Have you no honour?
There is a scene in the epic historical drama ‘Troy’ when old King Priam of Troy watches in horror as the Greek warriors swarm into his holiest temple and begin smashing the statues and killing anyone who crosses their path. He shouts at them over and over, ‘have you no honour?’ In their bloodlust and frenzy they don’t hear him and continue the slaughter.
This week social media echoed to the recriminations of another revelation about a coach who abused young footballers. For years Celtic supporters have put up with fans of various clubs chanting about paedophilia in a most despicable manner. A sizable group among the Rangers support was perhaps loudest in this due to their sheer numbers but they were not alone. It was and remains contemptable to point score over the abuse of young footballers. Young lives were blighted by these wicked men and it is totally abhorrent to use it as a stick to beat a rival club.
The revelations about what occurred at Ibrox in the 1990s sadly came as no surprise but instead of a depressing shake of the head and kind words for the victims, a minority sought a cheap and tawdry revenge. I can well understand the anger that the constant ‘weaponising’ of child abuse provokes in some Celtic supporters but to respond in kind simply lowers yourself to the gutter inhabited by those with no moral compass. It saddens me to see Celtic supporters respond in kind to the moronic jibes they themselves have endured for years.
How easy it is to become that which we claim to despise…
Any cursory search of the internet will soon teach us that these predators exist in all walks of life, all lands, all social classes, all faiths and none. They seek out the vulnerable and powerless, the weak and lost and exploit them for their own twisted purposes. All sympathy must go to the victims and the full force of the law must come crashing down on the perpetrators’ heads. Decent people would never contemplate using these crimes as a basis for point scoring at a football match or in conversations online. These crimes are a problem for our society and indeed for all mankind. No group or sect is free from abusers and it is everyone’s job to be vigilant and help protect the vulnerable.
The internet can be an ugly place at times and the anonymity it affords brings out the worse in some. Footballing rivalries often lead to harsh words online but the Celtic – Rangers rivalry goes way beyond most in that it is a complicated layer of football, politics, identity and history. The depth of naked hatred a minority feel for these two clubs means that nothing is off limits when it comes to goading the opposition. Thus we see a complete lack of balance and conformation bias on an industrial scale when any opportunity presents itself. This occurs when one drunken moron singing about Lee Rigby or some fool cursing the pope is passed off as typical of the whole group when nothing could be further from the truth. Or when a few folk for whatever reason don’t respect a minute’s silence and the thousands who did are ignored or tarred with the same brush. Conformation bias dictates that we seek evidence which supports our pre conceived bias and ignore any evidence which doesn’t. Thus as German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer observed…
"An adopted hypothesis gives us lynx-eyes for everything that confirms it and makes us blind to everything that contradicts it."
We human beings stereotype whole groups with our bias, subconscious or not. On social media platforms the ‘filter bubble’ magnifies this effect further as the ‘algorithmic editing’ cuts our diverse opinions and leaves us all in an echo chamber of like-minded voices. It’s important that we remain brave enough to call out in our friends that which we so readily condemn in our adversaries. The bitterness we see at times from a vociferous minority in Scottish football poisons the well for us all. It isn’t about the team you follow or the politics you hold to; it’s about decent people saying ‘that’s enough’ when the less inhibited go too far. This deplorable online ‘tit for tat’ debate on child abuse very often goes too far and the victims are reduced to pawns in a slanging match.
The National Association For People Abused In Childhood (NAPAC) suggests that one in 5 people will have experienced some sort of abuse in childhood. This abuse may have been physical, psychological, emotional or sexual. For some it is a combination of them all. Those who make a public display about such issues without thinking for a moment about the victims are reprehensible. The chances are that those who chant about such things at football will have survivors of abuse standing near them. Just as those who use abuse to attack others online will never know the hurt they cause victims who read their comments.
I love football; it’s a great game when played well. It also brings out genuine passions and rivalries which add to the spectacle. But there are some who lose their sense of decency when it comes to interacting with rivals. It’s not clever, it’s not funny and it’s not decent to chant about child abuse at a football match nor is it ever acceptable to use it to attack a whole community when those to blame are the perpetrators of these crimes and no one else. There is no guilt by association although lessons must be learned about how those who commit such crimes can be prevented from gaining access to our youngsters.
It was disheartening to see the slanging match on social media this week but there were those brave enough to say, ‘that’s enough- this isn’t an issue which football supporters should be using in this manner.’ There will always be a minority who don’t give a damn though and they are probably beyond redemption. Old King Priam would be wasting his breath asking them ‘have you no honour?’
For the decent majority though, there is a responsibility to the victims of abuse to see that their suffering isn’t compounded by tolerating online slanging matches. This is about real people suffering. We should be much better than this.