’s important to keep on doing it.

It’s important to keep on speaking the truth, even when it does come at a cost.

Even when it does have consequences.

Because the cost and the consequences of silence are even greater still.

(I’m a full time writer and the support of my readers is what keeps me goingr. If you like what I do, and are able, and want to support the work the site does, you can make a donation at the link. If every reader was able to donate a small sum every year that would keep the site going strong well into the future. Many thanks in advance.)

[paypal-donation]

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.)

[paypal-donation]

The Internet Bampots: Right From The Start

craig-whyte-rangers-court_3345309Last night, as I was reading over the incredible catalogue of crimes with which former Rangers and Sevco directors are being charged, something dawned on me.

None of this would ever have come to pass – not Whyte, not Green, perhaps not even King – but for the contempt in which many in the media and in the game’s governing bodies once held (and some still hold) the Internet Bampots.

Yet today, I feel more than a small degree of satisfaction; indeed, I feel fully vindicated in almost everything I’ve spent the last few years writing.

In some ways that’s enough.

It’s time we got some acknowledgement though.

I understand that there are legal minefields here in which I don’t want to tread. That’s the reason Part 3 of my overview of how Rangers and the SFA almost destroyed Scottish football has been delayed so long. It’s not that I lost the thread of it or couldn’t be bothered writing it; much of it is already done. The rest … well, the events Part 3 charts are in the court system at the moment and I’m being careful not to write a word that second guesses those proceedings.

I’m going to be careful here too.

But there are things that I can say with absolute certainty.

Not one single person connected to Scottish football is now in even the slightest doubt that Craig Whyte, Charles Green and the cohort that trooped through Ibrox in the years from 2011 – 2015 did enormous harm to the institutions of Rangers and Sevco.

Not one single person does not believe that some sections of an almost overwhelmingly subservient, cheerleading, wholly ineffectual media was not at least partially responsible for the chaos that has followed, by lending credibility to men who otherwise would have had none.

And not one single person with the remotest interest in the sport here is in the slightest doubt that had the SFA and the SPFL taken their own regulatory roles more seriously that none of these guys would have been within miles of a major Scottish football club.

As a lawyer might say, “these are the facts of the case and they are undisputed.”

The only people who can emerge from this with their heads held high are the fans, and in particular the online community who went where the press and the authorities didn’t want to go and who dug into Whyte and then Charles Green.

I’m going to do a few pieces on the coming case, obviously, but for the moment I just want to look at the basic charge sheet, the top sheet, not the more detailed indictment.

In broad terms there are three principle sections to it; 2010 until February 2012, February 2012 until the assets of the liquidated and defunct Rangers were purchased by Green and what followed on afterwards.

From the first, the Internet Bampots were onto Whyte.

Some in the media would rather ignore that.

The governing bodies have turned doing that into an art form.

Some in the media, at least, started nicking our stories and actually pushing them, although claiming exclusives they weren’t entitled to. The governing bodies waited until Whyte had already put on his show, dragged Scottish football through the mud and put a boot print on the national shirt before they did something about it, expressing their surprise the whole while.

According to the indictment, Craig Whyte is being charged with wilfully putting the club into administration, in order to leave behind creditors and emerge debt free.

It would take a neck of solid brass to pretend that comes as a shock to anybody, because he was quite upfront about it right from the beginning, and as the Bampots know well he even told the governing bodies about his plans.

If what he’s done is a criminal offence – and a court will decide that in good time – then it’s not hard to make a case that, based on information in the public domain, Neil Doncaster and Stewart Regan should think themselves awful damned lucky they aren’t there in the dock with him, indicted alongside the rest, as co-conspirators.

Above and beyond what he told them himself, Whyte had a string of failed and liquidated businesses behind him, and we pointed this out, with many tweeting Regan at the SFA directly with their findings.

Beyond that, there was actual, verifiable, credible information in the public domain a full four months before the club entered administration, and it was put there by Mark Daly of the BBC, laying out Whyte’s previous MO in some detail.

At the time, not one other media outlet was demanding a fuller exploration of those accusations; indeed, many of his contemporaries in the print media sneered at him, and some of them continue to do so to this day.

But he had the full throated support of, and respect from, the Bampots.

I’ll tell you what I think of Mark Daly;

Scottish football is enormously indebted to him and the team who worked with him on those documentaries, because without them I am convinced – 100% – that Craig Whyte would still be at the helm of a football club calling itself Rangers, whether visibly or working behind the scenes. Oh the hacks might have dug around and found some of it, but Graham Speirs has already told us they knew things they never published because they didn’t want to be seen to have been the people who brought the regime down.

Sure as Hell, nobody in any position of authority wanted to hear us.

We know that because at Hampden they weren’t even really listening to him.

In fact, evidence suggest that not only did our governing bodies know this was going on but they wholeheartedly backed it, as Neil Doncaster himself said on 18 May 2012, when he dismissed the difference between a CVA and a liquidation as an “irrelevance” and said the “attitudes of creditors” should not matter to football governing bodies when dealing with financially stricken clubs.

He went on to say that whilst he didn’t think it was “right” for clubs to dump their debts and emerge unscathed on the other side that “it happens” and he had no problem with it. He had his facts badly wrong when trying to name clubs who had done it – the two examples he gave of clubs which had gone the NewCo route were Leeds and Palace, none of whom actually did – but few can be in any doubt that he wasn’t concerned in the slightest by the sheer immorality of it, or the dangers it posed to Scottish football in the long term.

He ought to have been sacked there and then.

His continued employment is a source of enormous frustration and offence to many people and I long since concluded that he can only be there because he still retains the confidence of our clubs, which means that on some level many of them do support this utter nonsense and don’t want to see him replaced by someone with a different view.

Indeed, this time last year I published a piece called A Moment Of Clarity, after he’d started 2015 with a scandalous interview which turned football reality in Scotland on its head.

I thought, then, that his comments were so absolutely ridiculous that he couldn’t possibly survive them … but a year on down the line, there he is, still in his office.

His presence there is about to heap scandal on disgrace.

He and Regan better understand this; they are our great piece of “unfinished business” and their part in this isn’t going to be simply ignored or airbrushed out of all memory. This is what these two will be remembered for, long after they’ve left office.

We are going to keep on highlighting these issues until they’re both gone, and then far beyond, because their conduct can’t be allowed to escape scrutiny and the verdict of history, otherwise their behaviour becomes a reflection on the wider game here.

They would have flushed sporting integrity down the pan in 2012.

Only the intervention of the fans stopped that.

If Craig Whyte eventually gets up, in open court, and talks about how Doncaster and Regan knew exactly what he was up to the whole time then that’s catastrophic. That’s a FIFA style scandal on our own doorstep, and the world will know it.

The reputational damage to our sport that the allegation itself will do … even if it’s never examined in greater detail … enormous.

The directors of the other clubs have to know some of what we do; are they waiting for legal proceedings before acting to safeguard the game?

Shouldn’t the chairmen themselves be asking for an independent inquiry, not into Whyte and Green but what the governing body CEO’s really knew about events at Ibrox?

I can’t put it more bluntly than to say that these two men and their continuing presence at Hampden represents an existential risk to the reputation of our sport … and the more you dig into the charge sheet the more serious it starts to look for them.

And once again, the Internet Bampots were signposting the way.

There isn’t one Celtic site whose writers and contributors were not asking questions, from the off, about the manner in which Charles Green emerged, as if from nowhere, to bid for the assets of OldCo Rangers. The antennae were twitching from the moment his name was first mentioned and it didn’t take long before numerous links between Whyte and Green were established.

Those links are unmistakably real; there’s not the slightest debate about them and no rational person with a scintilla of knowledge about these matters actually believes these two men didn’t know each other beforehand.

It might not have been Paul McConville who first starting asking questions about Sevco 5088 and its relationship to a company called Sevco Scotland Ltd, but he certainly wrote a series of outstanding, and deadly, pieces on that subject.

Not one newspaper article ever ran asked the questions those articles demanded.

The SFA never once issued a statement on them.

Those question have been ongoing since mid-2012 and were ignored by governing bodies and media outlets alike, although then and now they were enormously significant. I myself posed some of those questions when Green announced the share issue, and Whyte emerged to allege that he’d had some role in setting Sevco up.

Plenty of us were asking those questions.

No-one wanted to answer us.

The media blanked them, or accused of us being fantasists.

The governing bodies … well, I have no idea how they felt about the possibility that they might have assisted in the perpetration of a fraud, but as far as I can see the road would be wide open, in the result of guilty verdicts, for not only the creditors of OldCo Rangers to sue them but for those who bought shares under Green to do so as well.

See, that’s something else no-one else ever explores; the SFA and the SPL/SPFL are regulatory bodies … it is their legal responsibility to assure that the highest standards of corporate governance are being observed by their member clubs.

It’s not enough for them to step back and let those clubs police themselves; this is why fit and proper person criteria exists in the first place, it’s why punishments are handed down for those who violate it.

(Unless those people are connected to Ibrox, which is sort of the point.)

The Pinsent Mason report is an outrage the club should never have been able to get away with, and not one of the Celtic blogs was silent in calling that an embarrassment and a disgrace. That reeked, and it reeks today, especially in light of these court cases.

Anyway, ignorance of these matters – even if we believed they were ignorant – might not be enough to save them from legal consequences, and a judicial inquiry at least.

I repeat; they had, and still have, a duty to do their homework, and not simply abdicate that responsibility to those who run those the clubs. The clubs themselves should be holding them to account for loss of earnings and reputational damage … and I don’t know why they don’t.

And far from learning lessons from those events the SFA continues to ignore its duties, even today.

No-one is asking whether Sevco is technically trading whilst insolvent, and the backgrounds of those who’ve given them the latest loans to keep on the lights aren’t deemed worthy of comment in the press, far less an investigation at Hampden.

Once again, only The Bampots seem interested in what is obviously a major story.

If that money had been dropped off at Ibrox in cash, the proceeds of a heist … Jesus, are we to believe Doncaster and Regan would simply have shrugged their shoulders and deemed that a matter for the club itself to look into?

What kind of people are these?

The technical term for this is “institutional failure”, and on the larger stage it’s what brought us the banking crash of 2008, in which the roots of Rangers’ demise and all these issues can be found.

Ignorance isn’t what happened anyway; what actually happened is partly to be found in the nearly universal contempt for the bloggers that existed then and which will we continue to struggle against in our quest to be taken more seriously.

The governing bodies were well aware of all this stuff at the time, and the media were too.

Enough people on Twitter and elsewhere were sending them links and stories and telling them what we’d found out, and what we were speculating on.

Either the governing bodies decided these issues weren’t worth looking into or they knew more than people were aware, and didn’t like us rocking the boat.

The media refused to take us even remotely seriously, and that was because they didn’t acknowledge us as worthy participants in the debate.

Nobody is laughing at us now.

Nobody underestimates our role.

I’ve been doing this for nearly five years, and I now make a tentative living out of it because of the support some of the readers are able to provide – and I’m beyond grateful to all those who do. Between that and the ads I manage to make this thing work.

As a consequence, I can now devote myself full-time to the task of analysing these issues and others like them, to research and explore evidence no matter where it comes from.

I never expect to make the money a “journalist” at The Daily Record would; if I was interested in that I’d be pursuing it properly as a career, but knowing that I’d have to give up my independence and the right to say what I wanted.

Money isn’t everything. As long as I can pay my bills as they fall due I’m a happy camper, because I’ve come to love this stuff and it gives me the freedom to pursue my grander goal which is to make my way as a writer of fiction. (If I can ever finish the second novel!)

Likewise, I don’t do it for glory because there’s precious little of that when I have to be hypercritical of my own club at times; on those horrible days this feels like shovelling shit uphill … or raking leaves in the rain, if I might use one of my own actual experiences to emphasise the point.

Like other guys, I do this because it’s often fun, it’s intellectually challenging and finally because it’s nice to feel part of a wider endeavour and a community all dedicated to the same stuff.

More than that, I genuinely believe this is important.

What I do, what James Doleman’s been doing, what The Clumpany does, what Paul Brennan has been doing even longer than me, what sites like VideoCelts produce every day … this stuff matters.

This isn’t just a Scottish football story … Rangers was a major social institution, and what happened – what was allowed to happen – within its walls for decades, preceding even these events, was outrageous and an affront to more than just sport.

We’re not PR factories, spinning facts and twisting reality.

We’re in nobody’s pockets and nobody’s employ.

We write what we see in front of us, without fear or favour – and I do this about politics in Scotland as well as on football – without taking our cue from others.

None of us expects to win awards, nor great wealth, nor any special status doing what we do.

We have the respect of our peers and the thanks of a great many people who like to be informed and entertained without the media’s PR filter and that’s enough. On most days.

Beyond that, we don’t ask for or want anything at all.

But today, reading the charge sheets against a bunch of people we’ve spent the better part of five years warning Scottish football against, and seeing the catalogue of offences which bear a striking resemblance to those we were asking questions about before even the Fraud Squad got to them, it would be nice if we got some acknowledgement for it.

It would be nice if we got some credit from those who treated us with such appalling disdain.

Because whether these cases end in guilty verdicts or not, these issues, which we were told weren’t worth bothering about, were serious enough to have warranted a trial.

The questions we were asking, and which so many were ignoring, were prescient enough and forensic enough, to have merited police and judicial attention.

The evidence we were digging for, examining, and highlighting in the hope those with the resources and the reach to do it justice, or in the hope that the governing bodies would take note and move to avert the consequences for our sport – and those consequences are coming – and which those people sneered at or refused to even look at … well they had the substance to start the machinery of legal proceedings.

In short, I do believe, verdicts notwithstanding, that we’ve been vindicated in full.

It would be good if our critics acknowledged that simple truth.

The Internet Bampots.

Right from the start.

(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.)

[paypal-donation]

Stirring The Soup

master.national_newspapers_montageAaah the Scottish media and the Sevco supporters.

They are amongst the biggest sodding hypocrites in Scotland.

Today The Daily Record and a large section of the Sevco support are howling anger and spewing venom after Scott Allan handed in a transfer request and got the predictable stick for it on certain social media platforms.

Before I begin with the article proper, I am going to do something that few others ever bother to do.

I am going to defend Facebook, Twitter and the rest.

A lot of people – hacks mostly – say that social media is an open sewer.

I always find myself laughing when I hear that because there are a number of newspapers in this country which have, on occasion, trawled the sewer themselves.

The Daily Mail does it frequently.

By that I mean every single day.

Some of the people at The Sun just can’t help doing it.

And The Daily Record … well, Hell … what to say?

How about “Thugs and Thieves” for openers?

How about employing Jim Traynor for all those years?

How about comparing the Celtic CEO to Saddam Hussein?

Oh yes … and sending a hearse to Celtic Park.

I’m not even going to bother going into their politics coverage, and stuff like The Pledge, which was one of the most obvious forays into the decorative bog roll business that I’ve ever seen.

Social media bothers these people for just one reason.

Social media gives everyone a voice.

Everyone.

Not everyone is coherent.

Not everyone is rational.

Not everyone is sane.

Social media platforms don’t discriminate. They give those folk the same soapbox as your average tabloid journalist, and all those celebrities who are always vying for the public’s consideration.

I love hearing them wail, them in particular, when the people whose attention they are courting suddenly give it to them. Acting like big weans, spitting the dummy out of the pram because of a wee bit of stick … some of them should take a look at my inbox of an evening.

A national newspaper still employs that deplorable, walking haemorrhoid Kate Hopkins, so forgive me for not being terribly interested in fake piety from the press.

I am even less interested in it from Sevco fans with their superiority complex.

Scott Allan has behaved appallingly here, and without the remotest sign of remorse for disrupting his present club’s preparations for the season.

I’m sure it wasn’t just Hibs fans who were colossally unimpressed by pictures of him out jollying with the players who had just beaten his side 6-2 in a cup match. That kind of behaviour is rank.

This is a guy who had a chance to sign for Sevco last year. He opted for Hibs.

He signed a contract with them, and I might be daft for suggesting this but I think he owed them more than spitting on the jersey in the fashion he’s just done.

Is it too much to ask that he acted like a professional and understood the very delicate position of the club who saved his career?

Am I excusing some of the comments that have been posted about him?

Of course not.

But those comments aren’t from fully “with it” individuals.

They are from a handful of asylum inmates, rattling the bars of their cages.

There’s no defending them.

No right thinking person would want to, and it would be a waste of time because these folk are beyond shaming, beyond logic, beyond reason.

They don’t know any better and they’re not inclined to learn.

My gripe is with those who practice the most astonishing hypocrisy.

The Daily Record has spent the last seven days trying to force Hibs’ hand, going to every ex Rangers player who they can get to give a quote about why the Edinburgh side “will have to” do the bidding of the one that plays out of Ibrox.

Intellectual heavyweights like Barry Ferguson and Charlie Miller have been drafted in to give their opinions on the matter, as if either of them were capable of seeing things from anything other than the blue point of view.

The Daily Record is not really a newspaper, which is one of many reasons I do not buy it and never will.

It poses as one, but in fact it has long been the creature of certain vested interests in this country.

The Labour Party is one of them, and whether you sympathise with that organisation or not, whether you vote for it or not, the simple fact is that you will never get proper coverage of Scottish politics within the pages of its principal cheerleader.

There’s no balance. There’s no impartiality.

That’s not me stating a political case; it’s me stating a fact.

The Daily Record’s sports coverage is no better.

In fact, some will say that it’s worse, worse by far.

The paper’s political coverage cheesed a lot of people off this time last year, but the boycotts preceded the referendum by a decade.

The Daily Record is not a trustworthy publication.

It is dishonest, dishonourable and occasionally disgraceful in its conduct and its brand of journalism.

The truth is, the newspaper has done its level best over the past week to put Hibs in as bad a position as possible and to push Scott Allan in the direction of the move.

They were talking about his handing in a transfer request five days ago, almost as if they were suggesting that if he hadn’t already that maybe it was time that he did.

Having played its part in provoking this outrageous situation, they are now washing their hands of responsibility and turning attention to a small group of Neanderthals who have reacted in just the manner they were supposed to.

It’s called stirring the soup.

The Record – which once asked, on the eve of a Celtic – Rangers game, whether Neil Lennon or Hector the Taxman was “the most hated person at Ibrox” – has been doing it a long time.

And as unimpressed as I am by The Record’s “mea culpa”, I am even less moved by the phony outrage gushing out of the Sevco fans sites and their own Twitterati.

As I’ve said, I know all about the lunatic fringe over there and I have the inbox to prove it.

But you know, as bad as it is, I know what I have to put up with is not half as horrendous as some of the vitriol that’s been poured on other people; Jim Spence, Angela Haggerty, Alex Thomson, Mark Daly and others over the last few years.

It was a Sevco manager who demanded the names of an annonymous SFA committee.

It was The Record that chose to publish, and push, that demand, in an outrageous serious of articles akin to a witch-hunt.

But it was the Sevco fans themselves, and their websites, which made sure those names were on the lips of every madman and maniac who knows the words of The Sash.

It was their folk who poured out of the gutter and “hunted” those people.

In their article today, The Record has produced a handful of tweets directed at Allan which, whilst not particularly nice, are more akin to bad taste than genuintely threatening behaviour.

The members of that SFA panel, including a representative of Raith Rovers (whose ground was targeted) actually received death threats so serious Police Scotland got involved.

I’ve looked for evidence that The Daily Record was moved to outrage by that.

I cannot find a single article condemning this vile behaviour except one … and it doesn’t, itself, condemn it but simply publishes the denunciation of those who did it by the arch-hypocrite himself, McCoist, who’s snarling, spitting, spiteful act had got the ball rolling in the first place, and who probably feared damage to his reputation if some of the creatures he had turned loose over-reacted to his all-too-obvious entreaties for action.

What I’m saying is simply this; no-one at The Record seems to have had a particular problem with online vitriol when it’s happened in the past.

(At least as far as football is concerned. When it comes to Scottish politics they display this peculiar myopia time and time again.)

They ignored it when Alex Thomson got it, when Mark Daly was getting it, when Jim Spence was enduring it and when Angela Haggerty was braving it, and the people who were doing it are amongst those squealing like pigs today about the treatment being dished out to an ungrateful (already) overpaid footballer with no sense of loyalty at all.

If I were feeling in a slightly more casual mood, I would say that no-one should have to put up with poisonous remarks on the internet or elsewhere, but you know what?

I actually don’t believe that.

In fact, I think it’s absolute cobblers.

There are professions – and I’m in one of them – where people willingly put themselves in the line of fire, and in the public gaze.

Journalism, literature, art, sport, politics, show business, music …. these aren’t career choices for the shrinking violet.

All of them depend, to one degree or another, on courting attention and encouraging an audience.

Well some of that attention will be the bad kind.

Some of the audience isn’t going to like what you do.

Only a complete halfwit – and it’s usually the kind of person who luxuriates in the praise and lives for every good word – thinks they can have one without the other.

Only the most deluded feel they are somehow above the howling bad reception.

The catcalls. The jeers.

The occasional barbs and abuse.

And on top of that, I’m willing to wager that more people in those fields have chucked it over bad peer reviews than have given up the game because certain parts of their audience told them they were pish, or gave them a bit of verbal.

You know what else?

Some of us even kind of like it.

In last night’s piece for the site, on why so many Scottish football fans have been watching Sevco in recent years (for the Giggle Factor), I said I used to read Richard Littlejohn solely because he wound me up and pissed me off.

If you’ve ever seen Littlejohn, his smug face and in particular that sex pest smile he wears on it, you’ll know just how much he lives for the negativity his work generates. He genuinely does love it. You can’t fail to notice that.

He is never happier, like a pig in its own shit, than when he’s pissed on half the country’s cornflakes of a morning.

His psychic twin, Hopkins, is the same.

I, personally, wear a lot of the insults as if they were badges of honour.

One of the tags I wear with the greatest pride was originally intended as an insult, after all; I am, and have long been, a fully paid up member of the Internet Bampots.

I’ve also been labelled a Cybernat by some and a “professional Rangers hater” by others.

The last one really does make me laugh uncontrollably.

(I don’t earn nearly enough for a start!)

All of this is simply to say that whilst some of the language directed at him, like the stuff urging he and his family a slow death, is vulgar and despicable, that Scott Allan is in the kind of job where a certain amount of that is inevitable.

I’m fairly sure he knew that before today.

He’s not going to be so affected by this that he’ll hang up his football boots to go and work behind a counter at McDonalds.

(Because those sorts of jobs … well the people in them never get stick, do they?)

I’ll go further; I would venture that a guy who tweets pictures of himself out on the piss with the team which just took six off his own is someone who’s stopped giving a monkeys what other people think or say about it.

Someone who does that … you might even say they’re provoking negative commentary, and as long as the folk dishing it out limit it to giving him some grief on Twitter I’m sure he’s big enough and ugly enough to handle that without too much trouble.

The hacks at The Daily Record know all this, because whilst they may appear institutionally stupid (Doha CSC and their “ban” from Iraq comes readily to mind, of course) they actually aren’t as dumb as all that.

The Sevco fan sites, in particular those which have been happy to push crap like the Celtic land deal story, in which they are perfectly willing to “name and shame” and tarnish the reputations of people who simply did their jobs according to the rules (as an EU investigation and several independent inquiries have proved beyond a doubt) either don’t know that or don’t care …. but either way, I’m not impressed by their sudden conversion to online etiquette.

This is typical of the way they behave.

They look at the conduct of a few nutters and numpties online and they don’t react out of genuine anger but instead use it to channel their own prejudices, like a sadistic kid focussing the sun’s rays through a magnifying glass to burn the wings off flies, and in doing so feed their own superiority complex.

“Oh look, he’s getting stick just because he supports ‘The Ranjurs” …”

Underneath all the mock indignation, that’s the self-serving tone that shines through most.

In their eyes, it was ever thus.

Hypocrites all.

It is impossible to take these folk seriously in anything.

(Believe it or not, this is what I do for a living friends and neighbours, and the support of my readers is vital. If you like what I do, and are able, and want to support it, you can make a donation at the link. If every reader was able to donate just £5 a year that would keep the site going strong well into the future. Many thanks in advance.)

[paypal-donation]

A Voice In The Wilderness

_46279870_jim_spence_512Scottish journalism is in a wretched state.

It doesn’t matter which particular aspect of it you are looking at; from politics to football it’s all the same. Awful, almost beyond belief.

Over the last couple of years, the circulation figures for the mainstream press have been in a nosedive the likes of which the industry has never seen.

I follow this through the research other people are doing on the matter, particularly Winning Captains over on CQN, who has been keeping a running score on this for as long as I’ve known him.

The year-by-year drop has been precipitous and looks irreversible.

This is due in no small part to us, of course, but it’s also due to the staggering lack of integrity amongst the hacks.

One of the few exceptions to that is Jim Spence, who’s leaving the BBC after 20 odd years at Radio Scotland.

That depresses me.

Before I get to Jim, I’m going to talk for a minute about the Internet Bampots, and this is partly relevent to Jim’s leaving and the way in which he will be rememberd by us all.

I hear and read a lot of nonsense written about bloggers and blogging.

For one thing, a lot of the hacks castigate us for being lazy with the facts and for not putting real time or effort into our musings.

They have a bastard cheek.

The average newspaper article, which these clowns labour to produce, averages about 500 words.

I can’t speak for others, but my own daily average, whether I’m doing blogs, magazine articles or writing fiction rarely falls below 6,000.

Our hacks would go into convulsions if they had to produce that.

They accuse us of making stuff up too.

I find that especially hilarious as a friend of mine, Colin Paterson, has just started his own blog because, as he put it recently, when you’ve spent your time tweeting fake, ridiculous headlines and people can no longer tell the difference between your spoofs and some of the stuff the hacks actually write then that particular game is up.

I often hear about how we don’t have to work with the pressures the mainstream press do, how we don’t have to get the facts right, how we can just write what we want without fear of the consequences.

This one always bugs me because it is so plainly cobblers.

Blogs and bloggers don’t operate in a parallel universe for God’s sake.

Our work is published, in public, where everyone can see it.

Many of them have faced legal threats.

Others have launched their own legal actions, like the one last year where Wings Over Scotland took on The Scotsman in court and sued them.

We are often accused of being cowards too, of hiding behind pseudonyms.

Which in some ways would be valid, except that any number of us, like Phil and myself, publish under our own names and Paul67 has appeared on TV and the radio so often no-one doesn’t know his full name is Paul Brennan.

Other people use pseudonyms because the alternative is often disgusting abuse and smears, like those which Angela Haggerty had to face after she appeared on a late night news show and committed the awful crime of telling the truth.

My own inbox overflows with bile and invective every other day.

Last year there was even a death threat in there, in contrast to most days where there are only threats of violence.

Don’t tell me the bloggers have it easy. It’s crap.

Don’t tell me we have some secret protection which the media doesn’t.

The difference between me and a hack like Jackson is that if something I write offends somebody enough to sue, I don’t have the legal resources of a national newspaper behind me.

We, who take this seriously, have to be more careful than the media, not less.

The reverence we bloggers have for those in the mainstream press who have crawled out on this limb with us is all the more real for those truths, and even here in Scotland there are many more of them than you might at first think.

Our political writers include real gems like Alex Massie, who is about as far to the right as it’s possible for a man to get without a skinhead but whose work is poetic, brilliant and incisive even when he’s absolutely wrong. On the left is the consistently marvellous Kevin McKenna, who I would read even if he was writing about bus timetables.

Oddly enough, in our sporting press the very best are the guys with no allegiances to Glasgow (although I have always admired Graham Spiers, even if you wouldn’t always know it to read this blog!).

They are guys like Stuart Cosgrove (a St Johnstone fan), Tam Cowan (who’s Motherwell credentials are real, and not put on garbage), Richard Gordon (an Aberdeen supporter) and, of course, Jim Spence himself, who’s love of Dundee United is undisguised and passionate.

Yeah, his leaving the BBC isn’t good news, either for the standard of journalism here or for those of us who like a little truth and fact of a Saturday afternoon.

Because Jim is one of the Good Guys, a man who told the truth even when it was inconvenient, at a time when a media who had been united in accepting that Rangers was gone forever were suddenly back peddling furiously, for reasons that have never fully been explained or explored, and denying the reality they themselves had spent months highlighting.

For telling it like it is, like Angela Haggerty and some of the bloggers who have been vilified and abused almost beyond belief, Jim suffered.

He even had to call in the police to deal with the situation.

Yet he never wavered, and why should he?

Rangers “the club that died” didn’t find life again just because the rest of the team at the BBC ludicrously failed to stand by their man, one mealy mouthed press release aside.

Indeed, it made the corporation look small, and weak.

It did our man no harm at all.

Jim Spence has been in the game for years, and his good sense and total lack of bias is one of many things that endeared him to so many of us.

To hear John Brown accuse him recently (in the aftermath of Sevco’s defeat at Motherwell) of being an accomplice to his own sacking, saying the journalist was motivated by anti-Dundee hate, was hilarious because it was so obviously barking mad.

You could almost hear Brown dribbling on his own foaming mouth as he was levelling the charge.

Scottish football can’t afford to lose guys like Jim Spence, those who talk straight, who don’t try to be sensationalists, who aren’t out to bolster their own egos or carve out careers.

His departure will leave a gaping hole that I can’t imagine many of the next generation being able to fill.

He, as much as anyone at the BBC, loved the game itself and he knew his profession owed it more than weasel words or sitting on the fence when the gravest crisis in its history was still reverberating through the air of our stadiums.

Which is why he broke ranks in 2013.

The BBC announced that it was standing by him in the face of the threats, and the BBC Trust “cleared him” after a ridiculous Sevco fan inspired investigation, but the truth is that his colleagues, by and large left him twisting in the wind.

His was a lone voice in the wilderness, even as the abuse piled up.

Not one of them pointed out that all he’d done was state a fact.

None took to the airwaves to call out the cowards and gutter rats who had abused him.

What makes it especially cowardly is that any number of them know this as well as he does.

That it’s an open secret in newsrooms across the country that what they are pushing is a pure and simple fiction – what we here call The Survival Myth – for which they claim an altruistic motive; “marketing Scottish football.”

Aaaah … the greatest lies are those we tell ourselves, eah?

I have not always agreed with Jim Spence, but then I wouldn’t expect to.

When he’s been critical of Celtic I’ve not always liked it.

But then I wouldn’t want to.

If I wanted biased coverage of my club I would watch its own media channel CelticTV which really can produce the most sycophantic nonsense at times.

When I wanted analysis and opinion, Jim Spence was one of the few I trusted to give it.

He brought balance and common sense to shows and debates which had little or none.

To sit, week in week out, whilst Chick Young, a “St Mirren fan” who could barely remember the team line up from one game to the next, defended, often without even the hint of rationale, whoever was running things at Ibrox on any particular day must have been frustrating to say the very least.

To have anchored alongside Jim Traynor, an arrogant preening halfwit, who’s one shining moment was dissecting Gordon Smith on air when he was defending Rangers fans sectarian singing … well that must have made him nauseous.

For that, alone, he deserves the BBC equivalent of a meritorious service medal.

But the reason, as much as any other, why I’ll always love Jim Spence is that he got, early doors, what we’re trying to do here in the blogosphere.

He was promoting our efforts when people like Traynor were sneering at us as an irrelevance.

(Presumably before his famous dummy-spitting resignation article where he blamed us for everything except smallpox.)

Jim understood, and he still understands, what we are all about.

He gets that we labour away on these things, that we take risks publishing them, that we often suffer for it.

He knows exactly what motivates our searching articles and our probing questions.

Indeed, he spoke up for the bloggers on many occasions, and he picked out articles and asked some of the questions we had been trying to get into the public conversation.

With that in mind, I’ve always thought he must have felt the same disdain for many of his colleagues that we did, but he was a professional and never made that public although he often called them out when they were talking obvious nonsense.

He was, and still is, a reader and promoter (in his own quiet way) of much of what we are up to.

It would not terribly surprise me if, in the future, he agreed to appear on podcasts and chipped in with the occasional piece of commentary for some of the blogs.

If he does, his contributions will be as welcome as they’ve always been.

This blog has given the media a kicking over the last three years, and every single bit of it is richly deserved.

Myself and others follow the sporting press here in Scotland almost obsessively, and we write critically (often scathingly) of those who dine on the finest succulent lamb and are happy to get in line for the Kool Aid stand.

Few of them have escaped our acid pens.

Jim Spence is one of the few.

Because he is honest and forthright and decent and was never anything less than impartial and at the top of his game.

I can think of no greater compliment to pay him than this:

He told it like it is.

In an age when few in his profession still remember the fundamentals, he never wavered from that at all.

Thank you for your service Jim.

You will be missed.

Good luck with your next endeavours.

(I’m a full time writer and the support of my readers is what keeps me goingr. If you like what I do, and are able, and want to support the work the site does, you can make a donation at the link. If every reader was able to donate just £5 a year that would keep the site going strong well into the future. Many thanks in advance.)

[paypal-donation]