- 20 September 2012
Let’s get one thing clear. Rangers’ fans do not like this book for one reason: the man who wrote it. It is unfathomable to me that people like Alex Thomson cannot accept that we would not buy a book written by the man who wrote the now infamous Incubator blog and who refers Rangers fans as The Klan, sub-human, under evolved and a racist sub culture, among other pleasantries. This is not written about some, part or a proportion of Rangers fans because Mac Giolla Bhain makes it clear he means all Rangers fans when he spouts this hateful rhetoric.
It is also preposterous that anyone should accuse us of being afraid of the book’s contents. The author is the man who said he would stand on the banks of the river ‘and cheer as the dead body of Rangers floats by’. There will be many, many superior books on the subject of the scandalous financial collapse that engulfed Rangers. There will be no argument from fans if any of the many journalists and academics who have followed the story writes a book about it. No objections will be voiced as books appear. We will read it and we will discuss it and we will debate it.
There is also a timing issue. It is a bit like telling the story of WW2 in 1943. There are still many unanswered questions around things such as Sir David Murray and his relationship with the then Bank of Scotland, his management of Rangers, Craig Whyte’s role in the club and who knew what. We have the SPL investigations to come with possible attempts to strip titles and impose massive fines. We want to know why they acted on EBT payments now when they knew about it for so long. There are many unanswered questions over the SFA’s role and possible criminal charges may be brought for some who were at the club during this period. What was promised to SKY when Peter Lawwell seemed to take over the negotiations? It is a complex tale that may take years to fully unravel.
As many of you (who have the misfortune to follow me on twitter) will know, I have closely followed the spin that has surrounded Downfall. It is a fascinating tale of half truths, lies and propaganda that has many triumphantly declaring it as a best seller which it simply not true. I think this is important for three reasons. First, and contrary to what some have claimed, it shows the vast majority of Celtic fans have healthy lack of interest in this book. Second, it knocks a hole in the argument that the there is something sinister in the media not reviewing the book.
I am not sure when it became mandatory that a book is reviewed when Alex Thomson or Roy Greenslade demands it, but the fact it has not sold in significant numbers undermines the conspiracy theory that it has been ignored because of the subject matter. It simply has not sold in sufficient numbers to merit a review and no doubt the extreme views of the author have not helped. Finally, it demonstrates a complete lack of research or morals by many who believe and promote the fantasy of a best-seller and pretend that Phil is anything other than a manipulative bigot.
The propaganda and spin did not start when Mac Giolla Bhain announced his intention to write a book. I for one did not really care as it was always obvious Phil was going to cash in on his following at some point. The furore erupted when a Mac Giolla Bhain interview appeared in The Sun. The journalist was Simon Houston (still writing in The Sun) and a quick look at his twitter account confirmed where his sympathies lay. He has, for example, made unprofessional references to Rangers manager Ally McCoist including calling him 'Sally'. Houston’s reporting was rather disingenuous. We heard about threats made to Phil and his family but later in the article discovered these had been investigated and no further action was taken.
Phil spoke about his security and the need to be secretive as he continued to repeatedly tell the world the name of the small village he lives in and where and when he will be appearing at one of his many Q & A sessions. He even managed to further offend some of his old Republican colleagues at TAL fanzine when he spoke about ‘Celtic crazies’. But for me, the most nauseating component in the article was Phil’s claim that he did not hate Rangers. He had obviously parked his contempt for ‘the MSM’ to accept Rupert Murdoch’s money and decided he needed to deny his well documented hatred to get the deal done. What he did achieve by doing that interview was to alert Rangers fans who have had enough of his work-it was not a headshot but a self inflicted one right through his foot. The Sun was quickly informed about Phil’s history and warped thinking. Instead of extracts of his book being available to the Scottish Sun’s 314,000 readers, a damning and damaging editorial appeared announcing the deal had been pulled solely because of the past works of the now toxic author. It also delivered a smack across the face of Alex Thomson for endorsing the book (please do not report me Alex, I meant it metaphorically).
So, Phil was naturally very angry, right? Well that depends. Roy Greenslade, close friend and neighbour, NUJ colleague and who, like Phil, wrote for a Sinn Fein publication under an assumed name, should know. ‘Naturally enough, Mac Giolla Bhain is furious too’, he wrote on his blog on Monday 3rd September. But hold on, Celticminded.com claimed that Phil had engineered the whole thing to dupe the silly Rangers fans into promoting the book. And so the propaganda war began. Alex Thomson proudly announced in a tweet on the 4th September:
‘Amazon report "Downfall" the book the Sun declined to serialise, has entered their Top 100 Bestseller List. Goodnight.’
This Thomson tweet meant very little. You will notice the term ‘Amazon report’ in the tweet. This typical Thomson hyperbole is nonsense because Amazon did not report anything. The book appeared in the top 100 best sellers and it did so because Amazon operates a top sellers list based on the last hour of sales. What it means is there was a short burst of sales but then it dropped out of the chart very quickly. All-in-all the book spent around 9 days on the list. As an example, at one point the title ‘The Snail and the Whale’ was 60 places below Downfall. However it now sits at position 74 and has now appeared in the Amazon top 100 for 1350 days consecutively. In sales terms it absolutely dwarves Downfall.
Perhaps Brian McNally should have kept his emotions in check and done his research before tweeting his quite frankly embarrassing ‘Downfall-THAT book by @philmacgiollabhain hits No.1 in Amazon sports book chart & No.13 in UK Top 100 for all books. The people have spoken!’ comment. The clamour to convince everyone that it was enormously popular was overpowering Phil’s giddy supporters who were falling over themselves to proclaim its bestseller status based purely in fantasy.
Paul McConville, Albion Rovers’ most famous supporter, was next to say the book had topped lists. His proof when I challenged him? He sent me a picture of Downfall on a shelf with the number 1 next to it-this from a lawyer. Now Paul is no fool. He has intellect and is obviously a clever man but even he needed to believe the book is a bestseller despite evidence that it is not. Paul also used his blog to allow Angela Haggarty, the editor of Downfall, to tell Rangers fans how silly they were when they got The Sun to block the book. Angela spoke about “decent Rangers fans” and patted us all on the head when she explained:
‘Real Rangers fans should have no bone to pick with Mac Giolla Bhain. His alleged Rangers hatred is not hatred, nor is it directed at a football club or its followers.’
That is complete bunkum. Angela is another who seems convinced the Incubator blog his Phil’s only crime and ignores his other works. Except it was not a crime, it was a ferocious mocking of:
‘Those who make the conscious choice to sing those songs, to follow the club they claim to support and proceed to humiliate it on an international scale with rioting and thuggery, leave themselves open to fair comment, and that comment should shame them as strongly as words can. The blog does not describe all Rangers fans, it describes the angry mob of Rangers crazies who have chosen that path.’
So now you know. Angela touches on the hate debate. Does Phil hate Rangers? I think so. Angela says no. Phil says yes but no if The Sun are waving a check. Alex Thomson says yes. This from his blog:
‘He wishes to see Rangers FC obliterated as far as I can discern.’
‘He writes about Rangers’ downfall with undisguised glee and mirth.’
Bob Smith Walker is Phil’s publisher. I understand Bob makes money with each book sale. However, he has played the sectarian card, the bigot card and the bestseller card and is another who insists Phil is really a nice guy:
‘Some (by no means all) Rangers fans went as far as to call Mac Giolla Bhain a bigot, and yet many of these accusers are offended just by his very name.’
Bob misses the point about Phil’s name. We ask the question why he changes his name so often. If you read the aforementioned TAL fanzine, they certainly offer some reasons as to why the name Phil White was ditched. Surely just mocking him about his name changes is acceptable? So how does Bob explain away Phil’s horrible and persistent comments about Rangers? Well Phil is being ‘polemic’. And we hate Phil for stopping us singing the famine song and because he dared to tell the truth and so on and so forth. Bob has also tweeted and spoke about:
‘the level of intimidation, threats and sheer hatred that this publication attracted exposed ugliness that lies just below the surface.’
What were these threats and intimidation? Well this was another twitter phenomenon. You would think that a bookstore manager was a fairly rare profession but not so. I lost count of how many tweets sent to Phil started ‘My mate is a manager in a book store’. Undoubtedly, a tale of under the counter, ‘we are scared to display it in public’, or something of a similarly sinister bent would follow. Indeed one said that his mate, eh, a manger in a book store, had reported that Rangers fans were setting fire to the books in the store!
The problem for Bob and Phil was when the book buyers started to tweet pictures which contradicted the under the counter stories. A picture of the book on a shelf with a number one beside it was too tempting so the explanation was they were under the counter at the start because of fear and intimidation but now the book stores had decided they were not giving in to the threats. Again this was classic spin to suit the best case for protecting Phil and selling the book. Our old friend Paul McConville weighed in with the delightfully titled blog ‘A Bookstore Bowing to the “Illiterati”? – Guest post by “A book buyer”’. Guess who were the ‘illeratti’? Mr or Mrs A Book Buyer started by telling us they have ‘no interest in Scottish football’. Good a neutral then. Ah, hold on:
‘I have followed the implosion of the team formerly known as “Glasgow Rangers”.’
What a strange comment from someone with “no interest in Scottish football”. Mr or Mrs A Book Buyer then regales us with their expectations about buying the book and their shocking experience:
‘I had expected the book to be on full display, possibly even a book signing but there were no copies of “Downfall” in evidence. I searched the bookshelves but to no avail.’
Really? You not only expected a minor book on full display (not just any display, a full display) but you think the book shop that you have selected and went to at a time and date of your choosing might be waiting for you with the author for a book signing? Mr or Mrs A Book Buyer then asked for help and were told the shop had the book which they then purchased. Somehow this simple transaction becomes a seedy under the counter exchange that left the buyer feeling a little dirty.
Mr or Mrs A Book Buyer do not tell us about any further conversation with the sales assistant because they know exactly what is happening:
‘it is a shame on all of Scotland that our country harbours and nurtures such a virulence that a bookseller is so intimidated by the potential for disorder in their store that they refuse to display a book. When will the book burning commence?’
I was curious and asked Paul if he knew the store where this had ‘happened’ but he declined to tell me. I was bemused that Paul had not thought of picking up a phone or calling a shop and asking if they had been threatened. I did. I called 5 Waterstones shops and not one told me they had suffered any form of abuse or intimidation. Waterstones HQ said they had heard no such thing.
But this propaganda band wagon is not for stopping to check the facts. Just yesterday Roy Greenslade selected some comments from Thomson’s blog to support his old chum and chastise ‘the MSM’ for not reviewing the book. Greenslade says the book is on its third print run which of course means nothing as we do not know how many are printed in a run. He says it is high on the Amazon charts when it has in fact long departed the chart. But the best comes from the man himself when another follower tweeted him and asked how the book was going. Phil duly informs the follower:
‘very well. Three print runs so far. #1 Seller for Waterstones in the last two weeks. :-)’
Even by Phil’s standards this is a whopper of a lie. A quick look at Waterstones’ website shows Phil’s book is not only not at number one , but does not feature anywhere in the top 100 best sellers as of 19th September. If you want to know what a best seller is ask David Walliams. His ‘Gangsta Granny’ sold over 212,000 copies in 2011. That attained him a place in the top 100 UK bestselling books in 2011. Phil will have sold a tiny percentage of that total. Oh, and by the way, David Walliams was at position number 100.