Yes, Joey Barton is Heading Down The Alt-Right Rabbit Hole. Celtic Fans Knew It First.

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Today I was amused to read an article in The Guardian by Jonathan Liew.

It was called “Joey Barton’s far-right rebrand points to sad malaise among football’s lost boys.” And I read that headline and thought “What rebrand? He’s been dabbling in that stuff for years.”

Then I thought I’d give Liew the benefit of the doubt, particularly as he opens the piece with a sarcastic reference to Barton as “the former Rangers substitute”.

I laughed out loud at that, and although he’s got the name of the club wrong, he’s nailed who Barton was up here. A mouthy joke who produced absolutely nothing at all on the pitch.

He did, however, make plenty of headlines off it, particularly when even their club couldn’t tolerate whatever the Hell he was up to for one minute longer, and you must bear in mind what Ibrox clubs have been willing to put up with down through the years.

But as Celtic fans, we saw his descent to the fringes of sanity long before anyone else did. We knew this was going to happen to him.

A lot of us said at the time that we’d seen Barton’s sort of faux intellectualism before; Liew scorns him as an “urchin intellectual” who a “largely middle-class media” embraced because he possessed “the ability to quote fortune-cookie fragments of Nietzsche or Viktor Frankl.” In other words, it’s as fake as powdered egg.

The thing about people who actually are smart and well read is that they do not get sucked into the black hole like this. But we all knew he was going to get swallowed up in it. People far smarter than him, people with much greater self-control, have been consumed by the darkness swirling around Ibrox the minute they stepped into the place. He never stood a chance.

Not since Gascoigne have we seen a footballer so completely predisposed towards swirling down that drain, so primed and ready to embrace the full scope of the nuttiness.

His social media profile was that of an anti-establishment faux lefty; a lot of us never bought it for one second. Barton has worn many faces in his life, mostly to himself.

But underneath it all is a thug and someone on a high of self-absorption.

When he thought putting on a liberal face for the media Liew blames for helping create his egotism was the move, he did that, but his behaviour and his occasional pronouncements pointed to a different person entirely and his simple-mindedness came through in spite of his efforts to mask it with fancy quotes. Even a short sojourn at Ibrox – and it turned out to be very short – was only going to amplify every one of his rotten qualities, and it did.

Before long he was sending out the We Are The Peepul tweets, and whether or not he had even the vaguest idea of what the historical context of that phrase was the very fact of its use from a guy who had expressed his admiration for our club, our support and poured out his contempt on the Royalist, supremacist state which he was now pledging himself to was telling.

He swallowed it all, and before you knew it he was on TV defending UKIP with his shocking, misogynistic “ugly girls” analogy and we were off to the races.

The short time he spent at Ibrox, plugged into every bit of the madness there, was probably more harmful to him than the first year was to Terry Butcher, whose own wife staged a very determined intervention and hauled him back from the brink. Even now, he talks about that period with horror.

Gascoigne has never escaped it and the club has never escaped him.

Whilst our Xmas videos continue to enthral and entertain and are a credit to our media department, he was the emaciated star of theirs, like a ghost from a nightmare; a bigoted wife beater who racially abused his own bodyguard and whose last moment in the limelight was his trial for sexually assaulting a woman on a train … yeah, he was cleared, but the facts of the case are that he sat down beside a girl on a train and kissed her without her consent.

That’s Barton too. That’s his personality type, so his dalliance with the lunatics was never going to be a brief fling and soon forgotten with him; the minute he dipped in a toe he was up to his knees in fenian blood before he knew what had hit him, and from there the tap-dance towards the fringes was as inexorable as it had been predictable.

Liew thinks it’s opportunism, and it almost certainly is to an extent. But he misunderstands this, because he doesn’t really get what Barton’s move to Ibrox represented and what happens to people when they step into the dark shadow of that place. It’s not all opportunism.

Before going there, he self-defined as an anti-monarchy, united Ireland Celtic fan and they say there’s no zealot like a convert; the very fact that he got plenty of stick from us only resulted in his embracing their side all the more, as you saw in his last deranged interview.

And a certain type of person doesn’t come back from that. Butcher didn’t come all the way back and he at least had his moment of clarity and pulled himself away from the madder stuff. But he’s still Mr Staunch, he still left that place with a whole slew of hatreds and prejudices he didn’t have going in.

Look at Nacho Novo; a Spanish Catholic filmed on the team bus with sectarian bile flowing out of his mouth. He wasn’t ever the world’s nicest guy, but he departed that club a full-blown uber-bigot and frequent visitor to the hate-dens of the North of Ireland.

There is no hope for Barton, not now that he’s realised that he can get new followers spouting bile and hate; it’s a guaranteed shortcut to some kind of social acceptance, and a whole new set of fans, even if they are people you wouldn’t let near you in the real world.

Liew is right to point out how many footballers are getting lost in the swamp, but he means this far-right Little Englander madness which has the Tory Party in its grip. Barton is headed for even deeper water.

It’s not all about Ibrox of course, but by God if there was ever any player who should have avoided that place like the plague it was him.

No good could possibly have come of it, nothing positive was ever going to result in a nutter like him throwing himself into the inky depths of that particular swamp. He may have left the building early but he was already too late. It started the moment he decided to sign the deal over there and once he had that in his bloodstream, he was only ever going one way.

It is fitting, then, that Liew started the article with that throwaway put-down, because that was, indeed, the true beginning of the downward spiral.

Oh, I think he would have come to some of this stuff eventually, as it was always there in embryonic form … but that’s the point. Ibrox has a way of amplifying every negative personality trait some people possess and even on short exposure, it was just as I said; he never stood a chance.

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  • Dora says:

    Barton, pretty much like that Gascogne halfwit are like long lost cousins, cut from the same cloth…lucky to reach double digit brain cells between them, however most are stuck in their underpants…

  • Roonsa says:

    As the Guardian journalist says near the start of the article in question:

    Ignore, starve of oxygen, move on.

    To be honest, James, I thought we all had. But you seem to have a bee in your bonnet when it comes to this guy. He’s a clueless wank. Save your words for a more worthy cause.

    • Michael M says:

      I thought this was a good and timely article so we can all see what happens to guys like this when their swamp starts running dry for I certainly wouldn’t ever be checking up on them.

      And that image of him looking at his feet like a wee lost boy as Broony stared him down will be classic football image forever.

      And a good lesson for loudmouths as well.

  • Sophie Johnstone says:

    The man who thinks putting a pair of specs on makes him an intellectual,really needs banished to the wilderness from whence he came he’s a moronic cave dweller

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