‘The central belief of every moron is that he is the victim of a mysterious conspiracy against his common rights and true deserts.’
The above quote was written by…by…we’ll come back to it. For the meantime read it again and make your mind up about what you think about it.
Does it matter who wrote it? Should we dismiss or champion the message on the strength of its author, or should we absorb the message and decipher it in relation to our own values and beliefs accordingly?
What the author of the quote is describing is a form of persecution complex.
Persecution complex can be defined as an array of psychologically intricate behaviours that specifically deal with the perception of being victimised or maltreated, for various possible reasons, imagined or real.
People who hold marginal beliefs or theories often display some features of this malady, as a way of explaining why their views are not more widespread or universally accepted as fact.
To counteract this dissonance they seek out and join forces with others holding similar beliefs.
The formation of such a tribe, in the sociological sense, relies on there being a common interest or goal strong enough that the group would in some way delimitate itself from the larger society. Religious cults or football fans form such tribes.
Persecution complexes are not inherent in all cults or football fans, but do lend themselves to the polarization of such groups. Communal reinforcement reassures group members that they are indeed correct by posing the question: How could all of us be wrong?
At extremes this leads to the groupthink that places continued membership of a group and conformity to its norms above rational and critical evaluation. Such a process is highly evident in fundamentalist religion, but is almost a given for any group expressing sufficiently extreme ideology. Nothing brings people together like having a common enemy.
Groupthink occurs when individuals in a group fail to express their doubts about the group's dynamic, direction or decisions because of a desire to maintain consensus or conformity. Thus the group may be on a headlong rush to error or disaster and no-one speaks up because they don't want to rock the boat.
Affected group members tend to ignore their own doubts for the good of the group. The group itself may also ignore external suggestions, and can become paranoid when faced with criticism, even when the criticism is helpful or well-meant. Groups are most vulnerable to the results of groupthink when their members are of similar backgrounds, when the group is insulated from outside opinions, and when there are no clear rules for decision making.
Groupthink is why everyone in that online forum you just joined not only doesn't go for any outsider’s perspicacious and radical ideas, chances are they’d be mocked too.
The word sheeple originated to describe those who tend to accept and take statements at face value, especially if the source reinforces the beliefs of the group and reduces cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance is a large part of why hazing builds loyalty. If you experience exceptional highs and lows with that group, and you’ve invested heavily emotionally you'll go to tremendous lengths to convince yourself it is deserving enough to have been worth the love you give it.
Most people will eventually change their beliefs on a subject after enough contradictory evidence emerges. Because sometimes evidence emerges that is so solid and undeniable that it is easier to give up a complex worldview than having to constantly generate excuses why this evidence is false.
Other individuals, especially when they have support networks of others reinforcing a delusion or worldview, will go to such great lengths to rationalize away dissenting ideas that after a certain point, an admission of error would cause the collapse of an entire web of mutually supporting beliefs.
Many supporters of smaller football teams have always shared scepticism and signs of a persecution complex when it comes to decisions going against their clubs in favour of the bigger ones.
How many times have they gone home convinced the referee was persuaded to award that dodgy penalty because of inbuilt psychological mechanisms geared towards satisfying the appetites and loud cries of the home crowd?
They go home quietly though and, for some, the thought of being persecuted helps them deal with the truth that their club just isn’t very good.
To feel hard done by is not only part of the game, for many it’s also part of the fabric of society.
But it’s not only the smaller teams who suffer this unfortunate psychological state.
Throughout their history Celtic fans felt they were up against an unseen hand when it came to decisions against their team. Many of those claims were labelled as paranoia, nothing more than sour grapes from sore losers, thus gaining a reputation among others as being constant whiners always claiming to be cheated and never defeated.
Their persecution complex had its roots in the history of its people’s struggles to be accepted in not only, the West of Scotland, but the whole of Scotland.
For example, in 1923 John White, who became the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland two years later, was Convener of the Church and Nation Committee of the Church of Scotland. During his time as convener he was instrumental in the report titled: The Menace of the Irish Race to our Scottish Nationality.
This report accused the Roman Catholic population in Scotland of subverting Presbyterian values and of drunkenness, crime and financial imprudence. The report further called for the ending of immigration of Irish Catholics to Scotland and the deportation of any convicted of a criminal offence or living on state benefits. White urged a "racially pure" Scotland, and went as far declaring, "Today there is a movement throughout the world towards the rejection of non-native constituents and the crystallization of national life from native elements."
It wasn’t long after that Hitler took Germany on a course of ethnic cleansing during his quest for world domination.
I’m sure if White were alive today he’d be a vocal supporter of Nick Griffin and the ideology of similar extremist groups.
That was, of course, another era, another century, another millennium. Scotland not only rejected those ideals, it embraced multiculturalism, eventually, like most of the rest of the civilised world.
Although the fact it took until the 1990s for Irish Catholics to achieve parity with the rest of the population is still a reminder of our sectarian past. As a benchmark the Irish Catholic immigrants who headed west instead of east achieved parity in the United States in 1901.
However, a section of Scottish society still lives in the past. A section of Scottish society believes it’s alright in this day and age, to gather in numbers inside a football ground and sing songs about sending Irish immigrants home because the famine, which prompted those immigrants coming in the first place, is now over.
Imagine the outcry if Manchester United or Liverpool fans started singing songs about sending Pakistanis or West Indians back to where they came from.
Imagine the outcry if similar chants where heard at any other sports venue.
Yet in Glasgow, even with its chequered past regarding sectarian troubles and religious divide, this offensive singing goes on with only the minimum of reporting in the media and even fewer charges brought against the perpetrators.
Yet in Glasgow, and across Scotland, it is, unbelievably, the offenders who sing these songs that are now suffering from a persecution complex.
To be fair, the instances of hearing the Famine Song or Billy Boys at Ibrox are on the decline, and one Rangers fan group has proposed a donation towards a Famine Memorial Monument in Glasgow. But if one spends a little time surfing online forums there can be no doubt that those harbouring strong feelings about the negative impact of Irish Catholic immigrants in Scotland are still numerous and vocal.
As each new day brings more revelations about the underhand going-ons at Ibrox during both the Murray and Whyte eras fans of other clubs are, quite rightly, outraged. The sheer scale of the undisclosed payments, tax-evasion, unpaid creditors and the downright lies those concerned continue spouting in gushes of self-preservation sickens everyone.
David Murray will forever be adamant he did nothing wrong. Even if found guilty of deliberately evading tax he’ll always protest his innocence, saying he’d taken expert advice and was just doing his best for Rangers.
Craig Whyte will also be forever adamant he did nothing wrong. If found guilty of any wrongdoing, especially with regards to the circumstances of his takeover, he’ll widen his big Bambi eyes and continue to spout the line that he was just doing his best for Rangers, and that the damage had already been done by Murray.
Rangers fans will also be forever adamant they did nothing wrong. To a certain extent they are right. They didn’t deliberately avoid paying taxes. They didn’t spend huge sums bringing unaffordable players to Ibrox. Like all football fans they cheered when their team was winning and hoped the good times would last forever. Who can blame them for that?
They, however, seem hell-bent on defending the indefensible. Sure, they blame Murray, partly, and they blame Whyte too for his part in their downfall. But they refuse to blame the club. They refuse to see why the club should be held responsible for the actions of individuals. They refuse to see that those individuals who owned the club were the club. They refused to take heed of the warning signs, even though they were in the public domain, because they either didn’t want to know, or they didn’t trust the source. They refused to believe the message because of the messengers. The believed the messengers had a hidden agenda to deliberately destroy Rangers with misinformation. This belief was backed-up by the reluctance of the complicit mainstream media to print any of the same information, even though they had access to it.
This was when the seeds of Rangers fans persecution complex were first sown. How dare so-called experts with online blogs and desire to share hard facts say anything negative about the mighty Rangers. To Rangers fans there was only one logical explanation: it had to be a conspiracy.
That takes us back to the first quote:
‘The central belief of every moron is that he is the victim of a mysterious conspiracy against his common rights and true deserts.’
The irony is these messengers were telling the truth about Rangers precarious financial situation. They were not false prophets spinning yarns. The false prophets turned out to be mainstream journalists churning out Press Release after Press Release promising pots of gold at the end of rainbows. Unfortunately, no rainbow appeared, and the rain hasn’t yet stopped.
The storm clouds continue to gather as the results of the First Tier Tax Tribunal and investigation into undisclosed payments loom on the near horizon. As the saying here in Scotland goes, ‘The dark nights are fair drawin’ in.’
The results of both of these are outwith the control of the fans, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been vocal.
If they’ve learned one thing this year it’s that the club belongs to the fans. They may not have, yet, bits of paper stating they’re the owners, or shareholders, but there can be no doubt they are the main stakeholders.
Realising, belatedly perhaps, the power a concerted campaign involving large numbers of fans can have in protecting and projecting the club’s image, fans have taken to internet forums and social media platforms to develop and implement battle plans for this war they’re fighting.
The use of terms like battle, war and fighting is perhaps a tad unfortunate, but that is what the fans believe is happening. They believe there is a coordinated campaign against them and the club. They believe everyone from the SFA to SPL to city law firms are out to get them and won’t be satisfied until their club is destroyed.
What they perceive as hatred others perceive as seeking justice.
These are the polar opposites in the continuum currently dividing Scottish football.
Non-Rangers fans have been perplexed, to say the least, at the way Rangers old owner David Murray, new owner Charles Green and the club’s fans have refused to acknowledge the extent of rule breaking that occurred over many years, and the reluctance to accept the consequences and punishments for the catalogue of misdemeanours. They’re also critical of the governing bodies for attempting to gerrymander Rangers into a higher league and the mainstream media for continuing to promote Charles Green’s agenda unquestioningly. And with James Traynor appearing to be on a one man quest to protect the legacy of David Murray, the Daily Record, once Scotland’s pride and joy, is now seen as nothing more than a second-rate Pravda.
Rangers fans that started off apologetic for the mess their club created have since been disgusted at the handling of the club’s plight by the governing bodies, mainstream media and fans of other clubs. They perceive others vocal quest for integrity and justice as nothing more than hatred for Rangers.
At least some common ground has been found. It seems everyone is agreed the governing bodies and mainstream media are pursuing their own agendas.
Unfortunately, the opposite sides can’t agree on what those agendas are.
Non-Rangers fans think authorities and media are doing their best to bend rules for Rangers.
Rangers fans think authorities and media are out to get them.
As mentioned earlier, having a persecution complex is nothing new for most of us. But this flourishing persecution complex of Rangers is growing into one so deep you’d think they’d been cultivating it for years. They haven’t. They had no need. Being the establishment club put it in a unique position whereby they could sit atop their perch and mock those complaining about bias towards them. Things have changed in 21st century Scotland and they’ve been forced to awaken from their deep slumber, but they’re catching up, and catching up fast.
Sites like The Rangers Standard and Copeland Road seek out negative stories about Rangers and attempt to discredit the authors. They appear to have little interest in the message, only the messenger. If the messenger is perceived as a non-Rangers man then the message is dismissed as part of the concerted campaign against the club.
This strategy resulted in an embarrassing campaign to tarnish a book without even reading it, all because they didn’t like the author.
You’d think that having been here before they might have at least learned to look at each new message objectively, but that is seldom, if ever, the case.
The siege mentality building down Edmiston Drive is only succeeding in isolating Rangers from the rest of the Scottish footballing world. As they become more entrenched their persecution complex grows at an alarming rate.
In recent weeks the Vanguard Bears published a piece titled Leadership, which opened with this quote from Martin Luther King:
‘The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.’
Using a Martin Luther King quote is certainly a bold attempt to add gravitas to the statement. Who doesn’t see Luther King as a visionary of everything that is good? Who can ignore the message of such an illustrious messenger?
However, the piece itself argues that Rangers, Unionism, Protestantism and indeed the whole of society is being attacked, devalued and eroded by religious fanatics, deluded nationalists and an Axis of Evil run by the SFA, SPL and Peter Lawwell.
No, I didn’t make that up. In what looks, to me, like a classic case of persecution complex, they believe the country is being attacked and everyone is out to destroy Rangers and their way of life.
Fans who are not usually found agreeing with such views have been slowly working their way along the continuum towards that group. As we have seen, there is strength and comfort in numbers. Communal reinforcement reassures group members that they are indeed correct. How could all of us be wrong?
It is twenty years since Irish Catholics achieved parity, leading some to question the effect this has had on Scottish society. The Vanguard Bears statement reads like John White’s 1923 Report: The Menace of the Irish Race to our Scottish Nationality.
Is this how little some have travelled in almost a hundred years? Have they learned nothing from history?
Allow me to reiterate that many of us have felt persecuted at some stage in our lives. At the moment a growing number of Rangers fans are living the dream, or nightmare. Some may not like it. Others may be enjoying the trip. Feeling persecuted can be a powerful drug.
Writer John Rogers sums it up like this:
‘One of the great secrets of human nature is that the one thing people want more than love, security, sex, chocolate or big-screen TV's is to feel hard done by.
Why? Because being hard done by is the shit. Feeling hard done by is the sweetest of drugs. If you're being persecuted -- it must mean you're doing the right thing, right? You get the mellow buzz of the moral high ground, but without arrogantly claiming it as your own. You get an instant, supportive community in a big dark scary world of such scope it may well literally be beyond rational human processing. When you are hard done by, you get purpose in a life where otherwise, you'd have to find your own. And when you ride that high, then no amount of logic-- is going to pry that sweet crack-pipe of moral indignation from your hands.’
Let me take you back to that opening quote about morons believing they are victims of a mysterious conspiracy. It was written by Henry Louis Mencken. Mencken was a journalist, satirist, essayist and critic of American life. When appraising his short quote does it matter that he sympathised with Germany during and after World War One and was suspicious of British propaganda? Or is it more important to note that he admired Friedrich Nietzsche and was the first writer to provide a scholarly analysis in English of Nietzsche's writings and philosophy? What should we make of the fact that in 1926 he deliberately had himself arrested for selling an issue of The American Mercury that was banned in Boston under the Comstock Laws?
It is clear Mencken was a controversial character. Does that mean we give any less weight to his words?
Regarded by many as one of the most influential American writers of the early twentieth century, his legacy is one of challenging longstanding beliefs. In 1923, the same year as John White’s Church and Nation Committee of the Church of Scotland published: The Menace of the Irish Race to our Scottish Nationality, Mencken countered the arguments for Anglo-Saxon superiority prevalent in his time in an essay entitled The Anglo-Saxon, which argued that if there was such a thing as a pure Anglo-Saxon race, it was defined by its inferiority and cowardice.
Both Mencken and White were obviously men of their time. Divided by more than the width of an ocean their distinctly polar opposite opinions are still being cultivated and harvested in some minds in Scotland today.
We can grab our hard hats and popcorn and sit on the sidelines to watch the carnage or proactively seek to bring those at the extreme end of the continuum back to the centre, where we may still have our persecution complexes, but they’re put into perspective by an overwhelming desire to separate football from religion and politics.
As for the persecution complex of Rangers fans today, I hope they’ll forgive me, and many like me, if we allow ourselves a wry smile at their current state of mind. After all, they are only experiencing what the rest of us have experienced at various stages of our lives, whether on the football field or in the world around us.
Seeing as religion continues to seep into the consciousness of the Vanguard Bears and others who believe Rangers’ downfall is all part of some huge conspiracy, let us finish with a quote that will not only whet their appetite for feeling persecuted, but may give hope to us all the next time we find ourselves in a similar situation because of our beliefs.
‘Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’
Of course, one can always question the source of this quote like any other, but if claiming persecution because of Christian beliefs, whether Catholic or Protestant, surely the word of Jesus from his Sermon on the Mount are beyond reproach, or is The Bible part of one big conspiracy too? I think that may be a question for another time.
It goes without saying this blog will be dismissed by Rangers fans as the insane ranting of a Rangers-hater, and the empathetic message of ‘we’ve all been there’ will be roundly ignored. More erudite writers than me have tried and failed to communicate with their closed mindset, and few will try again in the future. What they need, but don’t seem to want just yet, is someone from within challenging the groupthink of the tribe. Maybe then they’ll begin to see light at the end of their persecution complex tunnel.