Before I start this piece, you have to excuse me for the use of language in it.
I’m going to use words in a way that will make some people frown. Or rather, I’m going to use them in a way that will make folk wonder why I’ve done it. It’s simple. News aggregator sites have filters and you would not believe the words that get caught in some of them.
As this article is about those words, I am still going to use the words, but in an obscured way. In a sense I understand why the news aggregators do this; it’s the whole issue in a nutshell, and actually helps to emphasise the point I’m going to make.
Happy with that? Okay, then, let’s begin …
The moment I saw the Green Brigade’s “Have To Deport” banner I knew there would be a melt-down across the city.
It was the use of that word, “f@nian”, which did it, a word that both needles and excites the Ibrox support in equal measure.
Last night, I reported on the way in which certain segments of the Ibrox support have decided that it was Celtic who were to blame for the partial closure of their ground for next week’s Legia Warsaw tie. The link is Peter Lawwell and his new job at UEFA, which isn’t really a job at all but a place on a committee.
Their paranoia flared, and a new conspiracy theory was born.
They do love a good conspiracy theory over there.
Yet, as fixated as they were on Lawwell, that was nothing compared to how obsessive they were over that Green Brigade banner.
The “question” they are asking is this;
If the Green Brigade is allowed to put the word on a flag, why the Hell aren’t they allowed to use the word in a song?
I remember listening, yeas ago, to Richard Pryor in his mammoth tour de force Live At The Sunset Strip and being astounded at this bold, brilliant black man talking about his moment of realisation about the word “nigg@r,” and how he vowed never to use the word in his act again.
It was an incredible transformation for the comic who had made his career on “reclaiming” the word from bigots and racists and incorporating it into his act.
Nowadays, every black American comic uses the word profusely, and many of them cite Pryor’s initial stance as their inspiration.
They all know Pryor later renounced it, but the logic of his original position holds.
Because in a sense he, and they, did take back the word, and they took the sting out of it for a whole generation of people who might otherwise have been cowed by it.
But of course, as with so many things, context is king.
Two black men trading the word in banter is one thing.
Screaming it at the top of your voice at another human being at a white pride rally is another entirely.
The Ibrox fans don’t seem to get that it’s not the use of the word “f@nian” that’s the problem but the word “b@stard” which invariably follows it, or the suggestion that it’s socially unacceptable to sing of how good it would be up to your knees in someone else’s blood.
Those songs cease to provide “incredible atmosphere” when they are about you.
And as such, myself and other Celtic fans are sick and tired hearing them.
It’s the insertion of hatred into the equation that turns it into a crime, that turns it into something that society finds morally repugnant.
Hate is the key here, and the reason some of them have this mental block up is that lately hating is all they are able to do.
You know, I resent having to write these kind of pieces.
The Peepul may be thick but surely they aren’t as thick as to misunderstand this, something this obvious and this simple.
Maybe they are, but I know some just enjoy being hateful too much to change. They take a certain pride in being offensive and at the heart of “we are the Peepul” is an obvious, and ingrained, sense of superiority over others which they aren’t for trading in now.
Some of them see this is a trial of strength.
Bloody Hell. I mean, they are being asked to refrain from singing songs which glorify in murder and which wallow in bigotry, and they want to bang on about their rights.
On this one I do believe they are ignorant; the UK does not have a legally defined right to free speech.
We’re not protected by any First Amendment here, or anything close.
What we do have are laws, and they are clear on The Billy Boys and The Famine Song and other little ditties such as those.
That stuff is not just banned by UEFA, it is criminal, and anyone who does it is risking more than a “rehabilitation” session with the club over tea and biscuits.
They risk court. They risk fines. They risk jail.
Those Green Brigade boys and girls are smart cookies.
Did they choose that particular stanza, and that particular song, deliberately, to provoke just that sort of anguished wailing from Ibrox?
It was a perfect choice, and this latest flare-up proves it.
The irony of this debate, and the way we use words, is that “nigg@r” has its roots in the white slavers and their efforts to denigrate and de-humanise the people they owned. The way people like Pryor confronted the word ripped it away from the racists as a source of power.
In contrast, the word “f@nian” existed in a socio-political context before the bigots came along and tried to turn it into a pejorative term for those who were “lesser.”
The Green Brigade has simply re-appropriated the word, and taken it back to its meaning, although whether you think it’s sensible for a bunch of football fans to refer to themselves and their support for our club in the language of rebellion and armed insurrection is a different story again.
The point still holds.
The Green Brigade’s use of the word on a banner bears no resemblance to the way the Ibrox fan-base used it in sectarian songs against St Patricks, against Copenhagen, against Progres and, yes, on Thursday night in Warsaw.
This isn’t even an attempt at moral equivalence, it is barking mad.
It is lunacy.
It is deflection at a time when they ought to be confronting the very real problems in their stands, problems which are doing them incredible harm and which have the potential to cost them far more than just a few games behind closed doors.
Their failure to grasp this is extraordinary, and they are the only people who will suffer for it.
Even as I was writing this, I was pointed in the direction of Phil’s article of yesterday, in which he suggested that the Ibrox club may be under further investigation for sectarian and racist singing in Warsaw on Thursday night.
Perhaps this footage has something to do with it.
STRIKE TWO pic.twitter.com/7EBJAurICy
— Tam Sellics son (@gibbogibby1) August 23, 2019
I wonder who they will blame for that?
Celtic fans again? Peter Lawwell again? FARE?
Or maybe, just maybe, they’ll accept some personal responsibility for once.