Let me tell you a story. You may or may not know this one.
On 15 July 2000, the British documentary maker and writer Jon Ronson was in California working on his latest project, an investigation into The Secret Rulers Of The World.
The project was all very tongue in cheek, or so he thought at the time.
In fact, the book and the TV series which sprung from it would come to be profoundly important, just not in the way that Jon Ronson had envisioned.
He was in California to investigate a story which seemed too bizarre to possibly be true. According to what he had heard, every year, in the same location, the most powerful men in the world would gather for a two-week long shin-dig out in the woods.
There, they would wear robes, pee on the redwoods and take part in bizarre occult ceremonies … and at the “fireside chats” discuss, and even decide, future events.
Rumours and counter rumours claimed that hundreds of prostitutes would be secretly brought in to entertain the guests.
Other, more dangerous, rumours claimed that human sacrifices would take place in those woods and that the men (for all the invitees are men) who ruled the world went there annually to engage in the sort of depravity that they couldn’t indulge in during their day-to-day lives in the public and private sphere.
The location was called Bohemian Grove, and Ronson had travelled to a town just outside of it to meet with another documentarian and fringe radio personality, a guy called Alex Jones. Their plan was to infiltrate The Grove and document what really went on in there. To Ronson it was all just a lark. The stories sounded too far-fetched to be real.
In fact, 99% of what Ronson had heard was fact. On that afternoon, he, Jones and a cameraman walked down the long avenue into The Grove and breezily walked past the security staff simply by acting like they belonged there. Ronson did not hang around once Jones and his assistant headed deeper into the woods, but he saw enough to convince him that it was real.
Jones and his cameraman saw, and filmed, even more.
The centrepiece of what they later produced was the opening night ceremony called The Cremation Of Care, where all of the invitees dressed in their robes and stood before a great fire whilst a High Priest read from a prepared script, the speech blasted out of giant speakers. A huge towering sculpture of an owl overlooks the whole thing. The ceremony ends with the burning of an effigy whilst politicians, artists, executives and other bigwigs applaud.
Ronson went on to make his documentary and it was a huge hit and so was the book, Them: Adventures With Extremists, which formed the backbone of the TV show.
Amongst other bizarre encounters in that book was his trip to one of The Bilderberg summits, a period spent with Al-Muhajiroun founder Omar Bakri Mohammed, following David Icke on a lecture tour and a spell with the KKK.
Nothing leaves a more vivid impression though than the chapter on The Grove.
Alex Jones produced his own documentary.
Called Secrets Of Bohemian Grove, it is radically different in tone to what Ronson turned out, and it was, arguably, the launchpad to super-stardom for the man who would later be amongst the first members of the new media to endorse, support and raise millions for Donald Trump … and who last year was sued by the families of the Sandy Hook children, who he had accused of faking the atrocity.
Jones sensationalised what he saw that night as a pagan death cult ritual complete with a mock human sacrifice, perhaps as a prelude to the real thing.
Ronson had a completely different view of it, saying later that “my lasting impression was of an all-pervading sense of immaturity: the Elvis impersonators, the pseudo-pagan spooky rituals, the heavy drinking. These people might have reached the apex of their professions but emotionally they seemed trapped in their college years.”
That’s certainly what Bohemian Grove represents; a mid-life frat party fortnight in which powerful men get together to forget the world for a while and enjoy themselves.
That the Manhattan Project was in part conceived at Bohemian Grove is an historical fact and proves that there’s more than just revelry going on there … but human sacrifices? Considering some of the guests down through the years that seems like more than just a stretch.
Two different people saw the same things and drew markedly different conclusions.
It helps, I think, to go in with an open mind.
Jones wanted to see evil-doers and prove the great conspiracy that even then was warping his brain … and so that’s what he saw.
It was that which came to my mind last night when I saw a thread on Follow Follow devoted to this picture, of Kevin Clancy leaving Celtic Park on Saturday.
That picture means nothing. But they brought their own biases to it and saw what they wanted to see.
And what they see is a smirking hater of their club, having assisted us in winning the league, leaving the stadium at the end of a job well done. But here’s the paradox; what they also see is a referee being hounded by Celtic supporters.
So although he’s supposedly done us a big favour, they have to convince themselves that we’re also intimidating the guy.
You see how their minds work? That ability to hold two contradictory ideas in their heads at one time never ceases to amaze me. These people are the extremists in our midst.
They are the very people Ronson wrote his book about.
The TV show might have been entitled The Secret Rulers Of The World, but what it was about were the conspiracy theorists and assorted nuts who believe in tiny cabals running everything and deciding all of our fates.
How can they have convinced themselves that referees are in the pockets of Celtic?
That VAR, which has been used to disenfranchise our club and about which we have complained bitterly, was actually introduced to help us instead? That Clancy is, in that photo, simultaneously basking in the warm applause of his own people … even as he’s been terrorised by them?
That’s just a picture of an official leaving the ground after a game. Nothing more.
The smile on his face is a momentary flash of one.
I’ve seen similar pictures of refs walking away having awarded penalties against us. What does the smile mean? Simply that the photographer just so happened to catch him at that moment, with that particular look.
Two seconds after it and one second before, the look on his face might have been a polar opposite to that one. But you cannot convince Ibrox fans of this, or anything else that makes a kernel of sense.
They see what they want. They believe whatever conforms to their prejudices.
And they hate Clancy anyway, as I said yesterday, because they think he’s a Catholic, as though religious affiliation should play any part in our debate over officials.
These people are always just on the edge of rationality.
But when we beat them they tip over into this kind of craziness with a grim, and worrying, regularity.
Mad ideas abound on their forums. The threads on the child abuse cases peak as they reach for that gutter rung on the ladder to give them something like hope.
Some in the media pander to this and repeat the trick, as we saw today.
The hatred flows in a torrent.
There is no other club whose supporters are so wrapped up in this sort of lunacy.
I’ve written before about how extreme rightist thinking, and Trumpian fantasy, have more and more come to characterise the ideology at the heart of their club and in a week where their directors are lobbying the SFA over Clancy even as they refuse to take part in sponsorships, as their fans embrace the idea that the Unseen Hand is slapping their club down even as it tries to bully the very officials they think are in our pocket, it is not hard to see where those lines meet.
Tonight the SFA has released a statement about how Clancy has been subjected to threats after his personal details were posted online this weekend. I actually saw that on Facebook. It is beyond the pale.
We are all for scrutiny, but scrutiny does not involve harassing people.
The Ibrox club itself has played its role in its dog whistle reaction to this guy and the nods and winks to their lunatic fringe.
But they don’t need encouragement anyway. The poison on their forums is truly appalling.
The lunatics are in charge of the asylum.
Let’s not forget that Dingwall and his website are not outliers, on the fringes over there but “official media partners” … they are built in with the bricks. They are considered legitimate voices amongst the fan-base.
You could not make that up.
Unfortunately for Scottish football its real, and so you don’t have to.