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In Defence of the football website


Guest Andypendek
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Guest Andypendek

Let’s get all the negatives out the way firstly. Vile abuse, sectarian bile, the anonymity of the keyboard warrior...all these and more are, apparently, the result of (or at least are exacerbated by) the internet football forum. Anyone who has used the internet for chat room purposes, be it sporting or otherwise, will be aware that for some people, it is a medium of unparalleled opportunity in which to let off steam, and in a manner which some might find offensive; but is that a reason in itself for legislation? And is anonymity really such a negative thing?

Firstly it must be said that the internet is not going away, and like any other permanent aspect of life it will fall under the regulation of the state sooner or later. It has certainly been a liberating experience – quite literally, in some Arab countries this year – to experience cross border, cross cultural exchanges via electronic media these last decades, but all evidence points to that freedom being constrained at some point under law. Only this morning I signed a contract with Virgin Media which expressly forbids using their services to offend or upset anyone else...let’s hope they don’t use RM.

Good or bad legislation? The body of professional opinion is that it’s a bit rushed and liable to lead to further complications down the line. Bad legislation is nothing new, despite some of the more outré comments of some posters, who seem to imagine Alex Salmond is the first politico to get things wrong. The Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991 was considered a dog’s dinner (arf!) and was amended in 1997, while even worse was the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994, which amongst other things sought to outlaw music with ‘repetitive beats’. At the time this was seen as ‘"explicitly aimed at suppressing the activities of certain strands of alternative culture", the main targets being squatting, direct action, football fan culture, hunt sabotage and the free party. You may or may not have noticed that football fan culture survived this assault, as did music; nevertheless, dire warning were in evidence then as now. Here’s someone called Autechre, speaking on the release of some long-forgotten rave CD:

Warning. 'Lost' and 'Djarum' contain repetitive beats. We advise you not to play these tracks if the Criminal Justice Bill becomes law. 'Flutter' has been programmed in such a way that no bars contain identical beats and can therefore be played under the proposed new law. However, we advise DJs to have a lawyer and a musicologist present at all times to confirm the non repetitive nature of the music in the event of police harassment.

History shows us that the worst fears of this wallah were not realised, and I expect we cyber-fans to be in the same boat some years hence. Just the same, the fact that bad laws are nothing new is hardly a defence of this one. Indeed, you’d expect governments to learn from the mistakes of others, but it seems the SNP in Edinburgh are determined to follow the example of these Conservative, UK bills from the past. So, instead of posting about how unfair, lefty, authoritarian or biased this proposed law is, I’d rather put forward a defence of the football website.

I personally learnt how to use computers and improve my English language skills on RangersMedia. My earliest posts were all in lower case and featured no punctuation because I was scared I’d get it wrong and look like a dummy. But by copying others who could use punctuation and spelling, I learned. I learned how to upload photos and videos, embed youtube links, and why hotlinking is bad, mmmkay? Outside of these technical aspects, though, the far more important one is the educational aspect of these websites*.

Learning about the views of people from Canada, the States, Belgium, the suspiciously high number of Danish based posters, and so on has given me a far broader worldview. Yes, there are downsides: I have little patience for the Irish obsessed poster, the RM equivalent of Mad Phil. But it’s hardly up to me to decide who can post and anyway, I have the opportunity, literally at my fingertips, of taking on people whose views I find abhorrent or deluded – and without any threat of violence, ironically enough.

This ability to hurl the most dreadful insults at people without fear of physical retribution is, for me, one of the best things about websites. I can see us developing into creatures of pure thought, debating and insulting on virtual terms, without recourse to the 20th century method of fighting. Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, may have had the football website in mind when he foresaw the evolution of humanity...or maybe not. But considering that the law before us is intended to reduce the chances of public disorder, I’m not so sure we’re not going about it the wrong way.

It has to be admitted, though, that any defence I put forward will have exactly 0% effect on the law. So what to do? Take the bull by the horns and decide what can be allowed and what can’t. Do it collectively, rather than an edict coming from on high setting out the do’s and don’ts. Some may have to give up doing things they like; that will be the price to carry on doing other things. Not very fair but then who imagined we lived in a fair society? Arguing from a position of having done nothing is not boxing clever, and some of the things on RM are in fact the virtual equivalent of hitting yourself in the balls, the Neil Lennon guillotine emo a prime example. Arguing from a position of moderation may get you equally nowhere, but that’s a poor excuse for not trying.

Websites such as these have many, many positive aspects which have been more or less ignored under the welter of (hardly disinterested) media criticism. We need to rid ourselves of what society has deemed unacceptable – and it has, whether we like it or not – and put forward these positive arguments before they are lost. Bad law can be changed; look at the examples quoted above. But I’d rather see us head them off at the pass, avoid all the unnecessary pain, through pro-active measures rather than wait and suffer. It’s like the fat man waiting for the triple bypass rather than dieting: he may come out the other side, then again he may not. It’s time for the football website to lay off the rubbish and get healthy.

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You can be assured RM will be looking at a variety of issues with regard to the Bill and will take any action once the legislation is passed in Parliament.

With free speech comes responsibility and unfortunately many people don't adhere to that reasonable plea. That means some posts may be offensive but we're all well aware of that before we register and/or use the forums.

After all, we wouldn't visit certain pubs if we wanted a quiet drink and sensible debate.

Ergo, the attempt by some to generalise internet forums or their users and infer they are to blame for the mindless behaviour of a tiny minority of people is merely doing the work of the similarly mindless politicians who care not for genuinely examining and solving problems but instead want to find scapegoats and cheap laws to try and make the problem go away.

Here's news for them - sectarianism won't disappear by convicting a few teenagers on an internet forum. The Prodigy said it much better than me though.

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Very good OP and I heartily agree.

We can be fairly certain, though, that those screaming loudest about never backing down, no laws and no self-regulation, will be those who are currently doing most to bring these restrictions about.

The proposed law is attention-seeking nonsense of the worst order but unfortunately some users of football forums do appear to be seriously unbalanced. The politicians, however, appear unable, or unwilling, to differentiate between the genuine bampot and the 12 year-old keyboard warrior getting a woody because, for the first time in his life, he can threaten and abuse without getting a slap.

I am actually quite sure that the police can tell the difference but this proposed new law gives them such wide-ranging powers that they are obviously fully behind it.

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In defense of a football website i.e this one a Rangers one set up for bears run by bears.

If someone was to say something "offensively sectarian" on here surely he/she could only been done for the breach of the peace and not religious aggravated breach of the peace.

The precedent has been set in this case.

Strathclyde Police officer guilty breach of the peace

Christopher Halaka is a Pc at Strathclyde Police

Pc charged over pro-IRA chanting

A police officer has been found guilty of breaching the peace after he was heard shouting and swearing and challenged by an off-duty colleague.

Christopher Halaka, 31, was drunk on a night out in Perth with his uncle when they were heard singing songs.

But a sheriff ruled that Halaka had not wanted to cause "ill-will" to a particular group and deleted religious aggravation from the charge.

Halaka will now face an internal inquiry by Strathclyde Police.

Both Halaka and his uncle Laurence Winters, 43, were fined £250.

They had been charged with committing a breach of the peace aggravated by religious prejudice in central Perth on 28 December 2009.

Sheriff Mark Stewart deleted the reference to religious aggravation before finding them guilty of breaching the peace.

He said: "It is the verdict of the court that a breach of the peace has been proved against both of you. You conducted yourself in a disorderly manner and shouted and swore.

"It was a breach of the peace in a public street and caused offence to members of the public who had been enjoying the night out."

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In defense of a football website i.e this one a Rangers one set up for bears run by bears.

If someone was to say something "offensively sectarian" on here surely he/she could only been done for the breach of the peace and not religious aggravated breach of the peace.

The precedent has been set in this case.

Strathclyde Police officer guilty breach of the peace

Christopher Halaka is a Pc at Strathclyde Police

Pc charged over pro-IRA chanting

A police officer has been found guilty of breaching the peace after he was heard shouting and swearing and challenged by an off-duty colleague.

Christopher Halaka, 31, was drunk on a night out in Perth with his uncle when they were heard singing songs.

But a sheriff ruled that Halaka had not wanted to cause "ill-will" to a particular group and deleted religious aggravation from the charge.

Halaka will now face an internal inquiry by Strathclyde Police.

Both Halaka and his uncle Laurence Winters, 43, were fined £250.

They had been charged with committing a breach of the peace aggravated by religious prejudice in central Perth on 28 December 2009.

Sheriff Mark Stewart deleted the reference to religious aggravation before finding them guilty of breaching the peace.

He said: "It is the verdict of the court that a breach of the peace has been proved against both of you. You conducted yourself in a disorderly manner and shouted and swore.

"It was a breach of the peace in a public street and caused offence to members of the public who had been enjoying the night out."

This. (tu)

An interesting take on things by Andypendek, some of which I agree with, some of which I don't.

Freedom of speech does come with certain responsibilities (as Frankie has noted) but suppressing free speech carries more severe penalties and sends those who wish to differ underground.

Alex Bug Eyes and his SNP/Tarrier crew had better want what they wish for with this hotchpotch piece of legal garbage.

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It all boils down to how much of the government's plans amount to sabre-rattling, and to what degree will they be forced to back-pedal on the issue of internet enforcement.

One of the most common gripes - understandably - is that perpetrators of savage knife crime are being given non-custodial sentences; on this issue the SNP are looking bad already. It stands to reason that if ground is being given to worst offenders then the same fate is bound to hit these new measures in much the same way, with the potential to make Mr Salmond and friends look even worse. Which is why I really can't imagine that anyone will be locked away for making a pope joke; the maximum of five years is probably reserved for those plotting to cause religious/racially prejudiced harm.

The internet is by nature a hard entity to police, and even before the announcement of these reforms the police were quoted as saying that they don't have the resources to win the so-called war on sectarianism - online or otherwise. The SNP are playing a dangerous game in this recession, and with a public who want jobs secured, streets made safe, clean hospitals and mended roads, I wonder has our first minister bitten off more than he can chew?

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The 1st person to get 5 years for this for calling to task the Pope or the Queen for that matter will be martyrs and the amnesty int. etal lot will be marching.

Just like Richard Dawkins when Dallas was gonna get sacked for "sectarian" reasons for showing up the cover up of child abuse within the roman catholic church. Dawkins put his 2 pence in Dallas end up getting dismissed as any of us would do if our company stuck to the letter of their lew for mi use of works equipment.

Of which he is appealing.

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Guest Andypendek

I've posted this as an article Andy, why the asterisk in para 6? I've posted it with the asterisk in, hopefully I can edit if there's no need for it.

Apologies, it should link to an asterisk at the end saying "*I say ‘these websites’...I only use this one so I have to assume the rest are broadly similar, varying only in colour, religious/political allegiance and excessive use or otherwise of Union flags."

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Guest Andypendek
It all boils down to how much of the government's plans amount to sabre-rattling, and to what degree will they be forced to back-pedal on the issue of internet enforcement.

Agree 100%.

The SNP are playing a dangerous game in this recession, and with a public who want jobs secured, streets made safe, clean hospitals and mended roads, I wonder has our first minister bitten off more than he can chew?

This is also true, but it has to be said that the govt. 9of whatever stripe) should be able to deal with all these things simultaneously...to listen to some, you'd imagine every office in Holyrood was slaving away on this and nothing but this.

Freedom of speech does come with certain responsibilities (as Frankie has noted) but suppressing free speech carries more severe penalties and sends those who wish to differ underground.

Impossible to argue with that, but I don't think it's that serious, despite the air of hysteria. People imagined martyrs like the ones Martin Luther is referring to above when the Criminal Justice Bill came in, and it simply didn't happen...it was a gesture to appease the middle Englanders, much as I believe this one is a gesture to appease timmy. I consider it a necessary gesture and I believe some of us need to take an extremely hard look at themselves and their attitudes to 'outsiders'...football rivalry is one thing, rank xenophobia quite another.

You can be assured RM will be looking at a variety of issues with regard to the Bill and will take any action once the legislation is passed in Parliament.

Be pro-active! Don't wait!! I see the Lenny execution emo is gone, so it can be done!

Ergo, the attempt by some to generalise internet forums or their users and infer they are to blame for the mindless behaviour of a tiny minority of people is merely doing the work of the similarly mindless politicians who care not for genuinely examining and solving problems but instead want to find scapegoats and cheap laws to try and make the problem go away.

Here's news for them - sectarianism won't disappear by convicting a few teenagers on an internet forum. The Prodigy said it much better than me though.

I think the problem was dying a death anyway. While the likes of Mad Phil gets a boner abusing Scotland (bit rich coming from him) I don't see sectarianism in my day to day, and I'm willing to bet that outside of footballing context most of us are the same. It has revived of late, and I don't think it's coincidence that this matches the rise of the website.

I believe sectarianism will disappear if we regulate the abusive and ignorant nonsense we read on the internet.

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This is also true, but it has to be said that the govt. 9of whatever stripe) should be able to deal with all these things simultaneously...to listen to some, you'd imagine every office in Holyrood was slaving away on this and nothing but this.

Absolutely, yet the matters of crime health and budget would appear to be stalwart, hence the early focus on the sectarian issue. I reckon that regardless of what happens on the internet front they will have to put a noticeable dent in the actual figures for reported sectarian crime in order to pull this off: succeed and they can shout from the rooftops about it; fail and they risk being called out over using cheap trickery to distract the public from the aforementioned problems.

Should be interesting.

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I personally learnt how to use computers and improve my English language skills on RangersMedia. My earliest posts were all in lower case and featured no punctuation because I was scared I’d get it wrong and look like a dummy. But by copying others who could use punctuation and spelling, I learned. I learned how to upload photos and videos, embed youtube links, and why hotlinking is bad, mmmkay? Outside of these technical aspects, though, the far more important one is the educational aspect of these websites*.

Learning about the views of people from Canada, the States, Belgium, the suspiciously high number of Danish based posters, and so on has given me a far broader worldview. Yes, there are downsides: I have little patience for the Irish obsessed poster, the RM equivalent of Mad Phil. But it’s hardly up to me to decide who can post and anyway, I have the opportunity, literally at my fingertips, of taking on people whose views I find abhorrent or deluded – and without any threat of violence, ironically enough.

This paragraph strikes a chord the most with me. I've learned so much about the history of the club from websites and older posters who have seen some of our past greats first hand. Sure I've got uncles and great uncles who have informed me of such things but visits from them are few and far between.

I would even go as far as saying that membership of Rangers websites has made me more of a fan than I have been in the past and encouraged me to buy a lot more merchandise than I have in the past.

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