The increasing attacks on social media by the main stream press, fuelled in some respect by David Murray’s vague threats of litigation against bloggers, has brought into sharp focus the challenges facing the Blogosphere. It also brings into even sharper focus the prescience of Stuart Cosgrove’s assertion that this summer’s ‘epistemological break’ had begun to marginalize the Scottish sporting wing of the MSM.
The reality of that assertion is embedded in the misreporting of the FTT decision as a victory for RFC, falsely alleging that those who operated the EBT scheme had been exonerated, that RFC had ‘done nothing wrong’, and consequently accusing ‘vindictive anti-Rangers bloggers’ of playing a part in the downfall of that once great Scottish institution. It is also evident in Tom English’s rather bitter and one-dimensional anti-RTC polemic today in the Scotland on Sunday. Had it been entitled “Self Preservation”, it may have rung a few more truth bells.
I am not of the belief that the MSM is an instinctively pro-Rangers estate, but I do think that their reportage of the FTT is more geared towards discrediting the newly emergent forces in the social media area than it is towards rehabilitating the public image of RFC or David Murray.
However despite the contempt in which many people here hold the MSM and Murray, English does have a point that we would be foolish to ignore. No-one can deny that we do have a duty to ensure that we are responsible in how we present ourselves to the public. Now that our (and others’) success as a real and creative alternative has spurred the MSM into action, we are subject to greater scrutiny than at any time in the past. Our view is that we have to be pro-actively engaged in setting a standard for ourselves that is above those that the MSM have set for themselves.
We have on TSFM an audience exponentially greater than the number of posts. That presents us with a great opportunity to get our message across, but it also burdens us with an increased responsibility not to fall into the trap which has besought the Succulent Lamb Brigade.
We are a very different animal from RTC. RTC him or herself had information and insight to bring to the table that the administrators of this site do not. The founder and former admin of TSFM had the idea that the talent available from posters on the RTC – not just RTC himself – should continue to have a forum in a post-RTC world, and that those talents could be used to challenge the myths regularly represented as facts by lazy journalists in the MSM.
We have at our disposal on this blog forensic analysis of legal, media and corporate matters. We have an abundance of creative minds, all passionate about the game of football AS WELL AS a partisan love for their chosen club. With all that talent and expertise, we can make an impact on the agenda by challenging the misinformation and substandard journalism of the MSM, and our finest moments are when we do that. We lose authority and influence when the debate is impeded by bald accusation or innuendo backed up with little more than an historical view of our country.
Our biggest impact (and largest audience) is to be found when when our experts have collectively torn apart those myths presented as truths by the MSM, and when we have asked the questions that the MSM either can’t or won’t ask or answer. Those are the things that have driven the traffic to this site, and many of the emails we get congratulate us on that.
Our credibility plummets though when we go down the partisan path. We also get literally hundreds of emails from fans who ask that we cut down on the comments of those who are merely venting outrage at how they see the game being mismanaged (mainly so they can access the important stuff more quickly), and from fans who are just fed up with the constant name-calling – almost exclusively aimed at Ally McCoist and other Rangers figures.
If we claim to be an intellectual and journalistic rung or two above the likes of the Red Tops (not to mention to be decent and respectful of others), we need to refrain from the name calling and accusatory culture. We can ask questions, put items for debate on the public agenda, point out apparent irregularities and anomalies. In rushing to judgement of others from the comfort of the glow of our own laptop screens, we are guilty of the same lazy journalism we see in others. Name calling (all good fun of course on a fan site) is just a lazy thought process and as English says, comes across as “nasty”.
We never saw RTC as a fan-site. The original administrator of this blog never saw TSFM as one either, and nor do we. In order to succeed properly, we need sensible fans of ALL clubs to be comfortable and feel secure in our midst. Of course we are not breaking any laws, but can anyone honestly say that we have evolved into a welcoming place for Rangers fans?
TSFM is not about hounding any one club out of existence or into shame or infamy. In the Rangers saga we have sought to ensure that the football authorities play fair with everyone and stick to their own rules. One well kent RTC contributor, and no friend of Rangers, often said that if the FTT found in favour of Rangers we should move along and accept it. Well they did find in favour of Rangers in the majority of cases. That may not suit many of us, but we are the Scottish Football Monitor, not a Judicial Watchdog. We can say why we disagree with the decision, but criticism of the process through which the decision was arrived at is beyond our purview.
Since the accusation is often made in the MSM, we should state, unequivocally and unreservedly, that we are NOT anti-Rangers. Their fans face the same issues as the rest of us and they are welcome here. We are however, equally unequivocally against the gravy train journalism of the Scottish Football Wing of the MSM (with one or two honourable exceptions).
If the Anti-Blogateers in the press are correct, the popularity of the TSFM will recede as the Rangers Tax case reverts to the back pages before disappearing for good. However I do not believe that they are correct. I don’t believe that Scottish football fans are only motivated by either hatred – or even dislike – of one club. I believe we are more concerned with the game itself than the pot-stirrers in the MSM would have us believe, because we understand the interdependence of football clubs.
But we also understand that the people who run football clubs do not always run their clubs for the benefit of the fans. In the business world, that may not be out of the ordinary, since businesses are run for the benefit of shareholders.
However football reserves for itself a special place in the hearts of people in this country. If the people who run football clubs want to retain that favourable status, they have to be accountable to the fans.
The difficulty in holding them to account though, is that the cosy relationship cultivated between club directors, managers and players and the press renders the access to information a closed shop, and the information itself is heavily filtered and spun.
As long as we keep asking questions in response to the fruit of that cosy relationship, we will be providing people with an alternative angle and viewpoint, allowing them to come to their own conclusions, and not the one the MSM post-presser huddle delivers to us wrapped up in a bow.
For the SFM specifically, we believe that to have any influence, we need to enable the expertise at our disposal to flourish. It is also vital to our project that Rangers fans are included in our dialogue. We just can’t call ourselves the Scottish Football Monitor if they are largely excluded from participation because they feel they are being treated disrespectfully.
We can’t tolerate the accusations and name calling. We need to stick to what we have done best; factual analysis, conjecture based on known facts and on-line discourse leading to searching questions being asked.
One of the things we are looking at for the near future is to set up some kind of formal and transparent channel of communication between the SFM and the football authorities. Being truly representative of fans will make that easier to achieve.
The MSM will continue to attack the social media outlets. In one way you can understand it. Their jobs are at stake. The business model of the print media in particular has changed massively over the last five years, manifesting itself mainly in increasingly under-resourced newsrooms. Consequently it is besought by increasingly unreliable and under-researched journalism, even to the point where much of it is no longer journalism at all.
By comparison the Blogosphere has access to greater human and time resources, is able to react to unfolding events in real time, and crucially (because it has been eschewed instead of embraced by print media proprietors) has been occupied by ordinary folk with little or no vested interest.
We are still in position to provide a service in our small niche of the on-line world. We have rights to publish and speak freely about our passion, but we also have to live up to the attendant responsibilities, and thus the appeal for discretion on posting comments.
Where Tom English got it completely wrong (in the uniquely ironic way the MSM have about them), is that his industry has mistaken the rights others have earned for them as entitlement, and ignored almost completely the responsibility they had to act on behalf of those who pay their wages.
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