Saturday, 28 July 2012

Football - the problem

You know when you take an unreasonable dislike to a public personality? Well it's that way with me with John Terry, it's a dislike that was founded for no particular rational reasons but stoked by apocrypha and rumour, circulated amongst football enthusiasts, surrounding his personal conduct off the pitch . So why does his persecution by the media, the law and the game's governing body bother me, after all I hate the guy. Well it comes down to principles, you know those things you have to defend even if doing so contradicts you own personal interests. There's no getting away from it really, if they can nail someone to the wall to make an example of them  then they can do the same to you. These affronts to civil liberty are invariably accompanied by calculated invocation of moral panic to quell any disquiet amongst reasonable people. Anyone daring to point out the irrational or unreasonable nature of the accusations gets immediately tarred with some label, you know: racist, paedo, communist, practitioner of witchcraft, same old story, same culprits.

Terry's predicament is similar in some ways to that of Glenn Hoddle, the unloved and deeply useless one-time England manager. Hoddle was ambushed by an unscrupulous journo who recycled material from Hoddle's known but relatively unpublicised barmy notions on reincarnation. The journalist claimed several damaging quotes regarding disabled people from an interview with Hoddle, ostensibly recorded shorthand, all mechanical recording devices being conveniently absent. Even though the journalist's claims were barely credible, especially amongst anyone with awareness of the habits of media professionals and robustly denied by Hoddle, the media circus embraced the story with a furious glee, lustfully relishing the opportunity to impale a personality on the rusty spike of Political Correctness. The comparison isn't perfect though because Terry actually is guilty of behaving unpleasantly, while Hoddle was more a victim of circumstance and perfidious journalism. It's just that behaving in an unpleasant manner is not a good reason to exercise your personal hatred or deluded sense of self righteousness by assaulting another person's personal liberty.

I've been to Salem, venue for the proverbial witch hunts and it's was interesting to see how the notoriety of that episode is celebrated locally more than vilified. I suppose revenue from the tourist trade might explain that but I can't help the niggling suspicion that as a culture we've regressed. The Salem trials quickly drew condemnation and horror at such hysteria and irrational behaviour. Of course we don't string people up by the neck, just ruin their careers and lives but no such moderating influences are to be witnessed in the contemporary equivalent of a witch hunt, not from folk of any influence at least, fear of having the finger of accusation pointed at you sees to that.

It's also interesting to compare Terry's treatment to that of Diane Abbott, I'm not sure I could say with any confidence from his outburst that Terry held any racist convictions. With Abbot's though, any reasonable person could safely assume her to be a committed racist but the difference in the manner in which they've been treated by authority contrasts as sharply as chalk on a blackboard. Which illustrates the principle that it's not what you say or do that counts, it's who you are and what status you hold. A beggar will be held to account for standing in plain sight a prince can get away with murder, is this where I mention Teddy Kennedy?

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