Friday, 8 September 2017

Five Years Of Downfall Denial

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00D507BK4/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Its five years today since Downfall - How Rangers FC Self-Destructed was published. Written by Phil McGiolla Bhain, a freelance journalist who’d led the press pack on the Rangers story, the book was subjected to a campaign of abuse. Of course, this had the effect of increasing sales, one of these beautiful karmic responses that the universe delights in handing out.

The campaign against the book included phoning head offices of major book shop chains to complain about the book being stocked – and then denying it. One head office buyer, after having placed pre-publication orders, called me to ask if it was going to be worth the hassle as they’d had complaints. Thankfully the buyer agreed that it was worth it.

Another retail manager told of visitors to his chain’s stores berating staff for having the cheek to stock the book. Some visitors went as far as to move the book from its Number One spot in stores, hiding it near cookery. Others, presumably in a fit of pique, scrunched books up to make them unsellable.
Of course, these instances were all denied as having happened. It’s one thing to do these things, but at least have the courage of your convictions. Don’t then deny it happened.

The Sun newspaper, who I’d approached on serialisation on another book (Ciaran McAirt’s The McGurk’s Bar Bombing) rebuffed that effort and instead stated that they wanted to serialise another book we’d published the same month, Phil Mac Giolla Bhain’s Downfall book. The deal was done and a very fair and decent piece on Phil and his book appeared. However, it’s appearance produced an astonishing reaction. I was new to Twitter and was following reaction on various feeds. The first I learned that The Sun was scrapping the serialisation half way through its agreed run was on Twitter when a Sun employee stated that this was the case.

Another Sun employee told me privately that the switchboard “melted” when the reaction from some Rangers fans came in. Weirdly, months later when I discussed this with a Sun employee, I was told “there was no big reaction”. No reaction? Really? What about that switchboard “melting?” It was “exaggerated”. Why the change of facts here? Again, have the courage of your convictions. Don’t deny it happened.

Some gifted People took the trouble to review the book – before it was even finished being written. Now, that was conscientious. You have to wonder why such prescience on their part precluded them from foreseeing the demise of their club.

One chap who did foresee that demise, and who indeed warned all and sundry publicly in his contemporaneous blog, wasn’t much thanked - or even believed. Thankfully he (Phil) was believed by many when he wrote Downfall – How Rangers FC Self-Destructed.  So much so that the book reached Number 8 in Amazon UK’s overall book chart, despite concern for me among some Rangers fans who claimed I had thousands, piled high, unsold in my garage. Not only did I not have any in my garage, I didn’t even have a garage.

I then received calls from a seemingly nice chap in Belfast who claimed he was working as a buyer for Bargain Books in that neat little town. I played along, as the caller was obviously unaware that I had worked very closely with Bargain Books in Belfast since 1996, publishing several books with them under their Lagan Books imprint and supplying their stores with literally thousands of books, both full price books and bargain books, for years. I knew the owners very well. Indeed, they were personal friends of the finest and most loyal kind. I knew who the key store managers were. This gentleman caller, friendly as he was, had clearly nothing to do with Bargain Books Belfast. He seemed to think I’d want to sell the book at a dirt cheap price. What was this charming chap’s game? He seemed determined to even have me say the words “I’ll supply Bargain Books with Downfall” for some reason. It all made sense later when it was apparent he was taping the calls. The project, such as it was, was to discredit the book by suggesting it was such a terrible, unwanted item that weeks after publication I was eager to offload it at a loss. Impersonation, taping calls, quite a lot of trouble to go…

Despite being a Scottish Bestseller in many key Scottish book outlets from Waterstones to WHS and others the Scottish media took their lead from The Sun and collectively shat their pants. Only one SMSM chap reviewed the book. The rest either decided that the only book on the greatest sporting scandal in Scottish sports history wasn’t worthy of a second glance or they didn’t think it was
 “worth the hassle”. In case you think “shat its pants” is hyperbole, ask yourself how you’d describe a media which one day had uniform headlines across the board along the lines of “Rangers, 1872-2012, RIP”, and then airbrushes all reference to those headlines from their current narrative. No attempt at any expansion, any “we were wrong” - just a desperate wish for all their readers to lobotomise themselves to the point they don’t remember such headlines or where they wonder if they dreamed them.

That hassle was documented in Alex Thompson’s piece for Channel 4 where several Scottish commentators related the grief they got for commenting in any negative way on the club that was Rangers. The editor of the book, Sunday Herald columnist, Angela Haggerty, received disgraceful sectarian abuse. You know the kind? That’s right, the kind we have to keep reminding certain commentators that is NOT “banter”, and is NOT “funny”. Replace the work “Taig” with the word “black” just in case you had any doubt about just how offensive, not to say illegal, such “banter” is. So illegal in fact that one perpetrator, who hosted an internet radio show spewing out threatening bigotry, was tried and convicted in a Scottish court of sectarian hatred and was sentenced to 6 months in jail.

Sadly, it was not just many in SMSM who were keen to dismiss the sectarianism that some involved in the book were subjected to. Despite the complaint being made about the radio show, and it’s shocking vitriolic bigotry jeopardising the safety of our book’s editor, it wasn’t until Alex Thompson‘s Channel 4 piece on what Angela endured that the police seemed to take the complaint seriously. The world outside Glasgow was on now the case, apparently. Glasgow had to wake up to the fact that what many thought was “banter” that had been “asked for” was actually a crime.

Since publication of Downfall five years ago, the very Downfall itself has been erased from the history, as related by SMSM at least. Reference to Rangers now being bereft of life is censored on both main Radio football shows. No debate even allowed. It’s like Soviet-style collective hysteria, as if the mention of a fact will bring civilisation crashing down. Sure, they obliquely refer to the “relegation” of “Rangers” to the fourth division. But the Downfall, the Self-Destruction, is denied with more fervour year on year. Doubtless some scribe will claim to have covered The Downfall, but unless they mean Downfall in the Python-esque it has ceased to be sense as opposed to the pining for the fjords sense, then they have missed the point. That’s a set-back, not a Downfall. Thankfully, at least one book exists on the subject to keep us right.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00D507BK4/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1


Monday, 14 August 2017

Urgent Letter To Her Majesty from Club 2012

We wish to bring to the attention of Her Majesty the issue of Neil Lennon abusing Rangers fans at Ibrox on Saturday. We consider his reaction to good-natured sectarian abuse and friendly death threats to be extreme. After all, are we really to believe that our own wee part of Her Majesty’s kingdom is longer safe for bigots?

There was a time not so long ago, last week in fact, when Fenians were there to be verbally abused and indeed on occasions assaulted, without any comeback on the fine upstanding bigots dishing it out. But, now, in a land where the SNP’s brand of political correctness runs amok, it is no longer safe for harmless bigots to force their sectarian bile down the throats of Fenians because, as we saw at Ibrox on Saturday, some Fenians are taking the law into their own hands and causing our own loyal fans immense suffering by, and I kid you not, cupping their hands around their ears in an obscene gesture of pure hatred, with no concern that there were children in the stadium. 

Before we know it, we’ll have copycat crimes, with other Fenians feeling they can cup their hands at our supporters who are, after all, only exercising their birth right to remind Fenians that their right to life is not a right at all, but rather, a gift from their betters.

Fair play to our management for trying to bring this matter to the attention of Police Scotland at the ground but, as you must have guessed, every policeman, every referee, every journalist, every lollipop lady, are all now Fenians.

Now a terrifying precedent has been set. Lennon’s example, with its implication that the insults and abuse, painstakingly refined by generations of our forefathers, are no longer reducing Fenians to quivering wrecks. In fact, Lennon’s gesture indicated that he really didn’t care how vile our insults were, regardless of the care and preparation that had gone into them. It’s like we’ve woken up in the hell of a post-sectarian apocalypse.

This renders screaming sheer hatred at Fenians for 90 minutes pretty worthless as an exercise. And that, Your Majesty, is an outcome we cannot countenance. It’s not like we have lives worth a shit unless we can make Fenians feel inferior. Soon, and again I do not say this in jest, they’ll be expecting to be treated as equals. And our poor comrades who even now are selflessly preparing death threats - and bullets and bombs through the mail - are bereft. What if this campaign of intimidation simply no longer works? And, Your Majesty, if it does indeed come to this, and you ever wonder why our whole empire of beliefs crumbled into dust, you’ll remember that terrifying day when a Fenian was allowed to cup his ears at our insults.

Signed
Your Loyal Subjects 
Club 2012
The Rat and Gutter Bar
1690 Boyne Road
The Past





Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Criticism Is Not Abuse

Did you follow the Emma Barnett controversy yesterday? At 10.52am she tweeted, after her interview with Corbyn on Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio, “So the abuse from Jeremy Corbyn supporters begins.”

My first thought was how stupid can anyone purporting to be a Corbyn supporter, a group more under scrutiny than any other, be to abuse anyone, especially a journo doing her job, which is to take public figures to task. And, as long as all are taken to task to the same degree, all is good.

I scrolled down Emma’s timeline to see what abuse was there, half expecting to see some pathetic, misogynistic rudeness and abuse. But there was none. There was some criticism, sure, and some of that criticism was very partial in favour of Corbyn. Not incredibly helpful. But not in a million years “abuse”. Sure, some of the criticism was robust, even severe, as was some of Emma’s questioning of Corbyn. But surely that is all par for the course, unless some are suggesting its okay to dish it out but not to take it?

I went through the timeline again to make sure I hadn’t missed something that may have even been misunderstood as “abuse”. But, again, I couldn’t find anything. In fact, the only abuse I found was from one of Emma’s supporters telling Corbyn supporters to “fuck off”. The timeline is still there and if someone shows me I’ve missed something outright abusive then I’ll apologise unreservedly because I think abuse of journos is obscene. But, I believe holding the media to account in a democracy is essential, especially media we pay for, i.e., the BBC.

So, why did Emma claim to have been a victim of abuse when all that was visible on her timeline was criticism? Oversensitivity? Human error? Or something else?

As if on cue, at 12.10pm, nearly 80 minutes after Emma had claimed to have received abusive texts (though none were on her timeline) @Labour_Insider tweeted to be the effect that Emma was alleged to be a Zionist. Whether she is or isn’t is irrelevant. It was undoubtedly a misjudged tweet. By asking Emma if “the allegation is true” @Labour_Insider framed the question pejoratively. Being a Zionist is not an offence. So the question was loaded by using the word “allegation”.  There’s no point in discussing the sheer political carelessness of the tweet because that is not the issue. The issue is about online abuse. Sadly we know that journalists do receive abuse and for many complex reasons female journalists often receive especially gender-orientated abuse. As this happened to a female editor we worked with (who is also a journalist) some years ago it’s a subject I take extremely seriously regardless of political opinions. But criticism of journalists, some well paid for opinions, others well paid to be impartial, must be expected, indeed, in a democracy, essential.

The @Labour_Insider tweet was, in the context of legitimate concerns regarding anti-Semitism, insensitive and careless as it could encourage real anti-Semitic abuse and could put Emma in the frontline of that abuse. Not being Jewish myself I’d defer to people of that proud faith who are better qualified than I to judge if asking someone if they are Zionist is anti-Semitic. But even if we assume for the moment that it is, then it still does not explain why Emma claimed, at 10.52am, to have received abusive tweets despite none being on her timeline. I did ask Emma twice if she could show us the tweets because regardless of political differences it would be useful for Labour people to see the abusive tweets and call out the perpetrators. But no reply as yet, which is understandable as a busy working journalist has better things to do perhaps than answer every one of the hundreds of tweets they receive in a day during an election campaign.

Someone more indulgent of conspiracy theories than I suggested to me, I hope humorously, that perhaps Emma claimed to be the victim of abusive tweets from Corbyn supporters in the hope of inspiring some so as to help buttress the “Abusive Corbyn Supporters” narrative and to make that the headline in order to keep the Corbyn Surge off the front pages. Certainly, The Times led with “Corbyn in Anti-Semitic row” type headline. Although to be fair the poll showing May might lose her majority was above it on the page. Nevertheless, the issue made the front page. And we do live in an age when most senior journos are, coincidentally I'm sure, self professed Tories. Hence, we should be more alive to the possibility of even inconsciously unfair reporting.

My own view is that was not part of any Emma cunning plan. It has more to do with the disconnect that’s evolved between the public and - not politicians – but the London-based journalistic class. Most senior London-based journalists have about as much idea of the public’s growing frustration with cuts, never-ending wars, lack of homes etc as politicians do, which isn’t saying much. So, when some of the public express disdain, frustration and criticism of how they do their job, some senior London-based journalists cry “abuse”. They are wrong, just as Emma appears to have been wrong. Those of us with a keen interest in media and adherence to impartiality and fair reporting  surely have the right to criticise just as robustly as Emma and others criticise Corbyn, 




Monday, 20 February 2017

That Interview for The The Rangers Manager’s Job In Full.

The CANDIDATE is welcomed into the room by RANGERS DIRECTORS - and a Computer screen.

RANGERS DIRECTOR ONE – Thanks for turning up at short notice. Sit down, pal.
CANDIDATE – Who are you guys?
DIRECTOR ONE – Us? We are the people. Our management team have just resigned.
CANDIDATE – Wow, what did they say?
(THE DIRECTORS exchange glances)
DIRECTOR ONE – Well, nothing.
(THE DIRECTORS laugh among themselves)
DIRECTOR ONE – See, they don’t know they’ve resigned yet.
(Laughter is heard from the computer screen)
CANDIDATE – But don’t you have a letter of resignation.
DIRECTOR ONE – Aye.
CANDIDATE – What did it say?
DIRECTOR ONE – Dunno. We’re still writing it.
DISEMBODIED VOICE – Never mind about them. They’ll be history, I mean are history. So, are you up for the job?
CANDIDATE – Of course.
DIEMBODIED VOICE FROM THE COMPUTER – What’s your qualifications?
CANDIDATE – For the avoidance of doubt I don’t do walking away from the Dunkirk spirit, being a real Rangers man and I want to manage the stadium that John Brown played for and I think The Billy Boys is a great song and I’m up to my knees in EBTs. (CANDIDATE nudges and winks). And when you meet me in person I can shake your hand. (CANDIDATE nudges and winks some more).
DISEMBODIED VOICE - That might not happen anytime soon. Much as I am loyal to Her Majesty, it may be some time before I can enter her jurisdiction again. So I might be a bit ethereal for the time being, a bit like our club. (DISEMBODIED VOICE laughs).
CANDIDATE – I’m just glad to have the opportunity because I thought you might have asked Ally McCoist to come back.
DIRECTOR ONE –Not until he can show us that he’s put his gardening leave to proper loyal use.
CANDIDATE – How do you mean?
DIRECTOR ONE – Until he can get grass to grow blue instead of green he’s no welcome.
DISEMBODIED VOICE -  But, seeing as we can’t afford to water our pitch, our grass will soon be turning dustbowl orange, which is some compensation, I suppose.
(DIRECTORS nod in agreement)
CANDIDATE – I’m not greedy, but what’s the dough?
THE DIRECTORS, IN UNISON  - NOT WARBUTTONS!
(THE DIRECTORS LAUGH)
DIRECTOR ONE – Did you not see the ad we put out? Here it is: 

DO you want to serve in the Sevco Management team, as a conduit for fans frustration with the board, on match days?
If you’re excommunicated and/or have a staunch commitment to Dunkirk we want to hear from you.
We are looking for a Volunteer (ideally on ceasefire) to assist the club around the dressing room and act as a match day conduit for supporters anger and frustration, pro-actively assuming blame for any issues that our fans may face.
Successful candidate will be a Sevco supporter and so will be able to drink like those that they’ll be helping. Volunteer will have a Halloween personality and be genuinely able to help supporters remain blind from what the board is really up to. He’ll be passionately excommunicated – and love to talk shite.
The target is 55.
If your IQ is over 18 and think you’ve got whatever it takes email onthemake@sevco.co.uk explaining why you would make the perfect foil for the club.
CANDIDATE – I thought that that ad was just for Stewards?  Surely there’s at least some pay?'
THE DIRECTORS – Thank you, Mr Souness. Better luck next time.



Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The Miami Showband Massacre - A Survivor's search For Truth 2017

Published by Frontline Noir.    Buy the book here

The Miami Showband Massacre was a 1975 atrocity during The Troubles in Ireland. Five musicians in band made up of both Catholic and Protestants were shot to death in cold blood when a bomb that British soldiers were planting in their van (at a British Army checkpoint – not a bogus checkpoint as some have reported) prematurely exploded, killing two of the bombers in the process.

What has become apparent is that official British policy of Collusion with Loyalist terrorists not only allowed this terrorist act to be carried out but actually instigated it too.

A few years ago, that statement would have been considered by many in UK like an Irish Republican press release. However, thanks to the tireless efforts of serious campaigners for truth in both Britain and Ireland, the fact that British official policy on Ireland during The Troubles had Collusion as one of its pillars is now universally accepted.

The group responsible for carrying out the Miami Showband Massacre, the Glenanne Gang, a grouping of UVF paramilitaries, serving policemen and soldiers, were not only known to British Intelligence but in fact utilised by them to carry out atrocities considered too atrocious to be carried out by the British Army proper. Other terrorist operations carried out by this gang include The Dublin and Monaghan Bombings which resulted in the single most deadly day in the most recent Troubles (1968 – 2005) when 33 men women and children were slaughtered by that state-sponsored gang. There were other operations too and one of the leaders of the Glenanne Gang was UVF leader Robin Jackson, known as The Jackal, and who was responsible for over 100 murders.

There are different degrees of Collusion. One is the “Rotten Apples” theory. This contends that the state is fundamentally moral and good but a few hotheads, sometimes understandably (according to the theory) take the law into their own hands. For years this was as far as the state would admit culpability in crimes committed by its agents whether they be policemen or soldiers. This nonsense was the State’s “get out” clause.  How could a law-abiding state such as Britain contain these bad apples? And most people, not directly affected by the terror unleashed by the State, bought it.

The lack of will among many in the media and the State to investigate (although there were many notable exceptions) helped sustain the lie of the “Rotten Apple” theory for decades. This increased the pain of victims’ surviving relatives by adding the salt of alienation to their wounds. Losing a relative to murder is terrible enough but to have the state deliberately inhibit your quest for justice means moving on is not an option. Then to have the state make you feel like you are some insane conspiracy theorist because you dare to seek the truth over your loved one’s murder puts pain on pain. The state of course knows this full well and would be happy if you simply conceded that it is too great a battle and gave up.

However, the state did not factor in the indefatigability of the relatives and survivors of many of the atrocities its agents carried out. The McGurk’s Bar Bombing Relatives legendary quest for justice is matched by those of Bloody Sunday, The Springhill Massacre, The Dublin and Monaghan Bombings, Reavey and O'Dowd killings, Loughinisland and many more. With so many major terrorist events taking place patterns formed in the eyes of any objective investigator. The lack of will by the State to investigate the crime properly, in many cases actually destroying and tampering with evidence, was just one of the common features. It took a long time but thanks to efforts of those above and others, the Rotten Apple theory has ceased to be credible and anyone citing it in defence of the state is simply discounted as lacking any credibility.

Another degree of Collusion is illustrated by instances of British Army personnel actively supporting the acts of terrorism by covering the investigative trail in order to protect agents in organisations.  Not every terrorist act committed by Loyalists was directed by British Intelligence. Often the British would not need to suggest any direction. Bearing in mind the state and the Loyalists had the same objective (defeating the IRA, ensuring the division of Ireland was maintained, and ensuring southern Ireland ceased to be - in their view - a safe haven for Republicans) all the State had to do often was ensure no impediments existed when Loyalist paramilitaries went about their business – and to clear up after them.

But the worst degree of Collusion is where the terrorist acts were actually conceived by intelligence agencies and then effectively sub-contracted to the relevant Counter Gang (British Brigadier Frank Kitson’s memorable description and part of the title of the book he wrote on the subject). In “Ulster”, the relevant Counter Gangs were the UDA (amazingly, legal until 1992) and the UVF (and later the LVF). These attacks were designed to have such an impact so as to further British policy in Ireland.

While some involved in these Loyalist organisations would contend they were directed by anyone, the body of evidence pointing towards their activities being at least guided by British Intelligence reached a critical mass some time ago with evidence uncovered by relatives groups and provided by whistle-blowers too.

However, The Miami Showband Massacre has all the hallmarks of the highest degree of Collusion. The perpetrators were known to operate from Glenanne Farm, owned by one of its members, James Mitchell (a reserve policeman). The land had been known by British Military Intelligence as a hub of Loyalist arms dumping and bomb making at least since 1972 when it appeared in internal documents identified as such.

The terrorists plan was to place the bomb and time it to explode as the van travelling through the south of Ireland, thus implicating the Showband members as republican terrorists. This, in turn, was supposed to ensure the Irish government felt under pressure to increase border security. For those who suppose this is too far-fetched, it was not the first time British Intelligence had used the gang to further its political aims. Bombs had gone off in Dublin in 1972 just as a debate in the Irish Parliament (The Dáil) regarding security legislation was taking place. On hearing the bombs explode, The Dáil passed the legalisation.

Some of the operatives involved in these terrorist activities were convicted, many were not. The State hoped that sending a few expendables to prison would satisfy the need for justice.  But, as the campaign that one of the survivors of the Miami Showband Massacre is involved in believes, it is not just the immediate perpetrators who need to be held to account; those who instigated, facilitated and covered up those crimes must be held to account.

That is why the UK Ministry Of Defence, the ministry ultimately responsible for implementing the policy of Collusion, must join these killers in the dock. To that end, the campaign for truth and justice for the Miami Showband continues this month in the UK courts. 

Further Reading