- 06 November 2012
We recently featured an article on misinformation on TRS. It was a thoughtful article and one that got me thinking as I have watched the past week of media and internet misinformation on our club. I want to discuss the fundamental dishonesty which seems to infect the current narrative on Rangers - whether it comes from a blog, social media or indeed people in the media desperate to jump on the current bandwagon.
Rangers and the fans have been fair game for some time now. The accusations range from the inaccurate to the ridiculous. In the past week the fans have been described as “a toxic violent underclass”, “the Ibrox klan” and a “rogue, angry underclass”. We have been accused of being “racist” and of singing “racist and illegal” songs. Our manager and CEO have been accused of condoning racism for not condemning a song that was not sung. Charles Green has been accused of seeking to sell and then lease back our stadium and training ground. We have also seen an absurd social media campaign by rival fans to claim Rangers gave away eleven thousand tickets for the Inverness cup game.
Sadly, delusion and dislike of Rangers often turns to malice. This is the domain of the Celtic blogger. Gordon James has already demolished much of this in his recent articles so I won’t dwell on it here. One thing is worth noting though. CQN knew exactly what the Head of Terms document (detailing the sale and leaseback of Ibrox) that they wrote about last week related to. They knew it had nothing to do with Charles Green or any of the current investors in the club. They not only tried to mislead Rangers fans, they also successfully duped their own fans.
It was a fundamentally dishonest article by Paul Brennan but one which should not surprise us. He has been churning out propaganda for Peter Lawwell for years and is an important weapon in keeping the Parkhead club’s supporters happy. Nothing makes them happier these days than stories about Rangers. The club should certainly not react to every slight on the internet - it would be a full time task - but those who seek, with any degree of success, to influence the media must be challenged if they are being deliberately dishonest.
As far as ‘real’ journalists are concerned, let’s start first with the clumsy attempts of Brian McNally. McNally tweeted after our game with Clyde that “the irony of Ally McCoist wearing a Show Racism the Red Card badge as away fans belt out the illegal & racist Famine Song lost on Rangers.” This is probably the least subtle effort of the past weeks and was just an outright lie - one that McNally may yet come to regret professionally. It’s difficult to imagine a situation in which such a blatant lie about a club’s support would go unchallenged by the club or indeed by others in the media who know it to be untrue. However such is the feeding frenzy on Rangers at the moment that it went mostly unchallenged, save for the online community who reacted with understandable fury.
McNally regularly uses his press profile to peddle misinformation about Rangers on social media. He says things he knows he would never be allowed to write in his paper. We don’t have an equivalent of this in the press and in many ways I find that quite heartening. Would I want a Rangers supporting hack to be so consumed with hatred of Celtic that he would lie about them in public and try to damage them? No. I would prefer people just wrote the truth.
No discussion of the current dishonest narrative in the media would be complete without mention of Alex Thomson. Much has been written about him on this website and others since he entered the fray on behalf of people like Phil Mac Giolla Bhain. Thomson has been caught in so many lies it would be an article in itself to detail them all. His recent Channel 4 piece on threats to journalists was again utterly dishonest - mainly through omission and exaggeration. The particular part which stood out was Celtic fan and fanzine hero Paul Holleran, of the NUJ, stating as a fact that the Rangers support has a bigger issue than any other in terms of threatening behaviour. His comment that 32 journalists have complained about threats was met with universal disbelief in press circles as nobody knew anyone who had complained.
Holleran will never have to back up this slur and vague claims by Thomson of police corruption in the matter will never go further. Mission accomplished, damage done. There was no attempt at balance, no dissenting viewpoint, no comment from the police who are already on record as dismissing Thomson’s claims. Again we saw examples of people willing to set aside their professional and moral standards, such as they are, to promote their own political and personal agendas.
With this “underclass” narrative now firmly established it was only a matter of time before Graham Spiers leapt gleefully onto the bandwagon. Alex Thomson, who Spiers once described to me as an “odd and overly excitable man”, has suddenly become a brave and intrepid reporter in Graham’s mind. Spiers is able to recall negative, Rangers related incidents from years ago which he had uncharacteristically failed to report on at the time or even mention to colleagues. I have no evidence to suggest Spiers is lying about receiving police advice but he knows full well this is not reserved for those who upset Rangers fans and he has been able to attend Ibrox for many years un-accosted. His sudden recollection of being spat on at the Villareal game is difficult to disprove but has already been called a lie by a journalist who was there at the time. If I had to choose the more reliable account it would not be the one from Mr Spiers, especially given how long it has taken him to mention it.
Print journalism is on the wane. People like Graham Spiers are putting the final nails in its coffin in Scotland. His attempts to move into online media will initially be successful because of his profile but, as with all dishonesty, people will begin to see through it and switch off. If Rangers fans want to read distorted, negative, one sided accounts of their club then why pay for the privilege? They can just go onto one of the many Celtic blogs and read an unbalanced, dishonest account there.
Stewart Weir wrote the defining article on this issue of threats this week. His piece in the Caledonian Mercury was critical of a section of the Rangers support and he mentioned examples of this unpleasant behaviour. http://caledonianmercury.com/2012/11/02/weirs-week-2nd-november-2012/0035818 However, his criticism was rightly tempered with the acceptance that not only have Rangers always dealt with such behaviour but that other clubs have exactly the same issues.
The issue with people like McNally and his friend Phil Mac Giolla Bhain is that they
represent the Celtic support’s version of the “underclass” they seek to criticise. Most Celtic fans I know would find them and their views just as unpleasant as any Rangers equivalent, if not more so. They represent the militant Irish Republican views that saw a section of the Celtic support belt out IRA anthems this past weekend, days after a prison officer was murdered in Northern Ireland by the very people they celebrate. This is the taboo of Scottish journalism and people like Graham Spiers have never taken it as seriously as they take misbehaviour by Rangers fans. There is again a fundamental dishonesty at the root of this commentary. Celtic’s issues with support for active terrorists are wrapped up in, and excused by, vague notions of Irish identity – a false identity which is abhorrent to most Irish people - whilst Rangers issues are deliberately misrepresented and exaggerated into claims of racism and the “Ibrox klan”.
Spiers and Thomson have never gone as far as Mac Giolla Bhain and McNally because they don’t have hatred as their motive. Their motive of self-promotion doesn’t make their skewed commentary any less dishonest however. In Spiers’ case it is particularly bad because he has been around the Scottish football scene long enough to know that Rangers players and staff have been subjected to not only threats but actual attacks. Paul Gascoigne was advised by Special Branch during his time in Glasgow. Nacho Novo more recently received the same treatment. Celtic fans vandalised his property, threatened him in person and openly sung about him getting a “bullet from the IRA”, with never as much fuss being made in the media as is currently the case with Rangers. Maurice Edu, Kyle Bartley and Sone Aluko were all subjected to threats and racist abuse via social media – the perpetrators were Celtic fans.
Referees have also been targeted by Celtic fans. They have received death threats and had their homes vandalised as well as, in the case of Hugh Dallas, actually being attacked on the field of play. There is not a day goes past on Twitter where myself or one of the other Rangers Standard writers is not subjected to sectarian abuse. Would having an NUJ card make this any less acceptable for us? I’ve been personally threatened with violence by Celtic fans on more than one occasion – I put it down to drunken idiocy and forgot about it. Even Rangers fanzine editors have been given police advice.
Does this make Celtic fans a violent, racist underclass? Of course it doesn’t. The Celtic support has issues the same as any large worldwide support, including Rangers. Nobody seems to level the same sort of allegations at the Celtic support or engage in the same selective reporting as is directed at Rangers fans. Even if they did I wouldn’t want it to happen. Dishonesty is the same no matter who it is directed at. The simple fact is that idiots exist in all sections of society, attached to all football teams. To try to claim that one club has a particular problem when it is so easy to disprove is typical of the agenda driven, dishonest commentary which has become the norm.
Rangers fans can and do accept criticism. We have done more than any other support in the country to rid ourselves of behaviour deemed to be unacceptable. We have reluctantly accepted for some time now that we are being held to higher standards than any other support in the country, but how long can that continue before people question why it should be thus? The simple fact is that whether the source is a blog, a radio show or an article in a paper, Rangers fans cannot trust the content because of the agenda often being pushed by the author. Sometimes the writers or broadcasters engage in outright lies, other times they distort the story through omission or exaggeration. Whatever the tactic, the output has to be scrutinised and dissected – the press in many cases can no longer be relied on to be impartial or even professional.
Rangers as a club and a support have more important issues at play this month with the IPO imminent and the SPL kangaroo court due to strip titles. This issue of constant press negativity and dishonesty will only be addressed once the club is in a position of strength and if they show the same vigour for defending the reputation of the fans and the institution itself as they have historically shown for defending the reputation of various owners. The issue does not lie with the media as a whole, most journalists do their jobs honestly and fairly but it is time for the club to draw a clear line. If they don’t, then they risk a generation of Rangers fans being branded as something they are not and also an erosion of that fan base which I have no doubt is the ultimate aim of many of the perpetrators. Mr Green has been made aware of all of this. I hope he takes it seriously.