Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Another ill-founded attack on writer Phil Mac Giolla Bhain

Gordon Dinnie's retort to Phil Mac Giolla Bháin's OpEd piece in the Belfast Telegraph contains several disingenuous remarks.
Regarding full disclosure I have published Phil’s last two books; ‘Downfall; How Rangers FC self-destructed’ (2012) and ‘Minority Reporter. Modern Scotland’s bad attitude towards her own Irish’ (2013).
That people of all colours and creeds are welcome at Ibrox is a welcome development - and a development it is, for it was not always so. Pointing out facts such as Rangers having previously operated a sectarian signing policy (admirably dispensed with in the 1980s - thus it existed for mere decades) is rarely welcomed.  Rangers (1872-2012) were also unique in not having a Republic of Ireland international in their first team in modern times. At this point, their fans were singing the racist ‘Famine Song’. Phil pointed out this inconvenient truth many times. Certainly, let the past be the past and not obsess about it.. And absolutely we must recognise the pretty dramatic improvements on the Ibrox terraces. But also, let's not forget the past completely either.
Forgetting that historical, racist and sectarian ethos is often difficult when one is around some fans of Rangers. By 'some' I don't mean a few stragglers from the past, but a sizable rump of Rangers supporters who sing racist and sectarian songs, hurl bigoted abuse, and whose default retort when annoyed by anything is citing the ethnicity or religion (real or imagined) of the object of their displeasure.
It’s in the DNA of a 'subsection' of Rangers people. This is obvious to everyone in Scotland and Northern Ireland unless they are among those who consider themselves some kind of self-appointed Praetorian Guard for what they see as "Rangers values". My decent law-abiding Glaswegian grandfather was a proud Rangers season ticket holder all his life and I know he never related to the sectarian bloodlust at all.
'Subsection' brings us to another of Mr Dinnie's disingenuous remarks, namely, Mac Giolla Bháin regularly describes these normal, law-abiding football fans as "the klan", "Herrenvolk" and "a fascist underclass".
This is not true. Mr Mac Giolla Bháin is clear that his target, when using such admittedly pejorative terms, is not the Rangers support as a whole. Indeed, he has made this point explicitly several times. He is, as he has often stated, referring to the unreconstructed bigots who rarely, if ever, admit to previous wrongdoing by their club, whether it be a racist/sectarian signing policy or arguably dodgy dealings from various high heid yins in the Ibrox boardroom. 
When some claim that Mr Mac Giolla Bháin is demeaning normal, law-abiding football fans it’s as if they are seeking to co-opt the decent Rangers support into a charge towards not just Mac Giolla Bháin but also towards anyone who dare utter obvious truths. Mac Giolla Bháin's target has never been normal decent law abiding people no matter who they support. His target, which is clear in any objective reading, is the nutty rump. Every club has a nutty rump. Celtic has a moronic, unreconstructed subsection too. Most big football clubs do. My own club Aberdeen has an atavistic element too. The difference with the old Rangers was that for decades this rump's views were encouraged - indeed institutionalised - by a signing policy and an all-pervading ethos. Happily, that changed and credit must be accorded appropriately.
Mr Mac Giolla Bháin was a lone pioneer in openly discussing the likely fate of the then Rangers, which other so-called 'proper journalists' refused to say out loud or to think even, for whatever reasons. It's ironic that many Rangers supporters groups belatedly hold Craig Whyte and Charles Green in bad esteem years after being warned by Mr Mac Giolla Bháin that they were not at all what they seemed.
Mr Mac Giolla Bháin represents the modern age and as such is held in disdain by some who long for the time before independent thought could reach the minds of thousands every day without being filtered. Reporters in many fields can become too cosy with their subjects and they do not want to jeopardise "access" or the "scoops" that promises.  Online journalists are independent and not beholden to vested interest. This is refreshing and it is why millions read such journalists every day all over the world.
It is worth noting that award-winning journalist Alex Thomson, of Channel 4 News, wrote the foreword to ‘Downfall’ in which he stated that the book was “a tale of our times brilliantly told”.
Mr Dinnie seems disdainful of the fact many well-read online journalists seek donations in order to sustain their work. In fact, he calls requests for donations begging. Every newspaper has a price and every newspaper is begging to be bought from a newsstand. So, what exactly is Mr Dinnie's point? Being paid by readers for your work directly is a bad thing?
Mr Dinnie talks of wild claims. Well, many would prefer to trust the judgement of the one journalist who got it right last time around.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Good and Bad Collateral Damage in Syria

Innocent readers who look at the UK news may experience child-like confusion. On one hand ISIS is so very naughty that we simply have to bomb them in order to save civilisation, no matter how many civilians may suffer Collateral Damage. Collateral Damage is an expression with two very big words in it. It’s often employed to describe people our government kinda killed, maybe, and even then only by accident. So it’s not like there’s real death, grief or murder. It’s so hard to prove these things after all...
Then again, it’s not true to say Western media doesn't recognise civilians are being killed in Syria. Just look at the grave concern expressed regarding Russia’s outrageous bombing of civilians in Syria. And who can forget the fortuitous alliteration of barrel bombs, fortuitous in that it’s a wonderful, anti-Assad soundbite, easily repeatable for idiot media - and memorable for idiot consumers. Obviously barrel bombs do what the murderous Assad intended them to do, i.e. kill innocents - unlike Western bombs, which carefully avoid civilians and guide little old ladies across the street before landing only on bad guys – except in kinda accidents, of course.
Western moral authority is such that when we tragically cause some people to … err … cease to be, we consider it tragic, regrettable, yet never a deterrent to doing it over and over again. Our leaders’ crusading work for humanity must not be interrupted by the tears of weaklings who’d hand our country and way of life over to the barbarians in a jiffy. Sure, of course our media’s job is to question authority, but not in time of war! Surely people understand that? It’s not our leaders' or our media's fault that we’re at war perpetually, is it?

Best not to think about the term Collateral Damage too much because if we did, then all sorts of upsetting visions may give us nightmares. And who apart from sick-minded, discontented extremists, for goodness sake, would ever wish to draw attention to visions of decapitated and obliterated remnants of innocents? What would be the benefit of that? It would be irresponsible and would only be using such dreadful pictures for the purpose of garnering opposition to the Western activity in Syria. That would be immoral. And might cause terrorism. After all, our government’s devastating actions are only in the cause of eliminating terrorism. Such sacrifice ...

However, we in the West are allowed to employ images of innocents, either being burned alive or decapitated,  legitimately. How else would our governments and their media convey the true horror of ISIS, Russian Interventionism, and old Barrel Bomb himself, Assad, to our unwitting, child-like populace? They have so many distractions that the media have a moral duty to shock them into supporting potentially unpopular actions that our government undertakes with only the greatest reluctance and for everyone’s own good.  

So, it’s perfectly simple. The media must show horrific images of horrors committed by our enemies, but must never show the same horrors as committed by our elected leaders’ in our name, for our own good. What is so confusing about that?