We live in peculiar times.


If you have a smart phone with access to mobile data, or even just the ability to walk to a library, you can get hold of a machine which will give you access to all knowledge ever known to man.


We have therefore never therefore been better informed


Ironically, as we have had greater access to knowledge public discourse is becoming ever more aggressive with opinions becoming ever more entrenched.


I become particularly frustrated when the journalism industry has gone down this route. Shock Jock columnists and opinion makers who spout out unsubstantiated opinions, but use their position as perceived intelligentsia to reinforce ignorance.


These opinion formers whose only job is to write and broadcast their position have more time than you and I to do the independent research, to sit in front of that machine that gives them unfettered access to all human knowledge and find the experts who’ve done the proper research and subsequently arrive at a position that informs and educates, not reinforces prejudice, but they fail to do this. And they reinforce their position and discourage their readers and listeners from obtaining their own opinions by belittling education.  Even the most elite leaders on the planet are creating the concept that facts are flexible and research has no merit.


There is nothing better for lifting people out of poverty than education.  Consequently it is disconcerting when the educated are dismissed by those who’ve had the most expensive schooling money can buy. “We’ve had enough of experts.”


So, what has this got to do with Scottish football you may ask?  It may seem trivial to move from a debate on the on-goings of world leaders to the debate on the biases of Scottish football referees, but it is part of the same culture of people who should, could and can know better, spouting ignorance, and ignorance that just a five minute review of the internet would disavow.


We’ve had a lot of debate about the comments of Tom Boyd and I’m not getting into the specifics of those, however, I WILL get into the specifics of the dialogue that follows from the media that our referees are just as bad as continental Europe, or just as good as continental Europe, and  to claim that they are biassed is tin foil hat conspiracy theory stuff.


I have rehearsed the arguments many times on here about the deficiencies of our referees and the concept of sympathy refereeing, and the fact that I believe they’re just not very good, but you don’t need to take my word for it; just look at how many of them appear at World Cup European Championships and officiate in the last eight level of European competition. But it is the bias and the ignorance of bias that frustrates me.


John Beaton is a Rangers fan. John Beaton refereed a Celtic Rangers game and then went and drank in a “Rangers Pub” after the game where he’d had numerous dubious calls. That alone illustrated the culture that diminishes our game. Can you imagine a Liverpool fan being able to referee a Liverpool v Manchester United game, then having a number of calls in that fixture that adversely affected Man United and benefited Liverpool, and then going to a pub that was a known Liverpool pub, and then happily allowing himself to be photographed, and then being in the papers, and then continuing to referee an English top flight, never mind referee Liverpool and Manchester United games? He’d be pilloried in the press and at least demoted by the English FA. Instead, this guy continues regardless.


This is a guy who’s been a referee probably from the age of 15, 16, and has gone through the ranks, and in his own head will be trying to referee to the best of his abilities. I have no doubt that in his own mind John Beaton referees fairly. But that is the issue at hand. The issue of unconscious biases.


And this is what frustrates me about Scottish newspaper coverage of the recent comments from Tom Boyd about our referees in general. There is a complete ignorance of the concept of unconscious bias. Indeed, they go against what would be normal human being behaviour in claiming that these referees have no biases at all, are conscious of every potential bias they may have, and referee 100% fairly. There is not a human on the planet who does not make decisions in life based upon their upbringing, their lifestyle, their surroundings, and therefore has biases of some form. There is a whole field of academic research into unconscious biases which, by their very nature, are unconscious and can not be helped, yet our press have not even taken five minutes time to do the review and the research into it.


It can be frustrating to do a Google search and have to get to pages five, six and seven, or more, before you find the proper information that you’re looking for, however, they don’t even need to spend this amount of time trawling the net. There are excellent podcasts out there where people have done the research for us. I’m not a basketball fan but I now know about the research into 15 years of refereeing decisions in major league basketball and the findings in relation to unconscious bias. I’ll not go into the detail here but they found that all referees; black and white, had unconscious bias in their decision making against players of the other colour. They also confirmed the concept of sympathy refereeing in the way that decisions were made for the team that was already getting a thumping. I didn’t have to look far to find this information and neither should they.


We can all be guilty of creating an echo chamber on social media that reaffirms our prejudices rather than challenges them. We can all be guilty of wanting to read the research that supports our already entrenched positions. But every day should be a school day. I love being educated on stuff I don’t know. I love finding research that counters my understanding of the world, and so there is nothing better than challenging the pompous with facts because these people see themselves as superior and end up reverting to insults.


Do Scottish referees have biases? Does Sooty have furry balls?


(Interested readers should listen to the Michael Lewis podcast or read the research of Justin Wolfers.  Also read https://time.com/3635839/implicit-bias-nba-referees/ and https://www.forbes.com/sites/bendowsett/2019/05/01/the-nbas-referee-problem-will-last-as-long-as-we-want-it-to/#53c47c4d74b7 )