Monday, 9 December 2013

Why "Taig of The Day" Is Not Funny

I'm relieved for Angela Haggerty after the conviction in court of a podcaster who’s idea of humour contravened Scots Law’s idea of legality.

Listening to the podcast in the cold light of court, together with many of the vile tweets which resulted from it, was a chastening experience. That anyone could imagine chants such as “Taig of the day”, among others, were somehow acceptable in modern society shows how entrenched bigotry had become. That such chants went down like a lead balloon in court of law shows progress of sorts.

I first came across the word “Taig” while working in N. Ireland in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Painted on a wall in a loyalist area was the slogan “Kill all Taigs.” This was at a time when some seemed to be taking that badly scrawled graffiti as an actual instruction. Just as chillingly, many who were not carrying out these murderous acts cheered, both vocally and silently, conditioned by decades, if not centuries, of reducing others to something less than human.

Calling people “Taigs’ is not “banter”. It’s part of a process that dehumanises people in the eyes of others. And once a person or group of people has been dehumanised then they are considered by some as fair game for ... well ... potentially anything. If N. Ireland taught us anything, it taught us that.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Punk For Beginners - John Lennon

I was a teenager grabbing a few more minutes in bed on the morning of 8thDecember 1980 when maternal shouting at me to get up was interrupted by an audible gasp. TheRadio Clyde news bulletin had to be serious to interrupt parental attempts to get me out of bed. I heard my dad say, “What happened to him?” My mother replied, “He’s been shot. Shot dead.”

Ronald Regan had recently won the 1980 US presidential election and my first thought was it was him who’d been shot dead. I shouted, “Who’s been shot?” My mother came into my room. “John Lennon”, she said. I can still feel the same dreadful feeling at the pit of my stomach even now whenever his murder is remembered, like millions of others around the world I’m sure.
It wasn’t fashionable to be a Beatlesor John Lennon fan in the UK at the time, in the immediate post-punk era when such music was considered distinctly un-revolutionary or worse, un-cool. Us Beatles fans were swimming against the New Wave tide. Plus, Double Fantasy had been not long released and disappointed with its lack of the sort of angst teenagers often seek in their music. It didn’t help our case much, we felt.
Still, I fought The Beatles corner faithfully during many schoolboy musical wars at Woodfarm High, reminding my punk friends that John Lennon could have been the first punk, that Billy Idol/Generation Xcovered the angry Gimmie Some Truth from Lennon’s Imagine album, and that Siousie and the Bancheescovered The Beatles Helter Skelterfrom the Double White album. These facts were met with flat denials of fashionably New Wave pals. When confronted with vinyl proof, unwittingly provided by my secret source – my Punk wee sister who’sGeneration X and Souxsie records I ... err ... borrowed to help me win my case – these New Wavers grudgingly acknowledged there might have been such a concept as rebellion in music before Johnny Rotten.
To see the Beatles and Lennon in particular coming back into vogue in the early 1990s felt like a vindication.  To hear their influence on so many successful modern acts, to think that they are still in vogue across generations now mean the world makes at least a little sense. And when I hear my least favourite Lennon album, Double Fantasy, now, I hear a once troubled soul finding peace. I’d say he’d earned it.
It’s ironic that Imagine was ever considered by some as saccharine-like musical Schmaltz when it’s the most anti-establishment song he ever wrote, dressed up for reactionaries, a sort of Anarchy In The UK - or everywhere else for that matter - for mainstream tastes, like a musical Trojan Horse for revolutionary concepts. Now, there’s something Punks and other revolutionaries could learn from...
That night, December 8th 1980, there was a programme on TV on the life and times of Lennon. The presenter appeared genuinely affected by the day’s events. But he finished with a comment that made a lot of sense, something like, “I never knew John Lennon personally. So the John Lennon I know is still alive”. There really is some sort of immorality after all.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

You And Whose Army - What Motivated The Rangers To Invite The Armed Forces To Ibrox

The behaviour of some The Rangers fans and some Forces personnel at the recent UK Armed Forces celebration at Ibrox has been ably covered elsewhere. But what, I wonder, was the motivation of the chiefs at Ibrox (who might soon outnumber the Indians) in inviting UK Armed Forces on Armed Forces Day? Was it to celebrate the Forces contribution to society? To some that would be fair enough. Or, was it to celebrate the Ibrox feeling of Britishness and being part of The Union? There’s nothing wrong with a section of society celebrating its sense of identity, if it’s done respectfully.

But in a society that, though perhaps not as broken as N. Ireland, still has fractures there’s something suspect about a section of that society appearing to claim ownership of an army that is supposed to be at the service of everyone.  

Was the motivation to invite the Forces to say to other elements in society, “it’s our army”? Others might say they’re welcome to it. But that’s not the point. If such elements really believe that it’s their army then they’re not interested in notions (some might say pretences) of UK forces neutrality. For instance, should conflict break out in Belfast to the degree that army presence is deemed necessary by UK government, then how would the same armed forces who’d partied to sectarian tunes so enthusiastically at Ibrox be seen? This should concern Forces bosses because, if this claim of ownership is left unchallenged, then it brings the ostensive integrity of UK Armed Forces into disrepute.

There are many within the Armed Forces who do not support Rangers and who are disgusted by incidents such as Armed Forces Day at Ibrox and the previous Remembrance Day debacle. As one former army acquaintance told me recently, “We’re not their bloody army”. This former soldier does in fact support The Rangers yet he has no time for what he called “feeding frenzies”.

I asked another former career soldier, who is a life-long Celtic supporter from Aberdeenshire, what he made of it all. “What on earth were they thinking?” was his resigned reply. He was referring to Army top brass. Of course there’s no doubt that many Scots in the army support Rangers and one suspects if some within that grouping were asked to attend the ceremony at Ibrox they’d jump at the chance. Its conceivable then that stresses which occur in our society as a whole may place a debilitating strain one day within the UK Armed Forces.

Another motivation for The Rangers bosses inviting the nation’s Armed Forces to Ibrox was of course to curry favour with the Ibrox faithful, some of whom revel in militaristic displays like this.  Not for them the questioning of UK Armed Forces activities around the world, from Ireland to Afghanistan, where civilians have felt the full force of often less than neutral soldiering.

With memories of the recent Irish Troubles and UK Armed Forces often controversial activity in them still being fresh, the invitation to celebrate Armed Forces Day at Ibrox Park had a provocative element. Perhaps by appealing to the worst prejudices of the worst subsection of The Rangers support (who couldn't restrain themselves to respectful applause - as many at Ibrox did) is the only way those seeking to become the new regime at The Rangers feel they can impress their “troops”.#

You can call that many things, except progress.

Monday, 14 October 2013

What Is Behind Selective Condemnation of Child Abuse?

Child abuse is an unforgivable crime no matter who commits it. Covering up such a crime is unforgivable regardless of which organisation does so.  In recent years we've learned that the cover up of paedophilia runs through just about every institution entrusted with the care of society, from state-run care homes, political institutions, the Catholic church - and other churches, schools and families.
All this is obvious.
But there are some who'd use the horrific crime of child abuse for some perverted political end or to gain some sick sectarian advantage. There are some who, in the context of Northern Ireland’s and Scotland’s sectarian divisions, are keen to bring the Catholic church to book when it comes to that institution’s record of child abuse and cover up. That record is undeniably shameful.
However, many of these same people are not as keen to explore the instances of child abuse and cover up in state-run institutions. Why not? There is no difference in the gravity of the crime wherever it takes place. So why the selective focus of some? If abhorrence of paedophilia was the sole motivation for their concern, then surely they would devote as much time to shining the spotlight on all institutions? Because, if not, then something other than moral concern is at the root of their “outrage.”
Could it be anti-Catholic sectarianism that motivates some to focus exclusively on the inexcusable abuse of children which took place within the Catholic church?  It seems to some the very fact that the abusers were Catholics is reason enough to focus only on that institution’s dreadful record.
However, in actual fact, the defining feature of systematic institutional child abuse is not the religion of the perpetrators but the power they have over children. That is why the scale of abuse of children within the Catholic church is, sadly, matched at least by the scale of abuse within care home systems, whether religious or secular, around the world.
One such care home of course was the Kincora home in Belfast, run by a Loyalist (William McGrath) who systematically raped boys in his care. The cover-up involved police, secret services and others. Indeed, when one of McGrath’s co-rapists of children at Kincora, Loyalist paramilitary John McKeague, threatened to name others in this paedophile ring (which allegedly included security force figures) he was conveniently killed by the INLA, the men involved themselves suggested to be doing, consciously or unconsciously, someone else’s dirty work.
Some in Northern Ireland and Scotland who are quick to criticise, rightly, the Catholic church’s record on child abuse refuse to turn that same critical eye on institutions whose existence does not offend them as much. Is such abuse less condemnable in their eyes because it wasn't carried out by Catholics? This beggars the question what kind of people would use such a dreadful issue for cheap political or sectarian advantage? Certainly not objective thinkers, liberal people or anyone who actually cared about the crime of child abuse, wherever it takes place, and whoever carries it out.

Monday, 23 September 2013

"Subsections" for Slow Learners - How A Subsection of Rangers Fans Claim To Represent Every Rangers Fan

“Subsections” for Slow Learners

Some readers of the Ghost of The Billy Boy blog seem either unable - or unwilling - to comprehend the word subsection. For those unable to distinguish between a team’s support and a subsection thereof, see the Oxford Dictionary definition of subsection;

A division of a section

Get it? A division of a section.  i.e. not the whole section.

Should the Oxford dictionary not be an authoritative enough source, try the Collins dictionary;

A section of a section; subdivision

Get it? A section of a section. i.e. a subdivision of a section.

In the interest of leaving no stone unturned, check the Cambridge dictionary definition of subsection;

One of the smaller parts into which the main parts of a document or an organisation are divided

It would be hard to deny then that there’s a consensus as to what a subsection is. Yet a subsection of Rangers fans have been unwilling to understand what a subsection is.  (Predictably, many fans and commentators didn’t actually read the blog before commenting, preferring instead to rely on Chinese whispers, perhaps not the most forensic analytical tool available to them).

For instance, I’d referred to a subsection of Rangers supporters as being unduly sympathetic to Billy Boy Fullerton and indeed sought in the modern age to emulate to a degree similar tactics to their hero.

Fullerton, who’d used intimidation to further the aims of British anti-left elements during the late 1920s and 30s, was, we all know, an inspiration for The Billy Boy song. Some objected to the application of the term fascist to Fullerton and his fellow travellers. Yet how else should we describe a chap who joined The British Union of Fascists in the 1930s? Or who helped found a Glasgow branch of the Ku Klux Klan?

A subsection (i.e. a subdivision of a section) of Rangers supporters over decades have been, and indeed remain, sympathetic to the aims, beliefs and character of Billy Fullerton, a man who, remember, joined the British Union of Fascists at a time when a Fascist threat to the UK, indeed the world, was developing in Germany and elsewhere. All this is uncontentious by any objective measure, notwithstanding Fullerton’s own personal journey which did involve, post 1945, a degree of redemption.

Let’s say for the sake of this argument that this subsection (i.e. not the whole section) is small in number. This small subsection, when it is called out, shamelessly suggests that any complaints against it are complaints against every Ranger’s fan. In other words, the subsection claims to be the whole.  But, of course, it is not.

Clearly not every Rangers fan admires Billy Fullerton, or sings The Billy Boy song, or sings the Famine Song (deemed racist by a Scottish court), or hates Catholics, or seeks political association with the UVF and other terrorist organisations, or is sympathetic to Far Right organisations such as the BNP, or the often balaclava-wearing EDL.  Nor does every Rangers fan seek to stifle any debate among others about their club or to intimidate anyone who even refers to the existence of such debate.

I happen to know this because, though I am an Aberdeen supporter, I grew up with many who supported Rangers, my maternal grandfather being a season ticket holder, attending games from the 1920s to the 1970s. My step-dad was a fan, though didn’t go to many games. Neither of them, nor the pals I grew up with, had a racist, sectarian or fascist bone in their bodies. Nor would they have rushed to identify themselves with the subsection described above. Nor would they have been tricked by such a subsection into defending it.

Is the term fascist appropriate when describing at least elements within this subsection? How should fascist be defined in this context? Perhaps people within this subsection, who sang the praises of Fascist party members like Fullerton, shouldn’t be surprised if they themselves are suspected of sharing – or at least sympathising with – certain fascist views.

Perhaps those who seek to intimidate book shops from stocking books, or who hound book editors, writers and journalists to the point they fear their employment - or worse their safety - is compromised could come up with an alternative term to describe their antics.

Who precisely is being described as being part of this particular subsection? In my view it is anyone who doesn’t condemn intimidation, sectarianism, Islamophobia, racism, and who resorts to intimidation in order to force their views on others and to create a climate where certain alternative views cannot be uttered - or even referred to.

Many football clubs in the UK have subsections that are unduly sympathetic to unsavoury characters and/or beliefs. This is not about one club’s subsection and it’s understandable that any club’s supporters would not thank outsiders for judging its worst elements.

Let’s hope then that the vast majority of real supporters don’t let these subsections (i.e. divisions of sections) present themselves as the sole representatives of the whole.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Ghost of The Billy Boy

The 1930’s were politically polarising both internationally and domestically. The looming war between Fascism and Communism darkened the horizon, with many liberals dashing here and there wondering which fence to sit on to get the best view as they hoped both these titans would destroy each other. Not that Liberals could accurately be described as sitting in the middle. Herr Hitler was feted, courted and ultimately appeased.
Wow. That turned out well, didn’t it? But many liberals had been sincere in their belief that to tell the truth about Herr Hitler or, worse, to tell the truth to Herr Hitler, would only make matters worse. Best to turn a blind eye to his criminal treatment of the Jews while they were made to scrub pavements with toothbrushes in German streets at gun point. Liberals really do know how to be diplomatic, if not honourable .
Around the same time, Mr Fullerton was being feted, courted and appeased in Glasgow. He and his Fascist thugs were a useful bulwark against uppity workers who were prone to “communism” and such like. The original Billy Boy, of whom tens of thousands sang praises for decades after his infamy, was sponsored by the UK’s Fascists, the Blackshirts, who in turn supported Herr Hitler. The thuggish violence of the Billy Boys, celebrated as much as it was until recently, was ultimately unsuccessful in cowing Glasgow’s inherently progressive working class.
The celebrants, the communicants, of this unholy and perverse violence directed against workers and especially workers of Irish heritage were a sub section of Scottish Protestants, many of whom supported Rangers Football Club. Many supporters of that club, including my own grandfather, were not fascists or anti anything. Hence my employment of the term “sub section”.
Many members of this sub section of the Rangers support try very hard to pretend they represent all Rangers supporters. They don’t. But they feel important while passing themselves off as spokesmen. I know many Rangers fans. Some are life-long friends. The likes of The Rangers Standard does not speak for them. I know socialists who are Rangers supporters who cringe at the self-important, self-appointed nonentities who pompously proclaim the truth according to Rangers.
Credit where credit is due. Rangers fans no longer sing the racist and incendiary hymn to murder that The Billy Boy song is with the same freedom as before. It’s churlish not to applaud that, though we know this appalling anthem is still whispered some places and yelled out others. Progress comes dripping slow sometimes.
So slow in fact that even in the year 2013 a respected professional journalist working for the BBC no less can be made to hear the haunting footsteps of the Billy Boy. The ghoulish Billy Bear, with one foot firmly planted in 1930s Fascist landscape and the other planted firmly in its own mouth, is foaming hatred, raging against the truth, and railing against those who dare speak it.
Even now, in the year 2013, there are liberals, don’t you know, in positions of influence, who’d rather do anything than stand up to Herr Billy and say, we will not be intimidated. Freedom of speech will be defended.
So, who’s running the BBC? Neville Chamberlain?