Friday, 25 March 2011
Even-handed reporting and Scottish sectarianism
George Galloway – what an idiot, eh? He went onto a reality show where he dressed up as a cat and slunk about pretending to lick cream from a bowl. How can you take someone like that seriously?
Which is just as well, because you might have been tempted to take seriously his criticisms of the Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill, when he noted that MacAskill had praised the crowd attending the Rangers-Celtic Cup Final at Hampden and hadn’t mentioned the incessant racist chanting of Rangers’ fans. “But isn’t one side as bad as the other?” I hear you splutter. No they’re not.
After the Celtic-Rangers game in Celtic Park a couple of weeks earlier, there was much huffing and puffing about the need for both sides to stop their sectarian savagery. Alex Salmond and other Scottish politicians declared that Something Must Be Done, neatly gliding over the fact that, at the game in question, three Rangers players received red cards, while none from Celtic did. The same politicians made much of Neil Lennon’s agitation after the game and nothing of the fact that the Celtic manager has received death threats, been attacked on the street and was the subject of an internet campaign urging his killing. Do you know of a similar campaign against Ally McCoist or Walter Smith? Mmm – me neither.
Here in the north we’ve grown accustomed to such selective reporting. When the Shankill bomb exploded, killing so many innocent people, we rightly heard of the suffering and grief it inflicted. We heard less outcry over the weeks prior to that event, when Catholics were targeted by loyalist killer gangs on an almost-daily basis. Those who claimed to be even-handed in reporting the Troubles presented that time as essentially tit-for-tat, with one side as bad as the other. Anyone who’s thought about the last forty years for more than five consecutive seconds will know that’s a distortion of the truth.
How fortunate we are today, then, that we can dismiss George Galloway as a pantomime cat concerned only with his self-publicity. If we thought he was an intelligent, informed poltician, we might have to confront the charges he makes about where the sources of sectarianism in Scottish society are rooted. And that would be an appalling vista.