The Twits

UEFA Champions League Draw and Gala DinnerOn the day of the 2010 General Election, I did some leafleting work for a Glasgow Labour MP, one of the few I could actually stomach.

In the early hours of the evening, I was introduced to a guy I’d heard about but hadn’t actually met.

I’ll spare you his name, although the details I’m going to relay will enable anyone with Google to find him in about 5 minutes.

He’d become famous, you see. He had started that election race as a candidate, but had to step down after some of his Tweets during the previous few days made the front page of a national newspaper.

I thought he’d taken it on the chin, and was handling it reasonably way. He was a young guy, younger than me by about three or four years, and a little eccentric, I thought.

He had made a colossal arse of it, knew it, and had already shrugged it off. Fair play to him for that.

His can’t be the first case of “suicide by social media” that I’d seen, and it sure as Hell won’t be the last, but it’s the one that sticks in my mind when I think of people who’ve royally screwed something up on social media. It didn’t cost him a seat in Parliament – the seat he was running for was virtually unwinnable, and the party always have trouble finding candidates for it – but it was a serious setback to a potential political career.

On a personal level I liked the guy that day, but we should probably be grateful for that!

Social media is a wonder of the modern world, in both a good way and a bad way. There’s no doubt that it’s transformed how we live our lives, but it’s also forced a lot of us to be very careful about how much of those lives we share with the world. Once upon a time, the idea that we would ever put our personal lives in a public forum would have seemed insane. The question of how much was too much wouldn’t  have been one demanding an answer. Nowadays, it is.

Individuals aren’t the only ones who’ve made huge screw-ups online. Companies do it too, including the political party that ended that young guy’s candidacy. When the Labour Party tweeted their sympathies to the family of Bob Holness the message paid tribute to the host of “Blackbusters”, and it created a media storm of its own.

Paddy Power are the latest names in the firing line after a lunatic tweet from them yesterday, one that has unleashed a storm of protest and anger probably unlike anything they’ve had to experience before. In PR terms, their tweet yesterday, about Billy McNeil, is akin to a politician who steals candy from a baby instead of kissing it. In the way their spectacular own goal has been re-tweeted around the world and used to lash them (and deservedly so) they might as well have made a video clip for YouTube where their CEO drowned kittens in a bath.

The comment was beyond crass, and the response from the Troops in the Hoops, and indeed thousands of others, from all over the world, has been awesome to behold. Companies know now what the rulers of the game here know already; that when the supporters mobilise on the forums and social media platforms they are relentless.

Yesterday, for hours, Facebook was awash with nothing else. Whoever sent that tweet out on the official Paddy Power feed is clearly a calibre 1 idiot, and if he’s not already been relieved of his job then the troops aren’t pushing hard enough. But they will. This has cost the company goodwill, and certainly, a pot of money already. Their half-hearted apology would have more teeth if they actually put some cash behind it, and made a substantial donation to a charity of Billy McNeil’s choice. That would be something we could take seriously. Otherwise, it’s an empty gesture, and one that an entire generation of Celtic fans will remember as one.

You know that old adage that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”? Well it’s cobblers. Ask Gary Hart or, as I said in a piece last week, Gerald Ratner.

The bloggers are always watching. The Twitterati is a machine that only requires the pushing of a few buttons to come fully on. Paddy Power were lighting a stick of dynamite yesterday. They then promptly sat on it.

You know what makes it all the more awesome? It’s clear, already, that supporters are only just starting to get this stuff themselves. They’re only now starting to realise how big a noise they make when in full voice.

A year ago, this blog didn’t exist. When we formed, there were already maybe a dozen notable Celtic related blogs out there, and whilst I didn’t intend this blog to become one of those (and it hasn’t, not really) I knew I would have to focus a lot of its articles on my own team, and the unfolding calamity of our former rivals and their successor club.

I relished the prospect, because words have power.

In an earlier article I have used the analogy of a brick wall, one that’s seemingly impregnable. Behind that wall is the truth. It doesn’t matter what truth it is. It could be the truth about WMD’s in Iraq, or what really went on with the police at Hillsborough, or the hidden story behind the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Looking closer to home, it’s the truth about the Five Way Agreement, and the decision to grant Rangers a European license in their last year of existence.

It’s the truth behind those corruption claims we’ve talked about in the last week, and it’s hidden behind that wall.

This isn’t, you see, about a football club anymore, and to me it never really was. It’s about the corruption, the cover-ups, the scams and schemes which allowed things to get as bad as they are. This is about the authorities being complicit in things they knew were wrong, and about their efforts to cover their own backs.

It’s about getting the truth. It’s about finding out whether we’re watching a rigged game in this country, and who’s responsible for that. It’s about finding out the facts we need in order to get the ball rolling, and make big changes.

That wall stands between us and those facts, and that wall is coming down. Every blogger, every tweeter, every supporter who asks these questions and keeps the pressure on is a tiny tap of the hammer against that wall. And with time, and that pressure, it’s going to collapse.

In the time since this site was founded  dozens more have popped up echoing similar themes and sentiments, to join all the others that were out there, and I love it, and I want more of it, along with the podcasts and internet radio shows and all the other elements that have turned Scotland’s football supporters into some of the most self-aware out there.

I want more people with their own hammers, tap-tap-tapping away.

This is only the beginning. The genie is out of the bottle and there’s no putting it back. This online revolution might not be televised (the technology for that is surely next tho!) but it’s being written down, broadcast, tweeted and shared over and over again.

Everything has changed, and that change is forever.

The media hates it. The clubs are terrified of it. Managers detest it. But it’s the healthiest thing to happen to football in this, or any other, country for eons.

Disdain it at your peril. And yes, Neil Lennon, that means you too.

Some people are still struggling to come to terms with all this, and I get that. Neil Lennon has been awesomely critical of the bloggers and tweeters this week, and although delighted he turned around the Champions League result and got us to the group stages, I think he’s bang out of order to have a go at us for having the temerity to ask questions, and voice our discontent.

The world’s changed, Mr Neil. Gordon Strachan had the same problems with the phone-in’s, but I had a certain sympathy with that view because those shows are catered specifically for the kind of people who still read the Daily Record and believe every word in it. That’s not us.

Those who would try and tar us with that same brush, be warned; we are smarter than that. We can tell the difference between the facts and the spin, and we are as wary of being spoon fed bullshit on the blogs and forums as we are of reading it in the mainstream press. The democratisation of information, its sources and its means of dissemination, has altered the landscape in a fundamental, and final, way. There is no returning to the old ways.

The “pseudo-intellectuals” don’t believe they’re smarter than anyone else either, so that particular insult isn’t going to fly.

But the writers of the blogosphere are as entitled to their views as the hacks, as the managers, as the players themselves. More entitled, in point of fact.

Bear this in mind, Neil, if you’re reading; the bloggers are not some group from outside football, here just to have a pop. The bloggers are the supporters.

The people who really matter.

The supporters are the only people in the game who are not taking something out of it. Too many times, managers and players, directors and administrators forget that.

The fans give the game everything it has. The hacks live off the fringes of it. The agents leech the life from it. The players are on salaries which, in the modern world, are offensive, and when Ally McCoist is the highest paid manager in the country that tells you how insane it’s gotten. The fans pay for all this, one way or another, so when we’re spoken of with lowly contempt I tend to think it’s not surprising when some of us respond with the same.

If you’re the manager of Celtic and you can handle the praise when things go well, you can live with the criticism when they don’t. No-one realistically expects Celtic to win this Champions League group, but there would have been an outcry had we not made this stage. Mistakes were made inside the club, and they almost cost us.

I’m damned if I’m going to maintain silence when people try and blame the people who pay for all this and who want something better for their money than the shabby performance we got in the first leg.

You did a good job in the return match, but this ain’t show friends, it’s show business, to quote a famous sports movie. This is “what have you done for me lately?”

Fans pay your wages. They are entitled to ask questions.

What galls many in the game now is that there’s no longer any hiding place from those questions. Even the media can no longer ignore the most basic fundamentals of their job with impunity, because we are watching them too. When they get it wrong, or simply fail in their duties, we will hound them for it, and we will keep on hounding them until they either do it right or shut up shop.

When the SFA fails in its duties we will be there. When the clubs tell lies to their fans, or cover up what goes on behind the scenes, we will be watching.

Now and forever. Things have changed.

You ever heard the term “the customer is always right”? Sure you have. Well now the customer has a big megaphone to shout into. Paddy Power’s disgraceful act yesterday wasn’t just an insult to a great man, and a true giant of football in this country and across the world … it was an idiotic moment of madness, when they forgot the facts of life as they are today.

Welcome to the future. The Twits are here to stay.

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James Forrest

James Forrest is a writer and blogger from Glasgow, and the author of two books, Fragments and Believers, which are available on Amazon.

3 thoughts on “The Twits

  • 30 August, 2013 at 6:24 pm
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    Great article.If The Gaffer didnt like the questions on twitter he shdnt be on it.I assume he was referring to twitter.I draw the line at abuse of course but he got it horribly wrong with the team he picked in the first leg.As regards the corruption in our game I just cant see where the dam will break.Sevco are a a law onto themselves and Oldco got away with cheating.Why no other football club publicly expresses horror at this and demands compensation is beyond me.You bhoys do give me hope with your articles tho so keep it up…

  • 31 August, 2013 at 2:00 am
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    I dont buy any newspapers ..for at least 12 ys but i do listen to phone ins
    your comment makes me an idiot then?

  • 31 August, 2013 at 11:14 am
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    Yes John,

    You’re an idiot.

    Cheech.

    I think Mr. Forrest was making a generalization.

    Offended easily are you?.

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