Friday, August 31, 2007

Dissenting voices: Part I

About time we formulated some kind of response, rather than keeping quiet as the club has...

"Whilst I think the media has over-blown the Mido chants, the fact that a lot of the responses I've read have entered into a siege mentality convinces me a lot of Newcastle fans (or North-East fans? or Northern fans? or fans in "provinces" everywhere?) have a chip on their shoulder about *any* media criticism, justified or not, and have attempted to defend the indefensible in a way that, to be honest, makes me cringe (e.g."

The words of a fellow Newcastle fan in the comments thread to this Guardian blog post about the abuse dished out to Middlesbrough's new striker Mido by visiting supporters on Sunday.

It's not often that you'll find us being critical of, but this is one of those times. Their aggressively defensive stance on the issue, calling on everything and anything they can to support their case, is disappointing, suggestive of a persecution complex and bordering on a "political correctness gone mad" attitude of the sort peddled by "right-thinking" right-wing rags like the Sun and the Mail.

Let's look at some of the arguments.

Was the chanting racist, Islamophobic, both or neither? Much debate has centred on the semantics, which are very difficult to unpick. Paul raised the point that perhaps it's those who say calling Mido a terrorist is racist / Islamophobic who are themselves racist / Islamophobic - the logic being that they're the ones who make the explicit connection, not the chanters. But to suggest that the perpetrators of the chant - or the majority at least - weren't perfectly well aware they were insinuating an implicit connection is nonsense. Arguing about semantics obscures the issue - however you classify it, the chanting was surely very offensive, something many Newcastle fans (and the club itself) seem depressingly reluctant or slow to concede.

The fact that Mido subsequently shrugged off the incident, or responded with his own offensive gesture (for which he was booked), has been used to argue it's no big deal, nothing to get worked up about - just "part of the game". But aren't there parts of the game that we'd like to change or eradicate? We don't have to just accept them. That's what the Kick It Out campaign is all about. Remember Jimmy Hill standing up in defence of Ron Atkinson by claiming that calling black players "niggers" is just "part of the game"? If it is, it certainly shouldn't be.

Some fans have pointed at the sectarian chanting and bigotry exhibited at Old Firm matches, as if to deflect attention and say "Well, look what THEY get up to up there". It really is that childish. Just because there's a more significant problem north of the border (albeit one which is being tackled) doesn't excuse the behaviour of our fans.

But, it would be protested, it was only a small proportion of the away support who targeted Mido. That may have been the case (though there have been suggestions it wasn't), but again that's no excuse for the club not coming out with a statement firmly denouncing the chanting. It's up to them to take the lead, and, as Marina Hyde suggests, the silence has been deafening (something of which Kick It Out have also been critical, if only implicitly).

The most ludicrous argument has been that we're merely the victims of a media witchhunt led by the Guardian, whose witchfinder general Louise Taylor, it turns out, writes for a Sunderland magazine. Whether or not the force of her comments has been exacerbated by her Mackem allegiance has no bearing whatsoever on the rights and wrongs of the chanting. Neither does the dubious suggestion that she and Hyde (by virtue of being women, it's insinuated - a nice dollop of sexism there too) know nothing about football and so aren't qualified to pass comment.

So, I'm patiently waiting for the official denunciation of the chanting by the club and associated fan groups. I hope I'm not waiting too much longer.


Post a Comment

<< Home