People in Glass Houses
Years ago I picked up a book in my local Library entitled ‘The Faithful Tribe’ by Ruth Dudley Edwards. It was a rather sympathetic look at the Loyal Institutions in the north of Ireland and portrayed them in a most favourable light. Ruth was born in the Irish Republic and built a reputation as something of a revisionist historian. Her book on the Orange Order and its sister institutions was interesting but there were huge omissions which didn’t quite suit her narrative of the ‘faithful tribe’ being nice folk who were simply misunderstood and poor at public relations. Just as any group with a large number of members will have its share of rogues, so too have the Loyal institutions. I’m sure any cursory look at the history of the troubles will find some members of the Orders heavily involved in a variety of activities which Ruth chose to ignore in her rather fawning book.
This last week she popped up again writing an article in the Belfast Telegraph about the ‘demonization of Loyalists’ here in Scotland. Her article ruffled a few feathers and in honesty showed a complete lack of understanding of the social, political and sporting history of Scotland. She stated among other things…
‘’ I don’t for one minute ignore the abuse of Taigs and Tims and Fenians, but the insults from republicans are of a different order, for they echo the language of demonization republicans practised so ruthlessly in Northern Ireland and exhibit the same contempt for loyalists. Back now in the top tier, their enemies call them Sevco and refer to their supporters as Sevconians, which the Urban Dictionary tells me refers to people “usually bald and toothless” and “consumed with bigotry and lies” who insist they are really Rangers. On the website of Rangers supporters the Vanguard Bears, there is a thoughtful blog called “Dehumanisation and the end game”, which gets to the heart of the matter. It is dehumanising to deny the club’s identity by refusing to call it Rangers and to refer to its supporters as “Ku Klux Klan”, “Nazis”, “Huns”, “knuckledraggers” and “scum”. An important part of the process of dehumanisation, as discussed in the blog, is deindividuation, whereby individuals are seen as a member of a category or group, rather than being seen as a person”.
Dudley Edwards equates Rangers Supporters and Loyalists in a way that is only partially true, not all loyalists are Rangers supporters and not all Rangers supporters are Loyalists. Despite this, I read the Vanguard Bears article and thought as I did so of the unbridled hypocrisy it contained. Every single complaint they laid at the door of ‘those who hate us’ could just as easily be made about the behaviour of elements among their own support. Indeed the comments section after the article contained many of the old stock phrases about ‘Papes’ etc with no sense that the writers saw the irony of their own comments.
There is no doubt that the distaste being shown towards the more bellicose elements among the Rangers support in recent years by supporters of many clubs has increased. This has to do with the fallout from liquidation, the arrogance and lack of contrition from the club about what occurred and of course the perceived unfairness of the EBT years. The continuing bullying of those who expound a different narrative from theirs about the events of 2012 is perhaps another element in all of this as is the continuing singing of songs increasingly out of step with modern Scotland. An often unrecognised element though is the fact that as Scotland awoke politically in the run up to the 2014 referendum the existence of an aggressive unionist/Loyalist contingent among the Rangers support became more apparent to a wider audience. The ire this group normally reserved for Celtic and the Irish-Scottish community was turned on the wider ‘Yes’ voting community in a manner which appalled many. Their language morphed into terms reminiscent of the troubles in the north of Ireland. Indeed some spoke of the ‘Ulsterisation’ of Scottish politics but that was surely an exaggeration as most Scots are unreceptive to extreme views of any kind.
Ruth Dudley Edwards is right about the use of language being a powerful weapon to undermine or dehumanise people and there is a significant minority on all sides in Scottish football who overstep the mark at times. However this isn’t about the ‘demonisation of Loyalists’ it’s about the antics of that moronic element which attaches itself to all football clubs. You’ll see it in deeply vitriolic terms in England for instance where the more moronic followers of Manchester United and Liverpool will stoop to mentioning Hillsborough or Munich to irk their rivals. Decent fans of all clubs have no time for such stupidity and while many join in the banter and hold strong opinions about their rivals, few seriously try to dehumanise anyone. How could they when families are so inter mixed in Scotland. The community polarisation which occurred in the North of Ireland, where according to some surveys fewer than 6% of marriages are ‘mixed’ never occurred in Scotland. Scotland absorbed literally hundreds of thousands of Irish migrants without any serious social disruption or disorder occurring.
The poor behaviour of a minority of Hibs supporters at the cup final or the crude terminology used on social media about the worst elements of the Rangers support are not symptoms of demonization or dehumanisation they are symptoms of the run of the mill contempt the more uncouth football supporters the world over exhibit towards their rivals. Celtic supporters deal with jibes such as bead rattlers, Fenians, Paedos, Provo lovers, Bheasts, Taigs, etc. The vast majority know that such terms say more about those using them than their intended targets. There is dislike of Rangers and their more vitriolic followers, even hatred in some quarters but to equate it to the ‘dehumanisation’ is simply wrong. If you want to see what real dehumanisation is, a good history of the Holocaust or Rwandan genocide will enlighten you.
That being said, people do need to make a choice about the terminology they use about others. Most folk are decent and avoid the more cutting terms. I stopped using the term ‘Hun’ years ago, not because it’s sectarian because in the Scottish context it never was, but because others ‘rebranded’ it and now use it as ‘proof’ that Celtic fans are routinely sectarian. In the final analysis the decent majority at all clubs know that these issues aren’t about Loyalist against Republicans, Celtic against Rangers or any other fabricated division. They remain a struggle between the decent football supporters at all clubs and the less cerebral minority among their supports who try drag them down to their level. That’s the real battle which must be won.
As for the Vanguard Bears, their rather overblown article was no doubt well-meaning but people in glass houses had best beware throwing stones. As I read their article I thought of the scene in Silence of the Lambs where FBI agent Clarice Starling is analysed by the brilliant but insane Hannibal Lecter in devastating fashion, she listens to his words before retorting…
‘’You see a lot, doctor. But can you point that high-powered perception at yourself? What about it? Why don't you – why don't you look at yourself and write down what you see? Or maybe you're afraid to...’’
In the final analysis the best way to be thought of and treated as a decent human being is to behave like one.