Here is a sample of what I mean:
- “The suicide bombers inside the Scottish football family” – follow follow website
- “Shelleck [sic] FC – An affront to humanity” – Vanguard bears website
- “Celtic and Child Abuse – Inextricably Linked” – Vanguard bears website
- “Silence of Shame – Celtic Fans protesting against the poppy. what say the media?” – follow follow website
- “The Persecuted Protestants of Ireland” – PULSE website
- “Let us unite and fight” – PULSE website
The refusal by these websites to acknowledge other viewpoints has allowed large numbers of our rivals to gradually view us as subversive, dissident and even immoral. A healthy society, a healthy debate even, does not and cannot work in those conditions.
Recently, there has been a move to the far right within certain football arenas in England, with some supporters ‘groups’ becoming involved with the quasi-fascist (and predominantly racist) ‘English Defence League’. However, the Scottish far-right are much more characterised by their Loyalist affiliation with groups who, while promoting their own loyalist causes and ideas, also share many of the English far-right’s’ political and racial ideas.[i]
Scottish Far-Right/Loyalism is normally personified by following traits and positions:
- visible support for British military (and paramilitary) forces with due acknowledgement and deference made to ‘sacrifices’ made,
- celebration of orange culture, particularly through the medium of band culture
- deference to Royalty and Royal Institutions
- Promotion of Unionism and overt support for the Union
- Promotion of linkage and shared heritage with Ulster
- Opposition against Catholic Church and Irish Republicanism
- Rejection of perceived ‘foreign’ infiltration and influence on Scottish/British society e.g. Irishness, Islam
More recent developments in character also include:
– Promotion of notion of Protestant/Loyalist persecution against perceived left-wing/Catholic/Republican agitation
– Promotion of notion of retaliating/reclaiming former ‘positions in society’ for Protestants/loyalists
The notions of foreign infiltration are nothing new. For most of the 1920s and the 1930s, the Church of Scotland promoted a policy of forcible re-patriation of Irish immigrants, a people which were considered by the Church to be ‘alien’ to Scottish culture and society.[ii] With the demise of Liberalism as a serious force in Scottish politics, the political vacuum was replaced by vicious anti-Irish rhetoric led by the Church of Scotland and extreme unionist/loyalist groupings e.g. John Cormack’s’ ‘Protestant Action’. Similar groups are still to be found today and Glasgow Celtic (and their followers) are still targets of these groups. While targeting has recently been of the written kind mostly, the parcel bombs and bullets sent to different Celtic associated individuals suggest things could take a more dangerous tone. The threatening of journalists critical of these groups also has sinister overtones.[iii]
Coupled with this move to the right by different Rangers supporters groups, the second serious shift in attitudes has been through the mainstream media (a loose term) that has been responsible for a dreadful polarisation of viewpoints while simultaneously justifying the narrowing of citizenship. Radio phone ins that claim to offer a platform for viewpoints while also refusing to allow subject specialism and substantive debate coupled with newspapers that wallow in jingoism, sensationalism and hyperbole are the tip of a media iceberg when it comes to journalists and media management companies pushing agendas and allowing (creating?) virtual lynching’s of non-desirables.
If this sounds far-fetched then consider the following. Below are a list of events, etc that have happened to our club, members of our club (and indeed people associated with our club) over the last 3/4 years. In no particular order:
1) ‘poppygate’ 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010
2) the ‘dougie-dougie’ scandal – October 2010
3) ‘cough-gate’ at the new year’s derby game 2011;
4) Neil Lennon’s assault in Ashton Lane – September 2008
5) treatment of Aidan McGeady at opposition grounds – 2006-2010
6) Treatment/vilification of Paul McBride after his criticism of the SFA -2010-2011
7) Rob McClean and the BBC’s criticism of supposed sectarian singing by Celtic fans – Scottish Cup Final 2011
8) Kenny MacAskill’s complimenting of Rangers supporters’ sectarian and racist chanting – Scottish League Cup Final 2011
9) The ‘Game of Shame’ and subsequent ’emergency summit’ – March 2011
10) Neil Lennon’s touchline ban – March 2011
11) Neil Lennon’s assault at Tynecastle – May 2011
12) Parcel bombs sent to Neil Lennon, Trish Godman, Paul McBride and Cairde naHeirann – Feb.2011
13) Bullets sent to Neil Lennon, Niall McGinn, Paddy McCourt – November 2010
14) Assaults made on Aidan McGeady, Scott Brown, Darren O’Dea – November 2008
All these events have seen Celtic (and people/groups perceived to be associated with Celtic) become the subject of insidious and malicious mainstream media reporting. In all cases Celtic (and associates) were depicted in a negative light with the victim turned villain in a lot of cases while hysteria ruled the rest. For analysis purposes however let’s look at the Neil Lennon Tynecastle attack. The attack itself was actually mis-reported by several journalists at the time, one of which claimed Neil Lennon attacked the Hearts supporter.[iv]
With regards to the court case against the accused, and in spite of insurmountable evidence against the accused, a verdict of ‘not proven’ was delivered. As Paul McConville has observed from an entirely judicial point of view on ‘Scotslawthougts’ blog:”…in the case against John Wilson, heard before a jury at Edinburgh Sheriff Court. Mr Wilson faced charges that, at a Hearts v Celtic match last season, he had assaulted Neil Lennon, the Celtic manager, and had caused a breach of the peace “by conducting himself in a disorderly manner, running onto the field during the match, running at the away team dug out, shouting, swearing, making a sectarian remark, all to the alarm and annoyance of others and causing further disturbance within the crowd” and that both offences were aggravated by religious prejudice…The jury returned a verdict of guilty on the charge of breach of the peace, with the sectarian element removed, and not proven on the assault charge…Bearing in mind that the incident had been seen by several thousand spectators at the ground, by hundreds of thousands on television, and by large numbers on the Internet, it seemed astonishing that Mr Wilson was contesting the charges at all!”[v]
From another legal point of view, Paul McBride QC on Newsnight Scotland last night explained the strange contradictions within the case’s outcome: “It’s simple, the jury decide whether the sectarian element remains, or not. If it doesn’t remain they delete it. What they should have done, if they are not satisfied with the sectarian element, is return a verdict of assault under deletion of those words. It’s perfectly simple…In Scotland we have juries who don’t have to read, who don’t have to write, who don’t have to count, and may be full of prejudices.”[vi]
To say that Celtic fans were astounded by the verdict given would be understatement. Paul Brennan on Celtic quick news summed up the vast majority of Celtic fans’ feelings about this outcome when he stated on his blog: “A jury in Edinburgh today preferred the testimony to a Hearts fan who admitted lunging at Neil Lennon at a game last season to that of a Hearts security guard, who gave evidence against the supporter, claiming sectarian abuse was shouted at the Celtic manager. The attacker has been found guilty of the breach of the peace, the same thing you would be charged with for making a noise at night”.[vii]
This verdict has led to many speculating about the make-up and consequent prejudices of the jury. It has also allowed speculation to mount as to the effect the media’s demonization of Neil Lennon had on their view of the incident.
Again, if this sounds far-fetched then consider the reporting of the reaction of Hearts FC to the actual incident. Rather than focus on went security measures went wrong and how to increase the security of visiting management teams et al in the future, Hearts’ focus was actually on the away support thus A) deflecting attention away from their security failings (and home supporters’ conduct), and B) focusing media attention onto the away support’s’ conduct which was considered by some in the mainstream media to be ‘republican’ and ‘pro-IRA’. This was the perfect example of turning the victim into villain and the media lapped it up with the Edinburgh Evening News more than happy to play patsy: “HEARTS are considering cutting Celtic’s away ticket allocation by around 40 per cent following the horrific events at Tynecastle during last Wednesday’s SPL match between the clubs…Violence amongst travelling supporters during the second half was documented by Hearts officials, who are now debating whether to reduce the number of tickets issued to Celtic next season from 3,500 to 2,100.”[viii]
While other media outlets have expressed surprise that the accused was let off with the assault charge, they have also refused to support the notion that the attack was sectarian motivated i.e. it would not have happened if Neil Lennon was not a Catholic (see for example –“neil lennon tynecastle assault trial witnessed by millions-admitted-by-accused-yet jury sensationally rules thug did not assault neil lennon” and “neil lennon hearts fan cleared of sectarian assault”). The talking heads that were wheeled out after the ‘game of shame’ were conspicuous by their absence this time also. We didn’t have the head of Strathclyde Police or the Justice Minister giving their two cents worth nor did we even get David McLetchie or Gregory Campbell putting forward their opinions.
We are walking a lonely path unfortunately in Scotland. Websites put forward notions of anything or anyone associated with Celtic being ‘untermensch’ and mainstream media outlets that stifle constructive debate and facilitate hysteria is the almighty barrier facing us. When thinking of solutions to deal with this I thought radically. Why not invite different Rangers supporters’ groups/websites to talks for example? I honestly wonder if they would though. Would there be good enough levels of faith? What agendas would be pursued? Would Rangers supporters who were engaged in such talks find themselves alienated and victimised for being ‘sell-outs’?
This shift in attitude in the Rangers supporters’ mindset disappoints me but doesn’t nearly make me as angry as a media that refuses to promote solutions to the hysterical problems that they regular highlight and, indeed, misrepresent. The level of constructive and analytic journalism in Scotland is pitifully low particularly when you look at standard bearers such as Jim Traynor and Chick Young. These people resemble the ‘shock jocks’ on Fox News more than the William McIlvanneys and Bob Crampseys of yesteryear who used to set excellent markers regardless of whether you agreed with them or not.
My first child is due to arrive in this world soon. I want to try and make this world as safe, understanding and reasonable as possible for his arrival. Yet, thanks to the aforementioned mindsets described above, I wonder if this is now an impossible task. They say in order to deal with a problem you must understand it first before you can even debate with it. However, it is impossible to debate with something that is ultimately unreasonable.
[ii] TM.Devine and RJ.Findlay, Scotland in the 20th Century, (Edinburgh University Press, 1996), p.254