One of my favourite movie lines of all time comes during Nixon, in a fabricated scene where the White House Counsel John Dean meets, in secret, with the Watergate ring-leader and blackmailer of the President, Howard Hunt, played by the brilliant Ed Harris.
Upon being asked how anyone has the balls to try to extort the man in the Oval Office, Hunt smiles and tells Dean that he’s asking the wrong question. “The real question is, ‘why is he paying”” Hunt asks, inscrutably. And then he adds the killer.
“Sooner or later you’re going to learn what everyone who’s ever known Richard Nixon learns to their cost. He’s the darkness, reaching out for the darkness.”
And I love that line because it’s kind of beautiful and sinister and enigmatic and at the same time so evocative of Nixon’s character.
The darkness reaching out for the darkness.
That’s wonderful, and it’s a line I’ve found myself thinking of in various contexts down through the years since I first heard it, most especially any time I’ve watched Donald Trump behind a lectern. The same thought came to me more than once watching Boris Johnson.
What that statement actually speaks to is a streak of self-destructiveness. There is a soulless black emptiness in Nixon, Trump and Johnson as there is, I think, in Putin and others like them. A kind of craving for the abyss. That’s a scary thought when you consider that all these people were in charge of nuclear arsenals and two of them are obviously mad.
You cannot read Ibrox’s fan forums without realising that many of those who post there are seized by the same chronic condition.
The darkness on those forums is so all-encompassing, the hatred so visceral and raw, that I sometimes think that it must be exhausting to be immersed in it in the way some of them obviously are.
There is so little love of their own club in those forums.
There is very little positive emotion of any sort, and I don’t mean happiness, which is there in some form or another when they’re winning. But even happiness over there has a perverse edge to it. It’s more often than not tied up in the Orwellian idea O’Brien expresses so vividly in 1984, that of “a boot stamping on a human face.”
Victory for them is incomplete unless it comes with a pole-axed victim to gloat over. A beaten foe to whip and scourge through the streets like the Roman generals once took prisoners as trophies for their triumphs. It’s not about how it makes them feel. It’s about joy in someone else’s suffering, the way so much of their culture is represented.
If you want an example of what this looks like in the real and the raw, go on to their forums during Remembrance weekend and check out how much time they spend obsessing over who else pays silent respect and who doesn’t. I sometimes think that if everyone in the country only did as they do for a year that they would get bored with the whole thing and ditch it almost overnight. Because then it would have lost the only point they see in it.
Their belief in conspiracies and the Unseen Hand has raged on those forums for years. 2012 turbo-charged the insanity which I’m sure was already there in embryonic form. The media fed and watered the craziness in its embrace of and promotion of the Victim and Survival Lies. Those things helped season tickets for a time … but there was, and there is, an element on there not just of wilful destructiveness but an unwitting penchant for self-destruction too.
They really are the darkness reaching out for the darkness.
The outpouring of savagery, lunacy and pure bile in the last seven days has been extraordinary to behold, even by their usual standards.
Kevin Clancy, who has been a hate figure over there since some of their intrepid investigators went digging around his background to find out what school he went to – think on that for just two seconds – had his personal details spread across social media and people were encouraged to give him stick.
That turned into threats against him and his family. I hope his lawyers are poring over those forums, and particularly in the aftermath of the SFA statement on this, where the broad consensus was that the guy had “got what he deserved.”
For making a 50/50 decision in a football match, he “deserved” death threats?
He deserved to have the safety of his family compromised?
You read that kind of stuff and it’s astonishing that these forums aren’t more closely monitored.
To me, some of what is on there is every bit as deranged and sick and twisted as you will find on 4Chan and the gutter websites of the far-right where the Jews and the blacks and the Muslims are blamed for every ill in the Western World, and where some of the posters have managed to link every one of them in a bizarre nexus of evil which stretches across continents and whose ambition is nothing less than the enslavement of the white Christian race.
Listen, refs in this country should be scrutinised like everyone else in the business. The protective blanket that is wrapped around them has allowed them to become complacent, lazy and possibly even corrupt. I have never hidden my view that certain of them should never be allowed to officiate at our games, because they are compromised.
But it’s a long way from saying they should be scrutinised to suggesting that they should be hounded and hunted and terrorised and ostracised. That’s not on. What the Hell kind of people think that’s appropriate?
This is football.
It’s a game we’re all passionate about, but most of us understand that those on the other side of the line aren’t phantom other-dimensional monsters but flesh and blood human beings who just want normal lives like we do.
Nothing that happens on a football pitch is worth it or justifies it.
Too many people still treat all this like it’s some life or death struggle with an implacable foe … and there are some of these lunatics on our side as well and I can’t stand them any more than the people who posted Clancy’s personal information and suggested their fellow lunatics pile on.
Songs about dead managers and players and kit men … that’s just dredging the same gutter, no matter which colour scarves the singers wear and not just the game but the world would be better off if these people didn’t share the planet with us.
Kevin Clancy did not “cheat” last weekend.
But even if he did, even if that guy went out of his way to deny them every chance he got, these people have no sense of proportion whatsoever.
Nothing he did or didn’t do justified threatening his well-being or that of his wife and kids, that’s despicable.
Every person on those forums last night who said that he was getting what he deserved shamed and disgraced themselves and their club … but their club’s statement just poured fuel on the fire, and those inside it knew full well they were doing so.
The club itself is darkness reaching out for the darkness. Every time they pander to the lowest common denominator in the support, every time they act like deranged lunatics with these statements and their childish foot-stamping, every time they fan the flames like this they lose a bit more credibility and a few more neutrals drift away.
I understand looking after the “core support.”
Every club has to do that to one extent or another.
But the “core support” grows ever more radicalised and loony.
The spread of this stuff is like a virus, sweeping through their fan-base, and the club should consider the appalling damage that could do not only to the rest of the game but to the club itself.
They’ve seen how these elements have taken to targeting them.
A few years ago these people suggesting cutting Celtic’s allocation.
To the shock of our club the board pandered to that element. And where did that lead?
To where we are now, where not only do Celtic refuse to give them the allocations they were used to but hardly any other club does either … a trend which they started when they decided to give in to the loudest voices in the room.
When Rangers fans “protested” the BBC in 2019 I don’t doubt that some of those currently serving at the club found it hilarious … but nobody is laughing anymore.
Because those protests gave the crazy people a taste of power and they’ve not been shy about using it against every target they think deserves it. Now it’s their own club and its directors in the cross-hairs and soon enough it’ll be the manager himself.
And that is doubly likely considering the widespread belief that they forced Ross Wilson out.
No institution so steeped in hatred can survive.
Living like that, being immersed in that, must be exhausting. It must sap at the collective souls of all involved, and that cannot be indefinitely sustained. Because not only does it crush those who are steeped in it in the moment, but watching that from the outside must be tremendously off-putting.
Which means that their club, which no longer even pays lip-service to the idea of reaching out, to growing its fan-base, to expanding its appeal, will contract to the point where even cuts can’t sustain its life-force.
In short, that club is going to die and not of some massive calamitous event but the natural death that comes when every right-thinking neutral turns away, appalled, and you’re left with a steadily shrinking customer base.
Right now, that’s nothing something Scottish football should be in the least bit afraid of.
This game would be better off without a club whose fan-base is comprised of so many vicious people, and the thing is, there are still seven league games and a cup semi-final to come here … and the descent into full-on foaming craziness has been the most extreme I’ve ever witnessed.
What concerns me, and should concern everyone, is that we’ve not even seen the worst of it yet.
There will be 25,000 people at Hampden with a big chip on their shoulders before the game even kicks off, and at the home of the SFA to boot, an organisation who their relationship with is only slightly better than the one they have with us.
The darkness reaching out to the darkness. God knows how bad this could get.