Could fan power assist in our ongoing PR wars?

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Earlier this week Club1872 responded to some skulduggery from an MSP and a Sun journalist. Clarification was asked for on both spurious stories, with prompt reaction to the latter story (which was retracted), and Club1872 then informed its members of these actions. As a member of Club1872 this is exactly what I want to see from them. It was a fair request, it was handled quickly and professionally and was communicated in a similar fashion. Not much wrong with that, in fact it was a more than decent response in the face of the gutter level behaviour that precipitated it.

However, anyone online would probably have noticed a familiar face scoffing at the actions of Club1872. No mention of the original conduct or incidents but plenty derision for Club1872 daring to even comment on it.

So what are we actually asking for here? This isn’t us defending indefensible behaviour or deflecting or denying. We aren’t asking for preferential treatment or to mitigate any due punishment. This isn’t an attack on another club. It isn’t sh*t-stirring and it was far from boorish or disrespectful.

It was a statement simply asking for common sense and parity. It was asking for people who should know better not to act irresponsibly and frankly not to indulge in fake news to gain political or headline hits from our club's name.

Worryingly, Graham Spiers holds a significant audience over a range of platforms - including the Scottish Government when they inevitably chap his door to help them with the next anti-bigotry law. All such platforms apparently give him free reign with little censure or regulation - even when he's caught lying on national TV. Predictably, plenty of his zealots - over a thousand in fact - filed in behind his statement. Rangers deserve it. Rangers should just put up with it because the Rangers support is the “worst”. Or worse stuff about h*ns - sectarian language used to describe Rangers fans which Spiers regularly prevaricates over.

A couple of points here; whatever Rangers fans have or haven’t done doesn’t excuse over the top behaviour like lying or malicious mud-slinging against the club or fan base as a whole. A second point is related to the prevailing press attitude and our lack of influence within that press – the idiot’s idiom, “Aye, but you’re the worst”. At what? By what criteria and at who’s say so? Which is where things then becomes a bit circular, because the guy that tells everyone that we are the “worst” is also the guy who happens to be happy to lie and sh*t-stir against us.

To be honest our PR has been atrocious for years. Whatever there has been is generally feeble and often manages to shoot ourselves in the foot. The feckless and tragic David Murray left a wasteland where a club of our standing and stature should’ve had towering influence in all places that matter across the land – be it newsrooms, Hampden or Holyrood. For selfish reasons he decimated and discouraged fans groups and any systems and infrastructure which could help the support to mobilise and react and influence when necessary. Unforgivably, his actions cost us most dearly when we had no defences left when the real wolves turned up at his door.

It's now 2018 and there are some shoots of recovery. For example, many excellent fan sites exist. The impeccable 'Heart and Hand' podcast (and others) provide excellent content and commentary on what is a fantastic club with a truly unique and awe-inspiring history. Club1872 exists and despite some issues has shown glimpses of what it can be. There are also websites such as this one and 'Four Lads Have a Dream' where Rangers and relevant other subjects are discussed intelligently, openly and free of the bile you even read on newspaper websites. Also notable, the good and selfless work relating to Rangers Lotto. These are just a few examples. We need these enterprises to both inspire and to provide vigilance and to assist communications and grow involvement amongst the fan base. Best of all they're free (or at least at minimal cost) and they're often better than the mainstream media which its cast of characters eager to swim the lowest in the gutter.

However, as great as this sub-culture is, the components lack in gravity and purpose at the moment with respect to PR. We have given away the mainstream media and with it we have lost the ability to balance, let alone set, any narrative. Hence, detractors are allowed to apply hyperbole to the club and support and over time the listening public accept and repeat it as gospel. Angela Haggerty - proponent of Rangers fans being part of a 'Klan' and previously dismissed by the Sunday Herald for agreeing with the liar above - is now their News Editor for goodness sake! Propaganda 101.

Now, it could be argued, the club is too busy and possibly still ill-prepared to get involved in the attrition of political games at this time but we need to remember that they have the backing of hundreds of thousands of fans like us and that is a lot of clout if we could ever learn to wield it correctly. Personally I would prefer an independent group to take up a lot of the dirty work and take a harder line than I would ever expect the club to take. Could Club1872 (or another fans group/vehicle) ever hit those big numbers? Could they offer a new tier to get fans on board in return for the weight of more backing? A united Rangers fan base should offer significant leverage to ensure representation at various outlets; everything from asking nicely (who knows it might be that simple when you have enough muscle to flex) to threatening boycotts is available to make these things materialise. Just ask the Celtic minded Fans Against Criminalisation what can be achieved in a political sense.

Every day we see further examples of why we need to get into a position to influence the narrative. This article exists to catalogue one incident out of many. In an ideal world the main stream press would apply parity and call out the clowns, which would then deter and silence the more ridiculous animus. Instead they are encouraged. So we need representation, primarily, to right obvious wrongs but why not also to be pro-Rangers? Really sell our great club that’s been woefully under sold of late. Or simply be pro-active, the phrase “Stop telling lies about me and I'll stop telling the truth about you” springs to mind. I’d imagine that’s what our detractors would fear most – so what better reason to try and make these things happen?

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