Monday, 24 February 2014

Ukraine and Media Fairy Tales

Such a shame. All that media infrastructure, all those highly educated journalists, cutting edge information technology. And what do we get from Western MSM coverage of the Ukraine crisis? Fairytales about big bad Russian ogres and Western-approved of princesses. This is naked self-serving, Western national self-interest dressed up as humanitarian concern for Ukrainians. It is as if the centuries of educational and technological progress since Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm first conjured up stories of good versus evil had never occurred.

Now our storytellers are be-suited official sources and their dutiful establishment conduits in the media, telling us about big bad Russian bears hiding in the Ukrainian woods, stirring up the locals, spreading fear and panic. But these storytellers, with their breathless pronouncements, and their flashing cameras, are not actually telling us a damn thing about the woods - only about the trees. In fact they point our faces straight at the trees, the individual events, the falling of a President, the fragility of the interim government, images of goodies and baddies. They hold our faces up against the fracas, and we feel part of it, informed and so can go about our daily business under the illusion that we know what the fuck is going on when the whole exercise has actually diverted us from the truth. We can’t see the woods for the trees. Not that we are meant to.

I heard an Economist journo on BBC 4 this morning describing how Russia will likely now indulge in “encouraging insurrections” perhaps even with a view to ensuring partition of the Russophile east Ukraine from the Europhile/NATOphile western Ukrainians. A lot of western orientated commentators would have no difficulty nodding sagely along to that view yet at the same time accusing anyone suggesting there has been comparable Western interference and manipulation in the current Ukrainian story of being a nutty conspiracy theorist.

So it can’t be the concept of conspiracy they object to because they already have attributed conspiratorial motives and methods to Russia. No, it’s the notion that we, lovely-peace-loving-humanitarian-democratic us, are somehow above the fray.

Those who claim to abhor conspiracy theories are often the first to promote them as long as they explain the behaviour of an enemy. Understandable this may be. Objective it is not. Informative? Perhaps, in some lopsided way. But it’s another excellent view of those “fascinating” trees - and yet another diversion from those pesky woods.

The woods, in this case, is the geo-political context of what is happening in Ukraine. Russia has been out-foxed by the political and intelligence machinations of the West.  All’s fair in politics and war. And Russia is no innocent abroad here. But the notion that “Machiavellian” Russia is somehow “interfering” in Ukraine while the “honourable” West is simply wanting to ensure events take their “natural” course is as infantile as any fairy tale. Are we really to suppose the West has no interest here?

This is not about anything other than the march of NATO, the vanguard of Western corporate interests. Not that The West is uniquely wicked. On the contrary, this is just what empires do, have always done and always will do. And the West is simply the current leading empire. The notion that we are in some post-history age without empires and where the Great Powers subjugate their economic interests to the rule of international law is indeed comforting, like many a bed time story. However, in the real word, the opposite is true. As Chomsky says, “You don’t need to be a genius to see it. In fact, it takes genius NOT to see it.”

If one considers the history of Great Powers then it’s obvious that Russia has no choice but to resist Western expansion or to accept Western influence on her borders and then perhaps within them. If Russia were to accept that her status as a Great Power would be imperilled. This is why of course Russia went to war in Georgia in 2008. That is why she has resisted Western interests in Syria. And this is why she is deeply unsettled by growing Western influence in Ukraine.

Russia has been out-manoeuvred politically in Ukraine. This deeply divided country on her borders appears to have chosen to lean westward. Certainly this is the wish of many in Western Ukraine. But to suppose that that wish was something Western interests did nothing to encourage is to pretend that Great Power politics does not exist. That takes us back to the land of Hans Christian Andersen.

One expects Great Powers to behave this way. But aren’t we, in a supposedly sophisticated western democracy, entitled to journalism that challenges their press-released narratives? Don’t we deserve more than fairy tales? Or do we just want the comfort of of a bed time story?

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The Pathetic Imitation of Sectarianism

When some Aberdeen fans sound sectarian what you are hearing is simply a pathetic affectation of sectarianism, which has been facilitated by Scotland’s long-time tolerance and dismissal of real sectarianism as just “banter”. Whether affected or real, sectarianism is inexcusable. 

Here’s the thing, though. Aberdeen fans are not sectarian. Nor is Aberdeen a city remotely interested in such nonsense. Moreover, while working up there in the 1980s, the North East, a predominately protestant area, was unusually understanding of Irish Nationalism and while not supporting the IRA, for example, it empathised to quite a degree such an organisation’s motives if not it’s actions.

So, why do we hear, emanating from the Aberdeen end at Celtic Park, on the last two visits especially, songs one would normally expect sung by the worst elements of The Rangers support?

There are the Jimmy Savile chants. Clearly there is a desire to insult sporting rivals and, these chants are an obvious – and odious – choice.  Knowing that an element of fans of Celtic’s greatest rivals, The Rangers/Sevco, have constructed (for their own nefarious reasons) a fictitious narrative regarding Celtic and paedophilia, rival fans know that parroting this nonsense will insult Celtic fans. And so it is sung by some Aberdeen fans as a rather pathetic imitation of The Rangers sub-culture. The irony of some Aberdeen fans seeking to emulate the worst of The Rangers fans would no doubt be lost on the idiots singing this.

Do Aberdeen fans singing this crap believe it at all? It’s remarkable that, when fans are castigated for singing something inappropriate in “jest”, they often then attempt to justify these chants. In doing so they haul out instances of paedophilia, and cover up of it, in the Catholic Church, as if that organisation was the only structure in society where such abuse every occurred (and it certainly occurred there). For instance, they could just as easily sing chants about systematic abuse of children in non-denominational state care homes, or paedophilia rings in political circles, or wherever it may exist. Surely if anyone had a genuine concern regarding the abuse of children in care (which all right-minded people share) they would sing just as loudly about all these instances rather than focus on just one area. Such selectivity of condemnation reduces the complaint from a moral one to a convenient one. And to reduce such a serious subject to nothing more than a stick to beat an opponent with exposes an immoral cynicism.

Paedophilia is the result of people with power over other people abusing that power. It has nothing to do with what religion, what nationality, what political affiliations or what race the abusers are. Chanting about cynically selected examples of paedophilia is, in the case of The Rangers chanters, an attempt to justify their hatreds, and their feelings of superiority over their Celtic rivals and over Catholics in general. These hatreds and feelings of sectarian or racial superiority are alien concepts in Aberdeen.

Those Aberdeen fans who, in an attempt to wind up Celtic supporters by singing about Jimmy Savile and paedophilia, need to decide if they’re happier singing songs affecting the real hatreds, bitterness and sectarianism of Scotland’s least loved sub-culture, than singing about Barry Robson, Peter Pawlette, Willo Flood et al going to Glasgow and dominating and defeating the Scottish Champions on their home ground. `

Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Abuse of Neil Lennon

It’s striking that intelligent journalists suspend their faculties when discussing the outrageous abuse of Neil Lennon in Scotland. They trot out their trite trying to keep both sides happy phrases about Lennon being “feisty” or other such unconscious (and sometimes, conscious) blame the victim nonsense.  If Lennon was black then none of them would be discussing his “feistiness”.  Was Mark Walters (a 1980s Rangers player who was the victim of outrageous racism, including banana throwing) “feisty”? Barry Robson put in another “feisty” performance yesterday at Celtic Park for my team, Aberdeen.  Was he subjected to death threats as a result? No, I think we can forget all about “feisty” and instead ask ourselves what kind of environment has allowed the abuse of Lennon to thrive.

Sure, there is abuse of Lennon which is not sectarian as Lennon himself pointed out last week after the vile Tynecastle abuse from some Aberdeen fans. Gordon Strachan for example attracted all sorts of abuse as an player and was indeed attacked on the pitch at Celtic Park which had nothing to do with his religion. Dennis Wise in England was subjected to sustained abuse unrelated to religion, as were others. That happens in football, sadly.

However, this is to miss the point. The degree and consistency of the abuse Neil Lennon attracts is far more sinister. Bullets, bombs, physical attacks, and death threats from terrorist organisations have nothing to do with football or with winding up opponents. 90% of the abuse Lennon receives is both racist and sectarian. Much of the abuse he receives, from Aberdeen fans for example, may not be directly sectarian, but a sectarian and anti-Irish culture in parts of Scotland has already rendered Lennon as target, a hate figure, fair game for anyone else to join in it seems.

How did this happen? This is a very dangerous situation and should be investigated by anyone masquerading as a journalist - and “feisty” is one word that won’t be necessary.