Honestly, the sun always shines on the Glencoe Car Park Run.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Blind Bigotry at Berwick

Everyone knows the recently rushed Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act is about as useful as wearing a poncho from Poundland while climbing Ridge Tower on Ben Nevis in the middle of a Scottish winter blizzard.

What no one seems to know, or claim not to know, are exactly which songs are illegal and why.

Common sense guides the vast majority of the population to the answer but common sense appears to be a much overrated measurement tool.

Further problems arise with the 'reasonable person' clause in the aforementioned Act.

I'm sure we all view ourselves as reasonable persons.

Both these terms, common sense and reasonable persons, are, by their very nature, purely subjective.

Therein lies part of the problem.

For such a small country we have a huge problem with common sense and reason. Both are in short supply when it comes to narrow-minded sectarian bigots who can't understand life in twenty-first century Scotland.

'But it's not as bad as it used to be,' many of you might say.

This, I also believe, is true.

The majority of the population have moved on from seeking ancient divisive barriers to community integration.

Some still shout about segregated schooling being the seed of all religious hatred in Scotland.

But there are Catholic schools in England and Wales and I don't hear anyone singing about being up to their knees in Fenian blood at any Premier League games, or Championship, and so on.

Catholic education, it appears, is only an issue among a steadfast clique in Bonnie Scotland.

Most of us accept and enjoy living in a multicultural society enriched by immigrants from around the world.

Living in a multicultural society has made everyone more aware of how certain language can be deemed offensive or even racist.

Words that were socially acceptable in the past, like Paki, Chinky, etc, are now scorned upon.

This is one of the reasons why many are now so offended on hearing particular songs that highlight religious differences.

Why should people of Irish descent be treated differently to those from Pakistan or China?

This may be why a non-Scottish TV station felt compelled to not only apologise for the disgusting songs their viewers were bombarded with on Saturday, but also to alert the English police.

Whatever the reasons, ESPN have now set a precedent that Scottish media organisations would do well to follow.

With ESPN opting out of Scottish football next year it will be interesting to see how BT deals with any situations similar to Berwick on Saturday.

Because next time something of this nature occurs Scottish media organisations will be seen to have an agenda if they don't follow ESPN's lead.

The bar has been raised in the fight to clean our game, and it's taken a foreign TV station to set that benchmark.

How embarrassing is that?

First it was Channel 4 who shone a light into some dark corners of our game.

Attempts were then made to discredit Channel 4, or more accurately their award winning chief correspondent, by labelling them Rangers-haters.

Some sections of society (see Vanguard Bears for details) are so deluded they recently attempted to claim the Royal Television Society was controlled by a Celtic-supporting Rangers-hater.

The level of intimidation aimed at Alex Thompson through social media channels has been of such a vitriolic nature at times one can't help admire ESPN for also deciding to take a stand.

Maybe they felt they had a duty to protect their brand and their customers.

Earlier in the season, when Rangers scored a last minute winner against ten-man Queens Park at Hampden, the majority of Rangers fans burst into a rousing chorus of The Billy Boys, complete with full up-to-knees in Fenian blood sentiment.

It was, according to some, a glorious performance by the Rangers choir. They sang proud, loud and clear.

There was no ambiguity or changing of lyrics.

Yet no TV company or media outlet felt the need to apologise to viewers or listeners, or report the lawbreaking to the police.

Couldn't the TV producers hear the chanting?

Did they wilfully not hear it?

Did they really hear it but thought best to ignore it?

Don't they care that viewers were being subjected to a group of people flouting one of the Scottish government's flagship Bills?

If I'm sitting at home watching BBC, or any other media outlet, and they purposefully choose to ignore particular groups vocally attacking religious or racial minorities, are they not complicit in promoting the crime?

What action can minorities take to to protect themselves and others from being verbally attacked in the mainstream media?

Should media organisations be taken to court if they do nothing about crimes taking place on their screens?

Does that sound too extreme?

So what should happen?

Police are reluctant to arrest thirty thousand singers.

Scottish football authorities are reluctant to do anything.

Rangers refuse to acknowledge the scale of the problem.

Scottish journalists are reluctant to tell the truth.

Only today Matthew Lindsay claimed that although he'd attended most of Rangers games this season Saturday was the first time he'd heard any singing of a sectarian nature.

This is the sort of head-in-the-sand journalism that's kept sections of Scotland in the dark ages for far too long.

Another in denial is his colleague Richard Wilson.

But how can we expect neutrality and objectivity from someone touted by David Leggat as having the right credentials and contacts in the Blue Room of Ibrox?

I first witnessed Richard's myopia at an event last year in the Mitchell Library. As part of Glasgow's Aye Write Festival Richard was invited, along with others, to discuss Football and Sectarianism.

That event took place on 11th March 2012. A month after Rangers entered administration and played Kilmarnock at Ibrox in front of a fifty thousand crowd the following Saturday.

It is widely accepted that many songs of defiance were sung that day.

It is also widely accepted that it sounded like the majority of those in attendance joined in most of the singing.

However, in front of a packed crowd, Richard Wilson staunchly wheeled out the old 'it was a small minority' flawed argument that he still uses today.

The audience were, understandably, a bit aghast, yet not unduly surprised, at this level of denial coming from someone on the main platform of the event.

Alan Bissett - Rangers fan and author of a warts and all book about a Rangers fan's trip to Manchester in 2008 - couldn't contain his incredulity at his fellow fan's denial.

Yet Richard remained, and still remains, adamant that it is a small minority.

Perhaps the most heartening aspect of Saturday's embarrassment is the stance taken by a few of the unofficial Rangers bloggers.

They have been vociferous in their damnation of those involved in dragging the club's name back into the muck as it tries to claw its way out the mire of the last year.

But the voices of defiance among Saturday's choir have no loyalty to this new breed of intelligentsia aiming to pull Rangers into the twenty first century.

One fan wrote, 'How can any Rangers fan be offended by No Pope of Rome?'

Another wrote, 'If we send all the Taigs home there wouldn't be any sectarianism.'

These are not isolated comments. Spend two minutes on Rangers Media Forum or Twitter and you'll find enough examples to confirm attitudes like these are not a 'tiny minority'.

Therein lies one of the problems.

Many still see Rangers as an extension of their outdated religious and cultural beliefs as opposed to a modern day football club.

Charles Green has milked those beliefs since his arrival in order to fill the stadium each week and sell shares in the new company.

If ever Rangers had a chance to jettison the 'tiny minority' who bring shame and embarrassment to the club it was last summer.

But, as many past Rangers directors have known over the years, there is brass in that there muck.

With the current owners of the club being reluctant to upset loyal income streams what can modern, socially-aware Rangers fans do to protect the future image of their club.

And remember, it is their club, not Charles Green's or anyone else.

As they've found out to their cost over the last couple of years owners come and owners go.

So how serious are the Rangers bloggers about cleaning up their support?

They claim these singers of offensive songs are damaging the club they love, so what are they going to do about it?

They might claim they can't do anything. They might claim to have no voice in the club's operations or strategic decision making.

Yet it was fan power that led to the club's boycott of a game against Dundee United.

Surely those fine, enlightened chaps at The Rangers Standard and beyond could/should be campaigning the board to take unprecedented action and, if you'll pardon the hyperbolic language, wage war on those who, through their so-called love of the club and perceived culture surrounding it, do more to hurt Rangers than all the so-called Rangers-hating bloggers combined.

For a club who, even after everything that's come out in the last year, still see themselves as pillars of dignity, let's see a proactive example of this dignity in action.

Here is an opportunity to prove your words aren't empty.

We all know paltry fines don't work so cut to the chase and propose points deductions.

How would those who embarrass Rangers feel if a league championship was lost to Celtic, or anyone else, because the club had been deducted vital points for singing about sending Catholics home to Ireland, popes of Rome, Fenian blood, etc?

So, Chris Graham and co, with various platforms and a growing influence in this age of social media, how serious are you about helping the club you love so much shed its unwanted baggage?

Will you write a few blogs criticising the idiots but then leave it at that?

That's what everyone outside Rangers believes you'll do.

We've all heard many words over the years, but actions speak louder than words, and actions on this topic are something no one has seen.

As long as the club is associated with religious bigots any hopes of international growth into new markets won't get off the ground.

Of course, with ESPN ending their coverage of Scottish football, and the Scottish media's reluctance to recognise the scale of the problem, the status quo will remain for the foreseeable future if no one within the club decides enough is enough.

Failing that we'll probably have to live in hope another foreign TV channel shows an interest in Scottish football one day.

Perhaps signing a load of players from the Middle East might get us a sponsorship deal with Al Jazeera. I wonder what they and their audience old make of it all.

As a footnote, albeit a rather lengthy one, I'd like to point out that I'm no hand wringer or panty wetter. I don't get offended by any songs, no matter how vile.

Having grown up in such an environment I'm immune to the hatred.

I'm also an advocate of free speech and freedom of expression.

If there are people in this country who want to celebrate their culture by singing songs, then let them sing until their hearts are a suitable environment.

Football grounds, however, are not suitable environments for expressing certain aspects of certain cultures, especially when every game is broadcast to homes around the world.

I can assure you, no one outside the 'tiny minority' of half wits wants to hear that bile coming from their TV screens while watching a sporting fixture of any kind.

It might've been accepted as the norm a long time ago, but not today, and definitely not tomorrow.

Any reasonable person with a bit of common sense can see that, so why can't the Peepil
or the Scottish media?

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