The best journalist in this country, writing in any medium, is Marina Hyde of The Guardian. Her columns are unmissable.
I read every single one of them. Today, she poured her scorn (no-one does it quite like her) onto “Princess Diana’s ghost” and all the alleged sightings of it down through the years. One particularly anecdote, about an actual DVD called “Spirit Of Diana” which is basically a recorded seance – no joke – made me laugh out loud.
“Diana supposedly appears to one medium couple at the seance who say she’s “met Mother Teresa”, Hyde writes with unconcealed contempt.
Because, as she reminds us, Diana didn’t have to be introduced to Mother Teresa in the afterlife; they had met several times right here in the real world. What’s amusing is that neither Patrick Macnee, who is the “star” of this bizarro piece of televisual tat, or his co-stars seemed to know that.
Or – and this is what I suspect Marina is getting at – they had enough contempt for their audience that they counted on them not knowing that.
That’s the sort of contempt the Ibrox club has long had for its own fans. It feeds them guff and relies on them being too stupid not to know that it’s guff.
There is a great John Le Carre book, which was made into a wonderful film, called The Tailor Of Panama, about a scandalised M16 agent who is sent to the tiny central American country as a punishment posting for his bad behaviour.
There he swiftly blackmails a local businessman named Harry Pendel; he’s the tailor for all the bigwigs in the community, everyone from the President down to the bankers who wash billions in filthy money.
Pendel claims to be from an old Saville Row dynasty; in fact, he learned his craft in prison, where he was serving a term for arson.
The M16 agent, Andy Osnard, played in the movie by a sleazily brilliant Pierce Brosnan (in a spectacular send-up of his years playing Bond) needs a source. Pendel, who has some bad debts and a wife who doesn’t know it, needs money. And so they enter into an agreement, the fine points of which remain unspoken; Pendel will provide information for cash, and Osnard won’t dig too deep into whether or not it’s accurate.
“Where’s your patriotism?” Osnard asks Pendel at one point. His reply is beautiful, and instructive. “I had it taken it out in prison, without anaesthetic.” Osnard, whose first and only loyalty is to himself, has a grudging admiration for that.
What makes the book and the movie work so splendidly is that Osnard is well aware that Pendel is feeding him bullshit, and still passes it up the chain of command, all the way back to London, who supply him with cash in order to further increase their “knowledge” and help build Pendel’s fictitious “Silent Opposition.”
And slowly, but surely, the lies get bigger until the US and Britain are sufficiently rattled that they decide what’s needed is a revolution … which they are prepared to nudge along in any way that they can.
Ibrox’s relationship with its own fans, and with the media, works on essentially the same lines. They feed the media feel-good, which the media then passes on to the fans. I am sure that on some level everyone knows that this is a partnership built on lies, but as long as everyone is getting something that they want who cares?
The club tells lies to keep the fans off their back, and because everyone over there is labouring under such a suspension of disbelief by now that reality cannot be allowed to penetrate as much as a crack lest the whole thing fall apart.
The media needs clicks, hits and sales and they know that the gullible Ibrox fan-base likes nothing more than a positive story … they know what the club is telling them is most likely what former Gordon Brown spin-doctor Charlie Whelan called “a package of bollocks” but what do they care? They can promote the club and get paid.
And the Ibrox fans do love their feel-good. Nothing makes them sleep better at night than a story which seeks to convince them that this time there’s a plan and that everything is going to be okay.
Between that and the constant pushing of the Survival and Victim Lies, these people spend the better part of their waking lives immersed in a swirling sea of fairytales.
Today it’s the turn of Phillipe Clement to push them in the direction of moonbeams. Although admitting that he’s “not a magician” he has promised to bring a “winning mentality” to the club.
That’ll make up for a squad of dire footballers, right? How’s he going to do it? The only way to build such a mentality is … err … winning things and they don’t do that.
He can get off to a good start with the League Cup, but they’d have to be pretty bad to lose in that competition at this point, although the draw helpfully kept them away from Aberdeen. But those players just stink of failure by now and that’s not going to make a blind bit of difference to that.
The mentality of winners cannot just be conjured out of thin air.
He says he wants “the best technical team, tactical team, physical team and mental team of the league.”
Great. And I want a 34 waist and more hair.
We’ll see who gets lucky first.
The physical team, I am sure he can manage especially as there are plenty of thuggish personalities in that dressing room, but the rest of it is going to cost money.
And they have none of that! He went round in circles trying to find a nice way of putting it, but he’s actually said it pretty clearly.
His role is to work with what he’s got, at least until the summer. He says it in clear-cut language in spite of how they’re trying to do spin.
“I don’t want 10 new players every year and make lots of changes. I want to find the key to get the best out of people. We want to use the next weeks and months to do that in the best way,” is what he said.
So, they best get used to seeing Dessers up front.
And for all that, the media still wants to spin this.
The BBC’s Martin Dowden clung to one particular excuse for the poor performances up until now like he was a drowning man with a rubber ring. This is an example of the way they all feed one another guff and it circulates to the fans. There is no way anyone should be able to spin how dire this team is. This is his effort.
“One comment that stood out was his desire to have players who aren’t afraid to fail. To be prepared to make mistakes and learn from them as it’s part of football. Perhaps he feels the current squad have been playing within themselves, more worried about doing the wrong thing than the right one.”
In other words, don’t worry about the lack of money.
The new players will be fine.
They’ve just been nervous up until now, but now that the manager has given them permission to fail they should start putting this right as quickly as they can.
Have you ever heard anything like it?
Andy Osnard’s reports back to London made more sense, and contained more truth, than that did, but this is the level our media operates at and this is the kind of guff the Ibrox fans are being asked to put their faith in.
It’s Marina Hyde’s point; there are people out there who rely on the audience being stupid, being ignorant and being starved of facts so long that they don’t know any better.
Between that and the cosy relationship Ibrox has with a media which knows that club has been lying to it for years, this must look like a pretty good day for The Peepul.
“Welcome to Panama,” Pendel toasts Osnard on the first night of their partnership. “Casablanca without heroes.”
In the context of this story, the hacks might as well have said, “Welcome to Ibrox. Coverage without scrutiny.”
Already the Ibrox fans are lapping up this well-tailored tall-tale.
Hell mend them. They never learn.