Tag Archives: illicit chanting

From Honest Folk Song to illicit Chant: Suggestibility & Interpretation

A study has been conducted recently at the University of Oxford to establish whether people respond differently to works of art when they have been told that they are fakes.

The study brings out the idea that our response to something is heavily influenced by the information we have been given about it.

Subjects taking part in the experiments had their brains scanned whilst viewing the paintings. When the subjects were told that they were viewing imitations, their brain activity was said to reflect suspicion and doubt, rather than enjoyment and pleasure.

The subjects experienced a different type of response to the very same painting they had been looking at up until that point, even though they hadn’t been able to tell the difference prior to that information being received.

Clearly this study has wider implications beyond paintings. How we respond to paintings, as a consequence of the information we receive, may also reflect how we respond to monuments, symbols, stories and songs, and suggests that there is an element of irrationality in how we see, interpret and respond to such things.

To be told that a particular song is expressive of a certain political, nationalistic or religious preference, for example, when in fact it may simply be an innocent folk song, seems to denigrate that song immediately (and others similar to it) in the public consciousness.

The particular way in which objects, stories or songs figure in our thinking is shaped by the way in which they have been introduced to us. The emotional response they tend to elicit is influenced by the information we have been given.

And the strength and impact of ‘suggestibility’ should not be underestimated here.

To be informed by individuals who are deemed to be in positions of knowledge or authority that certain songs are rebellious and political, immoral or illicit, is to force an interpretation on them that may not actually reflect their original meaning or intention.

Yet it seems natural to accept such information as fact, just because it has come from what we have always been led to believe is a trustworthy source in society; and because, in some cases, it seems to have been reinforced by the fact that explicit references have been smuggled into the lines of some of these songs.

But there are times when we need to think about whether the source of the information, whether the authorities and assumed holders of knowledge, have been properly informed themselves, or indeed whether they have other agendas to push.

Of course, this is not to say that we should grant free air space to songs that glorify and celebrate terrorism, murder or bigotry.

It is simply to point out that there may have been times when we have been too hasty in our condemnation of honestly written folk songs, just because we have been given a particular interpretation of their intent.

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Should Politics be kept out of Football?

I think that football supporters should keep their politics out of football and I think that politicians should keep their party policies out of football.

I believe that this should apply to all football supporters, whether they hold minority, majority, moderate or extreme opinions, and all politicians, whichever policies they promote and wherever they happen to sit on the political axis.

However I suspect that this separation is highly unlikely to be achieved, for different reasons, depending on which perspective you come at it from.

From the perspective of football supporters, politics and football are both highly emotive subjects. Supporters are generally very passionate about their clubs and many also have very strong beliefs and views about the decisions and policies that control their daily lives now, and that have shaped their histories in the past.

It is difficult to stop political leakage at the best of times when emotions and passions have been stirred up within the context of fierce competition and bitter rivalry. The difficulty is exacerbated when certain types of politics have been illegally smuggled into the stories of what some of the clubs are believed to represent, or what some of the supporters would like their clubs to represent.

And when these stories are lived out within a setting of racial discrimination and religious intolerance, there are so many vital emotions tangled together that extinguishing politics from football becomes a very challenging project indeed.

From the perspective of politicians, football is a highly visible forum that plays a pivotal role in society. There is too much at stake, namely status quo, money and political reputation, not to get involved when problematic situations emerge that threaten the uneasy, and quite often distasteful, equilibrium.

Recent events have compelled politicians to interfere in football with the promise of new legislation to deal with an old set of problems, from offensive chanting to acts of violence, and their interference in turn has compelled certain football supporters to reinforce and reinvigorate their political statements.

If supporters believe that they have the right to raise their political voice at football matches, regardless of their position or intent, and regardless of strongly worded requests to desist, it is only inevitable that political interference in some shape or form will follow.

Whether such interference is clear or confusing, justified or unjustified, too little, exactly right or excessive, it is an inevitability that comes with the territory. Politicians have to be seen to be doing something when emotions are so high and media scrutiny is so tense.

Raise your voice too often and too loud about matters that bring politics into football, and politicians, for better or worse, will only be too happy to oblige. And you will just need to settle for whatever measures the prevailing political party deems fit to introduce.

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Why tackling offensive behaviour has become a battle of wills

When you tell people to stop doing things that they have been doing for a very long time without recourse, it is highly likely that they will just dig their heels in and keep on doing it, particularly when they feel strongly about what they are doing and why they are doing it.

Even more so, when the reason they have been told to stop is that their behaviour has been deemed offensive towards other individuals, many of whom, as it happens, have been behaving in a similar way themselves, and who are also perceived to hold a specifically discriminatory attitude towards their racial origins, ethnicity or religious preferences.

Whether you believe, within your own frame of reference, that your behaviour is reasonable and legitimate because you are simply promoting your cause, expressing your commitment to a particular heritage, or just lamenting a troubled past, there are specific points at which your own understanding of what is reasonable can come into conflict with what the vast majority of other people understand as reasonable.

The problem here is that what other people understand as reasonable may sometimes be viewed with a certain degree of contempt, sometimes outrage, depending on how the conflict was brought into focus in the first place.

If it was brought into focus in a crass, volatile and unsympathetic manner, what should have started out as a plea to another person’s reasonable self, becomes part of the unfolding and rapidly escalating conflict. And the war of attrition begins.

Drilling down to specifics, certain football clubs are inextricably linked with certain communities, past and present. The formation of these clubs, their original reason for coming into existence, and their continuing scope and influence today cannot be separated from the lives, the passions, the hopes and struggles, of the people who support them.

Therefore the very identity of these clubs is so bound up with the identity of the people who support them that they feel it is their right to express their support and tell their stories in the manner they deem appropriate. After all, it is their identity. It is their history as much as the club’s. And there is absolutely nothing wrong, unreasonable, offensive or illicit about doing so.

Now, it is one thing to tell the story of these clubs and the lives of the supporters in song, when they are one and the same thing. But when certain songs pick out and celebrate some of the wider historical events and political movements, that may well have affected the lives of some of the supporters at some point in time, but that have absolutely no connection with the identity of clubs themselves, there is a clear divergence between what the clubs represent, and what these particular supporters represent.

Again there is nothing particularly wrong with this, if the supporters are simply telling a wider story. It is wrong, however, when the events and political movements referred to embody ideologies of hatred, bigotry or terrorism that, however they are judged in their own right, are judged to be offensive and inappropriate within the context of football matches.

And when the clubs concerned openly disown, discourage and distance themselves from the wider stories that are being told, a clear signal is being sent that this type of behaviour is not part of who they are and that it is not tolerable in their name.

But the problem with the way in which all of this has been brought into focus recently is that it was done in a confusing, clumsy, crass and cack handed manner by politicians trying to make a name for themselves, pundits and journalists trying to sell sensational headlines, some opposition fans trying to blame each other, some people feeling that their right to express their heritage was being ripped away from them, and many others feeling that they have been left in a state of bewilderment about what is acceptable and what is not. And within this state of bitterness, resentment and confusion, the seeds of an enduring battle of wills have been sown…

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Illicit Chanting and Political Slanting

‘Illicit chanting’ is one of the latest catch phrases to be thrown around in the pantomime that Scottish football has descended into recently.

It has been used to describe the singing of certain types of political songs at Celtic’s recent Europa League match against Rennes.

So I want to use this example to explore the question why political songs are deemed to be ‘illicit’ in the context of football matches?

I am assuming that we must be using the term ‘illicit’ in its secondary sense, meaning that the songs are deemed immoral or inappropriate for the context, rather than in its primary sense, meaning that the songs are deemed illegal or unlawful.

I can’t think of any songs that are illicit in the sense that they are illegal or unlawful, but I can think of many songs that would be illicit in the sense that they are inappropriate for the context.

But who decides on what is appropriate or inappropriate for the context?

UEFA’s disciplinary regulation 11.2 describes “the use of gestures, words, objects or any other means to transmit any message that is not fit for a sports event, in particular if it is of a political, offensive or provocative nature.”

The regulation is clear that any type of political message is not fit for a sports event and would therefore be open to disciplinary action. But suppose a section of fans at a football match were to sing Bob Dylan’s, ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’, or John Lennon’s, ‘Imagine’.

These songs carry political messages. But are certain types of political songs more offensive than others? If so, is it just because the specific politics espoused are more likely to be found objectionable by certain people who happen to be present at the time?

It is one thing to say that, in general terms, political chanting is illicit because it is offensive per se and should therefore be removed from football; it is another thing to say that the political chanting you have indulged in is illicit because the particular political view point you have expressed is offensive to me, or in conflict to mine, and I don’t want to hear it.

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