History can be confusing, especially when there are counter-narratives to explain issues of enormous importance. Perhaps the most notorious historical event about which there is much misunderstanding took place on 27 February 1933; the Reichstag Fire.
How many documentaries have you seen which state, openly, that the Nazis themselves burned down the seat of the German Parliament? The event itself has become a synonym for false-flag operations and the use of black propaganda and dirty tricks.
The thing is, it’s very unlikely that this “understanding” of the event is accurate.
Most historians now agree that the Reichstag Fire was started by the Communist Marinus Van der Lubbe, who was tried and executed for it by Hitler’s vile regime.
That the Nazis took full advantage of the crisis is beyond doubt; the Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State, the law which they passed in response to the fire, was one of the key steps in the evolution of the dictatorship.
When we look at the effect we think we see the cause; of course Hitler’s henchman started the fire. They benefited most from it. It is a classic example of lazy thinking. We embrace it because it seems to offer a complete answer. But we should be careful doing that.
I know dozens of our own supporters who believe that our club is vastly more competent than we give it credit for. When they look at the collapse of all standards at Celtic in the last few years, and the way they have allowed the NewCo to establish itself they don’t see mistakes.
They see a wilful policy, a policy of actually assisting our rivals at our own expense.
Why do people believe this? What are they basing it on? What is the rationale that underpins this belief, a belief I personally think is quite mad? We have to be honest here and admit, first, that there is much circumstantial evidence in its favour.
But there was much circumstantial evidence which pointed towards the Nazis burning down the Reichstag too, so much so that even the brilliant William Shirer, in his classic book on the regime The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich, wrote with utter conviction that they had carried it out.
To add to the confusion that already existed, in 2008 the German government actually pardoned Van der Lubbe, which has created the impression that he was innocent.
In fact, the pardon was issued in recognition that the Nazi courts had not followed due process and therefore none of the convictions attained under them could be held as being legitimate.
Shirer was wrong. All the evidence he thought he saw was illusory.
Let’s look at what the “evidence” is in this case.
Let’s start with the things that were not done in the aftermath of 2012, for here it appears that our board wasn’t so much asleep at the wheel as lying drunk on the pavement with the car keys still in their hands.
They never challenged the Survival Lie.
They never threatened legal action over title stripping.
There was no reform of refereeing.
No reform of club licensing.
No reforms of fit and proper person tests.
No introduction of financial fair play.
There was no effort made to get to the bottom of Resolution 12.
The Five Way Agreement remains a dark mystery.
Even for me – and don’t forget that I don’t believe this theory – that almost defies belief. It is hard to fathom how our club could have been so scandalously lax as to fail in so many critical areas, when the risks were readily apparent and the door to real reform was open wide.
Clubs would have followed where we led. The whole game was crying out for it.
Brendan Rodgers’ departure is held up by some as the first evidence that those at Celtic deliberately sabotaged the club. Indeed, it’s hard to argue that he was put in a position no man of his talents would ever have found acceptable.
The decision to appoint Lennon in an interim capacity was not entirely without merit but giving him the job full time precipitated a fall in standards which has no modern parallel at our club. It was a scandalous choice.
This is where the picture gets murky.
Some say Lennon had players forced upon him and that he wasn’t properly backed in the market.
Some go further and say that the club should have cleared out the dressing room at the start of last season and that allowing it to fester with players who didn’t want to be there guaranteed that we would lose the title.
Some point to the unpardonable decision not to fire Lennon in November last year when it was shockingly clear to everyone that he had completely lost the plot and the dressing room with it. People inside Celtic Park were certainly well aware of these things, so what exactly were they waiting for before they made the necessary change?
People also want to account for the summer of utter chaos we just endured; can anything that looks so much like self-sabotage actually be anything else? It was appalling. That it has continued into this campaign with the shock dismissal of McKay is even more disconcerting.
The club appears to be doing its level best to hobble itself in crucial ways.
Let’s be honest; the people who believe that we did ourselves in are not seeing nothing. They aren’t making stuff up, all this stuff happened. The board of directors really did fail on so many levels and in so many ways.
And behind it all, some believe there is a certain cold business logic.
We know now that Lawwell got the fright of his life in 2012 when Rangers died and the NewCo was forced to start in the bottom tier.
He and other people at Celtic never challenged the Survival Lie and won’t do it now because they believe we need a club with that name playing in the league. They believe that the business model at Celtic depends on it.
We could have killed the Ibrox operation, so the theory goes. And we chose not to. We could kill it now, but we threw them a league title and may throw them a second if that’s what it’s going to take to make them a credible force, something that keeps up interest in the league.
That’s the theory. That’s the reason people think our board did it.
And in a way it all makes sense, just as the idea that Goering and Goebbels and Hitler conspired to destroy the seat of German democracy just so they could do away with civil rights makes sense. The pieces all fit, and they all seem to fit pretty neatly.
Let’s move for a minute from a discussion of historical matters to a more light-hearted perspective; that offered by Joe Pesci in the comedy classic My Cousin Vinny, a film which is actually revered by lawyers because it teaches procedure and precedent and process quite brilliantly. In Pesci’s first key scene, he describes the case against his little cousin by holding up a playing card and describing the prosecutors strategy like building a wall.
Showing the back side of the card, he talks his cousin through it.
“He’s going to show you the bricks,” he says. “He’ll show you they got straight sides. He’ll show you how they got the right shape. He’ll show them to you in a very special way, so that they appear to have everything a brick should have. But there’s one thing he’s not gonna show you.”
And at this point, he tilts the card so its edge is facing.
“When you look at the bricks from the right angle, they’re as thin as this playing card. His whole case is an illusion, a magic trick. It has to be an illusion, because you’re innocent.”
And that’s the thing here; when you look at this case in the right way it doesn’t stand up to the slightest scrutiny. Nothing about it makes the least sense.
Let’s take, for example, the motive.
We don’t need to throw Ibrox league titles to keep the operation there going.
Their gullible fans sold the ground out every week on their climb through the divisions and there’s no reason to believe that enough of them wouldn’t have continued to even if they were on their chin-strap and operating at a subsistence level well below ours.
Celtic fans have shown an appetite for watching us dominate their club completely.
Would we ever have gotten bored with routinely humiliating them? I see no sign that we would have. Ten in a row would not have killed the current Ibrox club, it would have shattered its morale and its illusions about itself. But that club would have soldiered on.
It would have been weak and demoralised and broke … but it would have been there to provide endless mirth and entertainment.
What Celtic has always wanted was an Ibrox operation so pitiful and weak that it would have been forever in our shadow.
Our board don’t need them competitive, we only need them to exist, to be there as the ultimate expression of what Orwell talked about in 1984 when O’Brien described the future as a boot trampling on a human face; that’s all we required them to be, something to be beaten without remorse, something that existed for our gratification.
Even the hiring of Lennon was not the utter lunacy it appears to be when you look at it in the light of how it ended.
His win ratio was as high as any Celtic manager in history. It was a gamble, yes, because he has a propensity for self-detonating, but our board took the chance that we could get through the remainder of our journey to ten without blowing up.
Keeping together the playing squad was, they believed, the only way to appease a support which would never have accepted selling Edouard, Ajer, Christie and others on the eve of such an historic campaign.
They gave the manager nearly £15 million to spend in addition to not selling anybody. Those who say Lennon didn’t get backed are crazy.
Everything else can be explained away simply by acknowledging that our board has lacked any long term vision, or ability to think strategically, for nearly 20 years. Before Rangers swirled down the tubes they had won three titles in a row.
This board has previous for sleeping at the wheel. It has previous for making enormous mistakes and for enormous oversights.
The truth is, the years 2012-2020 were the most fortuitous that any board at Celtic Park has ever enjoyed. Only when faced with adversity did the cracks start to show. They had a free ride, and when they needed to produce they were unable.
This board has been serially incompetent. It has been serially short-term in its outlook.
How many times do we repeat the same mistakes?
Take our Champions League qualification disasters; they go back much further than just the last few years. Our record in getting through them is shocking and when you look at some of the qualification campaigns where we have succeeded in getting there you see a tremendous lot of luck involved.
Look at Lawwell’s managerial appointments.
Complacency, cheap options and a high degree of risk are what has characterised all but one of them, that of Brendan Rodgers, and the former CEO’s ego could not stand to have another big personality in the building.
The absentee shareholder has already dispatched Lawwell’s replacement over a personality clash.
Our club is run by weak, petty individuals who lack the ability to think three dimensionally or plan for longer than a year at a time.
Their ambition for the club doesn’t extend beyond winning leagues here in Scotland and the odd year when we make it to the top table in Europe only to be systematically blown out because we are lacking in so many critical backroom areas.
This is not deliberate sabotage; these people are just absolutely goddamned hopeless.
They got by when there was no challenge. The minute they were put under pressure the veneer of professionalism started to crumble, and we will not reach our potential whilst these people are in charge of the club. This much is obvious to all of us.
Something else is obvious; if our board had set out on a strategy of deliberate sabotage they could scarcely have accomplished it better.
It seems impossible to believe that Deila and Rodgers came in and changed the football department so completely only for the directors themselves to trash it all with cuts and with a single disastrous managerial hire.
Yet it happened.
As hard as it is to believe, there was no conspiracy here.
As Van der Lubbe burned down the Reichstag, so too our directors allowed their arrogance and egos to feed their sense of complacency and that has had disastrous effects on our club. All Ibrox has done is take advantage of our own self-inflicted wounds.