Whatever your football affiliation, you have to be concerned that any football club could have the kind of undue influence which would cause a respected newspaper to fire two journalists to appease that club.
I refer to the recent departure from The Herald and Sunday Herald of Graham Spiers and Angela Haggerty respectively.
Their exit from their positions – and the manner of it – is an appalling indictment on the state of the media in Scotland in these times.
The Herald has swamped itself with accusations of cowardice and toadying to commercial interests by the removal of Spiers and Haggerty, who are already being elevated to martyr status by fellow journos, politicians and anyone else with a tuppence worth to contribute.
My own view is that both have been hard done by. I share the view that they have been thrown under a bus by their former employer but I think the martyr thing is taking it too far. Both Spiers and Haggerty have long histories of provoking Rangers’ fans and living on the edge of notoriety when it comes to their views on matters RFC. Victims they may be but they are casualties in a war they heartily engaged in.
Spiers and Haggerty’s departure is a portent and a warning to us. Yes, it displays a seedy kowtowing to interests that could damage the Herald and Times Group. This in itself shows us how weak Scottish journalism is in standing up to institutional power.
This weakness could be said to be a reliance on advertising revenues which, if withheld, could bring severe financial strain to the Herald stable. If so, it is a sad state to be in but it underscores the claims of those who aver our press in Scotland is compromised and hogtied.
However, the problem with what happened to Spiers and Haggerty is that it will throw petrol on the fire in terms of the Old Firm divide that blights our society. Celtic fans will see the issue as proof of a pro-Rangers bias in the media while Rangers supporters will crow that two of the club’s nemeses have been dealt bloody noses – fitting recompense for their anti-Rangers prejudice.
As I said, there is some truth in this. Both journos are clearly bitter about their own experiences with Rangers and the club’s support. Those experiences have included being the subject of vicious trolling and unacceptable levels of abuse, of that there is no doubt. However, both give as good as they get in exchanges.
The Spiers/Haggerty matter should concern us because it provides an insight into the real problem facing us in Scotland.
That problem is we are consumed with petty hates and narrow-minded ideologies, with an us v them mindset and “them” are subhuman scum to be abused relentlessly on our Twitter feeds and elsewhere.
Whether it’s Unionists v nationalists, kafflicks v proddies or Edinburgh v Glasgow, we are more tribal than ever in our thinking. Actually, thinking is not involved much if we are being honest.
There are plenty of “others” to hate. Plenty of Orange bastards and fenian bastards. Let’s not forget Muslims – that’s a trending hate right there. Just pick a side and vent your hate. Open a Twitter or Facebook account and let your inner abuser release his/her spite and bile for all the world to see.
You can hope the object of your hate dies, gets cancer and is raped to your heart’s content. You can revel in the misfortunes of others and get the warm glow that comes from aporoval by your fellow tribe members.
That, sadly, is the Scotland we live in. A country riven by tribalism and whose people are polarised by yet curiously bound together by hate.
Sadder still is that often our attempts to eradicate hate involve trying to get the specks out of our enemies’ eyes while ignoring the beams in our own.
Hate springs from fear, of course, and so we must rid ourselves of both. If we only realised that there is nothing we should hate as much as hate itself.
We are not defeated or bound by our enemies but by the fear and hate we feel toward our enemies. Our need for someone to hate says more about us than those we hate.
The Spiers/Haggerty debacle serves to highlight and perpetuate the hate culture in Scotland, fuelling those on both sides of our polarised community. Whether or not you think what happened to the Herald Two was a gross travesty or just desserts, one thing is certain – if you could harness the hate generated by those on either side of the argument towards the other and use it as an energy source, we wouldn’t need all those wind farms.
Rather than looking for an enemy to hate, we should see hate itself as the enemy. Tragically, our politicians have failed to take the lead in this and in fact have been a huge part of the problem. They have told us who to hate rather than not to hate.
We are in danger of being consumed by pettiness, spite and hatred. We define ourselves by those we hold in contempt and disdain. What a bitter wee country we have become. Our once delightful country has become the land of despite, where common courtesy and respect are increasingly rare.
These basic elements of human decency would be like water on a parched ground but the standard must always be way higher and deeper than mere manners.
We must learn to love our enemies.
This may seem wildly fantastic but it is still the required standard that we must adhere to and that we must instil in our children. After all, if we are going to seek utopia, we might as well do it right and not accept a bogus version founded on hate.
There are plenty bigoted versions of utopia which are based on a Scotland cleansed of the hated “others” – a Scotland where there are no more Protestants, fenians, Muslims etc.
Why not aim for a Scotland where there is no more hate?
Those who scoff at this should ask themselves one thing: Is our propensity to hate the real reason Scotland is known as the sick man of Europe?
If so, imagine what could happen if we had the propensity to love…
Perfect love casts out fear. 1 JOHN 4:18