For days now I’ve been toying with an article on the swelling sound of hate in Scottish football.
This won’t be it’ this is a brief one, a follow on from the story, today, of a wee guy we all know and love, wee Jay Beatty.
Jay met one of the people who has sent him abuse on Twitter, and it has changed the perspective of the person in question. How could it not? Jay is special. He could melt just about any heart. He’s part of what makes our Family what it is, but he’s an example to more than just Celtic fans.
Jay Beatty is an ambassador for us all.
That’s why I’ll save the bigger piece for another time.
About six years ago a story called Truth & Reconciliation. It was in my first book, Fragments, and I put it on Fields today (the link is at the bottom of this page) should anyone want to read it.
The story is about a guy in a group therapy session telling the rest of the room about how he got there; it’s about living in Scotland in the midst of the sectarian divide.
I’ve heard of such therapy sessions before, but I never realised they did this in Scotland until today, when I read that about Jay.
That story just made me smile.
This has been a tough week to be a Celtic blogger. There’s a lot of animosity out there, much of it banging around between Celtic fans themselves, what with everything going on at the club at the moment. The atmosphere on social media is horrendous.
It’s little wonder that the real story of the week was the treatment meted out to Leigh Griffiths, which was horrible beyond measure and something no-one should have to accept.
I almost wrote this article in the aftermath of those Tweets, but I was stopped in my tracks, almost literally, by the news that Leigh’s particular tormentor was just 15 years old.
That hit me in a way I hadn’t expected.
I was just as shocked today to find out that Jay’s was equally young.
Those twin stories kind of made my scrawl.
Because if hate starts that young, where does it come from?
How can you have just entered your teens but already be filled with enough bile that it spills out against a kid or the children of someone else?
Did society itself do this to you, or was it something more specific?
What’s elevated this level of venom in our country, and particularly around our football?
Was there one event, or series of them, we can track back to that makes sense of this?
The one good thing about all this is that these particular haters are still kids, and so they can still be got to and changed.
They learned this stuff somewhere and they are young enough that they can un-learn it.
The boy who targeted Jay has already started to.
But the wider issues will haunt us for a lot longer, and I’m going to be blunt; I partly blame the media for the rising level of anger and hate in our national sport.
For one thing, they have fed the Old Firm machine for years, and they can’t wait for Sevco to climb to the top flight so they can crank it up all over again.
Nothing fills me with more dread, and I’m not alone.
But it doesn’t matter to them that most ordinary football fans, on all sides, have no interest in a rivalry built on hate, that it’s the last thing we want in the game. They seem to think our national credibility depends on this somehow, that Scottish football can’t survive without it.
It’s a loathsome idea, and it’s something they’ve never tried to do with games between Hearts and Hibs.
They must view it as a very Glasgow problem … and that insults me as much as anything.
The so-called Old Firm fixture was bad enough when Rangers was here, but since that club died the press has been busily helping to foster some very dangerous ideas in what’s now the Sevco support, in particular the noxious Victim Myth, which suggests that everything that happened to their club was the fault of someone else.
This has made the crazier elements of that support feel like they have a grievance against half the people in our country.
Some of our hacks encourage this sense of grievance at every opportunity, particularly when you consider the kind of Sevco supporters they’ve turned into “official spokesmen” and given a national platform for some of their nonsense.
It’s bad enough that these people are active on social media, but putting them onto the BBC and STV news was un-necessary and insane.
The coverage certain people at Celtic get is just as reckless and dangerous.
When you consider the way they demonised Anthony Stokes because of some of the people in his social circle (and I can name a dozen footballers in Scotland who’s friends right here are just as unsavoury and perhaps even more so, but what would be the point?), the way they tried to portray Leigh Griffiths and when you think back to just about every word they wrote concerning Neil Lennon, well you get a sense of why some people think our guys are fair game.
You can see why people think they “deserve everything they get.”
Some of the responses I got to the Leigh Grffiths pieces this week, from Facebook, put things in just such a light, even, I was shocked to see, from some Celtic fans.
“Oh but Leigh should know better than to put himself out there on social media …” was the gist of one particularly daft post.
How do you even begin to change such perceptions?
Getting folk together clearly works, but the best way to combat this extremism is by trying to behave responsibility ourselves, keeping every debate as civil as we can and trying to promote respect for others and their point of view.
But there is evil out there, and we should never forget it.
For every person who apologises and embraces change there’s one more who is so filled with hate that it’s difficult to foresee them ever getting better.
We can’t be dragged to their level.
Neither, though, should they be elevated to ours.
If we’re willing to take our responsibilities more seriously, then is too much to ask that the press does too? They are the people best placed to help us lance this boil once and for all. In the current climate, they would rather pour petrol onto the flames. Even as they highlight the story of Jay, they are building the bonfire and getting ready to light it.
They cannot wait for a resumption of “hostilities.”
They cannot wait to make it “business as usual.”