- 27 August 2012
When Alex Thomson first became involved in the Rangers story I have to admit I was surprised and intrigued. Here was, on the face of it, an independent voice with a good track record in his profession. The story was crying out for someone, without an agenda or exposure to the Scottish media goldfish bowl, to introduce some dispassionate analysis. A few months on, not only do I find myself wondering what Thomson has contributed beyond regurgitating and attempting to legitimise 'Celtic minded' blogs, I also find myself questioning his integrity as a journalist.
Thomson was prone to hyperbole from the start of his involvement. His interview with Hugh Adam on so called "dual contracts" was his first major contribution but was essentially a rehash, on camera, of a Daily Mail story a couple of weeks before. He tried to claim this as an exclusive.
It was uncomfortable viewing even in its edited form - a sick old man bumbling his way through the answers to questions it was not entirely clear he understood. However, the alarm bells really started ringing when I spoke to several people in the media who, by sheer coincidence, have viewed the full, unedited tape of Thomson's interview with Adam. They all stated that it was some of the poorest journalism they have seen and were genuinely shocked as they had previously held Thomson in high regard, at least professionally.
Thomson allegedly badgered the sick, frail Adam – repeating the same questions several times, each time receiving different answers. He allegedly asked several leading questions and suggested answers to the bewildered old man. It would then appear that the interview was edited to do the maximum possible damage to Rangers. I put this to Thomson and he denied that he still had the tape. I've been told since that it would have been standard practice for it to be kept in a media library. Either way, I very much doubt he would want anyone to see it.
I wasn't sure at the time what to make of this information. It seemed odd to me that Thomson should try to engineer a certain result for the interview. After all he had no obvious reason to wish to do so, did he? I put it down to him perhaps being desperate to find the smoking gun he had announced when he first arrived in Scotland. In hindsight it makes much more sense.
Thomson then embarked on a series of blogs. These all had a certain familiar tone of condescension, mocking and hostility towards Rangers. He tried to blacken the name of club legends; he attacked John Grieg and Walter Smith despite no wrongdoing on their part, all the while ridiculously claiming he was trying to help Rangers fans. He also posted a cartoon mocking the Ibrox disaster statue on Twitter despite knowing the nature of the statue and its importance to Rangers fans.
Despite this, he was still given the benefit of the doubt by many. I have spoken to him a couple of times and I know other Rangers fans have too. He's been asked to look into some matters of concern but always comes up short of doing the job properly. The most recent instance of this failure was his patronizing blog on the Harper MacLeod conflict of interest.
For a so-called impartial observer he has refused point blank to investigate any of the murky goings on in the SFA or SPL. He has never once questioned the machinations of these bodies unless it has been to make the ridiculous assertion that, despite all evidence to the contrary, they have been trying to assist Rangers. His attacks on Campbell Ogilvie, a man who had already completely removed himself from anything to do with the Rangers matter, were a carbon copy of the line taken by Celtic bloggers. The contrast in his ability to pillory Ogilvie but ignore the continued involvement of Peter Lawwell on the SFA board and Eric Riley at the SPL was stark.
As if all the above was not enough, there is now another reason to question his judgment and integrity.
Thomson has written the foreword for a book by the Celtic blogger, Phil Mac Giolla Bhain. This book, predictably, is about Mac Giolla Bhain’s obsession, Rangers. Thomson has ridiculed those questioning his involvement by stating that his endorsement of the book is not endorsement of the author. This is utter nonsense. Public figures like Thomson, no matter how egotistical, do not contribute to books written by extremists who operate on the fringes of society unless they agree with them. If Nick Griffin or Abu Hamza wrote a book about Newcastle United (no more ridiculous than Mac Giolla Bhain writing one about Rangers) and Thomson enjoyed the prose on the team he supports, would he contribute? The idea that he can ignore the writer’s previous conduct or be insulated from it is ridiculous.
Mac Giolla Bhain has dehumanised Rangers fans in various hideous attacks on his blog. None of these has been worse than "The Incubator" in which he describes fans as the byproduct of experiments by his "Professor Struth". Fans are grown from "the sperm of a criminally insane murderer", with the mother a "ten thousand pound gorilla". The "creatures" created have "urine so toxic that it could spoil an entire city" and "police dogs would contract diseases if they got their teeth into them". It goes on and on like this. If this blog had been written about any other group of people in Scotland then Mac Giolla Bhain would currently be in jail.
Alex Thomson has now been confirmed as a close associate of this man. A man who was described to me recently, by a well-known Irish journalist, as "a dangerous tactical bigot". A man who goes out of his way to stir up hatred and tension in Scotland whilst sitting in his adopted home of Ireland. A man who recently met with Celtic Chief Executive, Peter Lawwell in Philadelphia.
Thomson has been informed of Mac Giolla Bhain's hate filled ramblings and refuses to confirm whether he has read them or to condemn them. One conclusion to be drawn is that he has read them and that he endorses them. Either that or he is operating an "ignorance is bliss" approach to his literary partner. Neither is acceptable.
Through his recent attacks on David Leggat, Thomson has again shown his association with Mac Giolla Bhain and also Celtic supporting ‘journalist’, Brian McNally. Even putting aside the rights and wrongs of the case, that Thomson should enlist the help of these two with the NUJ tells its own story.
Thomson’s own complaint was utterly dismissed. The police investigated it and, with no evidence of any wrong doing, dropped the case. Thomson has described this decision as “possibly corrupt” – an extraordinary allegation. For their part, a Strathclyde police source was quoted in the Telegraph as saying “Strathclyde Police found no evidence to support Thomson’s complaint. Frankly, it was laughable”.
It is my firm belief that Thomson was persuaded by people like McNally and Mac Giolla Bhain to get involved in this story. Their ‘helpers’ on social media were very active, around the time of Thomson's enlistment, in lobbying UK journalists with their propaganda. Most didn’t bite but it appears Thomson did. Channel 4 News is not as high profile as many other news programs so perhaps Thomson saw a chance to raise his profile – an aim which has been successful.
Since being recruited, Thomson has, in my opinion, sung to the tune of these people and made a mockery of his professional standards. The interview with Adam now makes perfect sense. He clearly had a preconceived idea of what was required and duly obliged. His attempt to dismiss concerns over the involvement of Harper MacLeod with both Celtic and the SPL is transparent. It will also fail against a backdrop where many of the concerns of the club and fans are in the process of being legally verified.
I now find myself in the curious position of watching Thomson's reports from Syria and wondering if he is reporting fact or more agenda driven fiction. One can only hope his suspension of journalistic and personal integrity has been limited to reporting on Rangers. That he had the brass neck to criticise the Scottish media for sycophancy to Rangers whilst embarking on a factually deficient crusade at the behest of others is quite remarkable.
I've gone from being surprised and intrigued by Thomson's involvement to being disappointed and angry. The people still working to damage Rangers should know though that they themselves are now increasingly coming under the microscope of public scrutiny. They may find the light that shines on them is not so welcome. The Rangers fans were not ready for the online assault the last time, but we are now.