Tag Archives: rangers

Bigotry By Misperception

There is something not quite right in the psychology of individuals who seek out signs of bigotry in others, in order to vent the type of false moral outrage that we have become accustomed to these days.

Particularly when they begin to see manifestations of bigotry in perfectly innocent situations and are no longer able to tell the difference between the largest Island off the coast of Ireland, for example, and the second largest religion in the world (completely misconstrued, of course, as something to be offended by).

What we tend to see is heavily influenced by a mix of subconscious beliefs, attitudes and emotions; it is not uncommon to impose our own expectations of reality onto the naked facts in front of us. We respond to what we think we see, and what we want to see, rather than what actually is the case.

When the background beliefs and attitudes have been built up over the years in what can be described as a tense, embittered and contentious context at best, it is not surprising that our ability to make clear eyed judgements diminishes. Too often we get it wrong.

Part of the problem in Scotland is that this tendency to get it wrong has been exacerbated by the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act, recently described by Dundee Sheriff, Davidson, as ‘horribly drafted’ and ‘mince’, and which has succeeded in putting most of us off the scent entirely in terms of what, from a legal perspective, now counts as offensive and what doesn’t.

Be that as it may, we have reached a point where some individuals feel compelled to pounce on any scrap of evidence they can find, or think they can find, in order to promote the idea that there are other groups of individuals with a greater propensity for bigotry than the one to which they belong – ‘shameful…’ and ‘disgraceful…’ are among some of the commonly used epithets.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that it is partly about trying to balance the books by sharing out the guilt. It is something most of us did as children and many continue to do into adulthood. The mince legislation fits this immature notion of balance like a glove. It also makes it so much more likely that we will point the finger in the wrong direction.

If nothing else, one man’s embarrassing error last Sunday helps to highlight the more general truth that, thanks to the Offensive Behaviour at Football legislation, it is now part of Scottish football culture that some groups of supporters will try to vilify innocent behaviours, gestures, banners and songs, by throwing their own unchecked belief systems and ugly expectations over the facts.

Rather than help eradicate bigotry at football matches in Scotland, this legislation has actually succeeded in creating an added dimension to the bigotry that already existed, because so many individuals now think that they can see signs of bigotry in places where no such bigotry exists. They themselves become the bigots they claim to despise.

I think bigotry by misperception would appear to be a more serious problem than the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act could ever have anticipated – not least because the hastily written legislation helped nurture this embarrassing problem along.

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On Whether Sectarianism is a Form of Racism

The question of whether sectarianism is a form of racism is an important one.

Not only does it have a bearing on how we ought to understand instances of sectarian behaviour and how such instances should be dealt with from a legal point of view; it also has a bearing on the most appropriate way of managing sectarianism out of our society.

At the 2012 Festival of Politics at the Scottish Parliament, Professor Richard Finlay of Strathclyde University put forward the view that sectarianism in Scotland should indeed be regarded as a form of racism. Whilst I am not completely convinced that this is correct in all cases, I do agree that there are benefits in this position.

Firstly, it helps us break away from the narrow understanding of sectarianism in Scotland as nothing more than religious bigotry rooted in certain working class communities. In addition to this, thinking about sectarianism as a form of racism helps deliver a more accurate account of the origins of sectarianism in Scottish society.

But more importantly, understanding sectarianism this way might help bring about a structural shift in our thinking, such that instances of sectarian behaviour begin to be perceived differently, with greater social stigma attaching to them than perhaps would have been the case under popular understanding of what the term denotes:


In Scotland, sectarianism tends to be popularly understood in terms of the bitterness and hatred between two Glasgow football teams, the divisiveness and triumphalism of parades and marching bands, and the controversial existence of faith schools.

These are some of the automatic associations many of us make. However as Professor Finlay notes, the problem runs much deeper than this, and cannot be disconnected from an underlying anti-Irish sentiment which has prevailed in Scottish society for generations, particularly from the 19th century onwards.

On the other hand, Patrick Yu, Director for the Northern Ireland Council of Ethnic Minorities, has previously been on record to argue that, in Northern Ireland at least, it would be unwise to conflate issues of sectarianism and racism. His belief is that doing so would draw the courts into the wrong types of dispute, for which separate provisions already exist in law.


So is it correct to argue that sectarianism is a form of racism? Does each country have its own distinctive brand of sectarianism, with only some instances meriting description as a form of racism? Could sectarianism be a form of racism in one country, but not in another? Would that even make sense?

Or would it be more accurate to argue that there are instances of sectarian behaviour that sit outside the scope of internationally recognised definitions of racial discrimination, and therefore should merit different legal and social treatment? It is a difficult one.

Whatever the case elsewhere, there are obvious connections between Scotland’s brand of sectarianism and the racial prejudice historically displayed towards those of Irish Catholic descent living and working in this country. It has just rolled on since then, in greater or lesser degrees over the years, and taking different forms at different times.

So whilst I see the reasons behind Professor Finlay’s thinking, I am still not entirely convinced that it would be correct to say that sectarianism is a form of racism. I completely agree with the idea that it would be socially expedient to think of sectarianism in this way, if doing so helped change the way we manage instances of offensive behaviour motivated by religious hatred.

But what I also think is this – and it is why I believe we should exercise caution in seeking a closer alignment of the two – treating sectarianism as a form of racism could force a fundamental redefinition of prominent world religions that would diminish the universal nature of their core beliefs by localising them to a people, a time and place.

In addition, and perhaps more importantly, if sectarianism is in fact a form of racism, then arguably we are also holding the view that tolerating another person’s religion is the same thing as tolerating his race. We need to be careful how closely we want to tie these two concepts together –

Because not only would this seem to threaten the autonomy of religious belief with respect to race and ethnic origin; I think it could also make it very difficult to rationally debate and logically criticise belief systems promoted by other religions – as should be our right – without running the risk of making implicit criticisms and unintended negative judgements on issues of race and ethnicity.

And having built the good part of the argument on the premise that racism is inherently wrong in the first place, this could prove to be dangerous territory to wander back into.

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Some Thoughts on Charles Green’s Christmas Message

Referring to the link between an individual’s social status and his outward appearance, Charles Dickens wrote in his classic novel Oliver Twist, that dignity is ‘sometimes more a question of coat and waistcoat than some people would imagine’.

Throw in some brown brogues and he was definitely on the money.

Joking aside, Dickens makes an important point worth expanding: in the same sense that class distinctions have no factual basis in reality, other than by decree, what we commonly mean by ‘integrity’ is sometimes more a question of image and perception than it is of actual moral substance.

Until recently, dignity and integrity thus misconstrued were the two supporting pillars of Scottish football’s great dependency myth. The third pillar was the unquestioning belief in the disastrous consequences that would ensue on removal of the great historical custodians of the latter.

There is now a fourth, but it is still under construction. Early indications are that it is shaping up to be quite a formidable replacement for the ones that finally crumbled earlier this year. Charles Green’s Christmas Message is more like a call to arms than peaceful greetings.

Yet Green’s advantage over David Murray and Craig Whyte is that the perception of injustice is a much more powerful motivator of masses than a long standing expectation of entitlement. If he plays it correctly, he knows how much money he stands to make from his latest enterprise. It’s all about profit maximisation.

Charles Green invites us to believe that he has refreshed and rejuvenated Scottish football, filling the stockings of the other clubs in the Third Division.

But his invitation is nothing more than a cynical attempt at restoring damaged pride by rejuvenating the belief in dignity and integrity, amplified this time by the perception of injustice endured at the hands of other football Chairmen and two of the game’s three governing bodies.

Charles Green is probably onto a winner in monetary terms. He seems to have managed the mood. But the mood that has been managed is one that was actively encouraged by him, for the sake of making as much profit as he possibly could.

Whilst the benefit of his strategy is that it will yield decent financial returns in the short to medium term, the long term disadvantage is that Charles Green will walk away when it suits his wallet, leaving that mood completely unmanaged, like an angry dog waiting on the postman.

Charles Green admitted that he hadn’t yet received a card from Dundee United, the SFA or the SPL.

He is probably in for a long wait. And the dog will be barking when these particular cards finally arrive.

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‘Three Leagues of Eight’

‘Three leagues of eight’ – what on earth is happening to Scottish football?

Apparently the problem with Scottish football is that there are too many meaningless games, with next to no incentive for the majority of teams to try hard beyond February every year. In other words, the semblance of competition is over too quickly. And all because of the existing league structure.

Solution? Create two leagues out of twenty two teams, split them up into three leagues of eight teams after twenty two games – with battles raging from February onwards for promotion or otherwise – and there you have it, competitiveness restored! Brilliant, why didn’t someone think of that earlier…before our game started sliding down the drain?

Because it is an utterly stupid idea, that’s why.

Why would you think that the solution to the decline in Scottish football would lie in chopping up small leagues into micro leagues? Where exactly did that wonky logic come from?

I am sceptical. I don’t think it is the structure per se that makes the league uncompetitive. I think it has got more to do with the self-defeating belief, shared by too many of our teams, their managers, their chairmen and supporters, that there really is nothing to play for beyond Christmas.

And arguably, their resignation may be justified. Surely you don’t have to look too hard to see that the ball is already well on its way to being burst at the start of every year? Granted, but that isn’t going to change as a result of league reconstruction.

Our players aren’t going to become better players, our referees aren’t going to stop making honest mistakes, and the sneaky gentlemen who lurk in the shadowy corridors of power aren’t going to suddenly grow a pair of balls and rid the game of those – themselves included – who specialise in bendy rules.

It is not the existing league structure that is holding Scottish football back. The problem with Scottish football stems from the protectionist policies of its power brokers. Their insatiable greed and permanent cluelessness have been contributing to the slow death of our game for years.

But so too has the damaging belief that many of our players appear to subscribe to. It is the belief that they are not good enough to challenge for honours at the end of the season. And it is the belief that their Scottish identity is no longer equivalent to exportable skill, strength and grit – that magnificent persona belongs to a past generation of Scottish footballers.

Sort all of that out and you might be a step closer to sorting out the mess that Scottish football has become.

‘Three leagues of eight’? Do us a favour!

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Glasgow’s Split Personality (Thoughts on the Proposed Famine Memorial)

Like many cities around the world, there are ways in which Glasgow exhibits signs of having a split personality, which it often finds embarrassing and difficult to deal with.

Perhaps none are as obvious as its inability to reconcile its world renowned sense of humour, warmth, openness and generosity of spirit, with its sometimes cold, angry and hateful rejection of individuals of different race, religion or ethnic origin.

To an extent, the sociological roots of this problem can be found in the effects of large groups of people from different backgrounds shifting around in response to mass industrialisation, economic booms and slumps, and seeking refuge from unemployment, abject poverty and devastating hunger.

All of which has a tendency to heighten the territorial dimension of the self-preservation instinct, increasing suspicion, distrust and fear of individual differences; that new comers have arrived on the scene, from different areas and with different traditions, languages and beliefs, to seek a share of local jobs and resources, can sometimes be perceived as a cause for concern.

When that concern is leaked out in the form of discriminatory behaviour – and openly encouraged as a matter of policy or principle – the roots of racial and religious bigotry are very quickly sewn. That an individual is of this ethnic origin, or of that religious denomination, was thus deemed a sufficient reason to exclude them from obtaining employment with certain companies, for example, or grounds to verbally abuse them in the street, and much worse.

In the late 1840’s, the potato blight that spread across countries in Northern Europe led to widespread hunger, poverty and disease, in Ireland and parts of Scotland, a situation that was aggravated by a slow and ineffective response from the Government in London.

Despite being warmly received by many, and despite making a significant economic and cultural contribution to the city, the subsequent rise in the number of Irish arriving in Glasgow to seek refuge would have aggravated some of the religious, racial and ethnic divisions already taking shape ever since immigrants started arriving in Scotland from countries across Europe.

Amidst this, in 1888 Celtic Football Club was formed by Irish Marist Brother Walfrid for charitable and social purposes to help alleviate poverty in Glasgow’s East End parishes.

And whilst starting off on amicable terms, the club’s rivalry with the other Glasgow team, Rangers FC, was corrupted by the media’s determination to create a racially tinged sense of competition between the teams that would endure to this day – Rangers would be the team to challenge ‘the Irish men in Glasgow.’

In more recent times this racially motivated sense of rivalry has evolved in an entirely negative manner, and has been expressed in many different ways, including in the lyrics of ‘The Famine Song’. It is a song that asks the descendants of those who sought refuge in Glasgow to return home to Ireland, as their presence in the city is no longer necessary: ‘The Famine is Over, Why Don’t You Go Home’.

At the same time, the proposal to build a memorial to the immigrants who arrived in Glasgow from Ireland seeking refuge in the late 1840’s, whilst being a fitting commemoration, would also be a focal point of much of the cold hatred towards those of different ethnic origins living their lives in the city. Sadly, much of that hatred is inherited, completely irrational and almost irreversible once engrained in the psyche.

The famine memorial would be a reminder of the devastating impact of hunger and poverty on human life, then and today. It would be a reminder of the importance of compassion as a timeless and universal quality. It would be a reminder that the people of Glasgow have an unparalleled generosity of spirit.

But it would also be a reminder that there are times when Glasgow flourishes and flounders on the same point – those who believe it is acceptable to harbour racially motivated hatred of those of different ethnic origin, and oppose the very idea of such a memorial, are likely to be those who would give their very last penny to a friend in need. And herein is found the essence of Glasgow’s split personality.

And the fact that the Famine Song is deemed by some to be nothing more than humorous banter, whereas to others it is deeply offensive, and blatantly racist, tells you that perhaps Glasgow’s split personality isn’t quite ready to be reconciled.

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The Weakness of the Kit-Kat Analogy

It is ironic that the Kit-Kat Analogy has been used to explain the continuation of the history of Rangers.

After all, its advertising strap-line includes the indulgently enticing phrase, ‘Take a Break…’

But in all seriousness, Kit-Kats have their own chequered history, including a war-time change of ingredients and a relatively recent change in ownership; yet curiously enough, we still use this name to refer to the same two fingered biscuit we enjoy today as we enjoyed as children.

With a little stretch of our philosophical imagination, the name ‘Kit-Kat’ is what the really clever philosopher Saul Kripke might have called a rigid designator. We use it in such a way that it picks out the same object, or same entity, in all possible worlds.

On the other hand, Kripke’s genius consists in the fact that he would probably have said that the name ‘Rangers’ is a non-rigid designator, or a flaccid designator, meaning that it does not refer to the same entity in all possible worlds.

Kripkean flaccid designators refer to different entities, in different possible worlds. In the possible world in which liquidation occurred (this one, I think), the name ‘Rangers’ would not refer to the same entity as the possible world in which liquidation did not occur.

And there you have it, the weakness of the Kit-Kat analogy.

However, and I actually checked this with Kripke, the name ‘Celtic’ is definitely a rigid designator….

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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:


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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Integrity…? Morality in Sport is Just a Happy Coincidence.

Hardly a day goes by without another reminder of the multitude of corrupt practices underpinning many of our highly esteemed institutions and organisations. Pillars of honesty, trustworthiness and respectability they are not; guardians of fairness, integrity and respect, they have never been.

Increasingly it seems to be the case that you cannot have a fully functioning political, economic or social framework without the existence of deep rooted structural corruption. Reference the utter contempt that politicians, bankers, market traders, corporate executives and various other noble professionals have for the rest of us.

But reference also the various sporting institutions that purport to uphold the very same values. In Scottish football, for instance, we have a diabolical (no, comical) state of affairs; we have an unfolding story of systematic cheating, gross financial mismanagement, institutional bullying and contemptible conduct.

It is a despicable state of affairs, as is the false moral outrage of the individuals responsible for pretending to bring it back into check. They know they have too much to lose themselves if they make the correction process too severe, yet they have to be seen to be responding appropriately. They are upholders of truth and integrity, after all.

To assume that it would be perfectly acceptable to propose that the new Rangers football club – I don’t even know what they are supposed to be called these days – should be given access into the Scottish First Division, to bring about short term redemption without financially crippling the game, is to confirm what every honest football supporter already knew.

The bell tolled for Scottish football many years ago when David Murray introduced a new type of accounting practice and contentious contract management system, and it positively rang out when his slippery accomplice Craig Whyte continued that practice with intent.

Integrity was lost amidst the dubious financial shuffling that enabled the old club to cheat its way to success. But now it is definitely in danger of disappearing completely out of sight, and irretrievably so, with this latest development, just when many people thought that it had been restored…

I wouldn’t be surprised if the SPL Chairmen, who were happy to publicly declare their objection to the club being admitted to their league earlier this week, were somehow in on the act. Regardless how you dress it up, money seems to be the critical factor; morality in sport is just a happy coincidence, when it happens. I was sceptical at the time and I am sceptical now.

But perhaps the most distasteful thing about it is the part the rest of us are expected play in all of this. As the money men engineer the best possible solution for the new club (and every other club in Scottish football, we are led to believe), the honest supporter is asked to pay up and shut up, and maybe then everything will be ok again.

But that’s exactly the point. It won’t be ok again, because the big deal that was made about restoring integrity was, in fact, just a big sham.

It was just a big play for season ticket renewals whilst a deal was being done in the background to open alternative doors, which would lead very quickly back to the set-up the chairmen claimed they wanted to block.

Integrity…who even knows what that means anymore?

Certainly not the decision makers in Scottish football, that’s for sure.

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Swiftly on the Heels of Moral Decline (An Appeal to SPL Chairmen)

On the one hand we all recognise that there would be something morally distasteful in allowing the newly formed SEVCO 5088 to walk straight into the SPL. Even with some sanctions attached.

On the other hand we have all listened to the concerns of SPL Club Chairmen who would be worried about their own club’s financial situation if SEVCO 5088 were not allowed entry to SPL, but made to start in a lower division.

Apparently, Scottish football would be financially crippled. So the implication would be that it would be better to be morally bankrupt than financially so. At least you know you would have a chance of surviving, even if your integrity didn’t.

Yet putting the moral versus economic argument to one side for a minute, it is not unthinkable that at least half of the current bunch of SPL teams could be relegation candidates in any given season. There are few who could consider themselves absolutely safe.

So if I were one of the SPL Chairmen struggling to balance morality with money, I would take a moment and think about this risk.

If you were tempted to vote SEVCO 5088 straight into the SPL, there is a chance that your club might not even be there the following season to benefit from your temporary loss of moral fibre, whereas SEVCO 5088 probably will.

I would also think about this: in the event that your club were relegated next season – and there is absolutely no guarantee that it wouldn’t be – would you not stand to benefit from your games against lower league SEVCO 5088 as they worked their way back up?

And in the meantime, why be so selfish about it? Why deny football clubs in the lower divisions an opportunity to benefit from the revenue generation potential of SEVCO 5088? Surely it would be good for the whole of Scottish football if lower clubs got a slice of the action for a change?

Survival instincts will always push harder than any Kantian categorical imperative; they tend to operate outside the space of moral governance and in very short, spectacular bursts.

So if you are one of the SPL Chairmen struggling with the weight of this decision, you need to work out how you would explain to your supporters why you are the club going down next season, when you promised long term prosperity in exchange for your club turning its back on good moral practice.

At which point it is too late when you realise that, despite the outcome you thought you were preventing, financial decline quite often follows swiftly on the heels of moral decline.

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The Idiot’s Wind

Imagine waking up one morning to hear some real news.

I mean REAL news; news that hasn’t been tampered with in any way; news that actually is news and not a particular media group’s agenda (paid for by people who need a certain story to be told, because it lets them do what they do without the rest of us noticing it).

That would be refreshing, to say the least. Or would it? Are we so used to sugar coating that we have lost the taste for hard facts? Would we even be able to cope with what could leave a vile and bitter taste in our mouths?

Are we so used to admiring the gloss finish that we have lost the memory of what was underneath it, if we had ever been allowed to know it in the first place, that pointless lump of wood with the knots and the skelves?

The problem with being denied access to reality, to the facts as they actually are, rather than a particular version of them, is that the story that is wrapped around them tends to be taken as given by the vast majority of people.

And then the story becomes the truth, and the truth, should anyone have the audacity to bring it up, becomes ridiculed as an obvious and blatant lie. It becomes a lie touted by idiots intoxicated by paranoia. It becomes the idiot’s wind, particularly when it is blowing hard against the establishment.

Wherever there is money to be made, wherever there are reputations to be created and protected, wherever there is power and influence to be won, there we will find countless obliging story tellers and idiot objectors (and to adapt an infamous boast: for every five idiot objectors, there will be ten obliging story tellers).

Football, religion, economics and politics – the mainstay of large sections of our society – are all ripe for this type of activity. The goal is never to seek the truth, but to get away with an approximation to the truth, so long as a particular approximation serves someone’s purpose.

And it usually does; until the cash runs out.

In Bob Dylan’s brilliant ‘Idiot Wind’, he used this phrase to describe, among other things, some of the nonsense people take for fact because it has been put out as such by the media, in whom we trust.

But this turn of phrase is also particularly useful to describe the way in which we are encouraged to think about those who dig deep enough to get at the facts that others have tried to conceal.

And ironically, it is usually the gullible concealers, and those who are taken in by them, who brand the idiots as such….

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