Tag Archives: graham spiers

‘A Magnet for Bigots’?

You would normally expect that if someone acted in a certain way, it would be possible to give an explanation of their actions in terms of the reasons why; unfortunately this is not always the case.

There are times when we are left analysing the situation to the point where we start to lose perspective, but we continue anyway in the hope that we can eventually make some kind of explanation fit. We have all done this before.

If you were in Neil Lennon’s position, I think it would be entirely natural that you would want to understand why you have been subject to constant abuse and threatening behaviour from other individuals who know nothing about you. It is natural that sympathetic observers of this abuse would want to fathom it out too, particularly when the episodes are repulsive and unprovoked, such as the most recent one from some Aberdeen supporters.

There is a great deal of mileage in Neil Lennon’s situation for those in the media with false axes to grind, or for whom creating an impression of professional closeness to him seems to have become a bit of a fixation. Whatever the motive, stories of this sort seem to sell newspapers.

We have been told that the abuse directed at Neil Lennon might be down to his ethnicity or his religion; we have also been told that it might be down to him simply being a controversial, confrontational and combative character who happens to attract bigots. This just keeps the story going.

Whether the people in the media or the ordinary man in the street find it best to put the abuse Neil Lennon suffers down to his temperament or his teeth, the various explanations offered do very little to shed any light on what is actually going on, or therefore how to deal with it effectively. We are asking the wrong sorts of questions.

The abuse directed at Neil Lennon is completely irrational; I think we all agree about that. There is no valid reason why Neil Lennon should figure in our thinking as someone towards whom it is appropriate to be violent or threatening. This is borne out retrospectively when the abusers in question are pressed for an explanation of their behaviour. More often than not they cannot give a rational explanation, other than that they just don’t like him, or that he brings it on himself, regardless of the language they originally used to express their hatred.

It is perhaps closer to the truth to understand the majority of abuse directed at Neil Lennon as examples of unthinking hooliganism that bears striking similarities to bullying. As with targets of bullying, it would appear that Neil Lennon has tried to change his public persona to make himself less of a target. This is an indication of deep emotional intelligence on his part; it is an alertness to how other people perceive him – justified or not – and a subconscious desire to make personal changes in order that this type of behaviour towards him stops.

There are groups of people in our society who behave like thugs and bullies, and sometimes only in very specific contexts, because they have been caught up in a moment in which their ability to rationalise their behaviour has been diminished by the effects of alcohol, drugs, sporting adrenalin or basic tribal machismo. The rest of the time, and towards other people, they can be perfectly reasonable and likeable individuals.

It is too easy to read more into these situations than is warranted by the evidence, just because it happens to sell stories or suit an agenda. This is bad enough in itself. But the big problem with this is that we run the risk of being part of the bullying process itself, rather than just a horrified observer and sympathetic reporter of it.

When you try hard to find a way of rationally linking this type of behaviour to something within the victim that attracts it, there is a sense in which you are legitimising it. You are unwittingly creating the emotional space for it to continue, forcing the person being targeted to make one or more of the changes they begin to believe are necessary to neutralise the effects of these apparent reasons.

If you try to depict Neil Lennon as some kind of controversial warrior, a magnet for bigots because of his ethnicity, religious beliefs or personality, or perhaps even a potent combination of these factors in a specific place and time, you are just as guilty of keeping the tedious and regretful narrative going as the individuals are who started it.

This is not to say that we should be silent on this, not by a long shot; rather it is to say that if we remain compelled to find one or three reasons why Neil Lennon attracts this type of behaviour, we may need to think about our own contribution to the problem, however unintended this may be.

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Spiers On ‘the Rogue, Angry Underclass’

Graham Spiers has been honest enough in the past to recognise his gullibility in relaying the myths peddled by the former Rangers FC Owner, David Murray. He is the one who likes to take credit for having initiated the use of the phrase ‘succulent lamb’, after all.

And in an interesting and honest article today, he describes the intimidating treatment that certain individuals (himself included) have received from a minority of Rangers supporters over the years, for having had the audacity to speak out against what they believed their football club represented. He describes this minority as the ‘rogue, angry underclass’:

http://www.heraldscotland.com/sport/opinion/spiers-on-sport-coming-under-threat-for-criticising-rangers.1351601156

Whatever his motives are for writing this piece, Spiers correctly highlights an enduring problem in Scottish society: there is a hard core of rogue individuals who are intent on keeping racial and religious prejudices alive and certain football clubs – not just Rangers – have become perceived as significant outlets for that purpose.

In the case of Rangers, he is picking out specific historical prejudices that are so deeply intertwined with all that is wrong with the Scottish – British culture, and its perpetuation in certain local traditions, institutions and establishments, that reason and logic will never be sufficient to undo them.

Spiers captures this in his reference to a “faux Protestant culture around Rangers” as something that many fans want to bin, but which the “traditionalists” want to preserve. His contention is that most Rangers fans want to dispense with that type of nonsense as part of the assumed identity of their club, and I would think that he is right.

But for me the question that arises is this: is there something about supporting a football club like Rangers (or Celtic, for that matter) that makes it inevitable that the rogue element will always attach itself to it, creating an unsavoury dimension to the club that otherwise does not exist?

Perhaps it is similar to the feeling of belonging to a group, but taken to a different level. Perhaps supporting a football club gives some individuals their sense of purpose and identity – almost as if it were an alternative to, or in some cases extension of, belonging to a gang. It is the common, tribal prejudices of the rogue individuals interpreted into the fabric of the club.

This is an emotional investment gone wrong. Yet perhaps it explains why the rogue individuals feel they need to make a stance about something the rest of us will have no truck with, and why they believe they have a duty to protect and defend a culture – using intimidating methods, or otherwise – that most people have long since wanted to move away from.

Sadly, I think the rogue, angry underclass will be with us in Scottish football for as long as it exists in Scottish society; it will exist in Scottish society for as long as we feel snookered within the corrupt and elitist politico-economic frameworks that have shaped our lives for generations. And as Spiers might suggest, you could challenge that one, but at your peril.

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Tapping Into Scottish Football’s Money Generating Emotions

The learned gentlemen of the mainstream media are particularly adept at tapping into and perpetuating money generating emotions, particularly where sporting rivalries are concerned.

Scottish football pundits and journalists have been at it for well over a century now, fully aware of the impact their carefully chosen, highly provocative, words are going to have on an audience hungry for sporting insight and commercial intelligence.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century the ‘Scottish Sport’ successfully tapped into the complex mix of potentially volatile emotions and attitudes that characterised certain communities of people in industrial working class areas in the West of Scotland.

To describe Celtic as the team of Irishmen in Glasgow that had to be matched by a Scottish champion in the late 1890’s, was to create the context for the bitter rivalry and sectarian hatred that was to follow.

Given the circumstances of the target audience, the choice of words was effectively an invitation to channel racial and religious prejudice into an otherwise friendly game of football.

And it just wouldn’t do for these clubs to continue enjoying the friendly relationship they had enjoyed in the beginning; interest would wane and there would eventually be too much money at stake. And thus it began.

As Professor Tom Devine described it:

“Celtic and Rangers had become the standard bearers of their two communities and their confrontations on the football field a noisy outlet for the bitter sectarian tensions of the west of Scotland.”

We are no further forward today.

During the past two seasons, certain journalists have appeared desperate to paint a vile picture of Neil Lennon, for example, in a vindictive attempt to hound him out of the Scottish game; in doing so, they needlessly cranked up the hostilities and forced a situation in which new, poorly written, legislation was felt necessary to handle it.

More recently, other journalists have been falling over themselves to perpetuate the myth that expelling Rangers from the first or second tier of Scottish football would have disastrous financial consequences for the entire game in Scotland.

Witness Graham Spiers’ article in the Herald this morning, which reads like a manifesto in support of Rangers’ immediate inclusion in the second tier of Scottish football, whatever shape or form that happens to take after Regan and Doncaster are finished with it:

http://www.heraldscotland.com/sport/football/separation-anxiety.18153454

The very suggestion that Celtic would sorely miss Rangers because of the money generating hostility and hatred that tarnishes this fixture, yet impacts favourably on the bottom line, looks like an irresponsible attempt to engineer a sense of regret in the hearts of Celtic fans, and a sense of commercial dread in the minds of the Celtic board.

He may claim that it is just his private hunch, but to hit the target with his carefully chosen words would be to soften the attitude towards the shorter term expulsion of Rangers from Scottish football’s top flight, if only he could coax Peter Lawwell to come out and say as much.

But putting that to one side, the very real concern is this: if the only appeal of Scottish football is a recurring spectacle built on media fuelled hatred, then restructuring the league set-up and merging the game’s governing bodies into a single unit isn’t going to make a blind bit of difference to the quality of our game.

It would be an expensive exercise, whose only real purpose would be to provide a cover story for the very short term expulsion of Rangers from the top flight in order to keep the broadcasters interested in the bitter rivalry at the heart of Scottish football.

This would be the final downfall of Scottish football. Graham Spiers is absolutely correct: it is all about money; but whilst certain Scottish football journalists would never want to admit it, it is all about self-preservation on their part, too.

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