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Setting the Standard: Rangers FC and the Internet


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Another lengthy (but quality) article in the STS series with bmck examining the interesting very public and most unnecessary 'battle' between the internet loyal, the media and the club.

 

Well worth taking 10mins to read this.

 

http://www.gersnetonline.co.uk/newsite/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=758&Itemid=2

 

:rfc:

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Part 1

 

Recently both Walter Smith and Sir David Murray (as well as the press more generally) have turned on Rangers supporters who use the internet. I’m not surprised – the fight or flight response is equally as valid when cornered by a lion as it is when cornered by a pack of ravenous journalists with quotes and criticism they attribute to the internet – but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed.

 

We’re back at the top of the league; criticism of Walter and David Murray will be largely suspended for the moment, and everyone is in a slightly saner frame of mind. I think in this little period of repose we can discuss the ongoing relationship of Rangers FC with the fans, and with the internet in a happily constructive manner. Constructive criticism is what our situation needs – building up as well as breaking down. But destruction is the father of creation, and so first I’ll consider Walter Smith’s accusation that the Rangers fans online are essentially faceless wonders, who appear on the internet and become another person – assuming an authority they don’t have in order to simply spew bile. Then I’ll consider an alternative approach the club could take when dealing with the internet, which would hopefully be in everyone’s interests.

 

So, why would someone on the internet write about Rangers? The desire to spew bile? That’s not why I want to write about Rangers, but the question remains - why would a happy and healthy member of society who, instead of watching YouTube videos of funny cats; or talking to their colleagues about television programmes; or listening to one of Yale’s, surprisingly free and public lectures on the contemporary philosophy of death, is choosing to write an article about a football club, Rangers. Why would that be? Why would someone fritter away their precious minutes writing something about the fortunes of a football club – writing about millionaire athletes running about a kicking a bit of leather at extravagantly woven shoe-laces tied to metal poles with varying degrees of success? Why would they write without the possibility of fame, or money? What madness would provoke this irrationality?

 

I’m not convinced it’s for the villainous motives that Walter Smith and David Murray have chosen to attribute it to. I think the answer’s simple: the irrational and unconditional love of Rangers. The same irrational and unconditional love that has people getting out of their beds with hangovers to go and watch average football in the blistering rain and numbing cold. In short, the madness that makes Rangers a big club. The same madness that would devote a massive portion of their wage to watch Rangers is one and the same as the madness that would provoke someone on the internet to write an article without any chance of fame, or fortune: simple, irrational, but truthful, love of Rangers.

 

You would think this is something that the club would seek to celebrate, rather than condemn, even if some of it is criticism - it’s one of the few remaining indicators that ours is a massive institution, in a world demanding financial tightening, and scepticism. But that’s not the case. David Murray’s criticism of the internet has been as vague as it has been vitriolic: it comes with harsh words directed at no-one in particular, but everyone in general. Now, I’ve never underestimated David Murray - he is one of a few in every generation that prevail over their peers and achieve where others imagine and talk – so we can be sure this isn’t unconscious. It’s thoroughly considered. ‘Genius’ has become a much overused words these days; it’s become a commodity, yet I would go as far to apply it to David Murray in this recent attack on internet fans. I’m not happy about it, naturally - I would go as far as to say I’m hurt by it – but I can’t deny how utterly clever it is.

 

You see, the media are supposed to represent the public. They are supposed to critically examine the people the public are interested in. That’s their job, that’s the myth we buy into when we buy a paper. It’s hard to believe in it fully – the 'Daily Mail' clearly isn’t representing all of the public’s opinion (you’re not going to see harsh criticism of ineffective immigration laws if they’re tough), but they at least pretend that they are representing someone other than merely themselves. They are supposed to be after the public (however they define ‘public’) interest. In this context, David Murray is an object of public interest, and those disgruntled (rightly or wrongly) are the public. Yet, somehow the situation has turned inside out. The media are carrying the object of interest, David Murray, and turning themselves to critical examination of the public. It’s an unprecedented step, that’s not without historical significance.

 

When Britain went to war with Iraq over a million people protested. Regardless of your views on these protests, if you have opened the papers and read “Less than 1/50th of the national population, ungrateful for what their government had done for them, and provoked by internet trouble makers, decided to protest against our irreproachable leader’s decision to go to war” we would have, quite rightly, assumed that there was some sort of fishy propaganda going on. You would think you had wandered into China, and found the role of the newspapers to be completely inverted. Similarly, regardless of your views on the recent discontent among the fans at Rangers, one has to wonder how it can possibly be that the public has become the object, rather than instigator, of critical analysis, and how this reversal has happened.

 

David Murray has always had the media in his pocket because he’s simply more intelligent than the journalists he’s had to deal with. Any potential criticism he is clever enough to deflect, or reverse. But now that the criticism is getting harder to deflect, and the questions more pointed, and with more public weight, David Murray, and his large, large, intellect the reversal has had to be grander. How is it that the public has become the object of criticism of the papers? Because David Murray has been clever enough to play on the papers, and old media in general’s, fears about new media, the internet. Your enemy’s enemy is your friend, indeed, it would seem. And while newspapers are merging, shutting, and going out of print, the craftiest way to turn the tables is to present them with an opportunity to turn themselves into moral crusaders attacking the evil that is only incidentally putting them out of business: a hook simply too juicy for them to swim past. With an opportunity to turn on the internet, their new competition, they will happily turn their duty inside out and divert their criticism from its destination back to its source.

 

[CONTINUED]

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Part 2

 

And so somehow, as I open my word document, and begin to type, the people with all the words, David Murray, and the newspapers, and all their respective power, have already agreed to put off their usual disagreements to agree that whatever it is that I type is nothing but trouble making, and internet fanaticism. The people who have thousands of readers are accusing people on the internet of clever self-publicising. Instead of being proud that a relatively normal person would waste their time writing about their club out of irrational love, they’re condemned. It’s a recurrent motif.

 

Instead of being proud that 200,000 people travelled to a European final, David Murray and Walter Smith joined in the general condemnation, and have took every opportunity to refer to it subsequently. It’s obviously undeniable that the events surrounding it were unacceptable, but the self same master rhetorician, Murray, with all his intelligence, could’ve surely argued convincingly that if any old industrial city in Britain took 200,000 of their citizens anywhere, a portion of them would be from sufficiently troubled backgrounds. If 200,000 people from Manchester went anywhere, you would be pretty sure there would be a troublesome element. Surely he could’ve looked at the situation and seen how clearly English hooligan elements, and poor co-ordination, had denied at very least, 99% of decent people’s day. Manchester took all the money from all the decent people, and then called us evil. And David Murray joined in.

 

Instead of being proud that British people are still sufficiently patriotic as to decry people who live here but would prefer to be somewhere else, David Murray allows them to be labelled as racists and bigots, and conspires to have them put in jail, and testify against them. There’s moral ambiguity about all this, and I’m no unionist, but a man with such intelligence could surely at least argue the case that if people are to be criminalised for telling people to GTF back to the another country if they love it so much, then a country is at odds with itself. If he set the tone of aspiring to noble patriotism, it would at least give the element with dubious intentions something to aspire to. Instead of this, he takes it upon himself to judge invisible intentions with nods and winks that everyone really knows they’re all thugs and racists and bigots.

 

And so it’s been. And I don’t know why. Murray may just have got sick of it, and that’s his prerogative. It may be that instead of being proud that idiots like me waste their time writing about the very thing he owns, he’s seem how sad it is, and would rather decry us as petty fantasists with nothing worthwhile to say. He may be right. But as Jesus said, a nation divided against itself can’t stand. And if he shares the ‘cultured’ objections of the media towards the Rangers fans, then that’s his prerogative, but football is not a sport of rationality and culture. It’s a sport of animation, passion, and irrational pride. He might not like what the people on the internet have to say, but it doesn’t justify poisoning the well from their speaking at all.

 

Now am I joining the chorus for getting Murray out? Not at all - you don’t get many men who can take on the media and win: he’s a special case. But how I dearly wish he wasn’t doing it at the expense of the fans; if only that same intellect was driving us forward. It’s not the lunatic fringe that use the internet. The internet, as I’m quite sure he knows, is quite popular these days. If the internet is devoid of practical solutions, and is petty, and is indeed extremist and reactionary, as Murray and the media say in unison, then there isn’t much hope for society as a whole.

 

Yet if you read back articles from this site you’ll find no evidence of this fanaticism: the same people that talk about the game in the pub talk about it on the internet. There’s outbursts of emotion; but these same outbursts of emotion finance the game. They buy the strips, the season tickets, the DVDs. If you want to turn every person into clear logical thinkers about what’s in everyone’s best interests you’ll quickly find that people will realise they can live without strips, season tickets and DVDs, and they can live without writing articles like this one. Rightly, or wrongly, the people with all the words have decided that words like these are poisoned from the offset. It you wanted to be dramatic, you could say it’s a type of Old Media’s last stance against the internet.

 

And this naturally brings me to the questions as to what the better approach would be. Contemporary linguist said David Crystal said, talking about language change, and particularly about people moaning about language change, that ‘Language change is inevitable, continuous, universal and multidirectional. Languages do not get better or worse when they change. They just — change.’ In the same way, thinking that the new generation of fans, those who use the internet, are better or worse, rather than different, is to try and fight the course of time. What Murray may gain in the applause of the media, he loses in alienation of large portions of the support who are decent, and pursuing their love of Rangers in the way obvious to people of their time. The internet can’t be fought. However, as a resource, it can be used. If you disenfranchise large portions of a population, you get rebellion – however, if you give them a voice, and infer on them all the responsibility that comes along with that, you just might make them work for you, and for the greater good.

 

So, as a consequence of all this theorising, and in the spirit of offering practical alternatives, David Murray, here’s what I’d like you to do:

 

[CONTINUED]

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Part 3

 

Firstly, presuppose the basic goodness of the vast majority of Rangers fans, and make every public statement focus on these people: your clients, your customers, your supporters. The idea that the average Rangers supporter is, by and large, more bigoted and less good than the average Celtic supporter, is a sociological impossibility, given that both clubs attract fans from every stratum of life in comparative numbers and proportions. If the media are too hasty to generalise, ask for specifics, and, whatever you agree with yourself, apply the ancient art of rhetoric to portray your clients in the strongest possible light. Anything other than this is decadence. I’ve not heard one positive word about Rangers fans from you in years; discontent doesn’t grow from nowhere, even if the forms it presents in are tedious, or obtuse, and clumsily made banners.

 

Secondly, make a friend of the internet. Other than in the case of further recession, it’s going to be with us for a while. From a purely practical point of view, any club that doesn’t secure the hearts and minds of the internet followers, much less simply dismiss them, is going to have a generation of alienated customers. You can do this by actively engaging with popular websites – you don’t have to soften your stance on any issue, but by making these places the supporting underclass you provoke rebellion. If you explain the reasoning of your approach on any issue clearly, you’ll be sure that there will be plenty of people there who will adopt your position, even if they are dismissed by fanatics. It’s easy to cherry pick the worst of the internet and argue against that, but a man of your intelligence should pick the best to fight with.

 

Thirdly, don’t equate patriotism with bigotry. As uncouth, and crass, as many modern intellectuals, and media pundits, find the idea of British patriotism, with its connotations of Empire and racism, it isn’t necessarily so. If you listen to the whispers of our time – if you watch films like Tropic Thunder, and you walk into a meeting with head of a company who is catholic, you’ll realise that a great deal of those Britain oppressed live beside us as fully functioning members of society. The shame of being British was probably, for a period, sociologically necessary, but that period is at an end – were we to filter all our thoughts and deeds, and judge intentions constantly, through this shame forever, even when the people are no longer oppressed, it’s just condescension. Wherever aspersions are cast with nudges and winks as to what’s “really going on” behind the songs and the chants, fight them rigorously, and in doing so make the people singing them aspire to the most noble interpretation of their actions.

 

Fourthly, and most importantly, please apply all your energy to rebuilding Rangers from the ground up. If you applied that same intelligence that has turned the media inside out to a vision for a rebuilding of Rangers, what greatness could be achieved. You rode in on the upwards trend started by Holmes, but you took it forward - now it’s time to create a second upwards trend and create the environment for our next owner similar to the one you were so ready to buy into. If Holmes had said he was dying to get out of it all, would you have bought in? Things have fallen again, and you’re partly to blame, but Rangers fans, still, look to you. You’ve been a man to make the big decisions – outline what sort of a club you think Rangers are, what the best it can aspire to is, and what sort of drama it would take to get there. You know how good bad music and reasons sound when you’re marching to war; let’s have a good plan, a good war, and not just stumble through from day to day.

 

All the recent discontent has arisen, more than anything, out of a feeling of purposelessness, and the sense that, as a club, we’re going nowhere. Decrying the internet is no small part of this – why poison the inkwell of the future? Make it work for you.

 

You’ve seen how much hullaballoo a few people with just a Word document and a website can produce – if you get them onside, they’re your hullabaloo. It shouldn’t be the case that someone who takes the time to write, or even criticise, the club should be seen as some sort of lunatic fringe – they’re a symptom of how big a club we are, and the standards we aspire to. Manipulating the media to turn on the internet is massively, massively intelligent – but it’s short termist, and ends up causing as much discontent as it decries.

 

Unless the financial situation changes you’re going to be at the helm, so please don’t tell us how sick of it you are while still expecting people who’ve endured all the same hard times with Rangers as you have to plough money they don’t really have into merchandise and tickets. Don’t poison in the inkwell of the future – it’s a symptom of a decline not about to burst into the new upwards trend. You have all the resources available to you – be bold, have vision, and lead from the front. That way you wont have to worry about the internet or the press without berating either.

 

:rfc:

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I�m not convinced it�s for the villainous motives that Walter Smith and David Murray have chosen to attribute it to. I think the answer�s simple: the irrational and unconditional love of Rangers.

 

Well I for one am convinced. The point is that unlike us, they can't say it in so many words, but for anyone who would like to pay attention once in a while, it's patently clear that the everyone isn't who they say they are on the internet and for every devoted Rangers fan, you've got sh!t stirring 'h^n' hating vermin gnawing away at our foundations.The internet is prime territory for guerrilla warfare and you'd better wake up and realise that's what we're up against - that's what I believe they mean when they refer to the faceless minority.

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Even Spiers is at it in his latest pile of spew - Old Firm managers fight it out in sack race

 

If you want to know how unforgiving life at Ibrox is, consider Smith�s experience this season, just six months after leading Rangers to a European club final. The foaming-mouthed brigade have been hard at it for much of the time, referring to the Ibrox manager in withering and condescending terms on some of the fevered message boards. Such forums are often derided for their lack of perspective and even intelligence but they still offer a barometer of how a certain strand of Rangers fan is thinking. Moreover, these days you can meet perfectly sane and engaging Ibrox fans who have nothing but harsh words to say about Smith�s strategies.

 

When the likes of him are sticking up for you, you should know something is amiss.

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Bugger im late for work after reading all that!

 

Agree fully with all that is said. Manchester and the clubs reaction to it left the fans hang out to dry and it it will leave a very bitter taste in my mouth for a very long time.

 

To be beaten from pillar to post on anything Rangers by the mhedia is one thing but it makes your blood boil when your own chairman is leading the chase.

 

We really should explore avenues to change this. We need someone at the club to stand up for our supporters.

 

We certainly cant go on the way it is.

 

Excellent post.

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Agree fully with all that is said. Manchester and the clubs reaction to it left the fans hang out to dry and it it will leave a very bitter taste in my mouth for a very long time.

 

Totally agree and it would have been the same no matter the outcome of the match. There's no denying that we the support were set up for a fall there. It's a conspiracy, there I said it and there's nothing the club can do about it as the 'paranoia' card is laying in wait. A taste of their own medicine is what they need.

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Well I for one am convinced. The point is that unlike us, they can't say it in so many words, but for anyone who would like to pay attention once in a while, it's patently clear that the everyone isn't who they say they are on the internet and for every devoted Rangers fan, you've got sh!t stirring 'h^n' hating vermin gnawing away at our foundations.The internet is prime territory for guerrilla warfare and you'd better wake up and realise that's what we're up against - that's what I believe they mean when they refer to the faceless minority.

 

im not sure what you mean, its probably just me though. sdm and ws have been calling people like those who took the banner, and those who have criticised them online, faceless wonders who would cower in their presence. they arent talking about people pretending to be rangers fans and spewing bile, they are accusing actual rangers fans of spewing bile. they may very well be, but everyone i talk to online - whether they are as rabidly (though charmingly) critical like maineflyer or emminently sensible and balanced like craig - seem like fundamentally decent people who are just talking about rangers in the way thats natural to them. i dont think they have the villanous motives that sdm and ws ascribe to them. maybe they are talking about something else - but i get the impression they are using the fact that there are nutters on the internet (who wouldve knew?) to deflect criticism. or have i missed your point?

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Even Spiers is at it in his latest pile of spew - Old Firm managers fight it out in sack race

i think spiers and his ilk just realise how superfluous they are becoming. why would i pay to read his pish when i can read the less flowery writings of someone who actually loves rangers? the papers are nervous because they arent as necessary as they once were i think. he is clearly just bitter and its good to read because of that! :)

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