Kvinnan, masken och den brinnande frågan

Expressens bild av händelsen på Göteborgsderbyt där en kvinna blev slagen, enligt uppgift

Som ofta innan pallar man inte försöka förklara komplicerade saker för folk på 140 tecken – då blir det det här istället.

Debatten har ju böljat fram och tillbaka om hur Allsvenskan mår.

Min gode vän Robbie Lauler var först ut med en typisk Laul-polemik på sin blogg – han belyser många av de problemen som onekligen finns i svensk fotboll.

Det besvarades av Klacksparksredaktionen som består av Malin Hägg, Jeanette Rådström och Anna Pierre, och även i Tutto Balutto med Gusten Dahlin och Thomas Wilbacher.

Som ett brev på posten blev det Göteborgsderby och rapporter om att en kvinna hade blivit nedslagen och slagsmål hade utbröt på Bravida innan Häcken och Blåvitt spelade 2-2 i måndags.

Låt mig börja med att säga – jag gillar bengaler och jag tycker att lagstiftningen i Sverige som förbjuder pyroteknik är fånig.

Som med många andra grejer i det här fina landet finns det en överdriven säkerhetstänk där riskerna höjs till skyarna på väldigt svaga grunder, och att man inte har hittat en lösning är snarare ett bevis på att de som styr svensk fotboll inte vill hitta en.

Jag gillar också supporterkultur och ståplatsen.

När jag går på fotboll privat och inte jobbar står jag helst i klacken. Jag har gjort det med fans från Inter, Everton, Liverpool, West Ham, Chelsea, Birmingham City, Djurgården, AIK, Malmö, FC Köpenhamn, Bohemians, Galway United, Hadjuk Spilt och dussintals andra över hela Sverige och hela Europa.

Ska man se på fotboll så ska man helst se det därifrån.

Ofta gör jag det ensam, och jag har sällan eller aldrig känt att situationen var hotfull eller obehaglig och från de erfarenheterna förstår ju att det finns vissa oskrivna regler för det som händer där.

Men jag förstår också att frågan är bredare.

Och en sak som jag och de allra flesta är överens om är att man aldrig lyfter sin hand mot en kvinna.

Igår kväll blev det rabalder på Twitter eftersom jag ifrågasatt den maskerade “hjälten” som hade hamnat i slagsmål efter att ha enligt uppgift slagit en kvinna som försökte slita bort luvan han hade på sig.

Det dröjde inte länge innan rytteriet kom till undsättning – tweetsen kan sammanfattas så här: “Vafan trodde hon skulle hända? Hon får skylla sig själv.”

Givetvis var det nästan uteslutande Göteborgssupportrar.

Och visst kan man tycka så – men om man accepterar att det finns ett vedertaget kodex, att det finns oskrivna regler på såväl stå- som sittplats så borde den maskerade pajasen aldrig har varit där till att börja med.

De allra flesta supportrar förstår ju att i klacken accepteras ett visst beteende – det kan vara bengaler, det kan vara ramsor, det kan vara att man förväntas delta i tifo eller stå eller sitta vid vissa tidpunkter och så vidare.

Köper du klackbiljett så är det underförstått att du går med på det, eller åtminstone att du inte förhindrar det.

Men likaså är det på andra sektioner. Kort sagt så bränner man inte av bengaler på andra sektioner där folk inte är med på det.

Utan något som helst bevis så känner jag att den negativa hälsoeffekten av bengalrök är nog kraftigt överdriven av såväl svensk media som av de som styr sporten – men för många åskådare är det en obekväm upplevelse.

Det är därför de väljer biljetter långt bort från bengaler och de maskerade personerna som håller i dem, som “vanliga” supportrar upplever dem oftast som hotfulla, oavsett om man hejar på samma lag eller ej.

Och när en maskerade person dyker upp på en plats på läktaren annat än där hen hör hemma, och de “vanliga” supportrar runtomkring börjar misstänka att det kanske ska brännas i deras sektion, ja då kan hen inte vara förvånad när de andra reagerar kraftigt.

För även på sittplats finns det oskrivna regler om hur man ska bete sig. Och maskering och bengalbränning ingår i de flesta fall inte.

Jag skrev för ett bra tag sedan om hur den svenska fotbollsläktaren är bland de sista platserna där vissa som annars står längst ned i näringskedjan får utöva lite makt i ett samhälle som annars gör allt för att trycka ned dem.

Men vad gör man för att lösa det?

Jag har rest Europa runt med mina irländska brödrar och systrar i klacken och jag tycker att självpolisering är utan tvekan det absolut bästa vägen för fans att gå, precis som de irländska landslagssupportrarna gör, med stöd (helst på långt håll) av ordningsmakten.

Men anledning att det funkar är att bland irländarna finns det en allmän förståelse för vad som är acceptabelt beteende.

I det här fallet i Göteborg är det rätt uppenbart att killen var på fel plats vid fel tidpunkt och det är det – inte att kvinnan försökt riva bort masken eller något annat – som står till grunden för vad som skedde därefter.

Att andra supportrar skyller på kvinnan och inte killen säger sitt – jag respekterar deras lojalitet, men jag håller absolut inte med deras resonemang.

Om ståplats vill ha respekt av sittplats måste det vara ömsesidig. Svårare än så är det inte.

Och är vi inte mogna nog för att erkänna när våra egna gör fel, då finns det inte mycket hopp för en långsiktig lösning för de flesta frågorna som berör ståplatssupportrarna – de som ger fotbollen den passionen som gör den unik och sevärd.

Än sämre får de som vill tysta ståplatserna helt vatten på sin kvarn. Och det gynnar varken de som står eller de som sitter.

 

Five ways to put the “public” back into public service

Thankfully, I don’t get invited to too many media conferences any more.

I don’t have the time to attend, and I can’t afford to lose anymore friends in the business.

Still, it would have been fascinating to listen to new RTE DG Dee Forbes talking about the future of Ireland’s public service broadcaster, even if her comments fall far short of the revolution that is necessary to reboot it.

Dee spoke of the need to make more “frenemies”, for more collaboration and, of course, to cut costs.

All depressingly familiar to audiences and journalists alike – and probably the exact opposite of what is needed.

Unfortunately Dee’s comments portray someone who seems to have accepted the narrative that the problems of modern media are for journalists and program-makers to solve, not politicians or bean-counters.

But reform of RTE would go a long way towards righting the listing ship of Irish media – and in turn it might even restore the faith that many have lost in public service broadcasting.

In no particular order, here are some of the things I would do if literally every competent person in Irish media management died and somehow left me in charge of our public service broadcaster.

1. Get RTE out of the advertising market.

Ban everything – product endorsements, ad breaks, sponsored competitions, the works, and instead run it on government funding alone, through a combination of tax-payer’s money and the license fee.

No logos, no product placement – just public service.

It can’t be done?

Sure it can.

Here in Sweden, when two girls from the Stockholm Gaels appeared on state TV to talk about Gaelic football, the floor manager put a strip of gaffer tape over the logo on the O’Neills ball they had brought with them. There would be no free advertising there.

Getting RTE out of the market would open up an enormous revenue stream for private media outlets and remove the need for RTE to produce popular (and indeed populist) programming, and instead get it to focus on its public service mandate.

2. Switch the focus of the sales teams, with those currently involved in selling advertising selling Irish-developed content and concepts abroad. Long before the success of Nordic noir, “The Lyrics Board” was lighting up Scandinavian TV screens, although that may not entirely be a good thing.

3. With the removal of advertising as a driving force behind every decision, reassess the talent pool. There would no longer be a need to pay hundreds of thousands of euros to individuals, just because their names are synonymous with hundreds of thousands of listeners or viewers.

I firmly believe that those who work for public service broadcasters should be (very) well-paid, but even the top talent themselves would surely admit that things have gotten out of hand.

4. Become a centre of excellence for the broadcasters and producers of the future.

The two-day RTE radio documentary course I did a few years back, conducted by their award-winning staff in Montrose, totally changed my approach to how I work with radio, and that for the better. My work has become much, much better, which benefits both me and my listeners.

RTE’s crews, producers, directors and broadcasters are all top-of-the-line professionals – why not share their work ethic and methods with coming generations of journalists and technicians via paid six-month internships?

5. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, work with other media outlets and the government to create workable legislation and guidelines for the industry.

At the moment it is far too easy for powerful organisations and individuals to suppress the truth by sending a flurry of solicitor’s letters, or by leveraging the depth of their pockets knowing that neither RTE nor anyone else can afford to defend a case against them.

Equally, there is little alternative for those ordinary Joes and Josephines who have been wronged by media reporting to gain recompense.

Given that RTE acts to all intents and purposes like a commercial broadcaster, it’s easy to forget just how important public service broadcasting is to a democracy. It needs to be able to report without fear or favour on all aspects of Irish life, and to ensure that all aspects of Irish life are represented in its output.

At the moment it is basically Sky One with the Angelus, and that is far, far short of the kind of journalism and programming that some of the most talented people in broadcasting could deliver to a country that so desperately needs it.

If the media won’t take part, McGregor will take over

Conor McGregor’s hand is raised in victory following his epic battle with Nate Diaz

Last week, an Irish athlete won one of the most epic contests ever seen in his chosen sport, and yet for a variety of reasons, it barely caused a ripple in the media consciousness.

In a bloody battle that raged for the full 25 minutes, the initiative ebbing and flowing between its two protagonists, the Notorious Conor McGregor finally emerged victorious.

In doing so, he avenged his March defeat to Nate Diaz and put himself once again at the pinnacle of mixed martial arts, redeeming both himself and the somewhat erroneous reputation of the Fighting Irish.

This is no longer a niche sport, confined to dingy hotel function rooms and fight clubs – it is a $4 billion business that is only going to get bigger.

For me, McGregor’s win beat Barry McGuigan’s victory over Eusebio Pedroza, and even eclipsed Steve Collins’ run of wins at super-middleweight back when he, Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn struggled for supremacy in boxing.

It was one of the most exhilarating sporting events I have ever seen live, if not the most exhilarating.

But with Pat Hickey behind bars and a myriad of other sports to cover, plus a nine-hour time difference from Las Vegas, it seemingly got lost, slipping through the cracks and never really getting the credit or coverage it deserved.

Considering the fact that, together with Joe Callaghan, Petesy Carroll and a select few others, I was responsible for spreading the news about one of the most remarkable victories in Irish sporting history, it might seem strange that I am bemoaning the lack of coverage.

But it’s worth looking a little more closely at how one of the big global sports stories of last week – one that over a million US TV viewers paid almost $70 each to watch – was covered.

Petesy is a stalwart of the Irish MMA beat – enormously knowledgeable on every level, well-connected, he wrote for a variety of websites and contributed to Newstalk, among others.

Joe was kept busy writing for the Irish Independent, the Irish Examiner, and the RTE website.

As the elder lemon, I was tasked with bringing the fight game to the mainstream, writing for the Irish Times and the Reuters news agency (I also filmed the weigh-ins and the press conference for the latter), and covering the event on radio for the BBC and RTE.

The coverage of the build-up cannot be faulted – the pitched battle at the David Copperfield Theatre in the MGM Grand ensured the headlines there – but it was the aftermath that felt abrupt and unsatisfying.

It would be understandable if the fight had been a turgid, clinch-heavy affair with little drama, but with Diaz downed early in the first and McGregor seemingly out on his feet at the end of the third, this was a fight that you couldn’t take your eyes off.

Though pretty much everyone in the arena (or at least everyone who wasn’t from Stockton, California) gave the win to McGregor, there was still a sense of nervous anticipation as the results from the judges’ scorecards were read out.

McGregor won, and the subsequent press conference, which he entered on crutches, was an emotional affair, his voice cracking as he revealed how important the fight and the result was for him.

Strange, then, that there was little interest in the video I had of the post-fight press conference, and indeed the lack of post-fight discussion in some of the major media outlets.

I did contribute a report to RTE Sport, but the more wide-reaching Marian Finucane show, which had me on for the guts of half an hour after the March defeat, didn’t seem to cover it at all, aside form a couple of questions as a preview late on Saturday.

Nor did RTE come looking for the video. Neither did Reuters.

Why is this relevant? Because it tells us a lot about how editorial decisions are made, what influences them and how budgets are spent.

Mixed martial arts still hasn’t gained the acceptance enjoyed by amateur boxing, or the genteel respect of golf.

But how many world champions does Ireland have at anything?

How many sports can boast a stable like the Straight Blast Gym, which had two winners on Saturday night’s card and which is teeming with prospects for the future?

MMA is a sport fervently followed by young to middle-aged fans, many of them urban working class males.

In other words, the very class of people most often denied access to the airwaves and the pages of our finer publications.

The class of people from which McGregor himself emerged.

In our burgeoning media culture of interns and working for “exposure”, it is a class of people who are an endangered species in our newsrooms.

But whereas once upon a time McGregor and everyone else would simply have to accept that fact, that is no longer the case, as demonstrated late in the week.

Having fallen out with the UFC, McGregor launched his own media channel, The Mac Life, and the publication of a remarkable behind-the-scenes video from UFC 202 instantly made other media redundant.

This is nothing new. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is one of many footballers who uses an app to communicate directly with fans, and plenty of athletes and personalities leverage their social media presence to boost themselves, but McGregor has taken it to a new level.

Combining his enormous social media reach with more traditional media such as the “Man’s Work” short doc, he will get his message out there to his fans, whether more mainstream outlets help him or not.

But at a time when they are struggling to remain relevant, the more traditional players need to question their editorial decisions now more than ever, lest they be left behind in a changing landscape.

This doesn’t just apply to McGregor either – from news to politics to sport, new players, new issues and subjects are emerging, as are new ways of disseminating them.

The new voices that are so badly needed to round out the discourse will make themselves heard, one way or another.

And the media house that doesn’t recognise that what once was a one-way broadcast business has now become a conversation with media consumers has a very dark – and short – future ahead of it.

 

 

On spokespeople, attacking integrity and the eighth amendment

Sometimes 140 characters is not enough, so what follows in a bit of background to a story playing out on my Twitter feed.

I was in Dublin last week working on a number of stories, among them one for Swedish radio on the campaign to repeal the eighth amendment to the Irish constitution, which effectively bans abortion in virtually all circumstances.

In my attempt to create a rounded, balanced report I contacted a number of organisations and private individuals to ask them to comment. There was a window of four and a half days in which I could schedule interviews.

Those in favour of repealing the eighth were quick to respond, and all those interviews were done on Thursday afternoon last.

From the anti-abortion side there were several people who were very generous in trying to help me set things up, but unfortunately, apart from an interview with journalists and author John Waters, I came away empty-handed.

Over the course of several e-mails, the tone of which was both respectful and nuanced, John had initially politely declined my request for him to speak on the record, instead informing me of a conference in Tralee where the delegates would include many who opposed the repealing of the eighth amendment.

I drove to Tralee on Saturday morning and asked the organisers if they could provide someone who would speak to me.

Their suggestion was John Waters.

John generously attempted to procure other interviewees for me during lunch, but was unsuccessful and ended up doing the interview himself.

Before he did so, he said to me: “You appear to have upset a lot of people in there,” meaning the dining room where the group was eating.

What followed was a very respectful and insightful 20-minute conversation where he outlined the current state of play in Ireland and his views on the situation, and though I was disappointed to have only collected one voice on such a long trip, I consoled myself on the way back to Dublin with the fact that he had been comprehensive in his remarks.

In the interests of the balance both sides seem to crave in this debate, I continued looking for further interview subjects, via Twitter, phone calls and e-mails.

I returned to Stockholm yesterday, and I would still like to talk to anti-abortion activists for the piece, which will be edited later this week.

This morning I find myself being sent two- and three-year old tweets, the implication being that people wouldn’t want to talk to me due to my personal (note: not private) opinions on the eighth amendment, and some of my comments on those involved in the debate around it.

In many of them, there are a few fundamental understandings about what journalism is, and indeed what it is not.

Firstly, reporting has nothing to do with one’s personal opinions. It is akin to a doctor treating a family member, or a lawyer defending a murderer he knows is guilty.

Perceived vested interests are put aside, and it is surprisingly easy to do so.

That some have great difficulty accepting that says more about the standard of journalism in Ireland than perhaps anything else.

I have interviewed politicians, union officials, criminals, doped sports people, neo-Nazis, Islamic extremists and everyone in between.

In all instances, my own personal opinions are left at the door. It doesn’t matter how many Facebook posts or Tweets I’ve made on any given issue, the process is always the same.

Do the research, ask the questions, publish the results.

In particular when reporting for a non-Irish audience on an Irish story, the aim is to present the information to them – this is why the story is of relevance now, this side wants the amendment repealed, this side wants it kept – in a way that they will understand, giving history and context, and let them make up their own minds.

I have never once been accused by anyone I have interviewed of misquoting them, or misrepresenting their views in any way.

In any case, this issue – that of my personal opinions contaminating my ability to report – was only been raised after I left Ireland yesterday.

It is true that I have said nasty things about public figures, and I apologise profusely to anyone that has been offended by that.

But as noted above, there is a fundamental difference between attacking a person’s public persona, the opinions they hold and the tactics they use to get their point across, and attacking them personally.

However much I disagree with them, their views are for the most part honestly held, but that doesn’t preclude anyone from questioning the veracity of public statements made or research offered in support of them, or the tactics employed in advancing their cause.

In Ireland these distinctions are seldom made – I know of one person who no longer speaks to me because I criticised a glib point about boxing made by his wife on a TV show, which he took very personally. He called me up to tell me.

In contrast, I recently engaged in a very heated debate with a friend and colleague here in Sweden about how a certain story was presented by him in his newspaper; at no time did it get personal, and both of us learned something from it.

And this is the nub of the issue.

Some have reacted to my attempts to secure spokespeople by searching for tweets and trying to undermine my credibility before I even sit down to edit the report.

Though not an attack on me personally (and believe me, when you write abbout immigration, abortion or LGBT rights, you get plenty of them, some of them threatening, most of them anonymous), it is a direct attack on my professional reputation.

Thankfully it is the first time this has happened, but I fear that it might say more about the climate around the debate on the eighth amendment than many of us would care to admit.

The point is that none of us – journalists, editors, campaigners, voters – will ever get anywhere if we only talk to people we agree with. Social media is enough of an echo chamber already.

And nor, I hasten to add, will we get very far by attacking them personally.

I don’t know if it’s even possible to have a civilised debate about abortion in Ireland any more.

Recent evidence would suggest that it isn’t.

But either way a debate will be had, and it is up to everyone participating in it to try to keep it as open and respectful as possible.

Hej media, kom inte hit nån mer

Hej alla ledarsidor som tror att ni är blåa, men har blivit lite sådär bruna i kanten senaste tiden!

Det räcker nu.

Vi i förorterna har haft nog.

Det är inte så att ni inte får skriva eller rapportera om förorterna.

Vi som bor här ser gärna att mer skrivs och rapporteras om dem.

Men helst av folk från förorterna – du vet, de som faktiskt vet vad de pratar om.

De som lever här och vistas här och pratar med folk varje dag.

De som har nätverk och känner folket och luktarna och nyanserna.

Eller åtminstone folk som någon gång har satt sin fot i en förort.

Någon gång.

Men att låta fokl idiotförklara sig och skriva bajs om att det ska vara utgångsförbud i Husby och Tensta efter 2100, eller kräva snabbare domstolsprocesser för ungdomar i orterna från folk som aldrig har varit här, och som aldrig skulle kunna tänka sig ens prata med någon här?

Tyvärr.

Nej tack.

Det duger inte.

Det här vet ni förstås, men ni vill inte göra något åt det.

Det är åt det här hållet den bruna vinden blåser, och ni hänger gärna med – antingen genom att upplåta era debattsidor till folk som vill “ta debatten” eller genom er tystnad.

Men det finns ju för många klick att skörda, för många ögonglober att locka.

Att det görs på bekostnad av de i förorterna – de som ni ser till att de aldrig får komma till tals – skiter ni i.

Och det är helt OK.

Vi förstår det.

Det är ni som har kontrollen över tidningarna och radio- och TV-program, och vår roll i det hela är att acceptera det.

I bästa fall kanske kallas vi för att försvara våra orter – men aldrig, aldrig någonsin får vi komma till tals först.

Vill ni fortsätta så?

Varsågoda.

Men i så fall kom aldrig hit någon mer.

Och sluta erbjuda pisssummor för reportage som journalister härifrån gör, som om de borde vara tacksamma från smulorna från ert publicistiska bord.

Sluta gärna rapportera från TV-Huset eller Radiohuset, eller Gjörwellsgatan eller Kungsholmen om det som händer här, som om det vore Baghdad eller Mogadishu när det är en del av Sverige.

Skicka inte ens hit folk, för det räcker inte med att vara här en kvart eller en halvtimme för att förstå vad som händer, och varför.

Och framförallt – sluta låta de som vill göra en politisk eller journalistisk karriär genom att trampa ned och klättra över samhällets svaga.

Vi förstår att ni inte vill ha med oss, vi förstår att ni inte vill hjälpa oss.

Men i så fall krävs det att ni inte skadar oss genom att berätta samma jävla trötta osanna historia gång på gång på gång, utan att ens fucking kolla med oss först.

Det räcker nu.

Dags att visa våldsamma supportrar OCH tomma tyckarna det röda kortet

När man avhumaniserar fotbollssupportrar kan precis vad som helst händer.

I 27 år har en skara fotbollssupportrar fått leva med stämpeln av att vara medskyldiga i det som orsakade 96 dödsfall bland de sina.

Enligt tidningen The Sun hade de inte bara varit fulla och våldsamma, de hade rånat och till och med pissat på de döda.

I veckan fick supportrarna till Liverpool Football Club upprättelse efter 27 år.

Det var inte deras fel.

De hade inte gjort någonting.

Det var faktiskt ordningsmakten i form av polisen som hade skapat situationen där 96 fotbollssupportrar fick sätta livet till.

Därför att de inte ansågs som mänskliga utan som en pöbel, ett pack, ett slödder som skulle omgärdas och drivas som boskap.

Ändå in i döden.

I Storbrittanien, inte minst inom poliskåren och media, har man lärt sig en läxa.

Emellanåt kastas det en banger på en fotbollsmatch i Sverige och man blir nästan söndertrampad i rusningen för att bevisa att vi inte har lärt oss någonting.

EN individ agerar, men hela fotbollen ställs till svars.

Det kulminerar i det här utbrottet av fullständig idioti i Expressen idag och nu får det vara nog.

Nu är det dags för de som inte vet något om vare sig fotboll eller rättssystemet att hålla käften.

“Fotbollen” har inget ansvar för att någon kastar en banger.

Den ende som har ett ansvar i den situationen är kastaren själv.

Inte hellre är det upp till övriga supportrar på läktaren att ingripa eller säga att de inte håller med, lika lite som samhället förväntar sig att man ska ingripa när någon rånar en bank med en AK47.

Inte hellre har den som inte tar avstånd något som helst ansvar.

Att tiga är inte att ta ställning, att på något sätt ger ett tyst stöd till våldsverkarna.

Att tiga är att tiga. Punkt.

Så länge de inte uppmuntra våldsverkarna har inte fotbollsklubbar något som helst ansvar för vad som händer på stan när de spelar matcher, lika lite som Bruce Dickinson bär ett ansvar om jag slår någon på käften utanför Pub Anchor efter att ha sett Iron Maiden spela på Friends.

Och lika lite som Bruce ska ha polisnotan för min käftsmäll så ska inte folbollsklubbar behöva betala för att ordningsmakten ska hålla just ordningen, även under stora evenemang.

Hos den överväldigande majoritet av fotbollssupportrar finns det ingen acceptans av vare sig läktarvåld eller inkastade föremål.

Det är ytterst, ytterst få som håller på med dumheter på läktaren men ändå krävs det att kollektivet ska ta ansvar och bestraffas om och när något händer – ett krav som till och med ställs av kunniga sportjournalister som borde veta bättre.

Problemet med fotbollsvåld (och våld i allmänhet) är, spaltmetrarna av tomma tyckandet till trots, att det inte finns några enkla lösningar.

Det är en komplex fråga som handlar inte minst om mansnormer, missbruk och självbilden hos våldsbenägna unga män.

Det är inte något som som går att fixa med en banderoll, eller en manifestation.

Eller en patetisk fucking krönika i Expressen.

Intresant nog så har jag träffat genom åren väldigt många unga män som är dragna till huliganism och läktarkultur men som är som mest ytligt intresserad av det som händer på plan – och som är ofta till och med direkt okunniga om vad som händer där.

För dem är det stamtillhörigheten och olika typer av rusning som lockar, inte taktik eller teknik.

Och även om de kan ställa till det med enorma problem (de har genom åren demolerat en restaurang ägt av en god vän till mig flera gånger) är de lyckligtvis väldigt få.

Den överväldigande majoritet av de som är involverade i fotbollen, som spelare och tränare och supportrar, är goda medborgare.

Jag vågar konstatera att tränarna i orterna där jag bor och vistas har hållit ned belastningen på kriminalvården rejält genom sitt dagliga engagemang för våra problembarn.

Men när det kastas smällare ska alla dras över en kam.

När det vankas bråk ska alla jagas med batong.

När något går snett så kan vi alla buntas ihop och ta skulden.

Nu fan är det nog med det.

Det är precis den attityden som låter samhället slippa sitt ansvar och lägga det  istället på de som har minst makt att göra något åt det i ögonblicket.

Det är den attityden som ger skulden till de som faktiskt var offren i Hillsborough.

Man får väl hoppas att det inte tar 27 år för det svenska samhället att inse att fotbollen är en tillgång snarare än en belastning och att våldet finns trots allt fotboll gör istället för tvärtom.

Och man får hoppas att vi aldrig ser en situation där kollektiv bestraffning eller skuldbeläggning går det omöjligt att gå på en match.

Inte för att man är rädd för våldsverkarna, utan för att man är rädd att ordningsmakten och rättssystemet har redan dömt oss alla som skyldiga till brott som ytterst få är ansvariga för.

 

Why Prince wants you to pay for art

“Get off your ass and go pay to have someone entertain you.”

In the Internet age, the death of a great musician has its own pattern.

First comes the tweet.

Then the confirmation tweet.

Then the Facebook post.

Then the Youtube clip and the Spotify list.

But when Prince died yesterday, it came to an abrupt halt after the tweets.

Fiercely protective of his music, he’s not on Spotify, and there’s not much to be found on Youtube either.

Much was made in the obituaries of how staggeringly prolific he was, and virtually all of them mentioned his clash with Warner Brothers and the music industry in general.

In truth, he was the first to see where the business was going – towards a marketplace where everything was free, nobody wanted to pay and the only money being made was going into the pockets of the least creative people in the room.

He rebelled, and you should too.

Prince could rebel by giving away his music with concert tickets or newspapers, by scrubbing it from streaming sites and pulling it off video services.

He rebelled by releasing his music whenever it suited him, in whatever format and at whatever price he saw fit.

He rebelled by touring on his own with a piano, or by announcing shows a few hours beforehand, and then torching the venues with his electrifying brilliance and a never-ending mountain of hits to choose from.

You can rebel by sticking your hand in your pocket and going to see a band, or funding a Kickstarter, or buying a CD, a download or – and this might sound a little crazy here – a vinyl record.

You will be disappointed. There is an inordinate amount of rubbish out there, and you will waste money on shit live bands. You will get CDs with one decent song that are filled out with tripe, and stuff that you will listen to once before converting the disc into a coaster.

But you will be breathing life into art again, and whether artists, musicians and writers like to admit it or not, the audience is an essential part of the whole relationship.

Prince arrived on the scene almost fully formed, but there are few artists that do so. For the rest, they must hone their craft over thousands of hours of gigs and rehearsals and recordings.

The creation of any kind of art or journalism takes time, and if all the audience is prepared to pay is peanuts, then all they are going to get is a never-ending stream of monkeys who should never be let near a mic or a word processor in the first place.

Worse still, we will be limited to the mindless droning of the over-privileged, the only ones who can afford to document and project their experiences.

Many of those who mourn Prince most lambast the youth of today for sitting in front of their computers, happier to play FIFA on a Playstation than real football on a playground. When it comes to art and music, we do exactly the same.

Spotify is great, as is Youtube and iTunes and Twitter.

But nothing online can replicate the raw, visceral feeling of being in a dark room and seeing a comic or an artist or a poet on a stage performing something they have created themselves.

If we ignore the corporate whores filling the stadiums at staggeringly over-inflated prices, music and comedy and art has never been cheaper. For a few bucks you can see one of the world’s best improv groups at Dublin’s International Bar, and Stockholm’s music scene is full of promising artists in interesting spaces.

We mourn the passing of a great musician and songwriter, but at the same time, whether we will ever see his like again is now up to us.

We can either sit at home and take what this world spoon-feeds us, or we can take it upon ourselves to go out and invest the time and money necessary to give future generations something to marvel at.

Honour Carvalho’s memory by ignoring MMA vultures

A picture of Joao Carvalho taken from the Team Nobrega Facebook page.

Long before Joao Carvalho expired on Monday night, the vultures were circling.

And as soon as news broke that the 28-year-old Portuguese mixed martial artist had passed away as a result of injuries sustained in a bout in Dublin’s National Stadium on Saturday night, they swooped.

In no time at all, social and mainstream media were filled with the empty-headed squawking of the ignorant and ill-informed – those whose need to be heard is always at its greatest when their expertise is at its most non-existent.

There were radio interviews and hot takes online, using words like “savagery”, “thuggery” and, in one utterly bizarre instance, “legalised killing” – needless to say, that particular article was among the most read.

One Irish radio station headlined their discussion “Death in the Cage,” the minor detail that Carvalho died in hospital some 48 hours later seemingly lost on them.

But then again, what use is knowledge, facts and informed opinion when you can have revulsion, ignorance and hyperbole instead?

Most laughable of all are the sports journalists who question whether or not MMA is a sport at all, a stance so archaic and pathetic at this point that it’s not even worth engaging with.

There are a lot of people who don’t like mixed martial arts. They find the violence, the blood, and in many cases the athletes themselves repulsive.

I get that.

Luckily, no-one is asking them to watch it, and fewer still who actually follow the sport have any interest in hearing the opinions of the uninitiated on it.

And while everyone is entitled to an opinion, no-one is entitled to their own facts.

Though a young and undeniably violent sport, mixed martial arts has so far proved to be no more dangerous than boxing, and it takes its responsibility to the athletes very seriously.

According to credible reports there were three doctors and seven medics at the National Stadium when Carvalho was injured – far more than I have ever seen in many nights spent at amateur boxing nights there in the nineties.

Big organisations such as the UFC regularly bar fighters from fighting for varying lengths of time following an injury, with particular attention paid to concussions.

The UFC – the flagship of organised MMA – also invests in research into head trauma and brain injury, as well as other injury-prevention programs in an effort to better understand what is happening and to protect its athletes.

Given the nature of the sport, the bar for stopping an MMA fight is undeniably set quite high, but it is also very simple – in all serious fighting organisations, the rules state that as soon as one of the combatants cannot “intelligently defend” themselves, the fight is over.

You will see or hear none of this from the vultures who use Carvalho’s death to advance their agenda against a sport they don’t understand and know little or nothing about.

To listen to them, you would think that Carvalho was the latest warrior to enter a graveyard filled to overflowing with the cadavers of young fighters.

Nothing could be further from the truth – does anyone really think that mixed martial arts would be experiencing such explosive growth if its participants were dying like flies?

That there is an enormous element of snobbery in the current wave of criticism should come as no surprise – the hoi polloi have never really understood the attraction of combat sports, the bizarre concoction of violence and chivalry, and what they term the bloodlust of the crowd.

They will tell you the participants are too stupid and too greedy to realise the dangers they are exposing themselves to; but at the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, no-one knows more about the risk of fighting than the fighters themselves.

The commentariat reduce the audience to braying simpletons who just want to see blood fly.

That they might be intelligent people who actually understand what it is they are seeing – in contrast to the empty-headed rent-a-quotes that are invited on talk shows or to fill column inches – is a notion easily dismissed.

That the fans actually have a deep respect and appreciation for the participants, for their mentality and technical skill and toughness, is brushed aside in favour of the Colosseum narrative – give the proles blood and gore, it’s all they understand.

I have always been interested in boxing and martial arts, and first became interested in MMA after reading “A Fighter’s Heart” by Sam Sheridan.

The rise of Conor McGregor and the UFC in general in recent years is something that fascinates me, especially given the fact that the UFC was perilously close to bankruptcy on several occasions.

It is undoubtedly a brutal business, but one of the most breathtaking fights I have seen was between Rory McDonald and Robbie Lawler.

It was a bloody, thrilling, enthralling affair where McDonald had the upper hand and might have snatched a victory, but in the end the pain from yet another blow to an already-broken nose finally broke him, and the fight was stopped shortly afterwards.

Despite the fact that he lost, the respect I have for McDonald as a fighter and an athlete following that bout is enormous. He is quite simply one of the toughest men I’ve ever seen.

Nothing teaches you more about the effect of violence than getting punched in the face, and the paradox of fighting, and something often ignored, is that those who learn to fight often have the greatest respect for and awareness of the consequences of their actions.

There is little doubt that boxing and martial arts provide an excellent framework for young people to learn about themselves, in particular kids who might otherwise wind up on the wrong side of the tracks. MMA is no different.

In learning to fight to any competent degree, you also need to learn self-discipline, humility and respect for the craft and your opponent. If you don’t, sooner or later you’re likely to find yourself on the wrong end of a beating.

Paradoxically, by learning the damage one is capable of inflicting with one’s bare hands, many end up realising that, outside of competition, they never want to fight for real,

You don’t like the violence of MMA? Well, tough. There are plenty who do, and besides, the violence is only one part of what is a much more complex and layered sport.

There are plenty of people out there who find the pleated skirt of the tennis club, the creased slacks of the golf course or the rarified air of the Formula 1 pit lane equally provocative and repugnant, discriminating as they do against those who could never hope to afford to indulge in them as fans, let alone participants.

Not so the boxing and MMA gyms that will continue to spring up in the cities and the suburbs.

Fighting is, and always has been, rooted in the experience of the working class and the unemployed, from the National Stadium in Dublin and the dirt-floored Thai boxing rings of Bangkok to the Madison Square Garden and the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

It provides the hierarchies, the discipline and the framework that many need to achieve their potential, in most cases without imposing a glass ceiling on them. If you’re good enough, and you work hard enough, you can progress, regardless of your accent or your education.

Despite the stated desire of the empty talking heads, mixed martial arts is not going away, and as such it is badly in need of further comprehensive research and strict regulation.

The death of any young athlete is an enormous tragedy, for his or her family, their friends and their sport.

But it is a profound insult to the memory of Joao Carvalho to suggest that he did not know what he was doing, or that he should not have been doing it.

He chose to be a warrior, he fought bravely and tragically, he paid the ultimate price.

His memory will not be honoured by banning the sport he gave his life for, or by denigrating those who practice or watch it, or by listening to the empty waffle of the dull and ignorant.

Instead, we owe it to him, and the current and coming generations of warriors, to make combat sports as safe as they can possibly be, while still retaining our respect and admiration for the fighter’s heart.

Public interest demands that RTE answer questions on McCollum

Screenshot of an RTE tweet publicising the McCollum interview

Some stories stick out, and not for a good reason – there’s a whiff of something not right off them, and the much-trumpeted interview with Michaella McCollum is one of them.

(Not that I have been able to see it in full, of course. The RTE Player continues to discriminate against the Irish abroad, limiting access to content which, although brilliant, as with the recent I Am Traveller documentary, has questionable or negligible resale value abroad).

But the McCollum story itself is now a story, and there are questions that RTE needs to answer in relation to it.

I have worked for the various editorial departments of RTE (mostly radio) on many occasions, and without exception they are highly-qualified and extremely professional people.

But in this case the state broadcaster needs to be utterly transparent about how the interview was conducted. Nothing less than the journalistic credibility of the national broadcaster is at stake – stories that wouldn’t look out of place in the tabloids are all well and good, but tabloid tactics and chequebook journalism are not.

The “why Michaela?” question is irrelevant – news editors make such decisions all the time, and besides, her arrest, denial of guilt and trial were big news stories, and it is logical to cover her release and to try to unearth the truth.

The following questions need to be answered, promptly and thoroughly:

1. Who initiated the story/interview – was it Michaela, the journalist on the ground, the RTE news desk, a book publisher, PR agency or similar?

2. Did Michaella, her family, her foundation or any other party connected with her receive any sort of compensation (including, but not limited to, cash, flights or accommodation) in return for her co-operation?

3. Did McCollum and/or her representatives promise RTE or their representatives exclusivity? If so, what did they receive in return?

4. Were there any demands or requirements made by McCollum or her representatives as to where, when and under what circumstances the interview would take place?

5. Did McCollum and/or her representatives refuse to answer particular questions, or seek a list of questions prior to the interview? If so, did RTE acceded to those requests? Did the journalist on site decide the questions to be asked or was he instructed by the news desk?

6. Is there more than one take of any of McCollum’s answers to the questions posed?

I am aware that there are confidentiality issues at play here, and therefore I have not asked for specific numbers regarding compensation or costs, so RTE should be well able to reply.

And if they have signed any confidentiality agreement that precludes them from explaining the journalistic method used, then that raises a whole new set of worrying questions.

 

The Proclamation, 2016

IRISHMEN AND IRISHWOMEN: In the name of a god most of us have thankfully abandoned and of the dead generations from which she receives her old tradition of spin and whataboutery, Ireland, through us, summons her children to Twitter and Instagram to remember the centenary of 1916, a month before the fact.

Having organised and trained her manhood through her secret revolutionary organisation, the Meeja, and through her open organisations, Google and Facebook, having patiently perfected her memes, having resolutely not waited for the right moment to reveal itself, she now seizes that moment, and supported by her exiled children in broadcasting and by gallant allies in Bórd Fáilte,  but relying in the first on her own self-righteousness, she strikes in full confidence of whitewash.

We declare the right of the wealthy people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible. The long usurpation of that right by poor people and their entitlement culture has not extinguished the right, nor can it ever be extinguished except by the destruction of the self-made entrepreneurs and the Web Summit.

In every generation the wealthy Irish have asserted their right to national freedom and sovereignty, mostly in the pages of the Sunday Independent; every week for what feels like the past three hundred years they have asserted it in print.

Standing on that fundamental right and again asserting it in print in the face of the Internet, we hereby proclaim the Irish Republic of the Wealthy as a Sovereign Independent State, and we pledge our lives and in particular the lives of the poor to the cause of its freedom, of its welfare, and of its exaltation among the hedge funds.

The Irish Republic of the Wealthy is entitled to, and hereby claims, the allegiance, labour and assets of every Irishman and Irishwoman. The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty to some, equal rights and equal opportunities to men that can afford them, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally as long as they are born into money, and oblivious of the differences carefully fostered by parliamentary democracy, which has very occasionally divided a minority from the majority in the past.

Until our arms have brought the opportune moment for the establishment of a permanent National Government based on neoliberalism and the musings of Oprah, representative of the wealthy people of Ireland and elected by the suffrages of all her wealthiest men and women, the Provisional Government, hereby constituted, will administer the civil and military affairs of the Republic in trust for the people, in conjunction with the Germans, the EU and the IMF.

We place the cause of the Irish Republic under the protection of the Most High Corporate Tax Rate, whose blessing we invoke upon our black box trading systems, and we pray that no one who serves that cause will dishonour it by generosity, humanity, or charity. In this supreme hour the Irish nation must, by its valour and discipline, and by the readiness of its children to sacrifice themselves for the common good of the wealthy, prove itself worthy of the august destiny to which some of us are called, and which the rest of us will have to put up with.

Signed on your behalf by people better than you.