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Rangers, Chomsky and the Propaganda Model: What The Scottish Sports Media Won't Tell You (Part Two)

Written by: NathanRobert86
Wednesday, 15th October 2014

In the first part of this article, I introduced the 'Propaganda Model' and its five filters – that is, the criteria for determining whether a particular media set-up or institution qualifies as propaganda.

I then declared that Scottish football media meets the criteria in question with regards to Rangers football club: negative articles are continually produced, and ostensibly commenters and pundits do their best to omit relevant facts which don't fit an anti-Rangers agenda.

In this second part, I will continue my analysis of the propaganda filters, and use evidence to demonstrate that Scottish football media meets filter (4) and (5). I will conclude by arguing that the media in Scotland operates in a manner analogous to a massive propaganda feedback loop.

(4) Flak

Flak is a tactic used by those controlling the mainstream media as a means of supressing criticism. In other words, journalists employed by media outlets with vested commercial and/or political interests will attempt to shield those interests from outside criticism by attacking the outsiders.

In my view, Roy Greenslade's piece in the Guardian (dated July 12th 2014) defending Angela Haggerty in the wake of her July 10th BBC interview regarding the HMRC decision is a paradigmatic example of mainstream media flak. For Greenslade both:

  1. Totally excludes relevant yet inconvenient information about Haggerty and the context of discussion
  2. More importantly, he makes a straw man out of the Rangers support and the club in general in order to deflect away from Haggerty and what she said, and generally paint her as the victim

Let look at both these points.


Greenslade asks us to:

"Imagine this scenario. A young female reporter appears on a BBC TV news and current affairs programme to take part in a discussion about a story she has covered. She is factually accurate in what she says. She does not raise her voice. The interviewer treats her with respect."

This is disingenuous from the outset. While Haggerty was polite on the program, what she says was certainly not factually accurate, a point that has been widely established.

"Her 'crime' was to have spoken about the latest stage in a long-running legal tussle between HMRC and Rangers football club in Glasgow (known as oldco). Haggerty, having edited a book about Rangers' financial collapse,* was invited to discuss the appeal's dismissal on BBC2 Scotland..."

This passage is especially pernicious inasmuch as it totally ignores the very pertinent fact that the so-called "book about Rangers financial collapse" was not only authored by the pro-IRA blogger Phil Mac Giolla Bhain, a man who continually attacks both Rangers FC and its support, but was pulled from serialisation by the Sun newspaper who labelled the blogger as being "tarred with a sickening sectarian brush.".

Greenslade is here deliberately skirting over some difficult facts in order to legitimise Haggerty and then justify the narrative he is pushing – that she is a responsible and unbiased journalist – something which is not at all apparent given both her connections to Irish Republicanism and her use of inflammatory language on social media (I don't consider her to be in any way a credible journalist given her penchant for freely using sectarian-motivated terms like "Ibrox Klan" or "zombies" in a manner aping her pro-IRA mentor Mac Giolla Bhain.)


After doing his very best to make Haggerty appear to be a respectable journalist, Greenslade pulls out the barbs against Rangers and its supporters:

"Haggerty was branded 'Taig of the Day' by David Limond during his podcast on 20 September 2012 because she edited a book on the collapse of Rangers Football Club by journalist Phil Mac Giolla Bhain."

This is a classic straw man - a fallacy based on the misrepresentation of an opponent's argument. Limond did indeed use those words to refer to Haggerty, but it is otherwise totally irrelevant to her appearance on BBC2, and as such is just negative spin against the Rangers support. Greenslade continues:

"But the post-interview response from a variety of Rangers' fan groups was anything but calm and coherent. Just one example, a Rangers' forum called FollowFollow.com, was replete with [derogatory] remarks.."

Attempting to fit reality into his pre-established narrative, Greenslade not only takes FollowFollow.com to be a good example of the Rangers support as a whole (another straw man), but he also focuses his efforts in this article almost exclusively on backlash against Haggerty from Rangers fans; in the process he totally ignores both her sectarian background and the social media backlash against Rangers FC and its fans immediately after the HMRC appeal decision.

The attack comes to a head with the following passage, made - and this is a very important point - without reference to even a single source:

"Most of the abuse referred to Haggerty's looks, her Catholic background and also her Irish background."

This (again sourceless) allegation is an attempt to make a crystal clear association between sectarianism and all things Rangers. And while I didn't see the particular thread on FF, it is simply not the case, at least via my own investigation, that "most" of the "abuse" was directed at Haggerty's ethnicity.

From reading multiple forums , what I found was that most of the criticism was directed at her lack of credibility vis-à-vis the subject issue. Greenslade is not only selecting a single forum, but is also selectively picking his examples from that forum (without citing any sources) and then generalising from it – a very blatant fallacy of reasoning. This deliberate generalsation is (despite being based on a fallacy) another paradigmatic flak tactic; one which has been used by Greenslade repeatedly when discussing Rangers Football Club.

In sum, it is clear that Greenslade's intention in this article is to spin the situation as one in which an innocent journalist was attacked by a horde of malicious and sectarian Rangers fans. Not only does he completely filter out all inconvenient facts surrounding both the BBC discussion and Haggerty's dubious past, but he engages in an attempt to paint all Rangers fans as sectarian by the use of a vulgar generalisation.

(5) Fear Ideology

The last filter is arguably the most pernicious, at least in the long term. As Rangers fans, we are accustomed to our enemies justifying their hatred by asserting that either the Media or the football authorities (or both) have an agenda to promote the club (and damage other clubs). And while the supposed agendas generally bear little relation to available evidence, they can do great damage regardless of veracity. Why? Because our enemies continually use these ephemeral agendas to stoke the flames of fear and hatred against the club as a "cheap" means of smearing its name - for even a false accusation can, with time and repetition, blacken the name of the accused party.

Let us look at two supposed agendas:

  1. The "Succulent lamb" Media Culture

    A common criticism levelled at Rangers is that the club either runs Scottish sports media, or otherwise has such influence over Scottish sports journalists that it is immune to criticism (the name "succulent lamb" refers to the dish supposedly served to guests by ex-chairman David Murray). Here is a standard example of the supposed agenda as provided by the Celtic wiki:

    "Succulent lamb refers to media men who choose to pander to the whims and agendas set by the Huns. Sycophantic media writers such as Jim Traynor, Chic Young and Derek Johnstone have towed the line set by the Huns or even simply played up to them to curry favour. It can be described as 'shill' coverage of the Huns."

    And perhaps more startlingly:

    "The bankruptcy of Rangers was made possible by the convenient and self-serving relationship between many media men and the Huns. It meant that all investigation was sidelined in fear of losing favour. To curry favour and to avoid potential ramifications from the Huns and their support, the media men acquiesced to the Huns demands (without even needing to be directed to do so much often) and this generated a great degree of hubris which led to Rangers self-destruction."

    Ignoring the gratuitous and puerile use of the slur "Hun", this description is, in my view, a perfect example of fear ideology at work. Why? Because the supposed "succulent lamb culture" simply doesn't exist. The narrative of the Scottish media acquiescing to Rangers is simply not borne out by the facts, and like any good politically motivated propaganda it twists and inverts the facts to fit a pre-established agenda (i.e. its chief concern isn't representing reality). For can we really say that Rangers control the press? No; in fact as I mentioned above it is Celtic which has intertwined financial interests with major Scottish media outlets. Was the administration event of 2012 realistically caused by "self-serving media men"? No; in fact (for two of many examples) Celtic-minded blogs like 'Rangers Tax Case" and journalists (cf. Alex Thomson) taking Rangers to be guilty before trial if anything did much to accelerate the damage done to the club that summer.

  2. The Orange/Masonic Conspiracy

    Another supposed agenda bandied about through anti-Rangers media sources regards Masonic/Orange Order control of the SFA. While it may be true that historically, many individuals involved in Scottish football had some connection to one or both institutions, it certainly isn't the case today, nor is there any reliable evidence that it had any influence in the past. Nevertheless, the accusation is still made; here is a representative passage from a Celtic forum:

    "…the SFA/SPL continually refuse to act against Rangers, break their own rules to facilitate Rangers, turn a blind eye to Rangers and act in the best interests of Rangers. To me it stinks of dodgy handshakes, calling in favours, and has all the hallmarks of "we'll give you a bit of decent press coverage" at a time when you're being hammered by all and sundry.

    Is it not widely accepted that Ibrox has loads of Masonic trappings? There was a big thread on followfollow recently about this and going through all the stuff around the "marble staircase" giving examples of all the masonic stuff."

    This Celtic fan portrays the SFA as an institution out to protect the interests of Rangers on and off the park, one which through a Masonic or possibly Orange Order brotherhood will use any means necessary to defend the club. I won't spend much time deconstructing the entirety of the passage given how obviously false it is to any neutral observer. Since when has the SFA "broke their own rules" to help Rangers? If anything, the SFA broke its own rules in 2012 in order to hurt Rangers. And this is not even to get into the multitude of incidents over the past five years where Rangers fans were given harsher treatment/penalties than Celtic fans, (especially since the inauguration of the Offensive Behaviour in Football Act came into force) or mocked by the BBC without apology.

    Even such a cursory overview makes a factual mockery of the Orange Conspiracy; it persists, therefore, as a useful narrative to unjustly blame and shame the club - exactly what we would expect from fear ideology.


What part II of this essay demonstrates, I argue, is that there is a very good case to be made for considering the Scottish media to be a source of propaganda. Why? Because, as the above shows, there is ample evidence to suggest that it fulfills each condition (i.e. "filters" (1)-(5)) of Chomsky's theory of media bias.

More specifically, because mainstream sports media in Scotland has significant commercial links with Rangers biggest rivals (i.e. Celtic, Dundee United, etc.), it has a vested interest in attacking Rangers Football Club as a means of furthering the profitability of these commercial ties. Thus, seen in this way, it is no surprise that sports media in this country acts in order to protect these interests - stories attacking financially entrenched clubs like Celtic are "filtered out" and stories attacking Rangers - a club which threatens this cosy arrangement - are "filtered in". In other words, I argue that the Scottish sports media, for reasons outlined presently, acts as a "propaganda feedback loop" as follows:

Sports media, complicit with financial interests, naturally filters material in line with these interests. This filtered material then influences, and in turn is influenced, by the effects of flak and fear ideology. A tangible example of this is seen in the events surrounding the appearance of Angela Haggerty on BBC2. First, Haggerty's appearance on the BBC panel is a great example of an active filter; she is legitimised by the broadcaster as a neutral "commentator" despite her bigoted track record. Second, in the wake of this appearance Greenslade deploys "flak"; and immediately attempts (via ad hominem attacks) to delegitimise those who criticise Haggerty in the wake of the appearance. This event subsequently coloured the way the Scottish media portrayed the HMRC decision; with the Daily Record, for example, making note of the purported "trouble" caused by Rangers fans in the weeks following.

Let me now consolidate my discussion. What I have argued is that when we look at the available evidence, there is a very good case to be made for seeing Scottish sports media as fulfilling each condition listed by Chomsky in his propaganda model. More specifically, I argue that, given various commercial interests, the Scottish media is complicit, if not outright active, in both the production of negative stories pertaining to Rangers Football Club and its fans, and in retaliation against those who attempt to challenge these interests.

Ultimately, this evidence, I think, goes a long way to dispelling the oft-cited myth that Rangers are favoured by the media, and given preferential treatment: if I am right, the evidence points to the exact opposite - i.e. that Rangers are the target of a sports media-centred propaganda industry. It is time for the false orthodoxies to be challenged, and the unfair treatment of the club outed and reversed. If the investigative journalists in Scotland won't do their jobs, we must do it for them.


***NathanRobert86 would like to thank D'Artagnan and ChubbyBrown for editing and research assistance.


by NathanRobert86
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