Graham Spiers will never need me to defend him. He's proven very capable in that regard. Nevertheless, its important for fans of all clubs or even anyone who cares about freedom of speech, to voice support.
Spiers cannot be regarded as any kind of extremist, or "bampot". Clearly a writer of uncommon ability, with an able analytical mind, and obvious human decency, he’s been measure and reason personified when people of my temperament felt a more robust approach was necessary on many issues.
So, the witch-hunt against him recently has been disturbing to witness. I’m not certain Mr Spiers and I would agree on very much, except that we’d agree that any suggestion that he is a liar is frankly bizarre. In my opinion, there is no possibility the man lied.
It’s almost an Orwellian scenario, where someone forms an opinion based on conversations had, and then having that opinion called a lie. Expressing an opinion is not the same thing as telling a lie. The avalanche of angst directed against Spiers for having the temerity to express an opinion, widely shared, that Rangers could do more to confront the bigotry witnessed by all, for instance, at the recent Rangers-Hibs game, was undeserved. Its worth noting the track record of accuracy or otherwise among many of his current detractors.
The Rangers have made considerable progress over the last 15 years or so (testified by the fact that The Billy Boys was not heard at Ibrox anywhere near as was previously the case. A lot of Rangers work against bigotry is under the radar. Sometimes that is the best way to get results, as one Rangers fan said to me this week.
But sometimes the need for such work and the challenges involved should be highlighted. That’s in effect all Mr Spiers was doing. The campaign against him seems to be led by people who claim to represent ALL Rangers fans. They may represent the most vocal. But that’s not necessarily the same thing.
The charge of ‘liar’ put to Spiers also pertains to his assertion that a director of The Rangers believed The Billy Boys was a great song. There are many interpretations that could be made here. For instance, the director in question may have defended this by saying the tune was catchy but the words are vile. It may be that in the storm that followed these comments someone feared that the nuance may have been lost and it was therefore easier to deny ever saying that. There’s more possibility of that in my mind than Spiers ever telling a lie.
Why has Mr Spiers not named the director, his source for the story? I do not know any journalist who would betray a source. Whatever short term gain might be made would be to the detriment of the journalist’s reputation and ability to gain and maintain the confidence of any sources in the future. I think that would be pretty obvious.
There’s been much support for Mr Spiers. But there should have been a whole lot more. The silence has been deafening from some quarters. Now, there is such a valid democratic tool as People Power. That’s valid. Pressure can be put on public figures and organisations by financial pressure etc. But like all tools, it needs wielded carefully, sensitively and only with good reason. Without these elements, People Power is reduced to a mob. The fear of the mob is prevalent among working journalists, and with good reason. When an opinion and the desire to protect a source becomes reasons to be hounded out of making a living then we are indeed in a Joe McCarthy wet dream.
One wonders if half of the the powerful energy against anyone pointing out the need to tackle bigotry had been directed to … err … tackling bigotry, then this whole issue might be a thing of the past.