Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Of myths and madness

What did Old Firm fans do before the internet came along? Probably sat in the pub making up conspiracy theories before going out and beating up somebody who looked like "one of them."

Thanks to the genius of t'interweb they can now blog their paranoia. I dip into only occasionally. At the moment judging by the headlines on the news page ("Free Market Benefiting Both the club and the Nation") they seem to convulsed by some sort of collective silly season.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Promotheus' latest offering:

Public mistrust of the BBC continues as the corporation attempts to mask the antics of Celtic thugs.

Questions must be asked regarding the motives of those in charge at Pacific Quay.

News related to the Glasgow North-East by-election in the last few weeks has noted that David Kerr, the SNP candidate for the Westminster seat, is a member of the sinister Opus Dei. Kerr, who has already caused controversy with elitist remarks regarding one of Glasgow's universities and a camp impression of Reformer John Knox with childish comments about Rangers, is a former BBC Newsnight Scotland editor, and was previously the assistant editor of Reporting Scotland before becoming a reporter for BBC Scotland.

That someone with such sinister links is able to worm his way in to an influential position within the Scottish media should be of grave concern to the Scottish public. Moreover, one would hope that our parliament will remain free of an individual with such condescending and elitist views toward people he is aiming to represent.

Leaving politics aside, BBC Scotland news over the last few years, including during David Kerr's time at Reporting Scotland, has managed to increasingly alienate Rangers fans on several occasions: labelling a Rangers player a "c--t" on their official website; tagging an image of Nell McAndrew, who modelled a new Rangers kit, as "hunc--t1"; point-blank refusal to ever mention the IRA-fest at a Letterkenny hotel attended by Celtic officials, even when the video footage was mentioned in every other major news outlet; taking a lead in a one-sided, anti-Rangers campaign continued under the thin veil of an anti-sectarianism initiative; and using our money to pay for reporters to attend a Celtic supporters' provofest in Benidorm, and then lying about it to hide the failure of the event.

Opinion of the BBC amongst the many thousands of Rangers supporters in Scotland has never been lower. Our national broadcaster, we are told, has strict guidelines to which they must adhere yet this is a corporation that is continually failing the Scottish public on both quality and impartiality in its reporting.

David Murray, when questioned about his lack of action defending Rangers and the support, has stated that if we don't like what's being written then we don't have to buy the 'papers. This is, of course, true when we're talking about the ever-decreasing quality of the Glasgow Herald and Radio Clyde, for example. We can refuse to buy the paper or switch off the radio and starve them of money generated by advertisements. However, with the BBC we have no option but to pay the license fee which funds the current output from Pacific Quay and the standards demonstrated at present are totally unacceptable.

An incident in Banknock in Stirlingshire in August highlighted once again the depths to which BBC Scotland will stoop in their news reporting. Thugs dressed in Celtic attire attacked an ambulance on the afternoon of Sunday 9 August, with the appeal issued by the Central Scotland Police website stating:

"Police are keen to trace four men seen in the area at the time.

"The man who crossed the road and force the ambulance to stop is described as 5’7 – 5’8, late 20s-early 30s.

"A second man was described as wearing a light blue jumper, balding with dark hair at the side, wearing a Celtic top beneath a jersey, jeans and believed to be in his early 30s.

"A third man had blond hair and was wearing a Celtic top with jeans.

"The fourth man was described as 5’8”, brown hair, a tattoo on the back of his neck, and was wearing a green coloured jumper and jeans."

BBC Scotland did report the incident but there are no prizes on offer for correctly guessing the information they left out of the report. The cut down version is still available on their website.

A local Stirling 'paper and other news outlets managed to include the descriptions of the thugs and the question must be asked: why did BBC Scotland intentionally remove vital information from a police statement for their website report?

David Kerr and his sinister leanings may have departed the BBC but lack of standards demonstrated numerous times over the last few years remain. And YOU are funding it.

Now, there's a hell of lot of information to digest in there. Woven into the usual paranoia there's elements of Dan Brown, there's a jubilant glee in reporting violence by Celtic fans (no suggestion that it was football related) and there's an attack on the whole concept of public broadcasting. Wow. No wonder it needed a character from a Greek myth to write it.

"Sinister leanings." I don't know much about Opus Dei. It seems strange to me. But people are free to choose in our society. I don't think Ruth Kelly was a poor government minister because she was a member of Opus Dei. I think she was just a bad government minister.

But then I'm not one of life's "joiners" really. I'd no sooner join Opus Dei than I would prance about with a flute to celebrate a centuries old battle or roll up my trouser leg and perfect a new handshake in the hope I might get promotion or, at the very least, get away with a speeding fine.

Nor do I mistrust the BBC. And if I was to mistrust it I think I think I could find more compelling faults than what Old Prom's knickers are getting twisted over.

But he's made the mistake of claiming he's talking about a general public mistrust rather than a simple failure to pander to the myopic prejudices of Rangers fans.

I think most people would say that a BBC that attracts bile from both sides of the Old Firm is serving the public just fine thanks.

John Knox? Heaven forfend that a largely discredited historical figure should be the subject of ridicule. David Kerr, a Catholic, is fighting a by election against a lesbian. John Knox has lost the battle for the soul of modern Scotland and we should be celebrating that.

There's a scene in the pilot episode of The West Wing when a member of the Christian Right makes a comment about a presidential aide's "New York sense of humour." Of course, she means Jewish.

By making no attempt to explain Opus Dei but rather making continual reference to "sinister leanings" it's hard to escape the impression that Promotheus means simply "Catholic."

This paranoid claptrap is essentially meaningless. In previewing the Celtic - Arsenal game, in the broader context of the Scottish game, Kevin McCarra, referred to the Old Firm as a singular entity.

As ever this sparked a hammering of keyboards across Glasgow as outraged fans sought distance their beloved clubs from their evil neighbours.

The truth is that Celtic and Rangers are inseparable, locked in an unbreakable waltz. Where one leads the other must follow. They can't breathe without each other. And, crucially, they're of no interest to anybody unless they are willing to walk hand in hand into the English or European sunset.

The money men realised that long ago. Some fans still don't get it. Like Promotheus they prefer to engage in rotten old battles, keeping alive the flames of prejudice that make Scotland look like an evil, backward little place. The sort of place, in fact, where its easy imagine children of any religion or none growing up to attack ambulances.

Thanks to the internet those opinions can now travel the world in seconds. Something, at last, for John Knox to be proud of.

Of course I might be reading too much into this. Maybe Promotheus simply wants David Kerr to lose the by election to his opponent (herself a former BBC staffer).

Promotheus, after all, was the man that the Roman Fabulist Phaedrun credited with creating homosexuality.

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