History is written by the winners, or so goes the old aphorism.
You know why it rings true?
Because at the end of a lot of wars the victors are the only ones left standing to write it.
You can’t embellish if you’re dead and gone, and if you’ve won you don’t have to.
Like most aphorisms it’s both partly true and grossly simplistic, and in Scottish football it’s been turned on its head because the victors didn’t write the history; a bunch of charlatans wrote an alternative version of it and, shamefully, the media tried to pass that off as truth.
I have long argued that we – the victors, the fans, the people who won some measure of justice, however small, for the sins at Ibrox – would eventually write the history, and I still believe that, firmly, and fully. We’re the only ones who can.
I hope that in the fullness of time all of the bloggers will write their own books about this period; I know I’ve got one in me and the desire to write it.
I’m not daunted by the task but by the nagging feeling that the story isn’t finished yet, that there’s one, perhaps more than one, major denouement still to come. That we might be only part of the way through this. I want to see how the story ends first.
That’s a personal taste.
There are a handful of books – and I mean a small handful – about where we are right now and how we got here, and they are important books. Every Celtic fan should be reading those books, but more important than that is that every Celtic fan should be trying to get every non-Celtic fan they know to read them too.
Phil wrote the first of them, of course, with Downfall and it is, like Stephen’s book, a sobering look at how football in this country was completely failed by the governing bodies and the media. Phil has the advantage of being a professional journalist, and that echoes in his work.
Paul Larkin has produced some of the most noteworthy books, and they are special and required reading for everyone who wants to learn about this stuff.
Paul is not a professional journalist in the way Phil is, but he is an accomplished author and documentary maker.
Paul puts a lot of himself into his books and writes them unashamedly from a Celtic perspective. He writes for his own audience without equivocation. He will never write a coffee table book for the chattering classes … he writes for us and he does it exceptionally well.
Pat Anderson needs to be mentioned here; how can he not be?
He is probably the most prolific of all the authors in our circle who writes about these events, and he does so brilliantly, with irreverence and great humour. But his books are not supposed to be read as serious histories, although an awful lot of work and research goes into each one.
Stephen is a Celtic fan, but his book is written as a serious history, as a serious journalistic examination of these matters and that requires that a writer leave his personal feelings out of the story and simply records the facts and the events as they happened, with a little backstory and supporting information to provide context.
What I’m saying is that Stephen’s book is a genuine effort to present this story, and the facts about what happened here, to a mainstream audience out-with the confines of just the Celtic support … and this is what makes his book, and the one Phil wrote before him, so dangerous and different.
This is why there has been a backlash against it.
There are people who want the alternative version of this history to prevail, the one that endorses the Victim and Survival lies.
The one that says Rangers survived and was then brutalised and beaten down by a conspiracy of people who hate them.
This bears no resemblance whatsoever to what actually took place; they weren’t victims. Their club lied and cheated for over a decade. They had concealed registration documents. They had spent money they didn’t have. They had evaded tax and in the end decided to simply stop paying it.
Whyte had intended to put the club into administration and then find a way to dump all the debts, football, social, personal and business, and emerge on the other side “cleansed” as if that’s a word that belongs anywhere near a discussion about such a scenario.
And our governing body, who knew about it four months before Whyte put the first part of that plan into effect, had every intention of helping him do it. Was it even legal? The club was trading whilst insolvent and the SFA knew all about it. Neil Doncaster went on television at one point and said that football clubs using administration and pre-pack insolvency to dump debt and carry on regardless was part and parcel of the football business … a disgraceful suggestion.
When people get in a flap because sponsorship deals are hard to come by for Scottish football’s competitions, perhaps the reason is that the events of 2012 scorched its credibility and we’ve not yet fully recovered it. In addition, those diabolical words from Doncaster are still on the record and have never been retracted or even clarified.
Debt dumping is normal in football. Scottish football has no problem with it. When that’s the stated view of those actually running the game here then we’re a banana republic, and they wonder why we can’t attract serious investment into our national sport.
These are just some of the reasons why we can’t leave this shameful narrative on the record as the last word. It needs to be challenged and the truth put front and centre and the history of this thing presented as it happened and not merely as some wish it had.
Stephen has recently announced that mainstream outlets are not going to review the book. He says his publisher has been told they are worried about a backlash from the Peepul. That’s undoubtedly true, as Phil can attest.
A national newspaper was supposed to review Downfall, but under pressure changed their minds and attacked him instead … that’s how gutless our media actually is. So it’s not a great surprise to find out that Stephen’s book is causing the same palpitations in the newsrooms, and as I’ve said on this site before we are not their natural audience anyway.
Paul Larkin’s outstanding documentaries were finding a mass audience … but when he hired a Celtic Park suite to screen one of them not that long ago, the mainstream media attacked him and the club for giving him the space to do it.
Don’t ever forget this stuff.
Stephen’s book is already being attacked on Amazon, where people who haven’t bought it and who couldn’t get the past the first page even if they did, are leaving semi-literate one star reviews. Think about that for a minute; you have to be really disengaged from reality to attack someone on the grounds of their literary merit in an incoherent, misspelled rant … yet there they are, the Peepul at their finest, proving that it really is about the schools after all.
But think about the damage those reviews can do to the idea of breaking that book out and getting in front of those whose “understanding” of what took place here is built around the version the media chose to sell back in 2012. In order that the two big lies be challenged properly we all need to find the widest possible audience … and Stephen’s book, one of the very few historical records, one of the very few publications grounded in the truth, is being held back.
Don’t ever think that’s just out of fear.
Journalists in Scotland are a pretty supine bunch and we know that for a fact already, but don’t believe for one minute that this is why Stephen’s book can’t find a mainstream title willing to at least give it a proper look. Fear is the fig-leaf the media would put up to cover what it’s really concerned about.
The trouble our press has with that book is that it challenges their own narrative, their own version of events.
This is about protecting their turf, and in doing so protecting the lies.
They do not want to acknowledge past mistakes or especially that they are still making them even now.
But more than that, this book, as with Phil’s, and with Paul’s books and documentaries, and all the others which come after them, represents a clear and present danger to the alternative history that our media has relentlessly promoted for a full seven years.
This isn’t over yet. Those books and those films are still out there, and the audience for them is as large as it ever was. Alternative history never endures. Because sooner or later some inquisitive little sod comes along and starts to pick holes in it, and especially when there are different interpretations of what actually happened available to study.
And that’s why this book is really important; it’s important because whether or not it gets reviewed, whether or not it gets ratings and sales or wins awards and makes it so Stephen never has to put anything down on his CV again but the word “writer” … none of that is half as significant as the mere fact it exists at all, that it is out there waiting to be found … and that’s a victory in itself because I don’t believe the two big lies will hold up forever.
But in the meantime we owe it to Stephen, as we owe it to the others, to support his book and not only to buy it and leave our reviews so that we bury those ridiculous one star jokes, but to push that book – and Phil’s, and Paul’s and Pat’s – on everyone who thinks they know what really happened here. Because I suspect most of them don’t have a clue.
This time, the history that many “accept” wasn’t written by the winners.
Not yet anyway. But it will be.
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