Months ago, I wrote one of the most controversial articles in the recent history of this site.
It was on context, and why certain words have different meanings depending on how they are used.
I wrote it because certain segments of Sevconia were tripping out over the use of the word “fenian” on a Green Brigade banner whereas their use of it was deemed offensive.
And in that article I talked about how black comedians in America – with Richard Pryor as the lead-off hitter (second baseball comparison of the day for me) – seized the N word from the racists and bigots and made it their own.
They took the power out of the word. They took away its ability to hurt people. They blunted the sword.
The contextual difference is this; when two black men are trading the word with each other, bantering and going back and forth, that gives it a very different context to a white supremacist shouting the word through a loud-hailer at a rally.
Context, yes … but the time, and the place, matters too.
A good friend of mine, my regular drinking buddy when I was in Glasgow City Council, is, like me, a huge film buff.
One of the movies Andy and I used to exchange dialogue from was a Christopher Walken piece called The Prophecy.
I’ll spare you the plot, it is pure cheese.
In it, Walken plays the Archangel Gabriel, who’s fallen out with God over humans and our exalted status.
(It was the stupendous Green Brigade banner at the game, depicting another Archanegel, Michael, that made me think of this.)
Wielding sarcasm and bitterness like a broadsword, Walken spends a lot of the movie pouring scorn on the human race.
He refers to humans as the “talking monkeys.”
Witless, uncomprehending, understanding neither ourselves nor the bigger mysteries of which his character is privy.
Mortal, fallible, weak. Yet considered his equals.
My mate liked that phrase a lot, and always used to use it in reference to Rangers and their fans.
I picked up the habit, and used to lapse into it from time to time when discussing them.
I understand the context; the Peepul might be sentient creatures who walk on two legs just as we do, but as their behaviour is often so one-dimensional as to make them cut-out characters you couldn’t string together enough of their brain-cells to power a set of Christmas lights.
Our calling them zombies is not that much different.
Why did I stop doing it?
Because it was dumb to begin with, and I realised how easily it could get you into trouble if it became entrenched.
Imagine shouting that at the screen, in a pub, just as Alfredo Morelos or Joe Aribo is passed the ball?
Racist? Not in the context you mean it, but who’s going to give you a chance to explain that to them?
Think you’d get the opportunity to relay the details of a movie from 1995 and how the spiteful derisive a fallen angel applies to the human race tickles you enough that you’ve taken to using it as a shorthand for Sevco?
You’d be lucky if jailing was all you got.
And you know what?
It’s probably right that you wouldn’t get away with it.
Because maybe, although you don’t intend to cause offence, that explanation is too easily adopted by those whose intent is much more sinister.
Is that a daft thing to care about?
I used to think that it was, but once you establish a precedent for something all manner of scum can hide behind it, and use it in their defence.
I no longer think it’s as daft as I once did.
This is why the law exists at all. What does the law say?
A judge would not care about the context because the average person would not care.
That’s the criminal standard and I broadly accept it.
Besides all that, the joke stopped being funny when I started reading Ibrox Noise; I now consider it an insult to our simian friends.
By a similar token, I don’t use the H word in articles either.
I don’t believe the word is sectarian.
I don’t believe the word should be banned, but to me it’s always had a very specific meaning and I know that not everyone who uses it shares that sentiment.
It comes from Attila, who looted, scorched and destroyed everything he came across.
It’s a word that denotes wreckers, those of a certain hate-filled disposition.
They don’t have respect or tolerance; they want to burn the world down.
So it’s not a word I would usually endorse in writing.
Far from something I apply to everyone of an Ibrox persuasion it’s a term I’ve frequently applied to those ex-Celt’s in the media who never tire of sticking the boot into us. I’d never put Kenny Miller or Brian Laudrup or even Terry Butcher (especially since his public repudiation of sectarianism) in that category, but I would quite happily attach it to Walker, Provan and Nicholas.
It’s about a state of mind, and about how a person behaves.
The reason I don’t use it in my writing is that there are better terms out there for getting that message across.
I find the constant way it’s used to be lazy and, yes, a lot of folk would apply it in a sectarian way.
The same applies to the word “orange”, a word with a socio-political meaning, a quite explicit one and which is in no way relatable to someone just because they sit in the Ibrox dugout.
Who has the time to stand and argue that point?
Let’s just drop the word entirely.
Sometimes not even the context matters.
Some things are just stupid.
Some things are prosecutable and stupid.
I bet almost everyone knows what’s coming, and you’d be right.
We live in the country where this was made quite clear to a deeply religious Polish goalkeeper who was told that expressions of religious faith could get you done.
Remember the outcry after Boruc made the Sign of the Cross during a Rangers game?
Who cared about context then?
We all did, Boruc did, because to him it was an act of religious observance which he had never encountered a problem with before.
But what I remember most about it was that much of the media said he should know better, that it was something he just plainly and simply shouldn’t have done in that time and place.
In. That. Time. And. Place.
Remember those words, they are important.
There is plenty of footage of Boruc doing it during other games; indeed, he did it before each and every match.
Did that stop the frothing?
Of course it didn’t.
Did it prevent the hacks from going into a paroxysm of confected anger over it?
Nothing was going to deny them their day of metaphorically crucifying a Celtic hero.
Boruc was hauled up before the SFA and fined for it.
Few in the press went to the bat for him. (Third baseball metaphor.)
A lot of the same people who are happy to defend Morelos were sticking the boot right in.
These same people wanted Scott Brown hung, drawn and quartered for celebrating in front of his own fans last season at Celtic Park.
You could not mark their necks with a blowtorch.
During Rangers’ financially doped march to nine in a row, Gascoigne did his mock playing of the flute against Celtic not once but twice.
A lot of the hacks still fete him and treat it like a joke.
The first time he said he’d been set up, although it would have taken that particular talking monkey (see what I did there?) five seconds, had he used one brain cell, to figure it out.
If he had a brain cell, that is.
I have never bought his excuse, and especially not when you consider his sordid history since, which involves not only sectarianism but racism as well.
Even if I had, what was his excuse the second time he did it?
The SFA let him off both times, by the way … although Rangers itself accepted that, especially on the second occasion, he had gone over the line. Walter Smith announced that he would face an internal disciplinary over it, and the club docked him wages.
Context counts for everything, or it would in a perfect world.
But the SFA and the Scottish media have been content, in years past, to get by simply with what looks appropriate at the time.
Perception is reality, and as long as they could make a case that Boruc was winding up Rangers fans or that Gascoigne was just being “Gazza” and didn’t intend offence, they were happy to ignore all else.
The same logic is being applied to Morelos and his throat-cutting gesture.
It is the same media sleight of hand which we’ve seen all too clearly down through the years, including when they reimagined Nazi salutes for “Red Hand Salutes”.
“We’re not doing a gesture linked to killing Jews, it’s one linked to killing Catholics.”
“Oh well, that’s alright then … you carry on.”
This logic, this ability to justify anything, is astonishing.
It is also appalling.
But I have to give it to them on this one; their “found footage” of Morelos making a “cut throat” gesture to “celebrate” a goal in Denmark on Sevco’s European travels is a masterpiece of obfuscation.
They say it will, or at least should, exonerate the player.
Are they seriously going to ignore the where, when and circumstances of that act and say that because they can prove he did it before, in a different context, that it’s okay?
Let’s put in the context they claim; that Morelos was simply telling the Celtic fans “the game is over”.
With a throat-cutting gesture.
As he walked off the pitch after receiving a red card.
In the febrile atmosphere of a Glasgow derby.
Just for one second ponder that, will you?
Even if I believed that interpretation – and I do not believe it for one second – how stupid do you have to be not to realise that it’s an act of gross stupidity in front of tens of thousands of people who might not understand or particularly care about the context?
If Morelos had tauntingly waved at the Celtic fans as he was walking off, that would have been an act of provocation and very few would have been in the slightest doubt about that … but this isn’t?
It was done as a GIRUY to the Celtic support; it was either Morelos slagging us off as he left the pitch after a red card or it was a threating gesture.
Both of these are punishable offences by the SFA.
Both of them.
There is no exoneration here, just degrees of guilt.
It defies belief that anyone in officialdom would even care what that gesture actually meant anyway; you only need to consider what it looked like.
It was an either an act of spite or an act of criminal recklessness.
Either of those interpretations could have had the same ending; major trouble in the stands and across the city of Glasgow as a whole.
He did it walking off the pitch, and so either of those interpretations meets the SFA definition of actions which bring the game into disrepute.
It will be beyond belief if Morelos is not sanctioned for it.
In my opinion, Kent’s explanation for his own gesture to our fans is just as suspect, just as ridiculous, just as contemptuous in that it treats us like absolute mugs and it should be just as unacceptable to the governing body.
That, too, is a disciplinary offence.
Both of them, by the way, would have been disciplinary offences whether they had happened against Celtic or not.
That it was against us is a convenient way for the media to lump it into the usual aftermath of the game when it’s a much simpler issue.
But yes, the context, time and the place, and the circumstances … here, they matter a great deal.
I am disgusted by the way the media has leapt to the defence of this thug and cheat, this serial whinger, diver, as good at flicking out with boot or elbow, and as capable with a fist as with either of his feet at scoring goals.
Their desperation to find anything that would offer mitigation reeks of bias and is all intended to keep him on the pitch when his conduct has more than earned a lengthy spell in the stands.
There should be no debate here.
In any other football nation, there would not be, any more than Artur Boruc would have had to go in front of a judge and explain why a gesture you could see on any football pitch anywhere in the world constitutes a criminal offence in Scotland.
What warped standards we apply here.
What twisted things our media chooses to get angry over, and which it would exonorate.
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