It’s probably a good idea when starting this article to make it clear that I applaud the fact that the bottle throwers from Ibrox have been identified, arrested and will soon be prosecuted, and to acknowledge that it probably couldn’t have happened without people in their support identifying them and offering information which led to that outcome.
So fair play to those people; they’ve done a public service.
It goes without saying that the other thing they’ve done is helped their own club.
They don’t need these people in their ranks. No football club does.
But Ibrox’s problems didn’t start there and they do not end there. The toxicity of the Ibrox fan base is notorious and the removal of a small handful of people who took it to the utter extreme does not fix the problem.
To understand how extreme they are, you only need to dip a toe into their forums and read some of the stuff that’s in there.
I know a lot of people see all of social media as a swirling sewer, a cesspit of horror and outrage, but there is something particularly dark at work on certain forums and in certain parts of the internet which goes way beyond the impotent rage some sections of our society feel at being cut adrift from the mainstream.
There are people who wallow in hatred each and every day, and on certain forums and with certain people giving them a steer, all that happens is their twisted view of the world is reinforced over and over again. In those places the flowers of conspiracy theory bloom and grow; you don’t have to dig too deep to find examples of that everywhere over there.
Three central ideas flow through their forums with grim regularity, and all of them are dangerous to one degree or another. All of them need to be challenged, not only by those on our side of the line but those on their side of the fence as well … and in point of fact, it is more important for those who support the club to challenge this than for us do it.
The first of those three ideas is the most complicated one; that theirs is a “community” under siege and being assailed from all sides.
It’s hard for any of us to offer a refutation to that because in some ways it is perfectly true. Their cultural is being besieged to some extent. But there are widespread historical reasons why that is the case, and let’s be honest about what some of them are.
The idea of empire and monarchy is outdated and faintly ridiculous in the modern age. When the current monarch dies, that’s the end of an era which extends back to just after the Second World War. Whoever sits on the throne next will do so in a very different social and cultural climate in which the old certainties no longer apply.
Britannia no longer rules the waves.
The empire is over with.
This is a small island adrift even from its European links and whilst that has driven the political culture further to the right this isn’t the same country that it was thirty years, or even twenty, years ago.
We’re multicultural and multi-ethnic now.
Nobody sits at the back of the bus anymore.
Women are empowered. Minorities have greater rights and more effective representation than ever. Ibrox wants applause for its diversity campaign … but if you are one of those clubs whose supporters need to be educated in the ways of the modern world then that does tend to suggest that the modern world has left you behind to a certain extent.
The idea of “Protestant supremacy” which lies over so much of what drives some of these Peepul is an ancient nonsense which has no relevance whatsoever. There are no exclusive industries anymore, no inbuilt protections in the system … and to them that does feel a lot like the erosion of their rights. In fact, what is it instead is the extension of those rights to others.
Most of all, there is a societal intolerance for bigotry and sectarianism which is why so many of their songs, attitudes and belief systems are being challenged.
Southern white Americans who didn’t support integration felt similarly under attack, and they were right because they were and those who were doing it were right because it needed to be done.
The second poisonous idea on their forums is the Victim Lie, which regular readers know all about. Scottish football tried to kill them – and failed – in 2012. They were “relegated”, robbed by other clubs, punished out of nothing but jealousy and spite. Charles Green said so, and although they don’t believe another word that came out of his mouth they all accept that.
We know this is ridiculous and not supported by a single fact. We know that it was the confection of a desperate man and seized upon by a desperate media, but they believe it and the more time goes by the stronger that belief becomes because it explains their current standing in relation to our team so well; their club is still the victim of a great sweeping conspiracy.
Their third noxious idea is their view of Celtic as a particularly venal and corrupt club and by extension a support which itself is evil in any number of ways. This justifies literally every hateful idea that is in their heads, and it is the strongest ingredient in this toxic soup.
There have to be good people on those forums and amongst that support. There have to be. What are they doing whilst all this poison is being pumped around the place? They need to challenge this stuff. The media needs to stop ignoring it and challenge this stuff.
The people who threw that stuff did so because they felt that they could, but more than that because they felt like they should. The things that support believes, it has led them to normalise hate, and once hate is normalised a select few will act on it … and that’s what we’ve seen here and it’s why it won’t be the last time we see such incidents.
Scottish football has had enough of all this.
What will it take before the supporters of that club, and those who run it, have?