There is a wonderful moment in the debut season of The Thick Of It when Malcolm Tucker rounds on a young woman who he believes has leaked a negative story about a cabinet minister to a media enemy.
He tells her that within 24 hours the press is going to descend on her.
When an aide tries to reassure her that it’ll be alright, Tucker hits her with one of his most terrifying verbal assaults.
“No, no, no, it’s not ok, it’s not going to be ok, and I tell you why. Because you’re fair game, so I hope your knickers are clean because every seat-sniffing little shit-bag that’s ever filed a by-line is gonna be questioning you! Because now it’s in the public interest, isn’t it? And they are gonna hit you with any shit they can find and you’re gonna be spread out in front of them like a trollop in the stocks!”
Tucker’s point is that people in glass houses shouldn’t be throwing stones.
If you’re going to make a public stand and start calling people out, if you’re going to present yourself as above the fray and whiter than white you better be exactly that.
This is why the press release out of Ibrox on late Thursday evening/early Friday morning last week was so absolutely barmy.
A club known throughout Europe for the sectarian bigotry of its supporters, a club whose name carries the stink of that shame and of a reeking bigoted history, standing on the pulpit declaring that “enough is enough” and hectoring to the world … it stank and it still stinks.
Stand up for your player, but don’t preach as if you’re the only one who’s knickers are clean.
Since that statement was released, Scottish football has rallied around Glen Kamara, and that’s laudable and commendable and understandable even if it’s all predicated on the assumption, without evidence, that another footballer is a racist.
There’s no benefit of the doubt here at all, no dubiety, nothing in the interests of actual justice, which hasn’t been done until all the facts are in and have been thoroughly examined.
Instead we have a hanging party, and I guess Scottish football is comfortable with that.
For now, anyway.
But since Ibrox’s statement and Gerrard’s public stance on the matter, a number of inconvenient facts have come to light and none of them was a mystery, they’re all part of the public record, it’s just that nobody is terribly keen to look too closely at them.
For example, as I’ve already pointed out, Steven Gerrard has been accused of racism by a former Liverpool and Ibrox player, El Hadji Diouf. Are we to disbelieve Diouf because he’s a particularly loathsome personality?
I guess we are, although the mantra of the day is that all claims should be taken seriously, all accusers should be believed and that clubs should act more responsibly and even forcefully towards these kind of allegations.
But Gerrard captained a Liverpool team which walked onto a pitch wearing t-shirts carrying the image and the number of Luis Suarez after he’d been accused of racially abusing Patrice Evra.
They released a statement, in the name of the whole club, which read; “We totally support Luis and we want the world to know that. We know he is not racist.”
Kenny Dalglish, to his eternal shame, was the manager that night … it took Evra years before that matter was resolved, when the Liverpool chairman wrote to him to personally apologise for the stance that the club took during that time.
Gerrard? Never has, never will.
Indeed, his contribution to the debate was to suggest it could be resolved with a handshake.
Nobody in the media even asked him about that, and whether or not he should so publicly have stood by his man on the issue.
That’s forgotten about.
But Gerrard and Liverpool did nothing in that regard that the Slavia Prague manager is not doing right now, and if you’re going to crow about this stuff you have to be consistent about it … and Gerrard isn’t.
I abhor racism in all its forms.
But I am uncomfortable with a culture where every claim is treated as a fact.
For openers, it’s very selective in how it’s used.
Gerrard doubtless sees no hypocrisy in his standing by his pal whilst today he’s standing up for his player.
The Scottish press would rather highlight Gerrard’s condemnation here than his plainly abysmal stance in the Evra case … that’s up to them. The facts won’t go away just because they won’t report them.
The club itself has a damned cheek.
It panders to the lunatic fringe of its own supporters with such a regularity that it takes your breath away.
Various people connected to the club, and even some who are employed by it, are stone bigots of the first rate and nobody even disputes that for one minute.
Even as they were screaming “enough is enough” in the ears of everyone for miles around, a case is inching its way through the industrial tribunal process from an ex-Ibrox coach and kit-man who claims that for over a decade he suffered racist abuse at the hands of people inside the club and was fired on a bogus pretext when he started to make noise about it.
Is this another case of “well the accuser has an agenda”?
Because isn’t that the very antithesis of the zero tolerance ideology they are now trying to convince us that they believe in?
There have been some remarkable omissions from the official record, even in the past couple of days … when they lauded their notorious “Everyone Anyone” program as part of their shrieking here did they forget the guy who gave a speech at a Black Lives Matter rally claiming the club had to do more about these issues and had let them fester, only for them to bring him back into line and retract his own remarks?
Another case of an accuser who’s word we’re not supposed to take, eah?
They seem to want an awful lot of exceptions to the rule; we’re going to believe that Kamara was abused but not El Hadji Diouf.
We’ll believe that Gerrard despises this stuff, but not explore how he protected Suarez from a similar allegation.
We’ll accept that they are committed to anti-racism and take allegations seriously, but not when those allegations come from a former member of their own staff or even the volunteers in their own anti-racism campaign.
I mean Jesus, how can you even begin to take that seriously?
The trouble is, the country appears to be taking it seriously.
Celtic might see itself as having taken a stand against racism and in defence of Kamara the other day, but in doing so we judged a man guilty before all the evidence was in.
How did we respond when Alexander Tonev was accused of racism?
We stood by him. The club stood firm.
Indeed, as I wrote at the time, I had very specific problems with that allegation as it was another case of one man’s word against another … I think you need more than that if you’re going to hang someone from a yardarm.
This is a serious thing to put around somebody’s neck and you can’t do it unless you can prove it.
The SFA, on one person’s word against another, found against Tonev and I thought that was a ridiculous verdict and I still do.
In fact, all Celtic did in standing, not kneeling, was call time on Scottish football’s support for the Black Lives Matter campaign, and that’s a triumph for the racists in football who’ve never wanted to see it on the pitch in the first place.
That’s their victory, and for what?
Who will remember that we stood with Kamara?
At Ibrox they’re already painting it as a PR win for their club … so what we’ve actually done is gotten behind them and their latest attempt to polish their own reputation, when they have zero interest in weeding out the bigoted element in their own house.
I can’t even pretend to understand what in God’s name we thought we were doing at the weekend.
The idea that we should stand and not kneel as if one is a magic remedy with properties that the other doesn’t have … somebody needs to explain it to me.
In doing so, we’ve lent Ibrox’s ludicrous statement a credibility it does not deserve.
That club is not a bastion of anti-racism, no matter how much they want to dress it up to be.
When we stood up for Tonev we were called out for it … and I understand why we were, but understand, equally, why the club didn’t believe that it could do otherwise.
But the truth of it is, we are a club founded on the principles of anti-racism and we have, by and large, lived up to that for the vast, vast majority of our history.
So, too, by the way, has Liverpool.
I cannot say the same about the Ibrox operations, because their history is the complete antithesis of that, and we all know this to be a fact.
Nobody in their right mind wants this stuff in football.
Nobody in their right mind.
The turps drinking hard-right bastards might want to pollute stadiums with this bile and the pig-ignorant trash who make up the dregs at every club out there, including our own, might think it’s legitimate to dish this out on social media to rivals … those people should be found and prosecuted to the limit of the law.
I had issues with the Tonev verdict but not the sentence.
The sentence was right on the money, because the sport itself has to preach zero tolerance in those cases where the investigations find people at fault, and the punishments have to be harsh.
But clubs have no business preaching stuff they do not mean.
The rush to judgement here to back Kamara, in which we’ve played a part, covers a multitude of sins, some of them committed by those with the loudest voices … and that’s hypocrisy at best and at worst something far more rotten.
Every one of those clubs would have stood by its own player when faced with a similar allegation; we know that’s true, as Celtic stood by Tonev, as Liverpool stood by Suarez, as Chelsea stood by Terry and as Rangers stood by Amoruso in 1999.
He, of course, denied the allegations until TV footage conclusively proved he had done it.
At that time, an Asian Rangers fan complained to the club about how Amoruso’s behaviour had actually led to an increase in racist chanting in the stands there … and if you do your research you’ll discover that their chairman David Murray responded to that as follows;
“Racist chanting happens everywhere … this was only one person who complained.”
When asked what the club intended to do about that complaint, he said “What do you expect us to do?”
The same mind-set is alive and well at Ibrox today, every time you bring up the behaviour of their fans or the hooliganism of their players or the virus protocol breaches … it’s always “we did our best, what more can we do?”
Nothing, it seems.
But people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
Clubs shouldn’t posture and preen and pretend to have a zero tolerance approach when in fact the internal policies are centred more around “unless the accused is one of our own.”
And I really can’t argue with that, because an allegation is only that until it’s proved … and if we’re taking them all seriously now, and assuming guilt in every case, then the Prague player will get his 10 match ban, Gerrard will finally apologise for supporting Suarez, he’ll cop the flak for the allegations from Diouf and a former Ibrox kit-man named Erald Krasniqi will reach an out-of-court settlement with the club who will admit having bigots on the premises.
But most of that is not going to happen, of course.
Because wrong-doing is never admitted at Ibrox, even when it’s obvious, except when they can blame it on the “company” that died and thus take no real responsibility for it.
This whole thing has been an utter charade and Scottish football is patting itself on the back over it.
But this has not been our finest hour and history will reveal it not to be; indeed, before the end of next season I firmly believe we’ll look back on it in horror as another club goes into full scale denial mode when confronted by a similar allegation.
Ask them about zero tolerance then.
See what reply you get.
In the meantime, Ibrox will demand justice for Kamara whilst its lawyers call Krasniqi a liar.
Zero tolerance has a short half-life over there, and they are very, very selective on who they choose to believe.
Maybe all of us are.
This article has been amended; the intial draft had Brendan Rodgers as Liverpool manager during the Suarez scandal; it was, in fact, Kenny Dalgish of course.