Angela Haggerty’s Rangers Fans
Contemporary social media behaviours, such as ‘whataboutery’ and ‘false equivalence,’ may have been brought into widespread public consciousness by United States president Donald Trump, but they are more familiar, longer-term concepts to observers of Rangers fans.
Likewise, Trump’s use of personal insult to register disagreement, often known as ‘playing the man,’ although the victims of such actions are hardly exclusively male. Here, Rangers fans pre-date and far outstrip America’s predominant orangeman. And, last week, Rangers fans outstripped him again.
Angela Haggerty is a well-known Glasgow-based print and broadcast journalist, who led the editorial team which launched the popular ‘Common Space’ news and political website in January 2015 and was appointed news editor of Scotland’s Sunday Herald newspaper in March 2018, a job she relinquished in July (see below).
And one of her tweets on 28th August inspired a ‘strong’ Rangers fan-reaction. “Girfuy (Get it right fucking up you) sectarian bigoted witch,” Andy suggested. Craig Watson similarly opined “get it up ye, ya fucking vile cow.” While, Staunch Ducky (no, me neither) was at least polite enough not to swear: “Get it up ye cow.”
John Knox took time out from the Reformation to label her “a horrible bigot” and “a terrible journalist.” Rolica thought she was “a bitter little cunt.” Kyle clearly swallowed the same dictionary, suggesting: “No cunt cares,” which his and others tweets demonstrably disproved. “It’s not because you’re a woman like you are trying to portray, Kyle added: “It’s because you’re a prick.” Rolica had another ‘thought’: “She has a huge hairy cock too.” And Ernie Edgar tweeted: “Skid marks on her drawers now,” though how Rolica and Edgar ‘knew’ this…
Difficult to read for you? Well, tough. There’s more.
Weesax wanted to know, for their own reasons: “Is she a tranny?” Laughing emoji with a hat and a union flag (nom-de-plume, presumably), called her “an absolute cunt!” adding “and weapon” for superfluous emphasis. Vlad suggested: “Your a cunt,” over a picture of Alan Sugar, who should sue for defamation of grammar, minimum. Graham Keir proclaimed: “you deserve nothing cunt.” And Scott McKinnon auditioned for Jackanory with: “Once upon a time, there was a cunt. It was you. The End.”
So, what did “no cunt” care about? Haggerty’s long-running Herald opinion columns fell victim to long on-going Herald Group organisational changes, including the Sunday Herald’s closure. So, the decision to discontinue her columns was unconnected to their quality or impact. She told her twitter followers: “You lot should know first because your support has been truly amazing at times. It was nice while it lasted.”
Yes, that IS it. Yes, really.
In fairness, some abusers eschewed cow and cunt obsessions to address the actual Herald Group situation. Sadly, they also eschewed facts. Strathclyde Briton believed Newsquest Scotland Managing Director “Graham Morrison couldn’t wait to get rid of your stinking bigoted carcass,” although he’s been announcing Group job losses for two-and-a-half years.
Schomberg attributed Herald Group circulation drops “to the agenda and lies spouted by you and your ilk,” hoping “your merry band remember the other people at the herald who have lost their jobs because of your actions and lies,” despite the Sunday Herald’s circulation drop mirroring non-Haggerty Sunday titles the Mail, the Post and the Sun.
Some media-related sentiments were, perhaps ironically, lousily written. Ibrox Gal believed “the men at the top” had “listened” to “the power of Rangers fans against” a “hate full bigot.” Alan Kincaid suggested Haggerty’s next column “could be about Carma.” The kunt. Borna Barisic was “delighted to see a Rangers-hating bigot on the dole.” ‘LV is coming’ (can’t wait) decided on “a bit of Sloop John B to celebrate,” possibly singing the words of the racist “Famine Song” rather than Beach Boys lyrics.
Knox led the career advisors: “Back to the blogs for you Hag.” MacGerrard: “In journalism, you need to be ahead of the game and not in your office, drinking in the morning, wondering where life went wrong.” And Sam: “You can always rely on your good looks to get you a new job. Stamping your face onto Halloween cakes, maybe?”
Other abusers played the ‘playing the victim card’…er…card. Greig Cullen was upset, bless him, that Haggerty was “posting all the tweets of people giving her grief,” calling her “an attention-seeking cow, playing the victim card once again.” EmployeeBenefitTrustee claimed: “the bigot has predictably decided to play the victim.” The busy Rolica suggested she had “a victim card to play at every turn.”
Tony Forrest had “little doubt” that the “odious Separatist sectarian bigot…will weasel your way into another temporary nepotistic sinecure.” 1872davie tweeted: “Ulster Volunteer Force” and, a minute later: “UVF.” Because…er… Tezwaz hinted that his twitter handle was short for ‘terrible wanker’ by tweeting the intellectual gem: “on the scooby doo ya ugly boot.”
And two tweets offered an especial stupidity. Irvine Loyal criticised Haggerty for “using your position to push a personal agenda,” somehow unaware of the concept of an OPINION COLUMN. He claimed said agenda was “fuelled by a hatred of working class protestants,” and joined the grammatically-challenged, career-advisory ranks: “You could try be a model for balaclavas and gloves.”
Meanwhile, ‘the queens 11 gstq’ asked: “Why are you retweeting all this, see if you block someone you don’t need to see it, seriously woman can you not understand how you keep getting sacked the way you act and scream for attention.” Self-unawareness, bad grammar, bad punctuation, misogyny and misinformation. An achievement of sorts in 36 words.
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) offered prompt, strong support, condemning “the shocking levels of abuse aimed at” Haggerty, “who has been subject to hundreds of abusive messages in the past 48 hours.” Noting “a sustained campaign of vitriol, with many messages containing sectarian, misogynistic and racist abuse,” they highlighted “one message (which) stated that ‘the Erskine Bridge is always open’ – a place where people have been known to end their own lives.”
And they quoted 11 more abusive responses, including: “Good riddance ya dirty little reptile, back to yer cage where you belong.” “Hope your life is permanently ruined.” “There isn’t enough abuse for you, ya wee horrible excuse of a journalist. Bigoted little tramp. Fuck you and fuck yer pope.” “You deserve nothing cunt.” And “keep your chins up ya rancid bitch.” But while the NUJ readily made the link to Rangers fans, Scotland’s mainstream football media has thus far largely avoided the link and the abuse itself. Just as it ignored/excused Rangers’ decade of financial problems/cheating.
So. Why all this shit (let’s not dignify it with polite terminology) from Rangers fans? Her twitter timeline is as much wryly-amusing personal takes on life, music, teabags (the forgetting thereof) and “never drinking again” as anything political. You’d need special perspectives to find bigotry/sectarianism in her views on the relative merits of Deftones and Nine Inch Nails
And nothing Haggerty has said or done in public life would produce this reaction from normal people. Her views on Scottish independence are opposed and criticised, often fiercely. Likewise, recently, her views on the chilling effect on journalism of the Cliff Richard privacy judgement. In May, she shipped criticism for inadvertently (many said carelessly) outing the partner of gay SNP MSP Mhairi Black. And I disagree with plenty of what she writes.
But this shit is far beyond criticism. It appears because some Rangers fans are not ‘normal’ people. It’s more than the “tiny minority” clubs habitually cite when their fans misbehave, though Rangers appear unconcerned at best by such behaviour and haven’t commented, despite regularly issuing statements when they feel the slightest bit slighted. And the abuse originated from, wait for this, her editorship of a book. One which showed that Rangers were responsible for their financial downfall in 2012. But one book, nonetheless.
‘Downfall – How Rangers FC Self-destructed,’ is a collection of freelance journalist Phil Mac Giolla Bhain’s blogs about said downfall. And history, whether Rangers fans like it or not, has largely removed the controversy from and proved its veracity (“It is [small detail lost in ear-spitting hysteria] the truth about Rangers,” wrote Channel 4 News chief correspondent Alex Thomson, when asked why he endorsed Downfall and wrote its foreword). And Haggerty’s transformation of episodic blogs in Mac Giolla Bhain’s ‘individual’ writing style is commendable book-editing.
None of that matters to Rangers fans. Haggerty’s involvement, to them, justified the abuse, even after a creature called David Limond was jailed for six months in December 2013 for ‘religiously and racially aggravated breach of the peace’ (Haggerty has an “Irish Catholic” background), a conviction which would surely deter normal people from becoming such abusers.
In September 2012, Limond labelled Haggerty “Taig of the Day” and “a Provo cunt” on a ‘Rangers Chat’ podcast encouraging organised abuse of her on social media (Taig is an abusive term for Roman Catholics, as in Ulster Loyalist paramilitaries’ call-to-arms KAT – Kill All Taigs). His encouragement, to, inter alia, “hit her with all you’ve got” worked. Dismally, it still works.
Haggerty resigned as Sunday Herald News Editor in July, citing the “heavy toll” taken on her health by six years of on-line abuse and the “the madness of the spotlight.” On BBC Radio 5 Live’s Stephen Nolan Show last month, she stressed the “deep-rooted and insidious” nature of the abuse, while stressing that she thought it was borne of “a sub-culture in Scotland that still has a real problem with people of Irish Catholic background,” beyond just Rangers fans (although her current abusers’ avatars and twitter handles suggest a predominant Rangers element).
She was determined to “carry on the things like the columns” lest, as Nolan, a target of on-line abuse himself, noted “some of these people might think that they’ve won.” As a result of taking a “step back” from her highest-profile media work, Haggerty felt “much, much better now.” Enter Graham Morrison and his accursed “reorganisation.”
Despite “no cunt” caring (copyright Kyle, above), 2,850 Rangers cunts cared enough to petition for her sacking from the Herald in 2015. And in January 2016, she WAS sacked for what was (is?) a crime in some Scottish media circles, showing solidarity with fellow journalists. In this case, it was Graham Spiers, when the Herald apologised for some Rangers criticism in his column, about which Spiers himself was unapologetic. Haggerty was hastily re-instated as a result of a, cough, “re-examination of the context of her original social media postings.”
At the time of typing, Twitter has not responded to the latest mass abuse. Presciently, Haggerty told Nolan, correctly and despairingly, that “Twitter has been very, very slow and very, very reluctant to respond” to the issue of on-line abuse, noting, correctly again, that on-line abusers “are trying to silence me and…have been successful in silencing other journalists and it’s not good enough.”
Haggerty’s last column was entitled ‘Let the Orange Lodge step back but continue to march,’ the irony of which would not have been lost on Americans but was likely overlooked by critics of her “hatred” of protestants. And her appearance on Sky News last Thursday suggests reports of her media death were greatly exaggerated.
Criticism and on-line abuse are entirely different concepts. I’ve been lucky. I’ve had plenty of criticism for criticising Rangers. And my one experience of organised abuse was laughable. Someone on a Surbiton street saw my green sweatshirt and slurred the racist ‘Famine Song’ (“the famine is over, why don’t you go home?”) in as close to my direction as his drink-addled state permitted. And I tweeted that, as I lived a bus ride away, I’d likely get “home” before he did.
This ‘inspired’ countless notifications opining, often abusively, that I’d made the whole thing up and was playing the victim card. Unevidenced theorising from people whose twitter avatars and handles suggested they were neither eye-witnesses nor able to find Surbiton on a map. As I say, laughable, and over within hours, not disgustingly abusive for six years and counting.
Meanwhile, I can almost hear the cries of “but whatabout…” as I’ve inserted personal abuse of Haggerty’s abusers into this article. But my unevidenced suggestion that ‘Tezwaz’ is a ‘terrible wanker’ is nothing alongside the multiples of far worse abuse of Haggerty over a far longer timespan. And unless the on-line world changes and/or Rangers fans stop obsessing about her, there will be spikes in this abuse whenever she takes a media job. And that is multiples of “not good enough.”
The abuse is shameful, inescapably rooted in Rangers fans’ inability to accept alternative world views, or responsibility for their own inadequacies (an inability which runs right through Rangers, see Steven Gerrard’s response to Rangers’ weekend loss to Celtic). Demanding that it should stop or be stopped is only an attack on the freedom to speak damaging shit, a freedom none of us should countenance defending.
And if you dislike the foul language above, well, that’s rather the point. I want you to be offended, discomfited, appalled and more by seeing asterisk-free ‘cunts’ in one article for a few minutes. And while you have those horrible feelings, just imagine having multiples of them throughout your everyday life. Whatever your personal or political opinion of Angela Haggerty, you surely can’t defend that.