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Rangers and the Negative Effects of Misinformation


It is my belief that Rangers have been victims of a lot more than gross mismanagement over the last few years, I believe that we have suffered through a steady and consistent stream of misinformation which has portrayed our club in a bad light.

In recent years we have had many negative stories about our club that are either blatantly untrue or at the very best have no foundation on which to prove otherwise. I have heard people claim that the red tops on the Rangers players socks were there to represent being ‘up to our knees in fenian blood’, this despite the socks pre-dating the Glasgow gang to whom the song refers. Similarly there is a popular ‘bouncy’ myth which purports that Rangers fans are mocking the death of a young Celtic fan that died in 1997, again despite the song on the terraces pre-dating the incident itself.

There have been numerous other incidents such as the removal of Eggs Benedict from the Ibrox hospitality menu, Ibrox groundsmen cutting the grass in the shape of the sash, banning Pepperami bars from the ground due to being packaged in a green wrapper. Such nonsensical tripe is unfortunately what passes for a good story in the tabloid press, irrespective of its authenticity. In themselves these ridiculous anti-Rangers snippets may appear as trivial as to be unworthy of much attention. However, when there are so many and they are so consistently reported, they can and do have a very detrimental effect on the club and our fans.

The furore surrounding the ‘hokey-cokey’ was the tipping point for me personally. It was at that point that I realised that the knives were out for Rangers, and that the game in Scotland was on a one way slide into utter madness. I know that the song is a children’s party song. In fact, the whole of Scotland knows that it is a children’s party song, and yet Michael Matheson, a member of the Scottish Parliament, was inclined to say at the time: ‘it was important that the police and football clubs were aware of the sinister background of the song and took action against groups who used it in matches.

Also, at the time the Catholic Church condemned the singing of the song due to its ‘disturbing origins’.

This really beggars belief, but when you add in all the previous small snippets of misinformation surrounding the club, then you can see how they were able to make such a nonsensical story newsworthy and not be in the slightest embarrassed about how ridiculous it sounded. If those reading the tabloids had been taken in by all the other pieces of misinformation regarding the club, then the ‘hokey-cokey hate crime’ angle might have been believable (although still a stretch for most in my opinion).

I could go on with more stories which are every bit as petty and every bit as unfounded as those above (the infamous ‘punch a pape’ comments made by a senior figure within the RC church being a prime example). Of course, over the last few months there has been a deluge of information released regarding Rangers which is of a financial nature and which has been picked over in fine detail. I will happily admit to being overwhelmed by the situation, I have neither the business experience nor the necessary discipline required to read through such dry material. I don’t know if Rangers have done anything wrong or not. What I do know is Rangers have yet to be found guilty of any wrong doing, yet the constant stream of information in the papers and online refers to terms such as ‘financial doping’ and comparisons between Rangers and Juventus (who were found guilty of match fixing). This to me is laying the seed of guilt in the public consciousness prior to anything being proven and is simply unacceptable. Charles Greens stance regarding the pre-determination of the EBT enquiry is a welcome defence of our club and hopefully one we will fight to the end. If Charles Green wants to earn money from Rangers, then the misinformation which is released about us needs to be tackled at every opportunity.

An interesting article on the website Science Daily describes a new study into the spread of misinformation, why it sticks and how to combat it. The full article can be found HERE (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120919191212.htm).

The basic premise is that it takes cognitive effort to challenge any information which you are given and that weighing the plausibility of an idea is more difficult than just accepting that it is true. It is easier to just believe something if it seems like it might be true, rather than go through the effort of challenging it. This part of the article struck me as something which we as a club have had to deal with:

 

                “Misinformation is especially sticky when it conforms to our pre-existing political, religious, or social point of view. Because of this, ideology and personal worldviews can be especially difficult obstacles to overcome.

“Even worse, efforts to retract misinformation often backfire, paradoxically amplifying the effect of the erroneous belief.

"This persistence of misinformation has fairly alarming implications in a democracy because people may base decisions on information that, at some level, they know to be false," says Lewandowsky.

"At an individual level, misinformation about health issues -- for example, unwarranted fears regarding vaccinations or unwarranted trust in alternative medicine -- can do a lot of damage. At a societal level, persistent misinformation about political issues (e.g., Obama's health care reform) can create considerable harm. On a global scale, misinformation about climate change is currently delaying mitigative action."

I believe that we as a club are suffering badly from the cumulative effects of the sheer mass of misinformation that has been spread about us. It is clear that there are many in the media who have a dislike for our club and who distort and pervert stories about us to try and paint us in a bad light. We all know the likes of Graham Spiers, Stuart Cosgrove, Brian McNally, etc, have no love of Rangers and do their level best to discredit the club and its fans. Previous regimes in charge of the club must bear responsibility for allowing the image of the club to be so badly tarnished. Of course, we have had unsavoury incidents involving our support which have done nothing to improve our image. However, our club should have been contextualising these issues rather than allowing them to be blown out of proportion by those with an anti-Rangers agenda.

It is those with no grudge to bear who will be affected the most by this misinformation. A constant stream of messages which equate to Rangers = Bad can only have a negative effect on how our club is perceived. A recent book authored by a known Rangers hating bigot is a prime example of this. Luckily the book has been publicly discredited and therefore the damage which may have been caused by its release has been largely averted. The point remains however, that had this book not been so widely ridiculed it may well have managed to spread the agenda driven views of the author to those who could be easily swayed on the issue. Thankfully that will no longer happen.

So, knowing that we have been idle in combating these attacks for so long – how do we fix it?

Interestingly, the paper has not only studied how misinformation works, but have offered some strategies for combating it. They report that the following can help to set the record straight:

 

  • Provide people with a narrative that replaces the gap left by false information
  • Focus on the facts you want to highlight, rather than the myths
  • Make sure that the information you want people to take away is simple and brief
  • Consider your audience and the beliefs they are likely to hold
  • Strengthen your message through repetition

It is clear that we are fighting an uphill battle to protect our club and fellow fans from this constant negative stream of misinformation. Hopefully we as a support are now beginning to challenge and address these mistruths in a more vociferous manner. Indeed, the last few months have seen the club and online community come out fighting like I have never seen before. We must continue to choose our words wisely and in a way which most effectively discredits these falsehoods.

Ross Moffat is a lifelong Rangers fan who is keen see the club develop a stronger online community. Since completing his Ph.D. Ross has been working in the oil and gas industry, and is now a paid up member of the North Sea Loyal.