Silence of the Lambs

“Quite simply, it could be one of the biggest sporting scandals the UK has ever seen. On the one hand you have the Big Tax Case where the revenue says Rangers owe almost £50m in unpaid taxes.

Alongside that, there’s the issue of player registration. Because of the club’s tax arrangements, it is possible they fielded player after player without telling either the Scottish FA or Scottish Premier League about those players’ full salary details.

If they didn’t tell them – and this is still the subject of investigation – every match they played in could be forfeit to the other side 3-0, and a whole lot of silverware will leave Rangers to be re-engraved and presented to another club.”
– Alex Thomson, Channel 4 News.

Why has no Scottish journalist written or said those words? This has been and continues to be an almost total dereliction of duty.

The case against new media is well worn. They / we are based on second hand sources and spout opinion, not news. There’s few credible alternative revenue streams and most act as carrion off the mainstream dead-word media whilst simultaneously slagging them off. All true, up to a point. Though I think we can all see the trajectory, and the ‘goal’ as in so many things is not to replicate the existing models. Participatory journalism has a different set of values and indicators, and making money isn’t necessarily one of them.

But for the many thousands disinterested in Indymedia or alt services there’s more who care about football. Rangers Tax Case is Scotland’s Al Jazeera. The blog is one year old this week, and it serves as good a model as any of the new media forms strength.

Large parts of the Scottish media are embedded, either in the party political apparatus of Holyrood or the lounge bars of the SFA and SPL, or just wrapped up in the low-rent churnalism of professional hackdom.

How else do you explain the deification of Sir David Murray, the ‘blind side’ of Craig Whyte, the pathetic farce that is Stewart Regan or Neil Doncaster’s reign of error and the ongoing inability to get what’s going on? This is a toxic mix of deference to authority, particular ‘professionals’ and ‘experts’ from outside Scotland, and a cosey and complacent culture of Glasgow tabloid-media-world. This has Chick Young and others on BBC Scotland describe the ten (count them) SPL clubs demanding change as ‘rebels’. Neither language nor arithmetic seem to be these journos strong-points. Mind you, these are the same broadcast journalists who regularly report the capitals Hibs or Hearts as ‘provincial clubs’.

As Rangers Tax Case wrote:

“It struck me as surreal that last Monday afternoon alone I spent more time talking with various English journalists than I have with all Scottish media outlets combined in the last year. Without the story of the corruption of the Scottish media, this would have been a parochial sports story of no more interest in London or Manchester than today’s Kilmarnock vs. Motherwell game.

The year long history of this blog should tell any objective reader that we have information on this story and know how to interpret it. Yet only one Scottish journalist has contacted me to discuss this case. Over a dozen journalists from outside Scotland were able to get in touch. That tells its own tale. The Scottish media- tabloid and broadsheet & sport and business- do not want to cover the biggest story in the history of Scottish football or the biggest Scottish business story since the Darien Disaster.”

Remember this is a question of allegations of large-scale long term fraud and corruption, this is not about football allegiances. Your community – not just your football club – has to ask itself what would you do with the X million of unpaid taxes?

So how are the good folks responding to Alex Thomson’s investigations?

“I’d expected the paranoia, insults, spin etc – hey – this is “fitba” after all and I welcome it good, bad and ugly, from fans within and without Glasgow. Indeed I’ve gone out and asked for it. What I didn’t expect were the insults (and in at least one case a direct physical threat) not from fans but from Scottish journalists.”

This is ‘succulent lamb journalism’, as described by Graham Spiers: “Succulent lamb journalism means a culture – and I hold my hand up here too – a culture of sycophantic, unquestioning, puff journalism that went on around Rangers generally and Sir David Murray particularly.”

The problem doesn’t begin or end with Rangers. It’s about (lack of) public accountability. As I wrote in Huckster Nation two years ago: “It’s transfixing like a multiple pile-up. You feel slightly soiled just to be observing the process, and it’s difficult to keep up with the unfolding carnage. The deluge of sleaze has become a sort of blur as the slide of political integrity continues.”

But the Purcell era could not have continued without the same lamb journalism as followed Sir David Murray for years.  It’s not the case of having a party (jelly and ice cream on hold) – I think the party’s over.

As David Wearing wrote: “The overriding issue – linking the banking collapse, the pressure from international finance to hastily pay off the resulting national debt by slashing public services, the expenses scandal, the News Of The World’s apparent impunity on wiretapping and the generally corrosive effect on political discourse of the corporate media – is the extraordinary and demonstrably destructive influence that small concentrations of disproportionate wealth and power have on the way our country is governed. The challenge is to wrest control of our politics – of our society – away from these concentrations of power and to build civil society vehicles capable of doing that.”

This is as true today as then – and if we can see this truth through the prism of the Rangers Tax Case and think what that means for wider Scottish society, all the better.

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  1. FrankyBoy says:

    Well said and absolutely true.

    The media in Scotland is poisonous and the journalists are nothing but courtians to football bigots and quislings.

  2. Doug Daniel says:

    As Chomsky said, “propaganda is to democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.” I’d like to think people are finally starting to wake up to the fact that although we may live more comfortable lives than people who live under dictatorships, we’re no more free – freedom of choice is an illusion when you only have three shades of neo-liberalism to choose from.

    We’ve been lied to for years, but hopefully people are starting to see it. George Galloway suggests his stunning by-election victory is down to people rejecting Labour’s austerity-lite approach. I hope he’s right. Perhaps people in England will start to realise that you don’t have to choose between the Tories or Labour. Up here, hopefully we’re just two years away from people realising that we don’t have to continue going along with whatever right-wing agenda Westminster imposes on us, and that there is another way.

    New media may be based on second-hand sources, but then the reality is today’s mainstream media is no different. The regurgitation of press releases without even the simplest of fact-checking, an absolute dependence on the same biased sources for information, often coming at the cost of absolute deference to those sources for fear of being “cut off” – the second one is particularly evident in the Rangers case. Is there really such a difference between a journalist rewording a press release from the government saying “everything is all right” and a blogger reinterpreting some news story they’ve found on a niche site that most people never see?

    I’ve come to almost completely ignore the news. I used to make a trip to the BBC News website my first port of call in the morning, but now I go days without bothering. I go on Twitter and if there is a big story, it’ll get flagged up. For instance, the BBC have completely ignored the recent revelations from Willie Bain that the Parliamentary Labour Party have an actual convention of abstaining on motions proposed by the SNP. This is an incredible admission, and any news agency worth its salt should have leapt on it, showing how Labour is failing in its duty to represent its voters; yet instead, the media is going crazy over lifelong SNP supporters donating a fraction of their lottery winnings to the SNP, trying to equate Salmond having a cup of tea and a caramel wafer with two ordinary members of his party – who just happen to have struck it lucky – with the Tories pimping Call Me Dave and SamCam around corporations and telling them it’ll be “awesome for your business”. The only thing Salmond has promised the Weirs is independence for Scotland, and that’s not exactly an outrageous secret.

    So the question is which sources are more reliable – journalists whose livelihood depends on getting stories, which comes at the expense of scrutinising those who wield power; or ordinary citizens who are simply passionate about finding and sharing the truth and are deferential to no one?

    Besides, most news is essentially gossip anyway. I’m far more interested in the truth that comes from people’s ideas, which is the sort of thing you get from a blog like Bella.

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Yes the distinction between new and old media is more blurred than often made out. Newspapers pay bloggers like Kate Higgins or invite Lallands Peat W into tv studios. Equally we (occasionally) publish more mainstream writers here. You’re right too that Twitter often feeds info from live events, so the distinction between ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ sources is a con.

      In fact blogs have a direct ancestor in the photocopied fanzines of the 80s which started from fans realising they were being ripped off by the clubs and the tabloid press. Sound familiar?

    2. FrankyBoy says:

      I’ve stopped listieng to Radio Scotland and watch Euro News more than the BBC news.

      The BBC has the same impartiality as Syrian state television.

      They’ve lost all decency and honesty. Never to be trusted again.

  3. Groundskeeper Willie says:

    As a Celtic fan from an Irish Catholic background all I can say is thank God Scotland is part of the UK and that English based journalist like Alex Thomson occasionally take an interest in what happens here.

    Scottish football and the Scottish media are a harbinger of what life in an independent Scotland would be like.

    1. CW says:

      So the behaviour of possibly the most iconic unionist social institution in Scotland backed by a compliant and overwhelmingly pro-union media is a harbinger of what nationalists are pursuing? There seems to be something of a logical inconsistency there. I think the point you’re forgetting is that the SNP is packed full of people who reject everything Rangers F.C. stand for and who spend quite a lot of their time complaining about the very aspects of the media discussed in the article above.

      1. Mr Salmond recently shamelessly tried to curry favour with the ‘most iconic unionist social institution in Scotland’ by suggesting that the HMRC should go easy on them.From that point of view I agree with Willie. That action from Salmond changed my opinion on independance.

    2. thomas cochrane says:

      with your background……….and you still crave to keep tied to the blood stained strings of the butchers apron…….im sorry for you,if NL thought like that or the late great paul macbride…….all i can say to you my friend….find a pair…stop tugging the forlock….stand up and be counted.im glad alex thomsons doing a bit of digging,but as has been stated before the scottish hackpack should be doing thier jobs instead of the usual fawning crawling anti irish/scots/catholic…attitude that they addopt………..yours in celtic/ireland/scotland/…..TC

      1. Groundskeeper Willie says:

        Neil Lennon played for years in England without encountering any hatred from fans or the media.

        Compare and contrast that with what he has suffered in Scotland and Norn Irn.

        Why Scotland and Norn Irn, and not England?

        Anti Irish Catholic racism is endemic in Scotland and if you knew anything at all about the history of the SNP, about the origins of the party, you would know the extent to which that they were driven by, and sought to exploit, such sentiments

    3. J Gordon says:

      Steady on, perhaps that’s taking it a bit too far…

    4. FrankyBoy says:

      I can’t beleive you wrote what you wrote.
      I think you are either supporting the wrong team or you are utterly stupid.
      It’s nice to know from a celtic fan that the only thing which stops us Scots tearing each other apart is the nice English.

  4. Excellent article, Mike.
    The amount of deflection, misrepresentation, deceit and downright lying which the media have been found guilty of with regard to the Rangers scandal is all the more remarkable given that we are only dealing with the fortunes of a football club.
    How frightening it is to consider how much worse the conduct of the media must be with regard to issues where the stakes are even higher. The covering up of banking scandals, military misadventures abroad, government corruption, corporate fraud and many other institutional disgraces must be assumed to be the norm.

  5. Paul Cochrane says:

    100% spot on. Embarrassed listening to the failed hackery on the radio and their moonbeam outlook.

  6. Andrew Anderson says:

    spot on! Looking forward to Queen of the South belatedly receiving the 2008 Scottish Cup

    1. bellacaledonia says:

      Anyone got a list of League Cup and Scottish Cup finals over the last 12 years?

      1. Doug Daniel says:

        Aberdeen, Scottish Cup winners 2000!!! Just squeezing in there…

        The repercussions of this could be massive. If they’re really going to give everyone a 3-0 default win against Rangers, the whole league positions will have to be recalculated – it’s not enough to simply say “oh well, give the trophy to whoever finished second that year”. What if teams who were relegated suddenly end up with more points than teams that weren’t? Will these teams be able to sue Rangers for the subsequent loss in revenue?

        It could be taken further – what about teams that were knocked out of cups by Rangers before the final? Will they be able to sue for lost revenue?

        Quite apart from being the little irregularity that Rangers, their fans, the authorities and the Scottish media would like this to be seen as, they’ve quite simply called the whole Scottish game into disrepute. So if the SFA/SPL/whoever capitulate to Sky’s demands and allow Rangers to stay in the SPL, we have to take action of some sort.

  7. John O'Neill says:

    A great coherent essay.

    While none of the content is new to me, the impact of seeing all these dots joined is chilling.

    When Gandi was asked what he thought about western democracy, he responded “I think it would be a good idea”

  8. Fraser Grant says:

    The supine Scottish media have a lot of questions to answer come judgement (Independence Day.
    As a Hearts supporter, my team was pushing Rangers hard in late 80s early 90s, when Celtic under the arch Unionist Kelly was within days on bankruptcy, but you can’t undo results from previous seasons.
    And can anyone tell me why the Unionist thugs that sent explosive devices to high profile Celtic fans are called “Loyalists” when if it had been the other way round they would have be vilified in the press as “Nationalists”.

  9. douglas clark says:

    We are left in a position where all recent football history might need to be re-written. Contrary to what Fraser Grant says, it is entirely possible that you do have to undo the results of previous seasons.

    What a mess that will be!

  10. bellacaledonia says:

    From a friend: “Martin Bain writing to Rangers Chairman John McClelland, says that his contract letter from McClelland, would be destroyed, shredded, by a female official at MIH – the company which owned Rangers. Martin Bain wrote: “at the end of the meeting I gave her back the letter addressed to me from you that stated my contractual increase for her to shred.”

  11. murren59 says:

    Groundskeeper Willie is like too many Celtic suporters…blaming all of Scotland for the Scottish-BritNatz hatred of Celtic. He needs to examine the motives of political opportunistic Celtic fans such as Murphy, Reid, Martin, Galloway and so many more who love to peddle this myth. It is in their interests to keep Scotland in this ungodly union and the Celtic Labour mafia in positions of political power, privelage and prestige. Shame on you Wille for falling for this obvious and disgraceful scam. Despite the long list of Rangers shameful and illegal wrong doings you can bet your bottom dollar that Celtic will fully support Rangers retaining their position in the SPL. Money talks – principles walks. It’s the OF way.

    1. If my team support a Zombie Rangers I will walk away after 35 years of support at home and abroad.

  12. what does it matter to us english what happens to scottish football,its fans,its national team…in fact scotland.all i know is regardless of what happens we wont be allowing any anti english,provo loving,pub bomber worshipping,terrorist organisation like celtic or its twin rangers,into english football.grow a pair and vote for independence,you think you’ll be better off by yourselves…but you wont,will you.and why,because you haven’t got the guts,you pretend,so you can wheedle more english money out of the english tax payer.if you want independence,england needs the vote for independence……McWasters….ENGLAND FOREVER BRITAIN NEVER…..

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