Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Trigger Happy Sheriffs and Their Posse of Commentariat

There is just now a very worrying McCarthyesque campaign to discredit democratic dissent in the UK. In a democracy people should appreciate the value of democratic debate at times of crisis as a means of determining the correct course of action after taking all points of view on board. Establishing the truth in conflict situations is extremely difficult. Hence, the value of thoroughly investigating an alleged war crime to (a) confirm it has taken place and (b) establish who committed it.  

It is one thing to defend Assad but, it is quite another to request that, before we bomb Syria, we ask questions that anyone who wants to find out what happened in Douma would ask. So, the branding people who ask such questions an “Assad apologist” raises its own questions.

What would those who wanted to bomb Syria have lost had they allowed an investigation - which was due to start on Saturday, the day after the bombs fell – to take place? The element of surprise? Bearing in mind Trump had tweeted the world that missiles were acomin’ that’s not credible. Fear of another imminent CW attack? With the rest of the world’s eyes on Douma and the actions of Assad’s army that isn’t credible either. So why the rush?

A cynic might suggest that US/UK feared any investigation might show there was either no CW attack or that Assad was not responsible for any CW attack, thus invalidating the ‘humanitarian intervention’ legal defence that US/UK intended to employ in their self-appointed role of World Policeman. Either way, perhaps the last thing the world needs is trigger happy sheriff. Hence the need for the rule of law to be respected. And if the sheriff’s suspect is convicted then punishment can be meted out. But surely not before an investigation, never mind before a trial.

So, anyone with respect for the rule of law, for justice and a determination to uncover the truth would welcome challenging questions, wouldn’t they? Apparently not. Not only is there a near-uniform across the media retort of “Assad apologist” directed to anyone asking these questions, there is now a determination among some that such questions should not be asked at all.

Take this example from Sky News yesterday involving The Henry Jackson Society’s Dr Alan Mendoza on the pro-bombing before investigation side and Prof Piers Robinson on the pro-investigation first side.

Mendoza started by reiterating the pro-bombing before investigation side’s mantra of “Assad has form” argument. Robinson countered by saying some sources (such as the Red Cross) stated there was no proof on the ground in this instance and followed up, logically, that a “proper investigation” should take place to avoid repeating “past mistakes”.

Mendoza replied that three countries (US/UK/France) have evidence, a contention he tries to back up with such expressions as these countries “clearly believe” and “It appears they have evidence”, rather than “have demonstrably proven” or “definitely have proof”.  

Given that the pro-bombing before investigation argument was pushed forward with such equivocal phraseology it answered none of Robinson’s concerns. So, Robinson, without ever expressing any comment on Assad, far less anything sympathetic, merely suggests that “it's reasonable to keep an open mind” and we should “allow a proper investigation to find out who is responsible” and that “history gives pause for thought.”

Mendoza, in an apparently agitated state, says. “So, was it your mother who did this -seriously - this chemical weapons attack?” Robinson ignores the provocation and steadfastly reiterates pleas for “reason, “thought”, “investigation”, “objectivity.”

Obviously, such notions are not reasonable to some in The Henry Jackson Society, seeing them as obstacles to the march of their special brand of imperialism. Opponents are not there to be argued with. They are there to be crushed.  Mendoza finally – and memorably – runs out of patience, ranting that its “absolutely appalling” that “national television” allowed someone with Robinson’s views to “defend a dictator”. Of course, run through the tape and you’ll find not even a slight defence of Assad. Mendoza either misunderstood the conversation or made that up. It was a crude attempt to delegitimise “reason, “thought”, “investigation”, “objectivity”.

The Sky anchor then reasonably suggests – more to defend Sky than Robinson, but commendably nonetheless - that it’s fair to ask questions like, “what might happen after Assad” without being called “an apologist for Assad”. But Mendoza is having none of that. His mission appears to have been to appear on our screens solely to spread this smear as far and as wide as he can in the time allowed. “No, I think you are very much being an apologist for what Assad has done”.

Exchanges like this tell us that legitimate dissent and argument is under attack.  Mendoza’s momentary lapse of reason illustrated the desire among his ilk to intimidate the likes of Sky News out of (a) ever inviting dissenting voices into our screens and (b) ever daring to ask challenging questions themselves.

This isn’t idle conjecture. The organisation he is a member of, the super-connected Henry Jackson Society, is a Neocon outfit who see it as their mission to influence discourse and therefore opinion and indeed task some members with campaigning against dissenters from the Neocon narrative, such as Chomsky and others. See here this copy of the minutes of its Post London Launch Meeting, attended by, among others, one Dr Alan Mendoza, cited therein as its Executive Director.

Dr Mendoza and his sort are perfectly entitled to campaign for their views. But I’m not sure they believe we all are.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Death To The Calm Heads

Teresa May stated in the House of Commons that it is “highly likely” the military-grade weather returning to the UK this weekend is coming from Russia

Ministers on the national security council were told that the chemical agent used was from a family of substances known as “Snow”. “Based on the positive identification of this chemical agent by world-leading experts at Porton Down, we surmise that Russia has previously produced this agent and would still be capable of doing so".

Opposition leader, the traitor Jeremy Corbyn, was sentenced to death by many in his own party when he claimed that Snow may not be manufactured exclusively in Russia.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

In Syria We Have No Morals - Only Interests

I strongly support a ceasefire in Ghouta. But then, people like me strongly support ceasefires unconditionally anywhere, in all circumstances. Sadly, that’s where we differ from many Western leaders and media, with admirable exceptions.

Calls for ceasefires from Lebanon 2006 to Gaza 2014 and from Yemen to Raqqa and Mosul, have fallen on deaf Western ears, regardless of the human suffering. In fact, in Raqqa, the US went as far as to reject such calls as it would “give ISIS time to regroup”, the slaughter of women and children evidently “being a price worth paying”.

Ironically, civilians are always in the frontline of wars “for civilisation”. Bombing them anywhere is criminal according to international law. But, no matter how the lofty intent, war always, always, comes down to obliterating families in their homes, killing their children, and then either “regretting” it happened, or claiming to have done everything possible to avoid it, or ignoring it altogether.

The evidence clearly demonstrates that Western leaders and, for the most part, Western media, consider civilians – men, women and children - just as expendable in pursuit of war aims as the supposedly more brutal Russians and Syrians. When analysed objectively, there is not the slightest difference in modus operandi. No official or journalistic sophistry can disguise that. It’s appalling that us news consumers who depend on journalistic objectivity for truth are subjected to reporting and analysis unable - or unwilling - to disentangle itself from its national perspective.

Everything that is happening in Ghouta already happened in Raqqa when the US and allies bombed the hell out of it. The same in Mosul. While Western media reported this, it generally did so with comparative coldness, suggesting civilian casualties were a sad inevitability in the war against ISIS. We did not get a bomb by bomb account of civilian causalities like we did in Aleppo and do in Ghouta. No “last doctors in town”, no Banas.

So, it is reasonable to ask are The West’s calls for a ceasefire in Ghouta genuinely humanitarian or are they merely to hold up the Syrian Arab Army’s mopping up of rebel areas? The West has shown beyond doubt that it wants to fight ISIS everywhere - except where ISIS is fighting the Syrian Army. In fact, Western intelligence and its allies have provided ISIS with weapons, finance, medical treatment, refuge. Everything in fact ISIS needed to fight the Syrian Army. People calling for ceasefires here but not ceasefires there don’t have cessations as their primary purpose. A child’s life in Gaza, Lebanon or Yemen should be just as important as a child’s life Raqqa, Mosul, Ghouta, Aleppo.

Why then such selective humanitarian concern? Why, to its disgrace, did the West reject demands for ceasefire in Mosul or Raqqa when the civilian population was being bombed, often with white phosphorus. Why are some children expendable and others sacred? Why are some bombings good, and some bad? Why are some weapons (such as cancer-causing White Phosphorous) used without much judgement from the ‘moral’ Western media and others (barrel bombs) cried out to be the embodiment of evil? Is White Phosphorous really any more discriminating than Barrel Bombs? Any more child-friendly? A civilian family having White Phosphorous dropped on it is no more likely to survive than one with barrel bombs falling on it. Yet, Western media seems to love the soundbite quality of “barrel bombs”, a phrase spat out by “moralistic” media types, as opposed to even mentioning White Phosphorous.

Go on. Do a count in major Western articles on the words “Barrel Bombs” and then on “White Phosphorous”. While you’re at it, count how many times Western media and officials called for a ceasefire in Raqqa and Mosul and then compare it to the amount of times they called for ceasefires in Aleppo and Ghouta.

The explanation for the disparity you will find of course is Geopolitics. See, if civilians, women and children, thousands of little Banas, are dying in the pursuit of strategic aims desirable to the West, then they are done for, abandoned to their fate, a fate barely reported. Whereas if civilians are dying while states resist Western Geopolitical aims, then these are sainted, sacred beings, whose every second of suffering is unbearable to our leaders and their broadly supportive media. Sadly for Syrians, the frontline of Geopolitical struggle, the battle for access to essential resources necessary to project power between the two strongest powers in the world, Russian and The US, currently cuts through their neighbourhoods.

You’ll not find much reference to “Geopolitics” in Western media reporting of Syria. You see, Geopolitics can explain a lot. And truthful explanation is not in the interests of the powerful nations of the world. Geopolitics provides a colder, more rational objective analysis of events in context of how states throughout history have behaved and why and, therefore, are likely still to do so. Usually they are vying for position, seeking advantageous access to resources.

If you have faith that nations intervene for humanitarian reasons you’d be better saving your faith for the Tooth Fairy. They are never doing anything for moral reasons. As former imperial British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston famously said, using an expression repeated through the ages from De Gaulle to Henry Kissinger, “We have no friends – only interests”. He could have as easily said, “We have no morals – only interests”. Indeed, our current leaders would be more truthful if they said the same thing now. Dressing up the slaughter of innocent women and children as a crime we’d never commit - and that we seek to stop for moral purposes - is shameless cynicism, an insult to our intelligence and, an immoral crime. But, thanks to a largely complicit media, our leaders get to do this again and again and again. A truly objective, fearless and effective media might just say one day, “hey, haven’t we been here before? Do we really want to go there again, and again, and again?”

I have no time for the way the Syrians and Russians are so cheaply discarding human life in Ghouta. But any notion that we in the West are any different is naivety beyond reason. We kill just like they kill. If you are genuinely humanitarian  then you'll have no problem condemning Western or Russian bombing of civilians. If you chose to condemn one side's bombing while excusing the other's bombing, then you are not a humanitarian objector. You are a participant.  

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Ecky Thump - That Interview for the Scotland Manager's job in full

Ecky Thump - That Interview for the Scotland Manager's job in full

SFA – So, Mr McLeish, how do you hope to transform the fortunes of Scotland?
AM – Well, the first thing is to make sure that the current Rangers squad is fit for purpose.
SFA – You mean current Scotland Squad?
AM – Oh, Aye, Aye. BTW I have my eyes on a few players that we should include in the next squad. (PASSES LIST TO SFA INTERVIEW PANEL. THEY LOOK AT IT, EXCHANGING AWKWARD GLANCES)
SFA – But, Eck, none of these players are Scottish.
AM -  Aye, but, (WINKS). A few EBTs will soon sort that.
SFA – Eck. This is the national team, mind.
AM – What? England? Fantastic! Noo, quick! Too the helicopter.  

Sunday, 10 December 2017


It would be reasonable to think that Jabba was not solely responsible for the Rangers* Statement, the one saying, “See that girl I stalked for weeks and then asked out? I only realised she was ugly after she said ‘no’.”

When you think about it, had Jabba fired the Statement off in a fit of pique without consulting senior Rangers* board members he might have risked being fired.  In fact, one wonders if Jabba actually helped tone it down, being a man who knows the (admittedly expansive) limits of credibility and shamelessness within his own swamp. 

In fact, that the Statement was met with almost universal incredulity in the normally Sevco-reliable Scottish sports media may suggest Jabba telling his boys not to give it much traction, perhaps intending this as a lesson to whoever it was at Rangers* who stepped on his toes by effectively doing his job for him. No one likes their bosses doing their job for them. Best it goes wrong and they learn the hard way to leave it to the experts in incredulity and shamelessness.   

Whether he did or didn’t tone it down, it is doubtful he could have created and released the statement under the Rangers* logo, and officially, without it being cleared at the very top. And yet, murmurings are that most senior Rangers* people are embarrassed by it. Now, who does that leave?

Certainly, the statement was glib and shameless. 

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Reaction Show Racism The Red Card Received

Regarding the reaction Show Racism The Red Card received to Phil Mac Giolla Bhain being photographed with SRTRC.

As publisher of the book, Minority Reporter, by Phil Mac Giolla Bhain, which inspired Show Racism The Red Card to invite him to associate himself with them, I'm compelled to respond to their statement today. 

Although an atheist I was brought up in a Protestant, Rangers-supporting, British Forces family background. The notion that I could ever be, or could ever support anyone who is, anti-Protestant is ridiculous. I am as offended by anti-Protestantism and anti-Britishness as I am by anti-Irishness and anti-Catholism. It is worth noting that the heroic protagonists in Phil’s two recent stage plays were both brought up Rangers supporters. I’ve known Phil for over five years and there isn’t a sectarian bone in his body. Had there been there would have been no association with me.

The vile reaction SRTRC received to its public association with Phil is familiar. It is the same as the reaction The Sun received when they announced serialisation of Phil’s book. Police were obliged to visit the journalist who wrote the puff piece to advise him on the safety of him and his family. Phil regularly gets such threats. The editor of Phil’s book, Angela Haggerty, received the same abuse, to the point that an internet radio show host was jailed for inciting anti-Irish and sectarian hatred against her. This same grouping demanded Angela get sacked from The Sunday Herald when they employed her as a columnist. They succeeded, albeit temporarily.

Many of those providing this reaction appear to be organised, primed to swing into action every time Phil or Angela make traction. Their crime? Being Irish or being of Irish descent and not only refusing to sit at the back of the bus but, in fact, demanding vocally that they should be at the front of the bus. You might be familiar with the term “an uppity n*****r”? That is the objection of most those complaining.

My advice to SRTRC is ask all those objecting to Phil being associated with SRTRC what they have done for SRTRC lately. Have they shown the same determined reaction to people singing about being up to their knees in Fenian blood in The Billy Boy Song, or those singing that the Irish should go home? Because, if the objectors have not been as vocal in their objection to those examples of racism as they have been to perceived offence in Phil’s writing, then you have to ask, if objectivity is truly the priority here, why not? Have these “concerned members of the public” publicly and without fear or favour condemned fans of their club for singing these songs or any other form of racist and sectarian abuse? If not, then SRTRC has to ask them directly why not?  

Every week thousands of people sing these appalling racist and sectarian songs. Where are the “concerned members of the public”  then? More often than not, standing beside someone doing the singing perhaps? Or worse, singing themselves? Can you imagine the reaction in England if thousands sang about being up to their knees in Black people’s blood what society’s reaction would be? Or what the media reaction would be? Would it be ignored the way it is ignored in Scotland? Well, it might be, if Anti-Racist organisations caved in to people who objected to those opposing racism.

If Anti-Racist organisations instantly change their course due to the adverse reaction of “concerned members of the public”, who have a questionable track record of opposing racism or of selectively opposing what they see as racism, then those genuinely affected by racism may well cease to view such Anti-Racism organisations as effective - or even worthwhile.  

Secondly, the manner of SRTRC change of course here (via its statement) was not glorious. SRTRC released a shocking statement heavily referencing Phil but without previously making him aware of the content of this statement, far less seeking to invite any kind of input or right of reply pre-publication. SRTRC hung Phil out to dry. His crime? To positively reply to SRTRC request for an interview. This suggests that SRTRC had no interest in protecting the reputation or the safety of an anti-racist campaigner whom, at their own instigation and initiative, they invited to their project. Having instigated this episode SRTRC had a duty of care to its subject.

Of course not all the objectors were racists, but the racists among them are now empowered. All they had to do was turn up with their torches. The empowerment resulting from SRTRC publicly and hastily disassociating itself from Phil was not factored in by SRTRC, which disappoints because one would think an Anti-Racist organisation would sensitively consider all the implications of its actions.

SRTRC stated they wanted to be objective and avoid “label” usage. An admirable aim. But at what stage then do we call racists racist? Is the word banned? SRTRC would have to change its name were that the case. Having worked substantially in Northern Ireland many months of the year for 20 years I understand perfectly the counter productiveness of inappropriate label usage. I understand how peeling off peripheral support for the hard core of racists is inhibited by insulting that periphery. Rather than peeling them off it instead binds them closer together.  I get that. And the hard core of racists, whom some call the klan, work very, very hard to conflate that peripheral and casual, passive support with themselves. So that, when someone identifies (“labels”) the hard core as racist, they twist that to say “look! they are calling us all racist”, which is untrue. But, by insidiously co-opting the support into the racist core lump, they protect themselves, disguise themselves as “concerned members of the public”, and manage to hide their own racist views from immediate view.  

As a publisher we'll continue to support organisations such as SRTRC, but not uncritically. Now many genuinely concerned members of the public, i.e., those who actually oppose all racism every day as opposed to some who’s very inconsistency on the issue should have instructed SRTRC, will see this change of course by SRTRC as climbing down, or worse, as caving in. That is potentially more damaging than offending those who are at best inconsistent in condemning racism.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Five Years Of Downfall Denial


Its five years today since Downfall - How Rangers FC Self-Destructed was published. Written by Phil McGiolla Bhain, a freelance journalist who’d led the press pack on the Rangers story, the book was subjected to a campaign of abuse. Of course, this had the effect of increasing sales, one of these beautiful karmic responses that the universe delights in handing out.

The campaign against the book included phoning head offices of major book shop chains to complain about the book being stocked – and then denying it. One head office buyer, after having placed pre-publication orders, called me to ask if it was going to be worth the hassle as they’d had complaints. Thankfully the buyer agreed that it was worth it.

Another retail manager told of visitors to his chain’s stores berating staff for having the cheek to stock the book. Some visitors went as far as to move the book from its Number One spot in stores, hiding it near cookery. Others, presumably in a fit of pique, scrunched books up to make them unsellable.
Of course, these instances were all denied as having happened. It’s one thing to do these things, but at least have the courage of your convictions. Don’t then deny it happened.

The Sun newspaper, who I’d approached on serialisation on another book (Ciaran McAirt’s The McGurk’s Bar Bombing) rebuffed that effort and instead stated that they wanted to serialise another book we’d published the same month, Phil Mac Giolla Bhain’s Downfall book. The deal was done and a very fair and decent piece on Phil and his book appeared. However, it’s appearance produced an astonishing reaction. I was new to Twitter and was following reaction on various feeds. The first I learned that The Sun was scrapping the serialisation half way through its agreed run was on Twitter when a Sun employee stated that this was the case.

Another Sun employee told me privately that the switchboard “melted” when the reaction from some Rangers fans came in. Weirdly, months later when I discussed this with a Sun employee, I was told “there was no big reaction”. No reaction? Really? What about that switchboard “melting?” It was “exaggerated”. Why the change of facts here? Again, have the courage of your convictions. Don’t deny it happened.

Some gifted People took the trouble to review the book – before it was even finished being written. Now, that was conscientious. You have to wonder why such prescience on their part precluded them from foreseeing the demise of their club.

One chap who did foresee that demise, and who indeed warned all and sundry publicly in his contemporaneous blog, wasn’t much thanked - or even believed. Thankfully he (Phil) was believed by many when he wrote Downfall – How Rangers FC Self-Destructed.  So much so that the book reached Number 8 in Amazon UK’s overall book chart, despite concern for me among some Rangers fans who claimed I had thousands, piled high, unsold in my garage. Not only did I not have any in my garage, I didn’t even have a garage.

I then received calls from a seemingly nice chap in Belfast who claimed he was working as a buyer for Bargain Books in that neat little town. I played along, as the caller was obviously unaware that I had worked very closely with Bargain Books in Belfast since 1996, publishing several books with them under their Lagan Books imprint and supplying their stores with literally thousands of books, both full price books and bargain books, for years. I knew the owners very well. Indeed, they were personal friends of the finest and most loyal kind. I knew who the key store managers were. This gentleman caller, friendly as he was, had clearly nothing to do with Bargain Books Belfast. He seemed to think I’d want to sell the book at a dirt cheap price. What was this charming chap’s game? He seemed determined to even have me say the words “I’ll supply Bargain Books with Downfall” for some reason. It all made sense later when it was apparent he was taping the calls. The project, such as it was, was to discredit the book by suggesting it was such a terrible, unwanted item that weeks after publication I was eager to offload it at a loss. Impersonation, taping calls, quite a lot of trouble to go…

Despite being a Scottish Bestseller in many key Scottish book outlets from Waterstones to WHS and others the Scottish media took their lead from The Sun and collectively shat their pants. Only one SMSM chap reviewed the book. The rest either decided that the only book on the greatest sporting scandal in Scottish sports history wasn’t worthy of a second glance or they didn’t think it was
 “worth the hassle”. In case you think “shat its pants” is hyperbole, ask yourself how you’d describe a media which one day had uniform headlines across the board along the lines of “Rangers, 1872-2012, RIP”, and then airbrushes all reference to those headlines from their current narrative. No attempt at any expansion, any “we were wrong” - just a desperate wish for all their readers to lobotomise themselves to the point they don’t remember such headlines or where they wonder if they dreamed them.

That hassle was documented in Alex Thompson’s piece for Channel 4 where several Scottish commentators related the grief they got for commenting in any negative way on the club that was Rangers. The editor of the book, Sunday Herald columnist, Angela Haggerty, received disgraceful sectarian abuse. You know the kind? That’s right, the kind we have to keep reminding certain commentators that is NOT “banter”, and is NOT “funny”. Replace the work “Taig” with the word “black” just in case you had any doubt about just how offensive, not to say illegal, such “banter” is. So illegal in fact that one perpetrator, who hosted an internet radio show spewing out threatening bigotry, was tried and convicted in a Scottish court of sectarian hatred and was sentenced to 6 months in jail.

Sadly, it was not just many in SMSM who were keen to dismiss the sectarianism that some involved in the book were subjected to. Despite the complaint being made about the radio show, and it’s shocking vitriolic bigotry jeopardising the safety of our book’s editor, it wasn’t until Alex Thompson‘s Channel 4 piece on what Angela endured that the police seemed to take the complaint seriously. The world outside Glasgow was on now the case, apparently. Glasgow had to wake up to the fact that what many thought was “banter” that had been “asked for” was actually a crime.

Since publication of Downfall five years ago, the very Downfall itself has been erased from the history, as related by SMSM at least. Reference to Rangers now being bereft of life is censored on both main Radio football shows. No debate even allowed. It’s like Soviet-style collective hysteria, as if the mention of a fact will bring civilisation crashing down. Sure, they obliquely refer to the “relegation” of “Rangers” to the fourth division. But the Downfall, the Self-Destruction, is denied with more fervour year on year. Doubtless some scribe will claim to have covered The Downfall, but unless they mean Downfall in the Python-esque it has ceased to be sense as opposed to the pining for the fjords sense, then they have missed the point. That’s a set-back, not a Downfall. Thankfully, at least one book exists on the subject to keep us right.